URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Friday, April 29, 2011

THIS LAW SHOULD ALREADY EXIST!


   
The Illinois Senate unanimously passed SB 1762 this week.  The legislation was spear-headed by Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and will now go to the Illinois House under the sponsorship of State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock.)  What is so astounding about what SB 1762 requires is that the legislation did not already exist. Shocking, but current Illinois law did not require that a doctor or licensed health care worker lose their license if they were convicted of a sex crime!

Dillard sponsored the legislation after reading a newspaper’s investigative reports revealing 16 Illinois doctors had been convicted of sexual offenses, but none of the men’s license was permanently revoked, and two continued to practice medicine.  According to the Daily Herald, “Medicaid fraud and controlled substance fraud are currently the only two offenses that result in immediate revocation of doctors' licenses.”

“I was shocked when I opened the Chicago Tribune and read that doctors accused of sexually assaulting their patients have been allowed to continue treating patients, even after being found guilty of their crimes. As the father of two young daughters, it made my blood boil to think that a convicted sex offender could still be working as a pediatrician, or treating someone’s elderly parent, wife or daughter,” Dillard said.

The Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Department of Professional Regulation Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois. Provides that any licensed health care worker, who has been (1) convicted of committing a sexual criminal act that requires registration under the Sex Offender Registration Act against a patient in the course of patient care or treatment, (2) has been convicted of a criminal battery against any patient, (3) a forcible felony, or (4) required as part of a criminal sentence to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act, then the license of the health care worker shall by operation of law be permanently revoked without a hearing. Provides that no person registered as a sex offender may receive a license as a health care worker in Illinois. Requires that within 15 business days after receiving notice from the State's Attorney of the filing of criminal charges against the health care worker, the Secretary shall issue an administrative order that the health care worker may only practice with a chaperone during all patient encounters pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings. Adds provisions concerning the confidentiality of certain information and documents. Effective immediately.

 
Dillard also pointed out, “For too long there has been a disconnect between law enforcement and state regulation of doctors. A convicted sex offender can’t drive a school bus, but he or she could potentially treat children as patients. It is wrong to allow a convicted sex offender to practice medicine. The law needs to be clear: A sex offender will not practice medicine in Illinois!”

As Franks said, “This legislation is a common-sense public safety measure that will help ensure patients are protected from dangerous doctors.”   If it were such “common sense,” why didn’t the law already exist?  It is taking an across the aisles agreement between a Republican and a Democrat to make it happen.  Now that is common sense!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

MOVE TO THE FRONT/ BACK OF THE LINE- Two Stories

FRONT OF THE LINE






The U.S. Department of Transportation announced last week new and expanded airline passenger rules  and protections.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the new rules, “will help make sure air travelers are treated with the respect they deserve.”  While the expanded protection is good for airline passengers, I hate when the government tells businesses how to run their own company.  I am okay with safety issues, but I think the law of supply and demand should rule when it comes to day to day operational issues.

SOME OF THE NEW RULES:

Lost Bags and Bag Fees. Airlines will now be required to refund any fee for carrying a bag if the bag is lost. Airlines will also be required to apply the same baggage allowances and fees for all segments of a trip, including segments with interline and code share partners
Full Disclosure of Additional Fees. Airlines will also have to prominently disclose all potential fees on their websites, including but not limited to fees for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, or advanced or upgraded seating. In addition, airlines and ticket agents will be required to refer passengers both before and after purchase to up-to-date baggage fee information, and to include all government taxes and fees in every advertised price
Bumping.  Doubles the amount of money passengers are eligible to be compensated for in the event they are involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight. Currently, bumped passengers are entitled to cash compensation equal to the value of their tickets, up to $400, if the airline is able to get them to their destination within a short period of time (i.e., within 1 to 2 hours of their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and 1 to 4 hours of their originally scheduled arrival time for international flights). Bumped passengers are currently entitled to double the price of their tickets, up to $800, if they are delayed for a lengthy period of time (i.e., over two hours after their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights and over 4 hours after their originally scheduled arrival time for international flights). Under the new rule, bumped passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the price of their tickets up to $650, while those subject to longer delays would receive payments of four times the value of their tickets, up to $1,300. Inflation adjustments will be made to those compensation limits every two years. 

Tarmac Delays. The new rule expands the existing ban on lengthy tarmac delays to cover foreign airlines’ operations at U.S. airports and establishes a four hour hard time limit on tarmac delays for international flights of U.S. and foreign airlines, with exceptions allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons. Carriers must also ensure that passengers stuck on the tarmac are provided adequate food and water after two hours, as well as working lavatories and any necessary medical treatment. 

Reservations: Requiring airlines to allow reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at least 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date. 

Delays: Requiring airlines to promptly notify consumers of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions. This notification must take place in the boarding gate area, on a carrier’s telephone reservation system and on its website.
If a potential customer does not like the way a carrier is running its business, they can just choose another airline to use.  Businesses improve when they lose clients, not because of government regulations.
Next thing we know is that the Food & Drug Administration will outlaw the special sauce on a Big Mac.  Too fatty.

BACK OF THE LINE


Schadenfreude is the pleasure derived from another’s misfortune.  That is exactly what I felt when I read about how United Airlines (UA) was changing its travel privilege policy for UA retirees.  Currently, past and present airline employees get to fly for free.  I have no problem with current employees being able to fly for free, but I don’t see why past employees should still get the perk.  You’re retired; your privileges should be ended.  Do ex-McDonald employees get hamburgers for life?


