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[28 Mar 2017 | No Comment | ]

“Party elites should not dictate the outcome of elections,” says a new fundraising email. “Voters should have the final say on who represents our party.”

Is it an email from Bernie Sanders, gearing up for the next round? Donald Trump back on the campaign trail? Maybe Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, preparing for another race against Rahm Emanuel?

Wrong. Try Chris Kennedy, the scion of Democratic establishment royalty. He’s now running for the Democratic nomination for governor, and apparently has picked up on the new vibe in politics: nobody’s inside, except “them.” You want to be outside, with “us.”

Kennedy’s note came a day after he told Cook County Democratic slatemakers that he would run even without their endorsement.

“Yesterday, I spoke to the Cook County Democrats. I was asked if I would agree to drop out of the March primary if this group did not slate me in August. I told them no, that I was committed to running the full race,” he wrote. “My response has gotten a lot of attention. It’s because the elites aren’t used to someone standing up for your voice. Well, it’s about time they got used it.”

I actually shouldn’t pick on Kennedy. Another candidate, Daniel Biss, made headlines here and elsewhere when he took a shot at Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan—even though Madigan just a few months ago chipped in $500,000 for a Biss super PAC.

But the first rule of politics is: if it works, do it. And this apparently works.

So, look for Gov. Bruce Rauner, after four years in office, to argue with a straight face to voters that he’s just the plain ol’ Harley-ridin’ guy who got in town last week to take on insider Madigan.

And look for Emanuel to blame Trump, Rauner, Richard M. Daley and anyone else within voice range for Chicago’s woes if and when he runs for a new term next year.

Remember: Elites bad! Grassroots good! Vote for me!

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[28 Mar 2017 | No Comment | ]

Campus Reform reports:

Students who “self identify as White” at Loyola University Chicago can apply to join a safe space to learn about white privilege, institutional racism, and internalized racism.

RAW, also known as Ramblers Analyzing Whiteness, is a small, closed group at LUC for white people to “engage in dialogue about their own racial identity” and “critically reflect on…their actions.”

“Simply because I am White, I already carry a privilege that I didn’t even try for.”

“R.A.W. is an affinity group for White students who have passion for ending racism, who have anger and confusion about institutional racism, who have guilt and hope about internalized racism, and who have questions about race that they are afraid to ask,” the group description reads.

Members of the group, who are chosen through an application process, participate in six two-hour sessions on safe spaces, white privilege, cycles of oppression, and bystander intervention.

White identity in the news.

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[28 Mar 2017 | No Comment | ]

The city has largely lost control of funds collected from developers that are supposed to go toward affordable housing, with poor planning, inadequate accounting and an apparent $4.5 million “shortfall.”

That’s the conclusion of a hard-nosed audit released today by the city’s internal watchdog, a finding the Emanuel administration pushed back on as “losses on paper only”—but you’ll likely be hearing more about this report.

The audit specifically examined what happened to $89 million the city got from developers from 2003 to 2015. The money, paid by builders who got density bonuses and other perks, was intended to go into special accounts for the construction of affordable housing.

However, according to Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, the money went to the city’s general treasury, with funds coming in and going out for affordable housing at different times.

The IG’s audit found an “unaccounted-for difference between calculated and actual balance” of $4.5 million in the affordable-housing fund.

City officials say the money was spent as it should have been, and nothing is improper. And they say they’re sending any monies collected from now on to a special account, instead of the general city treasury.

‘RIGOROUS STANDARDS’

During the recession, the city actually advanced money for worthy projects before collections from developers arrived, Department of Planning & Development Commissioner David Reifman told me. “Rigorous accounting standards are in place.”

However, Ferguson stands by his conclusion that the department “was unable to account for $4.5 million” in developer fees. Beyond that, he says, it’s clear the money will not be replaced, since city budget officials say they spent more than that in other funds on affordable-housing projects.

Ferguson also charged that Planning & Development “lacked an evidence-based strategy” as to where it should spend the fees. “This deficiency may have impeded affordable-housing development in high-opportunity areas and limited housing choice.”

The city responded that two years ago, it changed to a policy generally requiring developers to actually construct affordable housing rather than giving the city fees in lieu of construction.

Ferguson conceded that is an improvement, but says the city needs to provide adequate support for housing development if it actually is to occur.

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[28 Mar 2017 | No Comment | ]

Efforts to sell the Loop’s Thompson Center for private redevelopment have hit another hiccup: unresolved issues with City Hall about the size of any replacement structures and the future of the Chicago Transit Authority station in the building’s basement.

In a letter today to Gov. Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Mike Madigan suggested that legislation the governor wants to authorize the sale is flawed.

“I am advised (the state) is in negotiations with the city on issues related to the CTA station and the easement (for it), as well as zoning matters, and it is these discussions that have led to the stalling of the legislation, not my actions or the actions of the House,” Madigan wrote. (Read the letter below.)

Rauner immediately shot back with a statement accusing the speaker of making “more excuses” for his failure to lead the state. Said spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis, “Speaker Madigan and his majority have had two years to do anything productive for the people of Illinois, but instead he’s held up every proposal to create jobs, provide property tax relief (and) balance the budget.”

City Hall had no immediate response.

Rauner has been counting on the proposed sale to generate $220 million for the state, plugging a hole in his budget, as well as tens of millions of dollars in future property-tax revenue for the city. But to get that kind of money, he wants to ramp up zoning on the site, clearing the way for a huge development, perhaps the 115-story tower that one developer envisions.

One Rauner official who asked not to be named conceded that talks with the city are continuing about tripling the size of what now legally can be built on the site, as well as access to the CTA station in any new development.

But the city agrees in principle with selling the property, and any remaining issues with language can be resolved after the General Assembly passes legislation authorizing the sale, that source said.

However, it appears the speaker wants those issues settled first—and doesn’t like Rauner attacking him in the process. He wrote, “I believe it is disingenuous of you and beneath your office to make such false statements.”

Rauner’s response: “Change hits a brick wall whenever the speaker has the ability to block it.”

I’ll let you know if and when Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office has anything to say.

Update—At least for now, City Hall’s not commenting. Looks like they don’t want to get in the middle of another brawl between the governor and speaker.

My best guess is that the zoning and CTA matters can be worked out rather easily. If all parties want to be reasonable, that is.

Madigan letter by Anonymous 6f8RIS6 on Scribd

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[28 Mar 2017 | No Comment | ]

* Press release…
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced on Tuesday that state revenues will allow her office to pay another $94 million in past-due bills to Home Service Care providers who care for the elderly.
Since taking office in December, Comptroller Mendoza has now paid a total of more than $235 million in past due bills owed […]

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[28 Mar 2017 | No Comment | ]

* A letter sent today to Gov. Bruce Rauner from House Speaker Michael Madigan…

Governor Rauner:
Yesterday my staff and CMS had another productive discussion about the sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago. As you know, I have publicly acknowledged a desire to work with you on legislation authorizing the sale of the Thompson Center. Over […]

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[28 Mar 2017 | 2 Comments | ]

FBI Director James Comey and Admiral Michael Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency provided a lot of useful information last Monday, first giving the lie to Donald Trump’s tweeted accusations that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower.
The “wiretap” charge was later changed to some vague sort of surveillance, but both officials said there was no evidence of such, meaning Trump clearly lied–the deepest pile of doo-doo he stepped in since claiming Obama was born in Kenya.
The pair also confirmed that an 8-months investigation …