Tag Archives: Illinois

How Chicago Learned Privatizing Public Housing Isn’t Enough

Source: Debra Bruno, Politico Magazine, July 20, 2017
 
The city tried, but never managed the fundamental transformation that was so obviously required. Then, slightly more than 15 years ago, Chicago embarked on just such a plan to improve the lives of the families that called public housing home.  Broadly, the new plan introduced three options: vouchers for residents to choose their own homes, mixed-income housing to remove the isolation of many of the most poor residents and improved public housing. But the $1.5 billion Plan for Transformation, which included the demolition of 18,000 units and the rehabilitation or new construction of another 25,000, has had mixed success.  …  Susan Popkin, one of the smartest and most thoughtful observers of Chicago’s housing history has—for the past 30 years—visited families, monitored living conditions and tried to make sense of the ways urban revitalization has created unintended complications. Now, the applied sociologist and senior fellow at the Urban Institute has written No Simple Solutions: Transforming Public Housing in Chicago. She sat down with Politico Magazine to talk about what solutions worked and what didn’t. …

Teamsters, city of Pekin agree on yard crew contract

Source: Sharon Woods Harris, Peoria Journal Star, April 28, 2017

An agreement between Teamsters Local 627 and the city of Pekin to bring yard work back in-house has been reached, which could mean a possible savings of more than $100,000 for the city. Pekin City Manager Tony Carson said the agreement only applies to yard workers, not all of the Teamsters in four bargaining units in the city. The yard workers’ contract will become a part of the Teamsters contract that is yet to be reached with all of the bargaining units. He said he cannot discuss the terms of the agreement until then. Pekin Mayor John McCabe said the return of an in-house yard crew is good news. “We talked about this last year and there’s been a lot of concern about the mowing and other work that’s been done over the last couple of years,” McCabe said. “A lot of people thought we should bring it back in-house because we seem to get better results.” … The city hired Golf Green in May 2013 and discontinued the in-house service.

RPS board votes to outsource bus driver jobs

Source: Corina Curry, Rockford Register Star, May 9, 2017
 
The Rockford School Board voted 5-2 tonight to accept a bid from First Student and begin negotiating a contract with the private company, thereby outsourcing bus driver jobs.  First Student’s bid — the only one the district received after a request for proposals — was slightly more than $35.7 million for three years. The district’s estimated three-year cost to keep busing in-house is just over $36.1 million or about $426,000 more than the First Student proposal. … If First Student hires more than 50 percent of the district’s bus drivers, the bus drivers union — American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1275 — will remain intact, and drivers will begin contract negotiations with First Student, said Robert Rutkoski, First Student area general manager.  Bus drivers, nutrition service workers and teachers’ aides — all of whom are represented by AFSCME unions — went on strike for three days in March for better pay and more affordable insurance rates. …

Related:

RPS looks to save $425K by privatizing bus services
Source: Corina Curry, Rockford Register Star, May 2, 2017
 
Rockford Public Schools hopes to save a little more than $426,000 in labor costs over the next three years by outsourcing bus driver jobs.  District leaders discussed a bid from Ohio-based First Student tonight during a public hearing. A team from First Student — the only company to bid on bus service — gave a presentation and answered questions from board members and union representatives. There was a time for public comment, as well. About 60 people attended the meeting. … Union leaders also said they think First Student’s proposal would end up costing the district $500,000 more over the next three years.  “Our experience as a union, the research that we’ve done, lends us to believe that this proposition will cost taxpayers more and will be less safe for children,” said Ed Sadlowski, staff representative for AFSCME Council 31.  The school district is in the process of seeking bids to outsource food services, as well. …

RPS 205 Board Considers Outsourcing Bus Drivers
Source: Gregory Cormier, My Stateline, May 2, 2017

