Last year, the Emanuel administration slipped through a tax on streaming video and cloud computing. Now, again without public hearings, City Hall is targeting bars and restaurants with a surcharge on satellite TV feeds.
Earlier this month, the city served notice that its 9 percent amusement tax applies to businesses that subscribe to satellite TV services. The impact likely will be felt most by public spaces that buy premium subscriptions for NFL and college games that can easily run $5,000 to $10,000 a year, meaning their annual taxes would come to at least $450.
President-elect Donald Trump is likely to tap Todd Ricketts, the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and a member of the powerful conservative Ricketts family, to be deputy secretary of commerce, POLITICO has confirmed. Wilbur Ross remains the likely choice to lead the Commerce Department.
Employers that have been preparing for months to comply with a major change to overtime regulations — raising salaries, implementing time-tracking tools, restructuring promotion ladders — find themselves in an awkward limbo after a federal judge on Tuesday blocked the change a week before it was to take effect.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is racing the clock in President Barack Obama's final days in office to secure $1.1 billion in federal grants to revamp the CTA's Red and Purple lines, an effort that involves creating a special taxing district that straddles the "L" tracks between North and Devon avenues.
According to the report, Emanuel’s budget "remains structurally imbalanced due to its reliance of debt and other one-time actions to cover the budget gaps.” The S&P report also noted that the “sustainability of the pension plan for municipal employees may be short lived.”
But Rahm said problems solved, so don't worry your pretty little heads off.
Three years ago, the Chicago Park District reached a precedent-setting deal with its unions that called for both workers and taxpayers to pay more, and for the district's retirement plan to be fully funded by 2049. But then the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in cases dealing with the state and city that benefits could not be reduced for those already on the payroll, and SEIU sued to overturn the park district deal.
In the short run, that means extra money for pensions will not have to be included in the $449.4 million proposed 2017 budget. The district will contribute $20.1 million toward pensions, about $7 million less than required under the 2013 deal and less than the $36 million that actuarially is required. Because of that—and because it doesn't have to make the extra $12.5 supplemental pension payment it contributed this year—overall district spending will drop $8.7 million in the new budget.
In the long run, the shortage of contributions will only deepen the agency's pension hole. The district is talking to its unions about a new pension deal, but it almost certainly will require taxpayers to pick up a larger share of the retirement load.
A number of advisory questions asking whether certain services should be consolidated all passed with percentages as high as 91 percent in favor. The questions ranged from consolidating more than 40 mosquito-abatement districts down to nine, to allowing the City of Naperville to take over the local township’s road duties. They were all non-binding referendums, meaning the results do not require any action, but merely gauge voter opinion.
Otto Wiegel founded Wiegel Tool Works the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. This year, his three grandchildren mark the manufacturing company’s 75th anniversary. The Wood Dale IL family business has survived succession issues and dislocations in the global economy to become somewhat of a rare species: A midwestern American manufacturer in growth mode.
Another story of persistence and survival from The Distance.
Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward, is one of Chicago’s most influential City Council members. His territory includes the city’s commercial center: River North and the Loop. As is the case throughout Chicago, local aldermen have tremendous sway over what gets built, how and when – perhaps none more so than Reilly.
His chief of staff, Madeline Hill, is making money by lobbying city government on behalf of property developers.
"Black Friday's protest will aim to disrupt Chicago's busiest shopping day and draw attention to the problem of gun-violence, segregation, racism, and police brutality in Chicago," the coalition said in a statement Monday.
An Oak Park Catholic high school whose football team was robbed of a trip to the state championship game by an obviously blown call from officials overseeing the game has asked a Cook County judge to step in an overturn the game result.
Just weeks after he gave a fiery City Council speech decrying the menace of "aggressive squirrels, " Brookins was jumped by a kamikaze squirrel that leapt into the front wheel of his bike and lodged himself in the spokes, sending the alderman flying over the handlebars.
The squirrel made the ultimate sacrifice.
Comment: Ald. Brookins was in fact badly hurt so, more seriously, wishing him a fast recovery.
“Chicago will be one of the first cities using this type of partnership between housing and libraries to benefit and beautify our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This model will create spaces everyone can enjoy, and I hope will be the next great civic projects here in Chicago.”
The rally, which started at noon in Federal Plaza downtown and proceeded in front of the Trump Tower, was organized by the Chicago branch of Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), a radical leftist group which supports socialism, open borders, and a single Palestinian state.
Illinois employers who try to boost their social media presence by having employees participate in their Facebook, Twitter and other online activities should reconsider that practice, a labor and employment attorney said during a recent interview.
The University of Chicago enrolls undocumented students and gives them access to private financial aid through the University. In his e-mail, Diermeier said the University would continue to do so and is “committed to raising more private funds for financial aid to assist international and undocumented students.”
A suspended Harvey police officer is among at least 8,171 Cook County property owners who wrongly received tax breaks over the past decade on homes they didn’t live in — costing more than $24 million, a burden other taxpayers had to make up.
Comment: Wrong. Trump has said he is going after criminals only, who are among those protected by sanctuary city rules. The Tribune did not sort that out. Otherwise law abiding immigrants who are established here should not be deported, whether in a sanctuary city or not.
Dozens of Chicago radio stations suspended their programming on Nov. 14 to broadcast what sounded like a half-hour "infomercial" for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The free air time, spearheaded by the Radio Broadcasters of Chicagoland, was framed as a substantive interview exploring critical issues facing our city. Instead, we were treated to a smorgasbord of Emanuel's campaign talking points.
Bankruptcy may still be the route to go. But until then, homeowners, renters, drivers, users of phones, etc. – in other words regular families who’re just sitting ducks – are going to get squeezed dry, in order to slow the momentum of the public-employee pension crisis eating up the city’s and the school district’s finances.
Tough talk, ugly speech — you've heard it all year from Donald Trump. His politically incorrect style of communication is everywhere, but it's harder to find on the campus of DePaul University, where the administration blocked another appearance by a controversial conservative speaker.
Trump’s “First 100 Days” statement released in late October vowed to strip any sanctuary city of federal funding. Chicago relied on $1 billion in federal dollars in its 2016 budget and looks to seek $1.3 billion in the budget passed Wednesday.
Labor leaders Thursday said “hundreds” of low-wage workers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport have voted to strike, and warned that those employees may not show up during the busy holiday travel season.
When the governor signed off on the deal giving Chicago $215 million for teacher pensions, it was with the unwritten understanding that CPS would get the money — but only if there was an elusive deal to save state pensions. And that’s unlikely to happen until Illinois has a permanent budget.
The Chicago Transit Authority on Wednesday approved borrowing $400 million toward a $2.1 billion-dollar series of projects to revamp the Red and Purple L lines, hoping to secure federal matching funds before the end of President Barack Obama’s term.
Now comes the hard part: Delivering on the mayor’s $60 million first-year promise to fill 471 police vacancies, keep pace with rising retirements and still hire enough police officers in 2017 to add 250 patrol officers, 37 sergeants, 50 lieutenants, 92 field-training officers and 100 detectives.
Comment: Remember that one of the most successful lies Rahm manufactured while in the Clinton Administration was "putting 100,000 new cops on the street." That never happened but he got away with the claim, and you can be sure he remembers.
According to the ACLU report "Protected: Asset Forfeiture in Illinois," issued jointly with the Illinois Policy Institute, Chicago Police led all Illinois law enforcement agencies by seizing $80 million from 2005 to 2015. Even the State Police came in second at $58 million.
Comment: You gotta love this statement about what comprises the "fabric of our community: Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said Trump's vow to "immediately" deport up to 3 million immigrants who are "criminal and have criminal records," citing "gang members, drug dealers" would tear a hole in the "fabric of our community."
Adello Biologics, formerly known as Therapeutic Proteins International, will keep its existing manufacturing facility at the Illinois Institute of Technology's tech park on the South Side and roughly 100 employees who work there. But about 15 executives and support staff are relocating the company headquarters to Piscataway, New Jersey, with plans to hire up to 70 scientists there. No layoffs are planned.
If you’re a taxpayer who lives in those overlapping districts, watch out for what could be a quadruple whammy: tax increases from all four governments, largely to deal with mounting retirement debt. Taxpayers are already on the hook for rising interest rates in the municipal market for the governments’ bond debt.
Comment: It's on that consolidated basis that the number are so clearly insurmountable.
“When the mayor wants to look at who should ultimately bear the brunt of the blame for things that have gone wrong with public safety in Chicago, the first place he should look is in the mirror,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police.
The IRS is auditing the nonprofit that runs Navy Pier to determine whether it properly reported income that isn't related to the primary purpose of the state's most-visited tourist attraction.
The audit for 2013 is disclosed in Navy Pier Inc.'s 2015 tax form, which also reveals pay raises for several of its top executives and a 9 percent year-over-year increase in operating revenue to $45.2 million.
Newly elected Chicago aldermen and citywide elected officials will have to serve longer to achieve the maximum 80 percent city pension under a surprise change tied to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to save the city’s largest pension fund.
The former chief executive of Chicago’s first red-light camera vendor was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in federal prison and over $2 million in restitution for paying bribes to a city official to help procure the contracts.
Over the past two years, violence in developing and more affluent areas close to the Loop has also spiked, giving more well-heeled Chicagoans a taste of the danger and fear that people in the city's poor neighborhoods have experienced for decades.
Our media slavishly continues to bow to credit rating companies as authorities. This despite their miserable failures leading to the financial crisis of 2007-2009, and significant financial research suggesting that credit ratings follow, rather than lead, changes in credit quality reflected in market prices (and interest rates).
One could have relied on accounting results alone to gauge the deterioration in CPS’ financial condition.
Starting next July, the four-for-$10 deal will cost you $15.76 in Cook County. That's the price after applying Board President Toni Preckwinkle's new penny-an-ounce beverage tax. It doesn't include sales taxes.
Onetime powerhouse Chicago alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak, who went to prison after pleading guilty to a high-profile financial scam in 2008, has been indicted on charges of impeding the IRS and income tax evasion.
Chicagoans who bought a home in 2010 have reaped less than one-third the financial reward that putting the same money into the stock market would have given them, according to a new Redfin report, linked here.
"There is something truly ironic about the way some executives say they support diversity and inclusion, unless of course you happen to disagree with their narrow point of view on the topic. In that case, tolerance be damned, don’t let the door hit you on your way out."
The Chicago Housing Authority is preparing to roll out a pilot program that would cut off housing vouchers for some people after eight years, an attempt to nudge more recipients into the workforce and shrink the long waiting list for rental assistance.
Like the rest of the country, Chicago is enjoying a wave of construction of data centers, the big, nondescript industrial buildings that house the servers that deliver Facebook posts to smartphones, Netflix to TVs and business software to laptops.
Comment: Oak Park is a very interesting case. Already highly taxed, they are one of the few making an honest effort to measure their true pension liability. And, so far, they seem willing to raise taxes to try to address it. We'll continue to watch it.
A pair of influential aldermen demanded Friday that Gov. Bruce Rauner “stand up for Chicago” and against President-elect Donald Trump’s first 100 days promise to cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary” cities.
Prediction: Rauner will stay out of it but this will be a big issue and Chicago will lose.
Some of the world’s top trading firms have agreed to build a faster data transmission network between Chicago and Tokyo, according to a person familiar with the matter, a move that would accelerate trading between two of the major centers of finance.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel will ask the City Council to meet in special session on Nov. 30 to authorize a transit tax-increment financing district in the race to nail down $1.1 billion in federal grants to modernize the CTA Red Line before President Barack Obama leaves office.
One day after the Chicago Public Schools’ bond rating dropped even deeper into junk status, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday tried to sell the new teachers contract partially responsible for the latest reduction.
Video footage shows a mob of young black men in Chicago punching, stomping and kicking a middle-age white man whom they say voted for President-elect Donald Trump. While the mob is beating the man, bystanders are cheering on the violence and screaming, “You voted Trump” and “don’t vote Trump.”
Where are Obama and Hillary to denounce mounting violence like this?
The Cook County Board of Commissioners on Thursday narrowly passed a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, but only after Board President Toni Preckwinkle came in at the last minute to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Comment: This is the guy we wrote about who was caught on open mic saying, "Nobody around here really gives a fuck." He should have been criminally prosecuted long ago -- theft of wages and other charges.
In seven DuPage County townships and one city on Election Day, voters sent a signal that they favor government consolidation.
Their answers to ballot questions about road services, mosquito abatement and township government transmitted the message, which leaders say they got from "overwhelming" voter support of governments combining when appropriate.
"No Trump, No KKK, No Fascists USA" and "Not my president!" were among chants shouted by the crowd.
Comment: If the colors, font and layout of those signs look familiar, maybe that's because of the one linked here, bearing the name at the bottom of Americans United for Change, which was central to the Project Veritas videos.
"There is something fundamentally wrong here. Chicago used to be known as the city that worked. Whether it was the Daley machine or Midwestern values, it was a solid, friendly place. Now, fear and a palpable lack of optimism pervade too many neighborhoods."
A predominantly white neighborhood on Chicago's southwest side has been rocked by confrontations between protesters and police supporters for the second time since the weekend's fatal shooting of a black man by police.
Joshua Beal, 25, of Indianapolis, was fatally shot Saturday during a confrontation over whether a funeral caravan was blocking a fire lane.
"We cannot allow the other side to frame who is and who is not the 'political establishment' that the public rejected last night, " says Creamer, the Chicago thug at the center of the DNC's violence incitement scandal.
Yes, actually, we can frame it, and Creamer is the most nauseating blot on the picture.
