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September open thread

3 September 2014 Elgin Illinois 84 Comments

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84 Responses to “September open thread”

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  1. Margaret Miller says:

    REMEMBERING….ITS FOR THE CHILDREN!

    Generous teacher pensions continue as Illinois’ financial crisis worsens
    State has worst U.S. credit rating; Chicago on same path as bankrupt Detroit

    If the Illinois Teachers Retirement Service (TRS) had to pay out all of its pensions today, it could only afford to give its members 40 cents on the dollar.

    Yet the number of six-figure pensions TRS has been doling out has increased 24 percent this year compared to last, with about 6,000 retired educators collecting more than $100,000 annually, according to records obtained by Open the Books, an online aggregator of local spending that tracks educator salaries, pensions and vendor spending.

    The group’s Labor Day report found more than 100,000 retired Illinois educators had been paid back what they invested into the system just 20 months after leaving work, a financial burden linked to union collective bargaining, which can cost taxpayers $2 million or more per teacher over the course of retirement.

    “For most school districts pension payments are one of the top five annual expenses,” said Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Open the Books. “Are we going to educate children or provide lavish lifetime benefits for administrators and teachers? There’s not enough taxpayer money to do both.

    Without reform, TRS’s pension plan could go bust by 2029, the fund’s executive director Dick Ingram told The State Journal-Register back in 2012.

    Even though Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and the state legislature pushed through legislation aimed at overhauling the pension fund last year, a court challenge brought by organized labor threatens to stymie that progress. In May the court decided to issue a temporary injunction against the new law — leaving the fund’s solvency in limbo.

    Meanwhile, the Illinois financial situation is only worsening. Creditors have found the state and its largest city, Chicago, to be on the same path as Detroit. In March Moody’s cut Chicago’s credit rating to Baa1 from A3, giving it the lowest credit rating of any major U.S. city other than Detroit. Illinois has the worst credit rating of any state in the nation.

    TRS is Illinois’s biggest retirement reserve, making up half the state’s pension funds. For years the state legislature allowed the pension to go underfunded so it could spend money on other things. State educators and union executives used the borrowed cash to hire more teachers, boost salaries and improve local facilities.

    As a result, the pension is about $54 billion underfunded, according to Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank. Compare that number to the state’s annual budget of $35 billion and the situation looks even more desperate.

    “You’d have to close down the entire state government for more than a year to just pay TRS out,” Mr. Dabrowski said. “This situation is obviously extremely unhealthy.”

    More than half of Illinois state educators retire at age 59 or younger and receive $2 million in benefits after their career ends, the institute estimates. Because of a guaranteed cost of living adjustment of 3 percent annually after 25 years in retirement, many of these individuals are earning more than double what they were making at the height of their career, the institute found.

    Unions unapologetically defend the system and its pay increases.

    “It should be remembered that Illinois TRS members are not in Social Security,” said Charlie McBarron, a spokesman for the Illinois Education Association, a union representing more than 130,000 Illinois education professionals. “Their pensions are, for most, their life savings.”

    After the court issued its injunction on pension reform — which was led by the unions because it included modifying benefits for current retirees — the Chicago Teachers Union exclaimed, “The law in Illinois is now crystal clear: Politicians cannot break the promises made to Chicagoteachers and other city employees. Recently passed laws to cut promised retirement benefits are clearly unconstitutional.”

    Whatever the outcome of the case, pension benefits for Illinois teachers trump what they would receive in the private sector, experts say.

    The teacher pension’s 3 percent annual increases aren’t tied to inflation — meaning they cannot fluctuate up or down depending on the economy or budget pressures. Also, while Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) are capped at $456 annually, there’s no such limit onTRS’s plan.

    Illinois public sector workers will receive, on average, a $1,906 annual cost of living adjustment this year — nine times more than the average Social Security beneficiary, according to calculations done by the Illinois Policy Institute.

    “The 3 percent compounded increase is far more generous than any Social Security benefit would provide. It’s very expensive and needs to be paid out regardless of inflation and regardless of the state’s ability to pay,” said Laurence Msall, president of The Civic Federation, a nonpartisan research organization. “It’s one of the biggest drivers of the pension cost.”

    Illinois union officials deferred all questions on the pension’s solvency and potential reforms to TRS.

    If the state continues to make its legal contribution to the fund on time, it will never go broke, said David Urbanek, a spokesman for TRS. Part of the reform passed last December included a strict payment plan.

    “If the state cannot sustain the legally required payments, then an estimate can be made for insolvency,” wrote Mr. Urbanek in an email to The Washington Times. He declined to speculate when that would be and deferred all calls for pension reform to the Illinois General Assembly.

    “Reforms are the responsibility of the General Assembly, not TRS,” Mr. Urbanek said. “As the fiduciary entity that is legally responsible for administering teacher pensions in Illinois outside of the city of Chicago, TRS cannot propose or enact reforms or solutions to the financialproblems faced by the system.”

    Along with the annual cost-of-living adjustment, teacher salary spikes are also putting pressure on the pension system, watchdog groups warn.

    In the final four years of her career as Butler School District Superintendent, Sandra Renner saw her salary spike 31 percent to $288,240 — giving her a starting pension of $210,480, upon retirement, according to Open the Books data.

    Because of that spike, Ms. Renner’s pension is higher than her salary for all but five of the years she spent working as a professional, the group reported.

    Ms. Renner didn’t respond to calls for comment.

    Two years ago school administrator Mohsin Dada also received a nice pay boost. His income jumped 137 percent from $156,160 to $358,750 in his final year before retirement — giving him a pension of $254,700.

    However, Mr. Dada decided retirement wasn’t for him, because that same year he was appointed as chief financial officer of the North Shore School System — collecting a $239,895.95 salary, according to Open the Books. Between his pension and salary, Mr. Dada is clearing near a half-million dollars annually.

    North Shore Superintendent Michael Bregy didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    “Under state law, it is legal for Mr. Dada to collect his TRS pension and be employed in a school district in a position that is not covered by TRS,” said Mr. Urbanek. “Since this situation is legal, TRS has no authority to investigate Mr. Dada’s situation or to seek changes in his pension.”

    Salary increases haven’t gone unnoticed in the Hinsdale school district. The school board put a “stop pension spiking” referendum on this year’s November ballot. On average, its teachers were receiving a 24 percent salary lift in the final four years of their careers, according to Open the Books data.

    In addition to salary spiking, Hinsdale teachers are also nicely paid. Although their union has been threatening a strike if they don’t get a salary boost, the teacher income in that district has outpaced inflation by 76 percent since 2001, according to Open the Books.

    With an average salary of $111,000, the teachers at Hinsdale out-earn the average professor at the University of Illinois by more than $10,000, according to Open the Books.

    Because local school systems are only on the hook to pay an increased salary for a few years, there’s a big disconnect when it comes to who really is footing the bill and the impact it is having on the pension system, Mr. Dabrowski said.

    Many unions try to make these spikes part of the teachers’ salary negotiations, and the school systems oblige, knowing they will only be responsible for four years of higher salary. Then the burden shifts to the state pension system, where it will be responsible for footing the higher salary for the entirety of the retirees’ lifetime — plus the 3 percent annual increase.

    Many times, school districts agree to pay these higher wages because it actually costs local taxpayers less than what it would if the teacher opted to take an early retirement, said Ben Schwarm, deputy executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

    When the Illinois General Assembly allowed teachers the option of an early retirement, it required local school districts to put 20 percent of the teacher’s salary into the retirement fund for each of the next five years if the teacher took that option.

    Often, the board found it cheaper to get the teachers to stay longer and then give them 20 percent raises in the final two years of their term, Mr. Schwarm explained.

    All pension reforms, enhancements and modifications need to go through the state legislature. Local schools and districts need to deal with the hand they’re dealt and haven’t been able to exert much influence over the process, he said.

    “Local school boards didn’t create this — in most part we’ve opposed all pension enhancements. But we get rolled over in the general assembly because they’re trying to make the teachers and the unions happy,” Mr. Schwarm said.

    As a way to solve the pension crisis, the Illinois Association of School Boards’ main concern is that the state legislature will try to shift the pension costs from the state to the local level, which “would be devastating to the local school districts,” because the districts have no revenue streams to pay for the additional costs, Mr. Schwarm said.

    Two-thirds of local school funding is being paid through property taxes, and those rates have been consistently climbing in recent years. Right now everyone is crossing their fingers that pension reform will be declared constitutional by the courts, Mr. Schwarm said. The reforms include salary capping, an increased retirement age and a COLA tied to inflation.

    Yet higher taxes will be the answer if the court rules against the bill and compromises can’t be made politically, Mr. Dabrowski said.

    “The stage has been set for a big political battle between the unions, government workers, taxpayers and the poor and disadvantaged, who will see some of their benefits cut as pension costs climb,” he said.

