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Super Uber or Uber Stupor?

Thu, 2015-08-13 09:57
Is Uber taking us for a ride? That's the concern on a lot of folks' minds as this international company which is currently valued at more than $50 billion moves to transform and dominate the car-for-hire transportation business here in the United States and around the world.

There is no question that Uber became the darling of tech savvy early adapters and millennials and is now earning rave reviews from a large group of cost-conscious individuals who want to get the best bargain for their bucks when they order a vehicle to take them from point A to B. There is a real question, however, about what business Uber is in and the nature of its business model.

Uber asserts that it is in the software app or ride-hailing business. That would be easy to accept if it sold its software to a purchaser and then drove away from the scene of the sale.

But, it does not. It stays in the game. The driver who buys its software operates under the Uber brand and Uber gets a percentage of every paid trip that driver makes.

It would also be easy to accept if Uber was hands-off in terms of the marketplace for consuming services delivered by those using the Uber app. But, it is not.

Uber aggressively intervenes in municipalities, states and even countries to try to change the existing rules and regulations that cover ground transport for a fee. According to Karen Weise's article in Bloomberg Businessweek, Uber has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in state capitols around the country and that doesn't include its municipal lobbyists.

Uber has been called innovative and its software is. What may be more innovative though has been Uber's ability to position and frame itself as a business.

When it was founded in 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp the company was called UberCab. What's in a name? Possibly everything.

By 2011, Uber had secured substantial investor funding. In that same year, it changed its name from UberCab to Uber.

Dropping Cab from the name, certainly made it easier for Uber to argue that its business is about software rather than transportation. It also makes it easier to contend that the Uber drivers are not employees.

While that may be true, on its own website, Uber proclaims that its drivers are independent contractors. It makes one wonder for whom do those independent contractors work.

There is a class action case currently pending in California in which a group of Uber drivers maintain they are employees and should be reimbursed for things such as expenses and withheld tips.

Uber has responded to the case by declaring that its driver base in the U.S of over 160,000 people is incredibly diverse and this small number of plaintiffs does not represent its wishes. Uber marshaled testimony from over 400 California drivers to defend its contention.

It is hard to predict how this case will be decided. Courts at all levels in our judicial system sometimes work in mysterious ways.

What is easy to determine, on the other hand, is that not being an employer of drivers gives Uber a significant competitive advantage in this space. Traditional taxi and limousine companies are required to meet minimum wage standards and overtime laws; pay drivers' payroll taxes; and, in some instances provide health and other benefits.

Uber's advantage extends well beyond avoiding employee costs. It basically avoids most of the regulations governing "cab" companies and other costs of doing business such as vehicle acquisition and maintenance to comply with state regulations; buying taxi medallions, purchasing of insurance; payment of fees to do business in the locations where the drivers operate, payment of government taxes; ensuring training and background checks for drivers; and, the operating expense and overhead of running a business on a day to day basis

This is a sweet deal. Uber recognizes this and that is why it has spent so much money on paid lobbyists and social media to organize users and citizen advocates to contact governments on its behalf, as it did in Portland, Oregon and New York City.

Edward Walker, associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, labels this mobilization of the masses by a corporation as "The Uber-ization of Activism."

Walker sees this as a bad thing, citing examples of how for-profit colleges used their students for "political pressure," Comcast got its philanthropic beneficiaries to support the Time Warner merger and the beverage industry hired protestors to oppose soda taxes. He states that "Technology may be neutral, but grass roots should be bottom up, not top down."

Kemal Dervis, vice president and director of global economy and development at Brookings Institution takes the critique of Uber's business model a bit further in a provocatively-titled opinion piece, "Is Uber a threat to democracy" published by the American think tank.

Dervis sees some benefits from Uber in areas such as "price setting" and "job creation." By contrast, he sees definite problems in areas such as Uber's impact on the traditional taxi drivers and transportation companies that have to abide by rules other than those imposed on Uber.

