City of Chicago

Chicago Reader: Did Rahm Emanuel Deliver On Public Safety Campaign Promises?

The Chicago Reader has done a terrific job lately of keeping a tab on public safety in Chicago. And yesterday, the Reader website ran an article entitled “Did Rahm live up to his campaign promises on public safety?” Mick Dumke wrote:

During his first campaign for mayor four years ago, Rahm Emanuel kept talking about police.

He noted as often as he could that his uncle had been a cop on Chicago’s north side. He boasted of his role in crafting the Clinton administration’s 1994 crime bill that funded the hiring of 100,000 police officers nationwide.
And, as the centerpiece of his public safety plan, he vowed to find the money to add 1,000 more officers to Chicago’s force. He said this would prevent crime and improve relationships with the community.

“Police officers will become a presence in the neighborhood rather than only available in response to emergency,” he said.

But within weeks of taking office, Emanuel stopped talking about hiring cops. Instead, over the course of his first term, the number of officers on the force dropped from about 10,900 to 10,600. And the mayor responded to violent crime not by investing in community policing but by calling for stricter gun laws and blaming legislators who balked.

The result after four years: crime totals have fallen, as they have across the country. But Chicago still has more violent crime per capita than New York or Los Angeles, with an average of seven people shot every day…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A real insightful piece, which can be read in its entirety on the Chicago Reader website here.

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

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Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 Credit, Government, Gun Rights, Public Safety No Comments

Is Pepper Spray Legal In Chicago, Illinois? (2015 Update)

Last Wednesday, I blogged that I’d begin reviewing Chicago-area laws concerning self-defense tools starting this week.

Even though Survival And Prosperity addressed the subject of pepper spray or OC spray (from “oleoresin capsicum”) some time back, here’s a question I still keep hearing asked:

“Is pepper spray legal in Chicago, Illinois?”

To find out, let’s start at the top- meaning the State of Illinois. Looking at the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Criminal Offenses, (720 ILCS 5/) Criminal Code of 2012, “ARTICLE 24. DEADLY WEAPONS”:

(720 ILCS 5/24-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 24-1)
Sec. 24-1. Unlawful Use of Weapons.
(a) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly:
(3) Carries on or about his person or in any vehicle, a tear gas gun projector or bomb or any object containing noxious liquid gas or substance, other than an object containing a non-lethal noxious liquid gas or substance designed solely for personal defense carried by a person 18 years of age or older

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Pepper (OC) spray appears legal to own and carry in the state of Illinois- so long as the individual carrying it is “18 years of age or older.”

Now let’s turn to Cook County. Here’s something I was just made aware of recently. From the Cook County Code of Ordinances, Part I- GENERAL ORDINANCES, Chapter 58- OFFENSES AND MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS, ARTICLE VI. OFFENSES AGAINST THE PUBLIC PEACE, Sec. 58-172. – Disorderly Conduct:

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to commit disorderly conduct. A person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly:
(6) Carries in a threatening or menacing manner, without authority of law, any razor, knife, stiletto, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, slingshot, any knife, the blade of which is released by a spring mechanism, including knives known as “switch-blades”, undetectable knives as defined in Section 58-176 of this Code, an object containing noxious or deleterious liquid, gas or substance or other weapon, or conceals said weapon on or about the person or vehicle

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Pepper (OC) spray appears legal to own and carry in Cook County, Illinois- so long as the individual carrying it is “18 years of age or older” (per the State of Illinois), does not carry it “in a threatening or menacing manner,” or “conceals said weapon on or about the person or vehicle.”

That last bit about concealing about the person or vehicle is bound to raise some eyebrows, I’m guessing.

Mace Pepper Foam

Finally, here’s what the City of Chicago has on the books regarding pepper (OC) spray. From the Municipal Code of Chicago, TITLE 8 OFFENSES AFFECTING PUBLIC PEACE, MORALS AND WELFARE, CHAPTER 8-24 FIREARMS AND OTHER WEAPONS, 8-24-020 Sale or possession of deadly weapons:

(e) No person shall carry on or about his person or in any vehicle, a tear gas gun projector or bomb or any object containing noxious liquid gas or substance, other than an object containing a non-lethal noxious liquid gas or substance designed solely for personal defense carried by a person 18 years of age or older; provided that this subsection shall not apply to any person listed in section 5/24-2(a)(1)-(14) of the Criminal Code, 720 ILCS 5/24-2(a).