United Airlines just posted a net loss of $213 for the first quarter of 2011 because of higher fuel costs.  More people means more gas  consumed.  So the freeloading employees cost the company money.
According to Crain’s, “The new policy, which takes effect Jan. 1, gives all current and retired workers for the Chicago-based airline eight vacation passes a year that guarantee them top priority when flying standby. Beyond that, however, current employees get priority over retirees. “
So retirees will still get to fly for free, they just won’t take precedence over current employees when it comes to getting a free-loader seat.
Retired employees are going insane and petitions are flying.  Maybe they should ask the Department of Transportation to interfere.  The government loves a good fight when it is none of their business.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WHY NO CALLS OR VISITS?




For 19 years, Lovera Staples lived at the Ridgeview Nursing Home in Chicago.   Her daughter Mary lives in Chicago and her two sons, Sylvester and Roy, live in Lansing, (southern suburb of Chicago) and Valparaiso, IN. respectfully.  All three are located in towns close enough to Chicago so one of them might at least visit occasionally.  They did not live in some foreign country that might make phone calls and visiting prohibitively expensive.  

Lovera died in May 2010.  It was not until her daughter tried calling her FOUR MONTHS later on her Mom’s birthday on September 11, 2010 that she was told her Mother was not there.  So the siblings decided to visit on September 13th, TWO DAYS LATER, to find out about their missing Mom.  An administrator told them that she had died FOUR MONTHS earlier.


In a suit filed last week in Cook County Circuit Court, the family is suing the nursing home for emotional distress and is seeking more than $50,000.  In my opinion, the children were neglectful and have no claims against Ridgeview. They are taking advantage of the nursing home’s clerical error to try to gain a windfall. If they had any emotional distress about their Mother’s well being, they should have called or visited while she was still alive.

According to the Sun-Times, “Mary Staples, of Chicago, claims she visited her mother at the nursing home April 25, 2010. A nursing home employee called her two days later to report her mother was in the hospital, and Mary Staples visited her mother at Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston April 29, 2010. The woman was released from the hospital and returned to the nursing home the following day, according to the suit.”

So if Mary Staples was capable of visiting her Mother in the hospital on April 29th, how come it took FOUR MONTHS for her to contact her Mother again?  Why weren’t the brothers calling or visiting in that FOUR MONTH period?


Imagine the Mother’s emotional distress for not hearing from her children for FOUR MONTHS?  But she is dead, so she can’t sue them.  An old Yiddish joke defines Chutzpah as when a child murders their parents and then throws themselves on the mercy of the court because they are an orphan.  The Staples siblings’ lawsuit takes chutzpah to a whole new level.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

LAST STOP APPROACHING. METRA BOARD SHOULD HEAR THE WHISTLE AND GET OFF

Because there have been repeated acts of negligence and recent disregard for federal law, Illinois State Rep. Jack D. Franks (D-Woodstock) has called for the immediate removal of Treasurer Jack Schaffer, as well as the other ten members of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metra)  Board of Directors. In addition, Franks has introduced legislation aimed at reforming and bringing transparency to Metra, as well as other Chicago transit agencies.

For those with short memories, former Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano committed suicide last year by stepping in front of a train after a probe into his financial misconduct at the agency.  Franks thinks the mismanagement continues.

“Enough is enough,” said Franks. “Yet again, just like the Pagano tragedy, the Metra Board was asleep at the switch. If Metra spending over $1 million on Springfield and Washington lobbyists is not bad enough, its failure to properly report that activity certainly is.” The Federal Transit Administration restricted the use of federal funds in May 2010 due to misconduct under the former Metra executive director. 

Metra has agreed to pay the federal government $90,000 in fines for neglecting to file disclosure reports required by federal lobbying law. Reports were not filed by the Carmen Group Inc., Metra’s previous Washington-based lobbying firm. As was widely reported, Pagano claimed that Carmen was assisting Metra in an ‘advisory’ capacity, the federal government disagreed. The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires that lobbyists submit quarterly reports specifying activities on behalf of clients. 

Furthermore, in February, Blackman Kallick, an accounting firm that handles Metra’s finances, pointed out a lack of oversight in regards to the Carman Group. They claimed that “monthly invoices lacked sufficient detail to substantiate that contracted services were being performed.” 

“Illinois taxpayers were fined $90,000 because Mr. Schaffer and the board did not do their job,” Franks continued. “As Treasurer, responsibilities for compliance fall upon Schaffer’s shoulders. The culture of incompetence and finger pointing within the Metra Board remains, despite claims to the contrary. Metra directors are supposed to be independent watchdogs appointed by their respective county board chairmen. Instead we have political cronies who allowed an executive director to loot the system and board members doing prison time for taking bribes.” 

Following increasing public pressure, Carole Doris, the Metra Chairwoman, announced her resignation last week. Earlier Franks had exposed lavish expenses and questionable reimbursements for Doris’ travel, including taking limousines to $500 a night hotels.

“It is time for the entire Metra Board to go – Illinois citizens deserve better than this board’s arrogance and negligence. The taxpayers no longer have confidence in the current Metra directors. If they refuse to resign, the county boards’ should take appropriate action to remove them,” said Franks.
Franks has introduced legislation to remove the salaries and benefits for all transit agency board members and to consolidate the Metra, Regional Transportation Authority, Pace Suburban Bus Service, and Chicago Transit Authority boards into a single agency. 

