Government

Proposed Triton College Shared Police Training Facility Moves Forward

Chicago-area readers may remember me blogging last summer about future concealed-carry classroom and range instruction possibly being offered at a proposed shared police training facility at Triton College, a two-year community college located in west suburban River Grove. I wrote on July 2, 2014:

And here’s something I caught on the Forest Park Review website from earlier this June that might interest local law enforcement and nearby residents seeking concealed-carry training. Jean Lotus reported:

Interest is growing among 23 Triton College feeder communities for a shared police training facility and shooting range hosted at the River Grove campus.

The community college recently sent a survey to police chiefs and village managers in 25 different towns asking about a possible shared facility, and almost all of them responded that they were open to discussing the possibility…

The current proposal is a “tactical training facility” located on the Triton campus with a state-of-the-art 24-position shooting range…

Training on judgment laser shooting and pursuit driving were just some of the requests made by survey respondents.

Lotus added:

Sixty-four percent of the departments surveyed also asked for mock streetscape technology. Other suggestions were leadership training, firearms training from a vehicle, felony traffic stop scenarios, water-based courses, tactical room entry, building searches and rapid deployment training.

[Forest Park Mayor Anthony] Calderone pointed out Triton could even do concealed-carry training for civilians

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Well, Deborah Kadin published this update on the Review website on April 7:

An idea that sprang last summer from conversations between three area village presidents is nearing reality as a number of communities are assessing whether to join in to pay for a state-of-the-art regional shooting range at Triton College.

Draft copies of an intergovernmental agreement, which spells out construction and operating costs as well as many other details about the facility, went out near the end of March to 14 likely participants, including Forest Park, River Forest, Oak Park and Riverside. Triton College also will be taking part…

The range being contemplated is a 6,160-square-foot facility with eight shooting lanes. The cost is estimated at $2 million and will be funded through a bond issue paid off over 20 years…

Looking over the draft intergovernmental agreement (.pdf auto-download starting p. 261- hat tip Village of River Forest), under “6. Additional Usage”:

Triton College may, based upon demand and available funding, offer training courses as required under the Illinois Firearm Conceal Carry Act, 403 ILCS 66/1 et seq. In the event such classes are offered, all firearms and ammunition shall be provided, housed and maintained on site. No member of the public shall be permitted to bring a personal firearm on the Triton College campus. All fees collected for such classes shall be allocated in a manner that first all College costs are recovered and any remaining funds shall be paid toward the maintenance of the Premises…

Outside of Triton concealed-carry instruction for members of the public- I’m assuming that’s why “No member of the public shall be permitted to bring a personal firearm on the Triton College campus” was inserted where it was in the draft IGA (though I could be mistaken)- access by the general public is restricted. From that draft:

At no point shall the Premises be made available for public usage or public training sessions.

Stay tuned…

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Kadin, Deborah. “Costs tallied for Triton shooting range.” Forest Park Review. 7 Apr. 2015. (http://www.forestparkreview.com/News/Articles/4-7-2015/Costs-tallied-for-Triton-shooting-range/). 23 Apr. 2015.

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Polls Show Americans More Optimistic On Economy

Despite the significant financial challenges this country faces, a number of Americans seem to be more optimistic about the economy going forward. Jeffry Bartash reported on the MarketWatch website yesterday:

Even though U.S. growth slowed sharply in the first quarter, Americans are more optimistic about the economy now than at any time since President Obama took over the White House in January 2009.

A new CNN poll shows that 52% of Americans view the economy as “very” or “somewhat” good vs. 48% who call it “poor” or “somewhat poor.”

It’s only the second time a majority have expressed a positive view during the Obama presidency — the first time was in December — and it is the highest reading in almost eight years. The last time Americans were as optimistic was in September 2007

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In addition to that CNN poll, a recent Bloomberg Politics poll suggests the American public is more positive about the economy and how Barack Obama and the Democrats are handling it. Margaret Talev wrote on the Bloomberg website last week:

Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes may be buoyed by a more optimistic feeling about President Barack Obama and the economy seen in a new Bloomberg Politics poll.

Americans are becoming more optimistic about the country’s economic prospects by several different measures. President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy is being seen more positively than negatively for the first time in more than five years, 49 percent to 46 percent—his best number in this poll since September 2009

Thirty-four percent said the national economy will become stronger over the next year, while just 21 percent said it will get worse and 44 percent predicted the status quo. That’s up from last June, when 30 percent said things were getting better…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Finally, Myles Udland noted in an April 17 piece on the Business Insider website:

Consumer confidence is soaring.

The preliminary reading on consumer confidence from the University of Michigan came in at 95.9, topping expectations for a reading of 94.0.

This is the second highest reading since 2007…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


National Recovery Administration, The Road Is Open Again (1933)
YouTube Video

I’m not sure where all this optimism is coming from. After all, the nation’s economic woes which reared its ugly head by the fall of 2008 have merely been papered over and kicked down the road a few years.