What Rahm really wanted to say: "You think you're pissed? I fed the public that 'mission accomplished' crap and would have had an excuse to split town by taking an appointment from Hillary. Now I'm stuck here in this sinkhole with you slugs."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $8.2 billion 2017 budget sailed through a City Council committee on Monday along with the $50 million revenue package needed to help pay for it and the mayor’s promised police hiring surge.
On Monday, more than 40 radio stations are set to broadcast the commercial-free 30-minute event, where Emanuel — and other guests from the mayor's office — will field questions from Bill Kurtis as well as those submitted by residents.
Prediction: Bill Kurtis will have no idea what the right questions are.
The deal will cost Chicago Public Schools (CPS) close to $9.5 billion over the life of the deal, and a large chunk of the cost will be pension pickups, in which the district “picks up” the bulk of teacher pensions after a small contribution from teachers' salaries.
The junk-rated Chicago Public Schools returns to the market next week with a $426 million sale, tapping a portion of its more than $1 billion of new money and refunding authority approved by the board in 2015 and 2016.
It comes in the form of a referendum question on Tuesday's ballot that lets them have the final say on whether the duties of the recorder of deeds should be transferred to the county clerk. If approved, the merger would happen in 2020.
The City Council’s Black Caucus is declaring its opposition to giving United Airlines control over concessions and contracts at its O’Hare Airport terminal in retaliation for what aldermen call the airline’s indifference to allegations of wage theft at O’Hare.
"It's a ripe mess and voters know it. It's right there in front of them. And this has outraged many liberal pundits, who perpetuate the myth that they speak truth to power even as they rally around the desperate establishment queen. The wits of our modern Versailles continue to ridicule voters who dare think the system is rigged, and call them foolish, deplorable hicks or mentally ill."
Saying the city’s new regulations on online home-sharing services subject Chicago homeowners to a “literally incomprehensible” and “dizzying” array of rules - with severe potential penalties for breaking those rules – a group claiming to represent a number of Chicago property owners who list their properties on Airbnb and similar home-sharing sites has sued Chicago City Hall, calling on a federal judge to declare the city’s new ordinance unconstitutional.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has used personal email accounts to communicate with top government and political figures, including through his own custom email domain that's similar to the one Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton used on a private email server as secretary of state.
The local governments with the highest adjusted net pension liability as a percentage of operating revenue for FY 2015 are Chicago (Ba1 negative) at 719%, Dallas (Aa3 negative) at 549%, Phoenix (Aa1 negative) at 434%, Houston (Aa3 negative) at 414%, and Los Angeles (Aa2 stable) at 407%.
Comment: It's true for the state, too, where pension liability vastly exceeds other debt.
For the second time in five years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will try and lighten the load of a $91 million financial albatross: the Michael Reese Hospital site purchased for an Olympic Village before Chicago’s Olympic-hosting dream turned into a nightmare.
Coca-Colas, Pepsi and Sprite are all soft drink brands that for decades have been popular among Black consumers in Chicago and America for generations. Preckwinkle has proposed a penny-an-ounce sweetened beverage tax for consumers in Cook County. She said the plan could help Cook County and thousands of Blacks who struggled to stay healthy and in shape. “I don’t want to mislead you. This is a revenue-generating idea, but this also benefits the consumer health,” Preckwinkle said.
Robert Creamer, founder and partner of Democracy Partners, the group behind the organized violence at Trump rallies, as shown in the video by James O’Keefe and Project Veritas, is no ordinary agitator. Creamer, a convicted felon, is arguably the spiritual godfather of ObamaCare and much of the current progressive left agenda. Schakowsky's camaign is a client of Democracy Partners.
The Chicago exchange, which handles a sliver of U.S. stock-trading volume, says it wants to reduce costs for investors and thwart aggressive high-frequency-trading strategies by slowing down trading for some orders but not others.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Jacie Zolna said Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy’s ruling could ultimately force Chicago taxpayers to refund $200 million in fines and late fees for tickets issued in error since the 2003 inception of a red-light camera program built on a $2 million bribery scandal.
Chicago's proposed $8.2 billion 2017 budget won the Civic Federation of Chicago's endorsement in recognition of the city's progress in tackling pension funding shortfalls and shedding poor financial practices.
Truth in Accounting goes to a Chicago City Council budget hearing: "Budgets are not results. Budgets are prospective planning documents. Results arrive, albeit imperfectly, in the audited annual financial statements. Looking at those statements, it is very difficult to conclude that Chicago is in better shape today than it was five years ago."
The nearly minutelong spot also takes aim at Creamer’s wife, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and points to a story that mentions that on the night Trump canceled his rally in Chicago, Schakowsky was photographed at a protest holding a sign that calls Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) the “gang of hate.”
The super PAC’s video calls on viewers to urge Congress to investigate Schakowsky.
Comment: This report is as garbled and obfuscated as the county's own budget documents. For example, try to answer these basic questions: What is the total pension contribution budgeted for 2017 (not just the supplement contribution)? How does that compare to the ARC or ADC for the pension for 2017 -- what are those numbers? Good luck finding them.
You need those numbers to see how badly the pension will continue to be underfunded. There's plenty of historical data on that (the contributions were never close to adequate) but no forward information.
One good point that is clearly made is that using the sugary drinks tax to fund a supplemental pension payment is probably illegal. State law says the pension is supposed to be funded by property taxes only and the amount is capped. The supplemental payment exceeds the cap.
At least 17 people were killed and more than 40 others were injured in shootings since Friday in the nation’s third-largest city, marking the deadliest weekend in what has been the city’s most violent year in more than a decade.
Because most fans attending this weekend’s games are from Chicago, the money they spend would have been spent elsewhere in the city even if the World Series wasn’t happening. “You really need to look at who came to Chicago and spent money they wouldn’t have otherwise spent there,” said an economist.
A woman in Schakowsky's district has organized a large protest demanding criminal enforcement of the conduct shown in the Project Veritas videos. Details linked here. We'll be writing about that shortly.
As it has in other locales, the soda industry is digging in to fight a proposed sweetened beverage tax, which would add a penny-per-ounce to the cost of sugar- and artificially sweetened drinks if approved by Cook County commissioners next month.
“These individuals no longer have a relationship with the DNC. They have never had a relationship with the Clinton campaign,” said [Clinton Campaign Manager] Mr. Mook, referring to Mr. Creamer and Mr. Foval.
But subsequently released video shows Creamer (husband of Rep. Jan Schakowsky) saying he's on the phone with the campaign every morning and that he implemented Hillary's personal request to unleash "Donald's Ducks."
Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate at Blackstone Group, is bullish on the city for the same reason many investors are: Big companies like McDonald's, ConAgra and Kraft Heinz are moving their headquarters here, along with thousands of jobs.
The company was founded in 2013 and until recently served local Chicago non-profits. They now have over 1 million charities on their site for which they can help raise awareness and funding. They have created, in a sense, a different category of social network.
The mayor included the Catalyst Investment Fund, which is the brainchild of city Treasurer Kurt Summers, in his 2017 budget. Summers likes to call it Fund 77 — a reference to the number of official city neighborhoods.
Comment: This is a big mistake. The money will be politicized and much of it lost. Summers said he expects a good return on the investments. Summers said, "It's not there's additional real risk. It's that there's additional perceived risk." Nonsense. There are sound reasons why the money is not already going there.
For reform-minded aldermen, annual budget hearings are an opportune time to address this problem. But at the Chicago Board of Ethics budget hearing Oct. 21, a mere 10 of 50 city aldermen bothered to show up. The hearing lasted less than five minutes.
Comment: Chicago is its birthplace and, as this article says, "The deeper problem is the ideology behind all of this, which goes far beyond the few operatives featured in the videos. Alinskyite leftists quite simply do not believe in liberal democracy, which is why they’re so willing to violate its norms."
Several Northwest suburbs said they'll consider opting out of a gradual increase in the minimum wage approved by the Cook County Board Wednesday despite the opinion of the state's attorney's office that the measure was beyond the county's legal authority to enact.
The village of Lombard will reap a $459,000 payday from the operators of six of the biggest online travel websites – the only Illinois municipality allowed to do so - after a federal judge signed off on a deal to end a years-long court fight over claims the travel sites had stiffed Lombard and other suburban Chicago communities of hotel taxes.
The good news is that low home inventories are finally starting to have a significant impact on Chicago area home prices as we would expect. The sad news is still the fact that we are in 4th place from the bottom of 20 metro areas in terms of year over year gains.
Even though the students expressed disgust with the budget crisis in May, they still demonstrated vehemently in favor of free tuition, claiming students only have to pay for school because billionaires are not paying their “fair share.”
Comment: No surprise to those of us who have to live under her, but holy crap -- read it. Not familiar with the author but the assertions check out as far as I can tell. And I asked Gabel to comment or refute anything that's inaccurate -- got no response. She's a Schakowsky protege, which is also no surprise.
Robert Creamer, an Alinskyite from Evanston, admits to being the brains behind hiring and paying for Trump disruptors. He was also sentenced to five months in prison for bank fraud and a tax violations.
Neither the mainstream media nor Republicans have sufficiently exposed these dirty tricks and their intent to swing elections toward the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Federal authorities — from the compromised FBI to higher ups in the Justice Department — won’t do anything about it either, mostly because they back Clinton’s presidential candidacy.
An increase in police pension fund contributions this year could take away more than $200,000 Lincolnwood would use for general fund operations, prompting village officials to figure out how to control mounting pension costs going forward.
Just another of similar stories happening across the state with no end in sight.
Comment: Even the Washington Post got this right: "DePaul is a private university, so the First Amendment doesn’t restrict its ability to block such speech. But we have a First Amendment right to criticize DePaul (especially when it claims to be “committed to fostering a community that welcomes open discourse”), and I think we should."
Junk-rated Chicago Public Schools will ask its Board of Education for authority to sell up to $840 million of bonds backed by a new citywide capital improvement tax levy and to refund up to $160 million more.
The district also has yet to release cost details of the agreement it reached with the Chicago Teachers Union just in time to avoid a strike. Bittner said all those details will be released once the CTU’s 25,000 members ratify the agreement into a contract.
Comment: Chicago is the epicenter of what's turning into the next Watergate.
This video is a smoking gun. Creamer is husband of Rep. Jan Schakowsky. And to all you who rant and rave about Clinton and Schakowsky as champions of the effort to overturn the Citizens United case and control dark money in politics, I ask, "Where are your Messiahs now?"
The budget assumes no increase in wage rates for unionized bus drivers and train personnel, even though the current contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union expired at the end of 2015. Negotiations for a new pact continue.
At least equally important, the CTA projects that the number of paying riders will decline in 2017 for the fifth year in a row.
Tom Ricketts, chief architect of the massive overhaul that is underway, envisions the day when Wrigley and its surrounding neighborhood will hold the appeal of a European plaza — one where tourists are drawn to the mere dramatic presence of a landmark. Only in this case, it's not the ancient St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, it's Wrigley.
Robert Creamer, founder and partner of Democracy Partners, the group behind the organized violence at Trump rallies, as shown in the video by James O’Keefe and Project Veritas, is no ordinary agitator. Creamer, a convicted felon, is arguably the spiritual godfather of ObamaCare and much of the current progressive left agenda.
The district said 381,349 students were in class on the 20th day of the school year. That number includes all schools that operate under the CPS umbrella, including privately run charter schools and alternative learning programs.
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s grip on the state’s legislative process once delayed the Cubs’ quest for lights at Wrigley Field – and 30 years later, the Cubs are still feuding with politicians.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget continues a long history in Chicago of questionable fiscal management of misconduct lawsuits. From 2012 to 2015, the city spent more than $263 million on settlements, judgments and outside legal counsel for police misconduct. But only $70 million was budgeted for those costs, and the city issued bonds to cover them. At the high interest rate Chicago paid, that borrowing will cost taxpayers more than double over the life of the 30-year bonds.
Council voted to accept a police and fire actuarial pension report that calls for a 2.1% increase in Evanston property taxes in order to fill an $800,000 gap caused by a change in life expectancy actuarial assumptions. No changes were made to the assumed rate of return on pension fund investments, currently 6.5%, even though both funds returned less than that – 3.87% for fire and 5.26% for police.
At a news conference Wednesday in front of Schakowsky's Evanston office, Lasonde accused the longtime Democratic congresswoman of being a party to activities shown on the video, which included discussions on how to win elections and orchestrate mayhem at a March rally for Donald Trump in Chicago.
Chicago’s 911 emergency center is still struggling to get a handle on runaway overtime because 49 percent of call takers are on “some type of” absence tied to the Family and Medical Leave Act, aldermen were told Wednesday.
As the Riverwalk enters its final stage, its success has spurred a citywide push to reinvest not only in the Chicago River, but the Des Plains and Calumet rivers as well. Ross Barney consulted with the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council on the plan for Great Rivers Chicago, which lays of a vision for transforming all three bodies of water by 2040.
The Chicago manufacturing facility, set to open in December, will be the first for Fuse, a new GE crowdsourcing initiative to create and build innovative industrial products. One of the first challenges on the Fuse drawing board, for example, is finding a new way to quickly inspect a hot jet engine between flights.
Robert Creamer -- husband of Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky -- announced his resignation in a statement after conservative activist James O'Keefe released a video under his organization Project Veritas Action, which showed Creamer and other operatives purportedly discussing methods for inciting violence at rallies for the Republican nominee.
Contained in the deal to be considered this week by Chicago Teachers Union delegates is a provision to impose limits on both the number of charter schools in Chicago Public Schools as well as those schools’ total enrollment over the duration of the four-year agreement.
Comment: Rahm must have forgotten to mention that earlier.
At nearly $100,000 a year, the average salary for employees of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District ranks near the top of public agencies in the state, higher than Cook County, Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Housing Authority.
