Monday, June 19, 2017

Hope for an Illinois Budget?


Governor Finally Supports a Budget Plan, but Democrats Remain Spooked

By Rich Miller

One of the hottest rumors making the rounds among Statehouse types last week was that the governor and/or the Illinois Republican Party will be sending “trackers” to Springfield for the upcoming special legislative session.

The rumor, which was everywhere, was that the trackers would follow Democrats around to try to get them to say silly things or record them doing stuff that might not look good to the folks back home.

House staff was even telling Democratic members to watch out for the trackers. And some Democrats were privately demanding that their party respond in kind.

So I went to the upper echelons of Team Rauner and asked whether the rumors were true. I was told in no uncertain terms that they were not.

Nasty rumors thrive in the pea-soup fog of fear and loathing that pervades the Statehouse these days. At one time or another, it seems like everybody has fought everybody and now nobody trusts anybody.

Heck, the far-right Illinois Policy Institute is even running Facebook ads whacking Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative Republicans for their “$5-billion tax hike.” Rauner used to be a large contributor and often sought advice from and palled around with the group’s leader.

The governor’s party last week proposed what appears on the surface to be a fairly reasonable budget plan (pending further review) with some much-needed tax increases. But they couched the unveiling in such overtly partisan and demanding terms that it looks like a trap to many eyes on both sides of the aisle.

“We’re calling a special session so lawmakers can pass the Republicans’ compromise balanced budget plan with reforms,” Rauner tweeted just before he officially called the special session. The governor has obvious comprehension problems with the concept of “compromise.” A plan drafted by one party and then presented as an all-or-nothing demand doesn’t quite fit the traditional definition of the word. Then again, the Democratic majority has also done this on countless occasions.

At least Rauner is finally starting to own something, but if he had just laid his tax-hike cards on the table two-and-a-half years ago, we might not be in this mess today. Senate President John Cullerton has said almost from the beginning that the only way a tax increase will pass is if the governor asks for it and sets the rates.

There’s so little trust right now that some Democrats (and some Republicans, who’ve also been burned by Rauner) still want the governor to specifically say aloud that he will sign a personal-income-tax rate of 4.95 percent and new service taxes on things such as landscaping, which are included in his proposal.

But it’s not just the rumors or the proposals or the press conferences. Other recent events have thoroughly rattled many Democrats. For instance, on June 9 Rauner contributed $1.5 million to the Illinois Republican Party, and the following day the state party passed through $850,000 to the House Republicans’ campaign committee.

To some Democratic eyes, Rauner gave his Republicans big bucks to either vote for tax hikes or stay mum.

It’s also pretty much impossible to pass a tax hike without votes from Chicago Democratic legislators, who don’t have to worry about general-election challenges. Yet the Republican proposal included what seemed to Chicago Democrats to be an obvious poison pill: Vote to raise taxes while simultaneously shortchanging funding for Chicago’s public schools.

And then Illinois Republican Party negative mailers started hitting various House Democratic incumbents.

“Fred Crespo and Mike Madigan may let Illinois collapse,” blared a mailer that landed last week in Representative Crespo’s suburban turf. “Fred Crespo teamed with Mike Madigan to: Block a balanced budget; Bail out Chicago Public Schools; Prevent a property-tax increase; Reject job-creating reforms.”

Rauner recently began airing TV ads attacking Speaker Madigan and his “puppets” for letting the state “crumble” and for wanting to raise taxes “by billions.”

It’s true that the House Democrats do stand alone as the only caucus without a budget plan. It’s not at all inaccurate to warn Illinoisans that the House Dems may “let Illinois collapse,” because they haven’t yet done anything concrete to keep the government from collapsing.

But Democrats are left wondering if Rauner is trying to intimidate them into voting with him or setting them up to take the blame for a plan that wasn’t ever going anywhere. We’ll find out soon.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax (a daily political newsletter) and CapitolFax.com.

Above is from:  http://www.rcreader.com/commentary/governor-finally-supports-budget-plan

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Senate Health Care Bill


Fellow Illinoisan,                                                                                                                                

Yesterday, I asked U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price—the person responsible for implementing any changes to our nation’s health care system—if he or anyone at his agency has seen the Senate Republicans’ secret health care repeal bill, which they intend to bring to a vote before the Fourth of July. He admitted that he had not.

That’s because only thirteen male Republican senators know the contents of that bill. It is being crafted behind closed doors and closely guarded by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. The American public has not seen this repeal bill, and there hasn’t been a single hearing on the legislation or any opportunity to offer an amendment. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet published an analysis of the bill, so we don’t know how many people would lose insurance under the Republican plan, how out-of-pocket costs would increase, or how people with preexisting conditions would fare. 

Remember that, in 2009, when we were working on the Affordable Care Act, the Senate held more than 50 bipartisan public hearings, meetings, and roundtables on the legislation. We debated the bill on the Senate Floor for twenty-five consecutive days, considered hundreds of Republican and Democratic amendments, and accepted more than 170 Republican amendments.


Why are Republicans hiding the details of legislation that will affect every American and one-sixth of the U.S. economy? Why are they moving at a break-neck pace to have us vote on it before the Fourth of July? 

If the Senate Republican repeal bill looks anything like the version passed in the House of Representatives—which throws 23 million people off health care, including one million Illinoisans; once again allows insurance companies to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions; increases out-of-pocket costs for Americans aged 55 to 64 and those in rural communities; and jeopardizes 60,000 Illinois jobs— I understand why they want to do it in secret.

The American people deserve better. They deserve quality health care for themselves and their loved ones. And they deserve for their elected representatives to be honest with them.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Belvidere Animal Shelter Shuts Down


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Belvidere Animal Shelter Shuts Down

The new caretakers of the Belvidere shelter said it was in bad condition.

By: Karina Parada

Posted: Jun 16, 2017 06:32 PM CDT



BELVIDERE - A longtime animal shelter in the Stateline area shuts down.
The new caretakers of the Fresh Start Animal Rescue in Belvidere said they had little choice after seeing conditions there. Angels 4 Animals held an open house to show people the poor conditions in which dogs and cats were being kept. The mold in the rooms, ripped walls, and dirty floors were all on display as visitors toured the shelter for the first time. Many of them were left speechless. Cages that were once filled with dogs and cats now sit empty. Fresh Start board members brought on Angels 4 Animals, an animal advocacy group, two months ago to turn around the shelter.
"When I walked in and I saw the animals and the way they were, it's heartbreaking," said Angels 4 Animals Vice President Amy Mehalko. "It was absolutely heartbreaking to come in and see the animals crying and barking."
Mehalko says the deplorable conditions were never known because the previous managers wouldn't allow anyone to see where the animals were kept, not even Fresh Start's own board members. Mehalko says her group tried to save Fresh Start, but couldn't.
"This building was not meant at any time to house animals,"  said Angels4Animals President Kathy Mehalko. "This building was not safe for the animals."
"We're very sorry for having to shut the doors but it was truly a last decision for all of us," said Amy Mehalko. "We tried every avenue that we could."
Many puppies at the shelter became sick due to the conditions. A total of 85 animals lives were lost at Fresh Start last year alone. Mehalko created a binder made up of people who adopted pets at the shelter. Every one of them had a pet with a major health issue. One of those owners was Carrie McCallum. She adopted a puppy named Carl. He died shortly after taking him home.
"After I found out what was going on here, I just had to come back here for Carl," said McCallum.
The animals that lived at Fresh Start have been placed at foster homes or other rescues. Everything inside the building is for sale.

