New Govenor for Illinois
Follow the Money

Chicago, IL

#41 Apr 19, 2014
Action Needed wrote:
<quoted text>
The lack of regard for taxpayers from this extreme behavior requires action. Enough is enough. Minimally they should be Sanctioned. Certainly they should not be re-elected.
Way to many unanswered questions!
Pocket Picker

Chicago, IL

#43 Apr 29, 2014
INCOME TAX HIKE PROPOSAL COULD SINK THIS DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR
Op-ed by Madeleine Doubek

If it hasn't already happened, any second now I expect all of us to be bombarded with ads from Illinois GOP governor nominee Bruce Rauner that repeat over and over, ad nauseum, how Gov. Pat Quinn, "the worst governor in America," wants to hike your income taxes by 33 percent. Or better yet, Quinn wants to keep his 67 percent income tax grab.

Rauner took a few days' rest from broadcast TV after the primary, but he's got an internet ad out that features dark images of Democratic Gov. Quinn and talks about his broken promises.

The hiking of your income taxes will be a no-brainer ad, soon to follow on an endless loop, after Democrat Quinn said Wednesday he wants to make the "temporary" income tax increase he signed into law in 2011. That would take the state's income tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent permanent.

Did Quinn just step into his political grave? Time will tell.

What's Rauner's plan? We still don't really know. He says he favors dropping the tax rate down to 3.75 percent, which the law allows for in January unless Quinn and lawmakers change it. Ask Rauner where he will come up with $4 billion in cuts in a $34.5 billion state budget and he vaguely points to pension reform and Medicaid waste, but the lack of detail is alarming. Voters from north to south need to start demanding from Rauner some specifics.

Quinn, on the other hand, might have offered up enough detail to bury himself. In his budget speech, he proposed increasing taxes to the current 5 percent rate, or "maintain" them as he worded it, stopping them from dropping as the law allows to 3.75 percent at year's end. He sought to throw himself a lifeline by tying that to an annual $500 property tax refund for homeowners and a doubling of the earned income tax credit for lower-income Illinoisans who don't own homes.

Saying he and lawmakers have cut $5.7 billion and any more would mean catastrophic cuts to classrooms, senior citizens and others, Quinn essentially suggested Rauner and the Republicans who suggest billions in cuts can be made while not gutting such essentials are the ones who are deceiving us.

"I was elected in 2010 to be straight with the people of Illinois and to be straight with you," Quinn said Wednesday. "The truth is, those who are telling you that Illinois can tax less and spend less and still expect to fund education are simply not telling you the truth. The truth is, Illinois is spending less - billions less - even as demands have grown. The truth is, our structural budget reforms that we fought for in the past five years are critical to recovery. But alone they are not enough. We cannot cut our way to prosperity. Today, I propose that we take the path that is honest and responsible."

It was Quinn himself who brought up former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar in his speech, noting that Edgar tried in 1997 to raise income taxes in 1997 while cutting property taxes.

I remember that. I was covering Edgar and state government daily back then. I also remember the 1994 campaign for governor. Edgar ran against Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch. It was Netsch who talked about being straight. She was the straight shooter in that campaign. She told Illinoisans she was going to raise their income taxes and cut their property taxes.

It was the Republican then, as it is and will be the Republican now, who bashed the Democrat with TV ad after TV ad for planning to raise people's income taxes.

Edgar attacked Netsch nonstop for proposing an income tax hike. He won. And safely into another term, Edgar proposed raising income taxes and lowering property taxes.

Deja vu?

Madeleine Doubek is Reboot's chief operating officer. She previously managed the Daily Herald newsroom. An award-winning journalist, Doubek served as the Daily Herald's political writer and editor and led the paper's project and investigative work. She believes in more of us taking charge of our state government.
Approval Rating

Chicago, IL

#44 Apr 29, 2014
Foot in Mouth

Chicago, IL

#45 Apr 29, 2014
With all of the information pouring out related to Quinn's side deals, appointments, and loose financial misdeeds, no doubt Quinn's having trouble explaining any of it away.
Wage

Chicago, IL

#46 Apr 29, 2014
CHICAGO EMERGING AS CENTER OF ILLINOIS MINIMUM WAGE FIGHT
Date: March 18, 2014

Issue key in governor's race, while making progress in legislature

While the battle over the minimum wage at the federal level has drawn extensive media coverage, there is also significant action at the state and local levels. Raising the minimum wage has become a key issue in the Illinois gubernatorial contest, which pits Gov. Pat Quinn (D) against challenger Bruce Rauner (R), while a bill to increase the wage has also made progress this month in the state legislature.

