Chicago

Chicago’s 2015 Budget Includes Tax And Fee Hikes

Gee, who could’ve anticipated new fee and tax hikes look to be in store for Chicago next year?

From Fran Spielman over on the Chicago Sun-Times website this morning:

[Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel will campaign for re-election on a budget that raises $62.4 million through “targeted” tax hikes and closing “loopholes,” which amounts to the same thing.

People who live, work and play in Chicago will be paying more for everything from parking and vehicle leasing to cable television and stadium skyboxes…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

These individuals have been doing that for a number of years now. Hal Dardick pointed out over on the Chicago Tribune site:

As the Chicago City Council prepares to approve his latest budget Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel repeatedly has reminded voters that he didn’t raise city property taxes during his first four years in office.

But that doesn’t mean homeowners haven’t had to pay. Under Emanuel, vehicle stickers cost more. Cable TV and phone taxes went up. And water and sewer fees increased significantly…

Taken together, Emanuel’s hikes mean the typical Chicago family will pay about $481 more to the city next year than it did in 2011. That’s the equivalent of a typical Chicago homeowner paying 60 percent more in city property taxes, which are nearly $800 a year for city and library services on a $250,000 home…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Nearly $800 a year for city and library services on a $250,000 home”

In the Chicago neighborhood I recently moved out of, I’m not sure if any inhabitable houses at that price range with more than 2 bedrooms/1 bath even exists. So I’m guessing a number of my old neighbors- who already shoulder a significant tax burden for the city- will be somewhat pissed to hear of this “good news” coming out of City Hall.

That being said, it’s not exactly Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” we’re talking about here. But it’s probably not what Chicagoans want to deal with as the holiday season kicks-in.

As for the well-publicized pension crisis going on in the “Windy City,” Spielman added:

By December, 2015, the City Council must decide whether to raise property taxes — or find other new revenues — to fund a state-mandated, $550 million payment to shore up police and fire pension funds.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So a property tax hike might also be coming down the pipeline.

One more thing. Regarding the ongoing manpower shortage in the Chicago Police Department? That doesn’t look like it’s going to be resolved in 2015. From the Sun-Times piece:

Once again, the mayor’s budget includes only enough money to keep pace with retirements. It also includes roughly $70 million in police overtime, down from $100.3 million in 2013 and a projected $95 million this year…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Crime is down!” Yeah, whatever.

As always, I’m glad to see Fran Spielman and Hal Dardick are on top of their game.

What does all this mean for Chicago residents/workers/visitors?

It’s probably wise to budget a good deal more money for anything city-related next year. Even more so in 2016 considering what could be in store with the city’s public pension mess and what Cook County is telegraphing these days (blogged about Monday).

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

(UPDATE: The Chicago City Council approved Mayor Emanuel’s proposed 2015 city budget Wednesday by a vote of 46-4, and “puts off dealing with the city’s most vexing financial woes until after next year’s elections” according to the Tribune Thursday morning)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “Chicago City Council set to pass Emanuel’s $7.3 billion budget.” Chicago Sun-Times. 19 Nov. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/chicago-city-council-set-pass-emanuels-73-billion-budget/wed-11192014-742am). 19 Nov. 2014.

Dardick, Hal. “Higher Emanuel fees and taxes add up.” Chicago Tribune. 19 Nov. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-emanuel-budget-2015-met-20141118-story.html#page=1). 19 Nov. 2014.

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Brutal Chicagoland Winter Coming?

Brrr! It’s pretty chilly out here in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. But I understand Chicagoland residents are just getting a taste of the coming winter, as temperatures are expected to climb back to around 50°F by Sunday. I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot of chores to take care of around (outside) the house, so I’ll take any “warm” day I can get to knock those out.

A number of Chicago-area readers might be wondering- is this winter going to be as brutal as the last one? Especially as it concerns the pocketbook? Here’s something I caught in my Sunday paper the other day. From Julie Wernau for the Chicago Tribune:

The good news is that this season’s residential winter heating bills in Chicago, from November through March, are expected to fall more than $150 from last year.

A milder winter this year is expected to reduce consumption and cut heating costs even as gas prices in the Midwest tick upward.

“It’s going to be colder than average but not as persistently cold,” said Jeff Johnson, chief science officer for Schneider Electric Weather, which provides weather forecasting for utilities. “There will be intense cold shots, but we’re also looking at milder interludes in between.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Wernau added that Peoples Gas is forecasting the average bill for customers this coming winter will be $912.66- down $176.84 from last winter. Nicor is expecting their average bill will drop around $125.

On the flipside, I had heard in the last couple of weeks that the winter of 2014-15 was going to be a nasty one again. That term “polar vortex” was being kicked around a lot. The boat hauler my family uses in southeast Wisconsin even warned me there would be no shortage of cold and snow in the coming months.

I really hope Schneider Electric Weather and the local gas companies are correct with their winter predictions, because I just heard my neighbor shoveling snow a few minutes ago. Time to bust out my work clothes and see what’s up…

Typical Winter Attire In Madiganistan

Typical Winter Attire In Madiganistan

ANY CHARACTER HERE

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

Source:

Wernau, Julie. “Winter heating bills could drop by about $150.” Chicago Tribune. 14 Nov. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-winter-heating-bills-1116-biz-20141107-story.html#page=1). 18 Nov. 2014.