Above is from:  http://www.mystateline.com/news/belvidere-animal-shelter-shuts-down/743707218

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Who is involved in Great Lakes Basis RR?


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Here's who owns that $2.8 billion rail-untangling venture

By Claire Bushey


Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

A retired businessman pushing a plan to lay rail track that circumvents Chicago owns almost 90 percent of the venture, according to records.

Frank Patton, 74, owns 87.2 percent of Great Lakes Basin Transportation, the company seeking to build a $2.8 billion, 261-mile alternative for rail traffic to skirt the city's infamous congestion. Patton is the company's founder and chairman.

Great Lakes Basin had sought to keep its list of investors outside the public record, but the Surface Transportation Board, the U.S. regulator for railroads, required the company to disclose it. The company would profit from charging railroads to use the company's track.

Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad have both said they would be unlikely to use it. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said their opposition brings "into question the demand and need for an additional rail line." The Catholic Diocese of Rockford also is opposing the project, saying it will cut across land near Winnebago needed to expand a local cemetery.

Shipping giant UPS, which wrote to regulators, supports the project.

Only two people besides Patton own more than 1 percent of Great Lakes Basin: Jim Wilson, the company's vice chairman and president, owns 5 percent, and Greg Frazados, Patton's lawyer, owns 1.01 percent.

Another seven investors each hold stakes of 1 percent or less. Four of them are officers or consultants at Great Lakes Basin.

Above is from:  http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20170612/NEWS10/170619986/chicago-railroad-venture-ownership-revealed

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Legislators join fight against Great Lakes Basin Railroad

Legislators join fight against Great Lakes Basin Railroad

GLBR given June 22 deadline to supply information

By MIKE MALLORY - mmallory@shawmedia.com

11:56 pm

The current proposed route of the Great Lakes Basin Railroad and Daniel Burnham Expressway.

Image provided

Caption

MORRIS – Legislators are stepping up their fight against the proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad, which would go through Grundy and LaSalle counties, as well as many others.

State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, co-sponsored a resolution filed May 26 in the Illinois House of Representatives that opposes the proposed railroad and a highway that would run along it. It has been forwarded to the House Rules Committee.

Welter said that in his days as chairman of the Grundy County Board, he was against the proposal and still is. That board formally opposed it in May 2016.

“We were one of the first counties to pass a resolution opposing it,” Welter said.

Since then, counties and residents throughout the 275-mile route from southern Wisconsin to northeastern Indiana have spoken out against a proposal that Great Lakes Basin Railroad leadership says will alleviate a notorious railway bottleneck through the Chicago area.

The resolution was entered by state Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee.

“The main thing is that it would cut through farm land,” Welter said of his opposition to the proposed project. “Farming is a large economic driver for the area.”

GLBR co-founder Frank Patton and consultants came to Morris Community High School in May 2016 to discuss the proposal. Hundreds of residents showed up, and most were not happy with Patton’s responses to their questions.

“We hoped to get a lot of answers and I think we left with even more questions,” Welter said.

Farmers are concerned that the railroad would go through their property without regard for their rights as landowners, Welter said.

“The idea of using quick-take or grabbing up land for a private project without negotiating with landowners is an issue for me,” Welter said. “I’m a huge proponent of landowner rights.”

On May 1, GLBR filed an application to build the rail with the Surface Transportation Board. The latest plan includes the proposed Daniel Burnham Expressway, which would run from Interstate 80 west of Morris to Indiana, where it would again meet with the Interstate 80/94 expressway. It is meant to serve as a replacement for the long-discussed Illiana Expressway.

Along with that application, GLBR filed a motion for a protective order in an effort to keep information about its top 10 shareholders private.

On June 2, the STB requested financial information from GLBR, denied the request to keep shareholders confidential, and asked for a list of cities and counties it would serve because GLBR only supplied county information. The board gave GLBR until June 22 to submit the information.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, sent a letter in May to the STB opposing the project, citing constituent opposition to it.

Above is fromhttp://www.theherald-news.com/2017/06/09/legislators-join-fight-against-great-lakes-basin-railroad/a42mupa/

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Attorney General to Investigate IL Fire Chief's Termination


Attorney General to Investigate IL Fire Chief's Termination

Susan Vela On Jun 10, 2017
Source: McClatchy

chief brad bartell termination 593bfdea51e7e

The public attended the Boone County District 2 Fire Department board meeting where the chief was terminated.

Photo credit: Courtesy of WIFR


June 09--BELVIDERE -- The Illinois Attorney General is investigating whether the Boone County Fire Protection District 2 board violated the Open Meetings Act when it terminated Brad Bartell as chief.

The district's firefighters association requested the investigation.

"Trustees willingly and deliberately violated the OMA," the association's letter to the Illinois Attorney General's Office reads. "The emails we received via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) were first sent to the fire district's attorney for screening prior to being sent to us.

"This filtered out many critical documents that are pertinent to your investigation. The documents we did receive however show a pattern of discussion and decisions being made behind the scenes."

Annie Thompson, the Attorney General's press secretary, said the state will take up an open meetings and FOIA investigation as it does with all requests.

The fire district's firefighters association requested the state's review because members say trustees should not have fired Bartell and haven't been transparent about why they let him go. When the association asked for a rationale, the trustees provided a list of concerns about Bartell that included allegations of mismanagement, missing equipment and failure to follow proper protocols.

Association members have been appearing at trustees' meetings to protest Bartell's firing and to express solidarity with their former chief.

Bartell, who serves as the Boone County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator, has said the trustees began asking him to leave closed sessions he normally would sit in on.

"With Brad, it was a family around here," volunteer firefighter Josh Dummer said Monday as the trustees discussed personnel matters in closed session. "If they're not going to respect him, why are they going to care about us?"

They've also let trustees Jack Ryan, Kevin Stark and Jim Marrs know they are circulating petitions aimed at putting a referendum question before voters asking whether trustees should be elected. Right now, the Boone County Board chairman appoints them.

The trustees and Bartell's replacement, Chief Bob Koehn, have declined to comment about Bartell's termination.

The fire district covers about 150 square miles, including the unincorporated communities of Irene, Herbert and Garden Prairie.

Bartell also declined to comment about the attorney general's review. He was with the fire district for 26 years -- five of them as chief -- when he was let go after an April 3 meeting.

Illinois' Open Meetings Act requires that public bodies cite why they're going behind closed doors. They're allowed to discuss personnel matters during these closed sessions. Fire district trustees didn't give a reason until the April 3 session.

Marrs then said the closed session was for "the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees of the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee."

Springfield attorney Donald Craven, who specializes in First Amendment issues, noted that Bartell was not a member of the board, and that the trustees had every right to talk about his leadership without him being there.

"To properly go into closed session, there has to be a motion to go into closed session," he said. "That motion has to recite what exemption under the act they're relying on and there has to be a roll call vote on that motion.

