<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Political News and Chicago Politics]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Wed, 27 May 2015 11:18:02 -0500 Wed, 27 May 2015 11:18:02 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Rand Paul Campaigns in Chicago Wednesday]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 05:25:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rand-paul-thumb-GettyImages-473657456.jpg

NBCChicago.com will live stream the "Stand With Rand" rally at 11:15 a.m. CT right here. 

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul will bring his campaign to Chicago Wednesday.

Paul is scheduled to discuss “failed liberal policies in Chicago” at a “Stand With Rand” rally at Project HOOD with South Side Pastor Corey Brooks.

He plans to talk about “unequal economic opportunity, failing schools and the broken criminal justice systems that plague cities all across the U.S., including Chicago.”

He will also headline an event with the Illinois Policy Institute Wednesday afternoon at 1871 in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and attend the DuPage County Lincoln Day Dinner in Lisle later in the day.

Paul announced his candidacy last month, telling supporters that he was running for president because he wanted “a return to government restrained by the constitution” and “a return to privacy, opportunity, liberty.”

"Too often when Republicans have won, we've squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine," he said as he officially kicked off his bid for his party's nomination for 2016. "That's not who I am."

Paul, a tea party favorite and frequent antagonist of leaders of his Republican Party, is ready to test how much change voters want, both for their government and for the GOP.

He said that he wanted to be part of a return to prosperity for all Americans. Hope and opportunity are slipping away, he said.

Paul, the son of former Rep. Ron Paul, is a frequent contrarian against his party's orthodoxy, questioning the size of the U.S. military and proposing relaxation of some drug laws that imprison offenders at a high cost to taxpayers. He also challenges the GOP's support for surveillance programs, drone policies and sanctions on Iran and Cuba.

He most recently made headlines as he commandeered the Senate floor and delivered a nearly 11 hours-long protest against renewal of the Patriot Act, calling the post-Sept. 11 law government intrusion on Americans’ privacy.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Closing Arguments Heard in Park Grill Lawsuit]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 16:16:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Park_Grill.jpg

Attorneys for the City of Chicago and Park Grill restaurant delivered closing arguments Friday in an ongoing lawsuit over the terms of a 30-year deal struck more than a decade ago.

The city sued Park Grill, the restaurant that anchors Millennium Park, in 2011 over what it called a sweetheart deal negotiated under the Richard J. Daley administration in 2003.

Park Grill pays no property taxes, garbage collection fees or water fees to Chicago because it is classified as a concessions vendor, the terms of which Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he wants to change.

Emanuel in 2011 said the Park Grill's owners needed to pay the city property taxes. The case went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court and the court sided with Park Grill.

Under the original terms, Park Grill's investors would be required to pay about $275,000 a year in base payments. After 10 years they've paid about $2.6 million, and taken in gross profits closer to $96 million.

The mayor sued again, this time to restructure the deal. The second lawsuit includes both the Park Grill and the Park District as defendants.

Emanuel has said Chicago taxpayers were taken advantage of and said he intends to "make sure city taxpayers are not in any way fleeced."

Park Grill's lawyer, Steve Novack, has said that a deal's a deal and at the time it was struck in 2003 the appetite for starting a restaurant wasn't that great.

Novack said the restaurant industry was in turmoil and it was uncertain what the future Millennium Park would be.

In December a videotape surfaced of a meeting 13 years ago that Park Grill says is a game changer that proves their case. The city disagrees.

The meeting happened when the park district heard from the three finalists wanting to be chosen for the Millennium Park space.

"It recorded what really happened, there's no doubt about it, and it corroborates the Park Grill story," Novack said.

<![CDATA[Hillary Clinton Visits NH Brewery]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 17:21:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/228*120/Hillary+Clinton+smuttynose+2.jpg

Hillary Clinton received information on her private email server about the deadly attack on US Diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that has now been classified.

It's new information that came to light about the former Secretary of State as she campaigned at the Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire, her second visit to the state as a presidential candidate.

Clinton says she wants people to be able to see all of the nearly 300 emails that have been released

"I'm aware that the FBI has asked that portion of one email be held back - that happens in the process of FOI responses," she said. "But that doesn't change the fact that all of the information i the emails was handled appropriately."

No laws were violated. But Friday's redaction shows that Clinton received information considered sensitive on her unsecured personal server, which came to light just as she was beginning her presidential campaign.

Clinton also seemed to give a more definitive answer when asked about her views on the future of US Policy in Iraq.

"This has to be fought by and won by Iraqis," said Clinton. "There is no role whatsoever for American soldiers on the ground to go back other than as trainers and advisers."

The candidate got an earful from small business as she spoke in defense of the Export Import Bank which guarantees loans to help U.S. exporters - opposed by some Republicans.

On the subject of the controversial Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, Clinton says she is still deciding her position.

"I do have concerns," she said. "I have concerns that the standards will not be tough enough. They will not be enforceable."

