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. …

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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. …

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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. …

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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. …

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. …

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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.

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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. …

Teachers at Aspira charter schools set strike date

Source: Juan Perez Jr, Chicago Tribune, March 7, 2017
 
Unionized teachers at the city’s Aspira charter school network said Tuesday they will walk off the job late next week if they can’t reach a deal on a new contract.  Labor leaders say it would be the nation’s first strike at a privately run charter school. … Union officials said teachers would walk out March 17, though Martinez said teachers still had to review and discuss a counteroffer from the charter operator this week. … Aspira operates four campuses in Chicago with an enrollment of about 1,400 students. Like other charter schools, the operation is funded by Chicago Public Schools but operates independently. Aspira’s roughly 100 educators are represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, a branch of the American Federation of Teachers that oversees the city’s unionized charter school teachers. Unionized teachers negotiate with the charter operator, not CPS. … It’s the second time this school year that teachers at a charter network have threatened a strike. In October, a last-minute deal averted a walkout by teachers at the UNO Charter School Network. … The sides are scheduled to resume negotiations Thursday.

Effort to privatize economic development questioned

Source: Judith Crown, State Journal-Register, February 18, 2017

The Rauner administration’s year-old move to privatize state economic development has been rocked by the sudden resignation of its CEO, a departure underscoring swirling questions about its effectiveness, transparency and efficiency.  Even before the departure announcement in late January by Jim Schultz, a veteran venture capital investor who said he was returning to the private sector, Intersect Illinois had come under fire for disclosing little about how it operates, its goals and how it planned to measure success. Watchdog groups also raised concerns about whether Intersect was adding to bureaucracy rather than reducing it. … Intersect, launched by Gov. Bruce Rauner in early 2016, followed similar privatized initiatives in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Many of those efforts quickly came under attack for a lack of transparency as well as controversies ranging from exaggerated job creation claims to cronyism. With the state’s economic development efforts now at a crossroads, a looming question is whether Rauner remains committed to privatization and if Intersect will continue as it has been or change course. Intersect’s structure and dependence on private capital presented the potential for conflict of interest. It raised capital from 41 private and public organizations in the state, but didn’t publish the amounts raised or disclose what, if any, benefits are conferred on its contributors. Schultz told Crain’s the group raised or had commitments for $7 million, which would last it for a couple of years, and already had spent $1.6 million on establishing a Chicago office, hiring a staff of six and launching a marketing campaign.

… Illinois, where Republican Rauner assumed power in 2015, is somewhat late to the game when it comes to public-private partnerships for economic development. A wave of such initiatives took hold in states after elections in 2010, ushering in new Republican governors pledging to make their governments run more like businesses. Scandals were quick to mount. Some states exaggerated job-creation claims, misused taxpayer funds, paid questionable subsidy awards, or created appearances of insider dealing and conflicts of interest, according to a 2013 study by the Washington, D.C.-nonprofit Good Jobs First, which promotes corporate and government accountability in economic development. … But Rauner, a wealthy private equity investor before turning to politics, was undeterred. He made privatization a centerpiece of his campaign, arguing that the state suffered from the lack of a pro-business mindset. … But with the governor’s backing, Intersect is in a position to set the economic development agenda and recommend which businesses should receive incentives. Disclosure of incentives has been spotty. … Critics of privatization, largely Democrats, are skeptical of Intersect. They point to a lack of transparency about the donors, the initiatives underway and the decision making process. They note that Intersect is adding another layer of bureaucracy since decisions to use public dollars as incentives still must ultimately return to DCEO for review and approval. …

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Rauner: No plans for mass privatization of state jobs
Source: Doug Finke, Journal Star, February 3, 2017
 
In yet another email to state workers in the process of voting on whether to authorize a first-ever strike, the Rauner administration said it has no plans for mass privatization of state jobs. … Terranova went on to say that the administration’s proposal “has offered protections against subcontracting that borrow from AFSCME’s contracts with other public employers. These protections give state workers a more meaningful role in subcontracting discussions, potentially leading to better outcomes for employees.”  Terranova said those protections were not part of AFSCME’s last contract with the state. Details of the administration’s offer can be found at the TeamIllinois website.  AFSCME said Terranova is spreading “misinformation.” Spokesman Anders Lindall said there were standards in the old contract that had to be met to outsource jobs. The last, best and final offer from the administration does away with those standards. … And in late January the PSC, whose members are appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, decided to allow Suez to ‘recover’ more than $50 million for something it did not build. Because of the Rockland Water Coalition’s efforts, the state required the company to implement stronger conservation measures. …

Donald Cohen: Privatization not the answer to budget woes
Source: Donald Cohen, State Journal-Register, June 5, 2016

When Gov. Bruce Rauner said during February’s budget address that Illinois taxpayers need “more value” from government, no one was surprised. As a private equity executive prior to taking office, he measured value in terms of cash flow and layoffs. … He’s pushing to sell off assets, like the Thompson Center. Despite the massive failure of the Illinois Lottery privatization, he continues to search for another private vendor. He recently all but privatized the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity by forcing it to work with a not-for-profit corporation he formed to recruit businesses. And he’s even trying to remove the modest protections against bad privatization deals from the state’s contract with its largest employee union. This flies in the face of all the evidence against privatization, let alone against outsourcing without transparency and oversight. … With a long history of insider political deals, Illinois taxpayers should be skeptical of more privatization. As the budget impasse continues, they deserve to know the terms of any deal that will put millions in the pockets of private corporations by cutting and outsourcing middle class, public jobs. Illinois should take steps now to ensure greater oversight of any privatization of assets and services, and the Governor should reverse course and lead that effort. …

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