Meanwhile, the Fed depleted plenty of ammunition (see “About” page Fed charts) keeping the whole setup afloat.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s probably not a bad idea to take advantage of this upsurge in confidence to try and improve one’s resilience to a financial crash I still see coming.

Each person’s circumstances are different. But I, for one, have been focusing on meeting those six “innate survival needs” from my “Project Prepper” series of posts- among other things like increasing income. To recap, those “needs” are:

• Security
• Water
• Food
• Shelter
• Sanitation and Health
• Energy

In order of priority- for me.

Hopefully, these can be taken care of before the “balloon goes up.”

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Bartash, Jeffry. “American optimism about economy highest since Obama became president.” MarketWatch. 21 Apr. 2015. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/american-optimism-about-economy-highest-since-obama-became-president-2015-04-21). 22 Apr. 2015.

Talev, Margaret. “Bloomberg Politics National Poll Finds Improving Economic Mood.” Bloomberg.com. 16 Apr. 2015. (http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-16/bloomberg-politics-national-poll-finds-improving-economic-mood). 22 Apr. 2015.

Udland, Myles. “Consumer confidence soars to second-highest level since 2007.” Business Insider. 17 Apr. 2015. (http://www.businessinsider.com/university-of-michigan-consumer-confidence-2015-4). 22 Apr. 2015.

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Niles Gun Shop, Range Lawsuit Decision Next Month?

Chicago-area firearm enthusiasts- here’s the latest regarding that proposed gun shop and range at 6143 Howard Street in northwest suburban Niles. Igor Studenkov reported on the Chicago Tribune website on Monday:

The fate of a lawsuit a Skokie-based gun control advocacy group filed against the village of Niles will be decided next month.

People for a Safer Society filed a lawsuit against the village on Oct 17, 2014, over the Village Board’s decision to grant a special use permit to Sportsman’s Club gun shop and firing range. In its lawsuit, the group sought to not only annul the permit, but to prohibit the village from granting a permit for any gun shop that wants to open on that piece of land.

In response, the village’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit altogether.

Judge Franklin Ulyses Valderrama was originally scheduled to decide whether to grant the motion on April 14. But after listening to attorneys for both sides, he decided to take some time to consider it, and said he will issue a final decision May 14

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Regular readers may recall I’ve been following the Niles gun shop/range story since June of last year. Not surprisingly, the proposed facility encountered obstacles early on.

That being said, a concealed-carry training facility- Concealed Carry Safety for Personal Defense Inc– was able to open its doors last year in the near-northwest suburb.

Good luck to the Village of Niles and 6143 Howard Partners Inc/Sportsman’s Club and Firearms Training Academy in May.

You can read Studenkov’s entire piece (nice legal roundup) on the Tribune website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago Uber Driver With Concealed-Carry Permit Shoots Man Firing Into Crowd In Logan Square

I’m guessing some members of the anti-concealed-carry crowd in Illinois and beyond aren’t too pleased that news of the following makes its way into the mainstream media. Greg Ziezulewicz reported on the Chicago Tribune website Monday morning:

Authorities say no charges will be filed against an Uber driver who shot and wounded a gunman who opened fire on a crowd of people in Logan Square over the weekend.

The driver had a concealed-carry permit and acted in the defense of himself and others…

Glad to hear this Illinois Concealed Carry License holder was at the right place at the right time.

While I haven’t heard any comment on the incident by City Hall or a high-ranking representative of the Chicago Police Department, I’ll make the following prediction. Undoubtedly, they’ll be a time when an Illinois CCL holder screws up royally. And when that individual does, the anti-CCW crowd will scream bloody murder in an attempt to convince anyone who will listen that legal concealed-carry of a firearm by the citizenry is a huge mistake and should be rescinded. Mark my words.

You can read the entire piece on the Tribune website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Standard & Poor’s Warns Chicago ‘Downgrade Of More Than One Notch Is Possible’

Not too much talk about the following last week in the Chicago-area news. From Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Helen Samuelson over on S&P’s Global Credit Portal website on April 9:

CHICAGO (Standard & Poor’s) April 9, 2015–After months of campaigning and uncertainty, Chicago (A+/Negative general obligation debt rating) can get back to the business of running itself. As such, we expect Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attention to be focused on the city’s budget challenges, namely its ballooning pension obligation.

During the course of the election — and particularly during the runoff — Mayor Emanuel avoided addressing the possibility of property tax increases to help pay for these pension obligations.

“Following Tuesday’s vote, in order to maintain its current rating, we expect the administration to address the pension and budget challenges head on by providing solutions that will support the city’s credit strengths in the near and far term,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Helen Samuelson.

Our ‘A+’ rating is predicated on Chicago’s ability to make the changes necessary to address its budget gap and pension problem. However, even with this ability, to ensure long-term stability Chicago still needs to demonstrate its willingness to make difficult choices that address its budget issues.