    “The state is on the verge of economic collapse, and the alternatives are massive tax increases or massive cuts in services that the state can’t support,” Mr. Dabrowski said. “It’s unfair to ask taxpayers to pay more if you still have workers who can retire in their 50s on $2 million pensions without trying to reform those things first.”

    Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/sep/1/generous-teacher-pensions-continue-as-illinois-fin/?page=3#ixzz3CGWEWRh5

  2. Margaret Miller says:

    My letter to the editor is printed in the Herald today!

    Elgin must get serious about 2015 budget

    Again on Aug. 13, the Elgin City Council bent over and folded their cards approving the GVC proposed lease agreement changes.

    This left Elgin with an approximate budget deficit of $300,000 to $400,000 annually. This, on top of the projected revenue shortfall in gaming proceeds of $850,000 as Councilman Gavin pointed out. So now we’re faced with an approximate $1.2 million deficit going forward into the 2015 budget.

    The GVC Marketing Director stated, “Ideas include expanding parking, building a hotel next door, and building a permanent or semi-permanent entertainment venue at Festival Park.”

    Well, Elgin citizens, all that costs money. Why would the GVC cite loss and lower revenue, and request lease renegotiations, all while exploring expensive growth plans? Ask yourselves, if they had plans to build and expand, increasing their own revenue in the process, why didn’t they 10 or 15 years ago when there was more casino revenue and a stronger economy?

    Straight talk and tough decisions need to be made by Elgin Council and its citizens regarding the upcoming 2015 budget talks. How is Elgin going to make up for this loss? Is this council prepared to raise taxes on an already economically strapped citizenry in an election cycle?

    What will they cut back on or cut out altogether? Will we start to track down the nickel and dime debtors to the city? Will the current pass through city tax on our electric bill increase from 5 percent to 10 percent or will they just approve the raiding of the $12 million surplus to cover these losses year after year without addressing the deficit/spending problem?

    Citizens, what are you willing to cut back on or cut out altogether? Raising taxes is not an option for me.

    Call your council member and voice your opinion.

    http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140903/discuss/140909738/

    • Anonymous says:

      Call your council member? They don’t respond to emails let alone calls.

      You and a few others told me to leave Elgin when I didn’t like the leaf program changes and a few other things. I think you need to do the same.

      There are plenty of places to live that don’t have a casino, or bike paths or whatever. Like a few others have pointed out you don’t want to pay for anything where you live. Needed services or quality of life. Obvioulsy Elgin is not the place for you.

      • Margaret Miller says:

        SIE,
        Leaf bags are not considered quality of life issue in my book.

        • SIE says:

          Yes that was me, not sure why my name didn’t show up.

          Reread my post. Where did I say the leaf program was a quality of life issue?

          You just don’t get what living in a city is and never will. You constantly complain about this city spending money on things YOU don’t think are worthwhile. Problem is plenty of people do feel they are worthwhile. And not surprisingly plenty of people want MORE than this city gives us. People want things where they live. They don’t just want basic services. And since you mentioned it leaf collection is a basic service. That this city DOESN’T give its residents despite the taxes we pay.

          I suggested to you that there are plenty of cities that don’t spend on the amenities you deem frivolous. You need to move to one of those places. Or stop complaining constantly because you want to live in a place with nothing provided to you other than, what? I still don’t even know what you are willing to pay for. All you do is complain about what you won’t.

  3. bw says:

    MM;

    Stop the nonsense. Taxes have not been raised. The has a big surplus to tap if needed. Other options are available. Let the council do what is needed by a calm unit of government. It will all come out in due time.

    • Margaret Miller says:

      bw,

      You are kidding me!

      Wasn’t it you last month that said…”?Maybe the GVC should move leaving Elgin with no revenue at all? That would please MM and her supporters including Gavin and Shaw. Every city in Illinois would like to have a slice of that pie.”

      Well, they are not moving, Elgin’s slice of the pie just got a whole lot smaller.

      And wasn’t it you, again last month that said…”?The agenda of this Council is outrageous, a list of suggestions by me would be a wasted issue. Project after project need attention. Just take a tour of the whole city. The city lacks progress according to this taxpayer. Elgin lacks leadership in every area of government.”

      Well, now we have less to do any of those things you feel need attention.

      Get serious, it’s a deficit to the city and we received absolutely nothing.

      Some negotiators we have representing us. I love to do business with this city. They give all in return for nothing because that’s what just happened.
      ?

    • Margaret Miller says:

      bw,
      ?
      Regarding any surplus, according several members, including the former Councilwoman Moeller, there is not a $12M surplus.

      Those were her exact words to me? at her and Steffen’s fake Small Business meeting in February.

      So if there is no surplus, dipping into an empty pool for relief isn’t an option.

  4. bw says:

    MM

    ”?The agenda of this Council is outrageous, a list of suggestions by me would be a wasted issue. Project after project need attention. Just take a tour of the whole city. The city lacks progress according to this taxpayer. Elgin lacks leadership in every area of government.”
    I’m mean the uneducated council members you support, Gavin and Priggi. We have these two guys who care less about Elgin set the tone for the lack of leadership. Two rotten individuals who represent their own self interest. Meeting after meeting they vote no on progress for the city. I hate it to see adult men make outrageous comments that even the rest of the council find beyond belief and just shake their heads in disgrace. Even the manager, who lacks creditability much of the time, can’t stomach their nonsense. Watch the manager’s body language. You know he is upset with their non professional conduct. Just like the rest of us.

    • Margaret Miller says:

      bw,

      This again! I truly think you have things backwards.

      The members you support are the tax and spenders and as I mentioned they don’t even acknowledge a $12 million surplus. Beside the surplus, what other options are you referring too to close the $1.2 million gap going into the 2015 budget? Could it be to raise taxes so they can continue spending? If not, educate me on your ideas of other options.

      What happens when they don’t address spending, year after year, and blow through the non existent surplus? Could it be that they would raise taxes instead of cutting spending and expenses.

      How did we get such a large surplus? OVER TAXATION.

      The 2013 Budget that passed at $203,241,810.00 was a two year INCREASE of 36.7 percent in spending/taxes.

      How can you say your taxes didn’t go up is nothing but amazing to me.

      If you feel the city lacks progress, speak with the Chamber and DNA. Its their job to assist in the progress of the city. They do very little for a whole lot of money, in my opinion.

      Regarding Councilmen Gavin and PriggE, they are the strongest on the Council followed up by Shaw. As this is my opinion, I already know your thought. These are the MEN who say “NO” to the frivolous tax and spend others. They are doing their best, as the current minority, to get a lasso around this free for all of a spending mess. I will also add that “these two guys” care a great deal about the city and its citizens. Unlike the others, who seem to be ramming their spending dreams on to the taxpayer.

      Now, with all that said, how does this address what I wrote regarding the GVC and the $1.2 million deficit going into the 2015 budget? It doesn’t as far as I can see.

      I already addressed your comment about this Council’s agenda being outrageous, reminding you that it’s your pals who have the majority.

      If you have grievances, bring it to them. They’re your favorites and obviously the ones who are not addressing what you feel are the problems and lack of progress.

      My only fear is that your ideas will cost me more money.

      As for the city manager, not sure how that pertinent but I wonder if it anything like Dave Kaptain turning so red faced it looks like he will pop a vein when things don’t go his way. Talk about unprofessional.

  5. bw says:

    MM

    You have a one issue brain that is not working most of the time. Get a life!

  6. Margaret Miller says:

    bw,

    Just as I expected, name calling and avoidance of the issue and question/s at hand. Typical of a liberal who is faced with the facts inmy opinion.

  7. bw says:

    The only issue hand is your pocketbook. Concern that you might have to pay for needed services.

  8. Margaret Miller says:

    bw,

    You bet I am! Along with many people.

    HOW ARE THE FOLLOWING CONSIDERED SERVICES?
    ESO, Bike Lanes, repairs on FVCDS property, TLC law suites, electric car charging stations, Chilean visitors, 120 State Street expansion, green study groups, duplication of memberships like Metro West and citizen opinion surveys, grants for cultural arts and subsidies such as leaf bags, diversity training and most recently the fireworks when it wasn’t budgeted for, and the loss of $300,000-$400,000 from the GVC revised lease agreement and a loss of approximately $850,000 in gaming revenue.

    Why aren’t you concerned?

    • CR says:

      Let’s restrain from party-line name calling. Regardless of which side of it you’re on, it gets in the way of discussing the issues at hand.

      Now.

      MM raises some good candidates for budget cuts. Running budget deficits is no way to run anything, except where there are provable, reliable reserves to draw on. This point seems unclear.

      MM: Can you direct me to where I can inspect the budget?

      Having been a resident since 2007, I can see the direction downtown is trying to take–trying to build a place for middle class suburbanites to make a home. I am all for this.