Doris did the right thing by voluntarily exiting the train; the other Board members should follow before they are thrown off for not having a ticket.

Monday, April 25, 2011

GPS- GOVERNMENT PROTECTED STALKING?



The Fourth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”    So does the use of a GPS device without a warrant violate a person’s rights under this amendment?

Currently different state and federal courts cannot agree on whether the use of GPS without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment so the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari asking them to step in and rule.

The 121 page filing can be summed up by the question as presented:

Question Presented:
“Whether the warrantless use of a tracking device on petitioner’s vehicle to monitor its movements on public streets violated the Fourth Amendment.”

The DOJ wants law enforcement officers to be able to side-step a warrant for a GPS attachment because tracking an alleged criminal’s movements could help them establish probable cause.  Probable cause is what is necessary to obtain search warrants, wiretaps and then indictment.  

Last August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the life sentence of Antoine Jones ruling the government violated Jones' privacy rights in clandestinely using GPS devices to track his movements for a month in a drug trafficking investigation.  Previously the 7th and 9th Circuit Courts ruled that prolonged GPS monitoring is not a search within the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment.

One of the reasons that the DOJ wants the Supreme Court to decide which Circuit Court is correct is because the D.C. Circuit’s decision conflicts with the Supreme Court’s “longstanding precedent that a person traveling on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another, even if ‘scientific enhancements’ allow police to observe this public information more efficiently.”


What I find so interesting in the various arguments for and against the use of GPS without a warrant is that an individual’s expectation of privacy in public is virtually impossible.    With street cameras, license plate readers, toll transponders, video cameras with face-recognition technology, cell phone tracking towers, etc., etc., one can be tracked almost anywhere at any time anyway.

Why would law enforcement need a warrant to covertly track someone, when everybody is already being overtly tracked?  

Hansel and Gretel left a trail of bread crumbs to find their way home; now one’s cell phone can navigate for them.  You won’t even need the cops.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

RAISING MONEY FOR WHOM?




Let’s pretend you get a flyer from your local charity with information about poker game nights where they will be raising money for the cause.  It sounds like fun and you know the charity will benefit  because when you go to the poker web site of one of the companies that runs the games,you read that the games are, “supported by willing poker players aware a portion of each pot they win helps the sponsoring organization continue their community service efforts at a time when cash donations and State grants are disappearing.“  So how much will the charity earn from a poker night?  There’s the rub!

This week, the Chicago Tribune did an in-depth study of charity poker games that will really make anyone think before they ante up for a future game. The paper described how the money in the pots is divided up; but first some background.  

Rockford Charitable Games Association is one of the consulting companies that has been running games for more than 20 years.  Their web site says, “The Poker parties are a great new source of income for local charities. The players buy chips and play against each other, and the hosting charity has no investment in the games, as they are simply taking 10% of the pot up to a five-dollar ($5.00) maximum. If a pot is $30 the charity will take $3.00 for the house; if the pot is $80 the charity will take the maximum of $5.00 for the house.”  Sounds like a good deal for the charity because by being the house, they have to win.  But what does it cost to be “the house?”

For a typical poker game that runs from 2:00 p.m. until midnight with 250 players, the Tribune had Rockford Games do a profit breakdown:

Average purchase of chips per player: $100
250 players X $100 = $25,000 gross revenue

Average loss per player: $30
250 players X $30 = $7,500 revenue before expenses

Expenses:
3% tax on gross revenue = $750
Advertising, equipment rental, banquet hall, security guard = $2,200
Net Proceeds after expenses- $4,550
Consultant Fee- $2,200
Profit to Charity
$2,350

That means only 52% of the revenues after expenses go to the charity and 48% goes to Rockford Games-- the consultant.  That is an unconscionable percentage return for a charity event.

What about other charity events?
WingMadness (a police vs. firemen chicken wing eating contest) will be donating 100% of the money raised through sponsorship, ticket sales, raffle sales and the silent auction to Easter Seals.  This event is an anomaly because everything is donated so there are no expenses.

Another example of percentages?

Charity Navigator, the most prominent nonprofit watchdog, downgraded the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) from 3 stars to one star because their “fundraising efficiency” went from spending 13 cents to raise every dollar to 27 cents.  During that same time HSUS spent 24.2% of its total budget on fundraising (as an overall percentage of its budget) from 12.7% in the previous year.

So HSUS was downgraded because they spent 24.2% of every dollar  and a poker game is costing 48%!

While I understand that small charities can really use the $2350 they can raise from a professionally run poker game, integrity must play a part here.   A not-for-profit could raise a lot of money running a brothel, but they would not do that.  The ante would be too high.





Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ALL KIDS STILL AN ALL MESS



It is ironic that I mentioned in a blog last week about how we have never heard any follow up on the fraud and mismanagement in the Illinois All Kids insurance program that we learned about last year on the same day that Illinois Auditor General William Holland announced the most recent findings.  Not only has nothing been done to correct the problems, but they continue!

All Kids was implemented in 2006 by Governor Rod Blagojevich (that should have been a clue that it would not work!) as an expansion of KidsCare and provides health insurance coverage for uninsured children not previously covered by KidCare (i.e., those children whose family income was greater than 200 percent of the federal poverty level or who were undocumented immigrants.)  The expansion of the program made Illinois the first state to provide health insurance for all children without exception.

