<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Political News and Chicago Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Sun, 23 Nov 2014 19:25:59 -0600 Sun, 23 Nov 2014 19:25:59 -0600 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Madigan Wrangled Support for Rahm's Re-Election: Report]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:30:45 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/michael+madigan3.jpg

Two birds of a feather?

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Democratic Party's powerful gatekeeper, tends to keep endorsements for Chicago mayor close to the vest—at least in recent years. This fall, however, the politician (who moonlights as a committeeman for the South Side's 13th Ward) apparently worked behind the scenes to help Rahm Emanuel get re-elected to a second term at the helm of City Hall.

According to the Sun-Times, local Madigan allies worked to assemble the signatures necessary to ensure Emanuel a spot on the 2015 mayoral ticket. The paper found that 66 out of 374 petition-wranglers have previously corralled names for Madigan-approved Democratic candidates including his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan; Rep. Kathleen Willis; and the speaker himself. Write Chris Fusco and Dan Mihalopoulos:

Madigan's support, should it continue, would give the mayor a formidable group of door-to-door workers as the election draws near. Madigan’s ward organization—filled with city, state and Cook County employees—is legendary for fanning out from his Southwest Side power base to help Democrats win legislative races statewide.

"It shouldn't be surprising that Democratic committeemen are supporting our efforts," Emanuel campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry said Thursday. "The mayor has had a very constructive working relationship with both Speaker Madigan and (13th Ward) Alderman (Marty) Quinn, and we were happy to have members of their organization gathering signatures for the mayor."

The election will take place Feb. 25. The mayor, whose blunt manner has been a turn-off to some, unveiled a new campaign slogan this week—Chicago Together—that aims to undo his reputation as indifferent toward issues plaguing Chicagoans in low-income sections of town.

<![CDATA[Obama to Trumpet Executive Order in Chicago]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:16:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_tlmd_obama_accion_ejecutiva_nina_destacados.jpg

President Obama will visit Chicago on Tuesday to rally goodwill for his executive order on immigration.

Obama Administration email dispatch said that POTUS has cleared his schedule "to meet with members of the community and discuss the executive actions he is taking to fix our broken immigration system." The White House provided no further details on the trip.

Thursday night, Obama announced he's using his presidential powers to enact sweeping reforms that will protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

He will sign the order in Las Vegas on Friday and fly into the city alongside Illinois congressman Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat who's been critical of the president's delayed promises to bypass Congress on the issue before year's end.

Gutierrez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel likely will be on hand to greet Obama when he touches down in his adopted hometown. Emanuel, who's softened his stance toward immigration reform since taking the helm of the Windy City in 2011, is up for re-election in February. His biggest adversaries are Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Politicians React to President Obama's Immigration Plan]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 22:33:53 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/459316502.jpg

President Barack Obama on Thursday announced executive action on immigration policy, offering temporary relief from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants.

"We're going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who's working hard to provide for her kids," Obama said in a speech to the nation.

The plan will allow as many as five million undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S., including the undocumented parents of children born here.

Here's what local politicians had to say after the address:


Governor Pat Quinn

“President Obama today took a necessary first step in fixing our broken immigration system. His plan will give hope to families who live in constant fear of separation. Hardworking immigrants from around the world came together to build our country and our state. I commend President Obama for showing compassion and understanding to millions of individuals stuck in a heartbreaking situation. Congress must follow President Obama’s lead and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

"We applaud President Obama for taking executive action and bringing much needed relief from deportation to families throughout Chicago and across the country. We support this move because it is consistent with our values as a city that has always welcomed and benefited from the contributions of immigrants. It is good for our families, good for our economy, and it will help drive us toward a brighter future for every Chicagoan. While we support the President’s action, only Congress can finish the job. We will continue to join with the overwhelming majority of the American people in pushing for bipartisan action by Congress on comprehensive immigration reform."

Senator Dick Durbin

"The President’s action will make America safer by bringing millions of immigrants out of the shadows to register with the government and undergo rigorous law enforcement and national security background checks. By bringing undocumented workers into the legal workforce, we will eliminate the unfair competition of the underground economy. And all of these workers will be paying payroll taxes, which will increase tax revenues by billions of dollars every year."

Reps. Peter Roskam, Rodney Davis, Randy Hultgren, John Shimkus, Adam Kinzinger, Aaron Schock

“President Obama’s plan to ignore the Constitution and circumvent Congress is a lawless move that will ultimately do much more harm than good. We believe Congress should take the lead on immigration reform, securing our borders, improving the visa system and addressing the many layers of our broken system. This temporary measure will only spark chaos and create major problems both now and in the future. In fact, President Obama himself has said many times that an executive action of this magnitude would be unlawful. By blatantly bypassing Congress to execute this illegal executive order, the president is neglecting the interest of the American people, diminishing our national security, undermining the rule of law, and setting back efforts to permanently and meaningfully fix what's broken in the immigration system."

Congresswoman Robin Kelly

"I support the President taking action to address our nation's immigration crisis by securing our borders, prioritizing criminals in deportations and making everyone accountable in paying their fair share of taxes. His executive action is an important first step toward immigration reform, which Republicans in Congress have punted on for far too long. It is now incumbent upon Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to fix our country's broken immigration system and keep families together."

Congressman Bill Foster

“We have ignored our broken immigration system for too long, and I am pleased that the President is taking action to improve our immigration system and provide temporary relief for some families. These actions which are long overdue, will prevent millions of families from being torn apart, provide visas for highly-skilled workers, and give many immigrants relief from the fear of deportation."

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth

“During my time in office I have consistently heard from individuals and groups throughout the political spectrum that believe we need comprehensive immigration reform that is practical, fair and humane and that will grow our economy. I was encouraged by the passage of bipartisan immigration reform last year in the Senate and am disappointed that the majority in the House of Representatives did not bring similar bipartisan legislation for a vote. Given the inaction of Congress, I support the President moving forward with executive actions that will improve security at the border while prioritizing deporting felons, not families. It is now time for Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform that will improve our immigration system for the long term.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[City Council Race Ends in Tie]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:25:46 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Padilla-McCann-Chula-Vista2.jpg

The razor-thin race for a Chula Vista City Council seat has ended in a tie, two weeks after Election Day, San Diego County officials say.

John McCann and Steve Padilla each won 18,450 votes for the District 1 seat, according to Wednesday's last tally from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. The registrar reports there aren't any other provisional ballots left to be counted that could break that tie.

Ultimately, it will be up to the city of Chula Vista to determine who takes the seat.

Padilla said his campaign is pleased with the results from the provisional ballots.

“We’re just focused on making sure every vote is counted,” Padilla said.

However, McCann told NBC 7 on Wednesday he believes what he called "dirty politics" played a role.

“We had over 900-point lead and every day it seems to continuously vanish. Obviously it raises some questions,” McCann told NBC 7.

The registrar's office will begin making sure all the votes are accurately counted ahead of the Dec. 2 deadline for certifying results.

While Chula Vista is be the second-largest city in San Diego County, the city council race came down to the narrowest of margins as the final 1,000 county-wide provisional ballots were counted Wednesday.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

<![CDATA[Illinois Lawmakers Want to Raise the Minimum Wage to $11 Per Hour]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:02:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_money_dinero_shutterstock_202243297.jpg

Widespread support for raising the minimum wage in Illinois has led state Democrats to propose an increase of $11 per hour that would be rolled out over two years.

On this year's midterm election ballot, most voters checked "yes" to a Michael Madigan-engineered advisory referendum on whether they'd back a hike in the hourly wage for low-income workers from $8.25 to $10. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn wants to take action on the issue before Republican  Bruce Rauner takes office in January. Rauner says lawmakers should wait to make any big decisions until he's officially sworn in. 

With pressure on, a group of Senate Democrats pushed a new pitch on Wednesday to raise the wage to $10 in July 2015, then to $10.50 in 2016, then to $11 in 2017. Teenagers would see 50 cents shaved off their hourly wages, and adults who get tips on the job would take home a 60 percent cut of the rate—a concession to protectors of the business community who complain that a boost in the wage would cost companies and damage the economy in the process.

"Raising the wage is about dignity and decency and building an economy that works for everyone," Quinn said in a statement to the Chicago Tribuneafter Wednesday's measureadvanced 10 to 3 through a Senate committee.

"Now is the time to get this important legislation passed through the General Assembly for the hundreds of thousands of minimum wage workers across the Land of Lincoln," he stated.

The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford, now awaits the full greenlight from the rest off the chamber. According to the Trib, Lightford expects to win Senate approval but isn't as optimistic about the House, which is collectively less liberal-leaning.

"I'm sure it would have a chance. But I don’t have the impression that we’ve got votes coming out of our ears," House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie told the paper, expressing low expectations.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Rep. Duckworth Announces Birth of Baby Girl]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 10:54:19 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tammy-duckworth_5-15.jpg

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and her husband announced Thursday the birth of their new daughter two days earlier.

The couple, who publicly announced the pregnancy in September, named the newborn Abigail O'kalani Bowlsbey.

"We are grateful for the love and support of our family and friends. We also appreciate the respect for our privacy during this important moment in our lives," Duckworth said in a statement.

She said the girl's middle name was selected by Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.

Duckworth, an Iraq veteran and double amputee, is a Democrat from Hoffman Estates. Her September announcement was part of a segment about four amputees from the Iraq War who  recently had babies or were pregnant.

<![CDATA[Tom Cross Concedes Defeat in Illinois Treasurer Race]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 13:21:47 -0600 Mike Frerichs
Mike Frerichs

Ending a post-election stand-off, Republican Tom Cross has accepted defeat to Democrat Mike Frerichs in the hotly contested battle to be Illinois treasurer.  

"With the final votes counted, this election now has a conclusive outcome and I have congratulated Sen. Frerichs on a hard-fought victory. Sen, Frerichs has demonstrated time and time again his commitment to our state and that will serve all of us well as he becomes Illinois’ next state treasurer," said Cross in a statement Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, Cross led Frerichs by around 20,000 votes. But ballots had yet to be counted, and as results trickled in, the gap between the two candidates closed signicantly amid loud complaints from Cross' campaign.