The "final problem" that Dervis identifies is an interesting one. It is the fact that in "innovative companies like Uber is that the financial returns overwhelmingly accrue to the company's leadership, rather than service providers. Whether or not that is justified, such companies' contribution to rising income inequality - and thus to regulatory capture, media bias, and disproportionate influence in elections - cannot be ignored."

Here's the bottom line: Uber may have a new-fangled tool but it appears to be winning the battle for market share in an old-fashioned way. That is to play the game by a different set of rules and use leverage to change the rules to give your business a decided advantage

We guess that's one side of the American and capitalist way. The other side is the concept of full and open competition.

As Dervis notes, "In a democratic system, the challenges that such disruptive technologies bring must be confronted in a way that ensures fairness, without impeding progress." He hits the nail on the head.

And, progress or reform is needed as two Brookings-related studies have highlighted. One study commissioned by the Brooking Institution's Hamilton Institute found that state licensing requirements covered 1 in 20 jobs in the 1950's but cover more than 3 in 10 today. The study estimated that this state licensing reduced national employment by as much as 2.8 million jobs.

The other Brookings study of "business dynamism" drawing upon census data showed that there has been a steady and fairly dramatic decline of new firm creation since 1978.

Forbes contributor Elaine Pofeldt points out that studies of this type frequently do not count the self-employed, or what she calls "solo entrepreneurs," and that we need to accelerate their ability to start businesses in order to stimulate our 21st century economy.

The taxi industry has been closely held and tightly-controlled by both its providers and government regulators. It is definitely time -- past time -- for deregulation or re-regulation. As Justin Fox of Bloomberg View comments, in the main "...local taxi and car service regulation has long been a classic case of narrow interests prevailing over the public interest."

It is time for the public interest to prevail. Uber is making an important contribution in this regard.

It is transforming the nation's car service transportation for hire landscape. This transformation presents the opportunity to revisit and reform the social and regulatory policies that govern this industry.

If this is done in a "fair and balanced" manner and everyone is allowed to play by the same new set of rules, consumers, companies and employees will all win. If it is not, then the very essence of capitalism in a democracy is called into question.

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Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo Makes Daring Catch, But Even Better Play

Thu, 2015-08-13 09:26

So, does it count?  

On Wednesday night, fans at Wrigley Field were wondering whether or not the best catch they'll see all year would actually be an out. 

During the sixth inning of their 3-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo hawked Ryan Braun's foul ball all the way into the stands.  

Stuck the landing.

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 13, 2015

Knowing the Cubs only had one out and the Brewers with a runner on base, Rizzo also had the awareness to quickly get the ball back to an infielder. That's heads-up baseball right there. Coaches love this stuff: 

Originally, umpires ruled no-catch because they didn't think that Rizzo was still in the field of play when he made the grab. As Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts painfully learned in July, MLB's rulebook doesn't allow for players to simply hop over walls, chill with fans and catch fly balls for outs.  

You have to see that. Goes on top of the tarp and into the stands for a foul ball but umps say no catch..that was awesome...umps huddling

— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) August 13, 2015

After a short conference, the umps found that Rizzo had one foot on the tarp (which is technically on the field of play) and one foot on the wall when he secured the ball. Catch, confirmed! 

Let's talk about this tarp though, because Rizzo dug his damn spikes into the thing to prop himself up into a better position to make the play. (Poor tarp.) Aside from its obvious use during rainy weather, Rizzo's catch was probably the most practical use of a baseball field tarp MLB has ever seen. 

Depending on where they were sitting, fans along the first baseline were both horrified and pumped at Rizzo's actions. The woman sitting right below the 240-lb. Rizzo ducked for cover as he made his lunge into the crowd. 

Her hand-over-heart sigh of relief says it all.