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Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 Energy, Preparedness, Utilities, Weather No Comments

Prepping For Ferguson-Related Civil Strife

I was planning on wrapping up my blogging on Survival And Prosperity last night (as I strive for posting regularly again Sunday through Thursday), but thought it was important that I end this week with a few words concerning the upcoming decision by a St. Louis grand jury on whether or not to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. As I wrote in a post last Sunday:

Why do I care? Because I suspect there’s a lot of pent-up anger and frustration out there that could fuel significant destruction and violence in the wake of such a finding.

That being said, the authorities have had a good deal of time to prepare for the day the decision is announced and position resources in the Ferguson area to deal with any peaceful protest gone rogue.

In that respect, it won’t be like the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

Still, that’s not to say civil strife won’t be sparked in other areas of the country after the announcement is made. St. Louis and Chicago come to mind here. A number of other U.S. municipalities are possible candidates as well.

So what do you do if you live in these areas where Ferguson-related civil disorder could break out any day now?

Late last night I came across an article on The Daily Sheeple alternative news website that might be of some help to those in the crosshairs. Daisy Luther wrote in “Officials Warn: ‘Make Sure You Are Prepared for a Period of Disruption’ Before Michael Brown Decision”:

Are you prepared for civil unrest?

The thing about racially motivated conflicts is that the divisive emotions and actions can spread far beyond the local area. You don’t have to live in the Ferguson area to face the potential for civil unrest. Here’s a synopsis of the threats during such an event and what you can do to prepare for them…

Luther goes on to talk about looting, violence for the sake of violence, destruction of property, running out of supplies, and martial law- and how to deal with each of these threats.

While it was an interesting piece to read for me, it should be required reading for those who are more likely to be impacted by any Ferguson-related civil strife. The article is located on The Daily Sheeple website here. Keep in mind there are a number of items that may require immediate action on the reader’s part, so don’t delay here as a decision could be handed down at any time now.

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

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Latest On Niles, Illinois, Pro-Gun Business Initiatives

Some Chicago-area readers of Survival And Prosperity might be curious about the status of the concealed-carry training facility and gun shop/range that were looking to move into the near-northwest suburb of Niles, Illinois. Well, the CCW school has opened its doors to the public. From the Northwest suburban Journal & Topics Newspapers website on November 4:

A school to train gun owners for concealed carry permits held a grand opening on Milwaukee Avenue in Niles.

Niles Village Trustee George Alpogianis, standing-in for Mayor Andrew Przybylo at the Oct. 17 event, cut the ribbon for Conceal Carry Safety for Personal Defense at 7609 N. Milwaukee.

The school uses fake guns with lasers for aiming, rather than actual firearms with live ammunition…

I understand the name of the school is actually Concealed Carry Safety for Personal Defense, and I blogged about the facility back in May after the Niles Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals recommended it be considered for a special use permit. At that time, I noted the CCW training school would be utilizing Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger (SIRT) Training Pistols as part of their curriculum:


“SIRT Training Pistol Introduction with Mike Hughes”
YouTube Video

As for the new gun shop/range? Alex Hernandez reported on The Bugle website on October 24:

People for a Safer Society are suing to block Sportsman’s Club and Firearms Training Academy from opening in Niles.

“The area immediately surrounding [Sportsman’s] is replete with schools, religious facilities, children’s recreations facilities, and other non-gun-related businesses and entities, many or all of which are within walking distance of the Howard Property and the proposed gun range,” said the suit filed by People for a Safer Society last Friday.

Back in July trustees voted 4-1 to grant Sportsman’s a special use permit to open an 1,800-square-foot firing range and 2,500 square feet of retail space at 6143 W. Howard St…

The suit claims that if Sportsman’s opens the business would endanger Niles by allowing “easy access for buying a gun for anyone in or near Niles and the surrounding villages and communities,” that Sportsman’s gun sales “would result in the feeding of crime guns to the City of Chicago,” and finally a fear that the store could increase the risk of suicides and mass shootings in the area…

As you can see, gun “control” is alive and well in Cook County, Illinois, these days. Nice to see another concealed-carry training option open up around my old stomping grounds though.

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

Sources:

“Gun School Opens In Niles” Journal & Topics Newspapers. 4 Nov. 2014. (http://www.journal-topics.com/business/article_95edb6ee-647d-11e4-92e6-0017a43b2370.html). 13 Nov. 2014.

Hernandez, Alex V. “Opponents to Sportsman’s gun range sue Niles.” The Bugle. 24 Oct. 2014. (http://www.buglenewspapers.com/niles/article_2abdd99e-5be0-11e4-8ff2-001a4bcf6878.html). 13 Nov. 2014.

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Thursday, November 13th, 2014 Firearms, Gun Rights, Self-Defense, Training No Comments

Hacker ‘Guccifer’: Chicago Targeted For Nuclear Attack In 2015

The recently-apprehended hacker known as “Guccifer” (Marcel-Lehel Lazar, an unemployed 43-year-old Romanian) is in the news today for something he told The New York Times while meeting with them. Andrew Higgins reported on the Times website yesterday:

Before agreeing to answer questions from The New York Times in prison, where he shares a cell with four others, including two convicted murderers, he read out a lengthy handwritten statement that he said explained the purpose of his hacking.

