Chicago

‘Criminals Are Victims Of The Evil Capitalist Society’

These days, there are lots of people out there speculating and writing about what a financial crash would be like- even though they’ve never lived through one.

On the other hand, some have and are actively sharing their experiences and lessons for surviving a similar event.

Once in a while on Survival And Prosperity I’ve mentioned Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre, who lived through Argentina’s economic collapse last decade and released The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse in 2009. A big “fan” of the book and the accompanying blog- Surviving In Argentina- I happened to be listening to the fourth installment in a series of video posts FerFAL has produced recently about “prepper myths,” when he talked about the recent violent mugging of an American tourist in a nice part of Buenos Aires. Apparently, the mugger- who was on the verge of being lynched by a crowd- was booked by police yet released later on that day. FerFAL- now based in Northern Ireland- lamented in the April 9 post:

And that’s the key of the thing. It’s not considered a bad thing. And it’s not just mugging, robbing- even hurting, raping, murdering- it’s not considered a bad thing from the perspective of the Argentine government. They have this crappy, commie, anti-capitalist, bullshit thing going on which basically says- and I got tired of hearing this time and again- but the official government point of view is criminals are victims of the evil capitalist society that are just trying to provide for their families. And when you say, “Alright, what about a rapist or a murderer? What is he trying to do there?” “Well, he’s also a poor victim because he didn’t have the populist, socialist education that we’re trying to promote and he didn’t know any better.” They’re always justifying. And this isn’t just something I perceive. This is something I’ve been told by an actual district attorney. He’ll tell me, “That’s what we get from the top. We’re being told not to put people behind bars. Find any possible way, even if a cop drags one- this guy actually murdered someone in front of my eyes. Even if that happens, the official point of view of this is- release them as fast, as quickly as possible. We don’t want people behind bars.” That makes for a very chaotic society, and that’s what’s been going on in Argentina for over a decade now. That’s why it’s so violent…

Any of what FerFAL said ring a bell to some readers? It sure did for me, as I type this from the Chicago area this wintry April evening.

Plenty of bad guys who should be locked up behind bars are roaming the streets of Chicago and other parts of Cook County these days.

“That’s why it’s so violent.”

By the way, check out Fernando Aguirre’s other “prepper myth” video posts here if you have the time. I found them very insightful and thought-provoking.

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

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Chicago’s Bloody Weekend: 36 Shot, 4 Killed, ‘Lax State And Federal Gun Laws’ Blamed

Sometimes, it’s just better to keep quiet about some things.

Which is what I thought City Hall might do after the bloodiest weekend of the year (so far?) in Chicago.

Jon Seidel reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website earlier this afternoon:

A day after one of the warmest and bloodiest weekends so far in 2014, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy again complained that “lax state and federal gun laws” are hampering his department’s ability to stem the violence.

And, he said, “weather doesn’t cause crime.”

“It creates conditions which may contribute to crime,” McCarthy said, adding: “It doesn’t prevent crime, either.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“‘Lax state and federal gun laws’ are hampering his department’s ability to stem the violence.”

To borrow a term often used by the gun “control” crowd these days, “common-sense” dictates criminals don’t follow the law. And in general, the bad guys don’t acquire their guns legally. So if the City of Chicago wants to introduce new gun law after new gun law to make it “ground zero” for gun “control” in the country in hopes of stemming the violence…

Oh wait. That’s already been tried. And we all know how that worked out.

Regarding that claim about weather not preventing crime, I’ve have a pretty good idea shootings and related fatalties were affected by the brutal winter in “Chiberia.” Now that it’s warming up (today being the exception, as the snow falls steadily in my part of Chicagoland), I, for one, can’t say that I’ll be surprised to hear about more weekends like the one Chicago just had:

36 shot. 4 killed. In 1 weekend.

Those remind me of the numbers that were being put up just the other year.

2012 is gently rapping, rapping at the Chicago City Council Chamber doors…

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

Source:

Seidel, Jon. “Chicago’s top cop: ‘Lax’ gun laws hamper crime-fighting.” Chicago Sun-Times. 14 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/chicagos-top-cop-lax-gun-laws-hamper-crime-fighting/mon-04142014-118pm). 14 Apr. 2014.

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Chicago Has Highest Average Price Of Gas In The U.S.