Otherwise, the ‘A+’ rating could be severely pressured. Our negative rating outlook reflects the city’s fiscal pressures. If the city doesn’t find structural solutions, a downgrade of more than one notch is possible.

In our view, if the city fails to articulate and implement a plan by the end of 2015 to sustainably fund its pension contributions, or if it substantially draws down its reserves to fund the contributions, we will likely lower the rating. This is regardless of whatever relief the state legislature may or may not provide. We will likely affirm the rating and revise the outlook to stable if Chicago is able to successfully absorb its higher pension costs while maintaining balanced budgetary performance and reserves at or near their current level…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

To date, a different credit rating agency- Moody’s- has been making the most noise about the City of Chicago’s financial woes. Yvette Shields reported on The Bond Buyer website on April 6:

The city has suffered a steep credit rating slide and further credit deterioration is threatened.

Chicago’s GO ratings range from a low of Baa2 — two notches above speculative grade — from Moody’s to a high of A-plus from Standard & Poor’s…

“A-plus.” That may not be the case at year end.

You can read that entire Standard & Poor’s piece on the Global Credit Portal here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Shields, Yvette. “Big Stakes as Market Awaits Chicago’s Mayoral Pick.” The Bond Buyer. 6 Apr. 2015. (http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/regionalnews/big-stakes-as-market-awaits-chicagos-mayoral-pick-1071986-1.html). 16 Apr. 2015.

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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 Credit, Debt Crisis, Entitlements, Government, Taxes No Comments

Peter Schiff Advises Americans, Greeks: ‘Don’t Hold On To Dollars, Just Like You’re Not Going To Hold On To Drachma’

Tuesday, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, Peter Schiff, compared Greece’s financial situation with what’s going on in the United States. From his April 14 SchiffGold “Gold Videocast” entry on YouTube.com:

The only difference between Greece and the United States is the perception of our creditors. Because we are just as broke. We have borrowed more money than we can repay. Not only have we borrowed it like Greece, and we owe over $18 trillion when it comes to the national debt- the bonds that have been issued where we actually owe principal and interest payments. But just like Greece politicians, American politicians have made all sorts of promises to everybody to get votes. And there’s nothing that’s going to stop the U.S. government from repaying its commitments in worthless money. Just like there’s nothing that’s going to stop the Greeks once they get the Euro out of the way, and go back to the drachma…

And when the dollar collapses, and prices skyrocket, it’s not going to do any good if the government kept its promise in money that doesn’t buy anything. So I would give the same advice today to Americans as I would for Greeks:

Don’t hold on to dollars, just like you’re not going to hold on to drachma. Turn your dollars into something else, something of real, tangible value, that the government can’t create out of thin air. And I think the best choice would be gold. Gold or silver can retain their purchasing power in the face of government default through inflation.


“Greece and the Euro Breakup; Why the US Dollar Is Facing an Even Bigger Crisis”
YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Obama: ‘I Haven’t Given Up’ On Tighter Gun Control

During this renewed push by Democrats for more gun “control,” I’ve noted efforts at the state level here in Illinois and in Congress as well. Now, U.S. President Barack Obama had thrown down the gauntlet in 2015. Obama recently spoke with Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News during a sit-down interview at Howard University. From their exchange which was uploaded on the ABC News website on April 8:

BESSER: Following Sandy Hook, you promised America tighter gun control. Have you given up?
OBAMA: No, I haven’t given up. What we’ve done is to try to do as much as we could administratively- to tighten up how background checks are run, to go after illegal drug runners. But I will tell you that trying to get something through Congress has proven to be really difficult. And it’s heartbreaking…


YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago To Be Run By Emergency Financial Control Board Within 2 Years?

Last Wednesday, I reminded Survival And Prosperity readers (local ones in particular) that Chicago- upon reelecting Rahm Emanuel as Mayor- remains in serious financial trouble. From that post:

As Rahm Emanuel enters his second term as Mayor of Chicago, I feel that proverbial brick wall is still fast-approaching.

Perhaps the best Chicagoans can hope for at this point is a controlled crash landing.

I know one thing. If I were still living in the city, I’d be preparing for the coming carnage…

Some readers might feel I was being a little too “sensational” with that statement. Therefore, I’d like to offer up the following for your consideration. Reuters’ Megan Davies and Karen Pierog reported on April 8:

Chicago has not seen the population losses Detroit did and its business and commercial real estate markets remain healthy, but its current circumstances are more dire than any other major American city today, with aggregate debt of $21.4 billion, up 60 percent since 2004.

Although Chicago’s situation isn’t bad enough yet to warrant a bankruptcy filing, that threat is out there if it fails to tackle its problems.