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

There’s also this under 8-24-045 Noxious gas or liquid:

(a) No person shall use any device to discharge a noxious gas or liquid in an enclosed room in any Class C-1 or Class C-2 Assembly Unit, as defined in Chapter 13-56 of this Code, or in an enclosed room in any restaurant, bar or tavern that is a Class F Assembly Unit as defined in that chapter, if more than 20 persons are present in that room, unless the person is a peace officer, as defined in Section 8-20-010 of this Code, engaged in law enforcement activity. As used in this section, “noxious gas or liquid” means mace, pepper spray or any other substance that is intended or designed to cause irritation to the eyes, nose or mouth, or to cause nausea.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So Is pepper spray legal in Chicago, Illinois?

Pepper (OC) spray appears legal to own and carry- so long as the individual carrying it:

• Is “18 years of age or older” (per the State of Illinois)
• Does not carry it “in a threatening or menacing manner” or “conceals said weapon on or about the person or vehicle” (per Cook County)
• Shall not use “any device to discharge a noxious gas or liquid in an enclosed room in any Class C-1 or Class C-2 Assembly Unit, as defined in Chapter 13-56 of this Code, or in an enclosed room in any restaurant, bar or tavern that is a Class F Assembly Unit as defined in that chapter, if more than 20 persons are present in that room” (per the City of Chicago)

Next time, I’ll be looking at expandable/collapsible/retractable batons and their legality in Chicago.

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

(Legal disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain such advice.)

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Chicago-Area Legality Of Self-Defense Tools Revisited

“That’s why my attitude has changed to, fuck the citizens.
When you need help people, call a protester.
My check will still come every 1st and 16th of the month.”

-Comment left on Second City Cop blog post, December 24, 2014

In the future, I see a myriad of problems for Chicagoland residents when it comes to police protection. The source will be economic in nature, with the “thin blue line” getting stretched more than most can imagine as Chicago-area police agencies see their budgets slashed significantly with the next financial crisis.

I’d argue this situation has already arrived. Look at the Chicago Police Department and all the spin that’s being deployed and goal posts being moved by City Hall because of financial difficulties in achieving/maintaining a fully-manned police department.

I predict work conditions will also steadily deteriorate. De-policing and work stoppages could very well accompany this slide as law enforcement officers inevitably take stock of their situation.

Police activity could also decrease if certain politicians, race agitators, the mainstream media, and other self-interested parties continue to support and spotlight the police haters in our society. Just to give you an idea of how much attention is being given to these “squeaky wheels making lots of noise,” the Rolling Stone magazine website ran a piece on December 16 entitled:

“Policing is a Dirty Job, But Nobody’s Gotta Do It: 6 Ideas for a Cop-Free World”

And under the headline was this:

“It’s time to start imagining a society that isn’t dominated by police”

“It’s time to start imagining…” That pretty much summed up the piece right there.

Anyway, the point of this post is to announce that in light of what I see coming down the pipeline regarding police protection in and around the “Windy City,” I will be reviewing Chicago-area laws concerning self-defense tools.

Regular readers may recall that I pulled up information on the legality of such personal protection devices as expandable batons, knives, firearms, and pepper spray in Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois starting around Halloween 2013. But seeing as new laws keep being added to the books, and in light of the personal safety challenges I think are ahead of us, now is the perfect time to revisit this material.

We’ll get started next week…

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

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NotifyChicago: The City Of Chicago’s Emergency Alert Program

Back when I was living in Chicago I remember reading that the city had a system in place where residents could receive alerts about emergencies going on.

I never signed up for the program, but if I were still living at my old pad on the Northwest side today, I’d give it a try.

Enter NotifyChicago. Via the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management & Communications web page, under “Notification Program Overview”:

NotifyChicago

Notification Program Overview

Welcome to NotifyChicago, the City of Chicago’s tool for providing residents with direct emergency and non-emergency information. NotifyChicago is a city service that supplies residents with text messages and/or e-mail alerts for incidents/conditions such as severe weather emergencies, hazardous materials, traffic impacts, etc. Preparedness and being informed is key in an emergency. The Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) urges residents to subscribe to receive alerts sent directly to mobile phones or email accounts to stay informed. Signing up for NotifyChicago is FREE. However, depending on your service plan, you may be charged for messages and data on your devices. Contact your mobile service provider for details on costs in your plan.