      I have also seen efforts to push out less-than-middle-class-suburbanites in the form of the convoluted parking ordinances enacted, which I generally don’t agree with. It is difficult to view this as something other than a “poor tax”.

    • bw says:

      I guess that would depend how you define the role of government. All those are responsible activities where government needs to be involved and provide financial support in my opinion. I think most people would agree that local government needs to be concern with all the items you listed.

      • Margaret Miller says:

        bw,

        That’s nonsense! You’re starting to sound like Tish Powell.

        The role of government is not to bail out a mismanaged orchestra, nor to build bike paths/lanes, etc.

        If you think so, please don’t run for office. If you are an elected official under and assumed name on this blog, I hope you get replaced in the next election.

        • bw says:

          If you think so, please don’t run for office. If you are an elected official under and assumed name on this blog, I hope you get replaced in the next election. I remember telling more then once that I’m retired since 2001 at 78 now. As we age I guess we all get forgetful. The job of government is taking care of needs of all citizens including the list in your post. It is not necessary for you to agree but it is necessary for you to pay your fair share. Now, shut-up and get on board. Show some unconditional love towards your neighbor.

  9. SIE says:

    He got a bit angry but his point is valid. Government is meant for all the people, not just one. MM complains about everything the city spends money on that she doesn’t seem worthwhile. If he was the only resident that would be great but she isn’t.

    Cities provide services and amenities to their residents. The things that happen here aren’t unique to Elgin. Naperville is building a new rec facility and while some oppose it, it will be built. Bigger than originally planned too. Sound familiar?

    • Margaret Miller says:

      RS, Forgive me on this one, please.

      bw:

      No, I didn’t forget your claim of being 78 years old and I don’t appreciate your flippant regard as to what you think I should be doing with my earned money. Please remember many months back that I told you if you didn’t want to read my lengthy posts that no one was twisting your arm to do so.

      Some people just don’t seem to get it. I don’t have a government printing press in my living room to support the social “but mommy I want it!” spending pipeline.

      I will remind you, or anyone else, that there are 47 million people on food stamps, and the real unemployment teeters closer to 23%. Unemployment claims are down slightly because a persons time has run out however, disability claims have risen. Why, because the Feds pay disability and not the State and the person has given up looking for a job or creating one for themselves and others. My friends father use to say, “If you have two broken legs you can still stuff envelopes.”

      I support myself, my private charities and am doing my best to stay off the teat of the government. I make decent financial decisions, live within my means and know the difference between needs and wants along with having a crystal clear understanding when I’m being taken to the cleaners by every level of government. I don’t whine when something is taken away because I depend on myself for what I need to do or get accomplished.

      So with all the information I will provide you below, forgive if I feel passionate about supporting any elected official who will fight to save me money and insulted that you somehow feel I don’t pay my fair share by not wanting to pay for mismanaged orchestras, bike paths, duplicate government programs/memberships and yes, subsidizing your leaf bags. (I remember you too were unhappy about that but never fear, Tish Powell to the rescue, she took that savings and spent it on 2014 fireworks.) and any other programs/perks some citizen wants or gets use to.

      If you got it, spend it, if someone wants it, raise taxes seems to be the mantra of the majority in Elgin.

      What I don’t get is why you are not as outraged over wasteful “free for all” spending as I am? Perhaps you’re not worried about living within a budget, good for you if that’s the case, and then I would wonder if you pay your fair share! I do remember you telling me that you taxes didn’t go up..

      Just think, if the Feds, State and local governments didn’t waste so much money and support every special interest group, allowing the free market to work and letting the supposed “too big to fail” actual fail, perhaps you would all have more money in our pocket. How about making rational, rather than emotions decisions for a change?

      There are givers, takers, supporters and dependants in this world, which one are you?

      Remember Margaret Thatcher’s quote…
      “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

      Excerpt: 61% are working people who pay payroll taxes but are not paying income taxes.
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/09/19/the-real-truth-behind-the-47-percent-why-arent-these-people-paying-federal-income-taxes/

      EXCERPT: We need to take that last point seriously given both the lengthy extension of unemployment insurance and probable shift of the unemployed into Social Security Disability Insurance. As Michael Barone writes in National Review, using the research of AEI’s Nick Eberstadt:

      Disability insurance is no longer a small program. The government transfers some $130 billion obtained from taxpayers or borrowed from purchasers of Treasury bonds to disability beneficiaries every year.

      Not only are we hiding the true level of U.S. unemployment, but we also creating a class of revenue receivers rather than revenue generators — and an expanded dependency culture in America.
      http://www.aei-ideas.org/2012/12/turning-the-temporarily-unemployed-into-the-permanently-disabled/

      July “In 2011, 23.1% of the total population received or lived with a family member who received a benefit of any amount from TANF, SNAP, or SSI at some point during the year,” said the HHS report.

      Excerpt: United States Government Waste Examples

      Commerce and Housing:
      In 2012, the Federal Communications Commission’s $10 million computer network security upgrade was run inefficiently and was largely ineffective, according to the Government

      Accountability Office.
      The Federal Communications Commission spent $2.2 billion in 2012 providing phones to low-income Americans—up from $819 million in 2008. An FCC review found that 41 percent of over six million recipients were either ineligible or had not proved their eligibility for the program.

      Community and Regional Development
      The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awards between $1 billion and $2 billionin grants annually for states to build or buy affordable housing. An Inspector General audit revealed poor oversight of such grants at HUD’s 42 field offices.

      Education, Training, Employment, and Social:
      A $100,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts funded a video game that depicts a female superhero sent to save planet Earth from climate changes allegedly caused by social issues that affect women.

      Energy
      Since 1998, nuclear power companies have paid a nuclear waste disposal fee to the Department of Energy (DOE), which has not put one bit of waste into long-term storage. After 14 years of lawsuits, fees paid for services not performed, and legal fees, in 2013 the DOE reimbursed several companies$160 million from the Treasury’s judgment fund.

      The Department of Energy’s Savannah River facility spent $7.7 million on severance packages for 526 temporarily hired contract workers instead of issuing layoff notices.

      After receiving $150 million in taxpayer funds, a Michigan hybrid battery plant is putting workers on furlough. Not a single battery has been produced.

      A Colorado state audit report found that the CEO of the Colorado Energy Office “was unable to demonstrate that $252 million spent over the past six years was spent cost-effectively.” Stimulus funds made up almost half of that amount.

      Taxpayers spent $700 million in stimulus funds on the Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Demonstration Program. An audit found that DOE is not effectively managing the program’s finances. Specifically, it found: $12.3 million in reimbursements lacked required supporting documentation, and Overlapping awards of $2 million and $14 million were given to the same recipient.

      The Environmental Protection Agency failed to notice that eleven federal contractors it hired to manage unused equipment and sensitive documents in a large warehouse converted part of the space into a personal gym and let the building fall into disrepair.

      General Government:
      The U.S. Secret Service spent $23 million to purchase a new fleet of luxury parade limousines—without competitive bidding.

      The White House is preparing for a $376 million renovation and plans to construct a second Oval Office for the President to use during the renovation.

      The General Services Administration’s poor oversight of 33 courthouse construction projects during the 2000 to 2010 time period cost taxpayers $835 million in extra construction costs. Taxpayers pay $51 million a year to maintain and operate an extra 3.5 million square feet of space that was built and remains unused today.

      The Internal Revenue Service spent $4.1 million on a lavish conference in 2010 for 2,609 of its employees in Anaheim, California. Expenses included $50,000 for line-dancing and “Star Trek” parody videos, $135,350 for outside speakers, $64,000 in conference “swag” for the employees, plus free meals, cocktails, and hotel suite upgrades.

      In 2012, the Transportation Security Administration reportedly was not using 72,074 square feet—more square footage than in the White House or a football field—of its over 440,000 square feet of floor storage space in three Texas warehouses, but still leased the entire space for $1.8 million a year in taxpayer dollars.

      The Transportation Security Administration let 5,700 pieces of unused security equipment worth $184 million sit in storage in a Dallas, Texas, warehouse, which costs $3.5 million annually to lease and manage. Taxpayers lost another $23 million in depreciation costs, because most of the 472 carry-on baggage screening machines had been housed there for nine months or more.

      In 2013, the U.S. government will pay $65 per year, per account, in service fees to keep 13,712 bank accounts with no money in them on the books, getting nothing in return for that $890,000 in taxpayer money.

      General Science, Space, and Technology:
      The National Science Foundation awarded $350,000 to Purdue University researchers, who found golfers should imagine the hole is bigger to boost confidence and accuracy.

      The National Science Foundation used part of a half million dollar grant to develop a video game that simulates a high school prom.

