Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


By Zeta Cross | The Center Square contributor

Illinois is the most expensive state for natural gas heating bills.

MoneyGeek, the financial planning website, has ranked Illinois No. 1 among states with the highest projected residential winter heating bills.

Anja Solum, data journalism manager for MoneyGeek, said the average natural gas heating cost for Illinois households this winter is expected to be $133 a month. That is $5 monthly more than residents in No. 2 ranked Oklahoma can expect to pay.

The good news is that natural gas prices have dropped from the highs that we saw last year. Illinois residents can expect to pay $35 less per month for home heating this winter than they did last winter when Illinois households paid an average of $168 a month for natural gas.

MoneyGeek used projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to rank states by heating cost, Solum said.

“EIA tracks the number of households that are using natural gas,” Solum said. “We compared that to the retail prices for residential customers.”

Heating costs in Illinois’ neighboring states are considerably lower. The average household cost in No. 8 Michigan is $106 a month. In Indiana, at No. 25, bills average $74 a month. At No. 26 Wisconsin, residents pay an average of $72 a month. For the complete list of ranked states, go to the MoneyGeek website.

More here.

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Arnold Randall

Arnold Randall, the general administrator of the Cook County Forest Preserve District, addresses the audience at the forest preserve’s public meeting in June of 2014 on what should be done with Horizon Farms at Countryside Elementary School. (Daily Herald Staff Photographer)

By Eric Peterson | Daily Herald

Cook County Forest Preserve District General Superintendent Arnold Randall has announced plans to step down next month, ending a distinct and productive 13-year tenure.

He will become the next executive director of the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, whose mission is supporting land conservation, artistic vitality and the regional collections of often overlooked people in the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

ince Randall’s appointment by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the forest preserve district has forged an ambitious Next Century Conservation Plan, celebrated its centennial, developed new strategic plans for its trails and habitat restoration, strengthened its partnerships including through the creation of an advisory Conservation and Policy Council, and opened five new campgrounds.

Randall credited Preckwinkle for providing the political will to improve the reputation of all aspects of Cook County government, including ending the practice of making the forest preserves a patronage dumping ground and embracing its original mission of land conservation and investment in equitable accessibility to natural areas.

About 15% of today’s trail system in the county’s preserves has been built during Randall’s tenure.

“The trails get millions and millions of visitors,” he said. “We recognized that improving that trail system was very important. … We looked at places where there had been a historic lack of investment.”

Read more here.

Related: Forest Preserves of Cook County Fully Opens Northwest Cook County’s Horizon Farm Preserve

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Illinois Budget Pensions

Unfunded liabilities for Illinois’ five statewide pension systems grew by $2.5 billion in a year, hitting its second-highest level since 2009. Researchers attributed most of the growth to “larger than expected salary increases.”

By Patrick Andriesen | Illinois Policy

llinois’ state pension debt grew by $2.6 billion between fiscal years 2022 and 2023, spurred primarily by “larger than expected salary increases” for state employees.

A new pension report from the state legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability shows statewide pension debt rose by 1.8% to $142.3 billion, based on the market value of the assets.

After growing for the second consecutive year, pension debt for the five statewide systems now sits at the second-highest level in the past 20 years. Federal pandemic funding allowed the state to temporarily arrest the deepening debt, but it is again growing.

Researchers attributed the rapid rise in pension debt to “larger than expected salary increases in all five systems.”

Pay raises for state employees in FY 2023 increased the unfunded liability by a total of $1.074 billion, with members of the three largest systems – the Teachers’ Retirement System, State Employees’ Retirement System and State Universities Retirement System – spurring most of the growth.

Pension Debt

Another $767.6 million in new debt was attributed to “demographic and other miscellaneous changes.” This includes differences between the predicted and actual benefits paid to employees as well as refunds.

Read more here.

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By Rick Pearson | Chicago Tribune

The host committee for next year’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago announced Wednesday the creation of an advisory council to assist efforts to ensure broad involvement of businesses owned by diverse racial, ethnic and gender entrepreneurs in the convention.

The council will work with the host committee to set diversity spending goals as well as to establish equity practices, community engagement strategies and contract and event execution plans, the host committee said.

Co-chairing the diversity council are Jaemie Neely, executive director of the Federation of Women Contractors, and Jackie Gomez, executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association.

The host committee wants to ensure that the August convention “highlights and utilizes Chicago’s robust diverse business community,” said Christy George, the committee’s executive director. Creating the council “is a critical step in ensuring business and individuals from a wide array of backgrounds have a seat at the table where decisions are being made,” George said.

