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The [Monday] Papers

Is there any other kind?

But he got the headline he wanted.

More in today's Teachers Strike Notebook.

Secret Prisons
"First, Gov. Pat Quinn rejected reporters' requests to tour Illinois prisons as he plans a major shakeup in the state's corrections system," AP reports.

"Now his administration is refusing to reveal precisely who has been allowed to see inside state penitentiaries during his three years in office."

Later he'll deny the prisons even exist.


"Carefully controlled prison walk-throughs were commonplace for lawmakers, journalists and others in years past as a way to illustrate conditions for prisoners and the state employees who keep them in line. But after barring the gate to reporters last month, Quinn's administration has deemed it too burdensome to reveal who has been allowed to enter in response to a Freedom of Information request by The Associated Press."

That actually make sense because governing has proved too burdensome for the Quinn administration.


"Despite the governor's declaration that allowing reporters inside is a 'security risk,' prison officials say only individual wardens have information about tours by outside groups, and that top Department of Corrections brass don't keep track of who's coming and going, though some evidence contradicts that."

Reporters are going to smuggle in rock hammers in their notebooks?


"The AP and other media have asked to see prison conditions, which are described very differently by the two sides. (Link mine.)

"When rejected, the AP sought information about approved tours so it could speak with others who have been inside. But the state denied the information request, saying it would take too much time for a busy agency to collect the data from more than two dozen facilities."

That's because they're spending so much time rationalizing the denial of FOIA requests.


"The administration's tighter prison control comes as correctional systems nationally are trending toward more access, according to Daron Hall, president of the American Correctional Association, which accredits prison systems."

Quinn is leading from behind.


"The AP requested information on organized tours by community groups, lawmakers, reporters or others. Corrections responded that 'there is no central repository for these documents' and offered, under the law, to consider a 'narrowed' request - in this case, information from just two prisons out of two dozen."

And I'm sure Corrections would be happy to pick out which two!


"Spokeswoman Kayce Ataiyero told the AP each prison's visitor logs 'contain thousands of entries - including those representing the visits of inmates' family and friends,' making a search too laborious.

"But other evidence suggests top Corrections officials do know about separate tour groups, and are involved in approving them. When a reporter called Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton, a staff member in the warden's office said a tour request must be submitted in writing to the warden, but a deputy director of the department has final say.

"In addition, prison wardens submit weekly activity reports to one of the three deputy directors who supervise them, routinely listing approved tours.

Ataiyero did not respond to a question about whether the data could be collected from the deputy directors. Nor would she say whether the agency's computerized 'Visitor Tracking System' could provide answers."


Ataiyero is a former Tribune reporter and that makes her Today's Worst Person in Chicago.

Flaming Revolving Door
"As a lawyer and scientist for one of the world's largest makers of flame retardants, Todd Stedeford vigorously defended chemicals added to scores of household products - often by concluding the substances are far less dangerous than academic and government studies have determined," the Tribune reports.

"Studies, legal newsletters and letters he wrote or co-wrote while at Albemarle Corp. also frequently contradicted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's positions and statements about industrial chemicals.

"He argued, for example, that people could be safely exposed to one flame retardant at doses more than 500 times higher than a standard set by the EPA and accused regulators of basing their decisions about toxic chemicals on emotion rather than reason.

"Now Stedeford is in charge of an EPA program studying whether dozens of industrial chemicals, including flame retardants, are too dangerous."


"The EPA would not make [EPA Administrator Lisa] Jackson or Stedeford available for an interview."

That would be too burdensome.

Family First
"Cook County's taxpayers are footing the bill for private legal counsel to represent Joe Berrios - the Cook County assessor, who is also chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party - in his fight against accusations he violated anti-nepotism rules by putting his son and sister on the payroll, records show," the Sun-Times reports.

Maybe just bill the taxpayers who voted for him.

Home Rule Ruse
"The state used to cap how much towns could borrow on the backs of taxpayers," the Tribune reports.

"But local officials complained they needed easier ways to borrow. Chicago's first Mayor Richard Daley led the charge for municipalities to set their own rules. The result was the 1970 Illinois Constitution and a concept that transformed how the city and suburbs are governed: home rule.

"It has let towns borrow as much as they want, and raise many taxes, all without direct voter input. Any town with at least 25,000 residents gets the power. Smaller towns can vote it in via a referendum measure."

The result?

"With no limits, some suburbs have dug themselves further into debt with what can be shaky plans for economic development.

"Among them:

* Officials in south suburban Markham raised sales and property taxes while borrowing $20 million mostly to buy a roller rink and build a senior apartment building - the latter named after the mayor.

* Northlake borrowed $14.5 million to build a 60-unit condo building that opened in 2009. The town cut prices and even helped finance mortgages, but about 20 units remain unsold.

* Country Club Hills built an amphitheater that doesn't make enough to cover debt payments and typically loses $300,000 to $1 million a year, depending on what expenses are counted.

"Some suburbs with lower debt rates also have taken big borrowing gambles without going directly to voters for approval. Bolingbrook built a golf course and plush clubhouse. Hoffman Estates tied taxpayers to a sports arena. And Schaumburg built a $240 million hotel and convention center. All those ventures have struggled at times.

"In suburbs with big budgets and big tax bases, losses on such projects may not devastate the bottom line. But in smaller or poorer suburbs, such as Bellwood, bad gambles eat up bigger chunks of the budget and leave little choice but to boost taxes."

Bears Bad Start A Blessing
In SportsMonday.

The Weekend in Chicago Rock
Chris Mills, Little Feat, Ghostface Killah, Primordial and more.

The White Sox Report
Only the Tigers' puzzling ineptitude has kept the Sox in first place.

Elephant Appreciation Day!
In Milwaukee.

The Cub Factor
A Clown Car Wreck.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Buzz to enter.


Posted on September 10, 2012

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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