Also on HuffPost: 

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Kraft Heinz's Lays Off 2500 Workers, Including 700 Workers in Northfield, IL

Thu, 2015-08-13 08:41
Losing 700 jobs in Kraft Heinz's Northfield headquarters is a devastating blow to that community, and to the workers and their families. The Kraft-Heinz merger, approved earlier this year, is a direct cause of these layoffs. This follows a pattern by the merged company's private equity owner, 3G Capital Partners, which also laid of thousands of American workers when it took over Anheuser-Busch in 2008. Investors and corporate executives win in these mergers, but American families and communities lose. I will continue to work to hold companies accountable for cutting American jobs and reward companies that expand their U.S. workforce.

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No Video Of A Police Shooting? That's Because Many Cops Still Don't Have Body Cameras.

Thu, 2015-08-13 06:46

WASHINGTON -- Americans overwhelmingly support equipping police officers with body cameras. Police reform advocates and law enforcement officials say such cameras can deter cops from using unnecessary force and protect them from false abuse complaints. But in most major cities, you're still not likely to run into a cop wearing a body cam.

The Huffington Post analyzed police departments in 27 large U.S. cities and found that only two -- Albuquerque and New Orleans -- have finished equipping their officers with body cameras. Most are waiting for funding, comparing different devices or testing the use of cameras with a small portion of their officers.

The infographic below shows where all 27 cities stands on body cameras. Those that have initiated but not completely rolled out their programs vary widely. Some, including Seattle and Minneapolis, hope to have their departments fully outfitted in the next year. Others, including New York City and Chicago, are making progress but have less concrete timetables.

And officials in Boise, Idaho; BostonColumbus, Ohio; Jacksonville, Florida; and Kansas City, Missouri, have considered body cameras, but haven't moved beyond that yet.

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Where Major U.S. Cities Stand On Body Cameras

Full body camera program

Program initiated

No body cameras







New York








Washington, D.C.

Las Vegas

Kansas City




Los Angeles








New Orleans

Note: Research included major U.S. cities, but may not include all cities with body camera programs in place or initiated.

Source: HuffPost research on police department policies

Where Major U.S. Cities Stand On Body Cameras

Full body camera program

  • Albuquerque, N.M.

  • New Orleans, La.

Program initiated

  • New York City, N.Y.

  • Los Angeles, Calif.

  • Chicago, Ill.

  • Houston, Texas

  • Philadelphia, Pa.

  • Indianapolis, Ind.

  • Charlotte, N.C.

  • Detroit, Mich.

  • Memphis, Tenn.

  • Seattle, Wash.

  • Denver, Colo.

  • Washington, D.C.

  • Baltimore, Md.

  • Louisville, Ky.

  • Milwaukee, Wis.

  • Oklahoma City, Okla.

  • Las Vegas, Nev.

  • Tucson, Ariz.

  • Minneapolis, Minn.

  • Atlanta, Ga.

No body cameras

  • Columbus, Ohio

  • Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Boston, Mass.

  • Kansas City, Mo.

  • Boise, Idaho

Note: Research included major U.S. cities, but may not include all cities with body camera programs in place or initiated. Source: HuffPost research on police department policies

Body cameras create a record of interactions between officers and civilians, which is supposed to keep both parties honest. The idea is that police will be more wary of engaging in potential misconduct, while everybody else will be less likely to mistreat officers or make false claims. And unlike dashboard cameras, body cameras move with the officer away from the vehicle.

Initial studies on smaller police forces, which are out front on purchasing body cameras, have been positive. They show that use of force by cops and complaints from citizens both drop after officers start wearing body cameras.

One agency that's now implementing a pilot program is the Arlington Police Department in Texas, where Christian Taylor, an unarmed black 19-year-old who had broken into a car dealership, was shot and killed this month by a white police officer. The rookie cop was not wearing a body camera.

It's impossible to know if footage of that encounter would have helped a prosecutor decide whether to pursue charges against the now-former officer. Advocates for body cameras acknowledge that the devices don't necessarily catch every encounter in detail. Even when they do, prosecutors and the public may come to different conclusions about what the footage shows. But without body camera evidence, a Texas district attorney -- and possibly a grand jury -- will have to rely on the police narrative in considering what happened to Taylor in his final moments.