Recently, a stack of bills came in the mail. One of them was for renewing the lawn care service that my girlfriend and I used last year. Everything was pretty much the same- except for a new fuel surcharge to compensate for the rising price of gas in the area.

Which really isn’t surprising, considering what I saw at the various Chicagoland gas stations less than two weeks ago and a new report saying the city of Chicago has the highest average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the country, once again.

Christian Farr wrote on the website of Chicago NBC affiliate NBC 5 yesterday:

The average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline has risen 5 cents in the past two weeks, which especially doesn’t doesn’t bode well for Chicago drivers.

The Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday says the price of a gallon of regular is $3.61, the highest price in Lundberg’s twice-monthly surveys since late July 2013…

According to Gasbuddy.com, the average price for Illinois is $3.84 a gallon and $4.05 a gallon for the city of Chicago, which is the highest in the country

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

The Chicago area routinely has the highest average price for a gallon of gas in the United States as of late. Consider these past post headlines of mine:

“Chicago Drivers Paying Nation’s Highest Average Gas Price”

-April 25, 2011

“Price Of Gas In Chicagoland Area Sets New AAA Record”

-March 26, 2012

“Chicago Has Highest Gas Price Of U.S. Cities In Lower 48 States”

-September 10, 2013

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

Source:

Farr, Christian. “Chicago Leads Nationwide Gas Price Spike.” NBC 5. 8 Apr. 2014. (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Survey-Shows-Gas-Prices-Are-Rising-254290651.html). 9 Apr. 2014.

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 Energy, Transportation, Vehicles 2 Comments

Reports: Chicago Manipulating Crime Statistics

“Downgrade and reclassify.”

It’s something I’ve heard leveled against the City of Chicago with increasing regularity since I started this blog in 2010.

I really became aware of it from reading the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop.

From a July 24, 2013, post:

Again, here is where CompStat really shines. Reclassify the crimes from “Strong Arm Robbery” to “Theft from Person” and –tada!!!– Instant drop in violent crime. You don’t think they’re doing it? How about those juveniles that got caught the other day? The one had another smart phone and was charged with “Theft of Lost/Mislaid Property” probably because no one could identify who committed the actual robbery. Or the lack of police that is emboldening the robbers? If someone has to wait an hour for a police report, they might as well head home and do it over the phone….or not do it at all. –Tada!!!— another drop in crime!

Downgrade and reclassify? That’s just tin-foil hat talk, right?

Apparently not.

David Bernstein and Noah Isackson wrote on Chicago magazine’s website yesterday:

Chicago conducted a 12-month examination of the Chicago Police Department’s crime statistics going back several years, poring through public and internal police records and interviewing crime victims, criminologists, and police sources of various ranks. We identified 10 people, including Groves, who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents—all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons.

This troubling practice goes far beyond murders, documents and interviews reveal. Chicago found dozens of other crimes, including serious felonies such as robberies, burglaries, and assaults, that were misclassified, downgraded to wrist-slap offenses, or made to vanish altogether. (We’ll examine those next month in part 2 of this special report.)

Many officers of different ranks and from different parts of the city recounted instances in which they were asked or pressured by their superiors to reclassify their incident reports or in which their reports were changed by some invisible hand. One detective refers to the “magic ink”: the power to make a case disappear. Says another: “The rank and file don’t agree with what’s going on. The powers that be are making the changes.”

Granted, a few dozen crimes constitute a tiny percentage of the more than 300,000 reported in Chicago last year. But sources describe a practice that has become widespread at the same time that top police brass have become fixated on demonstrating improvement in Chicago’s woeful crime statistics

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Two words come to mind here about these claims:

Truly disturbing.

The alleged manipulation of crime statistics goes beyond downgrading, reclassifying, and fudging.

Frank Main and Stefano Esposito reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday:

About one-quarter of victims of aggravated assault and battery failed to get counted in Chicago Police statistics for 2012, according to a city Office of the Inspector General report released Monday.

That’s because police didn’t count each person in a crime involving multiple victims as a separate offense, the inspector general’s office said.

The audit reviewed a sample of 383 assault-related incident reports out of a total of 83,480 for 2012.

Because of the findings, Chicago Police officials have agreed to review every aggravated assault and battery in 2012 and 2013 — and count each victim…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Remember, Chicago isn’t due to release the second part of its special report until next month.

If I were certain Chicago Police Department brass, I’d be seriously concerned about my job right now, as this developing situation looks to be a major blow to what credibility the City still has left with residents and others.

