Saturday, December 7, 2019

Connecting the dots between our economy, government and people —

Top Illinois Stories

Investigators ask about Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, report says – Associated Press

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A decade after recession, Illinois’ construction industry is ice cold – IL Policy

In 2018, Illinois saw 10,000 permits issued for new single-family homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state averaged around 40,000 permits a year prior to the Great Recession. That 75% plunge is the worst decline of any state in the nation. Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri have all seen more single-family home construction than Illinois for three years running.

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Plummer to Brady: Let’s get ethical – WCIA

Senate Republicans are closely monitoring and mulling over Minority Leader Bill Brady’s reaction to a recent rift that opened up between him and state Senator Jason Plummer over ethics and how forcefully or strategically to confront corruption.

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More Adventures In Pension Reform: Why Are The French Striking, And Could It Happen Here? – Forbes

"Would the prospect of pension reform in, for example, the State of Illinois, produce a similar strike? Eh, given the many obstacles it faces, in the form of a constitutional amendment, a head-in-the-sand governor, and the like, we’re unlikely to find out."

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Trump food stamps rule could affect up to 140K people in Illinois – ABC Chicago

"President Trump is now resorting to the ugliest possible tactics to distract the American people from his impeachment and gin up support from the far right-denying food to the most vulnerable people in our society," Pritzker said.

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More Highlighted Illinois Stories

Mike Madigan’s ComEd windfall – Crain’s

The company at the center of an expanding federal probe into Springfield lobbying went to unusual lengths to financially ingratiate itself with a key Springfield player, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Political insiders and official state disclosure records indicate that Exelon Corp. and its Commonwealth Edison subsidiary for at least the last five years hosted a major autumn Chicago fund-raiser for the speaker, who doubles as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. The events were a “command performance” for ComEd lobbyists, executives, suppliers and others, as one participant put it.

The take: $100,000 or more annually—enough to, say, flood two or three House districts with mailers in the last month of an election campaign, and certainly a nice financial base to build upon.

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“This is about as good as it gets when it comes to the economy and jobs. We’re at a 50-year low in unemployment. This is the moment to get people into meaningful work and off food stamps.” – Ted Dabrowski on Chicago Tonight

Ted appeared on Chicago Tonight this week, saying Illinois has lagged far behind the rest of the country in getting people off of food stamps and that the new federal rules provide a good opportunity to get able-bodied Illinoisans back into the workplace.

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4 IL GOP Lawmakers Call For Madigan’s Resignation – WLDS

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As cannabis legalization becomes reality, public housing tenants must follow a different set of rules – JournalStar

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Illinois muni bond banker accepts award at The Bond Buyer’s annual gala – Video

Comment: A description of the muni bond industry that we find (um, how can we say this politely?) novel: “The opportunity to work in this industry with all of you has been extraordinary. The values, the vision of the people in public finance, my colleagues, my clients and, yes even my competitors -- we all shared a journey because we want to leave this world a little better than it was…. We are unique as a financials services sector because we actually care about people.”      

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Pritzker backs former Senate Republican leader for ethics commission after mistakenly appointing recent lobbyist – Chicago Sun-Times

Pritzker on Thursday appointed former Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno to a newly formed ethics commission.

The governor on Wednesday named his four appointees to the commission, including former state Rep. Steven Andersson. Andersson was one of a dozen Republicans who joined Democrats to vote for a budget and income tax hike in July 2017 over the objections of former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Andersson, however, was a lobbyist until June 28. The resolution bars anyone who registered or worked as a lobbyist in the previous five years.

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Dismal 2019 Numbers Show Why Illinois Pensions Will Continue To Fail – ZeroHedge

A republication of our Wirepoints article.

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Get Your Priorities In Order, Illinois – Forbes

Which matters more:

Providing the necessary funding for the intellectually disabled to be able to access group homes and day programs after they age out of the public school system? Or preserving, in the state pension plans, the 3% fixed annual cost-of-living increases, and unreduced retirement as early as age 55*?