"While there are as many as 1,000 ballots still to count across Illinois, this race is being decided by tens of thousands of Rauner-Frerichs voters: independents in suburbs from Winnetka to Orland Park, from Waukegan to Joliet in the collar counties, and from Rock Island to deep Southern Illinois. Both candidates brought original ideas to a spirited public debate," Frerichs spokesman Dave Clarkin told Ward Room, referencing Republican Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner's Nov. 4 victory.

Frerichs, a state senator, is slated to give a speech at 3 p.m. in Springfield. He will step into his new position to replace GOP Treasurer Dan Rutherford in January.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[City Council Approves 2015 Chicago Budget]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:07:13 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-city-council.jpg

Chicago's City Council on Wednesday voted 46-4 to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2015 Chicago budget that includes a tax hike on parking in city garages.

Ahead of the mayoral election, the budget includes no planned property, sales or gas tax hikes, but Emanuel has other ways of trying to close an estimated $300 million budget gap.

The budget calls for a 2 percent increase at public parking lots, bringing the city parking tax up to 22 percent on weekdays and 20 percent on weekends. The hike is projected to bring the city an additional $10 million in 2015.

In exchange, the mayor wants to hire an additional 80 employees to help fill more than a million potholes every year.

The budget also includes investments in neighborhood services, such as four additional graffiti removal crews, a 30 percent increase in rodent control crews and more than 7,500 trees planted.

The parking tax marks the third time Emanuel has raised or changed parking rates to bring in more city revenue, and commuters aren't pleased

"We already pay enough to park in the city, whether it be on the street or in a parking garage," commuter Andrew Skowkonski said.

There also won't be breaks for those who own skyboxes at Chicago stadiums. The mayor wants to end the amusement tax exemption on those boxes, which could earn another $4 million for the city.

<![CDATA[Emanuel Drops First TV Spot of Re-Election Campaign]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 11:05:54 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/221*120/Rahm+Ad+p1.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has dropped the first TV ad of his 2015 re-election campaign, along with a new slogan: "Chicago Together."

The 30-second spot, called "Clean Air," features Chicagoan Kim Wasserman praising Emanuel's response to toxic coal plant pollution affecting residents' lungs (including her son's) in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods on the West Side of town. It casts the Windy City boss, who's attempting to soften his prickly public image as he seeks a second term in office, as decisive, empathic and environmentally-friendly.

Two years ago Emanuel made a pact with the plants' owner, Midwest Generation, to shut down the smokestacks amid growing resident and activist outcry.

 I think Rahm comes at a lot of these issues being able to have the tough conversations. He said, 'If the right thing to do is shut them down, then that is what I will do. And that's exactly what he did.' That's the kind of leadership that our communities need," said Wasserman. 

Also on Tuesday: The mayor launched a new campaign website, chicagotogether.org, that touts City Hall successes and focuses on neighborhoods, soliciting visitors' personal stories.

"We want the new site to be a place that celebrates Chicago and all of the amazing people who make it great,"says Emanuel campaign manager Michael Ruemmler. "The homepage features a map with stories and success from every neighborhood in the city, and a place for you to add your own."

The "Chicago Together" motto conveys Emanuel's efforts to undo Chicago's Dickensian, tale-of-two-cities history as well as his local reputation as uncaring toward those who live below the Loop.

His biggest rivals in the mayoral race are a pair of political progressives, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. In recent months, Emanuel has embraced his populist-liberal side to push proposals like raising the minimum wage from $8.25 to $13. This environment-focused ad (below), piggybacks on rising support for climate change policies and also paints Emanuel as more active on the issue than Fioretti and Garcia. Behold:

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<![CDATA[DePaul Arena Budget Balloons to $250 Million: Report]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 16:20:06 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/278*120/depaul+arena+2.jpeg

The budget to build a DePaul University basketball stadium in the South Loop has reportedly grown to $250 million, a figure that stretches well past early cost projections for the site.

Crain's Chicago Business reports that the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority is in talks with a developer, Clark Construction Group, on an imminent contract for the arena (to be dubbed the McCormick Place Event Center) as well as a Marriott hotel right next door. According to the business trade, citing unnamed sources,"the two sides are struggling with a price tag that has soared to as much as $250 million, about 75 percent more than the original estimate" of $140 million.

While the price of the hotel is reported to be within the ballpark of $400 million, as initially projected, the arena is cause for hand-wringing: A subterranean "dug-in" floor has added to the nine-figure bill, "sending McPier and DePaul officials looking for new financing options and changes to the design that would lower the cost," said Crain's.

Both McPier and the university had agreed to split the bill 50-50, each contributing $70 million, with the former using cash from prior bond sales to pay for the stadium. DePaul had aimed to break ground in 2015 and get the arena ready for the Blue Demons' 2016-2017 season.

Back in June, DePaul released new images of the 10,000-seat arena, which is part of a big, splashy venture to develop the area around McCormick Center. 

Controversy has long clouded the project, which was announced in May 2013, with critics among DePaul's faculty recently claiming it is "wildly out of line with other university priorities."

<![CDATA[Rauner's Chicago Judge Votes Criticized by Gay and Lesbian Bar Association]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 16:17:03 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rauner-vote-1.jpg

The president of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Bar Association scolded Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner for his decision to vote "no" on retaining all Cook County judges.

In an open letter posted to his blog Monday, John Litchfield referenced an Election Day photo of Rauner casting his ballot, which revealed how he voted on the judicial side.

"This means you voted not to retain even the stars of the bench, the leaders and stand-outs, the innovators and those working to bring peace and resolution to families in our communities," wrote Litchfield. "Judges, perhaps more so than any of the elected officials in our state, have a direct and lasting impact on the lives of Illinoisans on a daily basis—whether it be petitioners in bankruptcy, divorce court, or child custody, or defendants in criminal cases or eviction proceedings. The issues our judiciary grapples with are deeply personal to the citizens of our state who deserve only the best on the bench."

Litchfield cited "better bar ratings" for this year's crop of judges than in the past. 

"Every retention cycle, roughly 20 percent of the Cook County electorate vote 'No' on every judicial candidate up for retention. While an unfortunate reality in our electoral process, our elected leaders should not encourage this action by their own example. It is simply irresponsible to do so," he said, adding that Rauner "could have just not cast votes in those races and pled ignorance."

Rauner's spokesman did not immediately respond to Ward Room's request for comment.

<![CDATA[Advocates Balk at Springfield Plan to Set City Minimum Wage ]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:43:13 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/illinois+state+capitol.JPG

Everyone, it seems, is for raising the minimum wage in Illinois in one form or another. The only question is: how much?

If some lawmakers in Springfield have their way, Chicago won’t have the opportunity to decide for itself where to set a city-wide minimum wage. Legislative leaders, including Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, are testing the waters to gauge support for a home rule exemption that would require Chicago to adhere to whatever level the state as a whole decides is best for the minimum wage.

That could put a roadblock in plans for everyone from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to progressive alderman and community advocacy groups that seek a minimum wage for Chicago higher than the $10 an hour currently being pushed statewide.

The Illinois Minimum Wage Increase Question was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Illinois as an advisory question, where it was approved by a margin of 66 percent to 33 percent. The measure asked voters whether they supported increasing the Illinois hourly minimum wage to $10 by January 1, 2015.

However, a task force set up by Mayor Emanuel has recommended Chicago adopt a $13 minimum wage by 2018. Earlier this year, a group of aldermen in City Council introduced an ordinance to boost the city’s wage floor to $15 an hour, arguing that while $13 was a step in the right direction, more was needed to help pull working families out of poverty in the city.

Yet, pivoting off the advisory referendum approved by voters on Election Day, a version of a bill sponsored by Madigan that calls for $10 an hour statewide could be voted on in the upcoming veto session of the General Assembly. It's believed that Madigan and Cullerton are polling state legislators to determine whether any legislation that reaches the floor should include language that removes Chicago’s “home rule” control over setting its own minimum wage—thereby requiring Chicago to abide by whatever the state decides.

For their part, advocates of a higher minimum wage in Chicago are furious at the move.

“That politicians in Springfield waited until after their election to float blocking Chicago’s minimum wage increase is disingenuous and destructive,” said Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno (1) a lead sponsor of the ordinance calling for $15 an hour, said in a statement. “A minimum wage increase of $15 would generate hundreds of millions in new economic activity. Chicago needs $15 now.”

Advocacy groups and volunteers who have been active around the issue are also calling on Springfield to avoid requiring the city to adopt the statewide minimum.

“It’s outrageous that elected officials, who are supposed to be representing the interests of working families, are moving to lock hundreds of thousands of Chicago working families into poverty wages,” Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative, said in a press release. “We insist that Chicago maintain its home rule status, so that we can decide for ourselves what our minimum wage should be.”

<![CDATA[Rauner Solicits Job Applications on New Website]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 10:30:15 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/218*120/Rauner+Web+Site+p1.jpg

Illinois Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner has set up a website to collect resumes from applicants interested in joining his administration.

The site, makeillinoisgreat.com, has posted a form asking prospective hires to upload resumes and fill out standard employment questions.

It also solicits transparency on a number of negative issues—like bad credit, child support default, a past criminal conviction–that would ostensibly weed out potential headaches in the vetting process.

The site, launched on Tuesday, also crowd-sources ideas on how to "change Illinois," with responses emailed off to various agencies, and asks for donations of $25 and above. 

The incoming Republican governor announced his bipartisan transition team shortly after winning election two weeks ago. It includes former Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley, ex- Gov. Jim Edgar and GOP congressman Aaron Schock.

<![CDATA[CTU Poll Shows Rahm Could Be Headed for Runoff Election]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 21:41:50 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/215*120/tlmd_comisionado_chuy_garcia_alcaldia_chicago_rahm_emanuel.jpg

A new survey commissioned by the Chicago Teachers Union shows Mayor Rahm Emanuel could be forced into a runoff election folllowing the February primary.

The data from the survey conducted by Lake Research Partners shows Jesus “Chuy” Garcia inching closer and possibly making the race for mayor tight.

The survey found that between Emanuel, Garcia, and Ald. Bob Fioretti, Emanuel leads with 33 percent of the vote. He is followed by Garcia with 18 percent and Fioretti with 13.