Just before 3p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, Rockford School District 205 buses can be seen going about their daily routine outside of Auburn High School. A routine however, that could see major changes for the men and women behind the wheel. “It’s unsettling, it’s not about kids at all, it’s a distraction,” said AFSCME Council 31Representative Edward Sadlowski. “The board needs to come to it’s senses and do right by children,” he added, upset that the Rockford Public School District is considering bids from a third party to outsource jobs for bus drivers. He thinks if done, it will cost the district more. “This is a more costly proposition, outsourcing and privatization of Rockford resources to Cincinnati and the United Kingdom,” he said. …

Illinois prison agency rescinds nurse layoffs to still talk

Source: Associated Press, April 27, 2017
 
The Illinois Department of Corrections has withdrawn its plan to lay off 124 nurses while continuing to negotiate with the state employees’ union.  Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said Thursday the department had informed the Illinois Nurses Association that it would not remove the nurses June 15. She says prison officials are available to meet any time but the union is unavailable until May 8.  Union spokesman Chris Martin says the Corrections Department decision is welcome news. He encouraged support for legislation to halt privatizing prison jobs that was sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. …

Related:

Lawmakers seek to block privatization of prison nurse jobs
Source: Tony Reid, Herald & Review, April 11, 2017
 
The prognosis for a group of unionized prison nursing jobs across Central Illinois hangs in the balance as last-ditch efforts are made to save them.  The correctional facility nurses – seven in Decatur, 12 in Vandalia and four in Lincoln – are among 124 nurses statewide who have been told by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration their state jobs will end in June 15. … Among those supporting the effort to save the jobs is state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, who is among the sponsors of new legislation that would prevent the nurses from being laid off and their work from being outsourced.  All that is needed is for Rauner to sign the bill, a hope that appears to be on life support given the governor’s oft-stated anti-union stance. Nicole Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, has previously said that privatizing the nursing jobs would save taxpayers $8 million a year. …

Senate OKs prohibition on privatizing prison nurses jobs
Source: Associated Press, March 29, 2017

The Illinois Senate is telling Gov. Bruce Rauner it doesn’t want prison nurse jobs filled by private contractors. Plainview Republican Sen. Sam McCann’s measure won approval Wednesday 40-15. It would prohibit the Department of Corrections from eliminating jobs of any state employees who provide prison health care services. Republican Rauner’s administration announced last week it intended to dismiss 124 union nurses and privatize their positions this summer. …

Two state senators file bill to stop Rauner’s plan to privatize jobs of 124 prison nurses
Source: Molly Parker, The Southern Illinoisan, March 28, 2017

Two state senators are co-sponsoring legislation they say would stop Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration from outsourcing additional medical and mental health service jobs from state prisons. This past week, 124 nurses employed at 10 state prisons learned that they were being laid off and their jobs privatized. In Southern Illinois, that includes 13 nurses employed at Menard Correctional Center, and 13 at Vienna Correctional Center. … That number includes 150 nurses who are members of the Illinois Nurses Association, the majority of whom received layoff notices. It would protect an additional 172 medical technicians and mental health professionals who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. …

Continue reading

City Colleges moving Lakeview Learning Center after $7 million sale

Source: Gregory Pratt, Chicago Tribune, April 6, 2017

City Colleges of Chicago board members Thursday unanimously authorized selling the property housing the Lakeview Learning Center for $7 million. …
City Colleges is selling the Lakeview property to BlitzLake Partners, a private real estate acquisition and development firm, a move that school officials said was fiscally responsible at a time of state budget cuts. The college system has not received $70 million it had expected from the state during the past two years during the historic budget impasse in Springfield that has left higher education with only sporadic funding. … But the move has generated controversy as the Lakeview Learning Center has a long history in the area. … Four people urged trustees at Thursday’s board meeting not to sell the property, including Carlos Aulet, who teaches English as a second language at Truman College and also is vice president of a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.  In an interview, Aulet said the Lakeview center “came from the community (and) it belongs to the community.”  “There’s no reason for the sale other than that property values, ever since the Cubs won, have soared there, and somebody smells money,” Aulet said.  George Roumbanis, the union chapter’s president, told the Tribune he’s concerned that students won’t transfer to Truman from the Lakeview campus. …