Comment: This deal stinks to high heaven -- based on what we know and much more we haven't been told (which it's safe to assume is ugly). The cost of the bribes to get teachers to retire early is can-kicked to next year -- we know that. Among other things that we haven't been told is the effect on the CPS pension. It appears that further costs of the deal are also being buried in future pension costs. It's all a shell game to defer cost and protect older teachers at the expense of younger ones, which is now routine. The coverup is shameless.
If Orland Park trustees vote yes on a plan more than tripling the mayor's salary to $150,000 a year, it will lead to a big spike in Mayor Dan McLaughlin's future pension, a Daily Southtown analysis found.
Once a month Joyce and Roger Alexander walk from their South Side home to their local bank to cash their social security check and pay bills—but this time they were robbed of their checks, walker and cane.
When the housing market crashed in 2006, Chicago was awash in unsold condominiums—and the wave tripled in size as the crisis deepened. The meter is still running. Today, condos are worth about 7 percent less than they were 10 years ago.
Three days after the Chicago Teachers Union called off its threat of a strike after reaching a tentative agreement with Chicago Public Schools, the charter teachers remain in a contract fight with operators of one the city's biggest independently run charter school networks.
A Chicago startup backed by the CIA and used by the Chicago Police Department has landed at the center of a battle over privacy and social media after reports that its platform was being used for government surveillance.
High rollers willing to cough up big bucks for tickets to sporting events and hit shows like “Hamilton” could find themselves paying higher prices, thanks to a subtle change tied to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2017 budget.
It can be a little tiring trying to respond to public statements about city finances by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a way, he’s like the Energizer Bunny, who just keeps going, and going, and going. Trying to read his communications and point out miscommunication, well, it sometimes feels like trying to roll a boulder uphill, again and again and again, only to see it roll back downhill near the top every time.
Evanston aldermen Monday approved an actuarial report for its public safety pension funds that adopts more realistic mortality tables. But they held off on adopting more realistic investment earnings assumptions.
Comment: In other words, "We can't afford to be honest about pension numbers." At least they're being honest about it.
If the delegates like the agreement, they would recommend it to the full membership for a vote, according to the union. Delegates also are tasked with setting a referendum in which the full voting membership of about 25,000 would ratify the agreement as their contract for the next three years.
Cook County Commissioners Richard Boykin (D-Chicago) and Robert Steele (D-Chicago) have submitted a proposed ordinance calling for a 50-cent tax on "ride-sharing services" for trips that begin or end in the county.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward, introduced an ordinance Oct. 5 that would require a two-thirds vote from City Council to pass any tax hike. All city appropriations would have to meet an equally high threshold.
Evanston aldermen Monday approved an actuarial report for its public safety pension funds that adopts more realistic mortality tables. But they held off on adopting more realistic investment earnings assumptions.
The bottom line is this new contract piles hundreds of millions of additional costs onto an already junk-rated, insolvent school system. The only way CPS is likely to pay for this is through more borrowing, more deficits, and more taxes on Chicagoans.
Comment: Actually, most of it is quite clear. They've relied on a nonrecurring source -- TIF raiding -- and still haven't covered the cost. And, as is becoming routine, they stiffed new teachers on the pension cost while protecting the senior ones.
"It's an assessment that some analysts and buyside representatives share – to some extent – but it ignores the concerns many retain over the fragility of some of the city's gains and worries that Chicago has a long way to go to clear the woods."
Comment: I'd respectfully reword that to say, "It's an assessment the whores in the muni industry peddle, but nobody really believes Rahm's crap."
As often is the case with public sector workers, the threat of a disruptive strike was enough to dissolve whatever gumption Emanuel and district officials had stockpiled. By keeping the pension pickup in place for current teachers, taxpayers lose out on desperately needed short-term savings of roughly $127 million annually.
"Today, I am presenting you a budget unlike any we have seen in recent memory." It is a budget free of an immediate pension crisis, free of the black cloud of insolvency threatening the retirements of city employees and the financial future of Chicago."
Since 1996, the northwest suburban district has changed from 25 to 60 percent minority, with nearly half of all students low-income. The percentage of students learning English has doubled, to 22 percent.
“The 7% pension pickup remains intact,” the union tweeted out — but Lewis clarified that only existing teachers would keep that much-discussed benefit that CPS decades ago had agreed to pay for them. New hires will assume that cost themselves, she said.
Comment: An great, detailed look at the potential. Just one problem -- no mention of the problems. The fact is that Chicago has all the assets to become a powerhouse again, if only it would get its fiscal and political house in order.
A federal appeals court on Friday ruled that Uber drivers and traditional taxis can continue to operate under different sets of rules in Chicago, throwing out a lawsuit by cab companies who say ride-hailing services are driving them out of business.
Anyone brooding about illegal practices in the financial markets now has a $700 million incentive from the federal government to speak up. And Chicagoans are responding to the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission call for whistleblowers, say lawyers who work with them.
Comment: The Illinois Supreme Court has created an exceptionally difficult mess about who gets what constitutional protection. All benefits "attendant" to a pension cannot be taken away once granted, the court has ruled. But figuring out who had what promised on healthcare is the problem, especially for Chicago.
Over the past nine years, two nephews of former Mayor Richard M. Daley have been involved in separate plans to redevelop a rundown warehouse on 15 acres of polluted land in Little Village just north of the Stevenson Expressway.
Comment: Hey, he actually said something true about the pension crisis: "Elected labor leaders weren’t gonna tell their members what they had to pay for in benefits. People in the civic watchdog groups were asleep. They were like trained seals applauding because stardust got thrown in their eyes and they weren’t asking the questions that needed to be asked. Collectively, people in leadership took their eye off the ball."
The face of the Ferguson Effect now belongs to a longtime Chicago police officer.
She didn't want to use her gun in a physical confrontation with a violent man, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
So she's in the hospital, in serious condition, her face repeatedly pounded into the concrete of the West Side in a beating that lasted several minutes as she fought with an assailant suspected by police of being high on PCP.
Teachers from the UNO Charter School Network, one of Chicago’s largest charter school systems, voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of a strike if workers and management don’t reach an agreement before Oct. 19.
Aldermen and city officials who take advantage of the Cubs’ lucrative offer to purchase playoff tickets at face value must accompany their guests to all games at Wrigley Field and be publicly announced to the crowd — and face the boos that may come with it — or risk violating the city’s ethics ordinance.
Fentanyl manufactured in China is up to 50 times more potent than heroin. This year, more than 270 people died of fentanyl through mid-September in Cook County compared with 102 such deaths in 2015, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Any university would be challenged by such collapsing enrollment coupled with rapid leadership turnover. For Chicago State, however, the developments raise the question of how long a university beset by turmoil in recent years can continue to operate.
The new law bans "police officers and other city employees" from making threats to reveal illegal status to federal immigration officials, and also outlaws verbal abuse aimed at undocumented immigrants based on their race, citizenship or country of origin.
Chicago is a case study in how teacher unions have siphoned vast sums out of classrooms and into retirement and health benefits that do nothing for students — and that frequently, I’m afraid, aren’t configured to help attract or keep terrific teachers.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel had made several changes and concessions in crafting the compromise ordinance creating the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which replaces the widely discredited Independent Police Review Authority.
The Cook County ordinance will apply to private sector employees throughout the county except where a home rule municipality has enacted its own law, which so far is only Chicago. The Cook County ordinance will apply to private sector employees throughout the county except where a home rule municipality has enacted its own law, which so far is only Chicago.
Just what employers want -- another unfunded mandate.
"Many said that Puerto Rican government officials had encouraged them to buy one-way tickets to Chicago, promising drug treatment, housing, and jobs when they arrived. But when they landed at the airport, no one was waiting for them. Many ended up living on the streets."
If teachers walk off the job next week, Chicago Public Schools will leave all its buildings open for students and has promised breakfast and lunch for anyone who shows up. That’s what the district shared in contingency plans preparing for a possible teachers strike on Tuesday.
A close look at the negative equity problem. Chicago area has a far higher portion of homes underwater than the rest of the nation. The problem is concentrated in less affluent zip codes with some as high as 50%.
The city of Chicago has the constitutional authority to require developers of new condo and apartment buildings to designate a portion of the project as “affordable housing,” a federal judge has said - and developers should enter into a new project understanding the rule could apply to them, despite efforts to avoid it.
Comment: Bummer. The affordable housing ordinance is a huge burden on developers and gets almost zero results in affordability.
Neighbors in a southern portion of Chicago's Lake View neighborhood are concerned about a spike in violent crime and say they want to see something done about it. Police confirm the crimes, from gunpoint muggings to break-ins.
“You expect a little crime in the city,” a resident said. “But the fact that it’s happening in the middle of the day, and so often, with no real police response, it’s very alarming.”
Some 140 teachers and 109 more school-based staffers, such as classroom aides, were told Monday they weren’t needed at their schools, which saw enrollment declines. It’s not yet clear how charter school staffing has been affected.
In an action unlike any I've seen in decades, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to nearly 2,000 businesses in the Northwest Side's 1st and 35th Wards asking them to contact their aldermen and "unite against these harmful policies."
The contract locks Chicago into using Taser International’s cloud storage software, Evidence.com, for at least five years. By then, CPD could be storing hundreds of thousands of hours of video, making it difficult to switch if the company were to raise the price or the department were to find cost savings in storing the videos on local servers.
“What this means is you will forever be required to pay them for their service, from now till the end of time,” wrote Lee Richards, a sergeant with 10 years overseeing video evidence for the Kansas City, Missouri police department.
"These services are going to do to urban transit what UberX did to the taxi market — it's going to overturn the apple cart," said Ian Savage, a transportation expert at Northwestern University. UberX, which offers cheaper rides than cabs for individual passengers, helped cause a sharp decline in the taxi business.
Comment: Make no mistake. Sharing services like Uber and Lyft are monumentally disruptive and are likely to change transportation radically all around the world.
While blue model decay is more advanced in Chicago than any other American city, the problems underlying the crisis in the school district are weighing on municipal governments from coast to coast. In the long run, this dynamic has the potential to create tectonic political shifts.
Comment: Think what you want about the blue/red thing, but nobody should deny the obvious, which is that our model of government is fundamentally broken. We are not generating the growth, jobs and revenue needed to fulfill promises made.
Comment: An utterly unfair, stupid populist stunt. Punish the individuals who did it, not the shareholders and the employees who are innocent. Most importantly, don't punish Illinois taxpayers. Our money should go where it gets the highest return.
"Stop treating them as victims, and let the rest of humanity scorn their subculture as uncool. Of course it is taboo for whites to scorn anything associated with any blacks. But is this taboo worth preserving when it is killing thousands of young African American males?"
Comment: And scorn the women who have babies without a committed partner and the financial means to raise a child.
Emanuel opened the Star Scholarship to undocumented students, who get 56% of the awards. The high numbers of undocumented and more middle-class students helps explain why the first year’s price tag was 50 percent more than expected.
“I think it’s a feat. This is one of the biggest benefits of doing universal-style programs that don’t only focus on [whether you qualify for federal aid],” said Goldrick-Rab, whose research influenced the Obama administration’s free community college proposal. “I have been saying for a while, I think undocumented students could be enormous beneficiaries of free college programs
"A New York-based hedge fund manager who focuses on distressed government debt is telling the world that Chicago’s efforts to shore up its pension plans are far short of what’s needed." (This is about the Bond Buyer article we linked to yesterday.)
Comment: How forfeiture laws were upheld by American courts has always been a mystery to me. They violate the most basic notions of due process. This article adds a further dimension -- how the proceeds of the forfeitures get spent.
Chicago police officers and other city employees would be explicitly prohibited from using immigrants' background or immigration status to threaten or abuse them under a proposal Mayor Rahm Emanuel backs that is headed for a City Council vote.
A study from the Building Owners and Managers Association, suggests that while commercial properties still are assessed at two and a half times the rate of single-family-home owners, their tax bill is rising no faster than anyone else's and, in fact, may be rising a little slower, depending on how you count new construction.
The Food Marketing Institute today announced it has pulled the plug on its FMI Connect show scheduled for June after a significant drop-off in attendance by its retail and wholesale members in recent years. It was one of Chicago's long-running, big trade shows.
Motorola Mobility began another big round of layoffs yesterday. Parent company Lenovo said it's cutting "less than 2 percent" of the computer and phone maker's 55,000 workers worldwide, which works out to about 1,000 people. The company declined to say how many jobs are being eliminated in Chicago.
"We will still maintain a substantial employee base there as well as our design facilities," the company said. "Chicago will also continue to serve as a hub of innovation for Lenovo Moto as well as our Motorola headquarters."
The housing crisis wiped out half of the homebuilders in the U.S. This is the story of one that survived, charting a course in a housing market that’s still chastened from the recession.
Comment: You may remember a very talented, young tech writer for the Tribune, Wailin Wong. She now writes this wonderful blog profiling small business owners who have survived. Perseverance. Resilience. Isn't that what most everything comes down to?
45 months in a row of year over year price gains. The bad news is that the Chicago area is still in 4th from last place in terms of the annual home price gains of 20 metro areas tracked by Case Shiller.
CPS student enrollment dropped by 3.5 percent this year compared with last, according to information provided by the district. During the last 10 years, enrollment has fallen 6.8 percent at public schools in Chicago, with half of that drop coming since September 2015, according to district enrollment data.
The Chicago Board of Education, already junk-rated, was cut to six levels below investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service as the nation’s third-largest school district faces “acute” borrowing needs amid a financial crisis.
A Chicago pension fund is hurting, and there are competing proposals that city officials and fund managers hope state lawmakers will take up to stem the hemorrhaging.