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New Report ranks Illinois third in the nation for industry regulations – Center Square

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Pritzker defends social equity measures in recreational pot bill, tamps down expectations for Jan. 1 launch – Chicago Tribune

“Our goal is not to immediately deliver as much access to recreational cannabis as possible as quickly as possible,” Pritzker said while signing a measure that tweaks the landmark legalization bill he signed in June.
Rather, Pritzker said, the overarching aim of the legalization law is “to address the inequities that have wreaked havoc on many of our communities.”

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How A Madigan Operative Padded His Pension – With ComEd Work – WBEZ

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State Pension Contributions Grab a Large Share of Illinois’ Budget—But Just How Large? – Civic Federation

"By any measure, Illinois pays a huge amount to meets its statutory pension funding requirements. The debate about pension funding can only be improved if commentators use accurate numbers."

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Springfield’s Shortfall Illustrates Broader Pension Problem – NPR IL

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FBI agents asking questions about House Speaker Madigan and his political operation, say four people they’ve interviewed – Chicago Tribune

Federal authorities have asked questions about Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and his political operation as part of an ongoing investigation, four people who have been interviewed told the Tribune.

The sources, all of whom requested anonymity, said FBI agents and prosecutors asked about connections between Commonwealth Edison lobbyists and Madigan, lobbyists giving contracts to people tied to the speaker, and city, state and suburban government jobs held by his associates.

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Illinois Republicans call for special December session to address corruption – Center Square

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Illinois’ minimum wage to increase twice next year beginning Jan. 1 – Center Square

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Illinois’ unfunded pension liability rises to $137.3 billion – Reuters

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Illinois lawmakers should hold Pritzker to his ‘fair maps’ promise – IL Policy

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Illinois families sue TikTok, parent company over data practices – The Hill

Two Illinois children and their mothers sued the social media company TikTok and its parent company on Tuesday for allegedly collecting the personal information of minors without parental consent.
TikTok and ByteDance Technology allegedly tracked, collected, and disclosed information to a third party about the children that used the companies’ Musical.ly app, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois.

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Cullerton got back-door loan from clouted bank – Chicago Sun-Times

In an unusual transaction, retiring Illinois Senate President John Cullerton obtained a personal loan from a politically connected Chicago bank by using money from his campaign fund as collateral, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The deal allowed Cullerton to sidestep campaign finance disclosure requirements that would have been triggered if he had borrowed or withdrawn the money directly from his campaign fund.

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Do governments ever go out of business? How about Illinois governments? – Truth in Accounting

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Illinois taxpayers fund CapitolFax with nearly $100K – IL Review

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‘Geez, Bill:’ Plummer says Brady offered him ethics post if he’d agree to back off ethics reform – WCIA

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“Inherently Unstable” US Pension System Will Require Federal Bailout, Former Illinois Pension Chief Says – ZeroHedge

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COGFA Special Pension Briefing

Comment: Nothing material that we haven't reported before, but lots of charts and tables with all the current details.

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Data visualization of why Illinois is the worst state for taxes in America

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Amazon plans renewable energy project for Lee County – WIFR

A CNBC story is also linked here.

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30 Illinois medical marijuana dispensaries issued ‘same-site’ licenses to sell weed, including 7 in Chicago – Chicago Sun-Times

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After committing in April, Gov. J.B. Pritzker holds up planning on project to stop Asian carp – Center Square

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Power in payments: Illinois can help unbanked residents, save money by adopting best practices in payment methods – IL Policy

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Top Chicago Stories

Muni-Bond Ratings Are All Over the Place. Here’s Why. – Wall Street Journal

Chicago is in bad financial shape, with an unsustainable pension burden and a towering debt load. Yet the city will shortly issue bonds that are likely to be rated as supersafe, even though similar investments have lost money.

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Tax Uncertainty And Other Factors Likely To Continue Burdening Chicago’s 2020 Investment Market – Bisnow

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Tired of waiting for new Chicago police contract, FOP puts demand for 18% pay raise over 3 years to arbitrator – Chicago Sun-Times

Lightfoot agreed to pay striking teachers 16% over five years with staffing increases and other perks that pushed the overall price tag to $1.5 billion amid concern that would become the floor for police officers and firefighters.