“People say Chicago’s not Detroit,” said Tom Metzold, a senior portfolio advisor at investment manager Eaton Vance. “Not right now. Chicago is Detroit ten years from now. I don’t care how economically strong your economy is. They don’t have a printing press. You can only tax so much.”

Metzold estimated the odds of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy in the next five years are “virtually zero” but said in the next 10 years that could rise to 25 percent if it fails to act

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In case readers are wondering, Metzold’s s “Street cred” includes serving as VP and Co-Director of Municipal Investments at Eaton Vance (one of the oldest investment management firms in the U.S.- established 1924), and as its Portfolio Manager since 1991.

Not as “optimistic” about Chicago’s financial future is Joe Mysak, Editor of Bloomberg Brief. He warned in an April 8 commentary:

I’m not a betting man. If I were, I’d bet that Chicago is going to be run by an Emergency Financial Control Board, or something like it, within two years, the same as New York City back in 1975 (and until 1986)…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Mysak, who’s been covering the municipal bond market since 1981, pointed out the city’s abysmal Moody’s credit rating (“one step from the basement of investment grade”) and wrote:

So a cut to junk may well be in the cards, and with it diminished and eventually lack of access to capital. Chicago has already creatively used, and some would say abused, the municipal market to subsidize city operations…

When the banks no longer want to lend to Chicago is presumably when the state of Illinois would come in, offering cash, loan guarantees, intercession with the federal government and whatever else the city needs in exchange for external management via an Emergency Financial Control Board…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The author of the Encyclopedia of Municipal Bonds signed-off with:

Two years. That’s how long I give the city of Chicago. Good luck, Rahm.

Good luck Chicago…

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Davies, Megan and Pierog, Karen. “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel confronts fiscal nightmare as he begins second term.” Reuters. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/04/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-confronts-fiscal-nightmare-as-he-begins-second-term/). 12 Apr. 2015.

Mysak, Joe. “Next Stop for Chicago: Emergency Financial Control Board.” Bloomberg Brief. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://newsletters.briefs.bloomberg.com/document/3fz176niqylzjr6oax/commentary). 12 Apr. 2015.

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Afterthoughts: Chicago’s 2015 Mayoral Election

In case you hadn’t heard, Rahm Emanuel remains Mayor of Chicago after defeating Jesús “Chuy” García yesterday in a run-off election 55.7 percent to 44.3 percent with 98.7% of precincts reporting.

Here are some of my thoughts regarding the 2015 mayoral election in Chicago:

1. The fact that “Chuy,” a Cook County commissioner who was born in Durango, Mexico, forced Mayor Emanuel into a first-ever run-off election for the position signaled two things. One, a number of Chicago voters aren’t too happy with the way the “Rahmfather” is running the city. And two, Chicago’s Hispanics continue to flex their growing political muscle. Natasha Korecki reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website back on March 15:

According to census data from 2010, Hispanics make up just shy of 29 percent of the city’s population- but they account for only 13 to 15 percent of the electorate. (Garcia’s campaign says that number was at about 16 percent on Feb. 24.)

Should trends hold, I envision Latinos making significant gains with that percentage. Korecki added:

“The Hispanic population is the fastest-growing segment of the early-childhood population,” says Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, an Emanuel supporter. “Latinos make up 47 percent of students in CPS,. It’s a very significant population…

Last December, the U.S. Census Bureau forecasted that Hispanics will comprise 25 percent of the U.S. population within the next 30 years- up from approximately 17 percent right now.

At risk of sounding like “Captain Obvious” here, I’m thinking Chicago’s future will be a much more Latino one. Particularly as city government is concerned.

(Editor’s note: Back in the fall of 1988 I told my high school Spanish teacher I wanted to learn the language because I thought it would “come in handy” someday. Has it ever.)

2. After being forced into a run-off, the Rahm camp realized he’s rubbed a number of Chicagoans the wrong way. Which led to commercials like this:


“New Rahm Emanuel Ad: ‘I Can Rub People The Wrong Way’”
YouTube Video

So now that he’s won the run-off, what’s Mayor Emanuel “tune” now? Rick Pearson and Bill Ruthhart reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

After finishing a salad and bowl of matzo ball soup, Emanuel was asked what he learned from the runoff and whether he would, in fact, be a more inclusive mayor in his second term.

Emanuel responded by confidently saying the feedback he’d gotten from voters during the campaign would serve as his “North Star.” Asked by the Tribune if that meant he would take a different approach to running the city, Emanuel instead deflected the question by telling the reporter: “You’ll evaluate that, and my guess is you’ll tell me on a 24-hour basis.”

Pressed again on whether he had heard the voters and would change his often brusque style, Emanuel responded with just one word:

“Yeah.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Yeah. I don’t know about you, but the impression I get from that response is- something tells me old habits might be particularly hard to break with this one.

