Archive for the ‘OP/Ed’ Category

Union Label

(Scott Stantis/ For the Chicago Tribune)

By The Editorial Board Wall Street Journal

The alliance between Democrats and public unions is a dominant feature of modern politics, and the mutual love is growing. That’s the message of a new report by the Commonwealth Foundation, which dug into how government unions fund politics through direct campaign spending and political action committees.

The four largest government unions are the National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme). In the 2021-2022 election cycle, they spent more than $708 million combined on politics. Since 2012 union spending on federal elections has nearly tripled.

Democrats and their causes receive 95.7% of the cash from unions’ political action committees. In 2021-22 the Big Four gave more than $29 million to the SEIU’s United We Can super PAC and the NEA Advocacy Fund super PAC which support federal candidates for office. Another $16 million went to wealthy climate crusader Tom Steyer’s leftwing For Our Future Pac. Some $3 million went to Fair Share Massachusetts which supports a state wealth tax.

Big money also flows at the state level, where public unions all but run many state capitals. In 2021-2022, the four largest government unions spent $27.9 million in Illinois, $24.9 million in California, $13.2 million in Minnesota and $12.1 million in Pennsylvania.

Unions accounted for almost 83% of current Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s campaign funds, and teacher’s unions were the lion’s share. They are getting their money’s worth. Mr. Johnson will be renegotiating the Chicago Teachers Union contract in 2024 and unions will be on both sides of the negotiating table.

Illinois Speaker of the House Emanuel “Chris” Welch received $1.25 million in union PAC cash in the 2021-22 election cycle, more than any other state legislator in the country. Mr. Welch recently let an Illinois school-choice program for low-income children die because it was opposed by the unions.

Read more here.

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Lincoln 2023

Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Tomb historic site in Springfield. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

By The Editorial Board | Chicago Tribune

We Americans like to count our blessings and usually we have a lot of blessings to count, even when there is much trouble in the world, whether in the Middle East, in Ukraine or on the streets of Chicago.

As the first blasts of frigid winter weather began to blow in, our civic blessings include far fewer unprotected migrant families sleeping in our police stations, in tents, temporary shelters or even on the streets. The crucial recent improvement in that situation has been news for which all Chicagoans can and should be thankful. Especially those of us who don’t have to worry about having a warm place to sleep and good food on our Thanksgiving tables, even if some of us are missing loved ones serving overseas.

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day during the Civil War in 1863 to remind Americans that, even in the midst of “a cruel war of unequaled magnitude and severity,” there still were reasons to give thanks.

Among these, Lincoln spoke of “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies” and a nation of bounties “so extraordinary … that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible …”

Peace has been preserved, he said, “and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.”

With his call for gratitude and national healing, Lincoln turned what began as a harvest time celebration by colonists and Native Americans into a national holiday. And we like to think he was onto something when he said that an awareness of our good fortune can help make us less divided.

Read more here as the editorial concludes with wishes of, “Happy Turkey Day!”

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220 Survey

“In June 2023 the Barrington 220 Board of Education approved the district’s new strategic plan, Framework 220. The plan consists of six strategic priorities. One of the priorities is Community Partnerships & Communication.

Please take our 3-minute external communications survey.”

Their survey link can be found here.

Editorial note: When completing the survey, it appeared many of the questions are crafted to assist District 220 in preparing for their November, 2024 Referendum campaign strategies.

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For many years now, residents have voiced their frustration with the poor sound quality of meetings they’ve participated in remotely. Village officials have also complained, now that they’re allowed to participate in meetings remotely, that communication is often problematic.

Back in May of 2022 we wrote, “What message is the Cecola administration sending residents?,” in an effort to make residents aware of the communication frustrations people were experiencing. Since then, what few efforts staff at Village Hall have put forth to correct the problems have fallen short, and lately we’ve found the recordings of meetings we used to rely on for clarification fail to do so.

Case in point, when we questioned why perfectly sound concrete was being torn up at taxpayer’s expense at the fire station adjacent to Village Hall, we looked to the Village Administrator’s explanation in the October 23 recordings. What we heard was a sometimes barely audible but mostly unintelligible explanation.

The last time we can recall when a Village meeting was clearly documented was New Year’s Eve of 2018 when the Village Electoral Board convened. Even though recording equipment in the Board room was available, a much more dependable court reporter was engaged to document the hearing.

As it turned out, this was fortuitous since some alleged perjury took place at that meeting, and if legal action had been taken, the transcript would have been required by the court.  Today we have nowhere near that recording quality to rely on, and with more Village officials participating with flawed remote technology, it will no doubt get exponentially worse.