I know one thing. From now on, every time a City official brings up crime statistics, eyes will be rolling… long after heads may have due to this debacle.

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

Sources:

Bernstein, David and Isackson, Noah. “The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates.” Chicago. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/May-2014/Chicago-crime-rates/). 8 Apr. 2014.

Esposito, Stefano and Main, Frank. “Chicago Police underreported number of 2012 aggravated assault and battery, audit finds.” Chicago Sun-Times. 7 Apr. 2014. (Chicago Police underreported number of 2012 aggravated assault and battery, audit finds). 8 Apr. 2014.

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Chicago Public Pension Crisis Latest

Last Tuesday, I blogged about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to address some of the City’s public pension woes via larger contributions by City employees and $50 million tax increases for five straight years- beginning next year and continuing through 2019- for Chicago property owners.

There’s been a lot of chatter regarding this proposal and other pension “reform” activity today. Karen Pierog reported on the Reuters website:

Legislation to ease funding shortfalls in two of Chicago’s four retirement systems is a modestly positive credit step but not a permanent fix, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday

Moody’s said that if enacted into law, the measure would immediately reduce the unfunded liabilities in the two funds.

“However, we expect that the (liability) would then escalate for a number of years before declining. Accrued liabilities would exceed plan assets for years to come, and if annual investment returns fall short of the assumed 7.5 percent, the risk of plan insolvency may well reappear,” the credit rating agency said in a report…

After breezing through an Illinois House committee on April 2, the bill has stalled. Moody’s said that even if the bill makes it out of the legislature, Governor Pat Quinn must sign it. The law would then face potential challenges to its legality under the Illinois constitution, which prohibits the impairment of retirement benefits for public sector workers…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So will the Illinois Governor and fellow Chicago Democrat sign off on Mayor Emanuel’s proposed legislation?

John Byrne and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune website this afternoon:

Gov. Pat Quinn today came out against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise Chicago property taxes and cut retirement benefits as a way to shore up some of Chicago’s government worker pension systems.

The re-election seeking Democratic governor called the bill floating around Springfield “a sketch” that “kept changing by the hour” and blasted the property tax as a “lousy tax” because it is not based on the ability to pay…

“I don’t think that’s a good way to go,” Quinn said of hiking property taxes. “And I say it today and I’ll say it tomorrow, they’ve got to come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue. But if they just think they are going to gouge property tax owners, no can do. We’re not going to go that way.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Now, as I pointed out in last week’s post about Chicago’s public pension crisis:

There’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Plus, I read the following this morning by Chacour Koop on the website of The State Journal-Register (Springfield):

After addressing Illinois’ own employee pension crisis, lawmakers now face an equally challenging task with the state’s cities, as mayors demand help with underfunded police and firefighter pensions before the growing cost “chokes” budgets and forces local tax increases.

The nine largest cities in Illinois after Chicago have a combined $1.5 billion in unfunded debt to public safety workers’ pension systems. Police and fire retirement funds for cities statewide have an average of just 55 percent of the money needed to meet current obligations to workers and retirees…

The problems — a history of underfunding, the expansion of job benefits and the prospect of crushing future payments — mirror those that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned about when he asked the legislature for relief last week.

In 2016, state law requires cities to make required contribution increases — in some cases, more than an additional $1 million annually — so they’ll reach 90 percent funding by 2040. If they don’t, the state will begin doing it for them, diverting grant money now used by cities elsewhere directly into the pension funds…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Just like the Illinois General Assembly- dominated by Democrats- barely passed legislation on December 3, 2013, that was touted as a “fix” for the state’s $100 billion public pension crisis (it isn’t), something tells me an accommodation may be reached with fellow Democrats running the City of Chicago so they don’t have to pay the full amount of the state-required $600 million contribution due next year to stabilize police and fire pension funds.

That goes for those large Illinois communities as well.

Watch all the back-patting go on should that “fix” materialize as well.

And the inevitable “blowback” down the road.

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

UPDATE: From Fran Spielman over on the Chicago Sun-Times website early Tuesday morning:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Michael Madigan Monday stripped out controversial language from city pension legislation that had authorized the City Council to impose a property-tax hike, putting the stalled measure back on the fast-track at the state Capitol.