Quinn has made raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour a cornerstone of his campaign, and used the issue to attack Rauner, a wealthy hedge fund manager, as unsympathetic to workers. The issue is also being pushed by the SEIU, which has endorsed Quinn and has provided him with significant amounts of campaign cash. Rauner originally suggested that he would consider lowering the state’s $8.25 minimum wage, but later changed his tune and said he would consider raising it under certain circumstances.

In the state legislature, a bill from state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D) to raise the wage to $10.65 per hour cleared a Senate committee in mid-March. Her legislation would be phased in by the middle of 2016. Her bill would give the state the highest minimum wage in the nation. A similar bill has been introduced in the state House, but has not yet been acted upon.

In addition, there is also an organized effort in Chicago to increase the minimum wage even higher. Unions and some Democrats have pressed for a $15 per hour wage, though in their proposal, the increase would only apply to large businesses. The issue was on the primary ballot in some parts of the city earlier this month, and passed overwhelmingly, with 87% of voters backing it. While the referendum was non-binding, wage-hike backers celebrated it, and argued that it shows the issue has momentum both in the city and in the state.

What It Means for Small Businesses in Illinois:

The potential implications of a sharp rise in minimum wage for small business could be serious. The measure is opposed by a number of state business groups, and NFIB’s Kim Masich said that the Lightford bill could cost the state 45,000 jobs over the next ten years. That estimate comes from an NFIB study examining the impact of the proposed increase.

Further Reading:

Crain’s Chicago Business reports on the issue’s implications in the gubernatorial contest, as does WBBM-TV. The Springfield State Journal Register covers the action in the state legislature. The Huffington Post covers the Chicago ballot question, as does the Chicago Tribune.
Down the Road

Chicago, IL

#47 May 1, 2014
Pension Debt Could Ruin Chicago, Like Detroit. Does Its Mayor Have a Fix?
The Illinois legislature in Springfield has passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pension fix plan for Chicago and delivered it to Gov. Pat Quinn to sign.
Quinn still has yet to take any action for or against the pension plan from Emanuel, a fellow Democrat. But the governor does have a different plan on alleviating the pension crisis in Chicago.
Quinn has been hesitant to support Emanuel's plan because of its reliance on raising property taxes in Chicago. Even though Emanuel stripped the original language out of the bill, it would still allow for the Chicago City Council to pass a property tax increase. Since Quinn talked about lowering property taxes in his budget address as a way to ease the burden of making the income tax hike permanent, it makes sense for the governor to oppose any measure that would increase property taxes anywhere.
That's why Quinn said he's open to opening up the state spigot of increased tax revenue to Chicago and other municipalities to help fix the pension crises.
Reports Natasha Korecki from the Chicago Sun-Times:
Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have butted heads on the issue over the last several weeks, with Quinn forcing Emanuel to strip property tax language from a state bill to give the city greater authority over public employee union contracts. The bill, which is now silent on property taxes, was passed and awaits Quinn. Quinn would not say on Monday whether he would veto it or sign it.
Quinn said a plan to designate more state income tax revenue toward local governments would work through his budget proposal, which called for an extension of an income tax hike from 3.5 percent to 5 percent - as well as a $500 property tax rebate.
'I believe in that. I think that's a good way to help local units of government and the school districts to some extent reduce their reliance on property taxes,' Quinn said.'That has to be one of our foremost missions in Illinois. The property tax collects more money every year than the income tax and sales tax combined. I want to reduce our property taxes.'
Chicago is far from the only municipality in need of a pension fix, and Quinn recognizes that. But there is one possible flaw in Quinn's plan, and Chicago Tribune reporter Monique Garcia points that out:
Quinn's spending proposal relies on legislators making the temporary income tax increase he signed into law permanent. Portions of the tax are set to expire starting in January.
'I think it's really important that we use the opportunity of the next 30 days or so to really say if we want to help our local units of government, what's the best way to do it?' Quinn said.'If we have more revenue sharing from the income tax, I'm definitely willing to engage in that discussion... Don't you think that's a better way to go than to say to local units of government that the only alternative you have, the only resort, is to raise property taxes?'
While municipalities around the state are looking for a pension fix, public universities in Illinois are trying to cope with a flaw in the pension bill passed last December that has resulted in a rash of retirements of public university employees.
Down the Road