      The National Science Foundation approved a $227,000 grant to a Michigan State University professor in the school’s Department of Animal Studies. The grant will fund a two-year study of the evolution of National Geographic’s depiction of animals from 1888–2008.

      Health:
      Under an Obamacare provision, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded New York-based Freelancers Insurance Company a $340 million loan to establish healthcare co-ops, even though regulators have ranked the business dead last among the state’s insurance companies.

      The National Institutes of Health awarded researchers $402,721 to develop a noninvasive way to monitor smoking habits, including the creation of a bracelet and a vest-like sensor that can track a person’s breathing and how much the person smokes.

      Though the “Freshman 15” is a familiar weight gain phenomenon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $149,992 grant to researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey to study college students’ on-campus dining selections.

      The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report $800 billion in spending on time to USASpending.gov, which is the government website dedicated to government spending transparency.

      Medicare:
      Medicare has been overpaying hospitals and clinics for a kidney dialysis drug to the tune of $800 million per year, an error that will not be corrected until the new rates are established in 2014.
      In 2012, the Department of Justice charged 91 medical professionals with Medicare billing fraud that totaled $429.2 million.

      National Defense:
      In a study costing $681,387, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research confirmed that men bearing firearms appear taller, stronger, and manlier.

      The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research conducted a $300,000 study that concluded that the first bird on earth probably had black feathers.

      “Once upon a time” DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) held a $6 million convention on the science of storytelling.

      The Department of Defense sponsored the creation of an iPhone “app” that would help people optimize their caffeine level, even though at least two similar apps existed already.

      A poorly planned geothermal project at the Naval Air Station in Fallon, Nevada, cost the Department of Defense $9.12 million, according to a 2011 Inspector General report.

      The Office of Naval Research conducted a $450,000 study which determined that unintelligent robots are unable to maintain a baby’s attention.

      Social Security:
      The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) fiscal year 2011 Performance and Accountability Report found $2.11 billion in overpaid Social Security benefits.

      The same report found that the SSA overpaid old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits by$934 million in FY 2010 alone.

      In 2010, 117,000 individuals received $850 million in cash benefits by double-dipping into Social Security’s disability insurance program and the federal unemployment insurance program.

      Transportation:
      Amtrak, the federally subsidized passenger rail system, recovered only 44 cents of every dollar of its food and beverage costs on its long-distance routes, which annually lose money.

      Employees of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority inappropriately accepted $5,000 in gifts, including Super Bowl tickets, from one contractor. The MWAA is responsible for operating the Dulles Toll Road and constructing and funding the $5.25 billion Metrorail extension to Dulles Airport.

      The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority gave an employee with only seven months’ experience$20,000 in hiring bonuses and pay increases, according to an Inspector General report.
      Mississippi improperly spent approximately $7.1 million in federal highway safety grant funds during fiscal years 2007–2010, according to a 2013 Inspector General report.

      In 2010 alone, $6 billion or 17 percent of federal user fees were diverted from highway and road projects to pay for mass transit, even though transit accounted for only about one percent of the nation’s surface travel.

      Poor oversight at the Federal Highway Administration allowed state officials in Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to pay $125.6 million in highway repair stimulus money to contractors without proof that the work was done correctly—or completed at all.

      An Amtrak employee used a federal fuel credit card to buy $4,086 worth of gas for his personal vehicles. The average American household paid $2,912 for gas in 2012.

      Other:
      A 2012 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration identified $757 million in fraudulent tax refunds to prisoners in 2010.

      Poor oversight allowed over one thousand Pennsylvania prisoners to collect weekly unemployment benefits over a four-month period, costing taxpayers $7 million.
      According to 2012 Congressional Research Service reports, federal government agencies spent more than $900 million on advertising in fiscal year 2010 and spent an additional $750.4 million on advertising in fiscal year 2011.

      The United States Postal Service (USPS) reported a $15.9 billion loss in 2012, yet career employees and postal support employees all received a raise late that year.

      The Office of Personnel Management reported the federal government paid more than $156 million in 2011 to employees working as representatives for government unions.

      A 2013 staff report for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform identified $67 billion in open or unimplemented recommendations, up from the $29 billion found in 2009.
      http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/08/federal-spending-by-the-numbers-2013

      Are you getting the point? Unaccountable, frivolous spending has its greedy fists in all aspects of government. As citizens, its our job to do our best to restrain it. That’s all I’m trying to do. What a shame you’re not.

      • GB says:

        Some good points, and some nutter points.

        We need people like you to call out waste when it happens. However, we need people to balance you as well.

        I always see criticism on scientific studies, as though the commenters were qualified to pass judgement on the applications. (by the way, the potential applications are never mentioned)

        What also is rarely mentioned is that a huge part of the issue is not lazy folks sucking the government dry, but THE ELDERLY NOT DYING SOON ENOUGH.

        Seriously. It is bad to the point where some elderly, even ones on government assistance, are living off dog food.

  10. bw says:

    MM:

    SIE made an excellent post. SIE hit the nail on the head. We all know where you’re coming from. I’m glad you found the time too vent. Maybe someone took the time to read it.

    • Margaret Miller says:

      bw,

      What a shame you didn’t take the time out from your daily activities to read the response from your own post/s directed to me. Kind of like playing “tag, you’re it” and running away.

      Perhaps my post was hitting a bit too close to home for your liking or comfort level.

      I sure asked a lot of good questions and offered many factual points throughout this conversation, none of which will be challenged, commented on or questioned by you. Maybe it’s because I sourced the material. Its difficult to question facts.

      But, never fear, in predictable bw fashion you once again attacked the messenger and the people I support.

      There sure was a long but not complete list of governmental wasteful spending, wasn’t there?

      Maybe some other voters in Elgin will read it and decide to get off the couch and vote in the next election for a different kind of representation in this city.

      Maybe SIE took the time to read it but the leaves are starting to fall and he maybe looking for some leaf bags.

      • bw says:

        MM:

        Your response was way more then the average person will read. Answer in a single paragraph if you know how. No one that I know will read it. This board is for meaningful issues that deal with our community. Not for people who want to vent.

        • bw says:

          MM:

          When I see a post from you I have a good idea what it will contain.SIE told you what your agenda is all about. Maybe you need to read that post once more.

      • SIE says:

        Because you live in a townhouse and aren’t responsible for leaf collection (paying a fee to your association doesn’t count) you have no horse in the race and need to stop bringing up this issue. And besides you are completely wrong about it.

        Ask anyone in any city what services they want. Police, fire, snow removal, clean water and garbage collection are sure to come up. And you know what else? Leaf collection.

        People want their leaves removed from their property. The cities want the leaves removed so they don’t clog sewers and cause slick streets among other reasons. My city now makes me collect my leaves and dispose of them while other residents get to pay a paltry $24/year to sweep them to the curb (or the middle of the street it seems) and have trucks and a crew of workers that MY taxes pay for come and pick them up. It is inequitable. It is unfair. It is discrimination.

        The city used to give leaf bags as a way of equalizing the NECESSARY task of collecting leaves. They stopped doing that to save a few dollars. At the same time they should have also stopped the leaf collection program. They did not. I’m repeating but there is no one in their right mind who would think that is fair.

        Stop making comments about me and my leaf bags. Your posts are disgustingly long winded and often off topic (this is the City of Elgin stop bringing up so many federal issues) yet no one dare call you out lest you go on the attack. I am sick of it. You have destroyed this forum.

        • RS says:

          SIE is right that we need to avoid bringing in federal matters here. And we have to respect the fact that different local issues are important to different people. It’s fine to disagree but gratuitous remarks or badgering people for their beliefs is not the most civil way to conduct a discussion. We all want to have a civil forum here so this is a reminder for everybody to try to talk a little nicer and be more respectful.

          On another note, this looks like a great event coming up right away:

          Via the DNA newsletter:

          Elgin Fringe Festival, 9/11-14

          This is a BIG event in downtown Elgin and it is full of arts and entertainment -
          All in one extended weekend: 9/11 - 9/14!

          On Sept. 11th-14th, EFF will feature four days of performance and visual arts throughout downtown Elgin. You will need an EFF Button - all the cool people have one. And you will need tickets. They both can be purchased at Side Street Studio Arts, as well, during open hours.

          There will be a variety of visual and performing arts taking place with something for everyone, and will include ~ Dave Newton Music, Standup of Tiffany Streng, Janus Theatre Company performances, Core Project’s “Anecdotal”, and - really - so much more!

          Fringe Festivals take place in major cities across the country,
          and now downtown Elgin will be the place to be to Fringe…

          Visual Art Gallery Opening Reception
          Wed Sept.10th 5-7pm at
          13 Douglas Ave. (Formerly Villa Verona) and
          Kick-off Party at Martini Room 161 E. Chicago St.
          7:30pm!