Last year, after listing many of the errors found in the audit, I wrote:

“There are so many unanswered questions after one reads the audit. So how will the state recover the misallocated marketing funds? What about the Health & Family Services officials who signed off on the payments? Will they be fired? What about families whose assets exceeded the income limit and were erroneously part of the program? Can they be forced to repay the benefits they received? The same for families who received benefits when their children were past the cut off age.”

Were any safeguards put into place to make sure the same errors did not occur?  Judge yourself by looking at some highlights from the FY 2010 audit report:   

-- All Kids paid out $84 million in medical claims in fiscal 2010 for children added through the expansion. But it only received $9.8 million in premiums from families, resulting in a net cost of $74.4 million. In 2009, unpaid premiums cost the state $70 million. Holland found that the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services did not terminate coverage when enrollees failed to pay their premiums, as required by law.

-- Though All Kids enrollment is supposed to end at age 18, more than 4,000 19-year-olds were still in the program, and 265 of them received services after their 19th birthday.

--Of the nearly 74,000 children enrolled under the expansion as of June 30, 2010, 73 percent were classified as undocumented immigrants. But the audit also found that more than 12,000 legal immigrant children were misclassified as undocumented immigrants. As a result, the state missed out on federal money it could have received for covering these children.

--FY10 claim data had billing irregularities in areas such as transportation, optical, preventive medicine, and dental claims. These irregularities may have been billing errors or may have been fraudulent.

The Auditor General does a financial audit; he reports the findings and what happens?  Obviously nothing because basically the same report is issued the next year.  If the State of Illinois were a publicly-held company, the SEC would be de-listing them from the stock exchange and the principals would be going to jail for financial fraud.

Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos said the department has “already taken a number of steps to address the findings in the audit and enhance the integrity of the eligibility process.”  Obviously only baby steps, because the mismanagement has been going on for years.  It is now time to take a giant leap. 



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TRANSGENDER /TRANS FAT- Two Trans-Stories

TRANSGENDER

The term transgender is a general term defined by the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, ”of, relating to, or being a person (as a transsexual or transvestite) who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth.”  The World English dictionary simply says, “of or relating to a person who wants to belong to the opposite sex.”  So how do transgender inmates get treated in prison?

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart just announced a new policy for the treatment of transgender inmates in an exclusive story to the Windy City Times newspaper. 

“The seven-page policy mandates that transgender detainees be allowed to consult with a "Gender Identity Panel" of physicians and therapists before being placed into male or female housing. It also directs correctional staff to allow transgender people to wear clothing/ own hygiene products consistent with their gender identity. Further, it requires that corrections staff, physicians, and therapists undergo gender-related sensitivity training administered by the sheriff's department. The policy is a far cry from old standards, which, officials said, were nonexistent.”

So now transgender inmates will be searched, housed and dressed according to the gender they identify with rather than the one they were born with or with what genitalia they.

I know I am going to get in trouble with the LGBT community by saying this, but what is to prevent a heterosexual man from saying he identifies with women just so he can be housed with the opposite-sex where the work load is lighter and he could participate in sexual relations?

I asked that question so you didn’t have to.


 

 

 TRANS FAT

 

 

The State of Illinois is experiencing a huge deficit and runaway spending. You could call it budget fat. But as another example of legislators working on the wrong type of fat, the Illinois House on Wednesday passed a ban on the use of trans-fats in food served in restaurants and vending machines starting in 2013.

 HB 1600 SYNOPSIS AS INTRODUCED:

“Creates the Trans Fat Restriction Act. Sets forth definitions for "food facility" and "trans fat". Provides that every food facility shall maintain the manufacturer's documentation for any food or food additive that is or includes any fat, oil, or shortening for as long as the food or food additive is stored, distributed, or served by the food facility or used in the preparation of food within the food facility. Provides that beginning on July 1, 2011, no oil, shortening, or margarine containing trans fat for use in spreads or frying, except for the deep frying of yeast dough or cake batter, may be stored, distributed, or served by a food facility or used in the preparation of food within a food facility. Provides that beginning on July 1, 2012, no food containing trans fat, including oil and shortening that contains trans fat for use in the deep frying of yeast dough or cake batter, may be stored, distributed, or served by a food facility or used in the preparation of food within a food facility. Provides that the Department of Public Health shall adopt rules to administer and enforce the Act. “

Sponsoring Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago said, “I feel like this is a great step in the right direction.  Health problems cost our state so much money and if we can use prevention to keep people out of emergency rooms and keep them healthy this is a step in that direction.”

The passage of the Act means that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will have to hire more inspectors to send out to check if anyone is using trans-fat in food sold in restaurants or vending machines.  Which, of course, means that the IDPH budget will have to get fatter to pay for the extra personnel to administer and enforce the Act.  The doughnuts served at late night sessions won’t be as tasty after January 1, 2013, will they?

