Tuesday, September 30, 2014

With Karzai Gone, US - Afghanistan Quickly Sign Bi-lateral Security Agreement

Sept 30: 2014 - US Ambassador James Cunningham signs the Bi-lateral Security Agreement at the Presidential Palace. Behind him, the new unity government of President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah in their first full day in office doing what their predecessor refused to do: sign an agreement  between the Afghan people and the United States. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

US Attorney's Office gives the Thumbs Up for "Unrestricted Hearings" into NRI to Resume on October 8th

A Reliable source tells the Illinois Channel that James A Lewis, the US Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, has given the Legislative Audit Commission a verbal OK, for the Commission to hold "Unrestricted Hearings" into the handling of the NRI program, and that it is not an issue for those hearings to restart as scheduled on October 8th and 9th.

The Legislative Audit Commission held a hearing in Chicago on July 8th, but witnesses called to testify took the 5th Amendment. Another concern that was then voiced is whether the Legislative Audit Commission should delay its investigation until after the US Attorney's Office had completed its investigation, which was expected to be completed within 90 days.  

 After some six hours of wrangling over the question of whether to delay its investigation, the Commission decided to put off their investigation of the Quinn Administratioin's handling of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative [NRI], until October 8th, giving the US Attorney's Office the time it requested to complete its investigation and to question the witnesses before they were called again before the Audit Commission.  

So as of this writing, September 29th, the Audit Commission will resume its work as scheduled on October 8th.   

As a reminder, the Commission's investigation follows a report issued by the Illinois Auditor-General in which he noted numerous faults with the handling of some $50 Million that was spent by Gov Quinn  for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a programs the Governor said was intended to fight the growing violence in a number of Chicago neighborhoods.  

The NRI program was started in late-summer and fall of 2010, just as the last gubernatorial election was being held.  Some Republicans have raised the issue of whether some of the funds intended to fight violence, were spent instead to help Gov Quinn win the 2010 election.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Is there a Hippo Loose in the Chicago River?

A video posted on YouTube shows an animal clearly visible in the Chicago River.  The animal was visible enough that the driver of a boat diverts his craft to avoid the animal, which some think may be a hippopotamus.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Reforming Illinois Criminal Laws to Increase Safety and Decrease the Cost of Incarcerations

Establishing Automatic Retirement Accounts in Illinois

Illinois Chief Justice Rita Garman on Women in the Law, Her Initiatives as Chief, and Funding of the Courts

Funding & Operations of Illinois' Locks and Dams

IHSA Cries Foul Over Timing of New legislative Committee Hearing Looking Into IHSA Operations

From the Illinois High School Association.. objecting to the scheduling of a hearing next Friday afternoon at 4 pm, when many of their principals, and Athletic Directors and parents cannot attend to voice their concerns at the legislative hearing into the IHSA operations. 


Four quick updates regarding the hearing:

1)      As of the time of this email, 508 individuals, mostly from constituents at IHSA member high schools, have cast online witness slips on http://my.ilga.gov opposing the hearing taking place. 14 individuals have cast votes as proponents of the hearing, however, 12 of those individuals have reached out to the IHSA to inform us they did so accidently and have since cast opposing votes.

2)      Committee member Barb Wheeler issued a press release (linked here) saying the timing of the hearing is “political shenanigans”.

3)      Mike Clark also wrote a column in the Chicago Sun Times (linked here) questioning the timing and motive of the hearing, saying “It speaks to the dysfunction of Springfield.”

4)      Finally, the Illinois Athletic Directors Association (IADA) has also echoed those sentiments, sending out the letter below yesterday to committee members:

September 25, 2014
Dear Member of the Elementary & Secondary Education Committee, 

The Illinois Athletic Directors Association (IADA) is reaching out to you today, asking that you give consideration to rescheduling the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) hearing that has been scheduled for Friday, October 3 at 4:00 p.m. at South Shore International High School in Chicago.

Many members of our organization traveled to Springfield to show support for the IHSA at the first hearing and many more would like to attend the second hearing in the same capacity. However, the timing of the hearing will make it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for many constituents (on both sides of the issue) to be able to attend.

