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Happy Thursday, Illinois. The talk in my house is about baseball. The Cubs won, the Sox were snowed out, and the A’s are on a winning streak.
It sure felt like old times yesterday. The City Council met in person, the mayor muted council members’ microphones, and Ald. Ed Burke ran away from reporters wanting his response to new court filings detailing the corruption case against him.
You gotta love Chicago politics. Though it seemed strategic that the U.S. Attorney’s court motion would go public midway through a City Council meeting (drama!), the court calendar shows the documents were scheduled for release this week. They were supposed to have gone public Monday, but it took extra time for the feds to redact much of the information. The filing is 227 pages.
Still, Burke seemed taken by surprise. Before the documents went public, he was schmoozing with fellow aldermen, and even got a nod from Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The documents were filed in response to Burke’s claim that the wiretaps are overreaching and improper and therefore shouldn’t be used in his trial. Given the feds are relying heavily on those recordings, omitting them would do major damage to the prosecution’s case.
So no surprise the government responded saying it acted “more than reasonably in investigating Burke’s conduct” and its investigation “revealed Burke to be thoroughly corrupt and worthy of prosecution.”
The feds also specifically rejected Burke’s request to strike “distasteful” language from a wiretapped conversation that Burke said is irrelevant to the case. The feds disagree, saying it’s necessary to their case because it shows the lengths Burke went to attract government business to his private law firm.
How distasteful? Burke allegedly said: “[Y]ou know as well as I do, Jews are Jews and they’ll deal with Jews to the exclusion of everybody else … unless there’s a reason for them to use a Christian.” The alleged conversation referred to Burke explaining why the development company behind a post office project hadn’t hired his law firm.
The motion also revealed investigators had planned a sting under the guise of a real estate deal to nab Burke, but the feds determined it would be difficult to develop a good “cover story.”
It’s unusual to see such a hefty court motion, but this is a big case that’s still many months (or more than a year) away from trial, according to a source familiar with the proceedings.
The motion signals the government has extensive evidence documenting multiple alleged schemes involving Burke and making it ever more difficult for him to skate through. There’s a lot coming at him — including reporters.
Federal prosecutors detail ex-Ald. Solis’ cooperation in new court filing, by the Tribune’s Jason Meisner and Ray Long
Republicans in Springfield continued to press Democrats on redistricting, this time suggesting that House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch is governing like (gasp!) his predecessor, Michael Madigan.
As Crain’s Greg Hinz reports, “Democrats didn’t take the bait. Nor did they indicate they’d change their plan to adopt a new map later this spring before results of the 2020 census are available.”
The tit for tat started at a news conference led by Republicans who accused Democrats of “hypocrisy” for speaking over the years about being committed to a non-partisan commission to conduct the remap.
“The hypocrisy is at the highest level I’ve ever observed,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said. “It’s a continuation of the old business model which has put Illinois in peril, both financially and ethically.” That was a reference to Madigan.
Durkin also accused Pritzker of being part of a plan to redraw a map without Republican votes. “They speak out of both sides of their mouths,” Durkin said. “They want to maintain absolute power and control.”
In a statement, Pritzker said, he supports legislative maps that “reflect Illinois’ gender, racial and geographic diversity” and that preserve Voting Rights Act decisions “that help ensure racial and language minorities are fully represented in the electoral process.”
And Welch’s statement said “it’s a lie” to think Democrats aren’t considering all voices. He called Republican statement “political posturing.”
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No official public events.
No official public events.
In Broadview at 1: 30 p.m. to announce the village’s “Broader Sustainability” initiative.
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 28 additional deaths and 2,765 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease. That’s a total of 21,722 fatalities and 1,309,552 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from April 14-20 is 3.8 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 5.4 percent.
VAX-SCENE: We’re beyond the selfie stage of getting vaccines in arms. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says 50 percent of adults in the city have already received their shots. They’re residents who have bought into the importance of the vaccine. Then there’s this: “A mere 12 to 19 percent of Black South Siders” have been vaccinated.