Madigan, D-Chicago, filed an amendment to Senate Bill 1922 after the House adjourned Monday without taking any action on the stalled legislation. Sources now expect the legislation to be voted upon as early as Tuesday.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Sources:

Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 1-Proposed Chicago pension changes positive step but no fix -Moody’s.” Reuters. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/07/usa-chicago-moodys-idUSL2N0MZ1AP20140407). 7 Apr. 2014.

Byrne, John and Garcia, Monique. “Quinn blasts Emanuel’s property tax hike for pensions.” Chicago Tribune. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-quinn-blasts-emanuels-property-tax-hike-for-pensions-20140407,0,5432729.story). 7 Apr. 2014.

Koop, Chacour. “Illinois’ next pension issue: Police, firefighter funds.” Associated Press. 6 Apr. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140406/NEWS/140409562/-1/json/?tag=1). 7 Apr. 2014.

Spielman, Fran. “Analysis: Rahm’s pension bill revisions solve—and create—problems.” Chicago Sun-Times. 8 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/analysis-rahm%E2%80%99s-pension-bill-revisions-solve%E2%80%94and-create%E2%80%94problems/mon-04072014-728pm). 8 Apr. 2014.

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Project Prepper, Part 24: Restart And Recap

It’s been a few months since I last published a “Project Prepper” post.

Considering all the material I have that’s just waiting to be blogged about, I don’t envision another layoff like that one happening again soon with this or one of the other series of posts currently running on Survival And Prosperity.

Today, I want to recap the “Project Prepper” series so far.

At two dozen posts, key topics I’ve blogged about since October 2012- when the first post debuted- have included:

• Starting up the “Project Prepper” series due to an increased awareness of man-made and naturally-occurring threats to life and lifestyle where I’ve decided to acquaint myself more with “prepping” via a sustained “hands-on” program of learning by doing

• Relocating from Chicago to the suburbs with an eye towards eventually settling down in Wisconsin (moved from Chicago to the northwest suburbs in late spring 2013)

• Establishing a prioritized list of 6 “innate survival needs” that my preparedness education will focus on:

1. Security
2. Water
3. Food
4. Shelter
5. Sanitation and Health
6. Energy

• Starting and building the foundation of an emergency water supply

• Starting an emergency food supply

Now, in these two dozen posts I’ve talked about items I’ve purchased as part of the “Project Prepper” series. For example, the Scepter 5 Gallon Manual Venting Water Jerry Can with CRC (Light Blue/Military Style) to store emergency water.

Going forward, I’m adding a new page to Survival And Prosperity this weekend entitled “Gear And Supplies” where I’ll be listing gear, supplies, and other items talked about in this series of posts and elsewhere on the blog- and links for where to buy them- if I feel they might offer something to readers.

It’s nice to be back in the saddle again. Until next week…

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

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Graphic Shows Middle-Class Flight From Chicago

Back when I worked for a fire department in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, a veteran firefighter stopped by my office one day. I always assumed he was a lifelong resident of that area. He wasn’t. “Brendan” informed me that as a kid he grew up on Chicago’s West Side, near where the old Magic Kist Carpet billboard sign (those big neon red lips, remember?) used to be off the Eisenhower Expressway I think. I was told that the neighborhood was at one time very blue-collar, but by the late 60s-early 70s it was going to hell. His family saw what was happening to the area, and along with a number of other neighborhood families made the hard decision of leaving Chicago for something better in the suburbs.

I was reminded of that story when I came across a related one on the website of Chicago CBS affiliate CBS 2 last night. John Dodge reported:

The graphic that you are about to see is sobering, perhaps depressing, and you can’t take your eyes off it.

We have the exhaustive work of Daniel Kay Hertz, a masters student at the University Of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, to thank for that.

At the risk of sounding like an old carnival barker, step right up and watch the middle class of Chicago vanish before your eyes.

However, this is no side-show.

It shows the demise of the foundation of an American city.

Watch as the grey squares, which illustrate the middle class that dominated the most of the city’s neighborhoods in 1970s, quickly vanish over 40 years…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Dodge was right. The graphic (after the body of the piece) is sobering, to say the least.

But not surprising to long-time Chicagoland residents or someone who’s ever run into a “Brendan” and has learned about their origins.

By the way, if the name Daniel Kay Hertz rings a bell with regular Survival And Prosperity readers, it’s because I blogged about a comparison he performed last year of homicide rates in Chicago Police Department districts from 1990-1993 to rates from 2008-2011.