Considering this, and the fact much of the equipment currently in use is beyond its’ intended shelf life, it’s time to purchase new equipment including visual communications hardware. If we have the money to unnecessarily replace perfectly good tile at Village Hall, then we surely have the money to bring our communications technology to levels addressing our current needs.

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mansion tax

After the City Council’s recent approval of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s proposal to increase the transfer tax on the sale of high-end properties, Block 37, shown in 2018, the vertical mall on State Street, went up for sale along with two other high-profile Chicago properties. Voters will weigh in on the tax proposal in March. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

By The Editorial Board | Chicago Tribune

It’s been a slow year for big real estate deals in Chicago.

Small wonder. Worries about the future of downtown, combined with the 18-month spike in interest rates, would give most owners of office buildings and even high-rise apartments pause about testing the market now for their properties.

So it’s interesting — to say the least — that in just the past few days the owners of three high-profile Chicago properties have put them on the block. These are the retail portion of Block 37, the vertical mall on State Street; the 76-story NEMA Chicago apartment tower on Roosevelt Road; and one of the biggest apartment complexes in Chicago, the Pavilion Apartments near O’Hare Airport.

It’s not that the economic future of downtown Chicago is any clearer now than it was a week ago.

The major event affecting these property owners in that time span was the City Council’s Nov. 7 approval of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s proposal to quadruple the transfer tax on the sale of properties like these. The tax hike will be put to Chicago voters in March, and if approved, likely will take effect at the beginning of 2025.

Is it a coincidence that these properties are for sale just as their owners face the likelihood of millions more in taxes if they wait? Maybe. But we doubt it.

Read more here.

Related:Chicago City Council puts ‘Mansion Tax’ on the March 2024 ballot

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By John Kass

Have you heard the one about the Venezuelan migrant who couldn’t make it in America and so he declared that the American Dream was dead and then went home?

“The American Dream doesn’t exist anymore,” construction worker Michael Casteljon, 30, whined to a sympathetic reporter from Chicago after sleeping on the floor of a police station for a few weeks.

“There’s nothing here for us,” he said. “We just want to be home.”

OK, go home. Too bad.  Mr. Casteljon. Go home. Bye. You’ved had a long, dangerous journey and now you’re exhausted. So go back to Venezuela and hope the communists occasionally let you fill your belly with beans and rice. But you’re wrong about the American dream.

It does exist. My life is testament to it. You’re just not cut out for it.

And it’s not your fault that you believed the American president and his party of Democrats. They promised and they broke all their promises and you were witless enough to believe them, like so many other Democrat voters in Chicago. The wealthy among them waved their virtue and signaled it long and high and loud. Then they walked away leaving you alone. They turned their back on poor migrants in Martha’s Vineyard and they broke their promises in Chicago.

The amazing thing is that you’re not dead. Your family is alive. It’s not your fault. As the son and grandson of immigrants, I wish it turned out differently for you.

Read more here.

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Keegan Lupa, 5, gets into a Radio Flyer children’s Tesla electric car with the help of Anne Goodman in the race track room at the company’s new store inside Woodfield Mall, Nov. 8, 2023, in Schaumburg. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

By Talia Soglin | Chicago Tribune

Radio Flyer is banking on bricks-and-mortar in Schaumburg, where the little red wagon maker will open the first retail location of its 106-year history.

Radio Flyer will sell stroller wagons, tricycles, scooters, go-karts and bikes from the 15,000-square-foot location on the first floor of Woodfield Mall, which is set to open Friday. The store will also feature a racetrack and a bike shop where shoppers can test ride products.

“We feel like it’s a great time for people to reconnect with us in a different way, in a physical store where they can touch and see the products,” said Robert Pasin, chief wagon officer.

Pasin, who has run the company since 1997, is the grandson of Antonio Pasin, a carpenter who launched the company under the name Liberty Coaster on Chicago’s West Side in 1917, three years after he immigrated from Italy.

The company is still based on Grand Avenue in Belmont Cragin, where workers at its prototype shop develop new products. Radio Flyer does not manufacture its own toys, which are made mostly in China but also in the U.S., Pasin said. The company completed a renovation of its headquarters in 2017.

The original steel red wagon is no longer a bestseller.

Read more here.

Editorial note: The Tesla Model 2 pictured above starts at $499.99. It comes in 4 colors and has options including a customized parking sign ($25)!

The weight capacity is listed at 81 lbs., so as enticing as it might be, it’s impractical for use by Cecola or Riff. However, we’re told the parking signs can be purchased separately, and we’ve no doubt that will be of interest to them. If so, we suggest they order at least five (5) of these to start.

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By Glenn Minnis | The Center Square contributor

For the fourth year in a row, Chicago ranks as the country’s most corrupt city. Illinois stands as the third-most corrupt state in a University of Illinois at Chicago study.