I can’t help but wonder if dead fish aren’t already on their way…

3. Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” is still fast approaching. And I don’t think it matters who’s in charge, as I believe we’re too far along in the deterioration and the required political will to do something about it just isn’t there. Still. I read a “funny” comment on the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop earlier today. From a Tuesday night post:

Anonymous said…

Blah blah blah. The city will not go.bankrupt. We are third in the country for tourists, we have numerous international and national companies world headquarters plus we have a 100s of millions in tif funds. Commie chuy was a police hater that had no plan for this city. Rahm ain’t no picnic either but next to chuy he was a genius.

Now consider what the National Journal’s John B. Judis reported on March 30:

Chicago is facing a truly grave set of problems– problems that are essentially more extreme versions of the challenges confronting city governments across the country.

The quandaries begin with Chicago’s dramatic social divide. To an even greater extent than is the case in, say, New York or Philadelphia, Chicago has become two entirely separate cities. One is a bustling metropolis that includes the Loop, Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, and the Gold Coast, as well as the city’s well-to-do, working-class, and upwardly mobile immigrant neighborhoods. The other Chicago consists of impoverished neighborhoods on the far South and West Sides, primarily populated by African-Americans. These places have remained beyond the reach of the city’s recovery from the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, even as it grapples with this extreme gap, Chicago is suffering from a severe fiscal crisis. Like plenty of other municipalities, Chicago lacks the revenue to pay its bills, particularly its pension obligations to city workers. According to a 2013 Pew report, 61 other U.S. cities face similar difficulties, but Chicago’s situation is one of the worst. “Voters must realize we are facing the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” says Roosevelt University’s Paul Green, the doyen of Chicago political experts. “If something doesn’t happen, the city is beyond the abyss.”

Those problems aren’t really Emanuel’s fault, but his efforts to fix them over the past four years haven’t yielded especially good results. For his part, Garcia—who has been at the forefront of Latino politics in Chicago for four decades and who has a history of bucking Chicago’s political establishment—has run a campaign long on general populist criticism of the incumbent, but short on credible ideas about what he would do differently.

All of which means that this election won’t yield much of a mandate for dramatic solutions to Chicago’s twin crises

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Translated: Probably doesn’t matter who won the election, because Chicago looks to “lose” with either at the helm.

Once again, the economic situation appears too far gone at this point, and the political will to truly get the city’s finances back on track just isn’t there.

I hope Judis is wrong. And I hope I’m wrong here.

But the numbers are looking pretty atrocious right now.

As much as I’d like to side with “Anonymous,” as Rahm Emanuel enters his second term as Mayor of Chicago, I feel that proverbial brick wall is still fast-approaching.

Perhaps the best Chicagoans can hope for at this point is a controlled crash landing.

I know one thing. If I were still living in the city, I’d be preparing for the coming carnage.

More on that topic soon.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Korecki, Natasha. “Getting Hispanics to the polls in Chicago mayor’s race no slam dunk for Chuy.” Chicago Sun-Times. 15 Mar. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/438985/getting-hispanics-polls-chicago-mayors-race-slam-dunk-chuy). 8 Apr. 2015.

Pearson, Rick and Ruthhart, Bill. “’Second chance.’ Emanuel says he’s ‘humbled’ by victory.” Chicago Tribune. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-chicago-mayoral-election-20150407-story.html#page=1). 8 Apr. 2015.

SCC. “Mixed Bag.” Second City Cop. 7 Apr. 2015. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2015/04/mixed-bag.html). 8 Apr. 2015.

Judis, John B. “Broken city: Rahm Emanuel and the unraveling of Chicago.” National Journal. 30 Mar. 2015. (https://www.yahoo.com/politics/broken-city-rahm-emanuel-and-the-unraveling-of-115037357316.html). 8 Apr. 2015.

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April Is Pet Preparedness Month In Illinois

My girlfriend is lucky enough to have an office dog. Meet “Kodi”:

Kodi

Even though we’re not her owners, we’re still planning to sock away some food and other items for her in case of an emergency or “ruff” times.

Illinois readers- did you know April is Pet Preparedness Month in Illinois?

From the Illinois Government News Network website on April 1:

Don’t Forget Pets When Planning for Disasters

IEMA, local emergency management agencies to focus on pet preparedness throughout April

SPRINGFIELD – Pets are treasured family members in more than half of Illinois households. If your family includes a dog, cat, hamster or other furry, feathered or scaly friends, don’t forget to include their unique needs in your home emergency plans.

That’s the message the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies will promote throughout April as part of Pet Preparedness Month in Illinois.

“Every home should have an emergency supply kit and plans for how to stay safe when disaster strikes,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “Make sure your kit and emergency plans address the needs of every family member, including your pets. Your preparedness efforts today can help keep everyone in your family, including your pets, safe when disaster strikes.”