The Clinton Campaign has announced that her official announcement rally will be June 13. The location has not yet been announced.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Sent to Rauner's Desk]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 15:51:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/732453081.jpg

Illinois Senators on Thursday OK'd legislation that makes the possession of a small amount of marijuana subject to a ticket instead of a criminal charge across the state.

The House passed HB218 last month, and while Gov. Bruce Rauner said last fall that he was "open to the discussion," he has not indicated whether or not he'll sign the current legislation.

Under the measure, those possessing 15 grams or less of marijuana would receive a maximum fine of $125 and avoid arrest.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have long advocated decriminalizing small amounts of the drug. Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy, however, has said he's "not a fan" of the idea.


Photo Credit: FILE - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Illinois Senate OKs Bobcat Hunting]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 15:22:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bobcat+bill+vetoed.jpg

A measure that would allow hunting bobcats in Illinois has won Senate approval.

The legislation -- HB0352 -- sponsored by Carlinville Republican Sen. Sam McCann, would allow the Department of Natural Resources to issue as many as 200 permits a year to keep the animal's population in check.

It was approved 32-17.

The House approved the measure in April but language was changed slightly in the Senate so it must return to the House.

The season would run from Nov. 1 to Feb. 15. Aurora Democratic Sen. Linda Holmes said conservationists still have concerns even though the animal has been removed from the endangered species list.

A spokeswoman declined to say whether Gov. Bruce Rauner has a position on the measure. 

<![CDATA[Proposal Eases Navy Pier Booze Rules]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 10:41:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/beer36.jpg

Restrictions on alcoholic drinks at Chicago’s Navy Pier could loosen if Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his way.

Emanuel's proposed ordinance, introduced to the Chicago City Council on Wednesday, would allow patrons of legal drinking age "to consume and carry an open container of alcoholic liquor throughout Navy Pier" so long as it was served to them at a pier establishment in a disposable cup "that clearly identifies the name of the establishment from which the alcoholic liquor was obtained."

Anyone who violates the rule must pay a fine of $100 to $500. Offenders could even go to prison for up to six months.

Currently, visitors can only drink at licensed venues at Navy Pier. If patrons want to drink outside, they can only go as far as the restaurant’s patio.

The proposal comes as Navy Pier undergoes a multi-million dollar renovation.


Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF]]>
<![CDATA[Rauner Expresses Concerns About State Officials in Op-Ed]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 11:55:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rauner1.jpg

Gov. Bruce Rauner took aim at “old guard” state officials Thursday in an op-ed in which he writes that Illinois’ problem with insiders controlling state government “is worse than I ever imagined.”

Rauner, who wrote the piece for the State Journal-Register, said he’s concerned about what he’s seen in the legislature over the last few weeks.

“For decades, insiders who control state government have run Illinois into the ground by creating a system that benefits themselves rather than the general public,” he wrote. “Today, they don’t want any significant structural reforms. They want another giant tax hike to feed the beast they created.”
Rauner reiterated his stance against an income tax increase, but did not acknowledge some of the many challenges his proposed budget cuts could create. He instead focused on the need for reform in state government.

“We’ve seen what happens to our economy, our taxpayers, and our school children without reforms,” he wrote. “Budget deadline or no budget deadline, I will not ask the people of Illinois to put more of their money into a broken system.”

Those who oppose the budgets cuts say they will dramatically impact the cost of services such as school tuition, public transportation, day care programs, and more. While Rauner has promised to restore $26 million in previously cut grants -- thanks to a windfall of revenue from income tax receipts -- concerns continue to surround his budget proposal.

Rauner, who started as governor in January, inherited a budget shortfall created after lawmakers last spring passed a $35.7 billion budget that didn't allocate enough money for expenses. Democrats — who then controlled both Houses of the General Assembly as well as the governor's mansion — approved the plan hoping that after the November election they would make a temporary income tax increase passed in 2011 permanent.

Rauner has maintained that budget cuts are necessary to avoid an income tax increase. Lawmakers have since turned their attention to crafting a budget for the fiscal year that begins in July and includes a roughly $6 billion revenue hole.

“If legislators are willing to reform how we do business, they will find me an eager partner,” Rauner wrote. “If they are not, then they should expect a very long extra session because I will keep fighting for major reforms that will grow jobs and help properly fund services by shrinking waste inside government. I might be new around here, but I understand what I was sent to do.”

<![CDATA[Jim Kenney Wins Philly Mayoral Bid]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 23:15:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/AP142050022358.jpg

Jim Kenney is poised to become Mayor of Philadelphia after winning the Democratic Party's nomination in Tuesday's primary.

"I am honored and forever humbled by the coalition of support that made me the Democratic nominee for mayor of the City of Philadelphia," the 57-year-old former at large city councilman proclaimed during his victory speech surrounded by family, former council members and key supporters.

Kenney was declared the winner at 9:03 p.m. with 62 percent of the vote. Only 24 percent of precincts had reported when the race was decided. The numbers narrowed as more votes were recorded, but he still carried the vote 2-1 or 56 percent.

