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The [Thursday] Papers

"The Illinois State Police agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a former death row inmate who spent almost two decades in prison for the 1986 murders of a newlywed couple before a judge released him because of flawed evidence," AP reports.

"The settlement comes after the state police already spent more than $3.7 million to defend the agency against lawsuits filed by the inmate and another man convicted in the killings and later freed, according to documents obtained by the Better Government Association."

Here's my favorite part:

"State police say the settlement, reached Oct. 25, isn't an admission of wrongdoing or that Steidl shouldn't have been convicted.

"'He was not exonerated and settlement is not a reflection of guilt or innocence, nor is it an admission of any wrongdoing on behalf of Illinois State Police,' spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

"She declined to discuss the agency's reason for settling, saying she'd refer the question to an agency attorney who did not respond to calls from The Associated Press."

I love when our finest public servants pull that trick - not only refusing to fulfill their obligation to explain their actions to the taxpayers who pay their salaries (and their settlements) but referring reporters to other people who will also refuse comment. Nice.


From the BGA report:

"Asked how this settlement reflected on the integrity and reputation of the police, particularly given that those named in the lawsuit were primarily supervisors, Bond provided this statement from Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau: 'The service, pride and integrity demonstrated by the men and women of this Department cannot be defined by a single lawsuit. The hard work and dedicated service provided by the men and women of this Agency is defined by their leadership and commitment to serve every day, as they risk their lives to ensure that others are safe.'"

Grau (and Bond) once worked for the Chicago Police Department, so they're well-versed in avoiding answering questions and issuing content-free verbs and adjectives that, when strung together, mean virtually nothing.

Back to the AP report:

"[Steidl] and a friend, Herb Whitlock, were convicted by separate juries of the 1986 deaths of Karen and Dyke Rhoads. The couple was found in their burning two-story home in Paris, about 60 miles southeast of Champaign. Each had been stabbed more than 20 times.

"Steidl, who was 35, was sentenced to death. Whitlock - then 41 - was sent to prison for life.

"But there were questions about their convictions early on, and Dyke Rhoads' brother and sister have said they didn't believe the men were guilty.

"A knife one witness claimed was the murder weapon didn't match the Rhoads' wounds. And another witness, who described himself as the town drunk, changed his story. At one point, he said men named 'Jim and Ed' killed the young couple.

"A former state police investigator, meanwhile, has said publicly that his superiors kept him from asking key questions. He concluded Steidl and Whitlock were innocent.

"The problems with the evidence led a judge to order Steidl be freed or retried. The Illinois Attorney General's office declined to try Steidl again, and he left prison in 2004. Whitlock was similarly released in 2008."


And yet:

"He was not exonerated and settlement is not a reflection of guilt or innocence, nor is it an admission of any wrongdoing on behalf of Illinois State Police," Bond said.

Tell it to the judge. And the attorney general. But you know what? If you think he's really guilty, then yes, spend taxpayer money fighting for justice. But don't spend $6.2 million, give up, and then insist your office did nothing wrong and the man might still be guilty.

Sears Circular
The big story on the Tribune website as of this writing is this AP report: Ohio Said To Offer $400 Million For Sears.

"A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn tells The Columbus Dispatch Ohio's pitch is about four times the offer Illinois has considered making to keep Sears Holdings Corp. from leaving," AP reports.

The big story on the Dispatch site right now is "A $400 Million Carrot For Sears?"

"[T]he $400 million figure came from Sears executives testifying in a recent committee meeting in the Illinois House," the paper reports.

That testimony was on November 8.

From the Daily Herald that day:

"Testifying before lawmakers, Sears officials revealed that they've received a tax incentive offer worth $400 million from a nearby state, which they did not name."


Also from the Dispatch:

"A $400 million incentive package would certainly dwarf any others disclosed by Ohio in recent memory.

"Bob Evans Farms was granted incentives estimated at more than $14 million this year to keep its headquarters in central Ohio, though moving from the South Side to New Albany. NetJets was offered a $67 million package to stay in Ohio in 2008, though very little of that ended up being spent after the Columbus-based private- jet company scaled back its headquarters plans the next year.