Once officers have been issued the devices, they still have to use them.

Last year, in a report alleging excessive force at the Albuquerque Police Department, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the cameras were used inconsistently. The federal investigators found that the cameras "appeared [to be] directed only at placating public criticism" and that the Albuquerque top brass had failed to ensure the support of rank-and-file cops. (Tanner Tixier, a spokesman for the Albuquerque department, said that after several modifications, the current policy was under review by federal monitors.)

In New Orleans, the police department started issuing body cameras to officers in April of last year. But last fall, a federal monitor, put in a place under a separate 2012 consent decree (which had ordered greater use of dashcams), reviewed a sample of cases where cops used force and found that in only 34 percent of those cases did the record show the event had been filmed.

Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department, said that the federal review took place before the body cameras were fully in use. At present, the officers who respond to calls for service -- but not, say, detectives -- wear them.

"We have addressed issues on a case-by-case basis through additional training and discipline when warranted," Gamble said. He noted that the department introduced new activity sheets where the officers document whether they are wearing a working body camera.

In Denver, an independent monitor's review of a six-month pilot program found that many officers equipped with cameras still failed to record incidents in which they used force. At the time of the report in March, police officials wouldn't clarify if those failures were a result of policy violations or faulty equipment.

When a St. Louis police officer shot and killed a black teenager late last year, the officer had been issued a body camera but wasn't wearing it.

Critics say some cities are moving too slowly on body cameras. In Baltimore, for example, the city council passed a bill in 2014 that required the police department to equip all of its 2,800 officers with body cameras within a year, but the mayor vetoed that measure. She cited concerns about funding and released her own plan, creating a task force to study the issue. A limited pilot program is not set to begin until October, and the mayor has said it could be four years before all cops are wearing cameras.

Other cities and police departments are grappling with the costs of body camera programs. The cameras typically run from $200 to $1,000 each, depending on the manufacturer. The expense adds up when a city needs to buy hundreds or thousands of cameras to outfit an entire police department.

Then there's the cost of storing the footage the cameras capture. Many cities are working out data management contracts with outside vendors, which can run to millions of dollars per year, depending on the size of the force.

In Indianapolis, a pilot program ended last month. Although law enforcement officials said they supported the cameras, they were unsure whether they could get the cash to continue the program, the Indianapolis Star reported. In Washington, D.C., the mayor's plan to provide the entire police force with body cameras stalled earlier this year after the city council cut funds to the program, providing only enough money to equip about half of the officers.

To address these kinds of problems, the Obama administration announced in May that it would provide $20 million to local police departments for body cameras and training. Congress has been slow to address the issue.

Step by step, America is moving toward wider use of body cameras across the country. But with many cities still years away from equipping every officer, we'll likely continue to see controversial incidents in which the story rests on a police officer's word.

Infographic by Alissa Scheller. Additional reporting by Dayana Morales Gomez and Dhyana Taylor. 

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I am a Dictator: A Chicago Public Schools Teacher Responds to Rauner and Claypool

Wed, 2015-08-12 17:05
Recently, Gov. Bruce Rauner said: "The people of Chicago, the voters of Chicago, the mayor of Chicago, the school board of the Chicago Public Schools should be enabled to decide what gets collectively bargained and what doesn't so they don't end up with the teachers union having dictatorial powers, in effect and causing the financial duress that Chicago public schools are facing right now."

This statement from Rauner comes just a few days after Forrest Claypool, our newest CEO, says that teachers need to have "shared sacrifice" by taking a 7 percent pay cut.

The shared sacrifice Claypool speaks of means that my wife (also a CPS teacher) and I would lose about $11,000 in combined income for this year alone.

I could go on and on about how Claypool is just another puppet of Rahm, in a long line of puppets appointed by the mayor, or how Chicagoans demand an elected school board (remember Chicago is the only district in the entire state without an elected school board). But since Rauner thinks that the teachers union, run by 40,000 teachers, is a dictatorship, and Claypool says teachers need to sacrifice, I will share my stories, so maybe, just maybe, they both (along with Rahm) will realize what it means to really sacrifice.