Joseph said home emergency supply kits for people should include a three-day supply of such items as food, water, first aid kit, weather alert radio, flashlights, spare batteries and other items. Pet owners should also have a pet preparedness kit stocked with items such as:

• At least a three-day supply of food and water
• Extra supplies of pet medicines
• Copies of pet registration, vaccinations and other important documents
• Photo of your pet in case you are separated during an emergency
• Collar with ID tag, harness or leash
• Crate or other pet carrier in case of evacuation
• Pet litter and box, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach for sanitation
• Toys, treats or other familiar items to reduce your pet’s stress during the emergency

If it’s necessary for you to evacuate your home during a disaster, take your pets with you. An evacuation could last several days, even weeks, and your pets likely cannot survive without care. Plan now for places you and your pets can stay following an evacuation, as many public shelters do not allow animals inside.

It’s also important to have a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Talk to neighbors, friends and family to make sure someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so.

Additional pet preparedness and general emergency preparedness information is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov, the Ready Illinois Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois and on Twitter at Twitter.com/ReadyIllinois.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Most Americans’ Incomes Fell Last Year, Except For Highest Earners

Here’s some economic data many Americans might not be too pleased to learn about. From an April 2 new release on the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics website, entitled “Consumer Expenditures Survey Midyear Update News Release”:

Average incomes fell for a second year, showing a decrease of 0.9 percent…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The BLS pointed out that average income before taxes suffered a -.9 percent change between July 2012-June 2013 ($65,029) and July 2013-June 2014 ($64,432)

The news release also illustrated the percent change in income before taxes between July 2012-June 2013 and July 2013-June 2014 for five different U.S. income quintiles. It wasn’t pretty:

• Lowest 20th percentile, $10,174 to $9,818, -3.5 percent
• Second 20th percentile, $27,094 to $26,369, -2.7 percent
• Third 20th percentile, $47,017 to $45,724, -2.8 percent
• Fourth 20th percentile, $75,990 to $74,410, -2.1 percent
• Highest 20th percentile, $164,647 to $166,048, 0.9 percent

A number of entities are using the data in an attempt to demonstrate growing income inequality in the U.S.

However, I see these numbers and think, further evidence of America’s poor economic health.

You can view the entire news release on the BLS website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Monday, April 6th, 2015 Government, Income, Main Street, Wealth No Comments

Thinking Of Illinois’ Financial Woes While In Wisconsin

Saturday morning while working on projects around my family’s place in Wisconsin, something I read earlier in the week came to mind. Steven Malanga wrote on The Fiscal Times website on March 30:

Illinois officials… are awaiting a ruling from the state’s Supreme Court on a suit by workers seeking to overturn the legislature’s 2013 pension reforms. If the court, which has previously refused to allow any changes to retirement plans for retirees or current workers, throws out the reforms, Illinois will face $145 billion in higher taxes over the next three decades just to pay off the debt, according to a report by the Civic Committee of Chicago.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Illinois will face $145 billion in higher taxes…”

I don’t recall hearing/seeing that figure being used before, so I decided to track it back to the source. From an October 9, 2014, press release from the Civic Committee:

The “What If?” initiative identifies some of the consequences that could result from an overturn of the pension law, including:

$145 billion in higher taxes and service cuts over 30 years
• Highest property taxes in the nation
• 41¢ of Big Three state tax dollars devoted to pensions, up from 8¢ in 2007
• A possible $2,500 tuition spike at the University of Illinois
• Severe cuts to K-12 education, leading to as many as 13,000 teacher layoffs
• Critical meltdown of social services, including the end of child care for 41,000 kids and 21,000 seniors losing in-home care

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

That’s a pretty scary picture being painted. The accompanying “What If?” brochure does a good job at accomplishing that. Consider some of these additional forecasts being made:

• 64,000 jobs lost
• $375 average property tax increase
• $3,000-plus in state taxes per household

The brochure didn’t indicate how all this was computed.

However, if conditions in the “Land of Lincoln” deteriorate to such a point, Wisconsin is where I’ll likely stay for good. Regular readers might recall that I’ve mentioned my permanent address being a Wisconsin one in the future.

You can read that entire press release/learn more about their “What If?” initiative on the Civic Committee website here.

While I support public pension reform in Illinois, I’m just not convinced what’s been put into play (passed into law) is the best way of going about it.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Malanga, Steven. “Outrageous public pensions could bankrupt these states.” The Fiscal Times. 30 Mar. 2015. (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/outrageous-public-pensions-could-bankrupt-172700274.html). 5 Apr. 2015.

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Bill Introduced To Permit Illinois Municipalities To File For Bankruptcy

Since I started blogging about a U.S. financial crash back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007, I’ve believed one casualty will be municipal government. Particularly in Illinois. So imagine my non-surprise when I spotted an article on the Chicago Tribune website a couple of days ago about proposed legislation at the state level granting Illinois towns the authority to file for bankruptcy. Nick Swedberg of the Associated Press wrote on March 26:

Stressed by pension debt, other financial issues and the possibility losing a chunk of their state aid, some Illinois cities want the option to file for bankruptcy. They’ve found an ally in a Republican lawmaker, who’s proposed legislation to allow municipalities to follow in the footsteps of Detroit and other cities in restructuring debt and paying back creditors…

Rep. Ron Sandack is sponsoring legislation that would grant authority for communities to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the federal code. The Downers Grove Republican says it’s a “measure of last resort,” especially with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal in next year’s budget to cut in half the local governments’ share of state income taxes by 50 percent.

