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The [Thursday] Papers

From my juvenile justice column on Friday:

Michigan Avenue magazine this week named Toni Irving, the executive director of Get In Chicago, one of the city's most influential women.

Get In Chicago is a pet project of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who founded the organization in March 2013 with private money he had solicited to address violence in the city.

Irving was previously a deputy chief of staff to Governor Pat Quinn, chair of the State of Illinois Human Services Commission and Co-Chair of the Poverty Elimination Commission.

"When I came to the state, we had 1,337 youth in the juvenile justice system reporting to adult parole officers, [and under my leadership] all kids in Cook County were given social workers to track them, so it became a more supporting, therapeutic model of care," Irving told Michigan Avenue. "The last day I was at the state, there were 850 [kids in the system], and they were doing so much better."

* I can't vouch for Irving, I'm just the messenger.

I was interested in Irving for that column because of her work in the juvenile justice system, but boy am I glad I issued that disclaimer; I figured if she was brought aboard by Rahm, she was inherently suspicious. (Call it political profiling.)

Now comes the Sun-Times with this report:

"The head of a new city alliance with business titans to reduce gun violence in Chicago was one of the architects of the governor's scandal-plagued Neighborhood Recovery Initiative."

Uh-oh.

"Irving acknowledged in an interview she helped come up with the ideas for the program . . . But Irving insisted, 'I had nothing to do with the implementation of the program,' despite e-mails from 2010 obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times that show her playing a key role in planning who would get grant money."

Oops.

*

The timing is exquisite.

"On Wednesday, Get In Chicago awarded $1.7 million in grants to 11 organizations. Irving, Emanuel and Allstate Insurance CEO Tom Wilson visited a West Side social-services agency where the awards were announced."

Was it arranged by CNN? I only ask because that's the same Tom Wilson we saw expressing pride in Chicago during Chicagoland's commercial breaks from teenagers shooting each other.

See how it all comes together?

*

"At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Emanuel sought to distinguish Get In Chicago from Quinn's troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which was launched during the governor's closely contested campaign in 2010. Republican critics have blasted the Quinn initiative as a political 'slush fund' created to generate support for Quinn.

"First of all, this is private money. Totally different," Emanuel said.

Right. Private money is untraceable. That's where Quinn went wrong.

*

"Wilson said he talked to Irving about her involvement in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative prior to her 2013 hiring and learned that 'she was not actively involved in that process.'"

Um, really?

"Last year, a press release announcing Irving as the new head of Get In Chicago tout[ed] Irving's involvement with the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative as a reason why she's qualified to lead Get In Chicago," WBEZ reports.

In fact, Wilson also said Wednesday that "This is really a state of the art process in terms of awarding money to help at-risk youth and Toni designed that process, she's run that process."

So which is it, Tom? She wasn't actively involved in the process or she ran that process?

*

Irving refused to speak to WBEZ, but she told the Sun-Times that "she helped come up with the concept for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, but 'I had absolutely nothing to do with the implementation of the program.'"

The Sun-Times, however, reports that "internal e-mails dating to September 2010 - a month before the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative's launch - show Irving played a key role from within the governor's office in planning the program, including one discussion about making one group, the Chicago Area Project, the main conduit for state anti-violence grants in West Garfield Park.

In one exchange, Irving corresponded with the head of the now-defunct Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, Barbara Shaw, in what appears to be a discussion about selecting the main social-service agency through which Neighborhood Recovery Initiative funding would pass in West Garfield Park, state records show.

In an e-mail on Oct. 18, 2010, Irving wrote Shaw to tell her that she had spoken three days earlier with former Rep. Annazette Collins, D-Chicago, who with former Ald. Ed Smith (28th) had made recommendations about providers for West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park.

"She indicated Chicago Area Project," Irving wrote Shaw, alluding to Collins and her apparent choice for West Garfield Park.

Chicago Area Project ultimately was chosen to funnel $2.1 million in state funding into that West Side neighborhood and hired Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown's husband, Benton Cook III, as the program coordinator, a post that paid him more than $146,000 in salary and benefits over two years.

Yeah, if you're going to take direction from Annazette Collins, this is what's going to happen.

From the Beachwood vault:

Secretary of State Jesse White calls Collins "the most unethical person in government," which is patently untrue. If it were true, she'd be the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party . . . Nonetheless, she's got a track record that makes Dorothy Brown look like Paul Simon; just check out what she meant when she said "There is no rule that says you can't give everyone on Walnut Street a scholarship." . . . Watkins tells Huffington Post Chicago that she wouldn't be surprised if Collins is the next public official in Illinois to go to jail, though a long line is already forming . . . Better, Watkins says: "And I bet she wouldn't be surprised either." . . . In fact, Collins tells HuffPo that if allegations over a tax credit had been - or turn out to be - true, "That would have been something to go to jail for." There's still time.

See how it all comes together?

*

Irving's name, however, does not appear in state auditor William Holland's report, which pulled the curtain back on the NRI debacle.

*

Assignment Desk: Did any of the organizations that just got money from Get In Chicago also get NRI money? Did they show up in the audit? (I'd check myself, but I don't have time this morning to do other people's jobs.)

*

I don't really get the name Get In Chicago, which apparently is actually Get IN Chicago. Like, get indoors where it's safer?

*

Slightly related, from a Beachwood reader:

"I have to say I was pretty surprised that CPD went with 'surge' in the messaging for their summer anti-violence initiative. Given the obviousness of the connection back to certain terminology used during the Iraq War, I can only assume they intended to strengthen the Chiraq meme? Can't wait to see Rahm in military fatigues in front of Mission Accomplished banner this fall to bring everything full circle."

*

Meanwhile, in fantasy broadcast land:

"As investigations mount concerning spending within Governor Quinn's anti-violence program, CBS 2 has learned the same woman who oversaw it is now running a private $50 million anti-violence initiative in Chicago."

Also, CBS 2 has "learned" that the Cubs lost last night. Exclusive details at 10.

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See also: The Problems And Politics Of Pat Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

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BeachBook
* The Cobras of Champaign.

* Why This Member Of The Minnesota Wild Should Be Your Favorite Player Of This Blackhawks Series.

* Park Ridge Officials Decline To Release Income Taxes.

* Vernon Hills Trying To Help Turtles Cross Roads Safely.

* Brazilian Kids Learn English By Talking To Lonely Chicago Seniors.

* Illinois Face Of Obamacare Mired In Health Law Snags.

* Obama Transparency Record Remains Unimpressive.

* Obama Administration Proves Why We Need Someone To Leak The CIA Torture Report.

And, as long as we're ending this segment on a theme:

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#AskVentra

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#CrosstownCup

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TweetWood

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Fair to partly surly.



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Posted on May 8, 2014


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