Monday, April 18, 2011

THIS EMPEROR HAS TOO MANY CLOTHES



In October 2010, Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson released a report from his office listing budget options for the city.   In the report Ferguson said the city’s actual annual budget deficit, for the fiscal year ending July 2011, is more than $1 billion and not the shortfall of $650 million which City Hall magically erased by using proceeds from the sale of city assets like parking meters and the Skyway.  That is because $363 million, needed to adequately fund employee pensions, was not addressed.  So if you were the incoming Mayor of an almost bankrupt city, how would you handle your May 16th inauguration?  With a simple bow or a blow out party and concert?  How can Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel justify raising millions in private donations to pay for such a gala?

As a reminder, when Richard Daley took office in 1969 he held a black-tie diner for 1500 where the tickets cost $250.  All the proceeds were donated to three Chicago-area children's hospitals.

The invitation that the Chicago 2011 Inaugural Committee sent out has seven co-chairs who must have committed to giving $50,000 since the invitation lists that price to attain co-chair status.  Besides the title, one receives four concert tickets, access to the dinner and reception.

 The other categories are:

Sponsor For $25,000, you can get four tickets to the concert, the inauguration and the Venue 1 reception, but unlike co-chairs, sponsors only are entitled to a maximum two tickets to the dinner.

Supporter For $10,000, they will receive two concert tickets, four tickets to the Venue 1 event and two VIP tickets to the inauguration.

Friend. This $5,000 package buys two concert tickets, two reception tickets and two “reserved” tickets to the inauguration.

There are a few restrictions on who can give and that includes City Hall lobbyists, anyone who has “done over $10,000 of business within any 12 consecutive months during the four preceding years” with the city or any of the sister agencies such as the Chicago Board of Education, Chicago Transit Authority, etc.  

My favorite restriction is the line-- “Chicago 2011 Inaugural Committee will not accept a cash contribution in excess of $50,000 from any donor.”  Notice it says CASH donation in excess of $50,000, so does that mean checks in excess of that amount are allowed?

The Chicago Tribune described the original seven co-chairs in a story on March 1st:

"Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing Co. and President Barack Obama's former White House social secretary. She's known for her party-planning prowess. Rogers worked with Emanuel, who was Obama's chief of staff, but left after she came under criticism when two uninvited guests crashed the Obamas' first state dinner.

John T. Coli, longtime president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, which gave $25,000 to Emanuel's mayoral campaign. The Teamsters gave more than $100,000 to the 2002 election of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who then tried to name Coli to the state tollway board before the union leader withdrew.

David Herro, chief investment officer at Harris Associates, which manages equity portfolios for individuals and institutions. Herro has been a major player in national and local politics for years, contributing to both Republicans and Democrats. He gave more than $165,000 to various city candidates this time out, including $65,000 to Emanuel and $5,000 to For a Better Chicago, a pro-business political action committee.

Antonio J. Gracias, founder and CEO of Valor Equity Partners LP, a private equity investment firm. He was a member of the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, serves on the board of electric-car maker Tesla Motors and has served on the board of the Grand Victoria Foundation, a charity offshoot of the Elgin casino. Gracias gave $10,000 to Emanuel's campaign.

Melinda Kelly, executive director of the Chatham Business Association, which gets tens of thousands of dollars a year in city economic development money. Kelly's comments praising Emanuel's pro-business plans were featured on his campaign website.

Eric Lefkofsky, a venture capitalist who co-founded Groupon, the Chicago-based Internet sensation. Lefkofsky also is a founder of LightBank, which invests in technology businesses, and Blue Media LLC, a private equity and consulting firm.

Tim Mullen, an investor, was one of the elite fundraisers for Obama's presidential campaign. He bundled contributions totaling between $200,000 and $500,000, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. Mullen gave Emanuel $105,000 for his mayoral campaign and also contributed to several aldermanic candidates."

Eric Lefkofsky is from Groupon and they received a $3.5 million handout from Governor Patrick Quinn last October yet the company can spend $50,000 on a party invite.  Groupon has done business with Navy Pier in a coupon deal for Winterfest last winter that was worth more than $10,000, but I guess that McPier does not count as a sister agency.  All of the other co-chairs have connections to the city that makes me feel distrustful about their reasons for serving on the committee.

So who would spend this kind of money just to attend a party with Rahm?  A company that wants to do business with Chicago in the future!  That was the restriction missing from the invitation.  Maybe if they had added the line that anyone who contributes to the inaugural can not do business with the City of Chicago for 12 consecutive months in the upcoming four-year period, I would not be so suspicious.

Unlike the naked ruler in the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” who believed the cloth used in his outfits had the special capability that it was invisible to anyone who was either stupid or not fit for his position, I can see how the city will be run in the future.  I am not that dumb.