Kenney bested five other opponents — Anthony Hardy Williams; Lynne Abraham; Nelson Diaz; Doug Oliver; and Milton Street — but his victory is far from a surprise. Heading into May, a poll of 600 likely voters showed Kenney had a huge 42 percent lead over his opponents. The survey was the only independent poll of the primary race and was conducted for NBC10/Telemundo 62, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

Williams and Abraham each had 15 percent of pie while the others had 5 percent or less.

Kenney had the most endorsements including vital support from former colleagues on city council and several unions including the electricians, FOP and teachers. Some of the most important backing came from prominent African-American politicians from Northwest Philadelphia including Councilwomen Cindy Bass and Marian Tasco and state representative Dwight Evans.

"Our campaign was a broad and unprecedented coalition of diverse groups many of whom came together for the first time to support me," Kenney said.

Known for his big personality and sometimes brash comments in person and on Twitter, the South Philadelphia-native said he'd like to provide universal prekindergarten education, raise minimum wage to $15 an hour and banish stop-and-frisk. They're all topics that were of top importance to voters, our polling showed.

Kenney spent 23 years in council and was seen for being progressive on issues like the environment, ethics and marijuana decriminalization. He's long supported the LGBT community, police and firefighters as well.

But he has walked back on comments about police's use of force, which some likened to brutality, and, years ago, distanced himself from former state senator Vince Fumo, who was convicted of corruption.

Kenney will now face lone Republican challenger Melissa Murray Baily in the November general election, but he's expected to win as Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-1 in the city. He said he'll be spending the next six months earning every vote.

"We need this coalition to grow even larger," he said "Together I know we can achieve even greater things, so let’s get to work."

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Should College Be Free? Bernie Sanders Says So]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 18:35:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/471658670.jpg

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, announced a proposal Tuesday that would make undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities free to students. The idea would be largely funded through new fees on Wall Street.

“It'll strengthen our economy and give us a better-educated workforce,” said Sen. Sanders, who is also running to the left of Hillary Clinton in seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House.

The Wall Street speculation fee would be levied on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators, according to a summary of the legislation posted on the website of Sen. Sanders. The fees would amount to $.50 on every $100 of stock. A .1 percent fee would be tacked onto bonds and a .005 percent charge would be levied on derivatives.

It is estimated that the fees could raise hundreds of billions of dollars a year, Sanders said. Through that, the federal government would cover two-thirds of the free college tuition, with states responsible for the remaining third, according to the legislation summary.

Nationally, total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70-billion a year, according to the office of Sen. Sanders.

The Independent, who is a self-described Democratic Socialist and admirer of how several European nations provide free higher education, also wants lower interest rates on student loans. The legislation Sanders introduced would give borrowers the ability to refinance student loans at lower interest rates, as homeowners can currently do with their mortgages.

“It is totally absurd that in America today, we have hundreds of thousands of bright young people who can no longer afford to go to college,” Sanders told necn.

Other reforms the College for All Act would implement include expanding the federal work study program, which offers part-time employment to students, and simplifying the student aid application process, Sanders added.

As for Sanders' proposal to tax Wall Street to make college free, many observers believe the GOP-controlled Congress will pay little or no attention. Still, Sanders said Washington has to do a better job of listening to families struggling to pay for education.

Separately, education leaders in Vermont announced Tuesday that high schoolers can continue taking up to two college courses free.

“This is really quite a big deal,” said Jeb Spaulding, the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges. “It’s really a major economic advancement tool for many students who wouldn’t otherwise get to post-secondary education.”

A state law was about to make towns kick in half the costs, possibly stifling participation in the so-called “dual enrollment” program which more than 1,000 Vermont students took part in in the past year, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

A new fix means the state education fund will now cover the costs of that coursework, Shumlin announced, noting he would like to see more students apply to dual enrollment programs before upcoming deadlines.

Kenyan-born Lule Aden, 18, a senior at Burlington High School, said she enjoyed taking University of Vermont classes well before she even graduated high school. She said she will be the first in her family to go to college when she heads to UVM in the fall, planning to study communication sciences and disorders.

“Taking these courses, getting a feel of how college feels, and how the courses are, and how long classes are, I feel more prepared for it,” Aden said, describing how her dual enrollment experience left her more ready for college. “And I'm going to be able to do it and hopefully be successful.” 

<![CDATA[Judge Allows Union-Fee Suit to Proceed Without Rauner]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 17:42:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/generic-gavel.jpg

A federal judge has allowed Gov. Bruce Rauner's lawsuit over union fees paid by non-union workers to proceed — without the governor.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman declared Tuesday that Rauner does not have sufficient interest in the matter to file a lawsuit. But non-union state employees who were added to the suit later may press their case.

Rauner claimed in the lawsuit that so-called "fair share" fees by non-union workers violate the First Amendment. The fees cover costs associated with the requirement that unions represent non-members, too.

Gettleman rejected the First Amendment claim and ruled the three workers must prove they have a case.

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said the Republican is disappointed he can't participate but is "greatly encouraged" that Gettleman didn't dismiss the matter entirely. 