A potpourri of conspiracy theories about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the 1997 death of Princess Diana and alleged plans for a nuclear attack in Chicago in 2015, it said: “This world is run by a group of conspirators called the Council of Illuminati, very rich people, noble families, bankers and industrialists from the 19th and 20th century.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Times article didn’t elaborate on the supposed nuclear strike. And as far as I can tell there’s been no mention of it elsewhere out in cyberspace.

Assuming “Guccifer” isn’t spinning this tale in an attempt to save his hide, some are already jumping to the conclusion that such an attack would be a “false flag” event perpetrated by this Illuminati.

But what if Mr. Lazar discovered the plans within the e-mails of those powerful individuals whose accounts he was known to hack? In other words, they had intelligence about the coming nuke attack in their possession (it’s conceivable having such power/prestige might afford them that privilege) but the event wouldn’t be of their doing.

If not them, then who?

Consider what I blogged back on June 1:

WBBM (Chicago) Political Editor Craig Dellimore recently interviewed Robert Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Chicago, for the WBBM Newsradio show At Issue. From their exchange that was uploaded on the show’s web page today:

DELLIMORE: With all the headlines about street gangs, shootings, and corruption in and around Chicago, I think people can sometimes forget that terrorism is still a threat here, and is a major focus of what the FBI has to do. We haven’t had a major attack here- though there have been some plots thwarted. How real is the threat of terrorism these days?
HOLLEY: I would say, Craig, that the threat that we face now is probably more so than right after 9/11. Al-Qaeda Central has been thwarted in many of the attacks that they have been trying to conduct here in the West and against our allied partners overseas. Through Osama bin Laden being killed, and other leaders within core Al-Qaeda- the core leadership within Al-Qaeda- over the last several years, their ability to plan and conduct operations has been limited. What happened is, it is diffused to other groups. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula- we call them AQAP. Al-Qaeda in Islamic Magreb- AQIM. Al Nusra in Syria. So these are all significant threats- terrorism threats. Although they are headquartered overseas, they have an intent to strike here in the West. And they are actively plotting, recruiting, and training to conduct attacks here in the United States.
DELLIMORE: Is some of this theoretical, or do investigators uncover more concrete signs that Chicago could be a target, at least more so than we average folks might realize?
HOLLEY: I would never describe it as being theoretical. It is an actual threat. And there is no community in the United States that is immune from an attack on their communities. We saw what happened in Boston by two homegrown violent extremists. There have been multiple disruptions through different JTTF (unintelligible word) throughout the FBI in the United States over the last several years. You can look at Lubbock, Texas. Not a large metropolitan area, but had a significant attempt to conduct a terrorist attack there…

“The threat that we face now is probably more so than right after 9/11.”

Something for Chicago-area readers to chew on.

Personally, I suspect that if the bad guys got their hands on a nuke, New York City and Lower Manhattan in particular (Wall Street, One World Trade Center) would be in their crosshairs because of its economic and symbolic value. Washington, D.C., would be a close second due to its political importance.

As for Chicago? Well, some would argue Muslim extremists can’t do much more damage to the city than “The Machine” hasn’t already done.

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

Source:

Higgins, Andrew. “For Guccifer, Hacking Was Easy. Prison Is Hard.” The New York Times. 10 Nov. 2014. (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/11/world/europe/for-guccifer-hacking-was-easy-prison-is-hard-.html?_r=0). 11 Nov. 2014.

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Thieves Target Chicago-Area Community Food Gardens

While I wouldn’t call myself a prepper, I do glean a number of ideas from them.

One of those being food security.

This coming winter, I look forward to planning with my girlfriend a future food garden located on our property. I think I know of a good spot for it as well. Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity might remember this photo I took shortly after moving into our house last summer:

Garden Future Site

Now, I’ve been wanting a food garden since I lived in the “concrete jungle” that is Chicago’s Northwest Side. So much so, if I didn’t end up living someplace where I had my own private plot to grow one, I figured I might utilize a community food garden. I started looking into them a few years back , and loved the concept. However, I was put off about the potential for theft. Which turns out is a real concern in the Chicagoland area. Dawn Rhodes reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

Vegetables stolen from Downers Grove garden plot

Vegetables were reported stolen out of a community garden managed by the park district late last month, according to police.

The vegetables were planted at the Mar-Duke Farm near 68th and Main streets, according to a police report…

Regrettably, such criminal activity has been going on for some time now in the Chicagoland area. From the Chicago Garden blog on the ChicagoNow website back on August 30, 2010:

This summer Chicagoans have been treating community gardens like personal food banks.

After spending their summer carefully cultivating fruits, herbs and vegetables, some community gardeners are being beaten to the harvest by vegetable thieves…

Garden theft isn’t something isolated to neighborhoods undergoing a transition. From Pilsen to Bowmanville to even a community garden in Forest Park, IL., these gardens are being targeted by people who feel they have the right to reap the hard work of gardeners…

MrBrownThumb also added:

On a recent trip to this garden to photograph these garden signs (see gallery above) a member who lived nearby stopped me and a friend to ask us what we were doing in the garden. I explained to him that I was only interested in taking pictures and he told me about the various people he encounters stealing veggies from the garden. One lady who brought her own grocery bag justified her theft by saying that people routinely shoot each other or sell drugs nearby.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Disturbing. Especially that last bit with the rationale employed by the thief.

I am even more grateful now knowing I have a private plot to grow a food garden in after reading all this.