Chicago, IL

#48 May 1, 2014
Pension Debt Could Ruin Chicago, Like Detroit. Does Its Mayor Have a Fix?

The Illinois legislature in Springfield has passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pension fix plan for Chicago and delivered it to Gov. Pat Quinn to sign.

Quinn still has yet to take any action for or against the pension plan from Emanuel, a fellow Democrat. But the governor does have a different plan on alleviating the pension crisis in Chicago.

Quinn has been hesitant to support Emanuel's plan because of its reliance on raising property taxes in Chicago. Even though Emanuel stripped the original language out of the bill, it would still allow for the Chicago City Council to pass a property tax increase. Since Quinn talked about lowering property taxes in his budget address as a way to ease the burden of making the income tax hike permanent, it makes sense for the governor to oppose any measure that would increase property taxes anywhere.

That's why Quinn said he's open to opening up the state spigot of increased tax revenue to Chicago and other municipalities to help fix the pension crises.

Reports Natasha Korecki from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have butted heads on the issue over the last several weeks, with Quinn forcing Emanuel to strip property tax language from a state bill to give the city greater authority over public employee union contracts. The bill, which is now silent on property taxes, was passed and awaits Quinn. Quinn would not say on Monday whether he would veto it or sign it.
Quinn said a plan to designate more state income tax revenue toward local governments would work through his budget proposal, which called for an extension of an income tax hike from 3.5 percent to 5 percent - as well as a $500 property tax rebate.
'I believe in that. I think that's a good way to help local units of government and the school districts to some extent reduce their reliance on property taxes,' Quinn said.'That has to be one of our foremost missions in Illinois. The property tax collects more money every year than the income tax and sales tax combined. I want to reduce our property taxes.'
Chicago is far from the only municipality in need of a pension fix, and Quinn recognizes that. But there is one possible flaw in Quinn's plan, and Chicago Tribune reporter Monique Garcia points that out:

Quinn's spending proposal relies on legislators making the temporary income tax increase he signed into law permanent. Portions of the tax are set to expire starting in January.
'I think it's really important that we use the opportunity of the next 30 days or so to really say if we want to help our local units of government, what's the best way to do it?' Quinn said.'If we have more revenue sharing from the income tax, I'm definitely willing to engage in that discussion... Don't you think that's a better way to go than to say to local units of government that the only alternative you have, the only resort, is to raise property taxes?'
While municipalities around the state are looking for a pension fix, public universities in Illinois are trying to cope with a flaw in the pension bill passed last December that has resulted in a rash of retirements of public university employees.
Really

