Go to ABC7Chicago.com

abc7chicago.com blogs
Read more ABC7 blogs


- Chicago news

« July 2009 | Main | October 2009 »

September 2009

They Run for the Money

  Have you noticed how quickly Illinois politicians move when it comes to raising taxes or fees?

  Take the Illinois Tollway Authority, for example, and how speedily it "closed" this week's decision to nearly double the rates drivers pay to use the system's highways.

  Board Chairman Paula Wolfe reminded me that her members had considered a toll increase to fund a $12 billion capital program since early 2010. 

  But public hearings on the 87.5% proposed hike did not begin until August 18th and the series of 15 sessions were crammed into the next five days ending on August 23rd.

  Incredibly, the Board met  two days later on the morning of August 25th to "vote" its approval of the 15-year program as if the members had given any real study or consideration to the public testimony, most of which was orchestrated by self-interested labor unions and roadbuilders.

  While covering what critics called the "done deal" at the Tollway's palatial Downers Grove headquarters, I could not help but think of the Chicago Public School Board's decision a day earlier to approve a "maximum-allowed" increase in the city property tax.

  On August 5th, only one week after Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Chicagoans were being "nickeled and dimed" by taxers, the CPS Board appointed by the Mayor proposed raising property taxes.  The new levy would cost the owner of an average home ($250,000) an additional $84 a year.  The increase would generate $150 million dollars of the district's projected $712 million deficit.

  Taxpayers barely had a chance to see the CPS budget on line, let alone on paper, before public hearings were scheduled five days later on August 10th, 11th and 12th. 

  Emanuel's Board voted and approved the tax increase unanimously August 24th. 


  The Tollway Authority and Chicago School Board may have learned from the "clinic" Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the democratic legislative leaders held earlier this year on "the need for speed".

  Remember last January when the General Assembly reconvened for its "lame duck" session? 

  In a scant 48 hours ending before dawn on Jan. 12th, the democratic-controlled House and Senate had raised the Illinois corporate and personal income tax rates only hours before new members could be seated.  The next day, January 13th, the Governor signed the bill, which was retroactive to January 1st.


  Taxpayers never knew what hit 'em.

   Keep in mind that high-speed taxation is happening in Illinois as newly-elected state and city "reform" politicians use the word "transparent" to describe their new modus operandi.

  Its transparent, all right.

  Taxpayers should see right through it.





  I still don't know what to make of the meeting of over 300 African-American ministers and others at the historic Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church Tuesday afternoon.  A news release billed the event as a "countywide African American clergy/community meeting to be held to discuss unity in the midst of potential repeat of 1989 political crisis in the black community".  

   There are four black candidates in the race for Cook County Board president including incumbent Todd Stroger, Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown, 4th Ward Alderman Tony Preckwinkle and 7th District U.S. Congressman Danny Davis.   A fifth candidate who is white, Water Reclamation Board Chairman Terence O'Brien, should be favored to win, according to the meeting organizers, because the four black candidates would split the African-American vote.

  The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam lectured those assembled in the basement of the city's oldest black church on racial unity while other speakers reminded them of the 1989 Chicago Mayoral contest.  In that historic vote, black candidates Timothy Evans and Eugene Sawyer divided the African-American vote in the election won by Richard M. Daley.

  Now the backstory:  Stroger supporters began calling this reporter about the meeting over a week ago, telling me to expect that the incumbent would be endorsed by the group, which would also call on the other three black candidates to withdraw their names from the ballot. 

  But the meeting ended with the ministers deciding not to endorse ANY candidate until after a second meeting on October 12th.  I talked to several attendees who are firmly entrenched in the camps of either Davis, Brown or Preckwinkle.  If a vote had been taken Tuesday, there was no guarantee Stroger would have won a majority and perhaps not a plurality.

  Candidate Dorothy Brown "crashed" the meeting and listened without comment from her chair near the speakers' podium.   She told me earlier in the day if the ministers endorsed anyone it should be herself because of President Stroger's low approval rating and the fact she's won three countywide elections in the past. 

   As the meeting ended, Stroger himself arrived at Quinn Chapel (as we were told in advance he would) to appear at a post-meeting news conference.   Our "source" told us he would come to accept the group's endorsement.

   He didn't get it.  And there's a possibility now that he will not get it.