Two weeks ago I found out that a student who attended and graduated from my high school was shot and killed. I did not know this student well, as I had never taught him, but what I have found is that his death has triggered many other emotions and memories that I have suppressed.

There is a study that says that people who live in violent areas (like many parts of Chicago) show sign of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) similar to soldiers returning from combat. My father was in combat in Vietnam and for the first 23 years of my life he never once talked to me about Vietnam. It was one night that he decided to watch a fictional movie about Vietnam that it all came back to him. I can see how he has days where his mind is consumed by traumatic experiences that he had. He has been able to cope and now is working to prevent people, students especially from going into the military.

I have worked in CPS for nine years now and have had students share tragic stories of losing their friends and loved ones to violence. I have seen how certain events can trigger their traumatic memories.

I never thought that a teacher (myself) could have this happen too.

When I found out that the student from my school who had just graduated was killed I was deeply saddened for his family -- for everyone who knew him -- and that our city continues to let young people die.

However I have found that now nearly two weeks after his death I have been thinking nearly every day of the first student that I ever knew who was killed.

Nearly five years ago, a young man named Trevell was shot and killed. I taught Trevell as a freshman in high school. He was an outgoing, intelligent and confident young man, but it was clear that he had some difficulties outside of school. As he continued through high school into his senior year he had made many positive decisions to steer his life in the right direction and had got himself into college. I received a phone call on a cold January Saturday morning from my assistant principal saying that Trevell had been shot and killed. I still remember that day that I found out about his death and also what it was like to go into school that Monday and cry with students and staff and share stories of Trevell.

The following school year, I was teaching my senior Urban Studies class. I had taught many of the students in this class when they were freshman. There was one student Deondre who as a freshman I never thought would still be at our school, let alone close to graduating, for how involved he seemed to be as a freshman with life on the streets. Deondre as a freshman in my class would typically be focused on anything and everything as long as it was not academic. But amazingly Deondre had turned it around and now, as a senior had become one of the most liked students by staff and students. He had dramatically improved his grades and got himself accepted into many colleges. This one day in late May just a few weeks before graduation he was not in class. When I asked where he was, another student whispered to me that he had been arrested. I didn't believe it, because he had put that part of his life way behind him. It wasn't until I saw a mug shot of him wearing his school shirt and read his charge that I finally accepted it. He was one of my favorite students. I still think of him often.

Then, about two years ago, my wife and I experienced a miscarriage 17 weeks into our second pregnancy. My students all knew my wife was pregnant, and while I was out of school grieving the loss I dreaded, having to come back to school to see 150 supportive students who knew that my wife was no longer pregnant was amazing; they helped me grieve. My students were actually much better than even some of the adults who knew we had experienced that loss.

I share these stories because my "shared sacrifice" is that every time a student dies, I think of these things. I don't even realize that I am thinking of these things at first, because I usually just get angry or frustrated and don't know why.

There are days that I wonder like many teachers in Chicago, why do I still stay here? Why do I stay in a system that is run by the mayor with an appointed school board that clearly has no clue what is doing. Why do I stay in a system that has a new CEO every one to two years? Why do I stay in a system that allows its schools to be funded often times $10,000 less per student than schools in the suburbs?

Every answer to all of those questions is because of the students. The students are the reason why 40,000 teachers in Chicago don't just pack up and move out of the city. We love our students. We love to guide, mentor, coach, counsel, teach, listen, and laugh with and at them.

So Mr. Claypool we teachers have "skin in the game". My personal stories are sadly not unique; we teachers have and continue to make sacrifices every day by being a teacher in Chicago.

Mr. Rauner you want to blame us, teachers, for the fiscal crises of our city? How about thanking us for doing what we do every day. Thank us today, thank us tomorrow, and continue thanking us for your entire four years as governor, because you will never know what we do for the students of this city.

And after you thank us, give us power over our schools. Give us an elected school board. Give us counselors and therapists. Give our students the schools that they deserve.