Weekends are very busy for our schools as we host and compete in a variety of activities. That begins with Friday night football games, which tend to be “all hands on deck” affairs for our coaches and staffs, who work the contests in a variety of roles. Additionally, many of our staff enjoy traveling to the games when our team is on the road or simply enjoy their time off. With many JV games kicking off by or before 5:00 p.m. and varsity by 7:00 p.m., we are left in a precarious position to choose between not providing support on an issue we feel very strongly about (supporting the IHSA) or being able to properly facilitate a safe game environment for the student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans who will attend these contests.

The IADA fundamentally opposes these hearings and hopes the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee will heed the voices of the educators who work with the IHSA every day. At very least, we believe we should be extended the courtesy of a meeting that is more readily accessible to Principals and Athletic Administrators and  of member schools as a whole.

Thank you for your consideration.


Mike Morris     Charlie Lochenour      John Woods           Steve Rockrohr
Mike Morris               Charlie Lochenour                    John Woods                       Steve Rockrohr
Ex. Director                President                                     President-Elect                 Past-President

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

IFT President on Pension Reform, Mandates on Education

Sen Cullerton issues a statement on the FY15 Budget

Sept 16, 2014, from Sen Cullerton's office:

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D) issued the following statement regarding the FY15 budget sent to Governor Pat Quinn:

 “This maintenance budget allows us to provide level funding for key priorities and services. The effect of the budget is to avert doomsday cuts by deferrals, borrowing and increasing our backlog of bills.

Admittedly, this budget reverses some of the progress that we have made in recent years.  Since we passed the income tax increase in 2011, we have paid down $3.6 billion in old bills and fully funded our ballooning pension payments. We have paid off $8 billion in pension debt. We have saved billions with responsible budget cuts and that demonstrated that we can be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

 In order to return to this path of fiscal progress, we will have to bring revenues in line with our growing liabilities. While a vote on our tax rates has been deferred, rising costs and pressures will force the issue at a later date.”

Establishing Automatic Retirement Accounts in Illinois with the "Secure Choice Retirement Plan"

Sen Dan Biss (D) talks with the Illinois Channel about his legislation, the "Secure Choice Retirement Savings" program, that would create a 401-k style retirement account for every worker in Illinois. This automatic savings/investment plan would NOT be mandatory, but would require the employee to OPT OUT of participating, rather than opting in to a retirement plan.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Atty Aaron Maduff with Update on Lawsuit Over Pension Reform


Sheriff Jeffrey Boyd Forfeits Pension, Withdraws Candidacy on November Ballot Over
Attempted Official Misconduct Charge based on Attempted Cyberstalking
Chicago – Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that Rock Island County Sheriff Jeffrey Boyd resigned and pled guilty today to attempted official misconduct based on attempted cyberstalking.
Boyd, 48, of Rock Island, pled guilty before Judge Jeffrey O’Connor earlier today to one count of attempted official misconduct based on attempted cyberstalking. As part of his guilty plea, Boyd resigned and has withdrawn his re-election candidacy in the November election. He has also forfeited the pension he earned during his term as Rock Island County Sheriff.
Madigan alleged Boyd used his position as sheriff to intimidate and threaten a woman he met at a Rock Island gym. Boyd pursued the woman, who is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, over repeated text messages. After the victim asked Boyd to stop and leave her alone, Boyd continued to pursue the woman, attempting to use his position in public office and as a law enforcement officer to intimidate and harass the victim. In June, Madigan said Boyd went further, leveling a threat against the victim in an anonymous text message, putting the victim in fear for her safety.
“Mr. Boyd was elected by the people of Rock Island County to serve as its top law enforcement officer, but unfortunately he attempted to use his position to intimidate and stalk his victim,” Madigan said. “My office sought his resignation and criminal conviction to ensure he can no longer abuse the power that the people of Rock Island County entrusted in him.”
Under today’s agreed sentence, Boyd is forbidden from contacting the victim.
Madigan’s Public Integrity Bureau prosecuted the case based on a referral from the Illinois State Police, which investigated the case.
Public Integrity Bureau Chief David Navarro and Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions and Trial Assistance Bureau Bill Elward handed the case for Madigan’s office.