"Then when all of that happens, they can go into closed session ...there has to be a verbatim recording of that closed session, which is usually just an audiotape."

The Illinois Attorney General public access counselor may review the audiotape, he said.

Susan Vela: 815-987-1392; svela@rrstar.com; @susanvela

___ (c)2017 Rockford Register Star, Ill. Visit Rockford Register Star, Ill. at www.rrstar.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Above is from:  http://www.firehouse.com/news/12342755/attorney-general-to-investigate-il-fire-chiefs-termination-firefighter-news

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rail regulators ask Great Lakes Basin for more info before acting on rail line bid

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Transportation June 5, 2017

Rail regulators ask Great Lakes Basin for more info before acting on rail line bid

New rail line to bypass Chicago; UPS supports proposal.

By DC Velocity Staff


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Federal rail regulators have asked Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. (GLBT), which plans to build a 261-mile rail line connecting with six of North America's seven largest railroads to bypass Chicago, for more information before they can evaluate its bid to resolve the bottlenecks that plague the nation's busiest and most congested rail hub.

In a decision issued Friday, the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which oversees what remains of rail regulation, asked GLBT to provide a list of cities and counties to be served; GLBT only submitted a list of the counties, the agency said. The Board also directed GLBT to file a copy of its latest balance sheet and income statement documents. The Board also rejected GLBT's designation that its list of its 10 principal stockholders and their respective holdings be classified as 'highly confidential."

The agency set a June 22 deadline for filing the additional information.

The privately funded line would skirt Chicago to the south, passing through counties in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. According to GLBT, the line would permit a train to travel between any two of 26 proposed interchange points in eight hours or less. Currently, it can take as long as 30 hours for trains to navigate Chicago's existing rail network to deliver goods not destined for the city or its environs. GLBT said the line would allow up to 110 trains per day to avoid the Chicago terminal.

In response to concerns that the line would encroach on residential neighborhoods, GLBT said it would build a one- to two-mile buffer zone separating it from towns along the proposed route.

GLBT founder Frank Patton has called the line the largest freight rail project in the Chicagoland region in more than a century.

The proposed railroad is part of an ambitious multi-modal scheme that includes the construction of the "Burnham Expressway," a privately funded toll road designed to route traffic around Chicago by connecting the Indiana Toll Road with five interstate highways, and an airport in Chicago's southern suburbs that would relieve traffic congestion at O'Hare International Airport northwest of the city and at Midway International Airport on Chicago's south side.

Three of the top five executives, Jim Wilson, vice chairman and president of Great Lakes Basin Transportation; Mike Vlaszak, chief legal and administrative officer of the parent; and William Miller, chief commercial officer, spent time at the old Santa Fe Railway, which was acquired by the former Burlington Northern Railroad Co. in 1995 to become what would eventually be known as BNSF Railway.

Two of the six "Class I" railroads, Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Corp. and Norfolk, Va.-based Norfolk Southern Corp., have said they would not participate in the project. Other railroads would have to pay to gain access to the line, and those that aren't interested may believe that the cost would be too dear or that a new line would threaten their own market shares.

However, Atlanta-based UPS Inc., the nation's largest transportation company and a huge user of the rails to move intermodal traffic, supports the proposal.

In an April 28 letter to the STB, UPS said that "any effort to build new rail capacity and bypass the notorious Chicago rail bottleneck would have a material positive impact on the fluidity and velocity of the freight rail network, and a direct benefit to UPS and our customers."

Above is from::  http://www.dcvelocity.com/articles/20170605-rail-regulators-ask-great-lakes-basin-for-more-info-before-acting-on-rail-line-bid/

Saturday, June 3, 2017

GLBR must release largest shareholders June 10



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Federal board: Transportation company must reveal shareholders for new railroad through Rock County


Jim Dayton


A proposed 261-mile rail line through Rock County hit a temporary snag Friday after a decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

The board directed Great Lakes Basin Transportation to share more details in its application to build a new railroad. The company also must reveal its 10 principal shareholders after the board denied a request for confidentiality.

The board disagreed with Great Lakes Basin's position that a list of stakeholders was “highly confidential” and contained “proprietary and commercially sensitive information.” Great Lakes Basin had said revealing its shareholders could damage the company, but it did not justify why, the board wrote in its decision.

The rail company must file a public list of stakeholders by Friday, June 9, according to the document.

Great Lakes Basin President Frank Patton said Friday he had received the Surface Transportation Board's decision and was studying the document. The company will respond soon, he said.

Mirjam Melin, co-founder of local opposition group Rock Against the Rail, said if the railroad line is eventually approved, landowners along the route have a right to know who is taking over their property.

She applauded the board's decision to reveal shareholders because it showed opposition groups were being heard, she said.

Great Lakes Basin's current proposed route begins in Milton and cuts between Janesville and Beloit. It then turns south into Illinois, loops around Chicago and ends in Indiana.

The company submitted its application to build the rail line May 1. Patton has told The Gazette the rail line will allow trains to avoid congestion in Chicago.

But the Surface Transportation Board believes the application still lacks details.

Great Lakes Basin did not give the board a full list of cities and counties that would be served by the rail line. It also must file a balance sheet and income statement along with other paperwork, according to the document.

The rail company had not provided any financial information because it has not yet conducted business operations. But Great Lakes Basin has retained a contractor for an environmental study, who should appear on a balance sheet as a liability, the board wrote.

Great Lakes Basin must finalize its application by June 22.

Melin believes the application's missing details show the company is "not ready for prime time.”

The board also simplified how opposition groups such as Rock Against the Rail can file legal responses. The groups must give copies of their responses to the board and Great Lakes Basin but not all parties of record, which would have included all citizens who have submitted public comments.

Once Great Lakes Basin submits the missing information, opposition groups will have an undetermined amount of time to file new responses.

Rock Against the Rail does not want the railroad, Melin said.

“By no means is the fight over. This is not the end of it,” she said. “These are just little things along the way that tell us we are being heard and what we asked for is being considered.”

Above is from:  http://www.gazettextra.com/20170602/federal_board_transportation_company_must_reveal_shareholders_for_new_railroad_through_rock_county

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rock Valley College: A lesson in gov’t bureaucracy


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Guest Column: A lesson in gov’t bureaucracy

May 24, 2017May 24, 2017 Editorial Staff 0 Comment

By Paul Gorski
Contributor

I am a new board trustee at Rock Valley College and, as I usually do in any of my jobs, I ask many questions. Unfortunately, despite being a board member, I might have to request answers to my questions through formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests rather than a simple “May I see a copy of that contract?” More on that in a bit.

First, I want to thank local voters for electing me as a Rock Valley College Board Trustee. I received nearly 25,000 votes, which is quite a feat in an off-year election for a community college board position. People who know elections tell me those were phenomenal results. Thank you. I am humbled by the support.

Second, I am not now nor do I expect to be in a position of speaking officially for the Rock Valley College Board. The opinions I express here are my own. My opinions will not likely reflect the official position of the board or other board members. I wanted to make that clear because board “policy” states only the board chairman may speak on behalf of the board.