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Shatters Guinness' Twitter Record]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 13:00:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/obama-blackberry-459365998.jpg

President Obama shattered a Twitterverse record when his new account @POTUS got one million followers in less than five hours, according to Guinness World Records.

The Monday Twitter record beat one previously held by actor Robert Downey Jr. It took him 23 hours and 22 minutes to reach the same milestone in April 2014.

Guinness World Records notes that for his third tweet Obama bantered with former President Bill Clinton about the presidential hopes of Hillary Clinton.

Obama sent the inaugural tweet from @POTUS with his second term halfway through.

The verified account, which attracted more than 146,000 followers within 30 minutes of posting the first tweet, carries the bio "Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States."

Obama's account followed all major Chicago sports teams except one — the Cubs. 

The official @WhiteHouse account retweeted the message and posted confirmation of its own.

The tweet wasn't the first 140-character missive sent from the 44th president. The White House's existing practice was to sign tweets from the president on the @BarackObama handle with his initials, "-bo." That @BarackObama account, launched in March 2007 and with nearly 60 million followers, is run by the staff of Obama's non-profit Organizing for Action group. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Hillary Clinton to Host Two Fundraisers in Chicago ]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 13:54:34 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP590093598343.jpg

Hillary Clinton will make her first Chicago appearance since declaring her candidacy April12.

The Democratic presidential candidate and Park Ridge native will host two major fundraisers in Chicago May 20, according to the Chicago Sun-Times

The two events will be held at the homes of two well-known donors -- media businessman Fred Eychaner and billionaire entrepreneur J.B. Pritzker and his wife, M.K., the Sun-Times reports. 

Eychaner is the president and CEO of Newsweb Corp. in Chicago and "one of the most reclusive -- and powerful -- donors in Democratic politics," according to the National Journal. He has long supported both Bill and Hillary Clinton, as he backed Bill in 1992 and Hillary in 2008. So far, it seems clear he'll stick with Team Clinton this time around, too.

Pritzker has also long been a supporter of Hillary Clinton. In 2008, he was one of her major backers as well as the national cochair of her campaign. Meanwhile, Pritzker's sister, Penny Pritzker, took the role of national finance committee chair for Barack Obama.

Tickets for the fundraising events are $2,700, according to the Sun-Times. Donors are not encouraged to stop there, however. Those who add an extra "0" and raise at least $27,000 will earn the title of "Hillstarter." The hosts of the fundraisers, meanwhile, are being asked to raise $50,000.

<![CDATA[Pfleger Blames Budget Cuts for Rise in Violence]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 16:17:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Ft.-Michael-Pfleger.jpg

After a particularly bloody weekend in Chicago, Fr. Michael Pfleger pointed to Gov. Bruce Rauner's declared budget cuts as a future obstacle in stemming the violence.

"With all these state cuts taking place in this city, all the jobs that are not going to be there, the programs are not going to be there, I think it’s frightening what’s ahead of us right now in this city," Pfleger, the pastor at St. Sabina Church, told NBC Chicago. 

Among the programs that were cut off from state funding under the executive order Gov. Rauner issued in February is the Illinois anti-violence program CeaseFire, which treats violence as a public health issue. The program is active in Chicago, but 60 percent of the $4.7 million budget allocated to the program will be cut, according to Crain's Chicago Business. This measure puts an end to much of CeaseFire's program activities. 

Bob Jackson, the head of the CeaseFire program in the Roseland neighborhood, compared Chicago's violence problem to Iraq, alluding to Spike Lee's much talked about upcoming film "Chiraq," which is set to be filmed in Englewood this summer. 

"(Chicago is) actually living up to what (Lee) was saying that the war in Iraq, we have as many shootings here in the city of Chicago as there are in Iraq," Jackson said. 

Between 5 p.m. Friday and 12 a.m. Monday, one person was killed and at least 38 others were injured in shootings in Chicago, most of them on the city's South and West Sides.

By Pfleger's count, there were 49 shootings in Chicago over the weekend. The South Side pastor took to Facebook and Twitter Monday decrying the uptick in violence. Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel focused almost exclusively on violence and how it's affecting Chicago's youth during his inauguration speech at the Chicago Theatre Monday morning. 


49 SHOT this past weekend and Ceasefire Roseland put out an alert that Rosalind is in a WAR ZONE and people should be...

Posted by Father Michael Pfleger on Monday, May 18, 2015

"We’ve got to fight Springfield to say you’ve got to put some of this money back," Pfleger said. "We can’t abandon our youth and wonder why spikes in violence are going on. They’re connected."

Pfleger and Jackson are encouraging Chicagoans to take a stand for themselves and their communities and contact political and community leaders to rally for a change. This message oddly mirrored Emanuel's inauguration message to the people of Chicago when he told them to do their part, too.

"Contact your churches, contact your pastors," Jackson said. "You're not comfortable contacting us? Contact somebody in the community. We must not have 50 or 49 shootings every weekend. This is madness."