Friday, April 15, 2011

ILLINOIS AUDITOR GENERAL HOLLAND TRIES TO PUTS HIS FINGER IN THE DIKE


I have written a number of times about what a great job the Illinois Auditor General is doing in ferreting out waste and mismanagement but there are two major problems with his office.  The first is that because there is such a morass of fraud in state agencies, there is no way that the IAG’s office can publicize all of their findings to the citizens of Illinois.  The second is that when we do hear about fraud, we never find out what has been done to correct the problems.
Last May I wrote about the IAG’s audit of Illinois’ All Kids Health Insurance and the millions wasted in that program.  So what has that agency done to correct the problems?  We have heard nothing about that.  It is so frustrating.  Illinois legislator’s should follow up on Holland’s reports and make sure that the fraud has been stopped.
The most recent IAG report deals with financial problems at Chicago State University (CSU.)  The school had a history of mismanagement and in the spring of 2009 CSU trustees appointed Wayne Watson, the retiring City Colleges of Chicago chancellor, as the university's next president replacing ousted leader Elnora Daniel.
Watson was not a popular choice.  CSU faculty and students had complained that they were excluded during the search process and 13 of the 15 members of the campus' search advisory committee resigned in protest a month before the Watson hiring.  When the Trustees announced Watson was the chosen successor, Yan Seacy, president of the Faculty Senate said, “I feel that I'm at a funeral, and we are presiding over the burial of hope and change.”
So how has CSU performed since May 2009 since Watson came on board?  A synopsis of the IG’s latest report said:
SYNOPSIS
The University did not perform accounting reconciliations of certain receivables, prepaid expenses, and capital assets at the end of the current accounting period. We noted errors in the prior periods which resulted in adjustments recorded by the University.

The University did not comply with the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act and recorded a prior period adjustment for old accounting errors.

The University did not properly report financial information for the University Auxiliary Facilities System Revenue Bond Fund.

The University did not comply with certain requirements related to federal awards received from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The University did not fully comply with reporting requirements applicable to its Research & Development Cluster programs.

The University did not reconcile its student financial assistance awards and expenditures on a monthly basis.

The University did not prepare a complete and accurate Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards (SEFA).

The University did not have adequate controls to ensure that vendors had not been suspended or debarred from participating in contracts funded by Federal awards.

The University did not have adequate procedures to ensure compliance with OMB Circular A-133’s requirement to notify pass-through grantors of the results of the University’s audit.

The University did not have adequate internal controls procedures over expenditures and activities related to the University’s Convocation Center.

The University did not have adequate control over contracting procedures.

The University allowed students with outstanding balances to register and attend classes in violation of the University’s policies and failed to send formal bills to students.

Now that it has been shown that CSU has not fared any better fiscally under Watson, will the Trustees let him stay?  The school has a pathetic 16% graduation rate (after 6 years).  Does that mean that CSU should wait six years and see if Watson succeeds?  I say expel him now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

FORCED LUNCH


Last week I wrote, “Breakfast Will Be Served on The Lido Deck,” about Chicago Public Schools (CPS) serving breakfast in the classroom. I did not agree with the concept, but after my friend Lisa explained to me how students would be humiliated if they had to go to the cafeteria, thus basically announcing that they were too poor to be able to afford to eat breakfast, I changed my tune. However, I will not change my view about the latest stupid CPS concept where students are being forced to buy lunches at school and are not allowed to brown bag it anymore.

The decision to prohibit packed lunches is the sole decision of each school’s principal. In an e-mail to the Chicago Tribune on this subject, CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond wrote, "While there is no formal policy, principals use common sense judgment based on their individual school environments. In this case, (Little Village Academy on Chicago's West Side) this principal is encouraging the healthier choices and attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom."

I don’t understand how a principal can make the decision that a parent is no longer allowed to pack their own children’s lunches and force them to pay $2.25/day for cafeteria food.

When the Chicago Tribune visited a school they discovered, “At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten.”

The Tribune also spoke with J. Justin Wilson, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom. He said, “This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility. Would the school balk if the parent wanted to prepare a healthier meal?" This is the perfect illustration of how the government's one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition fails time and time again. Some parents may want to pack a gluten-free meal for a child, and others may have no problem with a child enjoying soda.

Of course the big winner in all of this will be the CPS food provider, Chartwells-Thompson, who will make more money if students are forced to order cafeteria food every day rather than eating lunches brought from home.

I understand that school lunches are more nutritious than those served during my tenure as a student, but they are still horrible tasting cafeteria food. How can CPS force a child to eat mass-produced, re-heated slop instead of Mom’s meatloaf the day after?

Schools are for educating children, and Chicago public students consistently score lower on standardized tests than any other major city. Maybe the CPS Board should focus on why students aren’t learning instead of what they are eating. Let parents decide what goes in a child’s stomach and CPS what goes in their brain.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ROADKILL




If I were a newly elected state legislator, I would want my first bill to be something memorable in a positive light—probably dealing with babies or the elderly. That way when I was up for re-election, I could proudly include the information on my campaign literature with a cute picture of me with an old person or toddler. I would want a lot of co-sponsors so I could show how my fellow legislators jumped on my band wagon. Not so with Illinois State Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) who solely sponsored and passed her first bill out of the Illinois House last week.

Her legislation, House Bill 3178, if then passed by the Illinois Senate, would allow people to collect the bodies of fur-bearing mammals found dead on the road. Not just any dead animal anytime but a person would need a permit and it would have to be during “road kill” season.

HB 3178 Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Wildlife Code. Provides that a person who possesses an appropriate license, stamp, or permit for fur-bearing mammals and the season for the species is open, shall be able to take or possess a fur-bearing mammal that is found dead or unintentionally killed by a vehicle along a roadway. Effective immediately.

According to Hammond’s web page,“There were a lot of laughs when I brought the so called ‘roadkill’ bill before the Illinois House,” said Rep. Hammond. “All joking aside, this legislation was brought to me by a former conservation officer who suggested the changes in law to solve a couple of problems. Pelts and furs of deceased animals along the roadway will not go to waste, and roadkill on our streets will hopefully be picked up quicker without costing additional taxpayer dollars.”