It is also a board policy that only the chairman and committee chairpersons ask the president of the college for certain information. There are seven trustees. One trustee is the chair and three other trustees are committee chairpersons. The three remaining trustees need to direct their questions for the president and staff to one of four other trustees. Sounds like an unnecessary communications hierarchy for a small seven-person board. Talk about red tape.

By the way, according to Merriam-Webster.com “red tape” refers to: “official routine or procedure marked by excessive complexity which results in delay or inaction.” Yep.

When I served on the county board, the twenty-eight board members could ask any staff member a question. The County Board Chairman at the time, Scott Christiansen, encouraged board members to go directly to staff. County staff answered our questions promptly and politely.

Back to the RVC present: the information in question now concerns certain contracts already made and signed part of the public record; and surveys or questionnaires used to determine the need for a new service on campus, also a public record. My initial request for this information was rebuffed, directing me to the board chair and or committee chair to obtain and discuss the issues.

Local residents may request the very same information simply by asking for it, and by mentioning FOIA the college would have to reply in a matter of days. I, on the other hand, a board trustee, have to go through channels, a process where I could be denied, and then discuss it in committee, which would not happen until next month at the earliest. As I mentioned to RVC officials, that workflow does not work for me.

I would like to review these documents, do some research, list my questions, and then discuss these matters with fellow trustees at an open meeting. I think that is a very reasonable request from an elected official.

I am not blaming RVC staff; these policies are board-driven. I am not sure if someone does not want me digging into these issues or maybe we just need some management training for the 21st century: agile, open and transparent leadership training. That said, I repeated my request to the board chair. As I write this article, I have not received a response.

My political friends and foes know that I ask questions. Lots of questions. I ask your questions, my questions and questions to increase the level of discussion on government financing. I have served on the Winnebago County Board, Cherry Valley Township Board, and Cherry Valley Library District Board (very briefly), and I never had to file a FOIA request to obtain documents like this before.

I hope I do not have to file one now. I will keep you posted.

Paul Gorski is a newly elected Rock Valley College Board Trustee who supports open meetings, open government, and equal ballot access to encourage public participation in local government.

Above is from:  http://rockrivertimes.com/2017/05/24/guest-column-a-lesson-in-govt-bureaucracy/

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Belvidere mayor forms ‘Bridge’ to strengthen ties with Latino community

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Belvidere mayor forms ‘Bridge’ to strengthen ties with Latino community

Monday
Posted May 22, 2017 at 12:01 AM Updated May 22, 2017 at 2:44 PM
By Susan Vela
Staff writer

BELVIDERE — Mayor Mike Chamberlain was stunned a few years ago to discover that the city’s Latino community accounted for approximately 35 percent of the city’s population.

The nearly 5 percentage point increase in Latino residents since 2010′s U.S. Census Bureau count prompted him to approach local Latino leaders about an initiative that would make both longtime residents and newcomers feel more welcome.

Chamberlain has established a group called Bridge that brings together community leaders of all backgrounds for monthly meetings to share ideas for civic improvement.

“It’s not a political committee. It’s not a committee that has one specific function,” Chamberlain said. “We’re still kind of feeling our way along. I’m just trying to make the opportunity available to see whether we can build something.”

Too often, he said, members of minority groups don’t feel comfortable in their hometowns. Chamberlain wants to vanquish any anxieties through discussion and action. He said Bridge volunteer work is a possibility.

But it’ll be up to community leaders to make Bridge work. Chamberlain said he doesn’t “even like the word ‘minority’ or ‘diversity’ ” and wants Bridge to be about the community coming together to coexist to the most comfortable degree.

Some Bridge members say they would like to see more Latinos frequent the downtown business district. Belvidere’s changing community means a large number of State Street businesses are owned by Latinos, such as Taqueria El Molcajete and Los Girasoles Hair Salon.

“I feel comfortable,” said Los Girasoles stylist Lourdes Medina, who still likes Chamberlain’s Bridge.

Lori Mason recently became owner of Sweets & Sundries, an ice cream and candy shop off State Street.

“Anything that promotes business owners is a smart move,” she said. “I do think the downtown area needs help.”

Chamberlain approached Nancy Razon, the Belvidere School District’s bilingual liaison, when he began considering his new committee. She hopes Bridge participants can boost the number of Latino consumers who shop downtown.

Razon said language barriers had been a problem in the past. Some Latino business owners, she said, don’t feel there’s a strong citywide support network committed to helping them adapt to Belvidere.

“If we want to make it a better town, we need to work with the community,” she said.

Bridge has met twice since February. Chamberlain and Razon said about 15 people, mainly representatives from the Latino community, have attended both sessions. The next meeting is set for 8 a.m. Friday in the City Council Chambers, 401 Whitney Blvd.

Jessica Muellner, who represents District 3 on the Boone County Board, has been attending regularly.

“It’s a worthwhile thing,” she said. “I wanted to see the direction that the mayor was going. A lot of people pay a lot of lip service but this is a way to help things. We all get to know each other.”

Susan Vela: 815-987-1392; svela@rrstar.com; @susanvela

Above is fromhttp://www.rrstar.com/news/20170522/belvidere-mayor-forms-bridge-to-strengthen-ties-with-latino-community

Monica’s View of Roger Ailes

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

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Monica Lewinsky: Roger Ailes’s Dream Was My Nightmare

By MONICA LEWINSKYMAY 22, 2017

 

Credit Laura Breiling

This is not another obituary for Roger Ailes, who died last week 10 months after being ousted at Fox News. It is, I hope, instead an obituary for the culture he purveyed — a culture that affected me profoundly and personally.

Just two years after Rupert Murdoch appointed Mr. Ailes to head the new cable news network, my relationship with President Bill Clinton became public. Mr. Ailes, a former Republican political operative, took the story of the affair and the trial that followed and made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.

It worked like magic: The story hooked viewers and made them Fox loyalists. For the past 15 years, Fox News has been the No. 1 news station; last year the network made about $2.3 billion.

Some experts have noted that viewers found Fox for the first time because of the crisis. John Moody, a Fox executive editor, reflected on that period: “The Lewinsky saga put us on the news map.” As he put it in another interview: “Monica was a news channel’s dream come true.”

Their dream was my nightmare. My character, my looks and my life were picked apart mercilessly. Truth and fiction mixed at random in the service of higher ratings. My family and I huddled at home, worried about my going to jail — I was the original target of Kenneth Starr’s investigation, threatened with 27 years for having been accused of signing a false affidavit and other alleged crimes — or worse, me taking my own life. Meantime, Mr. Ailes huddled with his employees at Fox News, dictating a lineup of talking heads to best exploit this personal and national tragedy.

For myriad reasons — information gathering, boredom (I couldn’t leave my home without being trailed by paparazzi) and a touch of masochism — I watched the news around the clock. On Fox, it seemed, no rumor was too unsubstantiated, no innuendo too vile and no accusation too abhorrent.

Let’s not pretend that Fox News was the only network to cover this story in the gutter. Mr. Ailes’s station may have pioneered this new style of television reportage, but the other cable news channels didn’t hesitate to join the race to the bottom. In fact, in late 1998, when Keith Olbermann briefly left MSNBC, he expressed disgust with the frequent Lewinsky coverage.