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

Source:

Dodge, John. “Amazing Graphic Shows Chicago’s Middle Class Disappear Before Your Eyes.” CBS 2. 3 Apr. 2014. (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/04/03/amazing-graphic-shows-chicagos-middle-class-disappear-before-your-eyes/). 4 Apr. 2014.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 11

Potholes. Tons of them. Christopher Borrelli reported on the Chicago Tribune website on Monday:

It’s officially spring. We’re deep into pothole season, which, like other holiday seasons, seems to grow longer every year. This pothole season could be the longest yet. Potholes are out of control. The Chicago Department of Transportation said last month that pothole complaints have tripled in the past year; and since New Year’s Day alone, the city has filled more than 350,000 potholes. And because, according to CDOT, which assumes there are at least five unreported potholes for each reported pothole, their conservative estimate of the number of potholes remaining is, well, about 60,000 potholes.

At the very, very least…

Personally, I think the roads have been crap in many places around the Chicagoland area for a number of years now.

One spot in particular that’s incredibly chewed up and which I drive through on a regular basis is that portion of Thatcher Road right outside the Oak Park Country Club in River Grove.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the report of the shotguns being fired nearby on certain days at the Club- in conjunction with the cratered road- reminds some veterans of being in a warzone.

As a high school kid, when I could scrape together several bucks I would buy the latest duPont REGISTRY (magazine of luxury autos for sale) at the old Crown Books on the corner of Harlem and North. Lots of daydreaming would ensue where I’d be piloting some hot sports car around Chicago.

A number of years have passed, and practicality along with fate has left me driving an older, high-mileage Toyota instead.

Still, my lust for a high-performance vehicle has never subsided.

Although, the crumbling streets I’d encounter around the Chicago area made me remark to my girlfriend one day that owning a nice sports car (or even a “regular” one) may not be practical around these parts. For starters, there’s the city traffic. Second, there’s the high price of gas- especially if the vehicle requires the premium stuff. Finally, the increasingly crummy roads will “eat up” the bottom of the vehicle.

Case in point. While watching the local news one day this winter, I spotted a reporter doing a live broadcast about how bad the potholes were in the city. As they were doing the shoot, a hipster’s car went over one of these holes, tearing off a big piece from the underside of her vehicle. I felt really bad for the young lady as she proceeded to talk about what just happened on camera.

Further evidence of just how bad the local streets have gotten can be seen in a Craigslist.org post I saw the other day while taking in some car porn. From March 29:

Porsche 914 (1974) – $10500 (chicago)

Tired of winter and potholes, the car is 99% of the time in the garage…Selling my ’74 914,wide body from Sheridan Motorsports,custom interior,disk brakes front and rear,1.8l engine with double webers(40mm)pulls strong with no leaks,transmission rebuilt less than 500 miles ago,75k miles

Considering trading for a WRX of similar or lesser value…

“Tired of winter and potholes, the car is 99% of the time in the garage”

That trade request for a Subaru WRX makes sense, as things considered.

Still, even that rugged all-wheel drive vehicle may have too low of a ground clearance for some of the “surface anomalies” I’ve been spotting for some time now.

After I told my girlfriend about sports cars perhaps being impractical to own around these parts, I suggested for one to really experience what a sports car is really capable of performance-wise, one would probably have to head out to the back roads.

When I finally get my hands on one of these cars, “Escape to Wisconsin” will take on a whole new meaning for me…


Jamiroquai, “Cosmic Girl” (1996)
YouTube Video

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

Source:

Borrelli, Christopher. “Making potholes into art.” Chicago Tribune. 31 Mar. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-31/entertainment/ct-pothole-art-20140401_1_pothole-season-mosaic-marble). 3 Apr. 2014.

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Poll Of Illinois Voters: 89% Feel Political Corruption Somewhat Common In State

I don’t talk about the topic too often, but political corruption was the focus of a recent poll taken by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute down at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. From a press release Monday:

Illinois Voters: Political Corruption “Common” In Our State

Overwhelming majorities of Illinois voters believe political corruption is the norm for both federal and state governments, according to the latest poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Fewer people believe political corruption at the local level affects their lives – unless they live in Chicago.

The poll of 1001 registered voters across the state conducted Feb. 12 -25 has a margin for error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The survey found:

• 89 percent of Illinoisans feel corruption is somewhat common in the state, with 53 percent believing it’s very common.