Those fears turned out to be wrong.

Rank-and-file police officers won’t be content with simply matching the teachers. Their union is demanding an 18% pay raise over three years.

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African American Aldermen Try to Halt Sale of Legal Pot in Chicago – WTTW

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More Highlighted Chicago Stories

ComEd scandal claims a major civic victim – Crain’s

In a statement, club Chairman Ed Mazur said he has accepted Jay Doherty's resignation as president and member of the board. One source close to the probe into ComEd, which has been subpoenaed for records related to its activities in Springfield, says Doherty had more than 100 people drawing funds that originated with ComEd on his payroll, some in positions that involved little actual work.

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How People Are Using Our Chicago Parking Ticket Data in Their Research – ProPublica

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot to interview Pete Buttigieg in Iowa – Chicago Tribune

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be in Iowa tomorrow and is scheduled to take the stage with Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for a public question-and answer session. It’s part of an event that pairs city leaders who haven’t endorsed in the presidential race with a candidate

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When a ComEd rate cut is actually a rate hike – Crain’s

The commission yesterday approved a $17 million reduction in ComEd’s delivery rates as requested by the utility. In a release, ComEd delivered the good news, saying the average residential customer would see their monthly electric bill decline by 60 cents next year. But the release didn’t tell the whole story. ComEd’s net rates actually will climb by $33 million next year thanks to a move late last month to boost ComEd’s customer charge by $50 million for the energy-efficiency programs it administers. That Nov. 26 ICC ruling wasn't the subject of any ComEd press release.

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Should we instead rename Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive for a woman named Kitihawa? – Chicago Tribune

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Police Chief Firing Puts Spotlight on Cops Who Let Him Go – WTTW

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Law prof Jonathan Turley: GOP witness at Trump impeachment hearing raised on Chicago’s North Side – Chicago Sun-Times

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Pritzker says pot law will create black and latino millionaires as black aldermen push delay of sales over lack of diversity in industry – Chicago Sun-Times

“We want people who have been left out and left behind to have a real opportunity to not only benefit from this new industry but to create new millionaires in the black community and the latino community all across the state,” Pritzker told reporters.

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Recreational marijuana in Chicago is coming soon, but aldermen want more minority participation – Chicago Tribune

I’m telling them right now, don’t even talk to me unless you have African American partners," said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th. “Don’t waste your time coming to see me. Because I don’t even want to talk to them. Because I think you’re just being racist in my face when you talk to me about this stuff and you don’t allow African Americans to be your partner. It’s ridiculous, man.”

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The Skyway Toll Will Go Up To $5.60 Per Car When The New Year Hits – Block Club Chicago

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Man murdered at Howard CTA station was profiled in 2016 as teen “trying to survive a summer” in Chicago – CWB Chicago

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When flat is fine: forecasts for Chicago housing market – Crain’s

A prediction for 100 metro areas puts Chicago in a group of 17 where both prices and sales will go down, but the dips here are so small as to be essentially flat. Local experts say not much will change until the city and state are on better financial footing.

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Richard Epstein: The Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park is not a done deal – Crain’s

"It is not too late for the city and Obama Foundation to do the right thing. They can still quite literally rethink the dubious OPC project from the ground up."

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Ceres Cafe, Destroyer of Careers – Chicago Magazine

Of all the Chicagoans who’ve suffered the Board of Trade bar’s hangovers, Eddie Johnson’s may be the most permanent.

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Chicago Property Prices Stagnate, Trail Even Crisis-Stricken Hong Kong – Wall Street Journal

Prices of office buildings, hotels, apartment properties, retail centers and other commercial real estate in Chicago fell by 4.1% over the past year, according to research firm Real Capital Analytics. That was the worst performance among major metropolitan areas analyzed by the company, behind even crisis-stricken Hong Kong, where prices fell 2.6%. “The primary reason that Chicago is struggling from an investment-sales perspective is the outlook for higher taxes in the future,” said Dave Bragg, a managing director at Green Street.

