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The [Wednesday] Papers

"The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative has been a political liability for Gov. Pat Quinn since a state audit tore apart the grant program in February, but newly released e-mails show top aides to the governor worried about its potential political cost as far back as 2011," the Sun-Times reports.

Uh-oh.

That's when former Quinn chief of staff Jack Lavin, the governor's former chief operating officer Andrew Ross and the director of the Illinois Finance Authority, Chris Meister, worked to insulate the governor and help contain a brewing, NRI-related tempest involving Chicago Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) in her 2011 aldermanic race.

The disclosure comes in e-mails Ross released to a legislative panel probing the botched $54.5 million program that is now under federal investigation.

Ross is among seven witnesses subpoenaed by the Legislative Audit Commission, which Wednesday begins two days of hearings aimed at wresting testimony from Quinn's former inner circle about why the anti-violence program was beset by political cronyism and questionable spending.

Ross' e-mails show that he, Meister and Lavin, to varying degrees, appeared to mobilize to buffer Quinn and Graham from any potential political fallout from a WBEZ-FM report in February 2011 about a pair of NRI grants disbursed to organizations linked to the alderman.

Uh-oh.

Auditor General William Holland's February audit of NRI showed $780,000 went to an organization, Kingdom Community Inc., that is headed by Graham's pastor, the Rev. John T. Abercrombie, who could not be reached Tuesday.

The other grant went to an organization called Learning Network Center, which WBEZ reported was linked to a political supporter of Graham's who helped circulate her nominating petitions.

Uh-oh.

Ross' e-mails show that Quinn's cadre of advisors was focused on a campaign press release from Graham's aldermanic opponents, who vowed to speak out jointly at a Feb. 15, 2011, news conference against the "questionable appropriation of anti-violence funding directly benefiting the incumbent alderman."

Uh-oh.

"The potential exposure for the governor's office from the factually incorrect press release alludes to a scenario where the governor and Alderman Graham made these funding decisions of [sic] their own," Meister wrote, noting that four of Graham's opponents had "received . . . either directly or through affiliated organizations state and federal funds."

Wait a minute. That's it? That's the smoking gun? That e-mail states that the political claims made are factually incorrect and that Quinn and Graham did not make these funding decisions - at least on on their own.

How misleading was that windup? And the headline: "E-mails Show Quinn Aides Had Political Concerns Over NRI In 2011."

A more accurate headline would have been "E-mails Show Quinn Aides Had Political Concerns Over False Attacks On NRI In 2011."

Sheesh.

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That's not to say I don't believe something hinky was going on with those particular grants. It's to say the story is falsely framed. Find another way to introduce us to today's hearings, please.

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By the way, here's the WBEZ report the Sun-Times didn't link to.

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The Tribune went with the standard political theater angle. AP went with the standard bore-our-readers-to-death angle.

We're in a digital world, now. Please break out of standard story construction. Maybe a chart listing the start-times for each witness along with what we know so far about their involvement in the NRI, including what they've said, if anything, so far. Include links and video. Maybe highlight what Holland's audit says about each of them.

Do the same for the pols, of course. Let us know who the clowns are.

And then fact-check the claims about the NRI made by both Quinn and his team and Rauner and his team.

Or something. That's just one idea. But please, it's 2014. Let's at least act like it's 2007. (And I don't just mean a live blog.)

Department Of Aldermen
On the docket for today's city council meeting, according to the Tribune:

"Approval of three non-binding referendum questions for next March's city election. Voters would be asked whether employers in Chicago should be required to give paid sick leave to workers, whether Illinois elections should partly be funded with public money and whether city workers convicted of domestic violence should be required to get treatment.

"Those questions were endorsed Tuesday by mayoral allies, who denied they were once again trying to fill the ballot with enough questions to prevent voters from being asked if they favor an elected school board, something the mayor opposes and a question that could end up being considered a rebuke of the educational policies of his hand-picked Chicago Public Schools board."

Name those mayoral allies and tell me just how they denied it. For example: With a straight face? Then ask: Would you be willing to repeat that under oath under penalty of perjury? Take a polygraph? Because we all know it's a straight-out lie.

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Why should voters be asked if city workers convicted of domestic violence should be required to get treatment? Shouldn't that be left up to the courts - or the HR department? Or, stay with me here, the city council? Maybe hold hearings, that sort of thing.

Because using domestic violence as a political tool is disgusting.

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I'd like to see the media push this one hard and document to the extent possible the lengths Rahm Emanuel has gone to in order to keep the elected school board question off the ballot.

Here is some history, via Ben Joravsky and the Reader:

2012: Moore And Emanuel Block Elected School Board.

2013: The Mayor Gets The City Council To Bury The Elected School Board Issue (Again).

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Ald. Patrick O'Connor says aldermanic proponents of an elected school board referendum are racist; Ald. Joe Moreno says they're lazy.

Just. Wow.

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Scenes From A City Council. The details aren't important.

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Our Hero

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Brother Oberweis
"State Sen. Jim Oberweis, the Republican challenger for U.S. Senate, has been standing on a street corner on the South Side, handing out ice cream to potential voters as part of his effort to unseat Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin in the Nov. 4 election," the Tribune reports.

"That's what Oberweis, heir to the dairy company that carries his name, told a group of about 100 people at a City Club of Chicago luncheon on Tuesday."

Which corner and for how long?

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B.B. King & The Banjo Slayer
Plus: Speedy Ortiz and the Chicago Diner milkshake. In Local Music Notebook.

Fantasy Fix: A Case Of Bad Reception
Including: Why Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan are both must-starts this weekend. (Hint: The Falcons have a terrible defense too.)

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TweetWood

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Really, CTU?

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Roll snide.



Permalink

Posted on October 8, 2014


MUSIC - Blues Fest 2017.
TV - 'The Worst FCC I've Ever Seen.'
POLITICS - Minimum Wage Hikes Work.
SPORTS - On Joe Louis, Race And Sports Heroes.

BOOKS - The Blood Of Emmett Till.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Artist As Alchemist.


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