<![CDATA[Rahm Insults Crowd Member at Inauguration]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 12:22:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/rahm+pointing+inauguration.jpg

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel started off his inauguration speech Monday with a slight jab at an enthusiastic audience member, and he did it by using a quote from former President Bill Clinton.

Just as Emanuel was about to speak, a person in the crowd could be heard shouting "Greatest city in the world" and cheering loudly. 

Emanuel smiled and began by saying, "I want to say one thing to you."

The audience member continued to shout as the crowd laughed in preparation for what Emanuel was about to say.

"President Clinton said, 'You have a limited vocabulary but a lot of energy,'" Emanuel said. 

The slight insult was met with laughter from the crowd as Emanuel then went on to talk about some of the many issues the city faces in his second term as mayor, including education and mounting pension and financial crises.  

Emanuel, alongside 50 city aldermen and citywide elected officials, was sworn into office during a scaled-back inauguration ceremony at the Chicago Theatre Monday morning. Clinton was among some of the special guests attending the event. 

<![CDATA[Obama Joins Twitter, Follows Chicago Sports Teams]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 13:38:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/obama-blackberry-459365998.jpg

President Barack Obama finally has entered the Twittersphere on his own terms.

The president joined Twitter under the name @POTUS on Monday and chose a select group of 65 people to follow. Among those he follows are Chicago’s major sports teams, with the exception of one – the Cubs.

The only sports teams Obama follows are the Blackhawks, White Sox, Bears and Bulls. He left out the Cubs, along with all other major sports teams in the country.

Whether the exclusion of the North Side baseball team is related to Obama’s South Side allegiance or whether it has something to do with Joe Ricketts contributing thousands to an anti-Obama documentary in 2012 is up for debate.

The Chicago Cubs responded with a tweet of their own, claiming the president missed a team. 

Obama also follows several major political figures and government organizations as well as a few universities, including Columbia University, Harvard University and Occidental College, his alma maters. The University of Chicago – one of the potential sites for the new presidential library – did not make the cut.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Hello, Twitter!" President Obama Gets His Own Account]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 11:43:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/obama-blackberry-459365998.jpg

President Barack Obama has joined the Twitterverse. 

With his second term more than halfway through, the president sent his inaugural tweet from a new @POTUS Twitter account on Monday. 

The verified account, which attracted more than 146,000 followers within 30 minutes of posting the first tweet, carries the bio "Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States."

The official @WhiteHouse account retweeted the message and posted confirmation of its own.

The tweet wasn't the first 140-character missive sent from the 44th president. The White House's existing practice was to sign tweets from the president on the @BarackObama handle with his initials, "-bo." That @BarackObama account, launched in March 2007, is run by the staff of Obama's non-profit Organizing for Action group. 

The new account followed all major Chicago sports teams except one — the Cubs. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Rahm to Chicagoans: "You Must Do Your Part, Too"]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 11:47:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm+inauguration1.jpg

In a scaled-back inauguration ceremony for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 50 city aldermen and citywide elected officials Monday, the mayor spoke on a similar platform to the one he campaigned on four years ago. But this time, he shifted some of the focus to the people of Chicago themselves. 

"Today I challenge every citizen of this great city: you must do your part," Emanuel said in his inauguration speech. 

The ceremony took place at the Historic Chicago Theatre and hosted some famous guests, including former President Bill Clinton and singer Renee Fleming.

In his inauguration speech, the mayor spoke about education and giving Chicago's children a brighter future, particularly those children who have been left behind. While he avoided discussing any hint of school closings, he did talk about children who were "economically and spiritually hungry." 

"We cannot abandon our most vulnerable children to the gang and the gun," the mayor said. "They have the potential and the desire to be so much more." 

The inauguration comes after one of the more violent weekends of the year, during which one person was killed and at least 38 others injured in shootings citywide.  

Four years ago, Emanuel had a plan to change the poor circumstances for Chicago's students, but this time around he asked that the whole city join him in making a change, suggesting that he and his administration cannot do it alone. 

"The government is not a substitute for involved parents and other role models," Emanuel said. "The government is not set up to provide a moral compass to our lives."

While education was the main focus of the mayor's speech, he also mentioned the mounting pension and financial crisis that grips the city and state. Just last week, Moody's and Standard and Poor's downgraded Chicago's debt status following the Illinois Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down a landmark pension reform law. Besides saying he would address these challenges "head-on," however, Emanuel did not elaborate on his plans to fix the situation. 

This was Emanuel’s second inauguration as mayor of the nation's third-largest city. Thirteen new aldermen also joined City Council, and City Clerk Susana Mendoza and Treasurer Kurt Summers were sworn into office as well. 

While Bill Clinton did not make a speech, his presence at the inauguration demonstrated a powerful support base for the mayor following a rough re-election campaign against challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in April. 

Emanuel and Clinton have a long history together. Emanuel went to work for Clinton in the early 1990s when he was governor of Arkansas, and Emanuel later served in senior positions in the White House during the president's two terms in office.

Grammy award-winning singer Renee Fleming also performed at the event. Fleming was recently awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama and extended her agreement with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she will serve as a creative consultant for another two years.