I’m still a big fan of community food gardens. I just hope going forward should financial conditions erode and individual circumstances worsen (as I suspect they will), increased security is implemented at these locations.

For those who are interested, the Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin makes a comprehensive “Community Garden Security” worksheet available (.doc format) on their website here.

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

(Editor’s note: Link added to “Resources” page)

Sources:

Rhodes, Dawn. “Vegetables stolen from Downers Grove garden plot.” Chicago Tribune. 6 Nov. 2014.( http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/downers-grove-darien-westmont-woodridge/ct-stolen-vegetables-downers-grove-tl-1113-20141106-story.html). 6 Nov. 2014.

MrBrownThumb. “‘Please do not steal the Vegetables!!’” Chicago Garden. 30 Aug. 2010. (http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-garden/2010/08/please-do-not-steal-the-vegetables/#image/1). 6 Nov. 2014.

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Thursday, November 6th, 2014 Crime, Food, Gardening, Security, SP Resources No Comments

The Civic Federation Analyzes Chicago’s FY2015 Budget

The last time I talked about The Civic Federation (an independent, non-partisan government research organization that provides analysis and recommendations on government finance issues for the Chicago region and State of Illinois) was back on March 4, when they proposed a five-year plan to balance the Illinois state budget, eliminate its huge bill backlog, and reduce income tax rates. But yesterday, the group released a new report on the City of Chicago’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015. From their press release Monday:

Civic Federation Supports FY2015 Chicago Budget

Recent Progress Threatened by Pension Funding Crisis, Borrowing for Operations

In a report released today, the Civic Federation announced its support for the City of Chicago’s proposed FY2015 operating budget of $7.3 billion but expressed deep concern for how the City will manage rising pension costs and debt service payments in future years. The full 101-page analysis is available here.

The FY2015 budget closes a $297.3 million deficit with reasonable structural changes including targeted tax and fee increases, vacancy eliminations and other operational efficiencies. The budget also reflects significant actions toward long-term stability including the 2014 pension reform law for the City’s Municipal and Laborers’ pension funds and the continued phase out of the City’s retiree health care subsidy and planned transition of most retirees to coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Mayor Emanuel and his team are continuing to make the reasonable changes and bold decisions necessary to stabilize Chicago’s finances,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation. “Two issues, however, threaten to erase all recent progress: the pension funding crisis and the administration’s continued use of borrowing for operations through the issuance of refunding bonds.”

Landmark pension reforms were enacted in June 2014, but only for two of the City’s four pension funds. The City’s Police and Fire pension funds remain dangerously close to running out of funds with market value funded ratios of only 27.0% and 31.7% respectively in FY2013. The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation in 2010 that mandates a sharp $550 million increase in contributions to the Police and Fire funds. This change, even without considering increased contributions to the City’s Municipal and Laborers’ funds, would require a significant increase in the City’s property tax levy, crippling cuts to City services, or both. The Mayor, City Council and State legislators must work together to create a reform framework for the Police and Fire funds that will stabilize the funds at an affordable cost to taxpayers. The Civic Federation also recommends that the City study ways to consolidate its pension funds, including the possibility of merging its Police and Fire funds with suburban and downstate public safety funds.

Over the last three fiscal years, the City of Chicago reduced its annual debt service payments by refunding bonds that are due to mature and extending the life of these bonds for an additional 30 years, a practice referred to as “scoop and toss.” This practice dramatically increases the cost of providing government services. It also could threaten the City’s ability to issue future debt by filling the out years of the City’s debt service schedule with previously issued bonds. The Civic Federation urges the City to develop a strategy for ending this costly and unsustainable practice.

The Federation’s full report also discusses the creation of the City Council Office of Financial Analysis in 2013. The office was intended to give aldermen access to the independent information and analysis they need to be effective stewards of the City’s finances. A delay in fully implementing the office means aldermen will not have access to this resource before they vote on the FY2015 budget.

You can read the 101-page report entitled City of Chicago FY2015 Proposed Budget: Analysis and Recommendations on The Civic Federation’s website here.

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

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Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 Bonds, Borrowing, Fiscal Policy, Government No Comments

Chicago Transit Authority Train Passengers Now Being Randomly-Screened For Explosives

Chicago Transit Authority train riders may spot something new at the stations in the coming weeks. From the ABC 7 (Chicago) website this morning:

CTA passengers are now subject to random screening for explosives at train stations across the city.

There is no known threat to the CTA, but Chicago police said the precautionary measure is another layer of security. The screenings went into effect Monday morning.

The Multi-Mode Threat Detector is capable of finding trace amounts of explosive compounds, officials said. A team of CPD transit officers will work at one CTA station a day with the machines.

A random number of people will be selected each time. For example, if that number were 10, every tenth person would be approached by an officer and the outside of his or her bag would be swabbed. That swab is then read by the Multi-Mode Threat Detector for the presence of any explosive residue…

“One CTA station a day with the machines.” “A random number of people will be selected each time.” Not exactly airtight security, but it’s a start when it comes to protecting passenger trains and their riders against potential terrorist attacks. And when I say “start,” I mean the bare minimum.

Which makes me wonder if it’s not all just for show- certain politicians and public safety types trying to give Chicagoland the impression they’re doing something to combat potential terrorism, when the reality may be that the measures taken might not be all that effective in stopping a determined bomber.

