Feds allege Redflex conspirator talked to Madigan and Daley

by David Kidwell | Chicago Tribune

The former city transportation manager indicted in a $2 million conspiracy to bring red light cameras to Chicago met with then-Mayor Richard M. Daley and House Speaker Michael Madigan as he championed the agenda of the company that was secretly bribing him, federal prosecutors alleged Wednesday.

It was the first time federal authorities alleged publicly that John Bills, the man at the center of the case, personally reached out to Chicago’s two most powerful politicians in his efforts to steer lucrative contracts to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc…

Madness on the Prairie: The Illinois State Budget Process Gone Wild

The Illinois Channel brings us a public affairs panel hosted by the Chicago City Club on November 2, 2015.

Panel Speakers include Tim Nuding, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, State Representative John Bradley, as well as reporters Amanda Vinicki (Illinois Public Radio) and Natasha Korecki (Politico).

Gov. Rauner, ignore the Surrender Illinois Caucus

For far too long my fellow Republicans have waived the flag of surrender on the issues that matter to IL families. That changes now!
-Allen Skillicorn

by the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board

Insurrections disrespect the established order and agitate its protectors. So it’s logical that, as the war for the future of Illinois gets tough, some formerly friendly voices would go wobbly on Gov. Bruce Rauner and his revolutionary vision of a solvent, prosperous, jobs-friendly state:

First, former Gov. Jim Edgar told The State Journal-Register of Springfield that Rauner shouldn’t “hold the budget hostage” by pushing for term limits and policy reforms that could stop other states from stealing Illinois jobs. Former Gov. Jim Thompson then fretted to the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, “This is the worst position the state of Illinois has ever been in.” Crain’s Chicago Business editorialized, “Rauner, even your allies are losing patience” — although the only “ally” cited was the backsliding Edgar.

To which a more resolute Rauner ally, Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch, retorted: “The chamber recognizes that the current budget stalemate is causing real pain across our state. … Four months is a long time to go without a budget. But it pales in comparison to a 12-year wait for state government to return to fiscal sanity, basic competency and a partnership with business that allows both to prosper. Those things are more than important. They are vital. They are also hard and worth the wait. Hang in there, Governor.”

Feud between Rauner, Chicago mayor reaches new, fishy level

By Sara Burnett | The Associated Press

The public spat between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reached a new level Friday, as the mayor said the Republican should stop name-calling and “do your job” and Rauner responded with plans to send the Democrat a “dead fish.”

The two lawmakers — who have previously worked and vacationed together and describe themselves as friends — have been in a back-and-forth over a months-long state budget impasse, city finances and Rauner’s push to curb public-employee union influence.

Rauner’s office on Thursday criticized Emanuel for pushing through a record property tax increase and asking Springfield for financial help while being unwilling to back Rauner’s legislative agenda, including letting local governments opt out of collective bargaining with public-employee unions.

On Friday, Emanuel fired back.

“I would just say this to the governor and the governor’s office: You’re 120 days behind budget, $6 billion and counting in not paying bills,” Emanuel said. “Stop name-calling and just do your job.”

Hours later Rauner walked into a local meat market in Chicago for a press event and – after picking up some pork chops and a beef tenderloin – asked the owner if he also sold fish. The governor bought a $4.87 frozen tuna steak, which he proudly displayed to reporters, saying he planned to send it to Emanuel.

How Illinois Democrats hoodwinked the middle class

by Kristen McQueary | Chicago Tribune | 10/22/2015

In 2011, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan attended a private fundraiser for Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. Madigan was a guest of the host, Terrence Duffy, chairman of CME Group, the parent company of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.

Four months later, Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton gathered lawmakers in Springfield for a rare special session to approve tax-break legislation that included CME Group, cutting the company’s annual state income taxes nearly in half.

At the time, Illinois was facing the possible shutdown of seven facilities, including mental health institutions and a home for the developmentally disabled. For weeks, parents with adult disabled children were visiting the Capitol trying to save the facility slated for closure. They pushed their loved ones around in wheelchairs or sat outside the House chamber carrying framed pictures of their kids.

Their efforts didn’t work. Jacksonville Developmental Center was eventually closed. But CME Group got its tax break.

CME Group is one of many big-donor firms to benefit from a form of corporate welfare from a Democrat-led state government. From 2010 to 2014, the state handed out tax breaks worth roughly $4.6 billion to Sears and Mitsubishi, Motorola and others, according to a subsidy tracker website.

Remember that the next time you hear Madigan or Cullerton or any Illinois Democrat boast that their party is the one putting the interests of the middle class ahead of big business.

It’s a theme you’ll hear repeatedly as the election cycle takes off.

Chicago Tribune – Red Light Cameras Increase Accidents

by Mark Wachtler | Illinois Herald

What is more insulting? The fact that Chicago taxpayers were defrauded out of millions of dollars from a corrupt and criminal Red Light Program. The fact that the Mayor and City Hall have been lying to Chicago residents about the effectiveness of the police cameras. The fact that the company providing the cameras and City Hall were caught in a $2 million bribery crime to get the scam approved. Or the fact that Chicago’s Red Light Cameras are actually causing more accidents than they are preventing. The answer – all of the above.