• 79 percent say corruption at the federal level is at least somewhat common, with 45 percent saying it’s very common.

• 62 percent of all Illinoisans believe county or city political corruption is at least somewhat common, with 35 percent reporting local corruption to be very common.

° However, 85 percent of those living in Chicago believe county or city political corruption is at least somewhat common, with 55 percent perceiving local corruption to be very common.

“These are sad numbers,” said David Yepsen, Director of the Institute. “No wonder many people don’t vote and participation in civic affairs seems limited. It’s unhealthy for a society to have such little confidence in the integrity of government. It makes Illinois an unattractive place to live.”

“It makes Illinois an unattractive place to live.”

That it does, Mr. Yepsen. That it does.

Note that bit about Chicago.

Back on February 4, 2012, I blogged:

This afternoon I was running errands around the Chicagoland area when I heard on WBBM Newsradio 780 that a new study showed Chicago is the most corrupt city in the nation. From the CBS Channel 2 Chicago website:

A former Chicago alderman turned political science professor/corruption fighter has found that Chicago is the most corrupt city in the country.

He cites data from the U.S. Department of Justice to prove his case. And, he says, Illinois is third-most corrupt state in the country

University of Illinois professor Dick Simpson estimates the cost of corruption at $500 million…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Truly, a sad state of affairs.

You can read the entire press release (.pdf format) from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute on their website here.

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

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Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 Corruption, Government No Comments

Chicago Wakes To Proposed Property Tax Hike On April Fool’s Day

Many Chicagoans probably wish what’s being widely-reported in the local news this morning about a proposed property tax hike is just a silly April Fool’s joke.

It’s not.

Fran Spielman wrote on the Chicago Sun-Times website last night:

Chicago property owners will face $250 million in property tax increases over five years while city employees make increased pension contributions that will cost them at least $300 more a year, under landmark reforms unveiled Monday…

The new revenue the mayor had promised only after pension reform will come in the form of $50 million property tax increases for five straight years, beginning next year and continuing through 2019.

Top mayoral aides estimate that would cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 with an annual property tax bill of $4,000 roughly $58 more or $290 over the five-year period. That’s on top of expected increases for the Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Park District…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A couple of thoughts here:

First off, is anyone really surprised this is happening?

Regular readers of this blog shouldn’t be.

Higher fees, fines, and taxes. Less government services.

I’ve been squawking this for quite some time now.


“Black Dynamite- Who saw that coming?”
YouTube Video

Second, a $250,000 home? When discussing a Chicago Board of Education property tax hike last August, I blogged:

$230,000? You’d be hard-pressed to find a home for that little money in my former stomping grounds on the Northwest Side.

The same holds true for a $250,000 one (especially if it’s a property big enough for a family and doesn’t require a ton of work).

Which means many of my old neighbors will be coughing up significantly more than just $58 annually/$290 over five years as a result of this proposed hike.

And they already pay a big chunk of change to the City’s coffers.

Third, Spielman added last night:

The bottom line, according to Emanuel, is a plan that spreads the burden between employees, retirees and homeowners without raising property taxes so high that it triggers a mass exodus to the suburbs…

“Mass” being the key word here, because an exodus has already started. Former Chicago residents who have awakened to the “writing on the wall” are moving to the suburbs (yours truly included), leaving Cook County, and departing the state.

The push to make “temporary” personal and corporate income tax hikes permanent and the pursuit of class warfare in the form of a proposed millionaire tax hike by the ruling political party in the city, county, and state certainly don’t help the situation either.

Fourth, I can’t stand when tax hikes are proposed despite the lack of significant belt-tightening. Think the City of Chicago is as lean-and-mean as it possibly can be with its operations and set-up?

As long as 50 aldermanic wards exist, I’d argue no.

Fifth, as it stands right now, there’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with. Hal Dardick an Bill Ruthhart reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

But the proposal the mayor and his top aides outlined late Monday would not address huge pension shortfalls for Chicago police, firefighters and teachers. Nor would it deal with the city’s most immediate, pressing financial problem: a state requirement to pay a whopping $600 million more toward police and fire pensions next year, a provision that could lead to a combination of tax increases, service cuts and borrowing

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You read right. Possibly more “tax increases, service cuts and borrowing” coming down the line shortly for Chicago residents.