Chicago, IL

#49 May 1, 2014
Pension Debt Could Ruin Chicago, Like Detroit. Does Its Mayor Have a Fix?
The Illinois legislature in Springfield has passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pension fix plan for Chicago and delivered it to Gov. Pat Quinn to sign.
Quinn still has yet to take any action for or against the pension plan from Emanuel, a fellow Democrat. But the governor does have a different plan on alleviating the pension crisis in Chicago.
Quinn has been hesitant to support Emanuel's plan because of its reliance on raising property taxes in Chicago. Even though Emanuel stripped the original language out of the bill, it would still allow for the Chicago City Council to pass a property tax increase. Since Quinn talked about lowering property taxes in his budget address as a way to ease the burden of making the income tax hike permanent, it makes sense for the governor to oppose any measure that would increase property taxes anywhere.
That's why Quinn said he's open to opening up the state spigot of increased tax revenue to Chicago and other municipalities to help fix the pension crises.
Reports Natasha Korecki from the Chicago Sun-Times:
Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have butted heads on the issue over the last several weeks, with Quinn forcing Emanuel to strip property tax language from a state bill to give the city greater authority over public employee union contracts. The bill, which is now silent on property taxes, was passed and awaits Quinn. Quinn would not say on Monday whether he would veto it or sign it.
Quinn said a plan to designate more state income tax revenue toward local governments would work through his budget proposal, which called for an extension of an income tax hike from 3.5 percent to 5 percent - as well as a $500 property tax rebate.
'I believe in that. I think that's a good way to help local units of government and the school districts to some extent reduce their reliance on property taxes,' Quinn said.'That has to be one of our foremost missions in Illinois. The property tax collects more money every year than the income tax and sales tax combined. I want to reduce our property taxes.'
Chicago is far from the only municipality in need of a pension fix, and Quinn recognizes that. But there is one possible flaw in Quinn's plan, and Chicago Tribune reporter Monique Garcia points that out:
Quinn's spending proposal relies on legislators making the temporary income tax increase he signed into law permanent. Portions of the tax are set to expire starting in January.
'I think it's really important that we use the opportunity of the next 30 days or so to really say if we want to help our local units of government, what's the best way to do it?' Quinn said.'If we have more revenue sharing from the income tax, I'm definitely willing to engage in that discussion... Don't you think that's a better way to go than to say to local units of government that the only alternative you have, the only resort, is to raise property taxes?'
While municipalities around the state are looking for a pension fix, public universities in Illinois are trying to cope with a flaw in the pension bill passed last December that has resulted in a rash of retirements of public university employees.
Down the Road

Chicago, IL

#50 May 1, 2014
Chicago Tribune reporter Jodi S. Cohen has more:

However, the [pension] law also includes a mistake in wording that will affect some public university employees in an unintended way and is contributing to a surge in planned retirements at campuses across the state. The error, tied to just one of the retirement plans, would calculate an employee's benefits as of last year instead of this year, leading to a more significant reduction than intended.
Here's how the mistake happened: The law had intended to lock in the minimum annuity that retirement-eligible employees would be eligible to receive based on the date of June 30, 2014, even if they retire months or years later when new pension rules would apply, including provisions that would reduce the amount of interest. However, the law's wording set the date to a year earlier, in 2013, meaning that a year's worth of pension contributions and interest would be eliminated.
That mistake is driving people to retire prior to the law taking effect to avoid having their benefits revert to the 2013 level - a difference of hundreds of dollars a month or thousands of dollars a year for some employees.
The whole issue revolves around the dire need for pension reform in Chicago. The city isn't as bad as Detroit yet, but is it heading down that road?

Brendan Bond is an editorial assistant at Reboot Illinois. He is a graduate of Loyola University, where he majored in journalism. Brendan takes a look each day at the Land of Lincoln Lowdown and it's often pretty low. He examines the property tax rates that drive Illinoisans insane.
It is Not Going Away