In a scandalous front page report from the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday edition, the publication blew the whistle on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ‘Red Light Camera’ program. The Mayor has been pushing the costly plan since his election as a way to raise money for the city and to cut down on automobile accidents at the same time. The fact that it took a $2 million bribe to get the program approved and awarded should have been an obvious sign of bad things to come.

Red light cameras and accidents

The Tribune report pulls no punches and comes right out and portrays Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his staffers as liars at best, and criminals at the worst. The publication even lists a number of examples, and those are just from the Red Light Camera scandal. In the study of accidents at Chicago intersections with new red light cameras, the Tribune investigation found that accidents at those spots increased 5% since the automatic ticketing cameras were installed.

Camera Keeps Ticketing School Teacher’s Parked Car

by Darryl Holliday

HUMBOLDT PARK — A Chicago speed camera already cited for ticketing parked cars in 2013 has struck again, ticketing one Humboldt Park woman four times without cause.

Jennefa Krupinski has the photo proof to back up her claim: four speed camera photos issued to her since June show her car parked outside of her home in the 3100 block of West Augusta Boulevard, each triggered by a random speeding car — but each costing her $100.

“Aside from the fact that it flashes in my living room, [the speed camera] has given me tickets three times. I’m in a pickle about this,” she said Wednesday, noting that a fourth ticket issued her a warning. “It’s clear that my car is parked, but the first two tickets I got, I had to pay.”

That’s because Krupinski, an assistant teacher at Suder Montessori Magnet School, was applying for a job within Chicago Public Schools at the time and would have been ineligible for the job if any pending violations were on her record.

She paid the first two at a cost of $200, she said, but the tickets for her parked car kept coming.

Tribune Concluded Cameras Do Not Reduce Injury-Related Crashes

from Chicago Tribune

Chicago’s red light cameras fail to deliver the dramatic safety benefits long claimed by City Hall, according to a first-ever scientific study that found the nation’s largest camera program is responsible for increasing some types of injury crashes while decreasing others.

The state-of-the-art study commissioned by the Tribune concluded the cameras do not reduce injury-related crashes overall — undercutting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s primary defense of a program beset by mismanagement, malfunction and a $2 million bribery scandal.

Emanuel has credited the cameras for a 47 percent reduction in dangerous right-angle, or “T-bone,” crashes. But the Tribune study, which accounted for declining accident rates in recent years as well as other confounding factors, found cameras reduced right-angle crashes that caused injuries by just 15 percent.

At the same time, the study calculated a corresponding 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes that caused injuries, illustrating a trade-off between the cameras’ costs and benefits.

The researchers also determined there is no safety benefit from cameras installed at intersections where there have been few crashes with injuries. Such accidents actually increased at those intersections after cameras went in, the study found, though the small number of crashes makes it difficult to determine whether the cameras were to blame.

The finding raises questions about why the city installed cameras in so many places where injury-causing crashes were rare — nearly 40 percent of the 190 intersections that had cameras through 2012, the Tribune found.

“The biggest takeaway is that overall (the program) seems to have had little effect,” said Dominique Lord, an associate professor at Texas A&M University’s Zachry Department of Civil Engineering who led the Tribune’s study.

Chicago vs. Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs [VIDEO]

from the Illinois Policy Institute

Sara Travis loves Chicago.

She’s lived here her whole life. When Sara decided to start her own business, there was no question that she would set up shop in her hometown.

Sara founded The Brew Hub, a mobile coffee-vending business that sells iced coffees and teas, in June 2013.

But she encountered endless obstacles to becoming a legitimate business.

For more than a year, Sara petitioned the city of Chicago to give her a permit so she could legally operate her already-popular business throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

But Chicago bureaucrats just took her in circles. Sara wanted to work with the city – she was persistent in reaching out to officials to figure out what she needed to do to accomplish her goal. But the city wasn’t willing to work with her.

Without a permit, Sara and her colleagues worked every day in fear of fines and harassment.

Eventually, Sara had to make a tough decision: continue operating illegally without hope of legitimately growing her business – or move.

In 2014, she and her business shipped off to Austin.

“In Austin, I was sitting in a little room filling out paperwork – we filled it all out, turned it in, gave them some money and we had a permit,” she said.

“We can always come home to Chicago, and that’s something we want to pursue, but Texas is ready for us.”
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BGA Busts Chicago Transit Officials: Taking Trips to Hawaii, Vegas on Pension Fund

Andy Shaw’s government watchdog group – the Better Government Association (BGA) – released the following on Sunday:

The CTA’s retirement plan and health care trust spent close to $60,000 since 2010 to travel to places such as Honolulu, New Orleans, San Diego and Las Vegas for pension-related conferences.

That’s according to public documents the CTA plan turned over only after we sued the agency earlier this year for allegedly violating the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, the state law that guarantees public access to certain government records.

We had asked for expense reimbursements, among other documents, which the CTA plan refused to provide until the Better Government Association filed suit. (This litigation is in the process of being settled.)

The newly released records show the agency’s expenses include more than $20,000 on a six-night trip to Hawaii for five people in 2010, $4,400 on a three-night trip to New Orleans for two people in 2011, $7,500 on a four-night, four-person trip to San Diego in 2012 and about $12,000 on a four-night trip to Las Vegas for six people in 2013.

The fund’s executive director, John Kallianis, was among those who went to Las Vegas and San Diego. He defended the trips, saying the conferences were “rigorous” and “very well worth the expense.” …