Stay tuned…

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

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “Pension deal pinches city workers and taxpayers.” Chicago Sun-Times. 31 Mar. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/exclusive-pension-deal-pinches-city-workers-and-taxpayers/mon-03312014-821pm). 1 Apr. 2014.

Dardick, Hal and Ruthhart, Bill. “Emanuel’s pension fix: Shrink benefits, raise taxes.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-rahm-emanuel-pension-property-tax-increase-met–20140401,0,1662095,full.story). 1 Apr. 2014.

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Signs Of The Time, Part 73

Regular readers of this blog might remember that I used to reside on the Northwest Side of Chicago. When my girlfriend and I first moved into that so-called “suburb in the city” almost a decade ago, a number of our personal belongings were stolen almost right off the bat (plant delivery left in building vestibule, steel Coleman cooler in indoor parking garage, Sunday Tribunes galore).

Consequently, my sister declared at a family gathering that I had moved to the “ghetto.”

Some individuals might have taken offense to that. I reveled in it. In fact, “Ghetto Superstar” is my “handle” on a number of Internet forums.

Some years later, I informed my sister that I might be sending her a package in the mail. She responded that might not be a good idea since some neighbors in her building had delivered parcels go missing.

Alas, the ghetto had arrived at her doorstep too (albeit at the foot of the Rocky Mountains).

Last week, I stopped by my parents’ place in the west suburbs. My mom shared with me that some recent deliveries to their building had been stolen. Thankfully, none of those packages belonged to my parents.

Still, back when I lived in the “ghetto,” that’s where I had my stuff shipped to, thinking it was a safer destination than my Chicago address.

It was. Up until now, it appears.

Damn thieves…


YouTube Video

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

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Monday, March 31st, 2014 Crime, Security, Signs Of The Time No Comments

Chicago Money Smart Week: Over 500 Free Financial Classes, Events

This morning, I opened up my Sunday paper to find a small booklet- a “special advertising section”- about something called Money Smart Week. From the inside page:

Are You Money Smart?

It’s too bad money doesn’t come with instructions because we all need to know how to spend it, save it and borrow it wisely. That’s why financial institutions, not-for-profits, schools, libraries and lots of others are joining together to help support financial education during Money Smart Week, April 5-12.

More than 500 free educational classes, seminars and activities will take place around Chicagoland and focus on financial topics for people of all walks of life

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Money Smart Week – Public Service Announcement with Jeffrey Brown”
YouTube Video

According to the event website, the program was started by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002.

The hundreds of free offerings are broken down into 22 topics, including Investing & Wealth Building, Personal Finance 101/Budgeting, and Savvy Shopping & Bargain Hunting, to name a few.

Looking to further your financial education? Head over to the Money Smart Week website here to explore what’s available.

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

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Seen On The Streets, Part 10

While I’ve been doing quite a bit of driving around the Northwest Side of Chicago and surrounding suburbs lately, I’ve noticed the price at the pump has been rising.

I filled up the Flintstone Mobile for $3.99 a gallon of regular gas last weekend, and noticed that was typically the same price at the various stations I drove by yesterday while in the west suburbs.

From the Journal & Topics Newspapers (northwest suburbs) website yesterday:

Gas prices in the Chicago-area are quickly approaching $4 per gallon.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas peaked at $3.98 last week and had only fallen to $3.95 as of Friday.

Gas prices in the Chicago-area are expected to continue their rise, peaking in late April or early May between $4.10 and $4.25 a gallon in Chicago…

(Editor’s note: Bold- yes, bold now- added for emphasis)

If the cost at the pump does indeed go higher, I predict irritated drivers will start showing up on the local news again like they did in the summer of 2008.

Question is, will they also start cutting back on spending in other areas like they did that year?

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

Source:

“Gas Prices Spiking Again.” Journal & Topics Newspapers. 26 Mar. 2014. (http://www.journal-topics.com/business/article_3c8eed54-b526-11e3-b729-001a4bcf6878.html). 27 Mar. 2014.

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Chicago To Host Nuclear Security Summit 2016

This morning, I found out Chicago will be hosting another international summit two years from now. Stacy St. Clair reported on the Chicago Tribune website a short time ago:

President Barack Obama will host the next nuclear security summit in Chicago in 2016, once again gathering world leaders in his hometown for a major international event.