If the race is narrowed to a head-to-head contest between Emanuel and Garcia, it comes down to 5 points, with Emanuel taking 36 percent of the vote and 31 percent to Garcia.

In order to avoid a runoff election, Emanuel woudl need a vote total of 50 percent plus one.

At least 30 percent of those surveyed were undecided. The poll had an error margin of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

Garcia is being backed by the CTU after CTU President Karen Lewis decided not to run following health concerns.

Garcia, a former alderman, state senator and current Cook County Commission launched a mayoral run to fill the role that Lewis was heading toward: representing the progressive movement in the city election.

“Chuy is the right leader for the right time to move our city forward,” Lewis said.

A spokesman for Fioretti told the Chicago Sun-Times the numbers show Emanuel is “unpopular and beatable,” noting that “Bob intends to give voters a choice: more of the same or a new direction.”

Emanuel’s office could not be reached for comment Monday.

<![CDATA[Memorable Tributes from Jane Byrne's Funeral]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:31:58 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jane+byrne+2.jpg

Chicago's political class congregated at St. Vincent de Paul Parish on Monday for the funeral of former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, the only woman to ever hold that office. The pioneering politician died Saturday at the age of 81. Here are some tributes from notable guests:

"Every Chicagoan gives thanks to Jane Byrne ... we are a better city because of her." -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel, addressing mourners at the Lincoln Park church.

"I still remember: There was this small woman who dressed in leather skirts and she was feisty and a figher and she got things done and she wasn't afraid. And it's really an impressive legacy to leave not just to our city but particularly to women and girls thinking about getting involved in government and politics." -- Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"I thought she was so cool when I was a little kid when she went to go move into Cabrini Green ... so in my mind it never was an impossibility to think that a girl could rise through the ranks of mayor." -- City Clerk Susana Mendoza.

"She fought the machine. She fought for neighborhoods. She fought for people." -- 2nd Ward Ald. and mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti.

"She was a trailblazer in Chicago politics and government, someone who I think helped open the doors of City Hall to people who had been shut out." -- Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who's also running for mayor this February.

"She was as tough a politician as we've ever seen. She was one of a kind." -- David Axelrod, campaign adviser to President Obama.

"She told me if the Cubs ever made it to the World Series, she'd get me a ticket." -- Wrigley Field fixture Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers.

<![CDATA[Rauner to Crash Illinois Lawmaker Session This Week]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 14:35:38 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_bruce_rauner_gobernador_illinois.jpg

It's Michael Madigan's party and Bruce Rauner can crash if he wants, too.

Since winning Illinois' governor election two weeks ago, Republican Rauner has made it clear that he would like the Democrat-controlled House and Senate (respectively led by Madigan and John Cullerton) to wait until he gets officially sworn in Jan. 12 before taking action on hot-button issues like raising the minimum wage and extending a state income tax increase.

So when lawmakers re-convene for a lame duck meeting in Springfield on Thursday, Rauner will make sure to be there and make his presence known. His transitional communications director, Mike Schrimpf, tells the Sun-Times that the governor-elect has talked to 50-plus legislators out of 177 and wants to arrange some face-to-face intros when he's in town. "There's more that he wants to meet with," says Schrimpf.

According to the paper, Rauner will refrain from pushing his already-well-known views on a minimum wage increase, which he supports but only with pro-business conditions, and the fate of a bill that would impose heavy restrictions on fast-rising ride-share companies like Uber.

Back in August, Quinn vetoed a measure targeting Uber and other start-ups that threaten to gut the taxi industry with state-wide regulations including mandatory commercial insurance and chaffeur's licenses for drivers. 

The Chicago Democrat said he decided to squash House Bill 4075--which could be overturned this week--because it "would have mandated a one-size-fits-all approach to a service that is best regulated at the local level." Rauner had urged Quinn not to cave to traditional cabbies and send "another signal that Illinois is closed to innovation." (Both men drew criticism for pandering to a consumer-friendly yet controversial business that aims for total Windy City--and world--domination. It's a tangled web.)

Last Thursday, Rauner met with House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton for the first time; Madigan's rep, Steve Brown, described the mood as "cordial" and "professional." There was "consensus the biggest problem is what to do about the state’s temporary income tax hike" that’s due to expire in January, Brown told NBC Chicago.

<![CDATA[Chicago Election Candidates File Petitions to Get on the Ballot]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 12:41:10 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/210*120/Candidates+File+Petitions+p1.jpg

Think you could oust Rahm Emanuel from the Mayor's office? Want to run for alderman so you can be mini-Mayor of your ward (and get on the news once in a while, er, effect positive change in your neigborhood)? Are you highly confident and impervious to criticism from blogs like Ward Room?

Then get your signatures in order and get in line! Because today the short window begins to file the necessary paperwork (including nominating petitions) to enter the municipal election on Feb. 24. Candidates for mayor, city clerk, treasurer and alderman reported to the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago (69 W. Washington St.) starting at 7 a.m. Monday and ending at 5 p.m. Filers who got there before 9 a.m. won priority for a Dec. 3 lottery that will determine who gets the first slot on the ballot. (Voter psychology-wise, it's better to be No. 1).

The filing deadline is Monday, Nov. 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Petitions may also be submitted within the same time frame at the Board of Election headquarters on Tuesday the 18th and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday the 22nd.

The highest profile ballot is the one for mayor. In the running to take on Emanuel are 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, both political progressives. Garcia recently snagged the endorsement of Karen Lewis, the charismatic Chicago Teachers Union leader who could have been a contender (for all the right reasons) but was sidelined by illness. Pat Quinn, the soon-to-depart Illinois governor, was recently talked up as a potential Rahm rival.

<![CDATA[Rahm Took Campaign Cash From Companies Doing Business With Chicago: Report]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 15:52:37 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-emanuel-juvenile.jpg

David Sirota of the International Business Times reports that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took in possibly illegal campaign donations from companies that manage city pensions. In his article, Sirota writes:

Executives at investment firms that manage Chicago pension funds have since 2011 poured more than $600,000 in contributions into Mayor Rahm Emanuel's campaign operation and political action committees (PACs) that support him, according to documents reviewed by International Business Times.

These contributions appear to flout federal rules banning companies that manage pension funds from financing the campaigns of officials with authority over pension systems, say legal experts.

The contributions also potentially conflict with an executive order Emanuel himself signed in 2011 prohibiting city contractors and subcontractors from making campaign donations to city officials.

According to Sirota, Emanuel has received checks from 31 finance industry execs including Kelly Welsh, formerly of Northern Trust and currently chief counsel at the U.S. Commerce Department.

"The management of municipal pensions should be totally transparent and free of political influence," Arthur Levitt, ex-Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, told the outlet. "The acceptance of contributions by city officials from advisers managing city funds, in my book, smells like bribery."

An Emanuel representative did not respond to request for comment.

Emanuel aimed to punish pervasive corruption inside City Hall when he succeeded former Mayor Richard M. Daley nearly four years ago. 

His mayoral rival, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, released a statement soon after the Sirota story was published Thursday, calling for an SEC investigation and an internal city audit as well as for Emanuel to return the "tainted" campaign cash.

“This week we have seen back-to-back financial failures from Mr. Emanuel, and blatant violations of the public trust. He is profiting from pay-to-play with your children’s education funds and pensioners safety net," Fioretti said. 

<![CDATA[Chicago Politicians Remember Former Mayor Jane Byrne]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 21:58:39 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jane+Byrne+new.jpg

Jane Byrne, Chicago’s first and only female elected mayor, died Friday at the age of 81.

Byrne, who shocked the Chicago political establishment when she was elected mayor in 1979, was remembered as a trailblazer and a city icon.

Byrne was born Jane Margaret Burke and married William Byrne, a Marine who died in plane crash in 1959. Together they had a daughter, Kathy.

Byrne’s remarkable one and only political victory, over the vaunted Cook County Democratic Machine, came thanks in large part to a frustrated electorate, which had been pummeled by snow storm after snow storm.

As the snow banks grew, so did voters' frustration with Mayor Michael Bilandic, the former Bridgeport alderman who became mayor upon the death of Richard J. Daley.

On Friday, politicians remembered Byrne and her legacy.

Here’s what they had to say:

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley

"Mayor Jane Byrne was a woman of strength, courage and commitment. She was a pioneer in public service whose impact on this city will remain for years to come. On behalf of the entire Daley family, I extend my deepest condolences to the Byrne family."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

“With the passing of Mayor Jane Byrne, the City of Chicago has lost a great trailblazer. Mayor Byrne was a Chicago icon who lived a remarkable life of service to our city. From signing the first ordinance to get handguns off of our streets, to bringing more transparency to the City’s budget, to creating the Taste of Chicago, Mayor Byrne leaves a large and lasting legacy. And as the first woman to serve as Mayor, she will always have a special place in our history.

“I was deeply honored that she attended my inauguration, and, in turn, it was my privilege to sign our City’s ordinance officially dedicating the plaza surrounding our iconic Water Tower in her honor. The thoughts and prayers of the people of Chicago are with her daughter Kathy and her many friends at this difficult time.”

Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner

"I'm saddened to learn of the death of Mayor Byrne. She was a pioneer and will be missed by all. The City of Chicago owes her a huge debt of gratitude. My thoughts and prayers are with her daughter, Kathy, and her family."

Senator Dick Durbin

“When Jane Byrne moved into Cabrini Green, she proved Chicago’s first woman mayor was unafraid to tackle the city’s toughest problems head on. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.”

Congresswoman Robin Kelly

"Tough and bold. That was Jane Byrne. She took on the Chicago political machine in 1979 to become the city’s first female mayor. The fact that there hasn’t been another female mayor in Chicago since speaks to her great courage and strength. Jane Byrne’s victory was an inspiration to young women everywhere. She leaves an honorable legacy of courage, strength and bold leadership. Jane Byrne loved Chicago, and her death is a great loss for the city, for Illinois and the nation. My thoughts and prayers are with her beloved daughter Kathy and her grandson."