Patient advocates back county ownership of nursing home

Source: Debra Pressey, The News-Gazette, March 29, 2017

Selling the Champaign County Nursing Home could lead to staff reductions, poorer care and service cuts, a group of advocates for medical patients and retirees contended. Gathering less than a week before voters will be asked to weigh in on two public policy questions — whether they support selling or disposing of the financially ailing nursing home or a tax increase to help keep it going — the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, Champaign County CARE, Champaign County Health Care Consumers and others Wednesday urged voters to get behind the option that will keep the nursing home in the county’s hands. Research from Center for Medicare Advocacy, Kaiser Family Foundation and others have demonstrated that nursing home ownership matters when it comes to patient care and staffing levels, said Champaign County Health Care Consumers executive director Claudia Lennhoff. … “For-profit facilities, particularly those owned by multistate chains, are more likely to reduce spending on care for residents and to divert spending to profits and corporate overhead,” the Medicare center said in a report. … A 2011 analysis of the 10 largest for-profit nursing home chains found they had the lowest staffing levels and highest levels of deficiencies between 2003 and 2008, Lennhoff said. She also said a new owner — especially a larger and/or for-profit one — who would fill more beds at the nursing home, even increasing the Medicaid census in the process, could be a “recipe for disaster.”

… Lennhoff said Champaign County doesn’t have to look any farther than neighboring Vermilion County to see what can happen when a county disposes of its nursing home. After the county sold its Vermilion Manor Nursing Home to FNR Healthcare Group in 2013, the county was caught by surprise when 39 employees were cut by the new owner, she said. Now called Gardenview Manor, the Danville nursing home was hit by the Illinois Department of Public Health in January for two “type A” violations, which mean “a substantial probability that death or serious mental or physical harm will result or has resulted” in the past three months.

Rauner wants vote on new Stevenson toll lanes, Madigan quickly pushes back

Source: Kim Geiger, Chicago Tribune, March 27, 2017

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday tried to jump-start his plan to allow private companies to build toll lanes along portions of the Stevenson Expressway, saying Democratic leaders in the General Assembly are blocking the project. Just before the governor began speaking, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan pushed back against the proposed project, accusing Rauner of being out to help his “wealthy friends.” … The public-private partnership requires an OK from the General Assembly. State lawmakers have held hearings on the idea, but they haven’t voted on it. … The proposal would allow private companies to build toll lanes along congested portions of the Stevenson Expressway and then collect a portion of the revenue from the drivers that use them. …

… The toll lane project is one of a series of privatization proposals that Rauner has floated during his time in office, only to have the ideas blocked or slowed down by Democrats. Rauner also wants to sell the James R. Thompson Center, the massive, worn Loop office building that’s owned by the state. And he wanted to create a private foundation that would raise money on behalf of the Illinois State Fair. Rauner formed the foundation on his own last year after legislation approving the idea stalled in the General Assembly. Last week, Rauner’s administration moved to lay off 124 prison nurses, with plans to replace them with contract nurses. Privatization of state jobs has also been a key stumbling block in Rauner’s contract standoff with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, with the governor insisting on provisions that would make it easier to outsource work to the private sector. Rauner’s privatization push could become a theme of the 2018 campaign as Democrats try to cast the wealthy businessman Rauner as out of touch with the needs of average voters. Democrat Chris Kennedy didn’t miss a chance to seize on it Monday as he appeared at a gubernatorial candidate forum hosted by the Cook County Democratic Party. …

Lawsuit alleges Illinois lottery contractor cheated players, vendors

Source: Jeremy Kohler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 13, 2017

A company hired to manage the Illinois Lottery cheated players and lottery vendors by misrepresenting the odds of winning scratch-off games, a class-action lawsuit in federal court alleges. The case, originally filed last month in St. Clair County Court, was removed last week to federal court in the Southern District of Illinois. … Northstar Lottery Group LLC took over the state lottery in 2011 after then-Gov. Pat Quinn agreed to privatize it. The suit alleges that Northstar printed far more scratch-off tickets than it intended to sell, then would discontinue games before grand prizes were awarded, locking in profits. The allegations in the lawsuit mirror the findings of an investigation by the Chicago Tribune, which reported that the state’s biggest scratch-off games didn’t award 40 percent of the grand prizes. …