Chicago, IL

#51 May 2, 2014
55 Million Unaccounted wrote:
State auditor slams Quinn’s $54.5 million anti-violence program; Brady calls it gov’s 2010 political ‘slush fund’
SPRINGFIELD-The state’s top auditor slammed a $54.5 million anti-violence program launched by Gov. Pat Quinn one month before the 2010 election, leading to partisan cries Tuesday for a criminal investigation into what Republicans called a Quinn-controlled political “slush fund.”
Auditor General William Holland described the governor’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as “hastily implemented” and said it didn’t target some of the most crime-prone neighborhoods in Chicago.
Holland found that Quinn’s administration didn’t “adequately monitor” how state grant dollars were spent or on whom; community organizations that hired people with those funds weren’t maintaining time sheets; and city aldermen dictated where funding was to be steered.
“Our audit of the NRI program found pervasive deficiencies in [the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority's] planning, implementation and management of the NRI program,” Holland’s audit concluded, referring to the agency Quinn put in charge of running the program.
Republicans seized on Holland’s report, calling for a criminal probe by federal investigators and suggesting that some of the findings could rise to the level of impeachable offenses by Quinn.
“There’s a whole host of questions that really make one wonder how this could be ethical or legal,” said state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, who was Quinn’s 2010 gubernatorial opponent.
“Clearly, the governor implemented a plan 30 days before the election that was a $50 million slush fund. It smacks of promises made in areas that he needed good turnout to win,” Brady told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Brady, a member of the Legislative Audit Commission that later this spring will review Holland’s report, said Quinn himself needs to appear before that body to respond to the auditor general’s findings.
“This is serious enough the governor needs to show up himself and defend this,” said Brady, who called for a federal criminal investigation into the program.
Among the top 20, most violent neighborhoods identified by Chicago Police Department data between 2005 and 2010, seven areas wound up getting no money through the Quinn program.
Those neighborhoods included West Englewood, Chatham, New City, South Chicago, West Town, Near West Side and West Pullman.
The state did not allow for a competitive, open application for the money and instead sought recommendations from Chicago aldermen as to what community organizations should get money in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative program.
Requests for proposals, the applications that were to be filled out to tap into the anti-violence money, were sent by Quinn’s administration only to agencies that aldermen recommended, Holland reported.
But the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority “failed to conduct its due diligence to document that the decisions related to the selection of lead agencies were free of any conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest or that the agencies selected were the best entities to provide the needed services,” Holland’s audit said.
The investigation continues!
Clearly

Chicago, IL

#52 May 2, 2014
It is Not Going Away wrote:
<quoted text>
The investigation continues!
This is not a case of who done it!
Links to the Connected

Chicago, IL

#53 May 4, 2014
55 Million Unaccounted wrote:
State auditor slams Quinn’s $54.5 million anti-violence program; Brady calls it gov’s 2010 political ‘slush fund’
SPRINGFIELD-The state’s top auditor slammed a $54.5 million anti-violence program launched by Gov. Pat Quinn one month before the 2010 election, leading to partisan cries Tuesday for a criminal investigation into what Republicans called a Quinn-controlled political “slush fund.”
Auditor General William Holland described the governor’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as “hastily implemented” and said it didn’t target some of the most crime-prone neighborhoods in Chicago.
Holland found that Quinn’s administration didn’t “adequately monitor” how state grant dollars were spent or on whom; community organizations that hired people with those funds weren’t maintaining time sheets; and city aldermen dictated where funding was to be steered.
“Our audit of the NRI program found pervasive deficiencies in [the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority's] planning, implementation and management of the NRI program,” Holland’s audit concluded, referring to the agency Quinn put in charge of running the program.
Republicans seized on Holland’s report, calling for a criminal probe by federal investigators and suggesting that some of the findings could rise to the level of impeachable offenses by Quinn.
“There’s a whole host of questions that really make one wonder how this could be ethical or legal,” said state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, who was Quinn’s 2010 gubernatorial opponent.
“Clearly, the governor implemented a plan 30 days before the election that was a $50 million slush fund. It smacks of promises made in areas that he needed good turnout to win,” Brady told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Brady, a member of the Legislative Audit Commission that later this spring will review Holland’s report, said Quinn himself needs to appear before that body to respond to the auditor general’s findings.
“This is serious enough the governor needs to show up himself and defend this,” said Brady, who called for a federal criminal investigation into the program.
Among the top 20, most violent neighborhoods identified by Chicago Police Department data between 2005 and 2010, seven areas wound up getting no money through the Quinn program.
Those neighborhoods included West Englewood, Chatham, New City, South Chicago, West Town, Near West Side and West Pullman.
The state did not allow for a competitive, open application for the money and instead sought recommendations from Chicago aldermen as to what community organizations should get money in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative program.
Requests for proposals, the applications that were to be filled out to tap into the anti-violence money, were sent by Quinn’s administration only to agencies that aldermen recommended, Holland reported.
But the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority “failed to conduct its due diligence to document that the decisions related to the selection of lead agencies were free of any conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest or that the agencies selected were the best entities to provide the needed services,” Holland’s audit said.
The list of links grows with more daily revelations!
concerned taxpayer