I hope I’m wrong. But checking around cyberspace, there’s no shortage of critics of the new security screenings. Bill Savage, a Northwestern University professor, wrote in an opinion piece on the Crain’s Chicago Business website last week:

Maybe this plan will deter any terrorist who happens to pick the one station a day being staked out. That terrorist will, of course, be too nearsighted to notice the cops. That terrorist will be randomly selected. That terrorist will be too tongue-tied to refuse the swabbing and then walk the half-mile to the next station that isn’t hosting our crack one-station-at-a-time anti-terror team.

Security Theater will keep us all safe and sound, and everyone will live happily ever after.

Pass the popcorn. This is going to be an entertaining show.

If Chicago is going to perform random screenings for explosives on CTA trains going forward, my wish is that they have a plan in place to develop the program to be truly effective in thwarting a terrorist attack- while ensuring minimal intrusiveness to riders. Otherwise, “Security Theater” might not be able to stop something like this:


Madrid Train Bombings
(Warning: Violent Images)
YouTube Video

God bless those people.

In the meantime, CTA train riders should know the random bomb screenings have now started to take place. It’s probably not a bad idea for commuters to factor in a couple of extra minutes for ride times in case they’re selected to be swabbed.

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

Sources:

“CTA Adds Random Screenings For Explosive.” ABC 7. 3 Nov. 2014. (http://abc7chicago.com/traffic/cta-adds-random-screening-for-explosives-/378414/). 3 Nov. 2014.

Savage, Bill. “It’s not CTA security- it’s street theater.” Crain’s Chicago Business. 27 Oct. 2014. (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20141027/OPINION/141029821/its-not-cta-security-its-street-theater). 3 Nov. 2014.

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Chicago Police Department Manpower Shortage Worse Than Portrayed

Something tells me the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop is going to have a field day with the following. Hal Dardick and Jeremy Gorner reported on the Chicago Tribune website tonight:

The ranks of the Chicago Police Department are well below full strength, even as the rate of hiring has increased in recent years, according to testimony Thursday before the City Council.

The department has 587 vacancies, with plans to hire 200 more officers in coming months — before accounting for end-of-the year retirements, Superintendent Garry McCarthy said during council hearings on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2015 budget proposal. The city is working to bring the department up to the full authorized strength of 12,533 officers, he said…

About 200 of the vacant posts are among rank-and-file officers, which would reach full strength at 9,608. The rest of the vacancies are among the ranks of detectives and police brass…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Full authorized strength of 12,533 officers”

I seem to recall “full authorized strength” for the Chicago Police Department meant 13,500 officers only a short while ago.

I blogged on October 26, 2012:

The Chicago FOP has argued for the past couple years that the Chicago Police Department should return to its previously budgeted strength of 13,500 officers.

Recently, Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented his 2013 budget to the Chicago City Council. Under “Investing to Enhance Public Safety,” the Mayor called for, “Funding for CPD to hire officers to remain at full strength at all times.”

I blogged back on October 12:

The Chicago Police Department to finally be at “full strength?”

That I’ve got to see.

Why do I suspect the goal posts are going to be moved here?

I was thinking of that 13,500 number when I wrote that.

Apparently, Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy were thinking more along the lines of a thousand cops less. Dardick and Gorner added:

Before year’s end, the city plans to hire 263 more officers, city officials said. And the mayor’s proposed 2013 budget calls for hiring an additional 500 officers — four quarterly classes of 125. The goal is to keep the total number of officers at about 12,500.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“12,500.”

Goal posts moved?

Goal posts moved.

And the CPD currently has 11,946 officers, while full-strength amounted to 13,500 just a few years back.

But seeing that “crime is down” in Chicago. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.

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

Source:

Dardick, Hal and Gorner, Jeremy. “Chicago Police Department not at full strength, top cop says.” Chicago Tribune. 30 Oct. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-police-budget-hearing-met-1031-20141030-story.html). 30 Oct. 2014

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Thursday, October 30th, 2014 Government, Public Safety No Comments

Chicago-Area Security Heightened After U.S. Terrorism Warning

I saw a segment last night on the Channel 9 (Chicago) evening news regarding the City of Chicago’s response to that security bulletin issued by the FBI and DHS the other day. From the WGN TV website:

A renewed terror warning in the U.S. is prompting security concerns in Chicago.

While acknowledging the city may be a potential target, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stresses local and federal agencies are on the lookout for any terrorist activity.

The head of Cook County’s Department of Homeland Security says there is no sign of a specific, credible threat against the urban area. But in Chicago airports and across the region security has been heightened

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In the news segment, Michael Masters, Executive Director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, stated:

I think it’s important for people to realize that our first responders are training everyday on the types of threats and issues we see going on around the world.

Reporter Julian Crews added:

Cook County’s homeland security chief says the region is prepared to respond.

Here’s hoping he’s right.

You can watch that entire segment- which also includes comments from former Secret Service special agent Arnette Heintze and DePaul University professor and terrorism analyst Thomas Mockaitis- on the WGN TV website here.

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

Source:

Crews, Julian. “Renewed terror warning in U.S. prompts security concerns in Chicago.” WGN TV. 24 Sep. 2014. (http://wgntv.com/2014/09/24/renewed-terror-warning-in-u-s-prompts-security-concerns-in-chicago/). 25 Sep. 2014.