Just as television news was devolving into a modern coliseum, the internet came along and compounded this culture of shame and vitriol. Remember: The story of my affair was not broken by The Washington Post, The New York Times or the networks, but online by the Drudge Report. The comments on television and online were excruciating. I ceased being a three-dimensional person. Instead I became a whore, a bimbo, a slut and worse. Just days after the story broke, Fox asked its viewers to vote on this pressing question: Is Monica Lewinsky an “average girl” or a “young tramp looking for thrills”?

Our world — of cyberbullying and chyrons, trolls and tweets — was forged in 1998. It is, as the historian Nicolaus Mills has put it, a “culture of humiliation,” in which those who prey on the vulnerable in the service of clicks and ratings are handsomely rewarded.

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Monica Lewinsky in Washington in 1999. Credit Greg Gibson/Associated Press

As the past year has revealed, thanks to brave women like Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, it is clear that at Fox, this culture of exploitation wasn’t limited to the screen. The irony of Mr. Ailes’s career at Fox — that he harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut and then was brought down by his own — was not lost on anyone who has been paying attention.

There are some positive signs that the younger generation at Fox — James and Lachlan Murdoch — seem to want to change the culture Mr. Ailes created. Last week Bob Beckel, a Fox pundit who made a racist remark to an African-American Fox employee, was dismissed. Would this have happened in the Ailes era?

Although I imagine the desire by the Murdoch brothers to present a clean record to the European Commission reviewing their proposed takeover of Sky News played a role in their thinking, the Murdochs deserve praise for their part in the decision to fire Bill O’Reilly, whose show brought in $100 million a year in ad revenue but who harassed and bullied women he worked with. I hope the Murdochs understand that Americans will no longer tolerate a corporate culture that views hate and harassment as part of running a successful news business.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t have a credible conservative point of view in our media — quite the opposite. If we’ve learned nothing else from the 2016 presidential election, it’s that we must find a way to foster robust and healthy discussion and debate. Our news channels should be just such places.

So, farewell to the age of Ailes. The late Fox chief pledged Americans fair and balanced news. Maybe now we’ll get it.

Monica Lewinsky is an anti-cyberbullying advocate and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

Above is from:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/opinion/monica-lewinsky-roger-ailess-dream-was-my-nightmare.html?smid=tw-nytopinion&smtyp=cur&_r=2&mtrref=undefined&assetType=opinion

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Higher property taxes irk Boone County homeowners

 

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Saturday
Posted May 20, 2017 at 2:51 PM Updated May 20, 2017 at 2:51 PM
 

By Cathy Ward

Upset by hefty increases in your Boone County property taxes? Join the crowd, and count us in.

Our property taxes (the first half due June 1) are 9.7 percent higher than last year — well above the inflation rate of about 2 percent. Our tax bill this year is $4,577, up from $4,173 last year.

The big hike for us, and thousands more, was determined by our Belvidere Township assessors. Our tax bill stated that our home is worth almost $17,000 more than last year, up from $160,440 to $177,270. Really? In one year?

Belvidere Township Assessor Tami Torrance told me the increase was based on the fact that home values in our area are rising. She said her staff reviewed sales in our area for the past three years and determined this was a fair value.

Figures from the office of Boone County Treasurer Curt Newport showed 69 percent of Boone County homeowners had higher tax bills, some up as much as 17 percent. Of our county property owners, 31 percent had lower bills.

A 2017 report from taxrates.org, states that Boone County has one of the highest median property taxes in the U.S. We are ranked 113 of 3,143 as a percentage of our median income. That’s not where I want to rank.

What can we do now? Virtually nothing. If we launch a protest and pay late, a late fee will be tacked on. If we pay nothing for a couple years, we could lose our home.

Our tax bill shows we help support nine taxing bodies. The majority of our bill, $3,043, goes to the Belvidere School District. The others in the top three are $597 to Boone County and $292 to the Belvidere Park District.

Torrance and her staff said we should have looked closely at our assessment notice that came out in September. We had 30 days if we disagreed with the new assessment or it could not be changed, unless a substantial error had been made.

The same will be true next year. When we get our assessment notice, we can appeal. Last fall, about 500 property owners appealed their assessments. Dozens and dozens received decreases. Some, I’m told, do it every year. Might be something to strongly consider.

I also was told more than once by the Belvidere Townshhip assessor’s staff that we should have attended meetings of the taxing bodies and objected to their spending habits. The blame, it appears, rests with us. They also said state officials keep adding expenditures to our taxing bodies and not paying for them. As most of you know, the state of Illinois has not had a budget for nearly two years.

I also was told all taxpayers should be certain they are getting all the deductions allowed, such as senior citizen or homestead exemption. Also, I learned, that if local assessors don’t make necessary changes, the state will come in and add a multiplier to all taxpayers. Torrance said she and her staff try to be fair to all.

I wish I had a better feeling about what’s ahead. Torrance said she can’t promise that our tax bills will not be higher next year. “Lots of factors go into these assessments,” she said.

I do have one idea that would be helpful. My husband and I own property in Florida. When we get our assessment notice, the notice includes what our tax bill will be. That makes it easier for us to decide if we want to appeal our bill. Here, we do not know what our tax bill will be until the bill arrives.

Newport’s reports showed that the county this year will collect $96.6 million to serve our 53,000 residents. Amazing.

I would add, however, that we in Boone County should be most grateful to businesses like Chrysler and big land owners who pay what I consider high taxes. Newport’s report showed Chrysler’s bill this year is $1.4 million. Others in the top three are Wal-Mart, $425,684, and KB Farms, $355,487. For the record, the average tax on an acre of farmland rose 6.6 percent from $27.22 to $29.

I think it might be time to send our businesses a thank you note. Hate to think what our tax bills would be if they were not here.

Cathy Ward is a member of the Boone County Board.

Above is from:  http://www.rrstar.com/opinion/20170520/my-view-higher-property-taxes-irk-boone-county-homeowners

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Farm Bureau opposes Great Lakes RR

 

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The Illinois Farm Bureau announced in a press release on Friday that its board of directors voted to oppose the construction of the Great Lakes Basin Railroad.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation filed an application on May 1 with the Surface Transportation Board to approve the 261-mile long railroad along with a toll road which would run from Milton, Wisconsin, to La Porte, Indiana.

The application has a map of a "preferred route" that runs through Grundy County and then to the Will and Kankakee county border starting close to I-57. The highway would run closely along the railroad starting from I-80. The bureau said the projects, both of which are privately funded, would run through hundreds of miles of Illinois farm ground.

“Like the county farm bureaus affected by the project, we are concerned about the impact of the Great Lakes Basin Railroad on private property rights and the potential loss of farmland,” said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. in the release.

The decision to oppose the project came after county farm bureaus sent letters and tried to contact bureau leadership expressing their concerns about private property rights and the potential loss of farmland.

The Illinois Farm Bureau filed a request for an extension of time for public comments about the project. The Bureau said it will file comments opposing the project and it urges its members to do the same.

“Our goal is to facilitate economic growth with minimal effects on the environment and local residents,” The Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc., website states about the project. “While the new railroad will occupy land that currently is devoted to agricultural and other uses, we intend to avoid settled areas and minimize the railroad's impact on the way area residents live their lives today.”