          • paul says:

            How much? I read somewhere that $50 will get you into the whole event. The comedian might be good but how much is that? Who knows! In this age of art being defined by the lowest common denominator…

            Artist F. Scott Hess writing at HuffingtonPost.com, Aug. 31:

            “The decadence of today’s art world makes the excesses of the 19th century seem quaint by comparison…
            ” Museums, galleries and art critics have all been complicit in creating a contemporary art scene that expects minimal creative effort from its artists and delivers little of value to society at large. With none of the rigor of 19th century training, university art departments and art schools roll out thousands of wannabe artists annually in what must be one of the greatest educational scams ever perpetrated. At least the 19th century Beaux Arts painters were trained to make a living of it…
            “academia has removed skill of any kind as a quality necessary in the creation of art…
            “it has shifted from being something that artists did to bring meaning to their communities, into self-reflective gestures…
            “In the process art has lost its relevance to the society from which it springs.”

            Sounds like a festival of fringe. Or ArtSpace.

            P.S., MM. Your city taxes hard at work again. At least at the previous art showings the past few Septembers we got free beer - thank you city of Elgin.

        • paul says:

          “you have no horse in the race”

          Wrong, SEI. She’s paying in city taxes what you are paying in city taxes for leaf pick-up.

          “need to stop bringing up this issue. ”

          Wrong. She brings the issue up because your yearly rants on the subject are wrong and comical. Comedy is good, even if unwitting on your part.

          “Where did I say the leaf program was a quality of life issue?”

          Right here: “what services they want. Police, fire, snow removal, clean water and garbage collection…you know what else? Leaf collection.”

          “My city now makes me collect my leaves”

          No. The city does NOT make you collect your leaves. Mulch them up, leave them lay, do what ever you want with them.

          “other residents get to pay a paltry $24/year to sweep them to the curb”

          Paltry!!! Up until a few years ago it was free! Ask Chuck. He pays $24 and doesn’t have leaves. And that $24 subsidizes the city to clean up the streets which they’d have to clean-up anyway. Because, incredibly, trees lining tree lined streets drop piles of leaves in the street!

          “It is inequitable. It is unfair.”

          No. It is completely fair and completely equitable under our democratic system of government. Your area has been deemed, based on multiple considerations by OUR elected government representatives, to be NOT cost effective to be a rake-out area.

          “Your posts are disgustingly long winded ”

          STOP reading them. Your problem is solved. And STOP disparaging other people because you don’t like their opinion. THAT is what is truly disgusting.

          “often off topic” ‘ALL politic is local’ said Socialist democrat Tip O’Neill. With the city living off the State and federal teat State and Federal issues directly effect EVERY Elginite.

          “You have destroyed this forum.”

          No. More likely the one, year in year out, voraciously complaining about the city leaf program does more to destroy this forum. Your argument is comically absurd. Get over it. OR rally all your fellow citizens who you think are with you on this issue and vote in new government who will do whatever it is you want. WHY is that NOT going to happen? I know why! Do you, SIE?

          • Margaret Miller says:

            Thank you

          • SIE says:

            So why isn’t she railing against the people who pay $24 and get their leaves picked up by city workers who we ALL pay taxes for inclding her?

            How much more wasteful could it be for taxes to be used to benefit only a portion of the cities residents? Someone You are another one who doesn’t understand it is not just about leaf collecting.

            “Wrong. She brings the issue up because your yearly rants on the subject are wrong and comical. Comedy is good, even if unwitting on your part.”

            Don’t call what I do comedy. Because it isn’t an issue to you doesn’t mean it isn’t important to others.

            “Paltry!!! Up until a few years ago it was free! Ask Chuck. He pays $24 and doesn’t have leaves. And that $24 subsidizes the city to clean up the streets which they’d have to clean-up anyway. Because, incredibly, trees lining tree lined streets drop piles of leaves in the street!”

            My street has trees. Big trees. Bigger than many in the rake out area. The city set a boundary years ago and refuses to revisit it. I’d be happy to pay $24. $24 a year to have leaves taken away with barely more effor than raking them to the street is the bargain of the century. But the city won’t let me. They discriminate against a portion of its citizens.

            “No. It is completely fair and completely equitable under our democratic system of government. Your area has been deemed, based on multiple considerations by OUR elected government representatives, to be NOT cost effective to be a rake-out area.”

            Fair? The city itself has said the $24 doesn’t cover the expenses for the program. So I pay for the crews and trucks with my taxes. So do you BTW.

            Fair? How is it fair that one portion of the city gets a benefit while others don’t? Even if it is subsidized 9subsidized not cost covered). Either give everyone the service or take it aaway from everyone.

            Does the city charge residents extra for snow removal on wider streets? There is no precedence for a program like this.

            “STOP reading them. Your problem is solved. And STOP disparaging other people because you don’t like their opinion. THAT is what is truly disgusting.”

            You use some pretty strong words. I’m curious exactly who you think you are to tell me to STOP?

            As for her posts if someone responds to me or another post that I have interest in I want to read the response. When it goes on ad naseum myself and most other people will tune out. Its beenmentioned by many here

            You want to read them fine. But don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. Even the moderator (if that is correct) has said the issues brought up don’t belong here. Others have pointed out how her posts are counter4roductive to the point of this forum. But of course you defend her by attacking me. Pretty classy.

          • SIE says:

            Lots of mistakes on my response post. Responding to name calling and persobal attakcs does that to me.

            Its clear this forum has strayed from its original purpose and has become one persons bully pulpit and if anyone else dare have a different opinion her and her pitbulls make personal attacks.

            I certainly have better things to do than subject myself to that.

            Buena suerte a todos.

  11. James Madison says:

    ELGIN — Plans for Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co. to purchase the Tower Building have fallen through, but city staff has been working on a draft development agreement and is in negotiations with Chicago-based Souyoul Properties, Inc. for the property.

    Tuesday, developer Richard Souyoul said he has a conditional agreement to purchase the Tower with the Stickling Foundation, which has owned the 15-story building since 1999.

    Souyoul said he had been familiar with the Tower Building as a son-in-law is from Elgin and graduated from Elgin Academy.

    “It’s a building your can’t miss,” Souyoul said. “It’s distinct, but it’s needing. Still, it remains a great building.”

    The agreement in the works is contingent upon working with the city on using to-be-determined funding mechanisms that could include TIFF money, state and federal programs for riverfront redevelopment and/or historic building or historic district tax credits. Souyoul said he has accounting firm Baker Tilly working out the details of such a package. That package would need city council approval.

    Souyoul said he would be partnering with Capstone Development Group, of Clayton, Missouri on the Elgin project. Souyoul teamed with Capstone to redevelop the 13-story Plaza Square 50 building in downtown St. Louis as apartments aimed at the senior market.

    According to reports, the St. Louis project had a $20 million price tag, with about $3.4 million in federal historic preservation tax credits along with federal and state low-income housing tax credits helping finance its purchase.

    Souyoul said the Tower Building would be redone to hold 45 units that would be either one- or two-bedroom apartments rented at the market rate, with no rent subsidized.

    There would be no retail or no hybrid spaces where occupants would work and live as had originally been proposed by Gorman.

    In the city’s 2014 financial plan, the Central Area Tax Increment Finance District $11.3 million budget included a loan of $5 million from the general fund which is “necessary for the city to participate in the proposed Tower Building renovation with economic development assistance. The loan will also help fund the final phase of the Central Business District streetscape improvements,” the document states.

    At one time, Gorman was hoping to purchase the Tower Building for about $1.15 million. The agreement was contingent upon 12 points, including an environmental review, inspection, review of existing leases, Gorman being able to get zoning, permits and approvals for its project, and Gorman being able to find grants and investors.

    The contingencies also included Gorman being able to get financing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Gorman intended to develop the Tower as an apartment complex using federal and state tax credits.

    Tuesday, Elgin City Manager Sean Stegall said that while any agreement with Souyoul was not yet a done deal, he was optimistic a draft agreement could be brought to the city council in a month or so.

    The Tower Building, 100 E. Chicago St., was red-tagged in May after an arson fire started by a homeless man in an elevator car and an ensuing inspection. The Art Deco building opened in 1929 and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2002. It also is part of Elgin’s “The City in the Suburbs” logo

    • paul says:

      {city of Elgin is planning to contribute $4.7 million}
      {about $4.6 million in federal and state historic tax credits.}

      St. Louis-based Capstone Development Group is being subsidized by taxpayers over $200,000 per rental unit for 45 rental units!
      Over the past few years many residential HOUSES in Elgin have been selling for $50,000.
      SO the same amount a private corporations from St. Louis is getting in taxpayer subsidies could have bought 180 residential HOUSES in ELgin!!!!
      180 families in ELgin could have had a free house!!!