To arrive at the findings, researchers analyzed 2021 public corruption statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice. In all, there were 32 public corruption convictions in the Northern District of Illinois that includes Chicago in 2021, nearly a 33% increase from the 22 convictions that were reported the year before.

State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, isn’t surprised.

“It’s an awful shame, and goes to show you what happens when we have one party controlling everything,” Ugaste told The Center Square. “It gets to people, and they think they can do as they please instead of doing what is required of them under the law and required of them ethically.”

A solution to the long-running problem doesn’t have to be that difficult, Ugaste said.

We have extremely weak ethics laws,” he added. “If we fixed those within the House and Senate and gave our Legislative Inspector General more authority, I think it would go a long way in helping all of it. On the Republican side, we file bills every year to strengthen the legislative inspector general and the ethics laws but they never get hearings.”

Read more here.

(Very) Related: Better (decades) late than never

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Steam escapes from Exelon Corp.’s nuclear plant in Byron, Ill. | AP Photo/Robert Ray, File

By Paige Lambermont | Competitive Enterprise Institute

Illinois has banned construction of new nuclear power plants for the past 36 years, since 1987. That’s a real predicament for a state that already relies heavily on that energy source for 53% of its electricity needs.

Now there’s a chance to end the nonsensical ban as the legislature may be poised to vote – again – on a plan to do just that. Only six months ago, the legislature overwhelmingly passed legislation, SB 76, to get rid of the ban, but it was vetoed by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Starting Nov. 7, lawmakers may have a chance to override the governor’s veto, giving the people of Illinois the chance to expand access to affordable, reliable, abundant energy to power their future.

“There is a pathway to override this veto, however, it will come down to whether the Speaker allows this bill to be called in the House,” State Sen. Sue Rezin, the bill sponsor, told WCSJ News.

In recent years, many states that had similar bans on nuclear power have acted to change them. West Virginia passed legislation repealing its nuclear ban in 2022. Since 2016, Montana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin have done the same. Connecticut has also amended its ban to allow for new construction at its existing plant site, Millstone Nuclear Power Plant.

The barrier to reform in Illinois is the governor.

Gov. Pritzker said he wasn’t happy with SB 76’s inclusion of large reactors, which he views as being less safe. When it was initially put forward, the bill only applied to small modular reactors that are smaller than conventional reactors, both in physical footprint and in electrical output. Ultimately, the bill that passed was expanded to include more reactors.

But it’s important to note that despite the governor’s misgivings, the only reactors included in SB 76 are newer designs with enhanced safety and performance features. This includes the type of reactor that just came online in Georgia earlier this year and is already producing a whopping 1,100 megawatts of reliable power, enough to power 500,000 homes.

Read on here.

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220 Auditorium

“At the October 17 Board meeting, the Board continued its discussion about possibilities for new fine, visual, and performing arts spaces at Barrington High School. The design work for these new spaces was an identified project within the $147 million dollar referendum that Barrington area voters approved (were sold) in 2020. The cost to build these new spaces was not included in the referendum.

The Board is considering Concept Option 2, which was one of the three options architects presented to the Board at its Oct. 3 meeting. At this time, the Board would like to seek community feedback about Option 2 in order to refine the option, so that architects can create a more visual 3D rendering of it. The Board will discuss the manner in which it plans to gain community feedback at its next meeting on Nov. 7. Click here to listen to the Board meeting discussion.

  • Option 2: This option involves building a new auditorium and renovating existing fine arts classrooms. The renovation will also result in a larger band room, a larger choral room, a larger orchestra room, as well as larger and more dressing rooms. The new auditorium would have approximately 969 seats and be ADA-accessible. This option also involves building a production shop and a new fine arts lobby. The projected estimate is $52,000,000 – $57,020,000. Click here for details.

Click here to view the presentation from the Oct. 17 meeting.”

Editorial note: The projected cost estimate for “Option 2” is roughly $55,000,000. For that amount, a 51,100 square foot new auditorium would be built and 45,000 square feet of production, lobby and other spaces would be remodeling.

Therefore, without further “details” mentioned above, what is being considered would cost taxpayers roughly $571 per square foot to build or remodel. That seems high.

At least two publications state the, “Cost to Build a School by Grade Level (Per Square Foot),” is:

  • $295 for Elementary School
  • $325 for Middle School, and
  • $359 for High Schools

An October, 2022, article titled, “How Much Does A High School Cost To Build?,” states:

“…the national average cost of school construction today ranges from a low of $230 per square foot for a high school in Nashville to a high of $558 in New York.”

Since around half of 220’s projected costs are for remodeling and not new construction, and we’re not in New York last time we checked, we strongly suggest someone get objective competitive bids submitted before this referendum rodeo goes any further.

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