The GLBT website also states it anticipates acquiring no property for the project until the environmental review process is completed and the Surface Transportation Board authorizes construction.

Above is from:  http://www.morrisherald-news.com/2017/05/19/illinois-farm-bureau-decided-to-oppose-great-lakes-basin-railroad/ahuxmms/

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Locals, Kinzinger buck contentious railway

 

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Locals, Kinzinger buck contentious railway

May 10, 2017

By Jim Hagerty
Contributor 

Those behind the contentious 261-mile railroad extension that would meander through parts of Winnebago County took another step toward federal approval, as partners on behalf of Great Lakes Basin Railroad on May 2, filed an application to go ahead with the project.

“This is a historic day for Great Lakes Basin Transportation to file its formal application to construct the Great Lakes Basin Railroad,” Chairman Frank Patton said in a statement. “Our application explains the need for this vital project to the STB (United States Surface Transportation Board) and the public.”

But, it may take a lot to sell the public, which so far has chided the $2.8 billion project aimed at taking freight cars off of Chicago’s tracks, making them better suited for passenger service. The new line would run through LaSalle, Lee and Ogle counties, and pass through Winnebago County west of Rockford. The company would likely utilize eminent domain laws to obtain farmland for the project, something that has spurred significant debate.

“This is the largest rail project this country has seen in 125 years, and they’re using eminent domain laws from 125 years ago to force this through,” Susan Sack told The Times in an earlier report.

Sack helped organize the group, Block GLB, which hasn’t relented since last fall.

“Private toll roads have been sold to the public as a surefire something-for-nothing bargain – new infrastructure with no taxes,” Block GLB posted on its Facebook page. “But it turns out that the risk for taxpayers is actually substantial. The firms performing traffic projections have strong incentives to inflate the numbers. And the new breed of private finance deals are structured so that when the forecasts turn out wrong, the public incurs major losses.”

The project does not sit well with U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, who says not only would it be inappropriate for Great Lakes to seize land through eminent domain, there is no demand.

“I am skeptical of the demand and need for the proposed project,” Kinzinger said in a letter to the transportation board. “Decades of investment by six Class I railroads have made Chicago a national rail hub and with it comes congestion. These rail companies are working in concert with U.S. Department of Transportation, the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago and other stakeholders to improve efficiency within the existing network.”

Kinzinger said the GLBT line will not serve two of the six Class I railroads, calling into question the viability of the project and whether it makes sense economically.

“The proposed line will be detrimental to the prime farm land in northern Illinois,” Kinzinger continued. “According to some estimates, the rail line would require tens of thousands of acres of farm land to be bought or seized. Nearly all of this farmland is considered prime, is some of the best quality soil in the country, and is often the most productive in the country. Furthermore, the project would sever tracts of farmland making it more difficult farm. These are just some of the costs of this project and I do not believe the project’s benefits outweigh them.”

If approved, the privately funded rail project could be finished and up and running within the next 10 years.

Above is from:  http://rockrivertimes.com/2017/05/10/locals-kinzinger-buck-contentious-railway/

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Great Lakes RR brings formal application

 

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May 03, 2017

Investors float $2.8 billion plan to get around Chicago's rail bottleneck

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By Claire Bushey

 

Thinkstock

Photo by Thinkstock

A former software businessman and president of the Union League Club has formally asked a federal regulator to approve his plan to build a $2.8 billion, 261-mile freight railroad line that circumvents Chicago.

The Great Lakes Basin Transportation company, chaired by Frank Patton, filed an application today with the Surface Transportation Board. The company is seeking permission to construct a privately funded railway that would charge other railroads to use its tracks to skirt the congested city. It is an attempt, company President James Wilson writes in the application, "to do something no one has attempted for over a century: to build a new common carrier freight railroad bypassing the Chicago area."

But while the company has 10 principal investors—whose names are redacted from the application—it has yet to obtain funding to complete the project. Nor is it expected, according to the application, until Great Lakes Basin "receives (Surface Transportation Board) authority to construct the proposed line."

Patton, 74, who sold his company Portfolio Dynamics in 2002, has championed the project for eight years. In 2015, the transportation board began studying the proposed railroad's environmental impact. Since then, Great Lakes Basin has asked for an extension, and then a suspension, of the study, while it hurried to provide requested information and finish its formal application by the May 1 deadline.

The proposal lands at a time when the new chief executive at CSX, one of the six major railroads operating in Chicago, has advocated diverting freight traffic away from the city. About 25 percent of the country's freight moves through the region, with 29 to 50 percent of that volume passing through en route to another destination, according to the application.

"If Chicago's rail facilities are overwhelmed by today's freight volume, they will be even less adequate to handle the much greater traffic levels projected for future years," the application says.

The railroad proposed by Great Lakes Basin would skirt downtown by 38 to 89 miles at any given point, the application says. The route runs from near Milton, Wis., in the north, past Rockford, Rochelle and Kankakee in Illinois, and terminates near La Porte, Ind. With 36 interchanges, it would allow 110 trains a day to bypass Chicago.

The railroad could be fully operational within three years of the transportation board's final approval and obtaining construction financing and legal right-of-way, the application says.

The project will be funded through a combination of debt and equity financing. A pro forma income statement has Great Lakes Basin losing $151 million in 2021 but turning a $216 million profit in 2025.

The news was first reported by the Post-Tribune.

Above is from:  http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20170503/NEWS10/170509929/railways-plan-takes-aim-at-chicago-freight-bottleneck

Friday, May 5, 2017

Boone County firefighters push for voter-elected trustees

 

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Wednesday

Posted May 3, 2017 at 2:38 PM Updated May 3, 2017 at 5:20 PM
 

By Susan Vela
Staff writer

BELVIDERE — Volunteer firefighters angered by a decision to dismiss Boone County Fire District 2 Chief Brad Bartell are asking for changes that include allowing voters to elect the district’s board of trustees.

The firefighters are upset that trustees Jack Ryan, Kevin Stark and Jim Marrs replaced Bartell with Deputy Chief Bob Koehn two months ago. The trustees are appointed by the Boone County Board chairman. Voters would be required to approve a change to a system of elected trustees.

Trustees cited a number of complaints regarding Bartell, who remains the Boone County Emergency Management Agency coordinator. They include accusations of mismanagement, missing equipment and failure to follow proper protocols, according to a 40-point list of complaints acquired from the board by the firefighters through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Do you truly feel what you’re doing is best for the community, our fire district and our department by removing Chief Bartell from his position when he’s done so much good for this community?” Joshua Norek, one of the district’s approximately 45 volunteer firefighters, asked the board during a packed public meeting on Monday. It was the second time in two weeks that firefighters filled a public meeting to express support for Bartell.

The trustees didn’t respond Monday and also declined to comment after the meeting.

Firefighters plan to circulate petitions intended to put a trustee referendum on the March 2018 ballot. The district covers about 145 square miles, including the unincorporated communities of Irene, Herbert and Garden Prairie.

County Board Chairman Karl Johnson would lose the power to appoint the trustees, but said he would not oppose the referendum. More than anything, he wants the trustees and firefighters to move forward.