Frankfort, IL

#55 May 4, 2014
Just love how Madigan is quick to attack pensions, but look what happens when the idea of term limits on elected officials is presented. The POS is suing to prevent. Seems he doesn't want the POS democratic machine dismantled. He wants to continue the cronyism, corruption, destroying of Illinois as a state, etc. to continue.
Not fooled

Chicago, IL

#56 May 5, 2014
Wow,is this a Paid Political Attack Ad for Bruce or what?
concerned taxpayer

Frankfort, IL

#57 May 5, 2014
Not fooled wrote:
Wow,is this a Paid Political Attack Ad for Bruce or what?
Paid nothing. The state of illinois is almost bankrupt because of 2 reasons....chicago and cook county. Where are all the gold digging politics based from??? You guessed it, chicago and cook county. I can't stand any politician, but if you can't admit Madigan and his cronies are a problem, you must be a recipient of their corruption.
More

Chicago, IL

#58 May 6, 2014
Links to the Connected wrote:
<quoted text>
The list of links grows with more daily revelations!
http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/reformnow/Docume...

As detailed by Illinois Auditor General William Holland, the 2010 Chicago anti-violence program was a spectacular explosion that sent $55 million in taxpayer dollars flying every which way until much of it disappeared into thin air. The August 2010 program has been described as a "slush fund" for Gov. Pat Quinn - a means of dispensing lots of dollars to (a) look like he was taking action against the gun violence that plagued some Chicago neighborhoods in summer 2010 and (b) shore up votes for a tough reelection campaign.

Now Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has begun a criminal investigation of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

Reports the Chicago Sun-Times:

A criminal grand jury has launched a probe into Gov. Pat Quinn's troubled anti-violence program - once likened to "a political slush fund" - delivering a major blow to the Democrat as he seeks re-election this fall.
On Tuesday, the Quinn administration turned over 1,000 documents pertaining to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative to the Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez following a subpoena from her office.
The request was issued to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity on March 19 and sought records tied to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative - including those for the Chicago Area Project, a program tied to the husband of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.
Holland's report established firmly that this program fit the dictionary definition of "boondoggle."

But the real problem here is that the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative is merely a symptom of a much greater problem in Illinois government.

We've seen all too often in recent history the results of the state's lax standards for ensuring that the grant money it hands out actually goes toward the purpose it's supposed to serve.

Three weeks ago, a former Illinois Department of Public Health chief of staff Quinshaunta R. Golden pleaded guilty in federal court in Springfield to bribery and kickback charges involving $13 million in grant and contract funds.

Four other individuals are scheduled for trial in a related case in U.S. District Court in June.

This follows the indictments in 2011 of Margaret Davis and Tonja Cook, who between 2005 and 2009 obtained 15 state grants, ostensibly to promote nursing careers through the Chicago chapter of the Black Nurses Association. Instead, they spent $500,000 on personal expenses. They pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering charges.

Former Country Club Hills police chief Regina Evans and her husband Ronald Evans were indicted in 2012 for stealing a 2009 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant worth $1.25 million.

The money was for two nonprofits the couple operated and was purportedly going to toward training bricklayers and electricians and providing GED preparation. The Evanses pleaded guilty to numerous felony counts and are awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors are seeking 10 years for Regina Evans at her May 1 sentencing in federal court in Springfield.

And these are the ones who got caught.

Why can't Illinois get a handle on this?

In 2009, as the Blagojevich scandal was taking the nation by storm, the newly appointed Gov. Quinn formed the 15-member Illinois Reform Commission to help the state avoid the corruption trouble that came to define Blagojevich and his predecessor, George Ryan.

Go look at the report here, and scroll down to page 23, where the commission recommends extensive reform of the state's procurement process. Isn't it time to dig these ideas back up and apply them to the grant process?
More More

Chicago, IL

#59 May 6, 2014
I'd be remiss if I didn't throw a reality check in here. The actions described above are outrageous, as is the carelessness and lack of oversight that allowed them to happen. It only reinforces the notion that state government is at best inept and at worst corrupt.