City Treasurer Stephanie Neely

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jane Byrne, Chicago’s first and only female mayor and an inspiration to any woman with political ambitions. My thoughts and prayers are with her daughter Kathy at this difficult time. What an amazing legacy Jane Byrne left us. In a city known for bareknuckle politics she beat the big boys at their own game. She studied at the feet of the first Mayor Daley, Richard J., and was swept into office by a snowstorm that buried her opponent Michael Bilandic. Female politicians in this city are hardly commonplace even at this late date, and I am delighted that she lived long enough to see a Michigan Avenue plaza and an expressway interchange named in her honor.

“Byrne’s time in office was short, from 1979 to 1983, but colorful. When she grew frustrated with the crime and violence at Cabrini Green she and her husband Jay McMullen moved into a 4th floor unit in the 1160 N. Sedgwick building for 3 weeks. Was it a stunt? Absolutely. But it was a stunt that took courage and made its point. This was the woman who first dreamed of a Museum Campus on one side of Lake Shore Drive, the same campus now being deliberated as the setting for the George Lucas museum. There is no doubt the woman was a visionary: Taste of Chicago was Jane Byrne’s brainchild. So was the Navy Pier renovation. It would be criminal to allow the memory of her historic role to die with her. The women who will surely follow in her footsteps celebrate her pioneering spirit and willingness to fight for what she believed in.”

City Clerk Susana Mendoza

“Chicago lost a civic treasure today with the passing of Mayor Jane Byrne. Mayor Byrne was a remarkable and unique leader. As the first woman elected Mayor, she blazed a trail in Chicago politics that so many of us have followed. She left an amazing legacy for the people of our City. On a personal level, Mayor Byrne’s very public and outspoken positions on major issues such as affordable housing, gun control and crime were an inspiration to me as a young girl. We are all saddened today and our thoughts and prayers go out to her daughter Kathy, her grandson, the Byrne family and her many friends."

Illinois Secretary of State Jessie White

“The city of Chicago lost a dedicated public servant today in Mayor Jane Byrne. As Chicago’s first and only female mayor, Jane Byrne was a trailblazer. Her love for the city of Chicago was immeasurable. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. Jane Byrne will be missed.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

“As the first and only woman elected Mayor of Chicago, Jane Byrne was truly a pioneer and an inspiration to all women in public service. I’m a history teacher by profession, and I know that Jane will have a significant place in this history of our great City. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.

“We supported Jane Byrne when she ran against Michael Bilandic. Her victory was the beginning of the end of machine politics as we knew it. Opening up doors for women, minorities, and non conventional politicians politicians. Her role as a consumer advocate was remarkable. As a nonconventional politician she rode the snow to victory with an unusual degree of skill. The role of Harold Washington and those who followed, minority senators, congresspersons; progressives and others were a part of the waves of change she produced.”

<![CDATA[Former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne Dies at 81]]> Sat, 15 Nov 2014 08:39:29 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/jane+Byrne+new.jpg

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported Jane Byrne's age as 80, reflecting city reports that she was born in 1934. Her birth certificate, according to the Cook County Clerk's Office, states she was born in 1933.

Jane Byrne, who shocked the Chicago political establishment when she was elected mayor in 1979, died today, according to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, who once served as Byrne's press secretary. She was 81.

Byrne was the city’s first and only female elected mayor.

“With the passing of Mayor Jane Byrne, the City of Chicago has lost a great trailblazer," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

"Mayor Byrne was a Chicago icon who lived a remarkable life of service to our city," Emanuel said. "From signing the first ordinance to get handguns off of our streets, to bringing more transparency to the City’s budget, to creating the Taste of Chicago, Mayor Byrne leaves a large and lasting legacy. And as the first woman to serve as Mayor, she will always have a special place in our history."

Gov. Pat Quinn said Byrne "leaves a legacy of tireless service to Chicago that will never be forgotten."

Byrne was born Jane Margaret Burke and married William Byrne, a Marine who died in plane crash in 1959. Together they had a daughter, Kathy.

Byrne’s remarkable one and only political victory, over the vaunted Cook County Democratic Machine, came thanks in large part to a frustrated electorate, which had been pummeled by snow storm after snow storm.

As the snow banks grew, so did voters' frustration with Mayor Michael Bilandic, the former Bridgeport alderman who became mayor upon the death of Richard J. Daley. 

Byrne’s love affair with politics blossomed in 1960 when she worked on the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. That’s where she met Daley.

Kennedy charmed her. But Daley hired her and promoted her, first in 1964 to run the city’s Head Start program. One appointment followed another and Byrne’s city hall profile increased.

So did her power.

But it all came crashing down in December 1976, with the death of the legendary mayor.

11th Ward Alderman Michael Bilandic became mayor of Chicago and George Dunne took over as head of the Cook County Democratic Party.

Suddenly Byrne was out at City Hall.

With virtually no money and little political backing, Jane Byrne, in her first run for public office, announced her candidacy for mayor in 1979 taking on the party bosses.

The “evil cabal” she called them, the entrenched, the influential, including young and increasingly powerful pols like the two Eddie’s, Vrdolyak and Burke.

Byrne cast herself as a reformer, ready to roust the rascals from The Hall.

The big boys just scoffed. But not those in the neighborhoods, who saw in Byrne a scrappy outsider.

And who believed they witnessed in Bilandic a tepid response to the Blizzard of ’79. Voters were outraged.

And on Election Day: Incredibly, unbelievably, astonishingly Jane Byrne won the Democratic Primary.

As the perfunctory general election proceeded old enemies became allies.

Political hatchets, if only tentatively, were buried.

Asked how, as mayor-elect, she felt after dispatching Republican Wallace Johnson, Byrne replied, “I feel like it was worth the battle. I’m glad that we did it and like I said before I really think we are in a renaissance period in Chicago.”

But Byrne’s four years in office would be chaotic and controversial.

Mass transit workers struck. So did firemen.  At city hall there was a revolving door of police superintendents and department heads.

Former newspaperman Jay McMullen, who became her second husband, also became her chief political confidant.

She battled with the press.

And angry citizens at city hall.

When security became an issue at the Cabrini Green public housing complex, Byrne moved in.  CHA residents had seen 11 murders there in just three months.

“People are afraid of Cabrini Green? I’m not,” Byrne said at the time.

Almost as quickly as she moved in, she moved out.

The summer of 1982 brought protests from blacks and progressives over the lack of contracts and jobs for minorities at Chicagofest, the city’s lakefront extravaganza.

Jane Byrne was losing the backing of her core political constituency. But as 1983 drew near, Byrne made it clear she would run for re-election.

The race for mayor in 1983 pitted Byrne against then State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley and Congressman Harold Washington.

It was a contest that electrified and polarized Chicago.

The first woman mayor of Chicago gave way to the first African-American chief executive.

Initially gracious in defeat, Byrne briefly mounted and then discarded a write-in campaign.

She ran three more times, for Mayor in 1987 and 1991 and for Clerk of the Court in 1988.

But times had changed.  And Jane Byrne faded from public sight.

“One of my greatest difficulties personally”, she wrote in a 1992 memoir, “was how people perceived me. Some of the misperception was my fault, but not all of it. “

“It was a privilege to be Mayor of Chicago,” she added. 

In the town where for four unforgettable years, she had the time of her life.

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<![CDATA[Rauner Meets With Madigan, Cullerton For First Time]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 13:41:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/195*120/tlmd_bruce_rauner_noche_elecciones.jpg

Governor-elect Bruce Rauner met with House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton for the first time Thursday morning at the Chicago Club.  

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the meeting was “cordial” and “professional.”

There was “consensus the biggest problem is what to do about the state’s temporary income tax hike” that’s due to expire in January, Brown said.

“Bruce had a positive meeting," Rauner’s spokesman said, adding the governor-elect “expressed his interest in working with them to forge bipartisan solutions to make Illinois the most compassionate and competitive state in the nation.” 

Rauner also emphasized he would prefer the General Assembly wait until after he is sworn in to deal with the state’s budget issues, rather than during the lame duck session next week.

The meeting was the first of what's likely to be many with Madigan and Cullerton.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is Luis Gutierrez Running for President?]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 13:14:52 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_luis_gutierrez_722.jpg

Add Illinois congressman Luis Gutierrez to the ever-growing list of People Who May Run for President in 2016 ... or Someday.

The Chicago Democrat, who serves Cook County's fourth congressional district, which has a heavy Latino population, tells Crain's Chicago Business: "I have not ruled out the possibility of running. ... I think there's going to be broad disillusionment (with lack of action on immigration reform) and a questioning of why we support the Democratic Party so overwhelmingly."

Gutierrez is urging Obama to deliver on his big, delayed promises to use an executive order to push past a stalled Congress and enact sweeping changes on the issue before the New Year. (The president, meanwhile, is "nearing a final decision" on such a decision, according to his press secretary.)

"It's been six years since you were elected president, and you made a promise," says Gutierrez. "If the Democratic Party does not act, and its titular leader, the president, does not act, there needs to be a recognition in the nomination of a new president."

Last month, Gutierrez supporters began pitching the idea to "draft" the politician to make a play for the White House amid immigration deadlock. The efforts prompted him to remark: "I'm not running for president."

Isn't that what everyone says before they enter the fray?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fioretti, Progressive Caucus Call for Council Hearings on CPS Swap Deals]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 11:22:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago-city-council1.jpg

Both mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti and aldermen from the City Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus have called for hearings on the Chicago Public Schools borrowing practices, specifically the series of deals from 2003 to 2007 that ended up costing taxpayers as much $100 million more than more traditional borrowing methods.

CPS, along with current board president David Vitale, have been under public scrutiny in recent days following a Chicago Tribune investigation showed the decision to enter into $1 billion in risky bond loans resulted in higher fees and came as a result of paid consultants, bank counterparties and CPS official downplaying the risks of the deals.

The deals included refinancing already existing CPS debt with a series of exotic financial instruments, including interest rate swaps, auction rate securities and swaptions.

Vitale was a strong proponent of the deals before and after he became board president, and the risky strategy was undertaken with little to no public debate. The CPS board has been silent in the wake of the revelations, and when asked about the troubled bond deals, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said nothing could be done about them.