“I truly appreciate the show of camaraderie ... that Chief Bartell built,” Johnson said at Monday’s meeting. “I think that’s amazing. What you guys have to do to save a life or save a building ... you have to trust each other. (But) it’s not just up to the trustees. I think it’s up to you, too. My challenge to both of you is to work together.”

Some county residents like the idea of elected trustees.

“That should happen,” said Linda Treu, who lives in Boone County but not in the district. “That needs to happen because otherwise, you will end up with the same families, the same people getting in constantly. It’s time for a change.”

Firefighters Association Treasurer Brent Bryan worries today’s trustees aren’t suited to represent district residents.

“We pretty much lost all trust in them,” Bryan said. “We need people on that board that are going to be nonbiased. We need nonbiased opinions.”

Across the state, there are some 800 small fire protection districts. Appointment by the county board chairman and elections are the two most common ways that trustee positions are filled, said Cheri Breneman, administrator for the Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts.

County Board member Brad Stark, who is Trustee Kevin Stark’s son, is opposed to making trustee an elected position.

“The problem with that is anybody can get elected,” he said. “What if we get ... people who do nothing about managing. We could run that district into the ground.”

Susan Vela: 815-987-1392; svela@rrstar.com; @susanvela

Above is from:  http://www.rrstar.com/news/20170503/boone-county-firefighters-push-for-voter-elected-trustees

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Controversy in Boone County over resignation of fire chief

 

GO TO WREX TO HEAR ACTUAL BROADCAST; GO to:  http://www.wrex.com/story/35325635/2017/05/02/controversy-in-boone-county-over-resignation-of-fire-chief

 

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Controversy in Boone County over resignation of fire chief

By Kristin Crowley

Connect

Posted: May 02, 2017 10:54 PM CST

BOONE COUNTY (WREX) -

A Boone County Fire Protection District is in the midst of turmoil. It's chief says he was forced to resign by board trustees.
The move is not sitting well with his firefighters but the county is standing behind the trustees. 13 WREX spoke with the former chief and the county board chair to get both sides on a controversial issue impacting a small community.

"I think it was very cowardly," said  former District 2 Fire Chief Brad Bartell.

Bartell says he was blindsided last month when the district's board of trustees asked for his resignation.

"They never came to me and said we have problems to address and there's never been any issues that were ongoing," he said.

After 26 years with the department, four of those as chief, Bartell says he was asked to step aside. The reason?
A list of dozens of complaints from the trustees.

Including accusations he didn't monitor the budget-, didn't know who damaged a truck, left the administration door open and didn't address facial hair on firefighters.

Bartell doesn't deny some of the issues the trustees brought up did happen. But he says they weren't safety issues and all were addressed after they happened. He says his forced resignation wasn't about the list.

"I think there was some personal vendettas there, they were losing power. They couldn't control it," said Bartell.

"They told me in their opinion, this is something that needed to happen to move the department further ahead," said Karl Johnson, Boone County Board Chair.

The three trustees, Jack Ryan, Kevin Stark And Jim Marrs, will not comment on the accusations. But Johnson says he doesn't believe the decision was made lightly.

"I've gotta trust the trustees who are there every day, who are in charge of that department, Running that department. Know what they're doing," he said.

13 WREX asked Johnson specifically about the allegations against Bartell and whether they're grounds for removal.

"How they came to that decision, that's all for the trustees to decide. I can't really second guess because I don't have all their information. And just looking at a list of stated things may be different than living them," he said.

Bartell's force of volunteer firefighters want more information about these accusations, however, Johnson says trustees don't have to give it.

"That would undermine the authority of the trustees and what they're there for. Their job is to run the department financially," said Johnson.

Whether the trustees will eventually comment on these accusations remains to be seen. Their next meeting is the first Monday in June.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Boone County fire officials replace chief, upset firefighters

 

 

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Sunday
Posted Apr 30, 2017 at 3:02 PM Updated Apr 30, 2017 at 8:51 PM
By Susan Vela
Staff writer

BELVIDERE — Brad Bartell’s ouster as chief of Boone County Fire Protection District 2 has riled up some volunteer firefighters, who are protesting the decision.

Several of the district’s approximately 45 volunteer firefighters showed up at a recent Boone County Board meeting to protest the trustees’ March 6 decision to replace Bartell, who also serves as Boone County Emergency Management Agency coordinator.

Trustees cited a string of allegations against Bartell, including accusations of mismanagement, missing equipment and not following proper protocols, according to a 40-point itemized list of complaints acquired from the trustees through the firefighters’ Freedom of Information request.

“It’s a laundry list of B.S. essentially that’s under-investigated,” said Brent Bryan, treasurer with the Boone County Fire District 2 Firefighters Association. “Brad Bartell was a great chief that had the firefighters, taxpayers and District 2 residents’ best interests at heart.”

He and others from the district plan to reiterate their protests and suggest policy changes that include a multi-step process for letting go firefighters during a 7 p.m. Monday meeting at the district office, 1777 Henry Luckow Lane.

Bryan said Bartell has served as the district’s chief for less than five years. He has been with the fire department for more than two decades.

Neither Bartell nor trustees Jack Ryan, Kevin Stark and Jim Marrs returned calls for this story. Bob Koehn, who served as deputy chief before replacing Bartell, declined comment.

County Board members appoint trustees. Bryan would like voters to elect them.

“That’s fine,” Board Chairman Karl Johnson said. “I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t have a problem with them going from three to five trustees.”

Bryan said he has asked Boone County State’s Attorney Tricia Smith to investigate the allegations made against Bartell. Smith said it’s the responsibility of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the matter first.

Susan Vela: 815-987-1392; svela@rrstar.com; @susanvela

Above is fromhttp://www.rrstar.com/news/20170430/boone-county-fire-officials-replace-chief-upset-firefighters

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Immigration Jail in Rockford?

 

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Posted Apr 25, 2017 at 10:36 AM Updated Apr 25, 2017 at 11:38 PM

By Cristina Gloria

I would like to express disappointment about how the immigration detention forum was handled April 17 at the YWCA. After attending, I question whether this public forum was intended to be an opportunity to hear from the sheriff about renting space for civil immigration detention in our jail and to answer questions from the public. If so, it did not meet that goal and it did not reflect the mission of the YWCA as it did not “promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity” to the attendees or the citizens of this community.

The members of the AAA & Latino American Voices feel that the presence of so many sheriff’s deputies dressed in bulletproof vests and carrying weapons was unnecessary, as well as the way they treated the forum attendees.

I have worked with law enforcement and have great respect for the work they do. However, the way that the deputies talked to us was as if we were criminal suspects or prisoners who were being lined up for a count. I was waiting to be asked to put my hands against the wall to be searched.

The audience at the meeting was made up of professionals, business owners and a few publicly elected officials. There appeared to be some deputies dressed as civilians in the audience taking up the already limited seating.

I perceived all of this as a technique to intimidate the people who were attending the forum. Why was this allowed in a facility of an organization that is promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity? Personally, I did not feel dignified by the presence of so many deputies, the ineptitude of the ICE officer and the final comments from state Rep. John Cabello.

Mr. Cabello did not demonstrate empathy at all and clearly demonstrated his “white male privilege” when he said that immigrants “should be afraid” and that they should “get legal.” I hope that the YWCA will invite Mr. Cabello to one of its workshops so that he may understand that his comments were completely inappropriate and reflected his lack of understanding of immigration issues.