The city hopes to turn these numbers around by partnering with Community Organized Relief Effort, CORE, a nonprofit that once drew attention for its founder — actor Sean Penn. It’s since earned a reputation for disaster-relief efforts across the Caribbean, notably in Haiti and Puerto Rico.
And for the last year, CORE has been in the trenches in the U.S., helping organize Covid-19 testing sites and, more recently, setting up vaccination sites in Los Angeles, Georgia, and Chicago.
The partnership with CORE is part of Chicago’s effort to advance a vaccine strategy focused on equity and inclusion and that “pushes vaccines into communities that need them most,” Lightfoot said in a press briefing. And CORE’s background working in international relief efforts bolsters not only its logistical abilities but gives the group insight into how to build trust with the community it aims to serve.
“People aren’t comfortable” going across Chicago to get medical treatment, “let alone a Covid vaccination,” John Holton, the area program manager for Chicago CORE, told your Playbook host when I visited the CSU site. It’s not enough to see politicians or notable names getting the vaccine, or Black or brown doctors promoting it, he said: “It’s about seeing people from the community who are reflective of their own experiences. So they can relate.”
CORE partners with tech companies to ease the appointment-making process. It staffs its sites with volunteers from the community to make the people it serves more comfortable. It works with hyper-local community health care organizations to administer the vaccines. In Chicago, it’s the Howard Brown Health center. And it uses familiar community sites to attract hesitant residents.
The CSU site is offering 750 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine each day. And a second site at the Apostolic Faith Church will accommodate another 250.
The church site is quiet, peaceful and familiar to visitors. On a recent sunny day, your Playbook host ran into a drummer who teaches at a nearby music school, a businessman escorting his elderly parents, and a mom who jogged in while her tweens waited in the car outside.
“I like that it’s in the neighborhood. I didn’t want to have to go out of my way to get it,” Arthur Adams, a licensed general contractor, told me as he walked out, patting his arm. He acknowledged being nervous about the vaccine, but decided to get it after his mom received it without a problem. “I knew if I wanted to be around her, I needed to get the shot.”
Matteson, Tinley Park mass vaccination sites accepting walk-in appointments as racial equity numbers lag, by Tribune’s Alice Yin
— BACK IN CITY HALL, the Council got stuff done: For the first time since March 2020, aldermen and the mayor returned to the City Council chambers: 28 of 50 aldermen attended in person — or “in the flesh,” as Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said to laughter. The other 22 tuned in remotely. They passed Lightfoot’s affordable housing proposal changing requirements for developers by a 42-8 vote. Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) opposed the changes, saying affordable units are still too pricey for many Chicagoans. And Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) voted no out of concern there wouldn’t be enough affordable apartments for families in Black and Latino communities.
… Lightfoot clashes with Hispanic alderman Sigcho-Lopez during resolution honoring Adam Toledo: The mayor even cut off his microphone at one point, “a tactic Mayor Richard J. Daley’s administration famously used to silence independent Ald. Dick Simpson (44th) nearly 50 years ago,” reports Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman
… Protesters — including actor Danny Glover — circled City Hall in push for civilian police oversight referendum, reports Tribune’s Charles J. Johnson
… Cubs would get a rare Friday night game at Wrigley Field under Tunney’s plan, by Tribune’s John Byrne
— Lightfoot shoots down rumors that police superintendent is on his way out: “People who don’t like how we’re moving forward and breaking up the status-quo are trying to spread ugly, offensive and false rumors in order to create chaos,” the mayor told reporters after Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “And some of you are taking the bait.” Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman reports.
— Cupich accuses St. Sabina of ‘inappropriate and intimidating tactics’ toward Pfleger abuse investigators: “The Chicago cardinal blasted the tactics as “offensive and an injustice,” saying they could hamper others seeking to report abuse — and could force the probe to start over,” by Sun-Times’ Sam Kelly.