So while Illinois is billions of dollars in debt and legislators have to figure out a way to get out of the morass, Hammond has figured out that the way to save the state money is to allow citizens to clean the highways and by-ways of dead animals.

How sad that Illinois legislators don’t have more important bills to discuss.  Like how to pay the bills of the state.  HB 3178 should have been dead on arrival.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

LEFT AT THE GATE








The Olympics games were started in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece and there are now certain competitive events that are no longer a part of the games. For instance, a running event called the hoplitodromos or “Hoplite Race,” which was introduced in 520 BC, is not a part of the modern games. In this race, participants would run a single or double daiulos (approximately 400 or 800 yards) equipped in full armor and carrying a shield. The athletes were nude because the Olympics celebrated the achievements of the human body. The “Hoplite Race” is not a part of the modern Olympics because of the evolution of the competition and the athletes now wear clothes. Horse racing in Illinois needs to become “modern” because right now it is as relevant as the ancient games and ready to go to the glue factory.

The horse racing industry in Illinois is waiting for the last rites but refuses to gasp its last breath hoping for a bailout from the legislature in the form of slot machines at the track. But then it’s not horse racing that would bring people to the tracks; it would be the evolution into slot parlors.

At present the state gives 3% of the revenues from riverboat gambling to subsidize the horse-racing industry or about $30 million a year. According to Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association in a story in the Chicago Tribune, when the 10th casino in Illinois opens in July in Des Plaines about 15% of its revenue of about $60 million will be diverted to Illinois race tracks.

In the same Tribune story, Elgin Mayor Ed Schock said that tracks are a business, not a charity and maybe time has passed the tracks by. “If you can't make it, then maybe it's time to reconsider whether Illinois is a good place for horse racing," he said. "They're already getting a subsidy. If people aren't interested in going to horse racing in enough numbers, it would seem horse racing isn't viable anymore."

Since there are thousands of jobs tied into the horse racing industry, it would be sad if it did not exist anymore. It is not evolution for horse racing to add slot machines to the tracks to subsidize revenues, because then it is not true racing anymore. But like the demise of chariot racing, the time has come to surrender. No more spinning out of the turn, only the spinning of slot machine reels.

Monday, April 11, 2011

CHICAGO STORIES. A Toast



Because I was in the hospital, a number of stories built up that I wanted to comment on, now is the time.










CONFLICTING MESSAGES

On the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago there are electronic signs that are on overpasses giving drivers information about road conditions ahead and other pertinent messages.

An alert blog reader let me know about two messages he saw recently.

The first one was:

“Drive now, phone later.”

The immediate following electronic message was:

“Report all drunk driving call *999.”

How can I report the drunk driving when I am not supposed to be calling from my car? Which message should a driver follow?


THE WINDSOR WAVE
 No matter how sophisticated a woman appears to be, she still has a little girl inside of her who wants to be a princess. That is why I am so fascinated with the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

I remember watching the wedding ceremonies of Prince Charles and Diana and the later wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. While it is sad that those two fairy tales relationships did not work, it has not diminished my excitement for William and Kate’s wedding.

Two of my friends, in their 40’s, are flying to London just to be in the crowd for the Royal Wedding. I know I will have a better view of the events on television, so I asked them why they were going. They flashed me their Windsor Waves that they had been practicing and said they were going “just to be there.”

Any man who has attended a Super bowl  or a World Series game understands going “just to be there.”

I keep waiting for my prince to come; I just hope he is not driving and texting in the carriage.






PROPERTY TAXES

Property taxes were due by April 1st. Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey has not paid the latest tax installment of $11,684.69 at his residence on Altgeld Avenue.  To verify, go to the Treasurer's site ,click the payment link and under payment status put in the pin number of 14-29-317-037-0000.

So maybe he is a few days late. Until one looks again and sees that he did not pay the installment of $12,140.48 that was due last December either.

Fritchey will probably say his non-payment of taxes has to do with the divorce he is currently going through.  The divorce has nothing to do with Cook County taxpayers. The bill is in his name, so he owes it; not his wife or ex-wife.

How come Chicago media is not paying attention to a Commissioner who is two installments behind in his property taxes? They can’t say they don’t know about it because I have just told them. Let’s see what happens.

TAKING A PAY CUT

Illinois House members voted last week to cut their pay by 10 percent and forego future cost-of-living increases. With an 85-14 vote, the House approved House Bill 2891, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg.



HB 2891 Synopsis As Introduced


"Amends the General Assembly Compensation Act. Provides that, for terms commencing on or after January 12, 2011, each member of the General Assembly shall receive compensation that is no more than 90% of the amount last set by the Compensation Review Board. Amends the Compensation Review Act. For fiscal year 2012 and each fiscal year thereafter, prohibits a cost of living adjustment for General Assembly members. Effective immediately."

Being a member of the Illinois General Assembly is a part-time job, but Illinois lawmakers still have a base salary of $67,836.


A Cook County Commissioner earns $85,000 per year in taxpayer-funded salary and also receives more than $1,200 a month in no-strings-attached contingency checks for a total of $97,102. It is also a part-time job.


John Fritchey used to be a state representative but now he is a Cook County Commissioner. Even though his salary has almost doubled, he still is not paying his property taxes. Maybe he forgot he was a commissioner and thought he had just gotten a pay cut because of the recent House vote on reducing state rep’s salaries.


He certainly can’t be the prince that I am waiting to come.