Fleming was joined at the inauguration by Englewood-based spoken word artist and poet Harold Green.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA["SNL" Heralds the Summer of Hillary Clinton]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 05:37:59 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Hillary-Clinton-SNL-Louis-CK-16-May-2015-2.jpg

Summer is only a calendar page away. But nevermind the sunny skies and balmy breezes: the season of straw polls and caucuses has arrived, and Hillary Clinton was in campaign mode on "Saturday Night Live."

In the musical opening sketch, the former senator and secretary of state (portrayed in her latest "SNL" incarnation by a manic, delighftully unhinged Kate McKinnon) took to beaches and sand castles to introduce herself to a younger generation.

"May I have just a moment of your summer? I'm Hillary Clinton and I'm running for president of these United States," said Clinton, clawing at the air, her hands like pincers.

"But that's not for a long time," one (Kenan Thompson) said. "Now it's summer vacation."

"My last vacation was in 1953," she replied. "I played one round of hopscotch with a friend. I found it tedious. Why hop when you can march — straight to the White House."

She then issued her percussive laugh — something like "ah HA HA haaaaaa" — as her mouth curled into a snarling rictus.

She spoke with some kids (Aidy Bryant and Pete Davidson), whose parents remained resolutely against her political aspirations.

"I like your sand castle," she said.

"Thanks," Bryant's character replied. "It's our dream house."

"That's nice. This is my dream house," Clinton said, embracing a massive, sandy model of the White House.

Also on the campaign trail were a few surfers (Kyle Mooney, Jay Pharoah and Beck Bennett).

“Hey there, 18-to-25-year-olds," she said, stiffly hula-twisting up to a surfboard. "How does it hang?”

Blank stares.

"You know what's cool? In two years I'll be 69," Clinton said. (More blank stares). "You like that? Bill told me to tell that to young males."

The former president made a brief appearance himself (in the person of longtime "SNL" impersonator Darrell Hammond), if only to help a young woman (Sasheer Zamata) apply sunscreen.

"Billary Rodham Clinton, what are you doing?" the former first lady hissed at her husband.

"Sorry," Mr. Clinton told Zamata's character. "It's my mom."

The Clintons weren't the only political dynasty to take some flak on Saturday night. On "Weekend Update," co-host Colin Jost skewered Jeb Bush for his fumbled responses to questions related to his brother's record in Iraq.

"Jeb Bush said in an interview this week that, like his brother, he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq," Jost said. "But he wouldn't have done it for the same George did: to capture the genie from Aladdin."

Jost also noted that Jeb Bush faced criticism during a Nevada town hall meeting, where a college student said George W. Bush "created ISIS."

"But that's really not fair," Jost said. "It's more like he co-created it," as a photo of Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared.

Photo Credit: Broadway Video
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<![CDATA[Andrea Zopp: "I'm Running" For U.S. Senate]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 12:19:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Andrea-Zopp.jpg

Andrea Zopp has made up her mind about a run for U.S. Senate. 

"Yes. I'm running," the Chicago Urban League president and CEO confirmed to Ward Room on Friday.

Zopp said she will challenge Sen. Mark Kirk in next year's election and plans to make a formal announcement in the next couple weeks.

During an interview last month with NBC 5, Zopp said she can "really bring something to the race."

From Harvard Law School, she became the first deputy at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, a corporate lawyer and now head of the Urban League. She also has been appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the Chicago School Board.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," she said during an interview last month, "and I think I could really make a difference in Illinois and in this role."

Zopp isn't the only potential Democrat in the race. Congressman Robin Kelly and Sen. Napoleon Harris, a former professional football player, may also consider a bid.

Tammy Duckworth already has said she's in. 

Kirk this week launched the first television ads of his 2016 re-election bid. They focused on recovering from a stroke.

<![CDATA[House to Vote on Rauner's "Right-to-Work" Proposal]]> Thu, 14 May 2015 12:24:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/madigan+pension.jpg

The Illinois House of Representatives will vote Thursday on Gov. Bruce Rauner's contentious "right-to-work" proposal, but the vote may be more of a show of force than an effective move in legislation.

Under the auspices of House Speaker Mike Madigan, the vote is an attempt to prove to Rauner that Illinois does not want to cut costs by cutting unions. Republicans in the House, however, see the vote as "political theater," as Natasha Korecki of the Chicago Sun-Times purports.

Rauner proposes to allow local governments to permit workers to opt out of unions and paying union fees if they aren't a part of the organization. The bill would create what Rauner has termed "empowerment zones" where union membership is voluntary.

While businesses and non-union members would benefit from the proposal, unions across the state have fought against it.

The bill has not yet been filed with the Legislature, and it's not expected to pass the vote in the House Thursday.

The governor has spent the last several weeks traveling the state and trying to convince communities and lawmakers to get on board with his "Turnaround Illinois" agenda, which includes the "right-wo-work" bill. He even made a stop at a meeting for Chicago's City Council last week and asked the city's aldermen to think about the whole state of Illinois, not just Chicago, when making decisions. 

