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January 2013 Archives

Daniel Taylor case: Another false confession?

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It's hard to believe someone could be convicted of a crime that took place at a time when the defendant was known to be elsewhere -- in police custody.

But that's what happened to Daniel Taylor, who was sentenced to life in prison for a 1992 double murder. The conviction was based on a confession at a time when few people understood how frequently false confessions occur.

On Thursday, lawyers from the Center on Wrongful Convictions filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the case. Read the CWC press release.doc here.

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Sheila Simon takes shot at new gun laws

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Sheila Simon.jpgIt may seem a little odd for lawmakers pondering gun issues to take target practice.

But that's on the schedule of Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon's new Firearms Working Group. On Tuesday, Simon announced she had convened the group, all of whom are Springfield newbies, and they'll "learn to safely operate a firearm at the Sparta World Shooting Complex."

The 15-member panel is billed as bipartisan, but it has just two Republicans. Of course, after the beating the GOP took statewide in the Nov. 6 election, it's not as easy to find Republicans as it once was.

The panel's official goal is "to learn about different perspectives and bridge the geographical divide on gun ownership and use in Illinois."

Signs of a deal? The rooftop owners'-eye view of Wrigley

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Once again, owners of the rooftop clubs around Wrigley Field are in a skirmish with the Cubs.

This time, it's over a Cubs renovation proposal that could include billboards blocking the sight lines from the rooftop clubs, which have become successful businesses.

The clubs have offered an alternative: erecting the signs on their own buildings and letting the Cubs keep all the revenue, except for a portion set aside for the community. Watch a video showing what they say the signs would look like here.

As the Sun-Times has editorialized, any compromise must work for the Cubs.

Here's why the rooftop owners say their proposal would meet that criterion.


A change in Chicago's ward-by-ward voting

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Paul Green-.jpg In his analysis of the Nov. 6 election, Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University, highlights a change in city voting patterns:

The "ethnic wards," where voter turnout was always huge, have declined.

"Look at the numbers! Wards #14 (Ald. Ed Burke); #23 (Lipinski family) and #36 (former powerhouse Alderman Bill Banks) all were bottom ten turnout wards. Not much better were Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's ward (36th place) and the once Bridgeport vote bastion of the Daley family - Ward 11 (38th place)," Green writes in his analysis.

The exception was the Far Southwest Side 19th Ward, which includes Beverly and is heavily Irish. It was city's top ward in turnout with 29,416 voters.

Is it time for Congress to clip drones' wings?

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Philippines US Drone.jpg If you looked closely Monday at the Inauguration events, you might have seen a sign saying "Drone Strikes = War Crimes."

But other than that, drone warfare wasn't getting much attention, unless you happened to be in Yemen, where a drone airstrike killed three suspected al-Qaida militants and wounded two others, according to security officials.

Robert Naiman, policy director of Just Foreign Policy, was at DePaul University last week to talk about U.S. policy on drones.

Plastic bag recycling efforts need a push

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Last August, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed an industry-backed bill that would have required plastic bag manufacturers to set up recycling programs in the suburbs and Downstate. An override effort in the Senate failed in November by a 24-23 vote. (Thirty-six votes were needed to override.)

Quinn said the bill didn't go far enough. But here's the problem: In the five months since then, plastic bag recycling has gone nowhere.

Some environmentalists think the answer to all those plastic bags blowing around state and filling up landfills is a per-bag fee or an outright ban. But outside of Highland Park, which already had a law, nothing has actually gone on the books. (Chicago also had a recycling program in place.)

Chicago River's 'open sewer' image going down the drain

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Sewers from the Union Stockyards flow directly into the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River in 1924. (Photo from "The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed Its River and the Land Beyond" by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams)


No one likes to let go of a good image, which explains why you may have seen references lately to the Chicago River as "an open sewer."

Roy Deda of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told ABC7 News on Jan 9, "This is an open sewer. " Smithsonian.com picked that up the next day.

But the real open sewer has been gone for years.

Employees don't "control" 401Ks

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The battle over state pension programs has quieted down for the moment in Illinois, but when it starts up again - or in other retirement policy discussions - advocates of 401(k)s should stop saying the plans let workers "control" their retirement funds.

According to the Jan. 8 Belleville News-Democrat, John Tillman, CEO of the business-backed Illinois Policy Institute, says government workers should be offered 401(k)s.

"Government workers deserve to control their own retirement savings in ways that meet their own needs, not the needs of the political leaders in Springfield," he said. "A 401(k)-style plan is the only moral solution that delivers a reliable retirement for government employees and liberates taxpayers from funding a failed system."

Did Tillman not see what happened to workers' 401(k)s in 2008 or in other bad years? How many of those workers watching their retirement nest eggs crash and burn felt they were in "control"? Or that their retirement plan was "reliable"?


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Number of illegal immigrants driving in Illinois isn't certain

Jesse White.JPGEveryone seems to agree 250,000 undocumented immigrants are driving on Illinois roads.

That number has been included in various news stories and news broadcasts, and it is the number used by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which has pushed a measure in Springfield to grant those drivers Temporary Visitor Driver's Licenses.
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Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau used that number in a Letter to the Editor in the Sun-Times today. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart used it in a similar letter that appeared Monday.

As the Illinois Legislature today debates whether to make Temporary Visitor Driver's Licenses available to those motorists, it raises the question: Where does that number come from?

Lower Great Lakes levels have economic cost

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A tugboat guides a ship as it approaches the locks on the St. Mary's River at Sault Ste. Marie in July 1999 (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

For every inch that Lake Michigan water levels go down, a commercial freighter has to leave 270 tons of cargo on the dock.

With lake levels hovering around record lows, that's a lot of cargo that isn't moving.

Why top Rahm Emanuel aide is going to PR firm

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Here's one thing you can be sure about amid all the uncertainty in state and federal government: The market is growing for public-policy public relations firms.

Both the state and federal governments are looking for more money, and no one is sure where it will come from. So business groups are doing more to ensure they have the ear of lawmakers when new taxes or fees are debated.

Most recently, Chicago's Mac Strategies Group hired top Rahm Emanuel political aide Tom Bowen to expand its footprint in this area. Other public policy public relations firms are growing as well.

When government at various levels is trying to raise more revenue, it gets the attention of groups representing the businesses that might have to fork over those revenues. Paying just a few lobbyists to keeps tabs on things in Springfield and Washington isn't seen as enough anymore.

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Receipt confirmed: Cook County sales tax rolls back

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Toni Preckwinkle.JPG Chicago area motorists still are waiting for toll booths on the Tri-State to be pulled out, as authorities said would happen long ago.

State taxpayers still are waiting for the "temporary" income tax surcharge - enacted in 1989 - to end. (It was made permanent in 1993, and a new surcharge has been added on top of it.)

As for the money from the state lottery going strictly to schools, taxpayers aren't exactly waiting for that to end. They're waiting for it to start.

So it's not that surprising that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle felt she deserved to take a bow today for finally eliminating Todd Stroger's sales-tax grab. As of Tuesday, the county sales tax dropped to 0.75%, where it had been before the County Board under Stroger increased it.

At an event to mark the tax rollback, Preckwinkle was joined today by representatives of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce at Abt Electronics in Glenview. Abt says it is one of the largest independent electronic retailers in the country and so presumably it took a hit from the Stroger increase.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2012 is the previous archive.

February 2013 is the next archive.

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