      In the next block from where I live there are currently 4 vacant home -
      in 1 block!!! In the very next block there are 3-4 vacant homes!!!
      Take a walk around this town - you have to walk because you don’t notice all the vacant homes while you are driving by at 30 mph.
      The rich get richer and the taxpayers get poorer.

      • RS says:

        http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140925/news/140929073/

        Rent would range from $863 to $1,200 per month. The renovation will include “nice finishes” for cabinetry, lighting and other amenities, Luchini said.

        The city would provide up to 55 reserved parking spaces in municipal lots at $30 per month.

        The exterior of the building will be cleaned and will have new, “strategically placed” exterior lighting, Luchini said.

        A market study didn’t support having retail on the first floor, Luchini said. “It’s the odd shape of the building that dictates kind of what we can do,” he said.

        The building will have a common meeting space, an exercise facility, a media room, a leasing office and storage for residents. The construction timeline is 12 to 14 months, he said.

        I wish the best for this project but I am still mystified as to how Stickling Foundation is going to walk away with a million dollars while Elgin taxpayers put in $4.7 million in addition to another $4.6 million in federal and state tax credits.

  12. bw says:

    MEDICAL MARIJUANA

    I’m glad Ms. Powell changed her mind on the MEDICAL MARIJUANA issue. Elgin don’t need to be a place where people have access to illegal drugs for use other then medical reasons. Let the drug stores add MEDICAL MARIJUANA to their inventory of prescription drugs ordered by a person’s doctor. Drug stores have a proven record of handling a lot more drugs for a medical purpose than MEDICAL MARIJUANA. Drug chains should be the primary source for selling MEDICAL MARIJUANA.

    • ADV says:

      Illinois has the strictest medical marijuana laws in the nation. Patients will need to have one of a short list of very serious illnesses in order to get a doctor’s prescription. Dispensaries will need to have stringent checks and balances in place in order to keep their licenses, and one illegal sale could put them out of business. Since it’s vey expensive to stay a dispensary in IL it doesn’t make sense for them to do anything that isn’t by the book. The amount of regulation and paperwork involved is probably prohibitive for the major drugstore chains for now.

      It’s unfortunate that Ms. Powell May have killed the proposed Elgin dispensary by changing her vote. The deadline for license applications with the state is Sep 22. This puts the company at a disadvantage in a competitive process.

  13. Margaret Miller says:

    http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140914/news/140919075/

    Probation, jail for Elgin Tower arsonist

    A 59-year-old homeless man recently pleaded guilty to setting fire earlier this year to an elevator at the iconic, art deco Elgin Tower Building.

    Tommy W. McBurney was sentenced to two years probation and released after spending 94 days in jail.

    He also was banned from the property and fined $1,015 for starting the May 11 at the tower, 100 E. Chicago St., which a developer now wants to buy and convert into 45, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

    Kane County Judge Karen Simpson accepted the guilty plea earlier this month, according to court records.

    If McBurney violates his probation, he could be resentenced to up to seven years in prison.

    McBurney was arrested in early June and charged with felony arson.

    The building has had its share of issues this year and was condemned in May.

  14. Margaret Miller says:

    MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

    ILLINOIS DEMS PROPOSE SURCHARGE TO PAY FOR POLICE BODY CAMERAS

    SPRINGFIELD - Capitolizing on the race riots in Ferguson Missouri, State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria), and State Sen. William Haine, (D-Alton) are pushing a bill to provide more taxpayer money to equip police departments with body cameras for officers.

    “We are looking to increase the pot of money that will allow law enforcement officials around the state of Illinois to have access not only to (police car) dash cameras, but body cameras,” said Gordon-Booth.

    “It will remove controversies,” Haine said. “It will remove doubt about what’s going on with a lawful arrest.”

    Under a proposed amendment to House Bill 3911, a $6 surcharge would be added to fines for traffic offenses and for convictions or guilty pleas for criminal offenses.

    The estimated $4 million to $6 million a year the surcharge would raise would be split between grants for police cameras and funding for the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.

    Government organizations like the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police endorsed the bill, as did the NAACP.

    Monday, September 15, 2014 at 01:16 PM

  15. Margaret Miller says:

    http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/09/ups-to-hire-8700-in-chicagoland.html

    FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

    UPS TO HIRE 8,700 IN CHICAGOLAND

    CHICAGO - As the holiday season starts to ramp up, online sales and deliveries will too, and United Parcel Service plans on hiring nearly 9000 workers in Chicagoland.

    Delivery driver jobs start at $16.10 an hour for seasonal and permanent delivery drivers. Seasonal tractor-trailer drivers receive $27 an hour.

    For part-time handler positions, pay starts at $8.50-$9.50 an hour. Permanent part-time employees also receive health benefits and 401(K). Part-time employees are also eligible for UPS’s ‘Earn and Learn program,’ which offers up to $25,000 in tuition assistance.

    The place to put in your resumes online is HERE

  16. James Madison says:

    …and in other hiring news…

    http://couriernews.suntimes.com/2014/09/19/epds-beefed-recruiting-includes-trip-puerto-rico-using-national-testing-network/

    ELGIN — The Elgin Police Department is widening the net it casts looking for new officers by sending four members on a recruitment trip to Puerto Rico the week of Sept. 22 and through the use of the National Testing Network.
    The trip will cost $5,423, including airfare and two hotel rooms. Those attending include Sgt. Katy Potts, Officers Eric Echevarria and Dave Mendiola and an undercover officer. They are set to attend a college job fair and administer the written test at three locations.
    Deputy Chief Bill Wolf explained that Potts is overseeing recruiting efforts for the department, efforts that have been revamped to include a variety of new tools. With the efforts so new, they can be seen as works in progress, Wolf noted.
    “The trip may get great candidates, or it may fail,” Wolf said.
    What is attractive to Elgin about recruiting in Puerto Rico, Wolf said, is that officers there have to have met educational requirements similar to those needed to apply in Elgin.
    A qualified Elgin applicant must be a U.S. Citizen or lawfully able to work in the U.S., 21 years-of-age, possess a valid driver’s license and a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
    There is an exception to the bachelor’s degree requirement for candidates with three years of full-time police experience, or three years of active duty military experience; those who meet these requirements need only 60 hours of college credit.
    All candidates must have proof of passing the State of Illinois power fitness test, or an equivalent from another state. The testing process includes a written test, interview, background investigation, psychological test and medical examination.
    Wolf said anyone coming from Puerto Rico more than likely would be able to speak Spanish, he or she also would have to be able to speak English. While computer technology might be an option in part of the interviewing process, ultimately such candidates would have to come to Elgin — and pay for such travel themselves as well as the costs for relocating should he or she be hired, Wolf said.
    A draw of the job might be the starting salary. Wolf said the pay range is $61,877 to $85,062 for new officers.
    The city council has made diversity across the municipal staff a goal.
    However, on his Facebook page Friday, Councilman John Prigge wrote, “It’s no longer good enough to be a great police officer candidate in Elgin. Now, you will have to ‘look the part.’” And in a string related to that post he added, “’Spanish speaking;” part is not the real goal here. It’s the ‘look issue.’”
    Currently, the 180-person Elgin Police Department has 22 offers who speak Spanish, with 19 members of Hispanic descent, with some of latter not Spanish-speakers, Wolf said.
    The city of Elgin’s makeup is about 44 percent Hispanic, and a good many homes with Spanish as a first language.
    “Officers are out there everyday dealing with emergencies, and if we can’t communicate in some situations, this can be devastating,” Wolf said.
    With just 22 officers knowing Spanish, Wolf said it can spread the department thin when a translator might be needed.
    To help address this, Wolf said 10 officers currently are learning Spanish on their own time, using lunch hours to study the language using Rosetta Stone software and meeting with a Spanish speaking officer for further learning.
    As for other expanded recruitment efforts, the National Testing Network (nationaltestingnetwork.com) provides listings for a variety of public safety and corrections jobs across the country. It also proctors tests needed to apply for a good many of these positions at locations in 16 states, including Illinois, and in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
    Wolf said the city pays nothing to the network, but applicants pay to the service $40 to take the test.
    In July 2013, 286 people took the written exam, Wolf said, with 49 of them Hispanic. From that pool, 17 people made the hiring list, with five of them Hispanic. One of the Hispanic candidates removed himself from the list, Wolf said.
    Other beefed up ways to recruit include modernizing job information material and recruiting displays, utilizing social media and web-based job websites, increasing Elgin community recruiting, attending a wide variety of job fairs and visiting colleges. While a good many of the latter are in Illinois, Wolf said Elgin will be heading to Michigan State University this fall for recruiting, too.
    Locally, Elgin police also have been networking with organizations, attending job fairs festivals and working with Elgin Community College and School District U46 to build a diverse pool from which to draw possible recruits. Wolf noted the department also made a recruitment video shown before movies for a month at the Marcus Elgin Cinema, for which the department paid a fee of $500 to be screened.
    Wolf also mentioned the department’s own Explorers program for youths who might be interested in becoming police. Spending four years as an Explorer can apply to be police after turning 21 and having 60 hours of college credits

  17. Chuck Keysor says:

    James, thanks for posting this article about the City’s recruiting efforts aimed at diversifying the racial make-up of the EPD.