Read more here.

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Bears SF

An aerial view shows parking lots near Soldier Field in 2014. (Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune)

By Robert McCoppin | Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Bears continue to check out a variety of sites in and around Chicago — including the site of Soldier Field — as potential homes for a new stadium, officials said Wednesday.

The Bears are doing due diligence on the viability of the south parking lot at Soldier Field as the location for their next stadium, according to unnamed sources cited by The Parkins & Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 The Score.

The Bears have proposed building a $5 billion enclosed stadium and entertainment and housing complex on the site of the closed Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights. The project has stalled while the team tries to negotiate favorable property taxes for the site.

The Bears reportedly are using the same surveying firm, Compass Surveying Ltd. in Aurora, that they used for Arlington Heights and other potential locations.

In response, the Bears would not confirm the report, but issued the following brief statement:

“As we stated in September earlier this year, we want to appropriately explore all opportunities across Chicagoland for the development of a world-class stadium.”

More here.

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“At the Dec. 5 Board meeting, the Board held a public hearing for the estimated 2023 tax levy, which is the first step in the process to establish a final levy of property taxes to support the district in 2024. Barrington 220 collects property taxes from Kane, Lake, Cook, and McHenry Counties, and property taxes account for approximately 80% of the district’s annual operating revenues.

If approved, the district expects to receive an overall levy increase of 5.5% compared to last year, however, it is requesting a 6.3% increase in the event new construction is larger than expected. This is inclusive of capped funds and debt service obligations. Based on projections, the total expected tax revenue to be collected in 2024 is $158,062,300. The Board is anticipated to approve the final tax levy on Dec. 19.

As part of the tentative levy, the Board will not issue Debt Service Extension Base (DSEB) this year. This will save local taxpayers approximately $2.5 million.”

Click here to read “tax levy FAQs”

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JH 20 - Website Header

By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

A new report says that Illinois is home to one of the worst judicial hellholes in the country.

The American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) identified Illinois, specifically Cook County, as the second worst, the worst ranking in more than a decade.

The report says Illinois rivals California and New York for the most food and beverage class actions in the country due to the state’s reputation for allowing no-injury lawsuits and plaintiff-friendly consumer protection laws. But also the state’s controversial Biometric Information Privacy Act or BIPA is a problem, it says.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that every individual biometric information scan counts as a separate violation, meaning a single instance of biometric data collection can result in thousands of distinct claims.

“The way the courts have interpreted the statute doesn’t require that someone suffered an injury in order to bring a case, and when you have matters like that, your going to have more litigation, you’re going to have abuse of outcomes and it fosters an environment of excessive litigation,” ATRF President Tiger Joyce told The Center Square.

The report notes that there are over 1,100 Biometric Information Privacy Act cases pending in Illinois state and federal courts, with just seven law firms representing nearly 70% of the plaintiffs.

Read more here.

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By Elizabeth Owens-Schiele | Pioneer Press

The village of Barrington has been designated StormReady by the National Weather Service, joining 93 Illinois communities in being prepared for weather disasters.

Mick Fleming, director of the Joint Emergency Management System, and Mike Bardou of the National Weather Service, presented the designation to Village President Karen Darch during the Nov. 13 board meeting.

Barrington fire Chief John Christian, police Chief Dave Dorn and Village Manager Scott Anderson worked closely with Fleming and others over the last year composing emergency management plans, warnings and community outreach to receive the designation in late October from the National Weather Service, officials explained.

“No community is storm proof but we can be storm-ready to help us save lives,” Fleming said, quoting the motto of the National Weather Service and commending the work conducted by village staff which he described as “no small feat.”

Bardou said the process to become StormReady is not simple and is an ongoing process that will be evaluated again in four years by the National Weather Service.

“There’s more and more severe weather occurring, winter weather, thunderstorms, flooding and our goal is to build a weather [plan] so every community is ready before, during and after severe weather events, and a lot of planning and communication is involved,” he said.

Read more here.

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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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220 Admin

The District 220 Board of Education meets this evening at 7:00 PM at the District Administration Center, 515 W. Main Street. Topics on their agenda include:

  • Open Public Hearing On Property Tax Levy
  • Public Comment
  • Informational (FOIA) Reports
  • Revised Personnel Report
  • Second Reading of Board Policy

A copy of the agenda can be viewed here. The meeting will be live-streamed on the district YouTube channel.

Related: “District 220 Board approves estimated 2023 tax levy

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