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Multiple CPD employees under investigation for allegedly covering up Eddie Johnson’s indiscretions – Chicago Sun-Times

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Illinois RTA gets ready to spend new state capital dollars – The Bond Buyer

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Luxury hotel on La Salle to get $21M in city-backed financing to save energy – Chicago Sun-Times

The financing is available through Chicago PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy, a program the Illinois General Assembly authorized statewide in 2018. Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration got it started in Chicago and his successor, Lori Lightfoot, has embraced it as an incentive for economic growth that’s energy efficient.

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Chicago’s new ride-hailing tax begins in January, and it’s the country’s highest fee – Curbed Chicago

The tax was a flat fee of 72 cents per Uber or Lyft trip. Now, single rider trips citywide will have a $1.25 fee and those in the designated downtown zone will have a $3 fee.

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Twitter exchange with Cook County assessor sums up outrage and exodus: Tax hikes are paying for debt, not services. – Commentary – Chicago Tribune

"Taxation here is not as simple as paying for schools, ambulances and baseball fields. It’s a shakedown exercise: Pay more for decades of irresponsible spending, expect less and be quiet about it, won’t you?"

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Hundreds Of Low-Income Chicago Families Scrambling After Preschools Suddenly Close – WBEZ

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Chicago mayor fires top cop and says he misled public about car incident – CBS Chicago

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Big Obstacles Remain Before Chicago Gets Long-Awaited Casino – A.P.

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Statement from Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot on Affirmative Credit Ratings for the City of Chicago

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Chicago’s New Planning Chief Has Fresh Eyes For INVEST South/West – WBEZ

As a part of INVEST South/West, the city pledges to commit $220 million in tax-increment financing dollars, $30 million from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund along with $500 million in planned infrastructure investments and partnerships with sister city agencies. The city needs to raise an additional $250 million from private companies. BMO bank has pledged $10 million.

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Chicago Regularly Sells Cars Lost To Winter Parking Ban – WBEZ

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Chicago Parking Fees Increasing, But City Set to Save Millions – WTTW

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Inside Operation Greylord: Video Interview With the Author – Fox Chicago

Comment: It's bad now, but it wasn't that long ago that even murder trials were fixed.

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Little-noticed home buying risk — your city’s financial problems – Rate.com

"Take Chicago...."

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Warren receives endorsement from Schakowsky ahead of Chicago rally – The Hill

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Wirepoints Commentary and Research

“This is about as good as it gets when it comes to the economy and jobs. We’re at a 50-year low in unemployment. This is the moment to get people into meaningful work and off food stamps.” – Ted Dabrowski on Chicago Tonight

Ted appeared on Chicago Tonight this week, saying Illinois has lagged far behind the rest of the country in getting people off of food stamps and that the new federal rules provide a good opportunity to get able-bodied Illinoisans back into the workplace.

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World Turning Against Unchecked Green Energy Spending But 93 Programs Aren’t Nearly Enough For Illinois

Illinois spends blindly on what other nations and states increasingly protest, even violently.

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“The debts aren’t going anywhere, but the people are.” – Ted Dabrowski on Newsradio WJPF

Ted talked with Tom Miller of WJPF Radio about all the tax and fee hikes that were a part of the 2020 budget state budget and the massive $45 billion infrastructure bill. Some of those hikes have been in place since July, but even more are going to be imposed come January 1st of next year.

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Dismal 2019 numbers show why Illinois pensions will continue to fail

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s special pension report released this week shows yet again how strong markets and ever-more taxpayer funds can’t fix the flaws in the state’s politician-run pension system.

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If Wirepoints’ mission aligns with yours, consider supporting us. We’re tax exempt now.

After self-funding our efforts for years, we’re ready to expand by increasing our media reach, covering more governments and exposing more of the issues plaguing Illinois. We’re fighting to help make this state work for Illinoisans once again.

Expect property tax hikes to hit Chicago’s stagnant home prices hard

Don’t be surprised if Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ends up hiking property taxes multiple times during her term. That should scare Chicago homeowners. Chicago already sits at the bottom of the 20-city Case-Shiller Index – a leading measure of U.S. home prices – with only Cleveland and Detroit home values performing worse since 2000. 