Jim Mohler, director of the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, said things are so out of balance that for every three dollars the fund pays out in benefits, it only gets one dollar in contributions.
"Today, we are announcing the formation of the Neighborhood Small Business Committee. The new group will provide unfiltered input and policy recommendations from employers to aldermen and the mayor's office on a routine basis in an effort to have more collaboration with City Hall fostering a better understanding of challenges employers are facing."
From Deerfield to Arlington Heights to Berwyn, school districts are providing the post-retirement payouts at taxpayer expense, sort of a public version of golden parachutes that highly paid private sector employees might receive.
"I'm not going to wait till I have residential next to me and it makes it too hard to stay in business," said one business owner. "It's the frivolous lawsuits that anyone can file for any particular reason, it's the constant complaints that you have to deal with. It's all the little things that can make it really difficult to do business in the city."
Bombardier, which is the CTA's current car supplier, has charged that the bid was "rigged," suggesting that Mayor Rahm Emanuel favored the company, perhaps in hopes of luring more Chinese investment in Chicago like the $1 billion Wanda tower and other projects. And now the Canadian company has a new argument: It had a better score, and therefore should have won the deal.
"If you actually talk to the people who run some of the city’s most interesting companies...their confidence is incandescent, enough so that Chicago can rightly claim to be one of our most vibrant startup corridors."
Over the past five and a half years, companies either offshored or planned to relocate 5,587 positions from Illinois to foreign locales, according to a Crain's analysis in May of U.S. Labor Department data.
In his convocation speech to new students Monday, the president of Northwestern University promised to provide “safe spaces” while snidely criticizing anyone who disagrees.Morton Schapiro told students that those who deny the existence of microaggressions are "idiots," while those who dismiss the importance of trigger warnings are "lunatics."
Comment: I wonder if it occurred to him that he's calling a large portion of his alumni idiots and lunatics, not to mention the University of Chicago leadership and many others.
"We'll save you the suspense: CTU members will authorize the strike."
Here's why the strike approval is a foregone conclusion: Instead of secret ballots — which would permit dissent — teachers and other CTU members are being asked to authorize a strike via "petitions" circulated at schools. Dissent and you'll pay.
In other news, President Obama is pushing for admission of another 10,000 Syrian immigrants, while Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky wants "at least" ten times that -- 100,000. We have our priorities straight, right?
But Chicago's Public Schools already spend more per-pupil than 17 of McHenry County’s 18 public school districts.more money to Chicago and less to suburban and downstate districts.
82 percent of McHenry County school funding comes from local property taxes ut only 49 percent of CPS funding comes from Chicago property taxpayers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau Annual Survey of School Systems, average per-pupil public school spending in Illinois is $13,077, ranking 14th out of 50 states. Illinois public schools have had the sixth largest percentage increase in spending since 2010.
"Residents are paying a horrible price for Chicago ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence of health concerns," said Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech researcher who played a major role in uncovering lead hazards in Flint, Mich., last year and Washington, D.C., in 2003. "If they were honest about the dangers ... it is at least possible the money could be found to do the job right."
The company announced today that it will move its global headquarters and roughly 400 employees next year to Prudential Plaza overlooking Millennium Park. Wilson is moving the employees and the headquarters from its current spot next to the Kennedy Expressway near O'Hare International Airport, where it has been since 1992.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is “looking hard” at a new tax on sugary soft drinks — anywhere from half a penny to a full penny an ounce — to close a $174.3 million budget shortfall without employee layoffs, sources said Tuesday.
Comment: Another regressive tax. There will be no end to this. It's a bottomless pit.
Chicago has had one of the biggest increases in single-family home rentals of any of the nation's 20 largest cities, according to Zillow data, another effect of Chicago's relatively slow home-price recovery since the housing crash a decade ago. Home values in the Chicago area are still down nearly 20 percent from their September 2006 peak, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller home price indices.
Chicago Public Schools closed on $325 million of short-term borrowing earlier this month and plans a $150 million draw next month from new credit lines to bolster its liquidity. However, little information was published.
An attorney for Chicago’s taxi industry on Monday argued to a federal appeals court panel that the city of Chicago has unconstitutionally enforced two sets of rules for the taxi and ridesharing industries, making it impossible for cabbies to compete with Uber and Lyft drivers.
Chicago will shell out about $1 billion from the 2017 budget for pensions. That’s enough to cover more than 7,000 police officers, based on an estimated cost of $138,000 a head in the first year for salary, supervision and other benefits. The average cost of a police officer is $180,000.
Still, the market is a bit lopsided, with the residential boom making up for a sluggish commercial sector. Hiring by construction firms has picked up, but employment in the industry here is still well below precrash levels.
A federal judge has ruled Cook County Republicans have the constitutional right to attempt to weed out potential Democratic party operatives, who local Republicans worry have infiltrated their committeemen ranks.
Nuveen says, "We think the current administration's transparency about the real cost of pensions and efforts to increase annual contributions should be viewed positively." The city's efforts, while not solving the problem, are "a big step forward."
Comment: Transparency, a big step forward? My respect for the muni bond world is asymptotically approaching zero.
At a time when many corners of finance have been criticized for lack of progress in recruiting and promoting women, the futures industry has been a surprising bright spot. Today, six of CME's 16 senior leaders are women—a bigger share than the quarter at most Fortune 500 companies.
“It’s not a bad idea,” a source familiar with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to expand the use of the cameras said but added that, without adequate training and “buy-in” from officers and the Fraternal Order of Police, the technology upgrade will be “gimmicky.”
"After the end of the ramp the City will be required to fund the Police and Fire Funds at an annually calculated amount that will produce a funded ratio of 90% by 2055. Therefore, it is likely that the City will face significantly increased contributions in FY2021, the first year after the ramp."
Translation: The can-kick is bigger than initially apparent.
The CEO of Chicago Trend, or Transforming Retail Economics of Neighborhood Development, says his new for-profit social enterprise company has three advantages that will help it build top-tier retail developments in Bronzeville, Chatham, Pullman and other neighborhoods on the South and West sides: data, development contacts and dollars.
The Chicago Housing Authority has been paying more than $34,000 a year in rent for three Section 8 voucher-holders to lease apartments from an alleged gang leader who’s been in jail the past two years awaiting trial on charges he ran a heroin-trafficking ring in West Garfield Park, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times and Better Government Association show.
Although the City Council easily approved the mayor’s plan to slap a 29.5 percent tax on water and sewer bills to save the Municipal Employees pension fund, the Illinois General Assembly still needs to sign off on employee concessions tied to the deal as well as the funding schedule. Same goes for the mayor’s plan to save the Laborers pension fund.
In 2015 the median income went up in Chicago... The percentage of people in poverty was the lowest it’s been in 7 years in Chicago. But the black median income was more stagnant. That’s created a widening gap between the median incomes of white and black Chicagoans, even as the gap remained steady nationally. Median income for black Chicagoans now equals about 39 cents on the dollar compared to white Chicagoans.
Comment: Not so fast on the celebration. Turns out these new numbers are very suspect. No, bullshit. See why here.
More than 150 faculty members at the University of Chicago are pushing back on a controversial letter from the school’s dean of students that told incoming freshmen not to expect trigger warnings or intellectual safe spaces on campus.
The City Council on Wednesday came within one vote of blocking a $3.5 billion O’Hare Airport bond issue, delivering another powerful message about the lack of minority participation on city contracts and the gravy train of pinstripe patronage tied to city borrowings.
The city of Evanston maintained its AA plus bond rating with one major investment service but saw it slip a notch with another, largely over unfunded pension liabilities, officials announced last week.
The county with the highest foreclosure rate in the region is McHenry, which is seeing protests against its exorbitant property taxes, including residents paying their property tax bills in $1 bills. The northern Illinois county has one foreclosure for every 642 properties.
Comment: Certain Chicago suburbs appear to be leading the meltdown. No surprise that McHenry County suburbs are on that list. Property taxes there average over 4%.
"In Syria, there are a lot of young, under-employed or unemployed men who became part of rebel groups not just because they believed in the struggle, but it gave them status. It gave them a weapon. It gave them a role. It gave them meaning.
"It's the same thing in Chicago - it's the same thing with the gangs."
In a rare show of force, the City Council’s Black, Hispanic and Progressive caucuses joined forces Friday to block Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to issue $3.5 billion in bonds to bankroll O’Hare Airport projects amid concerns about minority participation.
“The drug crisis in the suburbs ends when we help the West Side of Chicago and end the flow of drugs on the streets. "To continue to ignore the West Side of Chicago is like a firefighter putting out a fire in part of the house, and then leaving the house burning.”
“There is no way out of this shooting spree,” said the president of the Chicago police union. His despair is understandable, because Chicago is the country’s most-glaring example of what I have called the “Ferguson effect.” Chicago officers have cut back drastically on proactive policing under the onslaught of criticism from the Black Lives Matter movement and its political and media enablers.
When the CHA began tearing down crime-ridden high-rise public housing projects like Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes under its massive “Plan for Transformation,” residents were promised a better life. But 20 years later, many of the people receiving housing vouchers from the CHA are living in privately owned homes and apartments on blocks plagued by violence, drug dealing and gangs.
Children in the state's welfare system are being warehoused in psychiatric hospitals and emergency shelters hundreds of days longer than they should be in many cases because the agency does not have a place for them, a new report found.
Longtime mayor David Webb Jr. has never needed more than 1,700 votes to win election in Markham, a south suburb of less than 13,000 people. Nevertheless, Webb Jr., who was elected mayor in 2001, has been one of the more prolific local political fundraisers in the state, taking in more than $1 million in contributions since 2000, campaign finance records show.
Thefts of the pollution control devices, which are constructed of precious metals such as platinum, palladium or rhodium, have increased 23 percent nationwide between 2008 and 2015, according to a new report by the Des Plaines-based National Insurance Crime Bureau.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to slap a 29.5 percent tax on water and sewer bills to save the largest of Chicago’s four city employee pension funds survived an early test vote Thursday, but it wasn’t easy or pretty.
Comment: Down the bottomless pit. The crisis will worsen nevertheless.
A former parking executive’s “bonehead decision” to sell a $22 million Chicago parking meter contract for a $90,000 bribe has landed him a six-month prison sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Last month, the University of Chicago appeared to pick sides in the latest iteration of America's culture wars. But it was really announcing just how silly those culture wars are -- and how to get past them.
Aspirations matter -- and the University of Chicago has the right aspiration
Comment: This is the best article yet on that U of C welcoming letter for students.
Cars.com, which provides reviews of new vehicles and comparisons of competing models, was part of Classified Ventures, a joint venture of Gannett, Tribune and three other newspaper publishers, until two years ago when Gannett bought out its partners for $1.8 billion.
"The Emanuel administration's failure to provide basic actuarial information to ensure that their estimates are accurate makes it much more difficult for us to cast this vote, particularly when other analysts and experts have called these figures into question."
Comment: They are stonewalling basic actuarial info on all city pensions, as we've been showing repeatedly.
Taxpayers wary of this possible 30-percent hike in water and sewer fees, beware: it’s likely just the beginning. New numbers from the city show that it will only enough to cover increased costs for the next five years. After that, the city by law will have to make what’s called the “actuarial required contribution.” Starting in five years, that’ll be nearly a billion dollars a year, and the city will need to find other sources to fund that and in the years going forward, where the payments could be near $2 billion.
Comment: Bingo. Paris Shultz, the author, nailed this one. And it's a similar story for Chicago's other three pensions.
Comment: We'll look forward to more discussion on the constitutionality of this, and the devil would be in the details of how it would be finalized. The author of this article, Ed Bachrach, is a smart guy who has put lots of personal effort into addressing our pension crisis.
Joseph Letke, 57, a longtime bookkeeper for several south suburbs, became a central figure in a deal that sent millions of taxpayer dollars to a developer to supposedly turn a dilapidated truckers motel beside a strip club into a Holiday Inn with a regional conference center.
The Chicago Police Department needs at least 500 and as many as 1,000 additional officers — over and above attrition — to confront an alarming spike in homicides and shootings that has the city on pace to top 750 murders in 2016, influential aldermen said Wednesday.
If you want to get a real first-hand look at gang culture in Chicago’s South Side, all you need to do is scroll through the Twitter feed of Gahrika Barnes. Barnes tweeted over 27,000 times to her 2,700 followers: boasting about her gang affiliation, posting messages of grief over friends who had been shot by rival gangs and threatening retaliation, and taunting the police. She describes herself in her bio as a “PAID SHOOTA.”
She was murdered on Eberhart Street, mere hours after tweeting the address of her current hangout.
Municipal bond investors may get a shot at $150 million of junk-rated bonds issued by the Chicago Board of Education if the bank that purchased the bonds in July decides to launch a public offering amid financial uncertainties for the school district.
Fitch Ratings has downgraded DuPage County from AAA to AA+ based on a review of the county’s credit.
Fitch says the downgrades reflect the rating agency’s concern over the county’s limited revenue flexibility and slow revenue growth prospects. The Rating Outlook is stable with Fitch saying that the county is very well positioned to address downturns while maintaining a high level of fundamental financial flexibility.
“The Civic Federation will not be convinced until we see the full actuarial analysis that proves it will be enough to stabilize this fund going forward. The city should get that analysis and share it publicly."
Comment: Hello, reporters, why don't you demand they be published, too? Instead, we're routinely asked simply to believe what Rahm and others claim. As we wrote recently, "just publish the damn actuary reports."