<![CDATA[Report: Mayor to Appear Regularly on "Chicago Tonight"]]> Wed, 13 May 2015 11:56:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+tonight+photo.JPG

With the official start of his second term less than a week away, Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to be making good on his promise to be make some changes in his leadership style.

Starting Wednesday night, Emanuel will make regular appearances on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight," according to Robert Feder, who first reported the story. The first interview will center on pension reform, following the Illinois Supreme Court's recent rejection of a landmark pension reform plan May 8. The interview also comes a day after Moody's downgraded Chicago's rating to junk bond status due to the court's decision.

The mayor received some criticism during his re-election campaign about a lack of transparency and communication with Chicagoans. Perhaps his "Chicago Tonight" appearances are Emanuel's way of proving that he heard his critics, which he claimed after being forced into a runoff election.

Emanuel is expected to make appearances on the show every four to six weeks to discuss various topics, according to Feder.

Wednesday's interview will air on channel 11 at 7 p.m.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[What To Expect From Presidential Library in Chicago]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 18:01:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/obama+books.JPG

Update: The Barack Obama Foundation announced the presidential library will be built on Chicago's South Side.

After months of speculation, the announcement of where the Barack Obama Presidential Library will be built is expected on Tuesday. But just how much to expect from the library is open to debate, and what the city hopes and promises may not be the reality.

"It takes on average four years for the museum to open once a president leaves office," author Anthony Clark said. "In pushing Chicago’s bid to place the Obama Library in either Washington or Jackson Park, Mayor Emanuel said it would provide an economic spark to a neighborhood in need of jobs."

Clark warns history shows that is unlikely.

“Economic benefits don’t really accrue to presidential libraries," he said. "Only one, the Bill Clinton [library] has been able to show a positive economic gain after the library was created. If the city wants to have the feather in the cap, wants to have the pride of place to have the Obama Library, that’s great, but don’t expect it to be a job revenue, creator.”

The idea of presidential libraries goes back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who wanted to preserve his presidential papers. From Harry Truman to present, the libraries have become a major part of a president’s post-White House years.

Today there are 13 libraries attracting just over 2 million visitors a year. Chicago estimates 800,000 people will visit the Obama Library.

"Now that’s more visitors than have visited any presidential library in history," Clark said. "And except for one presidential library in one year, none has even come close to 800,000. The highest close to that was about 600,000."

Taxpayers pay $75 million a year for the upkeep of the libraries, which is overseen by the National Archives. Presidents decide what goes in their libraries.

Clark said the National Archives spends more money and resources on helping a president maintain his legacy and promote his image than hiring archivists to process open records.

"For the four most recent presidents, their records won’t be available for over 100 years.”

Which means the libraries can sometimes be less about scholarship and more about show.

“The George H.W. Bush library has square dancing lessons," Clark said. "The Ronald Reagan Library had an exhibit recently. It was called Treasures of the Disney Vaults, and it was 12,000 square feet of Walt Disney treasurers.”

As for Barack Obama, his final run for office was in 2012, but as Clark notes in his aptly titled book, "The Last Campaign," he has much more work ahead.
“A president has to raise several hundred thousand dollars a day between now and the time he leaves office in order to raise enough money to open a presidential library.”

And that campaign has just begun.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[GROSS: Rand Paul Staffer Licks Super PAC's Camera]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 18:47:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP759153459907.jpg

A New Hampshire staffer for Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul's campaign licked the camera of a Democratic super PAC trying to videotape the candidate on Monday.

A YouTube video posted by the group American Bridge, which is tracking GOP candidate on the trail, shows David Chesley, Paul's New Hampshire political director, staring into the video camera for several seconds before giving the lens a big lick.

Boston Globe political reporter James Pindell was at the event - a Town Hall in Londonderry - and asked Chesley afterward what the lick was all about, but said he got no answer.

Necn has an email in to the Paul campaign seeking comment.

Photo Credit: FILE
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<![CDATA[Obama Library Coming to South Side of Chicago]]> Tue, 12 May 2015 19:32:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP464425549785.jpg

It's official: Barack Obama's presidential library is coming to the South Side of Chicago.

The Barack Obama Foundation made the announcement early Tuesday that the city would be home to the future Barack Obama Presidential Center, capping an intense campaign for the library.

Officials are expected to discuss the decision at an event Tuesday afternoon. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the chairman of the foundation's board are expected to attend.

Both the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago had placed bids for the library, and while the University of Chicago will collaborate with the foundation on the center, the final site has not yet been revealed. The foundation said it will look to enter into an agreement with the city in the coming months to develop the center — which will include a library, museum and office and activity space for the foundation — in either Washington Park or Jackson Park.

“The city of Chicago was instrumental in demonstrating to the President and First Lady the advantages of locating the future Obama Presidential Center in the city, and the University of Chicago brought to life the broad potential and vital energy of the South Side,” foundation chairman Martin Nesbitt said in a statement.

The University of Chicago had long been seen as the front-runner and the foundation signaled its interest in the school's South Side proposal last month by commissioning a poll of area residents.