However, Fioretti and the Progressive Reform Caucus are calling for Council hearings on the matter, in hopes that not only will more information come to light but that a basis for either renegotiating or even breaking the contracts can be found.

“CPS thinks they are playing with house money, but it's actually our tax dollars and we should demand some answers,” Firoetti, the 2nd Ward alderman who is running for mayor against Emanuel, told Ward Room. “It's up to us to ask the tough questions, because CPS gambling with taxpayer money shows a total lack of respect at best.”

As a result, the Caucus introduced a resolution at Wednesday’s Council meeting calling for hearings by the Committee on Education and Child Development on the current borrowing practices of the Chicago Public Schools. The goal, says Alderman Scott Waguespack (32), is to see if the deals can be renegotiated or if some of the money earmarked for penalties and fees can be cancelled or returned.

Should nothing be done, Waguespack and other Caucus members are holding Mayor Emanuel at fault, even if the deals in question happened under the watch of his predecessor, Mayor Daley.

“Instead of sitting on his hands and allowing the banks to benefit from continuing bad judgments by his advisors, [the Mayor] should be doing what the banks even said he could do—renegotiate the deals,” Waguespack told Ward Room. “If he doesn't, the Mayor is snubbing the fiduciary duty he owes to Chicagoans”.

While Emanuel claims that the City’s hands are tied because, as he put it, “there’s a thing called a contract”, a number of notable examples exist of the city refusing to accept the terms of financial agreements in the past.

In 2011, the City filed suit to break the Chicago Park District’s concession deal with the clout-heavy operators of the Park Grill in Millennium Park, a move heralded by Emanuel as necessary because city taxpayers were “being taken advantage of”.

In 2012, Mayor Emanuel refused to pay a $14 million bill related to the Chicago parking meter deal, as part of an overall effort to renegotiate the terms of the original contract.

“I do know the parking-meter management team now knows there’s a new sheriff in town,” Emanuel said at the time. “Don’t send a bill just thinking we’re going to sign it. And don’t act like you’re in possession of information when the contract calls for something else. Those days are over.”

As well, the mayor has proposed renegotiating the terms of pensions for city workers by cutting benefits and required retirees to pay more, even though pensions are considered unbreakable contracts by everyone from the U.S. Constitution to state constitutions and municipal agreements.

It’s a point not lost on Fioretti and others. “Isn’t it interesting when a mayor says we can’t break a bond deal like this?” Fioretti said. “But we can break all the pension contracts that affect every worker in this city.”

<![CDATA[Fioretti Campaign Dismisses Reports That Liberal Mayor Candidate Once Donated to Bob Dole]]> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 11:32:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Ald.-Bob-Fioretti.jpg

A spokesman for proudly liberal Chicago mayoral contender Bob Fioretti is slamming a Sun-Times report about Fioretti's past donations to Republican political candidates including Bob Dole as an unnecessary distraction from the real issues.

"If you want to know how Bob will run this city, then look at his time on City Council," Fioretti spokesman Michael Kolenc tells Ward Room in a statement. "While people were writing about a $250 contribution to Bob Dole made nearly 20 years ago, Bob was the only mayoral candidate out marching for a $15 an hour minimum wage and an elected school board. We should be talking about issues rather than getting distracted. People in this city are suffering, and this discussion does nothing to create safe streets and strong neighborhoods."

Fioretti, a member of City Council's Progressive Caucus and opponent of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom he's accused of being a Republican in Democrat's clothing, reportedly contributed $120,000 to Illinois campaigners along with his former law firms while he was working as an attorney before departing the private sphere for public office in 2007. About $70,000 of that went toward Republicans including ex-Gov. George Ryan, former Attorney General Jim Ryan, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Treasurer Dan Rutherford, according to the paper, citing campaign-finance documents.

Back in 1996, the 2nd Ward alderman personally gave to Bob Dole's failed bid to kick Bill Clinton out of the White House.

The news that Fioretti financially supported Dole came as a surprise to the diehard progressive himself.

"I'm a Democrat through and through, my God," Fioretti said. "I'm in absolute shock. I was at the Democratic convention in 1996 here. There's no way, absolutely no way, this person gave to Bob Dole in '96. Period."

He wanted to know where the information came from about his Dole contribution. The answer—that it’s on the Federal Election Commission’s website—didn’t convince him.

The Dole committee listed Fioretti as giving $250 and located him at the same address on the Near West Side that he continues to call home.

Fioretti said a former law firm partner was responsible for contributing much of the GOP cash. What of his individual check to Dole? The evidence is here for the viewing.

<![CDATA[Speculation Grows Over Mark Kirk’s Political Future]]> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 10:58:25 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Mark+Kirk1.jpg

Few political clichés are as true as the one that says the time to start looking at the next election campaign is the day after the last one ended.

And so it is for Illinois’ junior Senator, Mark Kirk. Just days after Democrats took a beating in the 2014 midterm elections and lost the Illinois governor seat to Republican Bruce Rauner, political observers and campaign operatives are starting to focus their attention on the 2016 presidential cycle.

And, for Illinois, the top of their agenda may well include Kirk.

The Republican, elected to his first term in 2010, has already suffered the indignity of hearing First Lady Michelle Obama’s name floated as a possible contender for his Senate seat, a rumor that flared up back in September. Worse, some early polling showed Obama leading Kirk 51 percent to 40 percent in a hypothetical 2016 matchup.

Health issues have also weakened the viability of Kirk’s political future, especially after he suffered a stroke in 2012. While Kirk has gone to great lengths to demonstrate a successful recovery, political reality is often cruel to those politicians who suffer the indignity of a life-altering event.

But now the talk is whether Kirk can survive a challenge in 2016. Nationally, there’s some question over whether Republicans can hold on to their  newly-won Senate majority in what will be seen as a much more favorable 2016 landscape for Democrats. Kirk has said he will run for another term, and recently showcased his political coattails by showing strong support for fellow Republican Bob Dold in Illinois 10th Congressional District.

Still, the list of Democrats who would love to take a shot at a Senate seat is filled with well-known names in Illinois politics. From Attorney General Lisa Madigan to
U.S representative Bill Foster, state senator Kwame Raoul, and others.

There’s also always the possibility that Kirk could see a primary challenger from his own party, particularly from a more conservative candidate seeking to contrast his or her positions against the more moderate Kirk’s record.

As a result, Kirk’s seat is already the center of attention for 2016, and speculation over his plans is only likely to grow. One scenario has Kirk stepping down to hand-pick a successor, thereby increasing the chances of keeping the seat in Republican hands.

The fact that Kirk’s longtime Illinois chief of staff is moving to the private sector and his field operations manager is taking a position with the Rauner team may not be helping to tamp down the speculation.

Politics is a cruel mistress, they say, and it may not seem fair that Kirk’s seat is already seen as in play, mere days after one of the most hard-fought and extended political campaigns in Illinois history.

Yet, if there’s one thing you can count on in politics, it’s that someone is always looking towards the next race. In Kirk’s case, it looks like a lot people are already thinking about the future.  

<![CDATA[Lame Duck Session Not Without Challenges for Rauner]]> Tue, 11 Nov 2014 12:02:33 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009545250_1200x675_352848963828.jpg

For the most part, newly elected governors tend to view lame duck legislative sessions before they take office as primarily someone else’s problem.

After all, taking over as a state’s chief executive is a tall task, and there’s only roughly a couple of months between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

For Republican Bruce Rauner, however, the legislative session slated to begin November 19 in Springfield could prove to be trickier than usual. While Rauner has publicly come out and called for legislators to stand pat and avoid taking up any major issues before he’s in office, a number of potential agenda items could prove to be a problem for Rauner once he’s actually governor.

The biggest, of course, is the issue of the state’s income tax rate. In 2011, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a “temporary” tax hike, bringing the state’s individual income tax from 3.75 percent to 5 percent, set to expire January 1. Rauner made repealing the tax a centerpiece of his campaign, arguing the tax should be allowed to sunset as scheduled to increase the state’s economic competitiveness.

Yet, such a move isn't so easy. In October, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka warned the move would be the equivalent of a “financial heart attack" for the Illinois budget. It’s easy to see why: current estimates of the state’s backlog of unpaid bills runs as high as $4.6 billion, even before the tax rate reduction takes effect.

As a result, Rauner’s in a clear bind. Without detailed plans for how to make up the lost revenue, he’s likely to take office facing a massive budget shortfall on Day One. And Democrats in the General assembly seem ill-inclined to lift a finger to help Rauner out of his jam.

While there’s still a possibility Democratic lawmakers could push for an extension of the current rate in the next session, Senate President John Cullerton has said the legislature would not vote to keep the income tax rate where it is beyond January.

A number of other issues are more likely to make the November session a potential thorn in Rauner’s side, however. One is the possibility Democrats could try for an override of ridesharing legislation Quinn vetoed in August. Legislation requiring background checks and insurance requirements was opposed by Rauner, and he had publicly urged Quinn for a veto.

Then there’s always the question of raising the state’s minimum wage. Quinn and Rauner fought a fierce battle over the issue in the campaign, and Rauner now says he supports some version of a higher rate. Yet, if the issue doesn't come up this time around, there’s always the possibility it could happen after Rauner is sworn in, placing the battle right at his doorstep as governor.

Even more controversial, perhaps, is the question of school funding. More than 120 school superintendents, as well as some business and community leaders, have called on Rauner to support SB 16, known as the School Funding Reform Act. Sponsored by Democratic State Senator Andy Manar, the bill is designed to a more equitable means to distribute education funds to school districts across the state, based on property tax values and percentage of low income students, among other measures.

Not everyone is on board with the plan, however, and any fight Rauner avoids if and when the issue comes up in the session is likely to be the last time an education funding issue doesn't directly affect him, his public approval rating or his personal clout with state lawmakers down the road.

<![CDATA[Rauner, Kirk Team Up for Pre-Veterans Day Event]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 18:22:44 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/rauner+at+union+league.jpg

Bruce Rauner made a public appearance Monday, nearly a week after beating Pat Quinn to become Illinois’ next governor.

The governor-elect made a post-campaign stop at the Union League Club for a pre-Veterans Day event aimed at promoting entrepreneurship for those leaving the military.

While taking questions after the event, Rauner discussed some of plans for working with the state legislature.