Related:

Illinois seeking new private manager for state’s lottery
Source: Sophia Tareen, State Journal-Register, July 28, 2016

Aiming to avoid past troubles, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Thursday that the state is seeking bids for a new private manager to run the Illinois Lottery after moving to terminate Northstar Lottery Group’s contract last year. State officials released a request for proposal on a new 10-year, $300 million contract with revamped terms geared at a wider swath of companies. … Lottery officials said it took nearly a year to start the search for a new manager because of complexities in crafting the contract. New terms include a push to expand technology, paying up-front licensing fees, complying with the Freedom of Information Act and not allowing the private manager to act as both a manager and supplier. Northstar won’t be able to bid, under the termination agreement. Lottery proceeds go to public schools and capital projects. Privatization, with the state retaining ownership and regulatory oversight, was pushed by state legislators as a way to help boost revenues. However, the 2010 selection process for a 10-year contract raised questions about transparency. Northstar was made up of two lottery vendors running machines and instant tickets. … Northstar will continue running the lottery until January 2017, but state lottery officials said that could be extended if the new company isn’t in place. …

Gov. fires private manager of Illinois Lottery amid mismanagement
Source: Natalie Craig, Columbia Chronicle, August 15, 2014

In the wake of Gov. Pat Quinn’s firing of the private firm operating the Illinois lottery, further evidence has come to light that the state’s choice of the company, Northstar, was out of compliance with Illinois law in the first place. An investigation over the past several months by The Chronicle has shown that since the privatization of the Illinois Lottery in 2011, Northstar has failed to produce projected profits and has not held required Lottery Control Board meetings since assuming control of the state lottery’s daily operations.

Continue reading

Hospice owner sentenced to 6 years in $20 million SNF kickback scheme

Source: Emily Mongan, McKnight’s, March 9, 2017

The owner of an Illinois hospice company was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison on Tuesday for his role in a Medicare fraud scheme that paid kickbacks to nursing homes. Seth Gillman owned Passages Hospice LLC, which grew to be the largest hospice provider in the state before Gillman was charged in 2014 with inappropriately designating nursing home residents as hospice patients and overbilling for hospice services. Gillman also was accused of paying kickbacks to nursing homes that participated in the scheme, as well as providing residents of his family’s nursing home chain, Asta Healthcare, with fraudulent hospice services through Passages. Those residents often received services for years, far beyond the six-month cap in place for federal funding for hospice services, authorities said. The family of some former Passages patients told the Chicago Tribune that employees told them their loved ones were terminally ill, when they actually weren’t, in order to move them to hospice care or the more lucrative general inpatient care, or GIP. …

Chicago Teachers Are Trying to Organize the Biggest Charter School Union in the U.S.

Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, March 9, 2017

As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls for expanding charter schools and voucher programs in the name of “choice,” teachers at Chicago’s largest charter school have declared their choice to form a union. Announcing the creation of the Union of Noble Educators last Friday, workers from Noble Network’s 17 charter high schools hope to follow in the footsteps of teachers and staff from 32 other Chicago charter schools who have already unionized with the help of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).If successful, the 800 or so educators and staff at Noble would comprise the largest unionized charter school network in the country.

… Launched in 2009, Chicago ACTS is at the forefront of the movement to organize charter schools. Its members are not only winning union recognition across the city, but also showing a willingness to withhold their labor to win fair contracts, much like their counterparts in the Chicago Teachers Union. … Teachers with A Council of Educators, the Chicago ACTS affiliate at ASPIRA charter school, recently voted to strike over stalled contract negotiations and could walk off the job as soon as March 17. Last October, a planned strike by unionized teachers at UNO Charter Network Schools was only narrowly averted by a last-minute agreement. Nationally, AFT has made organizing teachers at charter schools a priority since 2007, supporting educators in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New Orleans. According to the Center for Education Reform, 10 percent of charter schools in the United States are now unionized, up from 7 percent just five years ago. …