Union spokesperson Izabela Miltko-Ivkovich said the “theft” by private contractors includes everything from failing to make up the difference for tipped employees whose gratuities leave them short of the city’s minimum wage to failing to pay employees who work through their lunch breaks and before and after their regular shifts.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said Tuesday she opposes Chicago Public Schools’ proposal to stop paying a 7 percent pension benefit but did not rule out taking the offer to her members, despite CPS doing a poor job of explaining why it’s necessary.
Disruption of a local prosecutor's speech at the University of Chicago by hecklers unhappy with her handling of a police shooting may have been the last straw for administrators at one of the country's most prestigious schools.
When students report for the first day of class Tuesday, they’ll find a spacious cafe, third-floor gym, black box theater, mirrored dance studio and more than a dozen additional classrooms in a bright new space at 1034 N. Wells St.
“We have to guarantee one thing to parents: quality,” said Emanuel, who’s determined to keep white middle-class families from fleeing to the suburbs as their children approach high school age.
The “tax tsunami” that is hitting Chicago property owners and renters is not only about the rising real estate taxes and new utility tax on water, sewer, and garbage collection. It really is about the massive, newly approved $5.4 billion Chicago Board of Education budget that relies on a trio of new real estate tax hikes that will come like waves of a tsunami.
4,188 senior citizens across Chicago didn’t have to pay property taxes on their homes this year, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of more than 880,000 tax bills and property assessments in the city has found.
That's nearly $1.3 million more than was recommended for 2016.
But the new contributions won't reduce the city's pension debt, now pegged at a combined $86 million by the city's actuary. That .would take another $950,000. The recommended contributions don't fully cover the interest on the city's unfunded liability, the actuary said.
Comment: Same story is happening routinely in cities and towns across Illinois.
Emanuel campaigned for a first term on a promise to hire 1,000 additional police officers, then revised the pledge after taking office by adding 1,000 more “cops on the beat,” more than half of them by disbanding special units. The other half were primarily officers working desk jobs reassigned to street duty.
Comment: This is the report on which the Greg Hinz article below is based. It's interesting -- showing the higher property values in Chicago compared to Detroit -- but you'll see that Hinz grossly exaggerated its significance.
Comment: Poor Greg Hinz. He's back to his "sky isn't falling" routine.
Of course Chicago is not Detroit. So what? That doesn't mean it won't go bankrupt. There's a whole lot more to it than property values. Here's the all-important challenge that neither Mr. Hinz nor anybody else will take up: Describe the tax increases that would be necessary to put Chicago AND its overlapping municipal layers of government (that's key because they are all bleeding red) on a sustainable path. If you can't do that you have no business saying the sky isn't falling.
And a reminder of Greg's financial acumen from an article of his last year about Chicago's property tax increase: "At least the city finally is dealing wholly and completely with the problem—or so it appears. No more negotiated deals (like with police sergeants) that fell through. No more assuming Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly will act... No more funding of pensions at less than the actuarially required level." Yeah, right.
Nearly 1 in 4 hospitalizations for heroin occurred on the West Side. West Side hospitalizations make up 35 percent of Chicago's total, compared to 7 percent for the North Side. The rate of heroin overdose deaths in Chicago is much higher than in any other part of the region, including the suburbs. African-Americans die at higher rates from heroin overdose than whites do across the state.
"Chicago is launching a creepy new campaign to blanket the mega-city in more surveillance through its Array of Things, creating a network of (at least) 500 sensors devices that will be shared in a growing Big Data cloud."
"But in reality, Chicago is a failing, gang-infested and corrupt city that epitomizes the collapse of America. These sensors, and the thousands of other surveillance cameras and input devices are erecting an electronic concentration camp inside the nation’s most chaotic and unruly areas."
If that means bringing in the National Guard — some people have said, 'Bring in the National Guard.' We've discussed that. We've analyzed it," Rauner said. "In fact, it may exacerbate the other problems. So, nobody thinks that's a good idea."
The number of retirees drawing six-figure pensions from the city of Chicago’s largest public retirement fund is rising fast, a Better Government Association analysis finds.
As of March, there are 222 retirees collecting pensions of at least $100,000 a year from the Chicago Municipal Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF), a 61 percent increase from just a year earlier. The group of six-figure pensioners is three times as large as the number four years ago.
An individual story. In just a couple of days, he will be making the one-way drive from Chicago to Indiana.
Comment: I don't get what Rob Paral is talking about when he says the population loss is nothing new. He says Illinois has been losing population since 1950. Not true, as linked here. It's recent.It is true for Chicago, though the shrinkage has worsened recently.
The changes will include the creation of a new deputy inspector general responsible for auditing the entire police accountability system and identifying bad practices by the police. The proposal also recommends that the current agency responsible for investigating police misconduct be replaced by a new agency that will have civilian input in the selection of its head.
Paul Hansen, president of the Illinois Coin Laundry Association, branded the new tax designated by the mayor to shore up the Municipal Employees pension fund “immoral” because of the disparate impact it would have on low-income residents who can least afford it.
With the downtown condominium market picking up, some developers are finishing a job that was abruptly halted by the bust. They're taking buildings that were clobbered after the crash and restarting sales of condos that have been rented out ever since.
Chicago-area home prices were 3.3 percent higher in June than a year earlier but trailed the 5.1 percent gain of a composite of 20 major cities tracked by the S&P/Case-Shiller index. June's gain positioned Chicago-area prices at the highest level since December 2008. Yet the Chicago area has been a laggard in the housing recovery, with prices still down 19.2 percent from September 2006.
Translation: Chicago won't actually default on bonds for a few years, by which time we expect to be in a different job, so we really don't care. Plus, we'd like to continue to get hired by troubled cities.
The outspoken principal wrote that he ended his legal case to let his former school move on and hire a permanent principal, and to avoid the bother of “a kangaroo court that ends with a determination by your appointed school board; the very school board that voted to censure me in the first place.
The flight from suburban office sites can be overstated. When companies move downtown, they get press. When they change locations within the suburbs, they don’t draw the same attention. Right now in the Chicago area, about two-thirds of total regional employment is in the suburbs, where rent is about half of what it is in the city. Downtown vacancy rates are trending downward, but that’s true in the suburbs as well. The rate of employment growth is expected to be faster in the city, but the total number of added jobs will be higher in the suburbs.
The debate over the proposed rule underscores the predicament facing government officials as they try to end the cycle of poverty in urban areas: Do they address the problem by increasing investment in poor, high-crime neighborhoods? Or do they just help poor people escape to greener pastures?
Comment: Plenty of people think the CHA's unstated policy is has been to push the poor to the suburbs through Section 8.
Comment: We're giving equal time to the innumerates here. The book discussed, "Chicago is Not Broke," should actually be titled, "How to Empty Chicago Fast." It proposes every tax conceivable, including a head tax and financial transactions tax. And there's this idea for a taxpayer funded bank run by Chicago politicians. Sheesh.
The recent Aldridge shooting is "noteworthy because these two offenders are the prime example of the challenge we face here in Chicago with repeat gun offenders that don’t care who they shoot, don’t care whose life they take and clearly, clearly, don’t fear the consequences of their actions."
The project, dubbed “Go West,” would install a line of microwave towers from the Chicago area to the U.S. west coast, possibly ending near Seattle, and then connect to an undersea cable that stretches to Asia.
The Cook County Department of Revenue tried to impose an amusement tax on Mercury in September 2014, but Mercury protested the tax violated the equal protection guarantees of the Illinois and United States’ constitutions, because the county did not tax walking tours of city landmarks. Mercury also claimed their boat tours should be considered “live entertainment” and thus be exempt from the tax.
John Bills, a former political operative for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, admitted to U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall that he took bribes, dodged income taxes and has a broken moral compass. The man raised on Chicago’s Southwest Side also said he “destroyed a career and reputation that spanned 32 years.”
Chicago, which partnered on the project with researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory and several corporations, last week installed the first two of 500 modular sensor boxes. The devices will eventually allow the city and public to instantly get block-by-block data on air quality, noise levels, as well as vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
The Southeast Side maritime and industrial site has put out a request for proposal to manage and oversee the port. But officials say they have learned their lessons from the parking meter deal and any agreement will be much different.
The state attorney general's recent binding opinion that Chicago public employees' personal electronic messages may be public records brings up as many questions as it tries to answer, a local government law attorney said during an interview.
A bus company the Chicago Public Schools fired more than two years ago, accusing it of overbilling taxpayers at least $1.5 million, has since gotten deals worth more than $500,000 from another city agency, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show. “We uncovered a great deal of illegal activity by Jewel’s Bus Co,” Paul Osland, who recently left his post as CPS’ chief facilities officer, wrote in March.
A young couple from Arizona is getting a lot of grief from Chicagoans after they posted a video detailing the "traumatic experience" that led them to move out of the city after only one day. It's even inspired a neighborhood walking tour.
Chicago Public Schools officials had an opportunity to enact serious reforms addressing the district’s dire financial condition, but they instead opted to further burden Chicago taxpayers without offering any change.
One day after beleaguered Chicago homeowners got hit with a $250 million property tax increase for teacher pensions, top mayoral aides asked aldermen during closed-door briefings to lower the boom on their constituents once again to save the Municipal Employees pension fund.
The Chicago Teachers Union’s Big Bargaining Team wants the union to walk off the job if a contract deal isn’t reached by October. That’s according to the union’s latest contract bulletin, which is urging its members to prepare during the first weeks of school just in case.
Comment: Whether it's this position or something else, you can count on Rahm taking an appointment from Hillary if she's elected. He'll get the heck out while claiming he set Chicago on the right path, which he is already saying about the budget and pensions.
Comment: Those data points don't mean much. Monthly changes in "average" selling prices are distorted by fluctuations in whether lower priced or higher priced homes are selling. Monthly transaction volume bounces around erratically and gets suppressed when inventory drops, which has been the case in better Chicago neighborhoods. The best approach is the Case-Shiller Index, which tracks changes in comparably priced homes. It has shown the Chicago metro area lagging behind national averages for some years, though the past couple months have been good.
The legal action had dated back to 2011, after the city sued the Park Grill owners to attempt to undo the restaurant’s operating agreement, which city officials characterized as a “sweetheart deal” birthed of insider relationships and political connections.
In a refreshing and stark contrast to other universities that have seemingly tripped over themselves to accommodate every silly request from America's pampered Millennials in their never ending quest for "safe spaces," the University of Chicago has sent the incoming class of 2020 a letter making very clear that they will find no "safe spaces" in their intellectual journey at Chicago.
Comment: Yes! Now, that's what universities are supposed to be.
The Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday approved a roughly $5.4 billion budget that relies on a series of property tax hikes, more borrowing and a financial windfall from a gridlocked state government coming to fruition.
From a former detective: "You get so many cases you could not do an honest investigation on three-quarters of them," he said in an interview. "The guys ... are trying to investigate one homicide and they are sent out the next day on a brand new homicide or a double."
Community organizers are already staking a claim for some of the pie, seeking more than just broad assurances that local businesses and residents will share in the gains.
Their ultimate goal is ambitious: A written guarantee that struggling neighborhoods near the center will benefit from new jobs, enhanced schools, commercial revival and a commitment to affordable housing so the poor will not be pushed out.
The Civic Federation said Tuesday it couldn’t endorse Chicago Public Schools “overly optimistic” budget, while a key advocacy group for the disabled blasted the CPS budget for a lack of transparency on spending for some of its neediest students.
The returns give a modest bit of financial relief to Chicago, which has a junk credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service because of its $34 billion debt to city workers’ pension funds. More than 35 cents of every dollar of the budget goes to pay debt and retirement costs, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
In addition to passing a $5.4 billion operating budget, approving up to $945 million in bonds for capital projects, and voting to raise property taxes by more than $250 million, Chicago’s Board of Education on Wednesday also will consider authorizing a 45 percent increase on Chicago Public Schools’ line of credit to $1.5 billion.
When cost-of-living differences are figured in, Chicago tech workers are paid $89,091 annually, trailing only Austin, Texas ($95,247), Seattle ($91,242) and San Francisco ($90,457), according to rankings compiled by tech job-posting site Indeed.
"While many Chicago stories have some of the elements I list below, I defy you to find another single story that hits all eight."
Comment: My favorite line from the event, not mentioned in this story, came from some poor schmuck that Daley tried to blame, James McTigue: "I don't want to become the Mrs. O'Leary's cow of the flood."
Chicago Public Schools is struggling with debt and has dozens of high schools with space for more students. In spite of that, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and district leaders are contemplating building three new high schools in the coming years.
Sometimes, news about the economy and government simply has to give way to things more important:
A Palos Park woman who just got off a Metra train saw the upset teen on the bridge and asked if he was alright, police said. The woman learned the 19-year-old was despondent about the sudden death of a sibling and wanted to jump.
When officers arrived, they found the woman holding the teenager.
"A year after being cut to junk by all three major bond-rating companies, Chicago’s school system has won an influx of state aid, secured extra tax money for its pensions and quieted speculation that the crisis is so severe that bankruptcy is inevitable."
Comment: Ha. Bloomberg is usually smarter than that.
County code stipulates that venues with a capacity of 750 or fewer are exempt from a 3 percent tax on cover and ticket charges so long as the admission fees are for "live theatrical, live musical or other live cultural performances." The county wants to collect more than $200,000 in amusement taxes going back at least six years.
Instability and fears over terrorism have made life more challenging in many of the world’s leading cities over the past year, according to analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“Social unrest” was cited in the decline of several U.S. cities, including Chicago, New York and, lowest of all, Detroit, ranked 57th. The report highlighted regular mass shootings and conflict between black communities and police as key factors.
A Chinese-led group of investors sees their takeover bid for the Chicago Stock Exchange as a way to reinvent the struggling venue as a bridge between U.S. and Chinese markets, and a Western listings outpost for Chinese firms.