But the amounts abused are in the millions. In the grand scheme of Illinois' broken budget, they total a tiny fraction of the current backlog of unpaid bills - " $5.1 billion. It would take about 93 Neighborhood Recovery Initiatives (if you consider the entire program a waste) to fill that hole.

In other words, don't look to ending these crazy boondoggles as the solution to the state's deep budget trouble.

We'll be keeping an eye on the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorneys in both Chicago and Springfield. The previous prosecutions of state grant abusers could pale in comparison to the large-scale fraud hinted at in Holland's report on the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
follow the money

Blue Island, IL

#60 May 28, 2014
Auditor Bill Holland is to testify before the Legislative Audit Commission in Springfield Wednesday.
Quinn's anti-violence program in hot seat Wednesday
TUE, 05/27/2014
NATASHA KORECKI

An administration official will be in the hot seat in Springfield on Wednesday to face questions regarding Gov. Pat Quinn's troubled $54 million anti-violence program.

But the real show may come when Illinois Auditor General William Holland expands on a scathing audit of now-scrapped Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, launched in 2010 just as Quinn faced a tight election campaign. The plain-talking auditor ripped the program on paper but hearing his take on the program could carry more impact.

All of it is to play out before the Legislative Audit Commission, co-chaired by state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, who was among the Republican lawmakers to refer the audit to criminal authorities for investigation.

Jack Cutrone, executive director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, is scheduled to testify. There are already behind-the-scenes complaints that Cutrone is the wrong person to face questions since he was not in charge of the $54 million program in 2010. This is just the first hearing for the commission, however, which voted overwhelmingly to use its subpoena powers if necessary.

The NRI was the subject of a scathing state audit by Holland as well as the focus of a series of subsequent troubling news stories. It is also the subject of two criminal probes.

"Tomorrow is our chance to hear the audit and listen to the challenges that the auditor general had in obtaining documents and information," Barickman said in an interview. "It's also our first chance to hear from the administration over how this program was created and help us as lawmakers get to the bottom of this wasteful taxpayer funded program."
A must read

Blue Island, IL

#61 May 28, 2014
Panel comes out swinging on audit of Quinn anti-violence program
WED, 05/28/2014
DAVE MCKINNEY

SPRINGFIELD-Republicans vowed Wednesday to keep pressing ahead on a legislative probe into Gov. Pat Quinn’s failed 2010 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative after gaining little clarity from an administration official about how the governor’s $54.5 million anti-violence program unraveled.

“To me, what’s clear is we’ve only scratched the surface on how this total of waste of taxpayer dollars happened,” said Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, co-chairman of a legislative panel that spent half the day Wednesday poring through a scathing February audit of Quinn’s program.

The bipartisan panel heard testimony for the first time on Auditor General William Holland’s audit of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a program Holland has said was “hastily implemented” election-year program with scant oversight over how millions of state grant dollars were spent with little to no effect on curbing street violence.

“There is a failure in the planning, implementation and management throughout this entire program,” Holland told the commission.

Even Democrats on the bipartisan panel joined Holland in condemning the Quinn program.

“There isn’t anybody on this commission that doesn’t agree with the auditor general that this program during its entire existence…had a myriad of problems that cost taxpayer dollars [and] did not do what it was supposed to do in communities,” said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, the co-chair of the audit commission.

Quinn’s now-disbanded anti-violence program is under state and federal investigation and threatens to be a damaging political weight for the governor in what’s shaping up as a tight re-election bid this year against Republican Bruce Rauner.

This year, the Chicago Sun-Times has laid out a series of serious shortcomings with the program, focusing on those who were able to pocket state grant funds – from clout-heavy social-service providers to gang members to the spouses of an Illinois lawmaker and Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown, who herself appeared to be part of an organization that got money from the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

The only witness to come before the audit panel Wednesday was Jack Cutrone, the executive director of the state Criminal Justice Information Authority that in early 2013 absorbed the state agency Quinn put in charge of his anti-violence program.