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Chicago Faces $297 Million Budget Shortfall In 2015, $588 Million Deficit By 2017

I’ve been wanting to blog about the latest City of Chicago annual financial analysis for some time now. This afternoon I’m finally getting that chance. From Fran Spielman (who’s done a terrific job breaking those analyses down the past couple years I’ve been paying attention to them) on the Chicago Sun-Times website back in August:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ruled out a pre-election increase in property or sales taxes, but he’ll have to find another way to close a $297.3 million budget gap that assumes the Illinois General Assembly will lift the pension hammer hanging over Chicago.

State law requires the city to make a $550 million contribution to shore up police and fire pension funds that have assets to cover just 30 and 24 percent of their respective liabilities.

If Emanuel chooses to fund the payment with property taxes, the city’s levy must be raised in 2015 so bills issued the following year reflect the increase.

Instead of including that payment in the financial analysis now used as a substitute for Chicago’s preliminary budget, the mayor left it out, assuming he will get both revenue and reform before the payment is due

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

$297.3 million budget shortfall for Chicago in 2015- assuming the city gets “relief” from that State of Illinois-mandated $550 million pension fund contribution.

From what I’ve read, that looks to be a big assumption.

Still, the projected 2015 budget gap that’s being advertised by City Hall is significantly rosier than a year ago (big election coming up in February 2015 you know).

I blogged back on August 1, 2013:

The latest financial analysis is out, and the budget gap in 2014 is projected to be $339 million. Still crappy, but a lot better than what could be in store for the “Windy City” by 2015. Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

The day of financial reckoning for Chicago is not far off, with the city budget shortfall expected to near a record $1 billion in 2015 if major changes are not made to the government worker pension systems, city officials said Wednesday.

That stark assessment, contained in the annual financial analysis prepared by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top budget officials, overshadowed the fact that the city needs to close an expected $339 million budget gap predicted for next year.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Returning to that Sun-Times piece from this August, Spielman added:

As for the more manageable, $297.3 million gap, sales and property taxes are off the table. But [Budget Director Alexandra] Holt refused to rule out other tax and fee hikes after exhausting further cost-cutting that might include layoffs

Last year’s financial analysis projected a $338.7 million shortfall that would balloon to $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016 without a painful mix of employee concessions and new revenues. This year’s version takes the 2017 shortfall down to $587.7 million, but only if the mayor’s risky assumptions are correct.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

That classic Benny Hill skit about why one shouldn’t assume things comes to mind right now.

Okay. Looking at the actual 2014 annual financial analysis on my laptop screen right now, I see that $297.3 million budget shortfall projected for Chicago in 2015, a $430.2 million gap in 2016, and that $587.7 million deficit in 2017 that Spielman mentioned.

The trend is definitely not Rahm’s and the City’s friend in this instance.

Here’s what I see going down for the “Windy City.” The Machine will mobilize as many kissing cousins (Democrats elsewhere in the state) as it can to get Mayor Emanuel his much-desired pension “reform.” Basically “kicking the can down the road.” If full reform isn’t achieved, perhaps partial “relief”?.

Of course, the City of Chicago will still have those snowballing budget shortfalls to contend with. At first, I anticipate a lot of stupid spending still going on, with only some belt-tightening and layoffs here and there (“Kiss Your Clout’s Ass” Day soon to be a much celebrated event?). And fees, fines, and taxes will be heading up (but not property and sales taxes initially). But I suspect as Chicago’s “day of reckoning” gets closer, all these measures will be intensified.

Think major cost-cutting in conjunction with a much stronger attempt to increase incoming revenues.

Like my forecast for the rest of the nation- regrettably, I see things getting a lot worse before they get better again.

You can view the entire 2014 City of Chicago Annual Financial Analysis on the City of Chicago website here (.pdf format).

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

Source:

Spielman, Fran. “City budget puts off day of reckoning until after election.” Chicago Sun-Times. 1 Aug. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/city-budget-puts-day-reckoning-until-after-election/fri-08012014-1210am). 23 Sep. 2014.

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Northwest Indiana Preparedness And Self-Reliance Expo This Saturday

As I blogged before, the writing is on the wall for Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois. As I see it, economic and social conditions are going to get significantly more challenging than they already are. While terrific alternative media sites like Second City Cop chronicle the unraveling and offer up valuable intel, I’ll be disseminating more information going forward for local blog readers which may help in learning and developing skills for surviving and prospering in these uncertain times. For example, there’s a free preparedness and self-reliance expo scheduled to take place this Saturday at the American Museum of Military Vehicles in Crown Point, Indiana. From the website of Live Free, USA- billed as “one of the oldest and most respected survival/self-reliance advocacy organizations in the world”:

NW Indiana Prepares
Saturday, September 20th 10:00 Am to 5:00 Pm
EXHIBITS PRESENTATIONS HANDS ON LEARNING

All presentations will take place inside our spacious tent.
Food and drink will be available for purchase.

