Sunday, July 24, 2016

NWI Times’ Editorial on GLB RR




EDITORIAL: Where's support for rail?



After months of public comment on the proposed $8 billion railroad that would ring the Chicago metro area, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board has its work cut out for it.

There were more than 3,000 comments from property owners, railroads, elected officials, schools, advocacy groups, opposition groups and communities through which the 278-mile Great Lakes Basin Transportation rail line would run.

Frank Patton, chairman of GLBT, has promised sweeteners to the public, including free electricity to homes along the route and a promise to pick up farmers’ rail cars of grain, if the farmers build a rail spur. That doesn’t seem to have resonated with the public.

Nor has the acknowledgement that with the volume of freight increasing, and the Borman Expressway unable to be expanded, there must be another way to keep that freight moving through the Chicago freight bottleneck.

We have seen before the recalcitrance of major railroads in accepting new routes, including the free tracks skirting the newly expanded Gary/Chicago International Airport runway. Getting that new route to be accepted, at no cost to the railroads, took nearly a decade. And unlike the runway project, Patton’s GLBT would change the competitive landscape by, in effect, building a toll road for trains.

To many, this project brings to mind the idea of a third airport for the Chicago area. That concept, put forth by the Federal Aviation Administration, has been talked about for years, with airport plans put forward in Peotone, Gary and elsewhere, but airlines haven’t committed to serving a third airport.

Which railroads want this new rail line built? Which shippers want it?

And what long-term benefits, after the initial construction, would this railroad bring to Northwest Indiana and the rest of the route?

We have heard of alternate routes, including one that would avoid Porter County with the addition of new track near Wanatah and using existing rail routes south of the county.

What we haven’t heard much of is support for the rail project.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Commander Kelm speaks out in Boone County Journal regarding Health Department, its governing board and the County Board

Boone County Health Department: The self feeding government entity in Boone County concerned with self preservation who out of a 1.1 million dollar budget spends 88% for wages and benefits for their 18 employees. (Their 2015 annual report taken offline).

Now the Boone County Health Department is stamping their feet at both boards ( Boone County Board & health department boards that is) trying to ride the backs of the not for profits for more fees.

There are some great people in the health department in Boone County, there are maybe 4 or 5 on their health department board that can think on their own and make rational decisions on their own in my opinion. The rest are lemming followers, who will “sing back” to the health department what ever the health department wants them to sing back. I have personally observed this in the very few meetings I attended. In my opinion, if you want to watch a very weak board in action, go to a health board meeting and watch the board dance to the tune of the ones they are supposed to manage.

Now on the Boone County Board Health and Human Service committee: Jeff Carlisle (chairman) and Cathy Ward (member) will not be “lead around by the nose” by the health department. Thank heavens we have 4 on the county board with some backbone.

Ms. Frank wants us to believe that we are all in extreme danger with food-borne illness, that is about all I have ever observed her chant. The fact is when I sent in a freedom of information act request, asking for the last 5 of food-borne outbreaks occurring in Boone County, the health department replied there may have been one. They could did not give me a date, people involved, cost to inspect or correct. Until I see some ink on the paper how do we even know one incidence happened? Is it worth $5.5 million over a 5 year period? I truly do not think so. Yesterday I told the 1 incident had nothing to do with a restaurant or church. It was a private event.

Lets look at fees for food permits.

Since 2006, our food permit fees at the VFW have increased more than 522 percent. The VFW paid $450 for a food permit in 2015; McDonald's & Burger King paid $205 per year; Belvidere Ace, $120; Subway Gateway, $205; The Brick, $240; Buchanan Street Pub, $140; Buchanan Street Bar and Grill, $450; Tropical Oasis, $260; Pizza Hut, $240; Maria's Pizza, $450; Arby's, $450; and Starbucks, $240. Moose Lodge (tax except by stature) $450. The fees are all over the place with no rhyme or reason.

When I asked the Health Department why there was a more than 100 percent difference in fees between the VFW and McDonald's, I was told that the VFW was considered “high risk.” Again, I would like to point out that the McDonald's fee is $205 and Belvidere Ace is $120. One sells food 24/7 (McDonald's), the other sells soda and candy bars and gives away popped popcorn (Ace Hardware).

Now, the Health Department wants all nonprofits to pay fees. The sky is falling and the Health Department says, "We are in the red. We need more money. We need more fees, now!"

My concern is, if you have budget problems, why, in 2013, did you, the Health Department, give your staff $56,000 in wage increases? In three years, that raise has grown to more than $168,000. It is reported that Cindy Frank gave herself a 55 percent pay increase. I am curious if this was really true? I know we all dream of a “cushy” lifetime, an 8-to-5 government job with most weekends and all major holidays off, and raises to our own pay whenever we can. But in the real world outside of government that does not happen.