“It’s just giving time and space to do things right,” he said…

Swedberg added later in the piece:

Municipal bankruptcies are rare, NCSL data shows. Of 37 local government filings since 2010, only 8 were cities, with the majority filed by utilities and special districts.

Detroit filed for the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in July 2013, looking to restructure $12 billion of debt…

It’s true. Municipal bankruptcies haven’t happened too often. But keep in mind what Eric Weiner wrote on the NPR website back on February 28, 2008:

For most of U.S. history, cities and towns were not eligible for bankruptcy protection. But during the Great Depression, more than 2,000 municipalities defaulted on their debt, and they pleaded with President Roosevelt for a federal bailout. “All they got was sympathy,” reported Time magazine in 1933. Instead, Roosevelt pushed through changes to the bankruptcy laws that allows towns and cities to file for bankruptcy. They even got their own section of the bankruptcy code: Chapter Nine…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

There’s also this from Robert Slavin on The Bond Buyer website back on January 14:

For the municipal bond industry, 2015 marks the midpoint in what may turn out to be the decade of the bankruptcy.

Four of the five largest municipal bankruptcy filings in United States history have been made in roughly the last three years, a trend analysts attribute to the aftereffects of the 2008 credit crisis and Great Recession, as well as changing attitudes about debt.

“The crash of 2008 and five years of stagnation preceded by years of escalating wages, pensions and Other Post-Employment Benefits set the stage for our recent Chapter 9 filings,” said Arent Fox partner David Dubrow.

Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy was adopted in 1937 but had been rarely used, particularly by large governments. However, since November 2011 San Bernardino, Calif., Stockton, Calif., Jefferson County, Ala., and Detroit have filed four of the five largest bankruptcies as measured by total obligations.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Could the specter of Meredith Whitney, the “Diva Of Doom,” be returning to take revenge on the municipal bond industry?

I’m not surprised Illinois municipalities would be interested in House Bill 298. From Patrick Rehkamp and Andrew Schroedter on the website of the Chicago-based Better Government Association back on December 6, 2014:

Reasons for filing vary but often include troubled public development projects, unanticipated hefty legal judgments against a taxpayer-backed entity, or massive pension and bond debt payments that leave a municipality cash-strapped and unable to cover operating costs of employee salaries, vendor payments and other expenses.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The public pension crisis in Chicago and Illinois has been well-publicized for some time now. And while such entitlements are supposedly protected by a provision in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, the BGA noted in their piece:

In Illinois, public employee pensions are guaranteed by the state constitution. But in the Detroit and Stockton, California bankruptcy cases, federal judges have ruled that pension benefits can be adjusted, the same as other debts, despite a constitutional guarantee.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can track the progress of HB 298 on the Illinois General Assembly website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Swedberg, Nick. “Bill pushes for possible municipal bankruptcies in Illinois.” Associated Press. 29 Mar. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-bc-il–closer-look-bankruptcy-20150329-story.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Weiner, Eric. “What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt?” NPR. 28 Feb. 2008. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=60740288). 3 Apr. 2015.

Slavin, Robert. “Why So Many Big Bankruptcies?” The Bond Buyer. 14 Jan. 2015. (http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/markets-buy-side/why-so-many-big-bankruptcies-1069539-1.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Rehkamp, Patrick and Schroedter, Andrew. “Next Up: Illinois Municipal Bankruptcy?” Better Government Association. 16 Dec. 2014. (http://www.bettergov.org/next_up_illinois_municipal_bankruptcy/). 4 Apr. 2015.

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Resource Of The Week: Hillsdale College’s Free ‘Constitution 101’ Online Course

Although I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s attended Hillsdale College (a small liberal arts college in Hillsdale, Michigan), I’ve only heard good things about the school. And here’s one more “good thing” to come out of “the conservative Harvard,” as it’s been called. From the college’s website:

FREE Constitution 101 ONLINE COURSE

For a limited time only

Understand the Constitution like never before – for FREE

Activate your free Constitution 101 course today!

The U.S. Constitution is the key to securing liberty for all Americans — yet very few know exactly what it says and what freedoms it protects. Hillsdale College is working to make 2015 the “Year of the Constitution,” dedicating this year to educating millions of Americans about this critical document. That’s why the College is offering its most popular course, “Constitution 101″ for free, when you sign up now.