How Does Notify Chicago Work?

In the event of an emergency, the city’s designated personnel will send text messages and/or e-mail alerts directly to the registered phones or email accounts using this NotifyChicago system. Non-emergency alerts may be issued for traffic disruptions to keep public informed of related major street closures or events impacting traffic. Those registering for texts/emails can choose to receive both emergency and non-emergency notifications or just emergency notices. Once registered, alerts will be sent to the mobile phone/email address designated as situations arise…

NotifyChicago sounds like a terrific tool for a Chicago worker, resident, and visitor to have access to during an emergency. I tried to find out if Cook County and the State of Illinois had similar emergency alert programs, but didn’t see any advertised on their respective web sites (I plan to investigate more).

Interested in finding out more about NotifyChicago? Head on over to the program site here.

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

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Chicago On Track For Fewest Murders In Nearly 50 Years, But Concerns About Crime Grow

As each year draws to a close, the Chicago media routinely compares the city’s crime numbers to years past. At the end of 2014, the talk is all about the murders- or lack thereof. Michael Lansu reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website this morning:

Chicago could record its lowest murder total in nearly five decades for the second consecutive calendar year, despite an increase in shootings in 2014.

Chicago Police reported 390 murders through Dec. 20… There have been at least 10 additional homicides and one fatal police shooting since then…

The numbers represent a 2 to 4 percent decrease in killings from 2013, and a 19 to 20 percent decrease from the unusually high 2012, when there were 504 murders. It would be fewest killings in any year since the 397 slayings in 1965…

“While the data shows Chicago has seen the fewest murders and lowest crime rate in decades, the ultimate measure of our success is how our residents feel in their communities,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “The ultimate measure of our success is how our residents feel in their communities…”

So how do Chicago residents “feel” in their communities?

David Heinzmann and Rick Pearson analyzed the results of an August 2014 Chicago Tribune poll of 800 registered Chicago voters and wrote on the Tribune website on August 16:

Concern about crime was represented by an increase in the percentage of voters who said they consider their neighborhood less safe since Emanuel became mayor. A total of 27 percent of voters said they considered themselves to be less safe where they live, compared with 20 percent a year earlier. The percentage of those who said their neighborhood was the same as before Emanuel dropped from 68 percent to 61 percent

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

It’s possible such sentiment has changed in the four-and-a-half months since that survey. But I doubt it considering the regular reports of city-related crime these days on the local evening news and elsewhere.

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

Sources:

Lansu, Michael. “Chicago’s 2014 murder total on track for another low, but shootings rise.” Chicago Sun-Times. 27 Dec. 2014. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/crime/7/71/237495/behind-line-chicagos-2014-murder-track-another-low). 27 Dec. 2014.

Heinzmann, David and Pearson, Rick. “Emanuel hounded by crime issue.” Chicago Tribune. 16 Aug. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-rahm-emanuel-crime-met-0817-20140817-story.html#page=1). 27 Dec. 2014.

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Sunday, December 28th, 2014 Crime, Government, Public Safety, Self-Defense No Comments

‘Multiple Fights’ Close Chicago’s Navy Pier And Winter WonderFest

Just saw the 10 PM news broadcast on Chicago’s Channel 7. Looks like the area’s feral kids were out enjoying the nice weather tonight- and stirring up trouble. According to the ABC affiliate’s website:

A brawl broke out at Navy Pier’s Winter Wonderfest on Chicago’s lakefront Friday night, with at least one person taken to a local hospital.

Police are offering few details, but witnesses described complete pandemonium around 8 p.m. before police and security told everyone Navy Pier was closed.

Witnesses said there were multiple fights breaking out among multiple groups of teenagers and then people started running for the exits…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Brawl at Navy Pier”
Channel 7 Video

According to the latest reports coming in from the various Chicago news outlets covering this breaking story, as many as 200 individuals may have been involved in the fracas.

Several have been arrested, and one juvenile has been hospitalized.

It’s one thing when this nonsense is taking place on downtown streets.

But it’s another when the actions of these youths actually close down a major tourist venue like Navy Pier and an event like Winter WonderFest, billed as “Chicago’s biggest and best indoor winter playground.”