    What are your thoughts on this? Is this a good use of taxpayer’s money? Should we have to travel so far to hire people? Does this program make sense to you?

    Thanks, Chuck

  18. James Madison says:

    Chuck,

    I think this is one of those issues that does not have a perfect solution. For every consequence of these decision, there will be unintended consequences. And just like Newton Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Under ideal conditions, the police and fire departments would be somewhat representative of the local ethnic demographic. Realistically, the EPD and the EFD positions require highly trained professionals to perform their duties in a manner that is consistent with the public’s expectations of these positions. Since these positions require a lot of specialized training, the members tend to stay with little yearly turnover. As a demographic change comes to an area, there are not typically enough turnover or qualified applicants to match the changed demographic. You certainly cannot run these departments solely on the basis of exact representation of the community. That may be a goal but it is usually one that is never achieved. The most absurd example would be a decision to totally balance both the EPD and the EFD based on the local demographics. Three years go by and those demographics are completely reversed. Do you then fire those people you recently hired and seek an entirely new recruit class to be in compliance. I don’t think so.

    The entire area of quota systems is a very slippery slope that can be easily used to create outcomes where less qualified individuals are chosen. This sometimes works out okay but usually results in a subpar overall outcome.

    The city has an intention to do whatever is reasonable and possible to address this imbalance that has occurred over time. That is a laudable goal. I know the qualifications for application to the EPD and EFD have been recently revised. Perhaps that should be looked at even more carefully to make sure the various criteria are BFOQ’s (Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications).

    I do like Councilman Prigge’s notion that there are many returning veterans from the last ten years of war that would have high qualifications for these positions. Perhaps that is already a high priority for these search teams.

    Except for the obvious bilingual attribute, I do not see why Puerto Rico is seen as a rich area for finding qualified applicants. Elgin is not Puerto Rico and vice versa.

    I think that police forces should represent local demographics but even more important should be from the local region. I think you have a better understanding of the local customs, mores and historical context if you are from a specific reason. An Elginite would have the same difficulties working as a police officer in Puerto Rico as the reverse.

    This is not a question that has an easy ‘this or that’ answer. It has many consequences, regardless of the outcome. (The last thing anyone wants to see in another Ferguson, Missouri, where a virtually all-white police force is policing a virtually all-black town in conditions that sound like a police state. That leads to lots of mistrust and ultimate tragedies.)

    • paul says:

      “one of those issues that does not have a perfect solution.”

      Like the difference between right and wrong. If racial discrimination is wrong then STOP discriminating on the basis of race.

      ” less qualified individuals are chosen. This sometimes works out okay”

      As long you aren’t the NEW victim of racial discrimination and didn’t get the job because you are too white. Speaking of which, shouldn’t the city manager and police chief job reflect the “diversity” of the community? Stegal and Swaboda need to go.

      • Chuck Keysor says:

        Paul, I had a similar thought last night as I watched the interesting/strange council discussion on the effort to diversify Elgin’s Police Department.

        I looked at the council and said to myself that the council make-up does not accurately reflect the make-up of the community. (That is of course why the liberal majority of the council in their twisted sense of social justice put Rose Martinez on the council.) Do they think that the council’s make up is evidence of prejudice? I’d say no more than the make up the EPD is a sign of prejudice in the Elgin Police Department.

        But the liberal majority of the council has engaged in a misplaced over-reaction. They are assuming that all of society is guilty for any of society’s ills. And as moral leaders of the community, they must right the wrongs of society. When in reality, they are doing nothing to help places like Ferguson Missouri that in fact are messed up.

        Instead, the liberal majority of the Elgin City Council trying to over-compensate for the ills of all society is negatively warping what is fair and good about Elgin.

        Chuck

        • paul says:

          “(That is of course why the liberal majority of the council in their twisted sense of social justice put Rose Martinez on the council.) ”

          Exactly right.

          John Roberts, Jr. current Chief Justice of the United States:
          “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

          “the liberal majority of the Elgin City Council trying to over-compensate for the ills of all society is negatively warping what is fair and good about Elgin.”

          It is morally wrong, ethically wrong, principally wrong, and legally wrong. But politically correct to the liberal majority; as it was in 1930’s Nazi Germany. As long it is white people being victimized now it is okay.

          What was the over-riding learned lesson from Ferguson Mo.? Clearly, the lesson was being a strong armed store robbing police officer assaulting black thug is okay. The sin was for a white police officer to confront the black thug.

  19. Chuck Keysor says:

    Hello James. Thank you for your thoughtful reply to my sincere question. I appreciate your efforts to shine some light on the various considerations of this issue.

    I found greatest resonance with your comments that local recruits, would provide a better fit for the norms of our local culture. And because the pool of potential recruits in the greater Chicagoland area, even Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, etc is effectively infinite I simply see no point in having to go so far as Puerto Rico.

    If anything, it would almost appear that the rational for going to Puerto Rico is to make a public/political statement that we, the City of Elgin, will go to the ends of the Earth to find ethnically suitable candidates. That to me, is political folly, and that to engage in such grand-standing, (if indeed this has happened) is a sorry situation.

    When people get caught up in such posturing, the next step is to actually hire someone from somewhere like Puerto Rico, not because they are qualified, but BECAUSE making such a politically motivated hire is seen as being the most important objective. For this reason, I see it as being detrimental to the best interests of the population of Elgin, and that such practices that could reasonably be expected to result in politically motivated hiring should be avoided at all costs.

    And as a far less, but still important consideration, is the fact that making such far flung expeditions is a waste of money. How many thousands of dollars does it take to do such long-distance recruiting?

    A few years ago when the City was developing its strategic plan, Dr. Gabris served as the facilitator, and interviewed each council member as to what they felt should be in the City’s strategic objectives. Bob Gilliam chose as his strategic objective, the need to create a diverse workforce.

    At the first Council Retreat where they worked on the strategic plan, everyone was broken into focus groups, and I sat in on Bob Gilliam’s group that was discussing workforce diversity. He explained that the City has done a lot over the years to make minority hires. He specifically cited City staff going to targeted trade shows, schools and advertising extensively in demographically appropriate markets, but it simply hasn’t yielded a diverse work force. He made it sound as though it was actually an impossible objective. Though Bob my disagree, it was my take-away from that discussion, that Bob Gilliam felt that getting a truly diverse workforce that reflected the ethnic make-up of the City simply wasn’t practical or even possible, but that the effort had been sincerely made and that was very important in and of itself.

    In any event, had Bob Gilliam chosen some other subject as his strategic objective, it may well be that we wouldn’t be having this discussion at this time.

    The bottom line for me is that aiming for a diverse workforce is fine as long as standards are not compromised for political purposes. But if we can not find qualified candidates in the State of Illinois and the surrounding states, that we are going too far and have lost touch with reality in an effort to make political statements. And going as far as Puerto Rico is simply political posturing made at the taxpayer’s expense.

    Again, thank you James for your thoughtful reply, Chuck

    • PB says:

      James and Chuck,

      Thanks both for weighing in on this issue. This sort of balanced discussion has largely been lacking from the threads here.

      As to the decision to send a recruiting trip to Puerto Rico, I would say that this would make a great deal of sense if we had more Puerto Ricans in the local populace. Such as it is, I think we have a much larger number of people from Central and South America (and in fact, mostly Mexico).

      That money would be much better spent reaching out to candidates that are already a part of the community. If there is indeed a dearth of qualified local candidates, then this is a nice segue way into my next point:

      Perhaps the long-term plan for Elgin needs to be more than just trying to attract wealthier residents; perhaps the goal should be to make its existing residents into the kind of residents it wants to attract.

      • RS says:

        http://couriernews.suntimes.com/2014/09/25/elgin-city-council-discusses-diversity-epd-recruitment-trip-puerto-rico/

        Police Chief Jeff Swoboda told the council that as of Wednesday, the four had been to San Juan where they administered the written qualifying exam to 47 people and would be testing another 50 in Ponce and to another group of registrants in Mayaguez. The trip will cost $5,423 dollars, including airfare and two hotel rooms.

        Two million Hispanics in Illinois and they have to go to Puerto Rico to find a few cops? They have to go to South America and Spain to find teachers?

        What is going on here in America?

        We are in serious trouble if the educational system in this country (including U-46) is not capable of producing people qualified to be teachers, cops and firemen.