“My strong recommendation is that the General Assembly really not take up any material issues at all that could impact long-term trajectory for that state,” he said. “I think it’s best done with the governor seated.”

Rauner was joined Monday by military officer and Sen. Mar Kirk, who plans to help Rauner by building on an already-established relationship he has with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“I want to build on the good personal relationship that already exists between Rahm and the governor,” Kirk said.

Rauner also discussed his plans for raising the minimum wage, saying incentives are the only way to make the raise work.

“We need to help our small businesses compete,” he said. “So if we combine a rise in the minimum wage with workman’s comp reform and a tax reduction, that’s a win-win for everybody.”

<![CDATA[Ethics Committee Releases Documents in Rush Investigation]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 19:28:05 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bobby+rush+2014.jpg

The House Ethics Committee released previously-confidential documents today in its ongoing investigation of Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush and allegations that he accepted improper and illegal contributions – possibly amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars -- to his state and federal campaign committees.

The committee makes public a twenty-page summary report on the allegations – which were first filed with the committee this past January -- that “Rush’s state and federal campaign committees may have accepted in-kind contributions, in the form of free office rental space, in violation of Illinois state law, House rules, and federal law.” That report shows that the six members of the ethics board voted unanimously to pursue those allegations, which involve the apparent lease of an office space on the south side, and more than $365,000 in allegedly free rent, over the past twenty years.

The office in question is Unit C-6 at 3361 S. King Drive in Chicago. The report says Rep. Rush rented that office from Lake Meadows Associates, during his time as a Chicago alderman, from 1989 until 1993, when he was sworn in as a member of Congress. The ethics investigation centers on how the office has been used since then, and the report includes many accounts – from Rep. Rush and others – about how much or how little the office has been used, and for what purpose.

The report quotes Rep. Rush as saying that – although his name is on the door -- the office “just mostly sits there” and has “very little value” due to its location in a blighted and dangerous neighborhood. But others – including Rep. Rush’s brother and son – appear to have told investigators that they did campaign work or held events in the office on behalf of Citizens for Rush, Rep. Rush’s main campaign committee, at various times from the 1990s through last year.

The report says Rep. Rush told the Office of Congressional Ethics that the City of Chicago paid the rent for the office back when he used it as his aldermanic office, but since then, “he has never paid rent for use of the office space and … he has never been asked to pay rent.” But the report also includes ledgers from Draper & Kramer, the current manager of the King Drive office space, showing monthly rental charges for the office, with requests to “write off” the charges or deem them “uncollectable.”

The report says the accumulated “uncollectable” rent would total approximately $365,040 from 1993 to 2013, but “to date, Citizens for Rush has reported no contributions from Lake Meadows Associates or Draper & Kramer, Inc.”

In addition to the twenty-page summary report, the OCE released more than four hundred pages of exhibits, including interviews with campaign workers and Rep. Rush himself. The release also includes a response from Rep. Rush, in which he says that the OCE has greatly exaggerated the value of the office rental, and that “the actual value … is only about $5,600 per year, [which is] within the contribution limits” allowed for his campaign committee.

The documents also show that the ethics board voted unanimously to dismiss a second charge against Rep. Rush, that he made improper donations to the Beloved Community Christian Church – a church which Rep. Rush helped establish in 2002 and which now employs his son as a custodian.

In a press release accompanying today’s report, the OCE says it is continuing its investigation, and that it will “refrain from making further public statements on this matter pending completion of its initial review.”

Review the complete statements here:

Rep. Rush OCE Report
Rep. Rush OCE Exhibits 1-5
Rep. Rush OCE Exhibits 6-19
Rep. Rush Response

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Rahm Progress Report: How's He Doing as Chicago Mayor?]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 13:34:48 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/tlmd_alcalde_rahm_emanuel1.JPG

Rahm Emanuel will be up for referendum in February when Chicagoans get the chance to hand the mayor a second term—or kick him to the curb.

Emanuel's stint at City Hall has been characterized by controversy, from uproar over school closures in underserved neighborhoods to eyebrow-raising crime stats to ego-bruising polls forecasting his political death.

With three months until Election Day, and two progressive rivals (2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia) angling for his job, Emanuel will soon launch the biggest campaign of his political career and one that requires the blunt-speaking politician to soften his public image while attempting to win back constituents who've come to view him as too radioactive, too removed from the average voter to effectively govern a city deeply divided along racial and economic lines. 

All told, is talk of Emanuel's demise greatly exaggerated? 

Crain's Chicago Business has a special Rahm report out Monday that crunches the numbers to paint an emotion-free picture of the mayor's impact on Chicago, cataloguing his high-highs, low-lows and everything in between. Writes the paper's Greg Hinz and Thomas Corfman:

How much has Chicago's flinty-eyed Energizer bunny of a mayor actually moved the city? The answer: More than some may think, but not as far as Mr. Emanuel would like, hobbled in part by his own polarizing style. To assess Mr. Emanuel's progress, Crain's studied a wide range of data about the city's performance under this mayor, examining population, crime and employment figures, and zoning in on pension, debt and other financial measures. What we found is a mixed record, with some clear successes, a few disappointments and a plethora of incompletes. As Mr. Emanuel himself admits, the job of turning around Chicago is far from done.

Key takeaways on the Emanuel and the economy: The city has added 43,000 full-time jobs since he took office in 2010, amounting to an increase of 3.2 percent; retail sales have spiked, too, jumping from 13.7 percent to 17.4 percent over four years; meanwhile, Emanuel's emphasis on improving public transportation, growing tourism and beefing up McCormick Place as part of a business-boosting strategy have netted some positive results.  

Crime has been a thorny issue for the Emanuel administration, which has weathered spells of bad press (recall: the super-violent summer of 2014) while overseeing an overall decline in the murder rate. Even so, shootings escalated six percent this year. And, according to Crain's, "a resident of police districts with the highest rate of violent crimes was 6.7 times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than one who lived in the lowest-crime districts in 2010. By 2013, that ratio dropped slightly to nearly 6.0. But through Oct. 15, the ratio rose back to 6.7."

On the financial front, Emanuel has downsized government bloat while presiding over an 11.7 percent spike in the city's general obligation debt (though borrowing less than his spendier predecessor Richard M. Daley).

Education-wise, he's logged successes in lengthening the school day and overseeing a rise in the high school graduation rate while butting heads with the Chicago Teachers Union on teacher contracts and accusations of racism

The mayor has plenty of enemies–the CTU being just one—who rightly argue he pays too much attention to the tonier downtown and North Side versus the economically needy South and West sides.

A self-aware Emanuel, whose greatest enemy might just be himself (his aura of entitlement rubs many the wrong way and could cost him votes this winter), admits to Crain's: "The biggest thing I haven't moved far enough is to make sure that the benefits that are occurring in the 'the city' are enjoyed by everyone in the city."


Photo Credit: Archivo Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Opinion: CPS Priorities – Millions for Wall Street, Nothing for Students]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 13:02:07 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Wall-Street-bull.jpg

What do you get when you hire a banker to run the school board of the nation’s third largest school district?

Apparently, if you’re Chicago you get hundreds of millions of dollars thrown away on bad deals with other bankers while failing to provide even the most basic of resources for students who need it most.

That’s the story being told in an extraordinary series of Chicago Tribune reports on Chicago Public Schools’ decision to enter into up to $1 billion in risky bond loans pushed by board president David Vitale, a team of consultants and banks hungry to turn a profit on CPS’ need to refinance debt.

It’s a long, complex and downright scandalous story. And it all comes at the expense of the very students whose future CPS is supposed to protect.

In as few words as possible, the story goes like this: more than a decade ago, Chicago school officials—including Vitale, a former head of the Chicago Board of Trade with a long history as a banking executive—bet heavily on a series of exotic bond deals they believed would save the district money in the long term. These deals relied on unconventional borrowing strategies, including interest rate “swaps” and auction-rate securities, that depended on almost everything going right in the bond market for CPS to actually save money.

Yet in making the deals, critical information about the risks involved were either overlooked or deliberately kept in the dark by a series of paid consultants, bank counterparties and CPS officials themselves.

As a result, CPS is expected to pay an estimated $100 million more in today’s dollars than had it continued to rely on more traditional fixed-rate bonds. That’s $100 million that could have been used to keep open shuttered schools, hire teachers and staff, pay for upkeep on school buildings, reduce the system’s overall deficit or simply invest in the future of Chicago public school students.

Worse, the Tribune series is filled with the kind of bad judgment calls, personal and professional hubris, lack of transparency and missing accountability that proves CPS failures weren’t the result of a simple mistake or the outcome of unforeseen market conditions.

From 2003 to 2007, the district issued $1 billion worth of auction-rate securities, nearly all of it paired with complex derivative contracts called interest-rate swaps and “swaptions”, according to the Tribune. By 2008, the district was carrying $1.8 billion in floating rate bonds, accounting for more than 40 percent of CPS’ total outstanding debt.

Yet, no one at CPS can say who came up with the idea of entering into the swaption contracts—one of the riskiest deals on the table—for example. Records show no public debate on swaptions before the board authorized their use. Further, the board unanimously approved other contracts with blanket terms that didn't even specify the exact costs involved.

Worse, the district’s agreement “jacked up the costs of refinancing the bonds in the future and left the district unlikely to benefit if rates dropped”—the very reason why variable rate swap contracts are supposed to be attractive.

For his part, Vitale was seen as a cheerleader for the use of such risky contracts, citing his own banking experience as a hedge against the deals going bad. “I have 30 years in the business” Vitale told the Tribune. “I’m not a neophyte.”

Yet the board relied heavily on the advice of consultants such as A.C Advisory, who failed to provide a compete rundown of the risks or potential costs involved, preferring instead to paint the rosiest possible picture of the deals’ future. When asked about the discrepancy between her firm’s findings and the Tribune analysis, president and founder Adela Cepeda called the Trib reporters “biased and sexist” and continued to insist CPS got a good deal.

While all of this was going on, of course, CPS was starving it’s neighborhood schools of the resources they needed to serve their students. Today, because of budget shortfalls, the system has closed 50 schools outright and can’t even provide librarians, arts education, gym teachers or even toilet paper for its students.