The Health Department now proposes hiring an administrator for $90,675 in 2017. Boone County Health Department, hello, have you ever heard of truly working to have a balanced budget in place? Maybe you need to combine some jobs or have some layoffs so you can then be in the black. All of your money comes from local, state or federal taxes, (grants) our money.

Do we really need a health department? Not really. Many feel, myself included, they are just one huge duplication of many services we already have. Many “fees” could be paid right at the circuit clerks office. For 1.1million dollars I think you could pay for a few more staff at the clerks office. The Crusader Clinic is just down the street for medical services. The health department is not there nights and weekends. There must be no danger on weekends or evenings of food-borne illness. Maybe they have an answering machine and can get back the next day or Monday?

•Put this money to the Sheriffs Department and Fire Protection. Now there is where the men and women are out there 24/7 looking out for us, truly keeping us safe. Lets trim all the expensive “fat hanging on the bone” in the health department.

•This is the opinion of Greg Kelm Commander VFW Post 1461 since 2006, President of Boone County Veteran's Club since 2006. Please email comments to

An indication that Feingold is winning?




Conservative group cancels $2.2 million in ads for Johnson

  • Updated Jul 20, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A conservative group funded by the Koch brothers that is backing Sen. Ron Johnson canceled $2.2 million worth of ads it had planned to run to help the Republican in August and September, a blow to his re-election campaign as he tries to win a rematch against Democrat Russ Feingold.

Feingold has been outraising Johnson and leading in the polls in the closely watched race. Democrats are hoping to pick up the Senate seat as they try to regain majority control in the Senate.

The super PAC Freedom Partners Action Fund ran about $2 million worth of ads attacking Feingold in May. It was slated to run another $2.2 million in pro-Johnson ads over the next two months, but a Democratic media tracker said Wednesday that they had been canceled.

"We are realigning our television advertising strategy to ensure maximum impact across key Senate races," Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis wrote in an email. "We will continue direct citizen outreach through our grassroots activists, volunteer phone calls, digital media and direct mail. Last weekend alone network grassroots organizations made almost half a million contact attempts to targeted audiences."

The bad news for Johnson comes a day after he spoke in prime time at the Republican National Convention, a late-reversal from his long-held position that he was going to skip the gathering to campaign in Wisconsin. It also comes the day after the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it was delaying until October $1.3 million in ads it originally planned to run over the next two months.

Johnson campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger tried to downplay the effect of the ad cancellation by the group funded by influential billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch.

"We just had our strongest fundraising quarter ever and the polls show this race tight," Reisinger said. "We are comfortable and confident and believe we have the support to run a winning campaign. The voters already fired Senator Feingold once, and they will reject him again."

In the three-month period ending in June, Johnson raised $2.8 million, up from $2.1 million in the first three months. That put him in the top three of all Senate Republicans. But he still trails Feingold, who served 18 years in the Senate before Johnson defeated him in 2010. Through the first six months of the year, Feingold raised about $7.4 million, compared with $4.9 million for Johnson. Feingold also had more money on hand at the end of June — $7.2 million compared with $6.3 million for Johnson.

A Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed Feingold ahead of Johnson by 5 points among likely voters and 7 points among registered voters. The race has tightened considerably since January, when Feingold was up by 12 points over Johnson among registered voters.

Johnson has benefited from spending by outside groups, which had outspent Feingold's campaign by about $5 million to $1 million from the April 5 primary through late June. In addition to Freedom Partners, the ads benefiting Johnson have come from Americans for Prosperity, another Koch brothers group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Let America Work and the Judicial Crisis Network.

"Senator Johnson has always relied on the Koch Brothers and these outside groups to run his campaign for him, so this must come as a disappointment for their model legislator," said Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler in an emailed statement.

Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Cleveland contributed to this report.

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In 2011 email Gov. Rauner calls half of CPS teachers 'virtually illiterate'


Thursday, July 21, 2016 08:56PM


An email written by Governor Bruce Rauner has surfaced where he called half of Chicago Public Schools teachers "virtually illiterate."
The email was written in 2011, before Rauner was governor, and was sent to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other top education reform activists in the city.

A judge ordered the mayor's administration to release a batch of emails Thursday and this email was one of them.
Illinois Federation of Teachers president Dan Montgomery released a statement saying, in part: "Governor Bruce Rauner's statement that half of Chicago teachers are 'virtually illiterate' is a grotesque affront to the thousands of dedicated, hardworking, and talented educators and, indeed, the children who learn from them and love them."
Montgomery continues, "While Rauner publicly claims to love Illinois teachers, his private emails reveal the appalling truth: he holds them in contempt. No public servant, let alone a governor, is fit to oversee the education of our children when he or she has so little regard for those who teach."
A spokesperson for the governor released a statement which read, in part, "This particular email was sent out of frustration at the pace of change in our public school system. The Governor regrets writing it and apologizes to CPS educators for making an unfair, untrue comment."