Presentations Planned Include:

Aquaponics / Hydroponics Indoor Farming
Beekeeping
BOB’s (Bug out Bags)
The 5 C’s of Survival
Campfire Cooking
Poultry Farming
Herbs “God’s” Pharmacy
Health and Wellness: Home made salves and ointments
Survival Shotgun Basics
Black Powder demonstration

Hands on Training:

Archery Lessons
NRA Certified Range Master offers Firearm Instruction with BB & Airsoft Guns
Just Added: Three strikes Of The Match!
Presented by volunteers from Liberty Seed, in affiliation with the Revolutionary War Veterans Association!
Hear the true stories of April 19, 1775, the day our nation was born! The story will be presented in three thirty minute segments; 11 Am – 1 Pm – 3 Pm

It will not be the story you think you know, or the story you heard in school. It will be the real story, the story that historians have discovered, the story of the first day of the American Revolution.

April 19th was a day of choices, and these are the stories of real people who knew the cost of freedom and were willing to pay the price.

The Revolutionary War Veterans Association is committed to teaching our early American heritage. They do this for one simple reason, the skill and knowledge of what our founding fathers left to us is eroding in modern America and without deliberate action, they will be lost to ignorance and apathy.

To reserve a primitive camp site or vendor space
Please contact Beth Duensing for vendor and presentation information 219-226-3400 or e-mail NWIFamilyPrep-info@yahoo.com
Click Below For Printable Flyer (PDF)
NWI Prepares Sept. 20, 2014

Sounds interesting. But more importantly, sounds informative- with some potentially-valuable information and new skills that could be taken away from it.

For more info about the free prepper/survivalist event, either pull up that flyer or go to the Live Free, USA, website here.

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

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Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 How To, Preparedness, Training No Comments

Chicago Preparing For Potential 9/11 Anniversary Terrorism?

I’m back. And just in time for the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

While I haven’t come across anything (yet?) from the feds about any specific terrorist threats related to tomorrow, I see New York City is ramping up “intelligence gathering and visibility.”

Good for them. I’ve come to believe NYC (in particular, One World Trade Center aka Freedom Tower) and Washington, D.C., are primary targets for the Muslim extremists.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago is a target as well. After all, Al-Qaeda has reportedly mentioned the city as being one. I blogged back on May 6, 2011:

After receiving today’s marching orders at their place of employment, a number of Chicagoans are settling down at their desks this morning and reading on the Chicago Tribune website:

Some of the first information gleaned from Osama bin Laden’s compound indicates al-Qaida considered attacking U.S. trains on the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. But counterterrorism officials say they believe the planning never got beyond the initial phase and have no recent intelligence pointing to an active plot for such an attack.

As of February 2010, the terror organization was considering plans to attack the U.S. on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. CNN reports that al-Qaida was particularly interested in striking Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Sounds like Chicago’s Al-Qaeda’s kind of town, right?

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I’ve heard an Al-Qaeda expert or two say the group is big on “celebrating” anniversaries. Along with that purported Islamic State Twitter post with a photo of the Old Republic Building at 307 North Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, one might think the City of Chicago, like New York City, would take precautions around 9/11/14.

If they are, major local news outlets aren’t reporting it from what I can tell. I just visited a number of MSM news websites a short time ago and didn’t see a thing. No news releases from the City of Chicago or its Office of Emergency Management and Communications either.

Now, that’s not to say the “Windy City” isn’t preparing for a potential terror attack. I’d like to think the City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department are taking a page out of the New York Police Department’s playbook when it comes to 9/11 anniversaries. Collen Long of the Associated Press reported yesterday:

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said the department is prepared.

“We will, as always, ramp up intelligence gathering and visibility,” Bratton said. That means thousands of officers in specialized teams, bomb-sniffing dogs who can detect not only the scent of a bomb but the vapors of a moving target, undercover officers and teams of police using radioactive detection devices and other high-tech tools.

Intelligence officers around the globe will be reporting in regularly and monitoring events around the world. If something happens in Gaza, it’s instantly felt in New York because of the large Jewish and Palestinian populations.

“Things ricochet real quick here,” said intelligence chief Thomas Galati…

Too much to hope for considering the current state of affairs in the CPD?

I understand a new Gallup poll is out showing Americans still aren’t concerned about terrorism these days despite the recent emergence of the Islamic State and what looks to be a competition between it and Al-Qaeda to see who can land a major blow against the American homeland first.

I cringe to think such indifference runs rampant among Chicagoans and their leaders too.

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

Source:

Long, Collen. “NYPD says terror threat more complex than ever: ‘It is layer upon layer upon layer’” Associated Press. 9 Sep. 2014. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/sep/9/nypd-terror-threat-more-complex-than-ever/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS). 10 Sep. 2014.

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Former CIA Director: Islamic State Attack On U.S. ‘Will Come Probably Sooner Rather Than Later’

“#AmessagefromISIStoUS
We are in your state
We are in your cities
We are in your streets
You are our goals anywhere.”

-Twitter post supposedly connected with the Islamic State, which also included a photo of the Old Republic Building, 307 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, along with that flag photo outside the White House.

Well, it shouldn’t surprise regular readers of Survival And Prosperity that not only does terrorism carried out by Muslim extremists against the United States and its interests still pose a real threat, but another major player besides Al-Qaeda has now emerged with the rise of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS or ISIL).

