Senate lawmakers have scheduled a hearing to examine abuse and neglect at the state’s group homes for people with developmental disabilities following an investigation by the Chicago Tribune that found a system where basic care is lacking and harm is hidden by regulators.
The Tribune found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs in the last seven years, as care often fell to employees who were unlicensed or poorly trained.
The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. Nov. 30 at the state Capitol in Springfield. (Monique Garcia)
What’s on tap
*Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s schedule was not available.
*Gov. Bruce Rauner will visit a South Side manufacturing facility Tuesday afternoon to talk about creating jobs, lowering property taxes and improving schools.
*O’Hare workers put off planned strike till Tuesday, after Thanksgiving rush.
*Kamikaze "aggressive squirrel" gets revenge on Ald. Brookins.
*Barrington ordinance counteracts Cook County minimum wage increase.
From the notebook
*City budget woes lessened, not solved, agency says: Upon passage last week of his $8.2 billion budget plan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared "tomorrow is better" because of the steps taken during the past five years to address the city’s budget problems.
Pensions, he said, were "on a path toward solvency," and the city was relying for less on one-time revenue to make ends meet. But he also said he was "not taking a victory lap" and warned: "We’re not done. We have more work ahead."
Flash forward to Monday, and S&P Global Ratings, one of the big Wall Street debt rating firms, issued a new report that agreed with that assessment. S&P analysts noted that the city was contributing significantly more to its four pension funds and faced a smaller initial budget gap than in previous years. But the budget "remains structurally imbalanced" and "the sustainability of the pension plan for municipal employees may be short lived."
"Overall, we consider Chicago’s overall budgetary performance to be very weak," analyst Helen Samuelson wrote. "The city’s structural imbalance in its overall operating budget, which factors in pension contributions, will take multiple years to rectify."
The big revenue increase approved for next year is a new tax on city water and sewer service that will top 30 percent once it’s phased in over four years. But even with that increased revenue, the city municipal workers pension fund — the city’s largest — could still find itself in financial straits during that period if returns on investment are lower than anticipated, the pension fund board has warned.
And by the early 2020s, the city will have to find hundreds of millions of additional dollars a year to make the pension contributions it’s pledged to deliver to all four of its pension funds.
Much sooner than that, the city will have to come up with more money to run its Police Department to keep the mayor’s pledge to grow the force by 970 cops over the next two years. And Emanuel plans to phase out by 2019 costly, frowned-upon borrowing practices that saved the city money in the short run as it pushed off debt onto future generations.
As a result of all those concerns, S&P maintained its BBB+ rating for Chicago debt backed by property taxes. That’s three notches above junk status. S&P, however, did improve the city’s outlook to stable from negative last month because of the new water and sewer tax, recognizing it as "a positive step" in addressing the city’s pension woes. (Hal Dardick)
*Deal him in: Joe Deal’s appointment as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief of staff this week starts the clock running on when he will depart the notoriously grueling post. But Deal at least gets to assume the seat after a lot of heavy, politically difficult lifting has already been done.
Emanuel’s 2017 budget passed the City Council easily last week. And Deal’s predecessor, Eileen Mitchell, held the job during what shaped up as the toughest 15 months of his administration in the lead-up to that vote.
In addition to the city and Chicago Public Schools hiking property taxes and other fees to the tune of over $1 billion in that time, the mayor and his staff had to weather the fallout from their handling of the Laquan McDonald police shooting and their subsequent attempts to rebuild trust in the Police Department while also coping with a spike in violent crime.
Those problems continue, but the Emanuel administration has at least laid out a road map of sorts to address them.
Deal is Emanuel’s fifth chief of staff since taking office in 2012. The long hours and demanding, caustic demeanor of the mayor make it a short-timer’s position.
While questions remain about paying for planned police hiring and the phasing out of scoop-and-toss borrowing practices, Deal probably won’t need to midwife yet another massive tax hike. That’s because aldermen have already approved escalating taxes as part of prior votes to try to cope with city pension deficits.
Deal has been with the city for over 17 years, working most recently as a deputy chief of staff for Emanuel. Under Mayor Richard M. Daley, he coordinated regional water sustainability efforts. He also worked in the Department of Environment and Office of Management and Budget.
Mitchell is stepping down "to pursue other professional endeavors," according to Emanuel’s office. (John Byrne)
Follow the money
*Track Illinois campaign contribution contributions in real time here and here.