Yes, giving more to the schools costs money, but let's be clear, there are money and revenue options out there. You are just choosing to use bogus rhetoric instead of hearing and acting on the revenue options available.

The stress that I and the rest of Chicago's teachers go through every day of the year to educate the children of this city that we love is not easy, but we do it because we know that our students matter. It is time for the politicians to do the same.

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Rahm Emanuel Backs The Iran Deal

Wed, 2015-08-12 17:00

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, one of the country's more prominent Jewish Democrats, said Wednesday that he supports President Barack Obama’s deal on Iran’s nuclear program. 

Emanuel, who served as Obama’s chief of staff during the first two years of his presidency, during which time the administration began exploring diplomatic entreaties with Iran, said that the resulting agreement met the thresholds initially envisioned. With no other credible path available for curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, he urged lawmakers to recognize the deal's merits.

“I would say to you this agreement is a good agreement and it is far superior to either sustained bombing that would never actually get you what you have today or sanctions that would exist on paper but with no international support,” Emanuel said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post.

“Having been there at the beginning, seeing what the president built, everything gets measured not against itself or the perfect. It gets measured against the alternatives," he added. "The alternatives are bombing. The alternatives are being the only country standing with a set of sanctions when every international partner that you built painstakingly walks away.”

Removed from Washington, D.C., Emanuel's involvement in the debate over the nuclear deal is limited. "I’m totally focused on what I need to do here," he said. "We are not starting any sister city programs [with Tehran]."

But he remains an influential national Democrat with ties to the House, where he previously ran the party's campaign arm. More than that, he is seen as an unbending supporter of Israel, giving his defense of the deal added heft. One of the main criticisms of the deal is that providing Iran with sanctions relief will place Israel under an existential terrorist threat. 

"Look, I’ve been to Israel 14 times. My middle name is Israel," Emanuel said. "I believe this agreement is in America’s interest. I think there is a reason a number of national security voices in Israel are supportive of this agreement, and there are ways to also ensure Israel’s deterrence and security apparatus that the United States can play a role in." The United States, he predicted, would enhance its military and national security assistance to Israel following the deal's passage.

Emanuel gave no indication as to whether he plans to call his former House colleagues to encourage them to back the president's initiative. He ended the conversation before HuffPost could press him on that point.

But the White House would undoubtedly welcome the help. The administration is all but certain to lose a vote in the lower chamber on affirming the deal. When the president vetoes that House bill, he will need the support of one-third of the chamber to sustain that veto.

Emanuel said that he wouldn't sell the deal as something designed to bring Iran into the world community, and that he recognized that there were inherent downsides to the sanctions relief. But he stressed that critics were misrepresenting the deal when they argued that the administration had dramatically moved away from its initial goals. 

He praised the president for putting in place a sanctions regime that gave the international community "leverage," and noted that he was present when Obama was "painstakingly and systematically building an international coalition to apply economic pressure that had never existed before."

"Having been there, this is the execution of that strategy," he said.

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The 10 Best Cities for Technology-Assisted Living

Wed, 2015-08-12 16:27

The National Conference of State Legislatures and AARP Public Policy Institute report that nearly 90 percent of people over the age of 65 want to stay in their home for as long as possible. Fortunately, in most cases, they won't have to move as they age. According to Seniorly, a service that helps people find senior care, the majority of seniors do NOT need to move into a nursing home. They simply need some care equivalent to what they would find in an assisted living community, which includes assistance with daily activities like meals, medication, housekeeping, bathing and transportation.

And these days, there's an app for that. An elderly woman can take an Uber to her friend's home, find someone to walk her dog through, schedule her lawn to be mowed or her house to be cleaned through Porch, get groceries delivered through Instacart, and schedule a professional caregiver to assist with bathing, meal preparation and other daily living activities through CareLinx. Or, for those seniors who aren't tech-savvy, friends and family can use these technology-based services to arrange care for them.