But first, they have to persuade Washington that it isn’t a Beijing plot to undermine American financial markets.
The 76-page complaint against Northwestern cited more than $580 million in two CREF stock and equity index accounts it alleged were "23 and 18 times more expensive than the lower-cost Vanguard option with an expense ratio of (0.02 percent). Many other large cap index funds are also available at far lower costs."
“The goal is to really lower the barrier of entry to physical product development, and give entrepreneurs the tools, the equipment, the mentorship, the manufacturing connection they need to turn their ideas into businesses.”
The rankings, which are calculated based on a company's percentage revenue growth from 2012 to 2015, give a snapshot of who in Chicago has seen significant growth over the last few years. Chicago had the fourth highest amount of Inc. 5000 companies, but its total dropped slightly from last year when it had 104 companies on the list.
The ongoing quest for new ways to nickel-and-dime Chicagoans distracts from the need for serious structural change. We must demand they end the unaffordable tax-and-spend status quo and implement real pension reform.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to encourage Chicagoans to claim their share of a modest $20 million property tax rebate, instead of offering the relief for political cover and secretly hoping they don’t apply.
Comment: What a farce. Using taxpayer money to hype a trivial PR gimmick.
Comment: "Changes going upward a distinct possibility, says Hinz. He still doesn't get it. The pensions will continue to deteriorate. Worse numbers are an absolutely certainty -- in massive amounts -- and the returns on the pensions won't matter.
“My advocacy for Roosevelt High School got me fired,” says the 40-year-old father of two boys, ages 11 and 5. Meegan had received a “warning resolution” signed by Claypool and the school district’s general counsel, Ron Marmer, on July 27. Among his “deficiencies” as a teacher: “You encouraged, solicited support, and congratulated students through social media for a student-led lunch boycott.”
Comment: This is tricky. Teachers' freedom of expression must be protected, but this guy sure seems to have crossed the line.
City Hall on Tuesday asked for proposals from nonprofit groups to manage its property tax rebate program, which will allow more than a third of homeowners whose tax bills went up to get up to $200 back.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is looking for a new term for the fertilizer product currently known as “biosolids;” and, since this is 2016, they’re crowdsourcing to find the perfect handle and garner publicity.
Flynn cast blame on some Chicago-based activists representing the Revolutionary Communist Party, who apparently organized young people to take to the streets and march on the then-barricaded District 7 police station, which received a number of threats.
Chicago State's generous severance policies aren't much different from those of most other public universities in Illinois. That is, they're an artifact of the profligate past in which this state's universities raised tuition, added staff, resisted consolidation and spent extravagantly because ... they could. Spending, borrowing, debt, pensions, whatever.
Comment: Most regular press coverage is ignoring this element of the story. There's plenty of blame to go around, but special blame goes to those elements of the left stoking racial division and capitalizing on the politics of it, and it's far more volatile in Chicago than Milwaukee.
The Chicago Police Department and City Hall are grappling with more than a rise in shootings and killings. Citywide, other violent crimes — sexual assaults, robberies and aggravated batteries — also are up this year compared with year-to-date totals for the same period in 2015.
“I think what you have now is the worst of all worlds,” says O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer. “Cops have just checked out physically or physiologically. And the bad guys know this. . . . It’s a national phenomenon.”
Comment: Take it for what it's worth -- nothing. The city numbers discussed here by the Civic Federation, like city budgets, exclude the central problem, which is continuing losses in pensions. And the numbers are fudged, as we have been writing. The Civic Federation lost its way some time ago, as we wrote earlier.
Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, complained openly about having his pay check delayed, styling himself as a middle class victim of elites.
But Martwick and his father, Robert Martwick Sr., are part of the cadre of politically connected property-tax law firms in Cook County that make money by lowering property-tax bills for corporate clients. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago Alderman Ed Burke also run lucrative property-tax law firms in Cook County.
“One of the police reports indicated that somebody believed she was – and I’ll quote the police report, ‘a lone wolf suicide bomber,'” said her attorney, Gregory Kulis. “That reflects the insensitivity of some Chicago police officers.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel views construction of O’Hare Airport’s sixth and final runway as the key to reducing delays, bolstering capacity and unlocking the development potential of Chicago’s “economic engine.”
On this edition of Against The Current (ATC), Dan Proft sits down with former New York City Inspector General (under both Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg) and Legislative Inspector General of the City of Chicago Faisal Khan.
Khan, who spent four years with the City of Chicago, made the mistake of taking his position clearly not recognizing initially that Mayor Emanuel and the City Council intended him only to serve as window-dressing to give the appearance they were interested in reform.
The “final piece of the manufacturing puzzle,” as the mayor put it, is called mHUB. Think of it as the manufacturing equivalent of 1871, the boot camp and innovation center for tech entrepreneurs housed at the Merchandise Mart.
Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens will be in line for a 53 percent pay raise if he is re-elected in April, the village board decided Wednesday. The board unanimously approved salary increases for village elected officials, which includes Stephens' projected new annual salary of $260,000, effective May 2017.
Chicago school officials laid out on Monday their plan to reduce spending in order to balance the budget. Among other things, the district is counting on saving $31 million, at least in part from a new teacher contract, which is still in the midst of being negotiated.
Metra is rethinking its ambitious plan to buy 367 new train cars and 52 locomotives, agency leaders said Tuesday. The agency is conceding it could take longer than anticipated to obtain funding to purchase the equipment. Another change is that instead of all new rail cars, the railroad will buy an unspecified number of secondhand ones and rehab them.
CTU President Karen Lewis said any deal that ends the district's pension pickup and requires teachers to pay it could lead to a strike.
"Our members have been very clear about that," Lewis said. "They've been clear about that since last year. They are very upset, and they do not want to work for less. And nobody should expect them to."
A move to dissolve Evanston Township governance produced savings of nearly $780,000 the first full year the city ran the programs, Evanston officials have said in a recent white paper examining the decision.
Standard & Poor’s on Tuesday affirmed Chicago’s BBB bond rating and negative outlook — even after Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a 30 percent utility tax to save the largest of Chicago’s four city employee pension funds.
Landlords already are passing along the tax hike and sharply increasing water, sewer, and garbage collection fees to tenants in the form of 3-5 percent rent increases on expiring leases, property managers say.
Comment: The champions of the poor and middle class at work again.
The district plans to unveil its 2017 operating and capital budgets this week. CPS has said it will balance its operating budget with help from state measures that include the authority to generate $250 million in new property tax revenue.
The matter first landed in court in 2011 when the city sued the restaurant group to undo the contract, which officials characterized as a “sweetheart deal” doled out to friends and allies of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The city alleged the deal was improperly negotiated to guarantee the Park Grill group “unconscionable” terms, including free water, natural gas and garbage removal and exemption from property taxes, among other items.
Comment: As we suggested before, just don't go there.
Principals began notifying affected teachers and support staff this morning. In total, district officials say 494 teachers, including 256 with tenure, and 492 support staff got word their jobs would be cut. Most of them -- 654 positions -- were at high schools.
The Service Employees International Union was accused Thursday of racial discrimination and of ordering a “hostile takeover” of a Chicago local with ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel to mask erratic behavior by the president of SEIU Local 73.
With an assist from labor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday began the formidable task of selling his new utility tax to save the city’s largest pension fund by ruling out compromise and blaming that intransigence on Wall Street rating agencies.
In a new study, the Washington, D.C. think tank looked at the top 100 metro areas across the country. Chicago ranks 36th with 9.2 percent of its overall jobs at companies in advanced industries, ahead of the national average of 8.7 percent.
The total is a 13 percent increase from last year when 4,262 workers made at least $100,000 a year and a 92 percent increase from 2013 when 2,502 people reached that threshold, according to a Better Government Association analysis of city records.
To generate the $239 million over five years needed to save Chicago’s largest city employee pension fund, Emanuel wants to slap a new and quickly escalating “utility tax” on water and sewer bills over the next four years.
Comment: From Rahm, perhaps the biggest lie in Chicago's history: “Every one of the pensions that put the city in a pension penalty are now addressed in a serious way that makes sure businesses can look at the city of Chicago and no longer point to the fiscal well-being or the pensions as a dark cloud over the city’s future.”
Comment: The author, Fran Spielman, is an excellent reporter on Chicago government because her news stories stick to facts. But her analysis pieces are lame. Rahm isn't "trying desperately" to fix the mess he inherited, as she writes here. He's trying to kick it off until he is out of office. The numbers on that are undeniable.
“Incessant fighting” between union president Christine Boardman and secretary-treasurer Matt Brandon “reached a boiling point and seriously disrupted the operations and functioning of the Local, putting members’ interests at risk,” the union stated.
A coalition of community organizers are asking residents to help protect their own neighborhoods on Labor Day in response to the police union’s call for officers to refuse overtime work during the historically deadly weekend.
Warning that a taxpayer “revolt is upon us,” aldermen on Tuesday gave the cold shoulder to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise utility taxes to save the largest of Chicago’s four city employee pension funds.
Comment: Another appalling betrayal of the term, "university." I know nothing about this speaker, but letting a bunch of intolerant radicals silence him is part of a terrifying trend in higher education.
Comment: This is another illustration of why the rating agency business is so flawed. The raters are hired and paid for by the bond issuers -- the politicians. In this case, that's the city. Moody's has been more negative about Chicago than others, so they get publicly slammed by the city and lost the city's business. Everybody in the trade knows how it works: Either shut up about the truth or you'll be unemployed.
Unwilling to hit property owners for the third time in one year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to raise the city’s utility taxes to save the largest of Chicago’s four city employee pension funds, City Hall sources said Monday.
Though thousands of companies could be affected, only about 200 took advantage of an amnesty program in which City Hall gave businesses the chance to pay the tax for last year and escape liability for previous years.
Comment: And they'll continue to increase after 2017. Worst of all, and what reporters still haven't realized, is that in 2020 the bill to taxpayers becomes whatever it takes to set the funds on a course towards solvency (although that calculation will be based on phony numbers, chosen by the pension funds) and property taxes increase automatically to cover that -- at least for the police and fire pensions.
Not only were huge tax hikes by City Hall and Chicago Public Schools taking effect, but the taxman came as he does every three years and reassessed the value of McDermott's home. And he concluded it was worth a whopping 31 percent more.
Eighteen of the city’s 50 aldermen — including Ald. Patrick O’Connor, the mayor’s City Council floor leader who rounded up the votes to pass the tax increase last fall — staved off the hefty tax hikes, shifting a total of $19,484 in taxes to other property owners. Those aldermen, including several whose wards have seen real estate prices skyrocket, did that by convincing Berrios or the Cook County Board of Review to lower the estimated value of their homes or apartments.
Comment: As property taxes rise across Illinois, the unfairness, arbitrariness and corruption in assessments becomes more apparent.The whole system is losing legitimacy, and the public knows it.
In late 2014, Cook County filed suit in Chicago federal court against Bank of America, Wells Fargo and HSBC, alleging the banks’ lending practices contributed to a wave of foreclosures, costing Cook County billions in taxes, increasing the demand for governmental services, and leaving neighborhoods pocked with vacant houses and reduced property values.
Comment: The irony, of course, is that at the same time those banks were making those loans, both the state and Federal government were encouraging the same thing by subsidizing borrowing for home buyers who were not financially qualified.
Taxpayers United of America: “These pensions are unsustainable. To fully fund these pensions, the Chicago City Council would have to drastically raise property taxes far beyond the historic increases they have already approved. However, bankrupting taxpayers and driving property owners out of Chicago is no solution to this financial mess.”
Public dissent defeated an attempt by Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri in May to take steps to convert an elected position into an appointed one. In May, Silvestri withdrew his resolution after some of Brown’s supporters accused him of having racist motivations.
The library at Jackson Park near the University of Chicago on the city's South Side is expected to be a boon to nearby communities struggling with gang violence and unemployment. An official announcement is expected in the coming days.
If passed, the “progressive revenue package” would funnel tax increment financing funds to CPS and increase the employee “head tax” and personal property lease tax to generate additional school funding.
Comment: They're actually serious about the head tax!
Chicago Public Schools is preparing to overhaul its special education programs, citing persistently low test scores for disabled students, insufficient oversight and a lack consistent standards even as costs have grown.
This morning's release of the May S&P CoreLogic Case Shiller indices showed the largest year over year gain for single family homes in 22 months at 3.7%. However, that still leaves Chicago ahead of only 3 cities out of 20 total.
One of the nation's largest health insurance companies plans to enter the Obamacare marketplace in the Chicago area for the first time, bringing new competition as other insurers exit or go out of business.
The City of Chicago recently reported an alarming 50% increase in interest expense from 2014 to 2015. Last year, the city spent over $860 million in interest, before spending a dime on any public services.
"Time is not about to run out for Chicago," said a Moody's spokesman at a panel discussion titled, "Are We On The Brink?"
Comment: The name of that panel belies a central problem with ratings agencies -- they focus mostly on near term default risk but ignore disaster that's inevitable in the longer run. If you don't already know how ratings agencies work, see The Big Short.
Local transportation and rail officials will have to look for a new pot of money to untangle car and rail traffic on Chicago's South Side after the federal government rejected a $110 million grant request.
A fearsome historic 115-foot wooden longship that crossed the Atlantic from Norway and is now bearing down on Chicago.
They are upset that they were invited to make the harrowing three-month voyage to compete in next week's Tall Ships festival at Navy Pier, only to be told once they arrived in U.S. waters that they could not sail on the Great Lakes without a $400-an-hour licensed pilot.
Earlier this week, the report by Khan, now CEO of group called Project Six, alleged that 37 of the city's 50 aldermen accepted the campaign donations from real estate developers, lobbyists, and city vendors in 2015.