Like I wrote on this blog back on May 4, 2011:

If City Hall “loses” downtown to the bad guys- or, in this case, bad boys and girls- you lose the tourists, their money, revenue… you get the point.

You listenin’ Rahm?

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

Source:

“Brawl Breaks Out At Navy Pier’s WonderFest.” Channel 7. 26 Dec. 2014. (http://abc7chicago.com/news/brawl-breaks-out-at-navy-piers-wonderfest/452065/). 26 Dec. 2014.

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Friday, December 26th, 2014 Crime, Government, Public Safety No Comments

Signs Of The Time, Part 78

Karma doesn’t look to be dialing down her bitch anytime soon.

Alexandra Chachkevitch and Rosemary Regina Sobol reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Rahm Emanuel’s 17-year-old son was robbed near the family’s Ravenswood home Friday night, according to a mayoral spokeswoman and police reports…

Zach Emanuel was talking on his cellphone in the 4200 block of North Hermitage Avenue, across the street and a few houses down from the Emanuel home, when two males approached him from behind, according to the police report.

One of them “placed his arm around the victim’s neck in a rear chokehold,” and the second one struck the teen with a fist, knocking him to the ground. The robbers took the teen’s cellphone and patted him down, the police report said.

“The offenders then asked the victim, ‘What else you got?’ (and) forced the victim to enter his security code to unlock the phone,” the police report said.

The robbers then ran away. The teen was treated for cuts and bruises on his face by a personal physician at his home, according to the report…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Couple of things here:

1. Mayor Emanuel and his administration are known for claiming “crime is down!” in the city.

2. For those blog readers who don’t already know, the “Rahmfather’s” Chicago pad is heavily-guarded by the Chicago Police Department, including two or more cops in front, two or more in the alley, a heavy-weapons vehicle nearby, and a roving patrol (source: Second City Cop blog). By extension, the surrounding area is thought to be one of Chicago’s most secure as crime is concerned.

3. Glad to hear Zach’s injuries weren’t worse, since not resisting during a robbery is no guarantee the bad guy(s) won’t still injure/kill you.

4. I, too, was like Zach at that age, oblivious to my surroundings (no cell phone, but often found sporting a Sony Walkman). Then I started hearing/reading stories about the bad guys preying on people carrying on like that. By the time I was living in Chicago, I’d still listen to my mp3 player while walking down Northwest Highway- but not without a healthy dose of situational awareness.

Anyway, glad the young man is safe after the ordeal.

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

Sources:

Chachkevitch, Alexandra and Rosemary Regina Sobol. “Emanuel’s son robbed near family’s North Side home.” Chicago Tribune. 20 Dec. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-rahm-emanuel-son-robbed-20141220-story.html). 20 Dec. 2014.

SCC. “Hey Rahm, Crime is down!” Second City Cop. 20 Dec. 2014. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2014/12/hey-rahm-crime-is-down.html). 21 Dec. 2014.

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Chicago Selected To Join 100 Resilient Cities Network

Nice to see Chicago is finally not on some list you really don’t want to be on.

In all seriousness, the following sounds promising. From the Mayor’s Press Office last Wednesday:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced the City of Chicago was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation as one of 35 global cities to join the 100 Resilient Cities Network. The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Network (100RC) includes a leading community of pioneers, innovators, and highly esteemed cities ready to build urban resilience across the globe by improving their own capacities to prepare for, withstand, and bounce back rapidly from shocks and stresses. Chicago was selected for its emergency preparedness, continuing 21st century infrastructure improvements, economic diversity, and urgency to identify, prepare for and combat threats that are most likely to challenge its resiliency. As a part of the award, the City will be granted funding for no less than two years to hire its first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), as well as expanded resources to strategize and execute long-term goals with a holistic focus on resilience at the neighborhood level…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

If the City of Chicago gets a CRO who’s actually qualified for the position (not picked because of clout/ties to “The Machine”), and doesn’t blow the wad pursuing foolish gun “control” initiatives, they might do okay with this project.

One more thing. What’s got the Rockefeller Foundation so spooked they’re bankrolling this 100 Resilient Cities Network? I’m guessing they’ve come to realize- like I did some years ago- life’s not going to be all about rainbows and unicorns anytime soon.

You can read that entire press release on the City of Chicago website here.

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

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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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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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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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Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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