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ill House candidate opposes GLB RR



Lindsay Parkhurst, the Republican candidate for the District 79 State House seat,  recently expressed support for the Kankakee County Board's opposition to the Great Lakes Basin Transportation (GLBT) railroad project.

Lindsay Parkhurst Lindsay Parkhurst | Contributed photo

The county board's concerns include the impact of a last-minute addition of a 15,000-acre rail port, which was added to the project during the environmental review process without advance warning. Kankakee County did not have time to analyze the impact of an additional 15,000-acre site being added to the rail project. There are 271 homes and two cemeteries within the boundaries of the proposed rail port, which would be affected if the project is approved.

In addition to the rail port, the board expressed concerns regarding the effect of the proposed railroad route on existing infrastructure, traffic patterns, farmland and waterways. The board proposed that the railroad expand and improve the existing infrastructure instead of building a new rail line.

"I'm pleased that the Kankakee County Board unanimously approved a letter opposing the Great Lakes Basin Rail Project," Parkhurst said. "This project is a boondoggle in the making -- similar to the Illiana Expressway or South Suburban Airport -- and ought to be opposed. I proudly stand with the folks at BLOCK GLB Railroad and many other local entities in opposing this project. Any possibility of using eminent domain for private gain is a gross abuse of state power. This project threatens the lives and livelihoods of farmers, homeowners and rural communities in our area and is not the way forward for our state."

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Cathy Ward via Facebook: PSB tax referendum will be discussed again in August

Cathy Ward

"BOONE COUNTY PUBLIC SAFETY SALES TAX INCREASE PROPOSAL - Excellent review but no decision at last night's board meeting, but the board will discuss this proposal to double the tax again at the finance meeting on Aug. 4. A few guests spoke and predicted an increase will never pass because our taxpayers had been promised in 1999 that this tax would end in 2018 but now it will go forever. That's because a couple years ago, under the leadership of Chair Bob Walberg, the board voted 8-4 to keep this tax going forever, even without voter approval. Board members who voted to keep it going forever said the county needs the money to meet ever increasing expenses. I proposed, and will again, that we put a different referendum on the ballot and ask taxpayers if they want this tax stopped as promised in 2018. That's the real question. Do our taxpayers want us to make cuts, increase revenue with businesses like the wind farms, or increase taxes? I'm fine with putting a referendum on the ballot to ask our taxpayers if they want to double the tax, too. Please, please let our voters decide, not just 8 of our 55,000 residents. That's what I call taxation without representation," said Boone County Board member Cathy Ward.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RR STAR’s View: Promises made must be promises kept

  • Our View: Promises made must be promises kept


  • By Register Star Editorial Board


  • Posted Jul. 19, 2016 at 5:04 PM

    We can't recall a time in recent history when people have had so little trust in government at any level. One reason is that governments too often promise one thing and then ignore that promise when a new batch of officials arrive on the scene.
    Here are some examples:
    Remember 2002? The Winnebago County Jail was crowded with inmates. The county was being sued because of the deplorable conditions inside.
    County leaders asked voters to add 1 percentage point to the sales tax to construct what turned out to be the $140 million Winnebago County Justice Center, complete with a jail to house more than 1,200 people.
    Our Editorial Board was skeptical of the plan because we believed the answer to jail crowding was not tripling capacity but making the justice system efficient and implementing programs to keep ex-offenders from committing more crimes.
    Near the end of the referendum campaign, county leaders added alternative programs to the list of things on which they'd spend the money. These programs would be designed to provide ex-offenders with the tools they needed to join above-ground society.
    That cinched the Editorial Board's support, as well as the backing of prominent black ministers. The referendum passed 60 percent to 40 percent in the city of Rockford and 52 percent to 48 percent in the rest of Winnebago County.
    Since then, county leaders have remained faithful to their promises, even though funding has been cut from the original $3.4 million a year, according to board member Ted Biondo.
    Recently, however, attempts were made to abandon funding for the alternative programs and giving the money to the sheriff. The programs remain in place, but for how long we don't know. It seems not everyone respects or even remembers that 2002 promise.
    More recently, the County Board voted to refinance one of the jail bonds to get $2.6 million, originally to give to the sheriff. Instead, the money may be used to pay off this year's county deficit, which is $1.6 million.
    Next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, the county is projected to run a deficit of $7 million.
    In Boone County, a similar situation has dissolved voter trust. In 1999, voters in Boone enacted a half-percentage-point public safety sales tax on the promise that it would be ended in 2018.
    In 2015, the Boone County Board voted 8-4 to remove the 2018 sunset clause so the tax could continue indefinitely. Boone County Board Chairman Bob Walberg, who voted to continue the tax, made a telling statement.
    "There was a promise made by a few people in support of the referendum (in 1999). You can't impose that on a future body. The board of 2018 will have to make that decision," he said.
    We urge all voters to remember that statement. It means that when politicians promise you something in return for a tax increase, they may mean it.

                  But only at the time they say it


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