The corridor sits in an urban neighborhood southwest of downtown Chicago. It's widely considered the worst choke point for rail movement in the city, which is the busiest rail hub in the nation. With hundreds of billions of dollars in goods traveling through Chicago by rail every year, each minute those freight trains are stalled, companies and consumers alike are losing money or being forced to spend more for the goods those trains haul.
A coalition of immigrant rights groups is pressing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Council to strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance and eliminate all collaboration between the Chicago Police Department and U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil H. Cohen concluded that employees hired before Aug. 23, 1989 enjoy a constitutional right to the subsidy to cover healthcare costs during retirement, a benefit long provided by the city. That's a blow to the city. Cohen did not specify the amount or nature of the protected subsidy.
For years, the file-sharing site Kickass Torrents has enabled users around the world to illegally reproduce hundreds of millions of copies of copyrighted material, from hit Hollywood films to the latest video games, TV shows and songs, federal authorities allege.
Every few years, mayors roll out detailed plans about how City Hall is going to slash Chicago's legendary red tape once and for all, making the city friendly to small business. Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched the latest such effort.
A July 18 report from Project Six, a new corruption watchdog headed up by former Chicago Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan, finds more than two-thirds of Chicago aldermen took in donations that appear to be in violation of the city’s campaign finance rules.
The full report and the Project Six site are linked here.
Don Wilson, a trader and real estate developer who was the driving force behind the America's Cup coming to town earlier this summer, got a $261,524 tax bill in June for his 14,000-square-foot mansion on Dickens Avenue. That's an increase of $53,277, or 25.6 percent, from the previous year's bill of $208,247, according to the Cook County Treasurer.
Comment: This is already overly complex for a small rebate. For homeowners, the mayor's package allows a maximum rebate of $200, but pegs that to household income. Only households with adjusted gross incomes of less than $25,000 with a property tax increase of $350 or more would be eligible for the full amount. Just another Rahm gimmick.
As part of a new initiative, landowners in seven areas around the region will be eligible for up to $130,000 to pay for environmental assessments and remediation of empty properties, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and county board President Toni Preckwinkle said this morning. Polluted land is a big hurdle when it comes to industrial development in Chicago and many close-in suburbs.
The services, which have exploded in popularity in the region over the last year, offer a low-cost alternative to rental companies like Hertz and Budget, or car-share businesses like Zipcar. Instead of renting a car that is part of a company fleet, you borrow one from a private owner.
Wow, a Crain's editorial we agree with: "Businesspeople need to do more than shake their heads as they answer surveys, however. They have the power to end pay-to-play. All they have to do is stop paying."
Though many new runways have been built under a long-term expansion of the airport, a deal on new gates has eluded the city and airlines, with dominant air carriers United and American Airlines worried about making way for too much competition. But more gates are crucial to improving on-time performance at O'Hare.
More than 9 in 10 Chicago business leaders agreed that a form of cronyism is practiced in Chicago, according to a new study commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development. The study used the term “crony capitalism,” defined as “the unhealthy relationship between some businesses and government, which can lead to favoritism in the form of tax breaks, government grants, and other incentives.”
A report by the city's inspector general, in the waning days of Daley's administration, found the 34 union pacts "unduly hamstrung not only the current management of city government, but the next six years of management as well." The deals were made in 2007, shortly before the country's economy cratered and the public realized the depth of the city's own financial woes, leaving it with little flexibility to reduce labor costs as it dealt with a massive deficit.
Chicago's cash-strapped public schools will be able to raise cash in the capital markets after the nation's third-largest public school system unveils a balanced budget in August, the district's top official said on Wednesday.
Chicago’s recently released annual financial report for the year that ended in December -- and bond-market trading -- show that the steps are starting to have a positive impact on the city of 2.7 million. At the same time, the report shows, the shortfall in its retirement fund has swelled to about $33 billion, thanks largely to new accounting rules for deeply challenged pensions, and it continues to spend more than it brings in.
Note that their solution includes reinstating a head tax in Chicago. That's a per-employee tax and was, when Chicago had it, widely ridiculed job killing lunacy. Why not levy a special tax on inner city kids who graduate high school with honors? That's about how much sense it makes.
Southeast Side alderman and a labor union are blasting Mayor Rahm Emanuel's latest attempt to privatize the languishing Port of Chicago, saying the city instead should keep public control and spend money to modernize it.
Junk-rated Chicago Public Schools will unveil a balanced budget next month to pave the way for the district to replace expiring credit lines and return to the municipal market to raise funds for needed capital work, the district's leader said Wednesday.
Comment: We'll see if the budget is truly balanced. Expect it to include more can-kicking on the pension, which is to say, hiding losses there.
Alds. Brian Hopkins and Joe Moreno said Tuesday they want to use $100,000 from a Wicker Park/Bucktown taxpayer fund surplus to hire security guards from private firms who can augment the local police force.
While Chicago Public Schools seem to grab the most frequent headlines for financial troubles — the district was unsure it could open its schools for the fall without help from the state — plenty of suburban districts are landing on the state's financial warning lists. The Illinois State Board of Education reported this year that 61 districts were on the early warning list and 32 were on the watch list, the most serious rating.
The long-term principal and interest payment schedule for Chicago's general obligation debt swelled by about $1.7 billion last year as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his finance team scrambled to fix a downgrade-driven liquidity quagmire that threatened the city's balance sheet.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Wednesday will unveil the county’s first long-term transportation plan in more than 75 years, one that expands the county’s focus from roads and bridges to all forms of mobility — from walking and biking to transit and freight movement.
Comment: This is what Chicago should be doing. We called it "reconstituting" in our earlier article, linked here. Transfer over to a new district everything that's good, leave the bad behind and say goodbye to much of the old debt.
Chicago-area business leaders strongly believe that donating to a local politician or hiring a high-powered lobbyist adds to the city's already serious corruption problems. But, according to a new survey, they also overwhelmingly believe that paying to play works.
Comment: In other words, crony capitalism is real. And they've done little about it. Far too many in our business community have sat on their fat asses while the train wreck proceeded.
In 2007, at the recent height of our economy, commercial and industrial properties comprised 40 percent of the City’s assessed value. Now, in 2016, this shrank to 34 percent, meaning that the levies (annual operating cost) by taxing bodies, if remained constant, would be shouldered at a higher rate by the remaining residential home owners.
A direct route is planned from Interstate 80 to the company’s 1,800-acre warehouse facility. Officials say the new route will take miles off a commercial driver’s route. The project is to be funded with $21 million in taxpayer dollars and $170 million in private funds.
The district is steeped in debt, and many of the students come from low-income homes. The classroom basics — such as paper and calculators — are often paid for by teachers or through fundraisers, said PTA leader Maria Perez. Tablets or new textbooks are just a dream. But that hasn't stopped leaders in the west suburban district from giving perks to the superintendent or traveling to conferences in five cities in less than a year. Nor has it curbed family hiring on the taxpayers' dime.
“I’ve lived in the city my whole life. It’s a beautiful city, but it’s becoming really hard to afford to live here,” said Martinez, 54, who works part-time doing odd jobs. “The water bill went up. Then they started with the fee for the garbage. I might have to leave.”
Comment: Like so many other regional municipalities, Cook County is insolvent, buried by an insurmountable pension obligation. We'll have more on that after these clowns get around to releasing their 2015 pension actuary report.
After the FBI raids, all four of the chain’s schools in Chicago continued to do business with companies named in the federal search warrants that were served at Concept’s main offices, CMSA and other schools run by Concept in Peoria, Indianapolis and Ohio, records show
"A lot of officers are like, 'This is the last straw. No more proactive anything,'" said a veteran sergeant who works on the South Side, who like his colleagues spoke on the condition that he not be named. "An officer just gave me, I think, one of the best statements. He said it's like the soldiers coming back from Vietnam — how much people hate us."
Comment: What's terrifying is how negatively they will react -- understandably -- when the impossibility of their pension situation sinks in. Yes, there are some bad cops and, yes, there is excess now in the pension system, but that will reverse. Denial and delay have a price: Each day, the hole deepens.
A judge is expected to rule this month on Chicago's latest effort to quash a lawsuit filed by retired city employees who want to preserve their healthcare subsidies. If left intact, that $108 million annual bill was projected to grow to $307 million in 2018 and $541 million in 2023.
A recap of the week's news from an actuary who writes about pensions and follows our mess. Here's bottom line: "Chicago is just going to go bankrupt eventually anyway. But there’s a lot of money to burn through before that’s realized, so here we are."
Among the highlights: The change in net position – basically revenue less expenses – had been running at a negative $1 billion in each of the previous four years, even though the city states that Illinois law requires it to “balance its budget.” In 2015, the change in net position [basically the same as net profit or loss] ballooned to a negative $5 billion – even after a massive restatement in the beginning net position. In other words, in private sector language, the city has been losing money every year -- especially last year.
Comment: You really can't make full sense of this until the city posts the full actuarial reports for the police and fire pensions for 2015, which it apparently is stonewalling. And how does this work? The city apparently embargoed release of this CAFR with some reporters until release on a Friday in the summer? Oldest trick in the book. We'll take a closer look ourselves in the near future.
The full text of the 2015 CAFR (the city's financial statements) is linked here.
Chicago community activists and local elected officials delivered 88,000 petition signatures to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) regional office Thursday morning, urging the agency to investigate complex financial agreements called interest rate swaps.
"Social breakdown lies behind Chicago’s historically high levels of violence. Fatherlessness in the city’s black community is at a cataclysmic level—close to 80 percent of children are born to single mothers in high-crime areas. Illegitimacy is catching up fast among Hispanics, as well. Gangs have stepped in where fathers are absent."
Naperville Finance Director Rachel Mayer said the latest tables increased the post-retirement life expectancy from 25 to 27 years.
In Naperville, using the new tables would mean a pension contribution of $16 million this year for police and fire combined. Sticking with the old tables from 2000 would require a $14 million total contribution. Last year, the city paid $11.6 million.
The Michael Reese Hospital campus would have become an athletes' village if Chicago had won the bid. The city hasn't been able to sell it in the past eight years. Mayor Daley put taxpayers on the hook for $91 million and it won't be paid in full until 2024.
Cook County’s total reported debt more than doubled from what was reported for 2014, under the new rules. Its unrestricted net position (basically assets less liabilities) “tripled” – from a negative $5 billion in 2014 to a negative $15 billion in the 2015 report.
Comment: Even those bad results are badly lagged because they do not reflect pension performance for 2015. Cook County, like Chicago for its Police and Firefighter pensions, has not yet released 2015 actuarial reports, which probably are completed but not released.
A proposal seeks to turn a century-old monument to Chicago's industrial past — three massive city-owned buildings near the old Chicago Union Stock Yards — into a bustling, modern food manufacturing hub.
Chinese train manufacturer CSR Sifang has run into serious quality problems in a major project in Singapore. The city-state’s transportation authority said cracks have appeared in dozens of train cars made by CSR Sifang, where the cars attach to the “bogie” or undercarriage.
“When I ran for office, one of the major issues was removing the doubt over our economic future [caused by] unfunded pensions. All four of ’em were unfunded. I was clear that the period of time in which we put our politics ahead of our responsibility had ended. That we were gonna do the tough things necessary to put our fiscal house in order,” Emanuel said.
Comment: And the unfunded liabilities have grown every year. We'll give you the latest details as soon as we have the 2015 actuary reports for the police and firefighter pensions, which apparently are being stonewalled.
The village of Lombard is the only one of more than a dozen municipalities suing 13 online travel sites to come out a winner, after a federal judge ruled that the sites do not need to pay additional taxes to the other villages and cities.
"If you look at the expenses on the payroll, it's mind-blowing the difference from what it used to be," Udartseva said. "I understand if I saw the increase in people's happiness and satisfaction, but that's not the result at all."
"Cook County commissioners decided to put on the November ballot a question asking voters whether the recorder of deeds office should be folded into the clerk's office.... The decades-old idea that certain city and county offices belong to people of certain races, colors or ethnicities burst to the fore as the vote drew near."
The Chicago Business License Application System should allow business owners to submit full applications online for 49 city business licenses. It's a service an expert said other American cities made available more than five years ago, and one Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised in 2014, ahead of his reelection, to implement by 2016.
Chicago property owners will take a far bigger hit for teacher pensions, but their aldermen will escape another difficult vote, thanks to the legislative compromise approved Thursday to ease the financial crisis at the Chicago Public Schools.
Preckwinkle noted that the bulk of last year's penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase is going to shore up the county's underfunded pension system, with smaller portions covering debt, ending the diversion of gas taxes from transportation projects and paying for technology upgrades. The county now must deal with increases in its day-to-day operating costs, she said.
Chicago government lacks a centralized program to try to hold down the hundreds of millions of dollars it pays out each year for things like police misconduct cases and workers' compensation claims, the city's watchdog said in a report released Thursday.
Comment: A rather interesting interview acknowledging that fixes now under discussion won't solve CPS problem. As always, however, she's completely out of touch about Chicago's tolerance for the tax increases she wants.
“The mayor was always going to give Mr. Lucas his way. There were never any negotiations in good faith with Friends of the Parks other than what Mr. Lucas wanted,” she said. “The mayor created a false expectation when he promised Mr. Lucas and city residents a museum on a site that was not legal.”
The village of Oak Park has released its annual financial report and new standards for determining pension liabilities have meant a combined hit of $51 million for police and fire pension funds. Total net pension liability (the unfunded part) now $157 million.
Comment: That's for a city of 52,000. And you gotta love the comment from the city manager saying that means only a $1 million per year tax increase. It would take at least 3X that for the additional $51 million just avoid sinking further into debt.