Hillsdale’s course, Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution, features the same professors who teach this course on Hillsdale College’s campus. Hillsdale is one of the only colleges in America — outside of the military academies — that requires every student to take a course on the Constitution to graduate.

The course is delivered via email, with one lesson per week for 10 weeks. Each lesson features lively teaching and discussion boards, suggested readings, weekly quizzes, and more…


“Constitution 101 TV Spot”
YouTube Video

By Hillsdale College’s reputation alone, I’m guessing the approach taken by the course won’t be one of the U.S. Constitution being interpreted as a so-called “living document.” Or a meaningless scap of paper. So prospective enrollees may want to keep that in mind.

“Constitution 101” isn’t the only class being offered for free by Hillsdale. Current courses include “The Federalist Papers” and “A Proper Understanding of K-12 Education: Theory and Practice.” Archived instruction includes (as of April 2, 2015):

• Economics 101- The Principles of Free Market Economics
• History 102: American Heritage- From Colonial Settlement to the Reagan Revolution
• History 101: Western Heritage- From the Book of Genesis to John Locke
• Constitution 201- The Progressive Rejection of the Founding and the Rise of Bureaucratic Despotism

Along with “Constitution 101”. According to the website:

Hillsdale College offers free, not-for-credit online courses by its faculty. These online versions are based upon those in the College’s undergraduate Core Curriculum, which all Hillsdale students must complete prior to graduation.

In addition to lectures, these online courses feature readings, study guides, quizzes, and discussion groups. There is also an opportunity to receive certificates of completion for each course.

Ready to get schooled? Head on over to the Hillsdale College here for more information about and to register for “Constitution 101” and those other courses.

And feel free to pass this along to legislators you think could use a “refresher” on the Constitution of the United States of America.

I can think of more than a few who fit this bill off the top of my head…

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Higher Food Prices From California Water Restrictions?

After hearing about the new water restrictions in California, I wondered if Americans wouldn’t be seeing higher food prices (particularly on items from that state) at the grocery store as a result. Marco della Cava reported on the USA Today website yesterday:

California farmers and winemakers are not likely to feel the pinch from Wednesday’s new statewide water restrictions. Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory push to cut water use by 25% in the coming year is aimed largely at water-hogging homeowners and businesses.

“Water allocations to farmers have already been set for the year, so these new measures won’t really impact them,” says Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources. “But the new rules will require increased reporting on water diversions and water use.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

della Cava noted:

Roughly 80% of California’s water is used by its vast network of farms. More than half of California’s agricultural crop value comes from fruit and tree nut production (around $5 billion annually) and about a quarter from commercial vegetables ($6 billion annually), representing more than 60% of total U.S. fruit and tree nut farm value and 51% of vegetable farm value, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

That’s an awful lot of agriculture that’s getting punished by the ongoing drought. The food garden I’ve started to put together is starting to sound that much better in light of what’s happening.

Adam Nagourney added on The New York Times website Wendesday:

Owners of large farms, who obtain their water from sources outside the local water agencies, will not fall under the 25 percent guideline. State officials noted that many farms had already seen a cutback in their water allocations because of the drought. In addition, the owners of large farms will be required, under the governor’s executive order, to offer detailed reports to state regulators about water use, ideally as a way to highlight incidents of water diversion or waste.

Because of this system, state officials said, they did not expect the executive order to result — at least in the immediate future — in an increase in farm or food prices

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Heesun Wee chimed in over on the CNBC website on March 30:

Sectors that will be hit significantly include agriculture and food processing, said Troy Walters, a senior economist at IHS. Beyond those two categories, the impact will be minimal in the near term. “We’re not going to see any food inflation into 2015 beyond normal as a result of the water situation,” Walters said.

Looking at some California crops specifically, 2015 regional hay prices may not soften as they are expected to in the rest of the country. There’s a good chance there will be less rice acreage overall. And tree nuts including almonds will feel more of the drought’s impact, said Brandon Kliethermes, a senior economist at HIS…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The consensus seems to be no food price spike due to the new water restrictions.

But considering the enormity of California’s agricultural output, should arid conditions keep dragging on…

It might not be a bad idea to plant more fruits and vegetables than I originally envisioned.

Next week’s Home Grown Food Summit couldn’t have come at a better time.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

della Cava, Marco. “Farmers not as impacted by Brown’s new drought measures.” USA Today. 1 Apr. 2015. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/04/01/california-drought-measures-governor-jerry-brought-farmers/70786968/). 2 Apr. 2015.

Nagourney, Adam. “California Imposes First Mandatory Water Restrictions to Deal With Drought.” The New York Times. 1 Apr. 2015. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/02/us/california-imposes-first-ever-water-restrictions-to-deal-with-drought.html). 2 Apr. 2015.

Wee, Heesun. “Amid drought, some California farmers in near ‘survival mode.’” CNBC.com. 30 Mar. 2015. (http://www.cnbc.com/id/102527195). 2 Apr. 2015.

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