As if they have any other option under the law or that only undocumented immigrants are deported. I know the YWCA does not have control over what he said, but the YWCA has the obligation to offer assistance to Mr. Cabello to understand how to speak thoughtfully to all people.

The responses that the sheriff provided insulted the intelligence of the attendees at the meeting. He presented the ICE detention center as something that he would have total control over, telling ICE whom he will take and whom he will not.

The ICE officer was unable to say if the sheriff had this authority or not. The sheriff did not clarify how the functions of law enforcement to fight crime would be affected even as he heard how the immigrant community’s trust of police will be broken if ICE has a presence in our jail. It is unclear if he understands that federal civil detention is different from criminal custody.

In conclusion, at the end of the forum we left with more questions, more distrust of the sheriff’s decision-making process and disappointment toward how we were treated at the YWCA, which is supposed to be a safe place for the community.

Cristina Gloria, MA, LPC. is a community liaison and board member for AAA & Latino American Voices.

Above is from:  http://www.rrstar.com/opinion/20170425/my-view-immigration-forum-displayed-ineptitude-and-insensitivity

Universal Basic Income

 

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Canada Is Launching a Major Test of Universal Basic Income

 

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  • Finland, The Netherlands, and San Francisco, California have already shown their interest in giving people a regular monthly allowance — a system known as basic income.

    Now Ontario, Canada, is planning its own basic income trial as well.

    Related: Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Should Never Come

    On April 24, Premier Kathleen Wynne outlined new details of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP), which is slated to begin later this spring and last for three years.

    A total of 4,000 people in three regions in the province will begin receiving additional income based on each individual's current salary.

    A single person in the trial can receive up to $16,989 per year, though the equivalent of 50% of any additional earned income will be subtracted from that total. So a person who makes $10,000 a year at their job, for example, would receive $11,989 in basic income, for a total income of $21,989.

    Eligible recipients, who must be considered low-income and be between 18 and 64 years old, will be chosen through a randomized selection process

    In her announcement, Premier Wynne said one goal of the pilot is to reassure people that their government supports them.

    "It says to them, government is with you. Ontario is with you," she said.

    Related: Could a Universal Basic Income Really Work?

    The premise of basic income is straightforward: People get monthly checks to cover living expenses such as food, transportation, clothing, and utilities — no questions asked.

    Along with Canada, a number of countries are conducting their own basic income trials.

    Finland's government launched its pilot on January 1, and is giving 2,000 unemployed Finns $590 a month. In various cities throughout the Netherlands, 250 people will soon receive an extra $1,100 per month for two years. And in Kenya, the charity GiveDirectly has launched a trial version of a 12-year study that seeks to gather the first longitudinal data on basic income.

    The concept of basic income has been around since the 1960s. In the decades since the radical idea was proposed, various researchers and government officials have given basic income experiments a try, with mixed results.

    In general, however, the data seem to tilt in basic income's favor. One study, published in late 2016, found people who received unconditional cash transfers used vices like drugs and alcoholless frequently than people who didn't receive the money. And though it's easy to assume free money would make people lazy, research suggests the opposite is true. People in one 2013 study actually worked 17% longer hours and received 38% higher earnings when getting a basic income.

    Skeptics, meanwhile, argue that because many basic income trials have been conducted in small villages in the developing world, the findings don't necessarily translate to developed countries.

    Ontario's trial will begin in the regions of Hamilton, including Brantford and Brant County, and in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. The third pilot will launch in Lindsay in the fall.

    "Everyone should benefit from Ontario's economic growth," Wynne said in a statement. "A basic income will support people in our province who are reaching for a better life."

    This article originally appeared on Business Insider[JS1] . Read more from Business Insider

    Above is from:  http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2017/04/24/Canada-Launching-Major-Test-Universal-Basic-Income

    Monday, April 24, 2017

    Morning Spin: Rauner's improbable fundraising pitch: Balanced budget without tax hike

     

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    Morning Spin: Rauner's improbable fundraising pitch: Balanced budget without tax hike

     

    The speculation at the Capitol held that if the state’s budget impasse continues through next year’s election, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will campaign on the fact that he blocked Democrats from hiking taxes.
    End the speculation. Cue the campaign.
    In a fundraising letter sent to Republican supporters from the governor’s campaign, Rauner says: “Speaker Mike Madigan and the Springfield Democrats REFUSE TO FIX our state. Illinois taxpayers deserve a balanced budget WITHOUT any tax increases.”
    That’s a sharp contrast to what the governor previously has said, including his acknowledgment that the state needs more revenue as well as spending cuts to achieve a balanced budget. (He's not alone in that view — leading Democrats have said the same. The shortfall is just too big.)
    Of course, Rauner has made as a precondition for approving a tax hike his list of “structural reforms” (previously known as his “turnaround agenda”), which include a property tax freeze, changes to workers' compensation, term limits for politicians and a plan to take much of the politics out of the drawing of legislative districts. Those demands have met with opposition from Madigan and the Democratic-controlled legislature, leading to the stalemate.
    “In the midst of the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield, I don’t normally have time to write personal letters like this but I urgently need to hear back from you ASAP,” Rauner said in the form letter addressed to “Dear Fellow Taxpayer” and marked “Personal & Confidential, Urgent Reply Requested, Please Respond in 7 Days.”
    In the letter, Rauner calls himself “the only leader in Springfield standing between Illinois and more job-killing, taxpayer-crushing policies!!”
    “I’ve fought tooth and nail to bring back Illinois because I’m sick and tired of career politicians who are more concerned with taking care of their special interest allies than families like yours,” he wrote.
    While most fundraising appeals start at the low-dollar end to generate at least a few bucks, Rauner — a wealthy former private equity investor who put $50 million into his re-election campaign in December — isn’t shy.
    “Now, facing what could be the most expensive governor’s race in Illinois history, I urgently need you to consider partnering with my campaign with your most generous PLEDGE OF SUPPORT of $2,000, $1,000, $500 or $250 today,” Rauner wrote.
    “Make no mistake: Illinois has come too far to allow Mike Madigan to install yet another liberal puppet in the Governor’s Mansion he can pull the strings on,” he wrote.
    Rauner contended that “every tax-and-spend liberal in Springfield and nearly every liberal newspaper have called on me to capitulate to Mike Madigan’s demands, raise taxes on you and your family with no reforms to show for it, and pass yet another un-balanced budget.”
    “I refuse to pass the buck to the next generation,” the governor wrote, adding that “after doing my level best not to fundraise for the last two years, I’m reaching out to request your immediate support.”
    Rauner, who spent nearly $28 million of his own money in defeating then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014, added a P.S. to his letter: “I won my first campaign for governor of Illinois on the promise to Shake Up Springfield — and delivered.”
    By the way, don’t expect those ads featuring Rauner and a roll of duct tape to stop anytime soon. A report on cable TV ad buys shows the commercials running through at least the end of April. The ads are being paid for by an affiliate of the Republican Governors Association. (Rick Pearson)

    Above is from:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-bruce-rauner-campaign-budget-no-tax-hike-story.html