Similar shocks will be coming to dozens of municipalities.
Whatever the future holds, a look back at three local properties—a Rosemont hotel, a Loop office tower and a development site across from Grant Park—shows how investors can gain and lose when the market swings.
This morning's release of the April S&P/ Case Shiller home price indices finally provides evidence that the Chicago area is gaining ground against several other major metropolitan areas. The Case Shiller Chicago index for single family homes posted a +3.1% year over year change, which was the highest level in 13 months. That gain pushed it above 3 other cities on the list.
The Chicago Public Schools will make a $676 million payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund due Thursday even though that massive payment will leave the nearly bankrupt school system with just $24 million in the bank.
According to court documents filed on June 23 in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Republican officials claim Sammy Tenuta and Frances Sapone, who won the primary in races for the GOP commissioner for Chicago’s 39th and 29th Ward, respectively, were disqualified from running because both voted in another party’s primary within the past eight years.
Emanuel this past week quietly proposed a change to city investment rules that would allow the city to buy debt from so-called sister agencies, including CPS, no matter the creditworthiness of that debt. He said he was making the request on behalf of city Treasurer Kurt Summers as part of the Summers' annual investment policy update.
Comment: Every tried to lift yourself into the air by pulling up on your belt?
Pension funds aren’t immune to the volatility of the stock market. Even before Brexit, Moody’s warned that low investment returns are already putting Chicago’s pension funds at risk. A major stock market correction or another recession just might put Chicago and CPS over the edge if their already-underfunded pension systems collapse.
Comment: Low interest rates and low returns are here indefinitely, which only deepens the graves for our doomed pensions.
The decsion was made when Cameron was in Chicago for the NATO Summit in May 2012. During his trip, the PM is said to have met with Downing Street chief of staff Ed Llewellyn and British foreign secretary William Hague at O'Hare—and the three dined over some serious pizza from an unspecified vendor. And it's there that Cameron, facing a good amount of political opposition in the UK, allegedly decided to hold a Brexit vote. He probably thought, "They'll never vote to leave the EU. I mean, look at this pizza. All of the ingredients work so well together."
Welp, Cameron was wrong, and now he's out of a job. It's unclear what effect the Brexit will have on the British and European economies, but let the record show that most of Chicago's best pizza isn't so heavy.
Phillip Jackson, founder and executive director of the Black Star Project, organized the demonstration at the foundation, 140 S. Dearborn St., to demand the MacArthur Foundation invest more grants in Chicago’s black and Latino communities than it does now.
Between 2014 and 2015, more than 9,000 black residents left Cook County, and since 2010, the Chicago area, which for the census includes parts of Indiana and Wisconsin, has lost more than 35,000 black residents. The exodus is greater than in any other metropolitan area in the country.
"Unlike some other major cities, Chicago doesn’t analyze the lawsuits for trends, identify the officers most frequently sued, or determine ways to reduce both the cost of the cases and officer misconduct."
“Two years ago to the day, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson announced that they had chosen Chicago as the site of their incredible legacy investment. The opportunity for a City to gain a brand new museum is rare, and this particular opportunity – a gift worth approximately $1.5 billion – would have been the largest philanthropic contribution in Chicago’s history.” Emanuel said in a statement.
The $5.3 billion Panama Canal expansion is expected to shift how cargo moves in and out of the U.S. For Chicago, the mega-project could result in less cargo from Asia moving through the region, perhaps nicking the area’s place at the center of the nation's freight transportation network, though the ultimate local implications aren't totally clear yet.
"When the County Board meets next week, it should adopt a proposal by Commissioner John Fritchey, D-Chicago, to put a referendum on the November ballot to merge the recorder of deeds office into that of the county clerk."
Holy crap! A cost-saving proposal from a Cook County Dem!
Democrats sent a furious flurry of fundraising emails to supporters overnight, as dozens of members of Congress staged a “sit-in” to demand a vote on gun control legislation that has already failed in the Senate.
The aggregate assessed values in Chicago went up enough so that it wasn't really necessary for the city to raise the tax rate. The net effect of all this is still higher taxes for the average Chicagoan - up 12.8%.
The city will require rideshare drivers to complete an online course before hitting the road, and will allow ridesharing platforms such as Uber and Lyft to continue conducting their own background checks.
Chicago employers large and small — with the exception of construction companies — will be required to provide their employees with at least five paid sick days each year, under a landmark ordinance approved Wednesday over the strenuous objections of business groups.
The vote was 48-0.
Comment: Yet another social goal billed to employers. Madness. Point gun at Chicago's economy, pull trigger.
The Cubs on Wednesday won the limited right to sell beer and wine on an open-air plaza adjacent to Wrigley Field, but in a way that, team officials claim, will tie the hands of the billionaire family that owns the team into a pretzel.
Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday announced its intention to file an unfair labor charge against the Chicago Teachers Union over its treatment of teachers who did not participate in the union’s one-day job action on April 1.
According to their spokesman, the Cubs owners would essentially have to "build a wall to keep out non-ticket holders" during games and concerts. Limiting special events also "jeopardize" watch parties during the playoffs, "which are commonplace at stadiums across the country."
Comment: The press is years behind the curve on this. It's now too late. The focus should be on how to improve the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, as we recently wrote. By the time the press figures out how the real numbers and how bankruptcy works, Chicago will be in Chapter 9 and a reorganization plan already filed.
More than 500 LSC members from 141 CPS schools signed onto a petition demanding action that doesn’t require approval from Springfield including shortening the school day and year; draining funds from TIF districts; and canceling plans to build a new high school to be named for Barack Obama.
Juan Rangel — the former $275,000-a-year leader of the United Neighborhood Organization and its charter-school network — will pay a $10,000 fine to settle civil securities fraud charges without admitting wrongdoing, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday.
Whether they're investment bankers executing deals or private-equity executives buying and selling companies, they expect a peak in transactions and prices that has plateaued over the past few years to ebb soon, if it isn't starting to already.
Comment: But parents in Cullerton's district aren't buying it. For years, Cullerton has been saying our problems are exaggerated -- just bad PR from a few trouble makers. Now he's saying they're real and it's all Rauner's fault.
The bragging rights trace to Chicago's No. 1 ranking in a recent data set by PitchBook. The Seattle-based research firm found that Chicago exits generated the highest returns for venture capitalists of any metro area in the nation.
Galapagos Charter School, a small stand-alone elementary school in Humboldt Park, will not reopen its doors in September, saying it cannot afford to properly educate children under current Chicago Public School budget conditions.
Chicago's Mexican community is subtly transforming Midway International Airport into a place that better lives up to its middle name. Long known for its domestic routes and dominated by Southwest Airlines, Midway is drawing a rising number of Hispanic passengers flying to Mexico on Volaris, a carrier akin to Spirit Airlines in terms of its bargain pricing.
Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Josh McGee said Chicago parents should be upset that their kids’ schools are in such poor condition. But McGee said the reason isn’t a lack of funding. CPS spends more than $15,000 per student. McGee said the pension costs are forcing the district to make drastic cuts in personnel and equipment.
Some police officers who spent personal time protecting or driving mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel (right) ended up getting jobs on his security detail once he was elected, displacing officers who had protected Emanuel's predecessor, Richard M. Daley.
Comment: Actually, "labor and business sitnting down and working it out, like they did in New York" isn't an option here because collectively bargained reforms aren't binding, the IL Supreme Court said recently. That leaves only bankruptcy.
A new survey from the MacArthur Foundation underscores the economic pressures Chicago-area residents feel with the finding that about half of the city’s residents say they spend 30 percent of their income on housing. Moreover, the study found, 70 percent of Chicagoans believe the federal government can do more to address housing affordability.
The developers’ discount lowers property assessments by nearly 90 percent. It’s meant to encourage construction, especially during downturns in the real estate market, according to a top official in Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios’ office.
That’s how much it cost the city to use $220 million in “short-term bridge” financing to make a state-mandated payment to police and fire pension funds that was higher than his tax-laden 2016 budget assumed.
Authorities arrested 107 people in the Chicago area and 25 in the Indianapolis area.
Of the 25 individuals arrested in Indiana, 23 had been convicted of crimes in the U.S. including drugs, fraud and domestic violence. In Illinois, 96 of those arrested had been convicted of crimes including robbery, aggravated sexual abuse and weapons offenses.
The county today reported it refinanced $333 million in tax-exempt bonds at an average 3.16 percent interest rate, well below the 4.83 percent it had been paying. The action effectively cuts in half the 2-percentage-point premium the county had been paying compared with AAA-rated credit, reducing it to just 100 basis points or so.
All three of the major rating agencies last week upgraded their outlook on county debt from negative to stable.
Comment: You will recall that Cook County raised its taxes recently, which the muni bond community loves, allowing it to get through what will be a narrow door of tax increases the Chicago area can stomach. Bond issuers this week, including the State of Illinois, also benefited from a worldwide spike in bonds, lowering rates, making it a great time to refinance (for your mortgage, too).
Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools may want to re-think their dismissive stance on Chapter 9 as an option in righting their financial ships, two well-known market players said.
From Kevyn Orr, a restructuring specialist and partner at Jones Day who was Detroit's emergency manager when the city made its historic Chapter 9 filing in July 2013:
"The math does not lie….the trajectory that you are on is not going to change... It's just math … the willingness of the elected officials and the counterparties both in the financial community and in the public sector side to sit down at a table and make rational and difficult decisions with the support of the state is the wild card."
Comment: Well, well, well. Doesn't that kind of language sound familiar?
"We saw job loss and more people leaving the workforce in May," said IDES Director Jeff Mays. "While the nation grew 10.9 percent since recovery began, we grew 7.5 percent. As our job growth continues to lag behind the nation, we will continue our efforts to find more opportunities for individuals looking for meaningful employment."
Almost half of adults living in Chicago are spending more than they can afford on their homes or apartments, and they have dealt with the burden by taking on second jobs, moving to less safe areas, or cutting back on food or the quality of their children's education, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation study released Thursday shows.
Companies that use “forced arbitration clauses” to resolve disputes with employees and consumers would be prohibited from doing business with the city of Chicago under an ordinance advanced Wednesday over fierce opposition from the business community.
"Ald. Ed Burke on Wednesday led the charge to ban businesses that allow only arbitration to settle disputes with employees and customers from doing business with the city, a way for the veteran City Council member to try to slightly recast his image, given his business ties to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump."
Comment: Tribune news writers are horrible about mixing news with their personal interpretations, as in this piece. Burke is the last guy we'd want to defend, and that interpretation of his motives is probably true, but, please, Tribune, stick to the facts.
The rebates would cost the city between $10 million and $50 million. The checks to average homeowners would range from $100 to $195, far short of the average $413 property tax increase homeowners can expect when bills hit the mail starting late this month.
In addition, a majority of city homeowners would be excluded from receiving rebates under three of the four options that mayoral financial aides discussed Tuesday during briefing sessions with aldermen. Under the most generous of the plans, about 219,000 of 425,000 homeowners would be eligible, and as few as 100,000 would be eligible under the least generous.
Census data and private studies have shown that millennials, generally defined as the 77 million people born during a 20-year period starting in the early 1980s, prefer to live in urban environments because of the proximity to restaurants, jobs, shopping and entertainment.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel made it clear Monday he’s gone as far as he intends to go in relaxing rules governing the sale of beer and wine at an open-air plaza adjacent to Wrigley Field and advised the Cubs to accept the deal and declare victory.
The Cook County Clerk's office released the 2015 property tax rates on Monday for the entire county. While the northern and southern suburbs of Cook County can expect a slight tax bill increase of 1.7 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, Chicago's property tax bills will rise by 12.8 percent.
A 51-year-old man has been homeless for more than a decade, spending the last seven years under the Lawrence Avenue viaduct, he said.
"I cried and I thanked my Lord. And before I walk into my apartment I'm gonna get on my knees and thank him again," said Sasco, sitting on a milk crate outside his tent eating his lunch. "Then I'll thank my landlord for giving me a chance because ain't nobody ever given me a chance."
The Chicago Housing Authority is considering taking back control of management of the agency’s biggest public housing program — Section 8 apartment and home rentals — from the two private contractors now overseeing the housing voucher program.
The screams of protesters briefly interrupted Gov. Bruce Rauner as he spoke at South Side church Sunday morning with his wife, Diana, at his side.
“I didn’t inherit any money, but I’ve worked hard. . . . Got a good education, done well. I’m proud of that. My grandparents were dairy farmers,” Rauner said from the altar before screams of “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Bruce Rauner has got to go!” flooded though open stain-glass windows.
They thought Trump had failed to pay a nearly $2.4 million tax bill in 2010 — a bill that had ballooned to nearly $4.7 million this year, including penalties and interest. In fact, county tax officials now agree, Trump paid all of his property taxes in full. They are moving to erase the erroneous tax delinquency that has been on their books for years.
“We are miles from a deal that includes these terms,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. “None of these terms are reasonable when you’re trying to invest $750 million. The city should look at the ordinance from 2013, which was the deal. That should be the framework for anything going forward.”
Hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds have been spent to bring about rejuvenation. And what does Chicago have to show for it now that the last piece of the Block 37 puzzle, the Loop's biggest apartment building in decades, is done?
Comment: Chicago's announcement should say, "Taxpayers will help you buy a house that the city will proceed to confiscate from you through coming property tax increases, leaving you underwater on your mortgage, like so many in working class neighborhoods."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his emissaries are trying to persuade a fractured Friends of the Parks board to drop its lawsuit blocking construction of the Lucas Museum near Soldier Field by dangling support for an even bigger lakefront dream: the “Last Four Miles” of lakefront parkland.