Lightfoot says city’s ‘full steam ahead’ on path to a Chicago casino, but a long road lies ahead: “The Lightfoot administration on Thursday will put out a request for proposals from would-be Chicago casino operators, asking them to present their full visions for the location and scope of the facility in packages the mayor will use to pick her preferred plan,” by Tribune’s John Byrne.
— Second City fires night staff and looks to outsource, causing a painful rift. And it loses its president, too: “In October, The Second City told its roughly 90-strong staff of bartenders, servers, hosts and dishwashers that they were being officially laid off…. [W]hen the famed comedy theater announced it would be reopening, effective in May, it did not tell its night staff they were being rehired. Instead, it said it was outsourcing all of its evening catering operations to the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group,” writes Tribune’s Chris Jones.
— Five questions about Adam Toledo’s education: “We still don’t know enough about the schools Adam Toledo attended and the experiences he had as a student,” writes national education reporter Alexander Russo.
— SCOOP: Alan Spellberg, a key player in Kim Foxx’s Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, is leaving to join the Cook County Sheriff’s Office as special counsel to advise on the state’s new criminal justice reform law, according to his resignation letter, obtained by Playbook.
In his letter, Spellberg, the supervisor of the Criminal Appeals Division, gives a hat tip to “legendary” assistant state’s attorneys who lived by the office’s unofficial moto to “Do the Right Thing.” Spellberg also thanked numerous colleagues and said he’s “confident that under the leadership of John Nowak,” the staff will continue “to do great things.” Spellberg, a 27-year veteran of the office, also addressed an ongoing concern. “Although the Criminal Appeals Division has been chronically understaffed, having less than half the lawyers we had in 2008, the ASA’s in Appeals are incredibly hard-working and resourceful.” Spellberg also wrote a heartfelt note to colleagues, saying, “It is no exaggeration to say that the Criminal Appeals Division is my home.”
— Commentary: Kevin Morrison, Sean Casten push for Biden’s American Jobs Plan: Cook County has passed resolutions updating its renewable energy goals and supporting clean energy projects. “But local governments can only do so much. They do not have the spending power or regulatory authority to enact sweeping change. Cook County — and local governments like it — need transformative action from Congress to help address this global crisis at the federal level because floods and wildfires don’t stop at county and state borders,” the Cook County commissioner and Illinois congressman, both Democrats, write in Medium.
— Fish or cut bait: State lawmakers have their heads down trying to get through hundreds of bills before Friday’s deadline for a third reading. Democrats who lead the General Assembly hope to advance bills that put lawmakers in good stead for upcoming political campaigns — and they’ll hold onto measures that create undo controversy.
— Bill change would allow voters to lift rent control bans locally: “A new amendment to House Bill 116, which advanced out of committee earlier this spring, would allow municipalities to vote on rent control measures through referendum. HB116 as originally introduced would have lifted the state’s blanket ban on local rent control measures, which has been in place since 1997. The new amendment instead would give that power to voters and municipal governments to consider rent control measures on a community-by-community basis,” by Capitol News’ Tim Kirsininkas.
— Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez says Senate Bill 583, which has won Senate approval, would increase transparency in her office. It makes paying fines “more convenient and provides more equity for individuals completing court-approved community service,” she said in a statement. The legislation would put the Clerk’s Office under the Local Records Act, “increasing public access to audits, obligations, receipts and use of its public funds.” The bill, which was carried by state Sen. Michael Hastings, now heads to the House for consideration.
— Lawmakers begin their review of state monuments, statues: “A House committee tasked with reviewing statues and monuments on state property held its first meeting Wednesday, hearing from professors and state government associations on what frameworks can be established to guide the review process. Rep. Tim Butler, a Springfield Republican who serves as minority spokesperson on the task force, said House Speaker Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch’s creation of the review body is an ‘important and correct’ decision,” by Capitol News’ Jerry Nowicki.
— Temporary casino plans for Rockford hit roadblock: “The Illinois Gaming Board has denied Giovanni’s request for a casino suppliers license. The decision came after the restaurant requested to withdraw its application at the last minute,” via WTVO.
