The [Wednesday] Papers
"Additional gambling revenue is not the answer to Illinois' fiscal problems," the Northwest Herald writes. "It only will create more addicts, bankrupt more families, and open the state up to more organized crime."
It's really that simple. It's a really sad state of affairs when government turns to a business that preys on the most vulnerable among us and depends on duping the customer into playing games they can't win in order to raise revenue for services that will will never flow back to the most vulnerable among us, no matter what the rhetoric. There are only a few winners in this configuration, and we all know who they are. And that's why they want it so bad.
Unfortunately, it's not clear that Pat Quinn's spine is really in it. Now that he's made a show of calling for stricter regulation, he can cave when Rahm Emanuel & Co. come back next time. Then he can claim he stood up for the people of Illinois against moneyed interests when he vetoed a gambling bill - no self-respecting journalist should use the word "gaming" - at the same time he reaps the rewards of passing a gambling bill (or live not at all uncomfortably with a legislative override of his veto.)
Because I sense wobbliness, and I don't call him Governor Gumby for nothing.
"I spoke with the governor this morning and we agreed it cannot take another 20 years of discussion to draft and pass a bill that will be signed into law," Emanuel said in a statement.
So Quinn is still okay with gambling expansion - as long as he has proper political cover.
"When it comes to gambling expansion in Illinois, nobody is happy right now," the Sun-Times opines.
Not true. Opponents of gambling expansion are quite happy. For now.
"Year upon year, deal-cutters in the General Assembly collect fat donations from gambling interests and dutifully write legislation to massively expand the industry's reach in Illinois communities," the Tribune opines.
"In fealty to the gambling lobbyists, the deal-cutters try to foist on this state more casinos and video poker outlets than many citizens will tolerate. The sponsors promise that massive expansion will bring vast new revenue to Springfield. They don't boast, though, about how they buy the votes for passage by earmarking a huge share of that revenue for their fellow legislators' pet causes and projects. Most dangerously, the sponsors punctuate thick expansion bills with sneaky ethical loopholes."
And yet, the Tribune somehow still has hope that a clean bill can be written, passed and signed into law that would, among other things, bring a casino to Chicago that would maintain the highest ethical standards.
In our lifetime? The Rosemont fiasco was only a few years ago. Let's face it, Chicago's not ready for a casino. And if the government is going to sanction it, it should demand fair odds for all the games - no house advantage. No casino company on the planet would go for that. And that tells you everything you need to know.
By the way, the late great Jim Tyree saw fit to put Kevin Flynn, chief protaganist of the Rosemont disaster, on his board when he bought the Sun-Times Media Group.
"Legislation rammed through the City Council in April did not empower Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate the Trust."
At Rahm's insistence.
"In its second meeting, the Trust adopted bylaws that state that all directors, officers and employees of the Trust 'shall have a duty to cooperate' with the inspector general "in any investigation, audit or review undertaken' by the IG's office."
"The city's Board of Ethics has ruled that the Trust is a city agency and, therefore, that its members must follow the city's newly-revised ethics ordinance, including its disclosure requirements, its ban on gifts and loans as well as its revolving-door provisions.
"But Emily Miller of the Better Government Association questioned why reporters and members of the general public whose Freedom of Information requests are denied will not be free to appeal those decisions to the Illinois Attorney general's office. Instead, the city will be the final arbiter."
Which was my next question.
"If the Trust is a city agency in some areas and not in others, I'm not quite sure how that's gonna work out," Miller told the board.
Of course, we were assured that the Trust would operate within the strictures of the state's FOIA and open meeting laws. Assured by folks not willing to put it in writing. And here we are.
"The Trust will launch with $200 million in energy efficiency projects for government buildings - including converting water pumping stations from steam power to electricity - expected to generate a 20 percent energy savings that will be used to repay investors. The Cultural Center, where the second meeting was held, is one of those buildings."
We keep hearing this, but the Emanuel administration insists there is no plan yet - and it's up to the Trust to come up with one. So those numbers are made up?
"During Tuesday's meeting, Hoffman questioned why some "portions of city government, including sister agencies" are already factoring anticipated energy savings into their budgets and incorporating those projects into their presentations to bond investors.
But that appears to be exactly what's happening.
"[City CFO Lois Scott] also essentially told Hoffman not to get such big ideas - that while the board should be independent, its primary job was reviewing the mayor's plans," Mick Dumke reports for the Reader.
"It's also incumbent on us as government officials to work on this behind the scenes and present things for consideration," Scott said. When city officials have something for the trust to look over, "we will come before the trust and ask it for consideration."
So the board is for show; the real work will be done behind the scenes. And may or may not be subject to FOIA.
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Posted on August 29, 2012
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