"We are deeply appreciative that President Obama, Mrs. Obama, and the Barack Obama Foundation selected Chicago’s South Side as the home for the Obama Presidential Center, a decision that creates major opportunities for the South Side and the city of Chicago,” University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer said in a statement. "We believe opening the Presidential Center will mark a watershed moment for the South Side and the city, serving as a catalyst for economic and cultural opportunities as well as community programming.”

NBC News confirmed last month that the library would be built in Chicago, but Tuesday marked the official announcement. Columbia University in New York and the University of Hawaii in Honolulu had also offered bids.

"With a library and a foundation on the South Side of Chicago not only will we be able to encourage and effect change locally but what we can also do is attract the world to Chicago," the president said in a video announcement.

"I’m thrilled to be able to put this resource in the heart of the neighborhood that means the world to me," First Lady Michelle Obama said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the project a "unique opportunity" for Chicago and advocated aggressively for the selection.

"It can be on the South Side. It can be on the West Side, but it cannot be on the Upper West Side of Manhattan," Emanuel, Obama's former White House Chief of Staff, said while campaigning for a second term at City Hall.

The site selection was expected to have been done earlier in the year but Obama delayed his decision in an effort to avoid politicizing his legacy project. He didn't want to inject the library announcement into Emanuel's challenge with Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia or be seen as giving Emanuel an unfair advantage, the Associated Press, citing sources, reported in early March.

After Obama's foundation divulged concerns that the University of Chicago couldn't assure access to the park land where it wants to build, Emanuel orchestrated a plan to have the Chicago Parks District board transfer 20 acres to the city for the library's use.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation earlier this month strengthening the city's legal ability to build the project on public park land.

<![CDATA[Rep. Bustos Offers Tickets to Taylor Swift Concert]]> Sun, 10 May 2015 10:48:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cheri+bustos+2014.jpg

If you missed attending the Katy Perry concert with former Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, you may still be in luck. You can now go to a Taylor Swift concert with another member of Congress from Illinois.

The Washington Post reports that at least four lawmakers have planned fundraisers at Swift's upcoming concert at Nationals Stadium in July. Among those lawmakers are Rep. Cheri Bustos, the democratic representative of Illinois' 17th congressional district.

Tickets to see the pop star with a member of Congress are going for $2,500, the Post reports. In addition to Rep. Bustos, at least three other lawmakers have planned the same fundraiser: Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.).

To attend the July 13 show with Rep. Bustos, donors can make their checks out to "Friends of Cheri Bustos," a political action committee for the representative.

The 17th district covers cities including Rock Island and Moline and portions of Peoria and Rockford. Bustos, who won re-election in 2014 against challenger Bobby Schilling, is a former journalist and East Moline City Council member. She first assumed office in 2013.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA["SNL" Skewers GOP Presidential Candidates]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 06:33:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/Ted-Cruz-Bobby-Moynihan-SNL-9-May-2015.jpg

The 2016 presidential election cycle has officially begun — and in the comedy world, that means it's open season on the high-profile politicians clamoring for a shot at the Oval Office.

"Saturday Night Live" skewered Republicans running for the presidential nomination in a skit featuring the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, but Hillary Clinton didn't exactly escape unscathed.

In the cold open sketch, GOP leaders emerged onstage at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference accompanied by over-the-top shoutouts from a DJ (Cecily Strong).

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (Beck Bennett) promised to shred the Obamacare and the IRS like his basslines, while Dr. Ben Carson (Kenan Thompson) likewise promised to do the same.

"Put this guy in prison, because he's about to steal your vote!" the DJ said. "But be careful, because if sexuality works the way he says it does, he might turn gay in there." (For the record, Carson apologized for saying that being gay is a choice.)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (Bobby Moynihan) entered and ripped off his suit jacket, revealing a fluorescent shirt. Former HP executive Carly Fiorina (a loony Kate McKinnon) one-upped that, riding in on a motorcycle flanked by pyrotechnics.

"Her maiden name is Snead, and she's just got what you need — unless it's foreign policy experience," the DJ said over the blaring hip-hop.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (Kyle Mooney) rode in a skateboard as the DJ explained his stance on pro-marijuana legalization: "He's a small man who loves small government and fat blunts."

And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (Taran Killam), who apparently eschewed an undershirt in favor of tanning oil, entered with a bevy of dancers to a background track from Miami rapper Pitbull.

"Won't it be fun to watch all these guys lose to Jeb Bush?!" the DJ says as the candidates gather onstage.

But Weekend Update co-hosts took a few jabs at Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton, too.

"A new poll shows that Hillary Clinton's poll points have dropped two points since she made her campaign official," Michael Che said. "Because for some reason, once a woman tries to make it official, we suddenly lose interest."

And then there was this, also from Che: "Hillary Clinton reportedly met with potential donors for her presidential super PAC, three weeks after she criticized that practice. The super PAC's name is Hillary's Political Action Committee for Democracy, or HiPACracy."

Photo Credit: Broadway Video
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