— Audit of Springfield’s Lincoln Museum shows gaps in internal controls: “Leadership at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum assured state lawmakers Tuesday that its new policies for loaning artifacts will correct the insufficient oversight that led to the improper loan of an original copy of the Gettysburg Address in 2018,” by Capitol News’ Sarah Mansur.
Glendale Heights presidency decided by 2 votes; other close races seem settled: “Two weeks after the consolidated election, who will be certified as winners is clearer in a handful of closely contested races in DuPage County. But a resident may challenge the outcome of the Glendale Heights village president race, where Chodri Ma Khokhar has just two more votes than Mike Ontiveroz,” by Daily Herald’s Susan Sarkauskas.
Chakena Perry has filed paperwork to run for the 32nd District House seat in 2022. Perry lost out on an appointment to the position earlier this month when former Rep. André Thapedi stepped down. Cyril Nichols, the associate athletics director for City Colleges, won the position. The 32nd District encompasses part of the South Side and south suburbs and could be redrawn in the upcoming redistricting process. Perry, who lives in Justice, is board president of Chicago Votes Action Fund and a board member of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action. She’s also worked on staff at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey raised $420,435 in the first quarter in his bid for governor. Bailey, a downstate farmer, launched his campaign two months ago.
Northwestern AD search: Former Wildcats Anucha Browne and Napoleon Harris III among the candidates, reports Tribune’s Shannon Ryan
Jennifer Pritzker, a retired Army National Guard colonel, is donating $2 million to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, bringing her total contributions toward pandemic relief efforts in Illinois to more than $4 million, according to a statement. The pledge will be paid over the next year, with the first disbursement scheduled for next month.
‘PARENTS ARE POWERLESS’: Most American schoolkids have struggled with remote learning, and in some states they might be forced to repeat a grade. This morning, POLITICO’s Recovery Lab looks at the growing controversy around laws that require third graders to repeat a year of school if they don’t do well enough on standardized tests. In 18 states, “mandatory retention” laws could force thousands if not millions of kids who fell behind during Covid to repeat a year… and the fallout could last for years.
— Black Democrats urge party to shift its voting rights push, by POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris, Laura Barron-Lopez and Nicholas Wu
— Climate summit curtain-raiser: Biden aims for sweeping climate goal — with or without Congress, by POLITICO’s Zack Colman and Eric Wolff
— Dems’ ambitions narrow as political reality sets in, by POLITICO’s Burgess Everett and Sarah Ferris
— Tonight at 6 p.m.: A webinar on “What Government Is Doing for the Environment” will be moderated by Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Panelists include state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, state Rep. Ann Williams, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen, and Alds. Scott Waguespack and Samantha Nugent.
— Tonight at 6 p.m.: A live-streamed discussion will address new Chicago maps that detail disinvestment in Black and Latinx neighborhoods and show how to direct resources post-pandemic. Panelists: Chicago Community Trust’s Jennifer Axelrod, Healthy Communities Foundation’s Maria S. Pesqueira, and Field Foundation’s Angelique Power. Moderator is Sun-Times columnist Maudlyne Ihejirika, who heads the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
WEDNESDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Elizabeth Manion and Jaylin McClinton for correctly answering that Dr. Naomi B. Lynn, chancellor emerita at University of Illinois Springfield was the first Hispanic woman to be named president or chancellor of an Illinois public university. She served as president of Sangamon State University starting in 1991 (SSU merged with U. of I. in 1995).
And talk about timing: Lynn is to be honored today with the U. of I.’s Distinguished Service Award.
TODAY’s QUESTION: Former President Barack Obama laid the groundwork for his upset victory in the 2008 Iowa Caucus by wowing the crowd at what event the previous summer? Email to [email protected].
Ald. Greg Mitchell, former state Sen. Laura Kent Donahue, former Ald. Ameya Pawar, Raise Marketplace founder George Bousis, business consultant Stephanie Leese Emrich, philanthropist Sue Carey, and the Wall Street Journal Midwest bureau’s Shayndi Raice.
- Shia Kapos @shiakapos
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