But Cutrone shed little light on the internal thinking within Quinn’s administration as it was quickly launching the program during the late summer and early fall of 2010, only weeks before the November gubernatorial election in which Quinn narrowly won.

At one point during several hours of grueling testimony, Cutrone was pressed on what he knew about the involvement in the program of Quinn’s former deputy chief of staff, Toni Irving, who now oversees anti-violence programming for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Barickman asked Cutrone if he had “any conversations with Ms. Irving about the failure to have any documentation suggesting those original communities and agencies may not be appropriate for such a large expenditure of taxpayer dollars.”

Cutrone answered that he hadn’t become aware of the severity of problems with the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative until October 2013, when he first saw a preliminary audit from Holland’s office.

“It was not until that time that I became aware of the extent of issues with the [Violence Prevention Authority’s] administration of the program. By that time, Dr. Irving had left state service. So no, I never had such a conversation with her,” Cutrone said.

Cutrone served as an ex-officio member of the Violence Prevention Authority’s advisory board but acknowledged he focused little on that board’s inner workings, typically sending a proxy to represent him.
A must read

Blue Island, IL

#62 May 28, 2014
Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, questioned Cutrone on whether he himself bore any responsibility for overseeing the Violence Prevention Authority’s actions given that he had a seat on its advisory board, along with others, including Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who was the board’s co-chairman.
“I’d agree as a board member, I’m ultimately responsible, yes,” Cutrone told Crespo.
Cutrone’s appearance Wednesday was heavily choreographed by the governor’s office, according to testimony.
Cutrone testified that he had met twice during the past two weeks to discuss his appearance with Quinn’s senior staff, including the governor’s general counsel, communications staff and deputy chief of staff.
“Did the governor’s office sign off on your response?” Barickman asked him.
“Yes,” Cutrone answered.
Cutrone also was pressed on why one of the main social-service providers in the program, Chicago Area Project, was allowed to continue receiving state grant money when it owed the state funds from earlier grants. Since Holland’s audit and several Sun-Times reports, Quinn ordered a internal review of all of Chicago Area Project’s state grants.
On Sunday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Chicago Area Project owes state government $214,214 after being unable to substantiate its billings to the state from a 2008 summer-jobs program that drew attention from federal investigators in 2010.
Internal audits at the Illinois Department of Transportation, which oversaw the jobs program, identified those overbillings in early 2010, yet the non-profit still received commitments for millions of new state grant dollars months later under the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
“Where I’m confused here, puzzled, is the notion we have agencies who owe use money, yet I can go to the comptroller’s database and see that Chicago Area Project has some $6 million in grants from [the Criminal Justice Information Authority] today,” Barickman told Cutrone.“I’m not saying it’s your fault. I’m just saying it appears to be the fault of the state to continue to award dollars to agencies that owe us money.”
Cutrone’s agency was set earlier this month to grant another $5 million in funds to Chicago Area Project that the General Assembly had appropriated but put the brakes on that award.
“It was at that point some of the questions were being posed, and we postponed consideration as a result,” Cutrone said, explaining that decision.
Chicago Area Project, which provided anti-violence programming under the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative in West Garfield Park and Grand Boulevard, hired Brown’s husband, Benton Cook III, as a program coordinator, paying him more than $146,000 in pay and fringe benefits with state grant dollars. Cook’s own non-profit wound up getting roughly $3,300 in NRI money before being asked by Chicago Area Project to return about $1,700 of that amount.
After the hearing, Barickman made clear he wants to hear testimony from Barbara Shaw, the former head of the Violence Prevention Authority; Irving; and former Central Management Services director Malcolm Weems, who played a role in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative’s launch.
“We certainly didn’t get the answers we need to have,” Barickman said.“It wasn’t my decision to have Mr. Cutrone sent. The governor’s office chose to send him here. Clearly, he has no idea how this program was created. He has no idea how the decisions were made. But that’s the questions we’ve got to get answers to.”
“We’ll pull emails from Ms. Irving, Mr. Weems. We’ll bring in Ms. Shaw, and we go from there,” Barickman continued.

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