"While a $400 million offer for a headquarters relocation bringing 6,000 jobs to a state sounds like a lot of money, the figure wouldn't be out of the ball park, said Jay Biggins, a specialist in corporate incentives and a partner in New Jersey-based consulting firm BLS Strategies.

"'That would be a phenomenally impactful project,' Biggins said. 'Projects that are headquarters, involving new high-compensation positions, can be catalytic. They can legitimately command incentives in the $80,000- to $100,000-per-job range. That isn't common, but it isn't unique, either.'"

Yeah, well, with the way thing are going with Sears, Ohio would be better off if one of its baseball teams signed Albert Pujols, whose price is about half as much but whose risky long-term prognosis is better.


From the Daily Herald on Wednesday:

"Sears maintains it has been wooed by at least 19 states, and The Columbus Dispatch reported Nov. 18 that Ohio Gov. John Kasich talked with Sears CEO Louis D'Ambrosio in an ongoing attempt to lure the company to move. But the story indicated that Kasich 'doubts Sears will leave suburban Chicago.'"


A reminder: Illinois taxpayers sunk $250 million into Sears to keep it in-state 20 years ago, when it moved from Chicago to Hoffman Estates. Does it ever end?

Sun-Times Sale?
"Merrick Ventures LLC CEO Michael Ferro Jr. is assembling a group of investors that includes Madison Dearborn Partners LLC Chairman John Canning Jr. to make a bid for Sun-Times Media Holdings LLC, according to people familiar with the effort," Crain's reports.

This is an interesting report for several reasons.

A) Canning is the Chicago News Cooperative's chairman of the board; Ferro is a board member. Does this move portend anything for CNC?

B) Sun-Times Media chairman Jeremy Halbreich says "The paper and the company have never been put up for sale. We've not been shopped. We are not being marketed."

None of which is a refusal to consider offers.

C) Tribune Company is still trying to emerge from bankruptcy, and when it does it will be sold, as I understand it, unless the private investment firms who are its major creditors decide to hang on to it, which strikes me as unlikely. Why wouldn't Canning and Ferro go for that instead?

Sports Authority
"After hotel tax figures came in this year, the city of Chicago for the first time had to pitch in extra money to help pay off renovations and maintenance to Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox," the Tribune reports.

"When the stadium's owner, the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, couldn't pay back its annual advance to the state for debt payments, the state tapped $1.1 million in taxes that were supposed to go to the city of Chicago, records show.

"The stadium authority relies primarily on hotel tax revenue from the state to help pay down its annual debt payments for bonds related to the stadium and Soldier Field renovations. The state provides an advance at the beginning of the year, which is then paid back with hotel tax revenue.

"This past year, however, hotel tax revenue was short by more than $1.1 million. So the state turned to the Local Government Distributive Fund, which is Chicago's portion of state income tax."

That's part of the deal Jim Thompson and Rich Daley made to "keep" the White Sox in Chicago.

A) These incentive programs often go horribly wrong.

B) Can't we sell the stadium to the White Sox and get government out of the "sports facilities" business?

Crypto Crony Capitalism
"More than half of the money Quinn has pledged through May would aid companies that are not required to create a single job, the Tribune found."


See also from the Trib:
* How Illinois' Tax Incentive Contracts Stack Up

* State Business Incentive Program Falling Short Of Promised Job Creation

And from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve:
* The Economic War Among The States

Anthony Wagner Died For Our Sins
Iraq War veteran and Columbia College film student was a truth seeker and a truth teller.

Langford and Fulks Sittin' In A Tree
Video from a special performance this week.

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report
Hype-Apathy Sets In.

Do You Mime If I Smoke?
The Chicago Heart Association did in 1979.

Meet Una Mae
Wicker Park mainstay.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Incentivized.


Posted on December 1, 2011

MUSIC - Madonna vs. Moderna.
TV - Sundays With The Military-Industrial Complex.
POLITICS - Private Equity In The ER.
SPORTS - Suspicious Betting Trends In Soccer.

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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