Even as Rahm Emanuel’s poll numbers continue to sink in light of Chicagoans’ anger of how the mayor handles issues like public education, the truth is that come election time, nothing is likely have been done in response, no matter how scandalous the story. This is Chicago, after all, and Vitale and the rest of the board will remain in their positions because of their close ties to the mayor.

That means that while the Tribune expose is likely to raise some eyebrows and even generate some negative publicly, no one is likely to pay a cost—professionally or politically—for such a massive failure on the part of the CPS board’s financial dealings.

Except, that is, the children CPS is supposed to be watching out for.

<![CDATA[Illinois Treasurer Standoff: Frerichs Closes In On Cross Lead]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 12:25:57 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP13022814167.jpg

Nearly a week has passed since Election Day, but the outcome of the nasty, neck-and-neck Illinois treasurer race remains up in the air until every single vote is counted.

As of Sunday night, Republican Tom Cross led Democrat Mike Frerichs by a mere 646 votes. according to data cruncher Scott Kennedy of the website Illinois Election Data. The gap between the two candidates closed after Chicago precincts submitted 14,000 treasurer votes including some 8,500 for Frerichs. 

On Monday morning, Scott tweaked his Cross-Frerichs tracker to reflect a difference of 647 votes, based upon 1,314 fresh votes coming in from Kane County that gave Cross "a net gain of one vote."

Cross and Frerichs are in dead heat, with each commanding 48 percent of the vote out of almost 3.5 million votes cast. Libertarian contender Matthew Skopek's 4 percent of the vote.

Last week, Cross had a slight lead of 14,373 votes—a number vehemently contested by Team Frerichs as both sides awaited tallies from yet-to-be-counted provisional ballots. 

"We're reaching out to our donors and supporters, letting them know what’s going on," Cross rep Kevin Artl told the Northwest Herald on Thursday. "We are preparing—in the event we have to defend our victor—preparing a top-notch legal team to work on the recount."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[What Rahm Can Learn From Rauner's Chicago Numbers]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 12:23:16 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/236*120/tlmd_rahm_emanuel_becas_cps_colegios.jpg

The fact that Bruce Rauner bested Pat Quinn to take an affluent downtown Chicago ward on Election Night could have ramifications for Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he launches a re-election campaign that will require pandering to two very different segments of voters.

It's a tricky dance, one that begs Emanuel to pick a side: Should he focus on the pro-business moneyed elites (and the ladder-climing white collars they inspire) clustered in the glittering urban center, the one-percenters who condemn taxes on the wealthy (despite popular demand), the types who attract the celebrity-millionaire mayor to their rarified orbit? (Oh, but he's one of them, too!) Or, should this polarizing Windy City CEO—currently attempting to raise the minimum wage here to $13, among other progressive policies—cater to the voting majority? The true-blue Democrats, the neighborhood people, those who care more about improving conditions in blighted sections of town, delivering on pensions and fixing potholes than whether Emanuel can summon enough tourists, talent and museums to make the much-hyped transformation into a "global" metropolis? 

Am I being hyperbolic? Perhaps! Can Rahm have it both ways? No!

"There really are two Chicagos now," writes Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business. "And Mr. Emanuel is going to have to have significant appeal in both of them if he's to win. That's exactly what the upcoming election campaign will be about: whether other candidates such as Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, and Cook County Commissioner Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia will be able to unite those areas behind them, or whether Mr. Emanuel will be able to reach average voters there in a way he has not done thus far."

Hinz's argument hinges upon Rauner's rare-for-a-Republican success in Ward 42, which covers the the Loop, River North, Gold Coast and Streeterville. The Winnetka-based governor-elect and ex-venture capitalist won the 42nd by several hundred votes, leading Quinn there 50-48 percent and nearly undoing the incumbent Democrat in the 43rd (Lincoln Park) and the 2nd (Gold Coast through Bucktown). Quinn, who picked up the other 49 wards, scored all 50 (including 42) four years ago. 

Given Emanuel and Rauner's overlapping political base and similar philosophies on streamlining government to run efficiently (aka, like a business), the former should be able to recreate the latter's numbers in the toniest, most like-minded pockets of the city, Hinz observes. A warning:

But there's an elephant in the room. A huge, strapping, dominating elephant: the rest of Chicago. Mr. Rauner didn't need it. The roughly 21 percent of the vote he got citywide was more than enough to meet his needs, given that most suburban and downstate areas strongly preferred him to another term with Mr. Quinn. But Mr. Emanuel doesn't have suburbs or downstate to rely on. He has to cobble together a winning margin in Chicago as a whole and, on that count, this week's gubernatorial breakdown is a cold slap, the greater downtown notwithstanding.

Therein lies the problem. And Chicagoans who wield way more vote power than they do wallet power will get a chance to show Emanuel what they really think in February's mayoral election. If progressives like Garcia and Fioretti can mobilize the electorate through turning the mayor into Public Enemy No. 1, then all that money might not matter as much. Emanuel is nobody's fool. Closing in on a rocky first term, he certainly knows he can't afford to risk a second by ignoring the needs of a huge percentage of his citizenry—even though his interests align with the Michael Sacks' of the world.

Nik Wallenda traversed the Chicago River in a matter of minutes. The mayor has three months to pull off another spectacular tightrope act: Making everyone like him without pissing anyone off. That's a sink-or-swim proposition.

<![CDATA[Madigan Rep: We Discovered Rauner's Voicemail]]> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 10:51:33 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/516604997.jpg

Mystery, solved!

After some confusion, Michael Madigan's spokesman says he finally found the voicemail that Republican Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner alleged to have left for the Democratic House Speaker on Election Night. A search revealed that Illinois' incoming CEO had placed a message to a Madigan staffer under an unknown number.

"Why he called that number I'm not sure," Steve Brown tells Ward Room, adding that staff was "very busy" fielding calls from people they knew. 

Brown reiterated that "there was no conversation" between Madigan and Rauner as suggested by the latter on Tuesday night when he told a roomful of supporters that he'd dialed up the Springfield power broker and fellow Democrat/Senate President John Cullerton. He said he told them: "This is an opportunity for us to work together. ... We will not accept the status quo."

Earlier this week, a Rauner rep denied that his boss meant to imply that he had direct conversations with Madigan and Cullerton in the moments before his Election Night address.  

Photo Credit: Moment Editorial/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Meet Bruce Rauner's Transition Team]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 22:53:29 -0600

Bruce Rauner's newly announced transition team includes running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti and several others in his inner circle.

Just who are these folks helping Illinois' Republican governor-elect ease into Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's Springfield digs? Let's round 'em up:

Evelyn Sanguinetti: The Wheaton City Council member and lieutenant governor-elect will lead the charge as Chairwoman. "There is no one better prepared to help me achieve our administration’s goals than Evelyn. She has been my partner throughout this campaign and will continue that role as we prepare to take office," said Rauner, to which Sanguinetti trumpeted plans "to build an administration that reflects our state’s diversity and is prepared to lead on Day One."

Mike Zolnierowicz: Transition Director. He led Rauner's campaign on the ground and previously worked as Deputy Chief of Staff for Illinois' Mark Kirk, U.S. senator and GOP moderate.

Chip Englander:  Senior Advisor. As campaign manager, Englander navigated a successful bid to unseat Quinn that began downstate and in the Republican-leaning collar counties before shifting focus to unsettle Democrats' firm grip on Chicago. He's overseen various campaigns in California, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. His son is also named Chip Englander.

Mike Schrimpf: Communications Director. He was previously communications guru for the Republican Governor's Association. He has a twin brother named Chris, who did public relations for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Nancy Kimme: The new Transition Advisor is the only one not to have worked for Operation Rauner 2014. But she's got plenty of experience running things on the state government level as a trusted aide to Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, for whom she's served as Chief of Staff since 2011.

On Thursday, Rauner unveiled 26 other transition committee members with varying resumes and degrees of fame. Here are six whose names are the biggest and most boldfaced:

Bill Daley: He's a former White House Chief of Staff to President Obama and the brother of ex-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. The Chicago Democrat recently returned to the banking world after flirting with a run for Illinois governor. His day job: Managing partner and head of U.S. operations at the Swiss-based hedge fund Argentiere Capital. Like Rauner, he knows business; his status as a people connector and operator in a tangled web of movers and shakers will make him especially valuable.

Glenn Poshard: Another Democrat. The ex-president of Southern Illinois University and U.S. Rep. was defeated by Republican George Ryan in 1998's governor election, 51-47 percent.

Pastor Corey Brooks: A former Democrat-turned-Independent. Brooks, leader of South Side Chicago's New Beginning Church, campaigned hard for Rauner on the platform that Democrats are taking the African-American vote for granted. His controversial views grabbed headlines as the North Shore candidate made inroads into the city's predominantly African-American wards; several days before the election, Brooks' church was burglarized. He linked the crime to his support for Rauner.

Rev. James Meeks: This prominent African-American leader will also be key in extending Rauner's reach throughout the black community, wherein loyalties tend toward the Democratic Party. Meeks founded the popular Salem Baptist Church in the Pullman neighborhood and formerly served as an Illinois state senator (a Democrat) for a 10-year stint ending in 2013.

Aaron Schock: A rising star in the national GOP, the ambitious 33-year-old U.S. Rep for District 18 was named senior deputy whip earlier this year by Steve Scalise.

Jim Edgar: The well-regarded Republican governor of Illinois from 1991 to 1999, Edgar came around to back Rauner after initially criticizing the multi-millionaire political rookie as too rich to govern. On the campaign trail Monday, Edgar flubbed and told reporters of his party successor: "I wish he had more government experience."

These are just the first splashy recruits in what is bound to be an intriguingly assembled Administration.

<![CDATA[Opinion: Time for Oberweis to Face Reality]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:59:45 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/oberweis+ahern.jpg

There’s an old saying about drinking alcohol: “When three people at a party tell you you’re drunk, don't drive home.”

When it comes to someone’s political career, another saying might be: When you’ve lost six out of seven political campaigns in a little over 10 years, maybe you shouldn’t run for elected office anymore.

