Emanuel predicts “mass exodus” from Chicago because of pension costs

First Posted at CapitolFax

* Mayor Rahm Emanuel has some pretty big pension problems on his hands, the result of years of not paying into the funds. So, he’s proposing a new and extended “ramp” to get the payments up to snuff over time. Gov. Pat Quinn vigorously opposed a shorter new ramp last spring, so Emanuel is trying again

The measure would require a series of small city property tax increases starting in 2018 — three years into what would be Emanuel’s second term as mayor. It also would delay the need for big increases in city pension payments to 2022, three years into what would be Emanuel’s third term, if he decided to serve that long and was able to win re-election. […]

Emanuel needs to press for relief because of the timing of a state law approved while Richard M. Daley was mayor. It would require the city to put in nearly $600 million more in contributions to police and fire pensions starting in 2015. That additional amount is about one-fifth of the city’s day-to-day operating budget. […]

Illinois’ Workers Comp Reform Was Only A Weak Window Dressing

by Paul Merrion | Crain’s Chicago Business

Hard-fought reforms enacted two years ago have brought down the fees that doctors and hospitals can charge for treating injured workers, but Illinois workers’ compensation costs remain sky high.

Medical payments for workers’ compensation claims dropped only 4.6 percent in Illinois last year even though the General Assembly reduced the maximum fees for workers’ compensation-related office visits, surgery and other treatments by 30 percent in 2011 (see the PDF). That’s according to a study of 16 states by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, an insurance industry-funded think tank in Cambridge, Mass. The states were selected to represent the high, middle and low end of the cost spectrum.

Medical fees actually fell 24 percent last year, according to the study, as some providers already were charging less than the maximum amount allowed by law. But those savings largely were offset by greater use of medical services and increased spending on litigation over medical claims, second opinions by company doctors and other measures to control medical costs.

As a result, total payments per claim were down just 1 percent.

Chicago’s Speed Camera Numbers Show City Speed Limits Are Set Too Low

by James C. Walker, Executive Director of the National Motorists Association Foundation

What the recently released Chicago speed camera data definitively shows is that many of the main collector streets in Chicago are posted in violation of the proper traffic safety engineering principles–principles designed to achieve the smoothest and safest traffic flow.

Most speed zones should be posted at or within 5 mph of the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions according to the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).

Having anything like 200,000 “speeding” events recorded in that brief period would be totally impossible with posted speed limits set to properly engineered ITE standards.

Yes, I know, Chicago can legally “hide” behind a statutory default limit of 30 mph inside the city, but that does not make the deliberate mis-engineering of the under-posted limits on the main collector streets valid from either a safety or a smooth traffic flow perspective.

I have been a frequent visitor to Chicagoland for several decades and a great many of your streets and urban freeways are posted arbitrarily low and in violation of the basic traffic safety engineering principles.

Kane County Ranks 30th Nationally for High Property Taxes

According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, Kane County property taxes are the 30th highest in the nation. Not 30th highest in the state, but 30th highest in the ENTIRE NATION.

Kane County Property Tax Statistics:

Median Real Estate Taxes Paid         $5,471

County Rank (nationally)        30 out of 806 counties

U.S. Median Real Estate Taxes         $2,043

Tax Paid as % of Median Home Value     2.33%

U.S. Taxes as % of Home Value        1.14%

Illinois can’t afford high speed rail

Quinn really has gone off the high-speed rails this time.
by Joe Cahil | Crain’s Chicago Business

So now we know: A high-speed rail line connecting Chicago and St. Louis would cost at least $20 billion, maybe as much as $50 billion with a link to Indianapolis.

As my colleague Paul Merrion reports, those estimates come from a study released this week by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Rail Transportation and Engineering Center. Our high-speed-rail-loving governor requested the study.

Keep in mind that we’re talking about really fast trains — 220 miles per hour, not the 110 mph project Gov. Pat Quinn is urging Congress to fund. At 220 mph, you could get to St. Louis in a little more than two hours, less than half the current five-plus. Urbana-Champaign would be just 45 minutes away.