  20. wombat says:

    Does anybody recall exactly when the water bills went from being every other month to every month? Whose bright idea was that? I really don’t appreciate paying twice as much for water & sewer, etc compared to previously ~

  21. Chuck Keysor says:

    Hello Wombat. Why yes, I happen to remember when our water bills got jacked up. It was part of the “revenue diversification” program, passed in December 2011. That program was supposed to make it so Elgin relied less upon property taxes, and would then have a lower chance of facing a drop in revenues if property tax receipts were to fall dramatically.

    So in this program, we were told that the decrease in property taxes would be matched by an equal amount of the following new/increased taxes:
    Trash tax: ($13.85/month, payable every month on the new monthly water bill)
    Natural Gas Tax: Added onto every natural gas bill
    Electrical Tax: Added onto every Com Ed bill you get. We were told that this increase would be offset by the drop in our electric bill due to aggregation,,,, but now after two years, our electric rates are going back to where they were, but the electrical tax is here to stay!
    Leaf Rake-out Fee: $2 added to every monthly water bill for people who live in designated leaf rake out areas
    Sales tax increase: We went from 7.5% to 8.25%
    Liquor tax: Affects everyone who consumes liquor.

    Now, here is the real kicker, council members said this would be revenue neutral. But I kept track of my expenses for the entire year of 2012. My property taxes to Elgin went down $90. But I paid $24 for leaf rake out fee, $165.14 for my trash tax, $7.19 for my natural gas tax (didn’t kick in until the second half of 2012 due to laws requiring 6 months before such taxes can be collected), $11.75 Electrical tax

    So my property taxes went down $90, but my new taxes and fees added up to about $209. And that represents an increase of a bit over 12% of what I paid to the City of Elgin going from 2011 to 2012. So it was clearly NOT revenue neutral.

    Point 1: On the council at that time, ONLY John Prigge voted against enacting the new taxes! Do you think that had anything to do with the fact that in the 2013 council election, he was the TOP vote getter? And the next two top vote getters were also highly critical of these new taxes.

    Point 2: Anna Moeller’s campaign literature for her State Rep. election claims that SHE is REJECTS tax increases. Well I hope everyone who is mad about their monthly water bill and all the other tax increases, can remember that ANNA MOELLER voted FOR all of the new taxes. AND, after councilman Toby Shaw was elected, he made a motion to cut the electrical tax, and that was rejected by Anna Moeller. Then he made a motion that we eliminate the trash tax, and Anna Moeller rejected that! In her argument against rolling back these taxes, she claimed it was fiscally conservative to keep these taxes! And she challenged Councilman Shaw to explain where the money would come from to make up for the lost revenue if the trash tax were to be eliminated. She asked that when the trash tax was bringing in about $4.5 million, and yet we had a budget surplus of about $7million (up from about $500,000 the year before).

    Thanks for asking, Chuck

    PS: I gave you the short answer! There was a lot of hot air coming from the council in December 2011.

    • Chuck Keysor says:

      PPS: Remember, Anna Moeller, Tish Powell, John Steffen, Mayor Kaptain, Bob Gilliam, and Rich Dunne ALL voted to increase all of the above mentioned taxes which brought you your BIG MONTHLY water bill.

      Anna Moeller is up next for election, this November. Everyone who has experienced her tax increases can call her out when she claims she wants to lower taxes. Her voting record does NOT match her new campaign literature!!!! Remember that on November 4th when you vote!

      Jeff Meyer spoke passionately against these broad new tax increases at the Saturday, November 2011 special council session in the Heritage Ball Room. Remember that on November 4th when you vote!

      And when you vote for Council in April of 2015, remember that Mayor Kaptain, Councilman Steffen and Councilwoman Powell all voted FOR the big tax increases in December 2011.

      Thanks, Chuck

    • bw says:

      Remwmber Anna Moeller

      • bw says:

        Anna Moeller’s involvement in the TLC case against the poor it cost us over $500,000 in legal and other fees. She is a big spender and don’t need to be our State 43rd Rep.

    • wombat says:

      Thanks for the info, Chuck and bw ~ I had other issues going on at that time, so that whole deal escaped my attention. Don’t like it one bit. Wasn’t inclined to vote for Moeller to begin with, and even less so now ~

      • bw says:

        wombat,

        Anna Moeller lies. In front of the City Council and those in attendance where the TLC issue was a part of the agenda at the meeting, Anna Moeller talked about her involvement in the Chief of Police going to the J and B Pub, on McLean, and shutting down the ultra-sound/pregnancy services, for the poor, being offered by a local church support group as a counseling help to those poor pregnant women. Anna Meoeller called the operation an eye-sore and contacted the Police Chief who proceeded to shut it down. A federal lawsuit was filed in Chicago at a $500,000 cost to the taxpayers for fees. We don’t need her in the Illinois GA.

  22. RS says:

    FYI: Because of a spam problem, from now on comments will only be allowed on the currently-active monthly open thread. Or if there’s a new post, on the new post.

    Also, I have removed some of the defunct parts of the website. It’s kind of a stopgap measure. I plan on giving you guys something better than what we have now at some point–yes the site is definitely overdue for an overhaul, but I have a lot of other stuff to get to first unfortunately.

  23. bw says:

    Thanks for your work RS.

  24. RS says:

    http://couriernews.suntimes.com/2014/09/25/city-council-endorses-charter-schools-elgin/

    ELGIN — The Elgin city council voted 6-3 Wednesday night to support a nine-point resolution in support of Elgin having charter schools…

    Powell had tried to get voting on the matter tabled, but that measure failed 5-4, with the majority made of Terry Gavin, John Prigge, Carole Rauschenberger, John Steffen, and Toby Show, who proposed the measure. Those opposed were Powell, Kaptain, Martinez and Rich Dunne.

    Kind of surprised to see how the votes lined up on this one.

    • paul says:

      “Kind of surprised to see how the votes lined up on this one.”

      I’m surprised your surprised. It was easily predictable. The 3 no votes voted no because they didn’t want to ruffle U46 (UNION) feathers. Their ideologue 100% support of UNION socialism dictates their every vote.

      • One Vote says:

        There have been interesting ideological bedfellow all along on the charter school issue. Karen Schock was once ETA president. Kelly-Steffen are pro-union as well.

        Just a little side note. The typo in the article (”Toby Show”) wasn’t from RS. Mike Danahey wrote it that way. Freudian there, Mike?

        Personally, I think the city overture here is dangerous. It leaves the door open to financial support from the city.

        By the way, when I drive past the day school I frequently see an Elgin squad car up there. Are we paying for 24-hour security? Or is it just a nice hidden place for the officers to rest from their labors?

      • RS says:

        I thought Powell made a cogent statement about why we should not be passing a resolution. It actually reminds me of when the city council back in the Ed Schock days thought it was a good idea to inject the city into the U-46 boundaries controversy. The city’s involvement led to a lawsuit that eventually ended up costing U-46 taxpayers millions of dollars. I would have thought we might have learned something from that.

  25. RS says:

    As you guys know, the open thread format here (with circa 100 comments…) can make navigation between the different comments difficult. That will be dealt with in the new version of the site whenever I get to it. In the meanwhile, here are a few tips for navigation if you haven’t discovered them yourself.

    The main issue I think is going from one recent comment to another. When you click on the link in the sidebar, it will jump to that comment. That link is a true link in that the browser remembers it in the history, which means you can use the browser’s back button to go back to the top of the page so you can see the other recent comments in the sidebar.

    Another way to get back to the top of the page is to use the keyboard’s Home button. If your keyboard doesn’t have a dedicated Home button, there is typically another button that will take you to the top. On Mac laptops, you press Command plus the Up Arrow key.

    If you want to go to the bottom of the page to make a new comment, Command plus Down Arrow on a Mac laptop keyboard will take you there. On other keyboards you may find an End key and that will take you to the bottom of the page.

    Hope this helps some of you!

  26. RS says:

    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/09/25/elgin-police-recruiting-trip-to-puerto-rico-stirs-controversy/

    So did this make it on TV?

    I do think it’s kind of disgraceful actually that we have to go to Puerto Rico. Maybe we are not hearing about other things EPD is doing, but are they even going to college fairs right here in Illinois? Are they making an effort at U-46, at the community colleges and so on during the career nights and college fairs? I haven’t heard about it but maybe just because it doesn’t get in the news. But I would hope that they are doing that FIRST, before they ever step foot outside of this state, much less the country.

    Honestly I don’t think that young people know what the path is for becoming an Elgin police officer or a firefighter and so on. If they all knew that they would quickly be making $160,000 with overtime, retiring in 20 years with six figure pensions, not even having to live in Elgin, etc. I can’t imagine that they would not be scrambling to put themselves on the career path that qualifies them for those positions.

  27. bw says:

    How about moving to October postings.

  28. bw says:

    A new month brings current news and blogs.