Obama made the announcement this morning at the end of this year’s summit in the Netherlands, where the leaders from 53 countries participated. The exact date has not been announced.

This would be the second major international gathering held in Chicago during Obama’s presidency. In 2012, the city hosted a NATO summit that drew representatives from more than 60 countries as well as a sizeable group of protestors from around North America…

Ah yes, the protesters. I’m sure the Chicago Police Department are thrilled to hear of this announcement.

Here’s some video of the “civil disobedience” taking place at this year’s Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague:


“The Netherlands: Nuclear Security Summit draws protests”
YouTube Video

Not much unruliness going on from what I can see. Still, two years from now economic conditions may be significantly worse, with the gathering serving as a focal point for increased discontent.

For all you Chicagoans hoping to get out of Dodge during the summit, like St. Clair said, nothing’s been scheduled yet. However, the prior three summits have all taken place in late March-first part of April, if that helps.

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

Source:

St. Clair, Stacy. “Obama to host nuclear security summit in Chicago in 2016.” Chicago Tribune. 25 Mar. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-obama-to-host-nuclear-security-summit-in-chicago-in-2016-20140325,0,5154031.story). 25 Mar. 2014.

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Wisconsin Cuts Taxes While Illinois Looks To Make 2011 ‘Temporary’ Tax Hikes Permanent

Throughout the years, I’ve known/met a number of Illinois residents who can’t stand Wisconsin. Mostly from the Chicago area, they equate Wisconsin and its residents as being unsophisticated clowns.

I wonder if they haven’t noticed by now that the only circus around is in the “Land of Lincoln.”

While Illinois falls deeper into an economic abyss (public pension fix my butt), Wisconsin seems to have gotten their finances under control and look to be on the path to prosperity.

So much so they’re cutting taxes. Again.

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein reported on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website Monday afternoon:

Lowering taxes for the third time in less than a year, Gov. Scott Walker signed his $541 million tax cut bill in a ceremony Monday at a farm in Cecil as he travels through central and northern Wisconsin touting it.

Speaking at Horsens Homestead Farms, about 35 miles northwest of Green Bay, Walker called it a great day for Wisconsin taxpayers and a sign of the state’s shifting financial fortunes in recent years.

“Now, instead of billion dollar budget deficits, we have a surplus — and today that money is on its way to the workers, parents, seniors, property owners, veterans, job creators and others. You deserve to keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible — because after all, it is your money,” Walker said.

With growing tax collections now expected to give the state a $1 billion budget surplus in June 2015, Walker’s tax proposal will cut property and income taxes for families and businesses, and zero out all income taxes for manufacturers in the state.

Though the state’s tax revenue is increasing, GOP lawmakers and Walker are trimming state spending slightly for the next three years rather than increasing it

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Meanwhile, across the Cheddar Curtain in Illinois there’s this on the website of The State Journal-Register (Springfield). Doug Finke reported Friday:

Hundreds of employees would be laid off, state facilities would be closed and thousands of prison inmates released without supervision, state agency directors told senators Friday during a hearing to gauge the effect of possibly severe spending cuts next year.

During a more than three-hour joint hearing of the two Senate Appropriations committees, agency after agency warned of drastic consequences should they be forced to cut their current budgets by 20 percent.

“There would be extreme consequences for the economy across Illinois,” warned Ben Winick of Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office. “Over a dozen state facilities would have to close. Thousands of state employees would have to be laid off.”

The hearing occurred just days before Quinn is scheduled to finally deliver his budget outline for the fiscal year that starts July 1…

Translated? Illinois residents, this is what will happen if you don’t support making the Democrat-led temporary 67 percent personal income tax hike and 46 percent corporate income tax hike implemented in January 2011 permanent next year.

I hear Governor Quinn will be delivering his budget plan tomorrow.

Instead of ridiculing Wisconsin, us FIBs (F***ing Illinois Bastards as we’re known by up there) might want to start emulating our neighbors to the north in certain respects before we completely destroy Illinois.

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

Sources:

Marley, Patrick and Stein, Jacob. “Scott Walker signs tax cut legislation.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 24 Mar. 2014. (http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/scott-walker-set-to-sign-tax-cut-legislation-b99231851z1-251936261.html). 24 Mar. 2014.

Finke, Doug. “State agencies outline cuts if forced to make 20% reductions.” The State Journal-Register. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140321/NEWS/140329821). 24 Mar. 2014.

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