That’s the reality Republican Jim Oberweis faces in the wake of his latest electoral defeat for U.S. Senate at the hands of Democrat Dick Durbin.

Oberweis, currently an Illinois state senator, mounted a challenge for U.S. Senate to Durbin, losing in Tuesday’s election 53 percent to 43 percent. It was the seventh race for elected office for Oberweis since 2002, and his third attempt at winning a U.S. Senate seat for Illinois.

In between 2002 and 2014, Oberweis ran for and lost races for governor and 14th Illinois congressional district representative—twice—besides seeking the U.S. Senate seat. In 2012, he succeeded in winning his current office as state senator in the 25th district.

Many of those races were colorful affairs, with Oberweis making a name for himself in 2004 for a commercial in which he flew in a helicopter over Chicago's Soldier Field and claimed enough illegal immigrants came into America in a week to fill the stadium.

Many political observers believed Oberweis’ latest effort was doomed from the start, however, particularly given Durbin’s long run in Congress and ongoing popularity with Illinois voters. While Oberweis ran a professional campaign, much of the candidate’s time was spent focusing on issues voters have often ignored, such as Republican hammering of an ongoing political scandal at the IRS and Durbin’s public effort to keep retailer Walgreens from moving their headquarters outside of the country.

The campaign also struggled to move beyond questions about whether Oberweis actually lived in Illinois or Florida, where he received a tax benefit for listing a family home as a primary residence.

Outside of his political career, Oberweis is best known for the dairy farms that bear his name and his long run as an asset manager and investment advisor. Like many Republicans he has argued his business experience would translate into helping him run government more efficiently and create jobs.

Yet, in Oberweis’ case, voters have repeatedly rejected that claim, and his campaigns have struggled time and again to generate enough buzz to position himself as anything other than a perennial candidate seeking office more for personal reasons than anything else.

In this latest race, Oberweis deserves credit for breaking with tradition and mounting a credible outreach effort to Chicago’s black community, a move rare for Republicans of any stripe.

As a result, a number of African-American religious leaders, including Reverend Ira Acree and Reverend Corey Brooks, threw their support behind Oberweis. The candidate also opened a campaign office in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the city’s South Side.

But none of it was enough, for the sixth time out of seven.

When three people at a party tell you you’re drunk, hide the car keys.

When voters tell you repeatedly they don't want you in office, maybe it’s time to stop running campaigns for political offices you can't win.  

<![CDATA[Bruce Rauner Transition Team Includes Bill Daley]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 18:58:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/176*120/bruce+rauner+getty1.jpg

Governor-elect Bruce Rauner added some familiar faces to his transition committee.

Speaking publically to the media for the first time since his Election Night win, Rauner on Thursday revealed the committee's full team, which includes former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, former Governor Jim Edgar, Rev. James Meeks, former Congressman Glenn Poshard, Congressman Aaron Schock and Pastor Corey Brooks.

"I am committed to assembling a diverse and talented team to drive results for our state and bring back Illinois," Rauner said in a statement.

"It is an honor to have such a talented group of individuals working with me to get our state working for the people again,” he said.

In all, 16 members are from the business community, including Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman.

Rauner earned 51 percent of the vote to Gov. Pat Quinn's 46 percent, prompting Quinn to concede on Wednesday. Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm took 3 percent of the vote.

Quinn said he appointed his chief of staff, Ryan Croker, to act as a liaison to the incoming administration and pledged his support to work with them.

The Rauner team released a statement after Quinn's announcement.

“I thank Governor Quinn for his many years of service to Illinois and appreciate his commitment to making this a smooth transition. I look forward to getting to work to make Illinois the most compassionate and competitive state in the nation.”

Rauner's transition committee:

-Governor Jim Edgar
-Bill Daley – Managing Partner and head of U.S. operations, Argentiere Capital LP, former White House Chief of Staff
-Glenn Poshard – Former President, Southern Illinois University; former U.S. Congressman
-Rev. James Meeks – Founder and Senior Pastor, Salem Baptist Church of Chicago; former Illinois State Senator
-Manny Sanchez – Founder and Managing Partner, Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman LLP; Co-Chair, Latinos for Obama
-Doug Oberhelman – CEO and Chairman, Caterpillar Inc.
-State Representative Jill Tracy – 94th District, Illinois House of Representatives
-Ron Huberman – Operating Executive, Prairie Capital; former Superintendent and CEO, Chicago Public Schools
-Phyllis Wise – Chancellor, University of Illinois
-Jim Alexander – President, Illinois State Police Command Officer’s Association (ISPCOA)
-Congressman Aaron Schock – Representative, 18th Congressional District of Illinois
-Arabel Alva Rosales – President, AAR & Assocs., LTD.Ron Gidwitz – Partner, GCG Partners
-John Gates – Chairman and CEO, PortaeCo, LLC.
-Pastor Corey Brooks – Founder, New Beginnings Church of Chicago
-Rob Funderburg – Chairman and owner, Alpine Bank
-Mark Cozzi- Managing Partner, Lincoln Park Capital Group
-Tony Anderson – Retired Vice Chairman and Midwest Managing, Partner Ernst & Young
-Sarah Frey-Talley – President, CEO Frey Farms
-Gloria Cardenas Cudia – President and Founder, Salsa Business Network
-Jim Schultz – Founder of Open Prairie and Managing Director of Open Prairie Ventures I and II
-Dr. Willie Wilson – Chairman, Chicago Baptist Institute International (CBII)
-Eleni Bousis – Board Chair for the Greek American Rehabilitation and Care Centre, Entrepreneur of Frontida (CARE) Institution supporting and assisting women and families in need and Board Member for Leadership 100 and the Little City Foundation.
-Ryan Ruskin- President and COO, Ruskin Group
-Beth Christie – Founder and CEO, Avent America
-Ed McMillan – Principal and CEO, McMillan L.L.C
-Andrea Brown – Member of the Illinois State Board of Education, former Regional Superintendent, teacher and administrator

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Madigan Rep: Rauner Didn't Call on Election Night]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 11:38:06 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mike-madigan-11-5.jpg

Michael Madigan's spokesman says that the Democratic Illinois House Speaker didn't speak with Bruce Rauner on Election Night, refuting remarks the Republican governor-elect made in his victory speech.

"There was never a conversation," Steve Brown tells Ward Room, quipping that he looked for "voice mail, smoke signals, Post-it notes on the refrigerator" to no avail.

A Rauner representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Late Tuesday, a triumphant Rauner announced he'd just "placed two very important phone calls" with Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, another powerful Democrat, telling them: "This is an opportunity for us to work together. This is an opportunity for us to come together on a bipartisan basis to solve the problems, the challenges, facing the families of Illinois. This is our time, this is a transformational period. We will not accept the status quo."

Cullerton and Rauner did not exchange words, either. The state senator's rep confirmed to the Sun-Times that aides for the politicians had spoken—not the politicians themselves.

Meanwhile, a Rauner rep said his boss "left a voicemail for the Speaker" and had not suggested that he'd talked directly with Madigan and Cullerton in the moments before his Election Night address.

Brown said Madigan's office could not locate the voicemail in question.

Perhaps Rauner got swept up in the moment and embellished a bit? Either way, thanks to Madigan, he's in for a bumpy ride come 2015.

<![CDATA[Weary Rivals in SoCal Race Hopeful]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 10:15:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DeMaio-Peters-June-Primary.jpg

The long, divisive road to the 52nd Congressional District seat stretches on for its two weary candidates, incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Peters and former San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio, as officials prepare Thursday to start counting around 46,000 still-uncounted ballots.

Exhausted by a late election night that left DeMaio leading by just 752 votes, both candidates are trying to put a positive spin on the numbers.

“This is a historically bad night for Democrats, turnout historically low, and the fact that we're even close is a miracle. I think we're going to win this thing," Peters said at a news conference Wednesday evening.

The initial surge of results had DeMaio in the lead, but as the late ballots came in Tuesday night, the trend was in favor of Peters.

But DeMaio was just as confident that his campaign will come out on top.

“I believe when all votes are counted, we will prevail, and I will have the honor of being San Diego’s voice in the U.S. Congress,” he said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters says there were 36,000 mail-in ballots and 10,000 provisional ballots from the 52nd District to be counted, and all were sorted Wednesday.

On Thursday, the counting starts on those 46,000 ballots. Both candidates are sending representatives to make sure each vote is counted correctly.

The registrar is expected to release more numbers Thursday evening, and a final winner should be announced Monday.

But even after the ballots were cast, the biting comments remained.

When asked if he is prepared for a recount in the event of a very close final tally, DeMaio replied, “After what Mr. Peters has done in this campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.”

Peters’ response later in the day: “I think the campaign's over now. We can get past the hard feelings, stop whining. You know, let's just count the votes."

With nothing to do but wait, both candidates had time to reflect on their contentious campaigns and their plans for the future.

DeMaio will be hopping a plane to Washington, D.C., next week to attend the Congressional freshman orientation.

“What I emphasized last night was that my candidacy hopefully is the beginning of the Republican Party becoming more inclusive, of us getting past labels and putting people in boxes,” the gay candidate said.

While DeMaio zeroed in on reforming his own party, Peters said his focus will be reaching across the aisle in the now Republican-led Congress.

"Well the middle is my territory. I don't think there's enough of us who want to be in the middle,” he said. “I think one of the problems with Congress is it's so polarized and what I offer is a promise that I will always work with anybody."

Voters will continue to watch the results of the race closely, but the end of election season brings one thing both sides can be thankful for: no more political ads.

<![CDATA[Obama Makes Congratulatory Call to Rauner]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 07:13:25 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/219*120/052009+Obama+Phone+Call.jpg

President Barack Obama has called Bruce Rauner to offer him congratulations for winning the race for governor in his home state, a source from the campaign confirmed.

The source told NBC Chicago the president reminded the governor-elect that he still owns a home in Illinois and cares a lot about the state. The president reportedly wished Rauner well.

It wasn't clear if the phone call between Obama and Rauner came before or after Gov. Pat Quinn conceded the race on Wednesday afternoon.

In his concession remarks to the press, Quinn did not mention Rauner by name, and NBC Chicago is told that no call has been placed by Quinn to Rauner.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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