Subsequently, the United States is taking action in defense of the “homeland.” John Dodge reported on the website of Chicago CBS affiliate Channel 2 last Friday:

The U.S. government on Friday issued a security bulletin to all U.S. law enforcement in light of the overall threat posed by Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS or ISIL…

The security bulletin issued Friday cautioned that there is no known threat to any U.S. cities…

Since Al-Qaeda has reportedly been trying to strike at targets within the United States for a number of years now, should Americans be concerned about this new upstart and their threats? Consider what retired General Michael Hayden, the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, had to say in an interview Monday on CNN. From his exchange with Jim Sciutto:

SCIUTTO: When it comes to ISIS, I think a principle concern for Americans is, what is the direct threat to them? My impression is that there’s a debate inside the intelligence community as to how imminent that threat is. You have a school of thought that they certainly aspire to attack the American homeland. They have a number of Americans among their ranks. Perhaps 100. But the FBI put out a report this week saying no credible threats yet. Where do you stand in that debate? Is it more imminent, or less imminent, is this a future threat, or a clear and present danger?
HAYDEN: Well, Jim, you’ve outlined it perfectly. This is a question of timing. Not of inevitability. Not of intent. And right now, I think it’s fair to say, that ISIS is very powerful local terrorist organization, and probably a reasonably powerful regional terrorist organization. But it’s one that has global ambitions. And it has the tools, as you suggested. American passport holders, European passport holders. It’s expressed the intent. And so, if it’s not Tuesday, it’s at a time and place of their choosing. And will come probably sooner rather than later. Look, they’re in a competition now with Al-Qaeda Prime, folks along the Afghan-Pakistani border, and there’s no way more powerful to express their street credentials among the jihadist community than a successful attack against the West.
SCIUTTO: So, to be clear, you’re saying it’s just a matter of time before ISIS attempts to attack or attacks the U.S. homeland?
HAYDEN: I think so. Certainly the West in general. Of course, and Americans and American interests in the region right now, are at risk.


“Hayden: ‘ISIS Attack A Matter Of Time’”
YouTube Video

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

Source:

Dodge, John. “Chicago A Top Terror Target; Ominous Tweet Connects ISIS Threat In City.” CBS 2. 22 Aug. 2014. (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/08/22/ominous-tweet-connects-isis-threat-in-chicago/). 26 Aug. 2014.

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Thoughts On Concealed-Carry Permits And Their Relation To ‘Falling’ Chicago Crime

“I don’t expect to see these numbers being touted by Chicago’s mayor or the national media, but they should. The Windy City is one of the areas of the nation most plagued by violence and their efforts to make the entire metropolis a ‘gun free zone’ have only fueled further violence by those who weren’t going to pay attention to the laws in the first place.”

-Jazz Shaw, conservative blog Hot Air, August 25, 2014

A number of alternative media outlets are discussing a supposed correlation between concealed-carry permits being issued in the state of Illinois and “declining” crime in Chicago. Kelly Riddell reported on the website of The Washington Times this past weekend:

Since Illinois started granting concealed carry permits this year, the number of robberies that have led to arrests in Chicago has declined 20 percent from last year, according to police department statistics. Reports of burglary and motor vehicle theft are down 20 percent and 26 percent, respectively. In the first quarter, the city’s homicide rate was at a 56-year low.

“It isn’t any coincidence crime rates started to go down when concealed carry was permitted. Just the idea that the criminals don’t know who’s armed and who isn’t has a deterrence effect,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. “The police department hasn’t changed a single tactic — they haven’t announced a shift in policy or of course — and yet you have these incredible numbers.”

As of July 29 the state had 83,183 applications for concealed carry and had issued 68,549 licenses… A July study by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that 11.1 million Americans have permits to carry concealed weapons, a 147 percent increase from 4.5 million seven years ago. Meanwhile, homicide and other violent crime rates have dropped by 22 percent.

The apparent correlation between more concealed-carry permits and falling violent crime both locally and nationally is interesting. However, in the case of Chicago, I suspect there’s more at work here than just Chicagoans now walking around town armed with Illinois Concealed Carry Licenses and handguns.

“Better” policing, as Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy is supposedly countering with?

What changed?

I suspect the “falling” crime rates can also be attributed to crimes like robberies and burglaries just not being reported like they once were. I blogged back on Halloween of last year:

Enter the folks over at the insightful Chicago police blog Second City Cop, and something they wrote earlier this month. SCC blogged on October 16:

Perception is part of the key to people “feeling safe.” The other part is actually being safe, having a visible patrol presence, being seen making arrests, performing traffic stops, and interacting with the public. That isn’t happening in most “safe” neighborhoods because the manpower has been stripped (or retired without replacement) from those areas.

Add in a massive reclassification of crime, increased response times to discourage reporting of crime, making the 3-1-1 (Alternate Response) a nightmare to navigate through and you have all the makings of betraying trust with the community when they can see the uptick in crimes with their own eyes and they no longer believe your numbers.

Before I exited the city in May, I myself witnessed CPD manpower being stripped from my police district (16th), heard stories about this “massive reclassification of crime”- “downgrade and reclassify”- from Chicago police officers, and read about/personally experienced the “nightmare” in interacting with the Chicago Police Department (procedural, not personnel).

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Make reporting crime a big pain in the butt for residents, and reported crimes like robbery and burglary plummet. Simple as that.

That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if a real correlation did exist between more Illinois CCLs out there in the city and less robberies and burglaries. I just don’t think it’s responsible for most of the drop in crime.

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

Source:

Riddell, Kelly. “Chicago crime rate drops as concealed carry applications surge.” The Washington Times. 24 Aug. 2014. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/24/chicago-crime-rate-drops-as-concealed-carry-gun-pe/). 26 Aug. 2014.

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