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More Wirepoints Original Stories

Extra Time Testing Accommodation For Students Is A Scandal Spinning Out Of Control

Hey kids, want extra time on college entrance exams and tests in school? Just get an “accommodation.” It’s easy. But a rude shock awaits students and parents who’ve cheated or exploited the gray areas of disability. Our schools are enabling them.

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A personal note of thanksgiving

My parents were just two of the many immigrants attracted to Illinois decades ago. I’m thankful for the opportunity they got, even though life for them was never easy. The ups and downs were many and real. But Illinois was the place where with deep faith and a strong work ethic, anyone could grit it out.

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Success For Illinois’ Secure Choice Program? Better Check The Numbers.

The Illinois Treasurer is boasting about success of Illinois' new retirement program. His numbers actually show it's a failure.

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Leaving Illinois for Alabama

Alabama is attracting many Illinoisans because parts of the state are booming in jobs, investment and population. More than 29,000 Illinoisans have moved to Alabama since 2010, according to U.S. Census data. In contrast, just 15,000 Alabamans moved to Illinois over that same time period. Illinois was the 2nd-highest net supplier of residents to Alabama over the period.

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Pritzker’s Latest Pension Flimflam And Contradictions With Illinois Bond Documents

Pritzker should have added something else to what he thinks isn’t politically feasible in Illinois: honesty.

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Governor of Illinois, home of nation’s worst fiscal crisis, slams door on pension reform

The argument that “nothing is going to happen in Illinois until things blow up” got a major boost this week. Pritzker once again rejected calls to put a pension amendment on the ballot in 2020.

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Our monthly Crain’s article: Illinois’ dystopia on full display in sick-day deal for Chicago teachers

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Connecting the dots between our economy, government and people —

We’re a 501(c)(3) now!

Wirepoints Original Stories

“This is about as good as it gets when it comes to the economy and jobs. We’re at a 50-year low in unemployment. This is the moment to get people into meaningful work and off food stamps.” – Ted Dabrowski on Chicago Tonight

Ted appeared on Chicago Tonight this week, saying Illinois has lagged far behind the rest of the country in getting people off of food stamps and that the new federal rules provide a good opportunity to get able-bodied Illinoisans back into the workplace.

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World Turning Against Unchecked Green Energy Spending But 93 Programs Aren’t Nearly Enough For Illinois

Illinois spends blindly on what other nations and states increasingly protest, even violently.

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“The debts aren’t going anywhere, but the people are.” – Ted Dabrowski on Newsradio WJPF

Ted talked with Tom Miller of WJPF Radio about all the tax and fee hikes that were a part of the 2020 budget state budget and the massive $45 billion infrastructure bill. Some of those hikes have been in place since July, but even more are going to be imposed come January 1st of next year.

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Top Illinois Stories

Investigators ask about Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, report says – Associated Press

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A decade after recession, Illinois’ construction industry is ice cold – IL Policy

In 2018, Illinois saw 10,000 permits issued for new single-family homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state averaged around 40,000 permits a year prior to the Great Recession. That 75% plunge is the worst decline of any state in the nation. Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri have all seen more single-family home construction than Illinois for three years running.

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Plummer to Brady: Let’s get ethical – WCIA

Senate Republicans are closely monitoring and mulling over Minority Leader Bill Brady’s reaction to a recent rift that opened up between him and state Senator Jason Plummer over ethics and how forcefully or strategically to confront corruption.

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More Adventures In Pension Reform: Why Are The French Striking, And Could It Happen Here? – Forbes

"Would the prospect of pension reform in, for example, the State of Illinois, produce a similar strike? Eh, given the many obstacles it faces, in the form of a constitutional amendment, a head-in-the-sand governor, and the like, we’re unlikely to find out."

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Trump food stamps rule could affect up to 140K people in Illinois – ABC Chicago

"President Trump is now resorting to the ugliest possible tactics to distract the American people from his impeachment and gin up support from the far right-denying food to the most vulnerable people in our society," Pritzker said.