Friday, April 8, 2011

BREAKFAST WILL BE SERVED ON THE LIDO DECK





Sometimes I am almost clueless when trying to figure out the reasoning behind some new government mandate. This past January, the Chicago Board of Education (CBE) decided to require that a free breakfast be served in all elementary schools in Chicago during the first 15 minutes of the morning. Not a bad idea until you learn that the breakfast will not be dished-up in the cafeteria, but on the students’ desk in the classroom and they are not lengthening the school day to make up for the time spent eating.

We will examine both problems separately.

SERVING FOOD IN THE CLASSROOM

When I was growing up, nobody had life-threatening allergies, but now many children can become violently ill from being exposed to such breakfast items as milks, eggs and peanut dust. The Tribune reported, that Dr. Kelly Newhall at the Chicago Family Asthma and Allergy medical practice said the classroom breakfasts are especially risky for young children "because egg, milk and wheat allergies are more common among younger children, and these are the same children who are most likely to put their hands in their mouths."

Currently, schools have designated segregated tables in the cafeterias to keep children with allergies separated, to lessen contact with foods that could harm them.

The CBE has also decided that students, not adults, will clean the classroom after breakfast. Not only are children not capable of cleaning anything to a level of sanitation in a food situation but the allergy exposure problem then becomes even more apt to occur.

What about children who have ALREADY eaten breakfast at home? Now they will be eating a SECOND meal, because no child ever turns down food! I don’t think Michelle Obama and her “fat people campaign” would approve of double breakfasts!

Since the meal served by Mother at home is probably fresher and more delicious than school food, does CBE want families to stop serving at home?

I understand that many children from low-income families do not get breakfast at home, so if a meal is mandated just serve it in the cafeteria!

TIME SPENT EATING

The CBE has mandated 15 minutes for eating breakfast. The Tribune figured that would result in about 45 hours of lost learning time a year. I don’t agree with that estimate because they did not calculate the time cleaning up after the meal! Add that task to the mix and it really ends up being about two weeks of school-time being spent on eating and cleaning—not learning!

Northwestern University education professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach said, "With one of the shortest instructional days in the nation, I don't want to see any school — especially those who might need class time the most — lose more."

KATHY SOLUTION

For students who want a school-supplied breakfast, they come 15 minutes early and eat in the cafeteria.

I think that is a lot smarter plan the clout-appointed members of the CBE have devised; and I don’t even have a Masters in Education. Sometimes common sense needs to prevail.





Thursday, April 7, 2011

WHY PRESCRIPTION DRUGS ARE EXPENSIVE.




A recent Chicago Tribune editorial said, “The federal Food and Drug Administration's announcement that it had approved a drug that helps prevent premature births sounded like cause for celebration. The March of Dimes applauded. So did Wall Street: The drug's manufacturer, St. Louis-based KV Pharmaceutical, saw its stock jump 30 percent. That was before women and their doctors learned that an injection that used to cost $10 to $20 now would cost $1,500.” I understand why KV raised the price and, before I am picketed with pitchforks and torches, will explain.


When a pharmaceutical company starts to develop a new drug, usually 5,000 to 10,000 different chemical compounds are considered. Approximately 250 of those will be considered for further evaluation with laboratory and animal testing. (Stratmann, Dr. H.G.,September 2010,-- Analog Science Fiction and Fact)

New Chemical Entities (NCEs) or New Molecular Entities (NMEs) are the compounds which are created during the drug discovery process. While one of the NCEs might produce a positive reaction against a certain disease or biological target, there has to be further research into the safety, toxicity, pharmacokenetics and metabolism of the NCE in human beings.

The development of a new drug also requires establishing the physicochemical properties of the NCE: its chemical makeup, stability, solubility. Testing has to be done to see if the drug should be produced in capsule, tablet, aerosol, intramuscular injectable, subcutaneous injectable, or intravenous form. This part of the process is known as Chemistry, Manufacturing and Control (CMC).

Pretty complicated! Costs a lot of money to do this research.

Also the pharmaceutical company has to focus on regulatory requirements. These include testing for any major organ toxicity (e.g. any side effects on the heart and lungs, brain, kidney, liver or digestive system) and whether any other part of the body might be affected. An example would be if the skin itself were affected if the drug is to be injected.

Only after all the statutory drug-testing regulations have been met and all the laboratory and animal testing has taken place can a decision be made whether there will be human clinical trials known as FIM (First in Man) or FHD (First Human Dose.)

In addition to the human clinical trials, a determination has to be made that there will be no long-term or chronic toxicity as well as any effect on body systems not previously tested such as fertility, immune system, etc. and the drugs possible potential to cause cancer (carcinogenicity testing).

The cost of bringing a drug created by a NCE to market ranges from $500 million to $2 billion. (DiMasi J, Hansen R, Grabowski H (2003). "The price of innovation: new estimates of drug development costs". J Health Econ and Adams C, Brantner V (2006). "Estimating the cost of new drug development: is it really 802 million dollars?")

Drug companies can spends billions on development and have the drug fail at any stage of the process. Actually, only about 26 new drugs created by NCEs actually go on the market yearly.

So if KV Pharmaceuticals has the opportunity to recover their research costs because the FDA has approved one of their drugs for a different use -- it was originally approved to treat problems with adrenal glands and ovaries—bravo that they continued their research and discovered another application. Praise them, don’t bury them.