The U of I researchers figure those travel times would attract hordes of riders, between 8 million and 15 million annually. Amtrak’s current Chicago-St. Louis route carries less than 600,000 passengers per year.

Here’s the best part: Researchers conclude a high-speed rail system with so many passengers would operate profitably, based on estimated average fares ranging from $71 to $115.

Sounds great. Now all we have to do is find $20 billion.

Study finds red light cameras cause accidents

by Dr. Richard Swier

Barbara Langland-Orban, PhD, John T. Large, PhD, Etienne E. Pracht, PhD from the University of South Florida (USF) conducted a study on red light cameras in 2008. They updated their study in 2011. Langland-Orban, et. al. found that red light cameras (RLC) increase the number of accidents at intersections by 28%.

The 2008 study found:

“Rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and are a ticket to higher auto insurance premiums, researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health conclude. The effective remedy to red-light running uses engineering solutions to improve intersection safety, which is particularly important to Florida’s elderly drivers, the researchers recommend.

Instead, they increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections. If used in Florida, cameras could potentially create even worse outcomes due to the state’s high percent of elderly who are more likely to be injured or killed when a crash occurs.”

“The rigorous studies clearly show red-light cameras don’t work,” said lead author Barbara Langland-Orban, professor and chair of health policy and management at the USF College of Public Health.

City of Elgin Rebuked by Federal Judge over TLC Case

Press Release from Life Center Pregnancy Services
Sept. 25, 2013

(Elgin, Ill.) U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan issued a severe order Tuesday in the case of TLC Pregnancy Services denying the city of Elgin’s request to delay proceedings. The judge noted that any further stalling, “would unjustly delay the vindication of the rights of the Plaintiffs seeking relief on the 11 remaining counts.” Judge Der-Yeghiayan also stated that he was, “not foreclosing the issue of whether sanctions are warranted.”

“The judge’s order referencing sanctions suggests Elgin’s statements to the court, in August, that it needed time to pursue settlement options were misleading given that Elgin filed for its appeal immediately after the court gave the city 30 days to pursue such settlement,” said TLC attorney John Mauck.

In March 2013, TLC filed suit after its free mobile ultrasound facility for expectant mothers was shut down by the city for violating a temporary use ordinance. Judge Der-Yeghiayan ruled on Aug. 8, 2013 that Elgin’s ordinance was “vague” and “overbroad” allowing TLC to resume operations. According to TLC, since 2010, over 200 low-income women and girls have been given free pregnancy and ultrasound tests through the mobile facility.

“Most importantly these women who find themselves pregnant come aboard the mobile facility feeling overwhelmed and alone. We are available for them providing the practical, emotional, and spiritual support they need,” said TLC director Vivian Maly.

TLC will continue to pursue the case against Elgin by taking depositions of certain city council members and other officials. “We hope to expose to the people of Elgin which officials and what actions were behind this shutdown of free services to expectant mothers,” said Mauck.

Mexican Drug Cartels In Chicago?

In parts of Chicago violence and the drug trade are part of the culture. – Allen

Why Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel Loves Selling Drugs in Chicago
Chicago Magazine

Like the top cartel bosses, the Flores brothers rarely handled the drugs themselves. Rather, they arranged for handoffs to smaller wholesalers who would sell bulk quantities down the drug chain. Nor did the twins personally deal with street-level dealers—a popular misconception reinforced by police and drug enforcement officials, who often link the cartels to the city’s gangs and the deadly violence they perpetrate.

Law enforcement’s logic seems to be that because Mexican cartels supply nearly all of Chicago’s drugs, and because the gang members who peddle the drugs are responsible for 80 percent of the murders and shootings in the city, the cartels are responsible for bringing the violence of the drug wars in Mexico to the streets of Chicago.

But are drug cartels the primary cause of Chicago’s violent crime problem? Some criminologists say—and simple logic suggests—that they’re not. Pressed for a specific example of a direct cartel-to-gang pipeline, Andrew Bryant of the narcotics division of the Cook County state’s attorney’s office concedes: “I can’t give you a chain all the way from the top to the bottom.” The connections between a cartel and street gangs, he says, are very loose.