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Other Illinois News

Mike Madigan’s ComEd windfall – Crain’s

The company at the center of an expanding federal probe into Springfield lobbying went to unusual lengths to financially ingratiate itself with a key Springfield player, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Political insiders and official state disclosure records indicate that Exelon Corp. and its Commonwealth Edison subsidiary for at least the last five years hosted a major autumn Chicago fund-raiser for the speaker, who doubles as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. The events were a “command performance” for ComEd lobbyists, executives, suppliers and others, as one participant put it.

The take: $100,000 or more annually—enough to, say, flood two or three House districts with mailers in the last month of an election campaign, and certainly a nice financial base to build upon.

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“This is about as good as it gets when it comes to the economy and jobs. We’re at a 50-year low in unemployment. This is the moment to get people into meaningful work and off food stamps.” – Ted Dabrowski on Chicago Tonight

Ted appeared on Chicago Tonight this week, saying Illinois has lagged far behind the rest of the country in getting people off of food stamps and that the new federal rules provide a good opportunity to get able-bodied Illinoisans back into the workplace.

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4 IL GOP Lawmakers Call For Madigan’s Resignation – WLDS

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As cannabis legalization becomes reality, public housing tenants must follow a different set of rules – JournalStar

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Illinois muni bond banker accepts award at The Bond Buyer’s annual gala – Video

Comment: A description of the muni bond industry that we find (um, how can we say this politely?) novel: “The opportunity to work in this industry with all of you has been extraordinary. The values, the vision of the people in public finance, my colleagues, my clients and, yes even my competitors -- we all shared a journey because we want to leave this world a little better than it was…. We are unique as a financials services sector because we actually care about people.”      

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Top Chicago Stories

Muni-Bond Ratings Are All Over the Place. Here’s Why. – Wall Street Journal

Chicago is in bad financial shape, with an unsustainable pension burden and a towering debt load. Yet the city will shortly issue bonds that are likely to be rated as supersafe, even though similar investments have lost money.

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Tax Uncertainty And Other Factors Likely To Continue Burdening Chicago’s 2020 Investment Market – Bisnow

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Tired of waiting for new Chicago police contract, FOP puts demand for 18% pay raise over 3 years to arbitrator – Chicago Sun-Times

Lightfoot agreed to pay striking teachers 16% over five years with staffing increases and other perks that pushed the overall price tag to $1.5 billion amid concern that would become the floor for police officers and firefighters.

Those fears turned out to be wrong.

Rank-and-file police officers won’t be content with simply matching the teachers. Their union is demanding an 18% pay raise over three years.

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African American Aldermen Try to Halt Sale of Legal Pot in Chicago – WTTW

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Other Chicago News

ComEd scandal claims a major civic victim – Crain’s

In a statement, club Chairman Ed Mazur said he has accepted Jay Doherty's resignation as president and member of the board. One source close to the probe into ComEd, which has been subpoenaed for records related to its activities in Springfield, says Doherty had more than 100 people drawing funds that originated with ComEd on his payroll, some in positions that involved little actual work.

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How People Are Using Our Chicago Parking Ticket Data in Their Research – ProPublica

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot to interview Pete Buttigieg in Iowa – Chicago Tribune

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be in Iowa tomorrow and is scheduled to take the stage with Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for a public question-and answer session. It’s part of an event that pairs city leaders who haven’t endorsed in the presidential race with a candidate

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When a ComEd rate cut is actually a rate hike – Crain’s

The commission yesterday approved a $17 million reduction in ComEd’s delivery rates as requested by the utility. In a release, ComEd delivered the good news, saying the average residential customer would see their monthly electric bill decline by 60 cents next year. But the release didn’t tell the whole story. ComEd’s net rates actually will climb by $33 million next year thanks to a move late last month to boost ComEd’s customer charge by $50 million for the energy-efficiency programs it administers. That Nov. 26 ICC ruling wasn't the subject of any ComEd press release.

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Should we instead rename Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive for a woman named Kitihawa? – Chicago Tribune

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