Redfin, a national real estate brokerage, named the 10 best cities for technology-assisted living, which are places where it's feasible to use technology-based services like Carelinx and Instacart to age in one place, rather than moving to an assisted living facility. "People often think of services like Uber and Instacart as being something that only millennials use, but those services can be a way for elderly people who need assistance to remain in their homes," said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson. "And when you compare the cost of a mortgage with the cost of assisted living facilities, in some cases it can make more financial sense to use those services and age in place, rather than move to a facility, depending on the level of care required of course."

To come up with the list, Redfin first identified which U.S. cities are served by Uber, Rover, Porch, Instacart and Carelinx, which all provide services that are similar to what an assisted living facility would provide, including transportation, pet care, housekeeping, meals and basic medical care. Then, Redfin calculated what the median monthly mortgage payment would be in those cities, and compared it to the average monthly fee for assisted living facilities in those cities (using data from Metlife).

The cities that made the top 10 list are places where seniors (or those who care for them) would have at least $1,500 each month to spend on the cost of services booked through Uber, Rover, Porch, Instacart and Carelinx, and, after paying the mortgage, it'd still be less expensive than an assisted living facility in the area. For example, in Washington D.C., the number one city on the list, a resident could spend $3,000 on care services and $2,787 on their mortgage, and still spend less than the $5,933 it would take to live in an assisted living facility.

Here are the following cities that made the list:

Head here to read the full report, which includes data on the median mortgage payments and assisted living costs in each city.

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Rehabilitation, Restitution Undermined by Illinois' Supersized Criminal-Justice System

Wed, 2015-08-12 14:12
Too often, corrections programs focus solely on locking up offenders and throwing away the key ... until their sentences are completed, at which point they are expected to become productive members of society.

This model serves no one: not the taxpayers who foot the bill for jails and prisons, not the people who serve time behind bars, and not the victims of crime and the public.

An ideal corrections program focuses first on keeping the public safe. Public safety depends on crime prevention, which means that an effective corrections program is one that isn't simply punitive, but is transformative, aimed at stopping the cycle of crime in which the same people end up behind bars again and again.

Unfortunately, Illinois lags behind other states in its efforts to curb recidivism through offender rehabilitation, and the results are sobering: Offenders who serve time in Illinois prisons have a nearly 50 percent chance of returning within three years.

By not implementing enough effective offender-rehabilitation programs, the state jeopardizes public safety.

Illinois should look to successful programs in other states for guidance on recidivism prevention. One way to rehabilitate inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes - those who are serving time for offenses such as burglary, fraud and drug crimes, and make up 50 percent of all inmates in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, or IDOC - can be seen in an impressive program in the Lone Star state.

In Texas, the Bridges to Life restorative-justice program has been in operation since 1998. Under programs like Bridges to Life, if the person found guilty of a nonviolent property crime and the victim of that crime agree, the two parties enter mediation to work out terms that allow the guilty party to repay the victim in lieu of serving jail time. Victims, who often take a back seat in the design of punishment-focused criminal-justice policies, report greater levels of satisfaction under such restorative-justice programs, according to research from Right on Crime.

This one reform - establishing a restorative-justice pilot program in Illinois - could save an estimated $780,500 in one year. Given that IDOC spending is at an all-time high ($1.4 billion in fiscal year 2015) the state must seize every such reasonable opportunity to reduce its prison costs.

Illinois' prison population has increased by 330 percent since the 1970s. If the state is to meet Gov. Bruce Rauner's goal of reducing its prison population by 25 percent by 2025, politicians need to get serious about embracing changes that address the state's ever-growing incarceration problem. Restorative justice and other programs are one way to accomplish this goal, while at the same time ensuring that Illinois' criminal-justice system is focused more on restitution and rehabilitation than on punishment alone.

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Madigan says the 2014 election was more about Pat Quinn's failures than Bruce Rauner's successes

Wed, 2015-08-12 13:03
Back in May, when Gov. Bruce Rauner said he'd endure a government shutdown if the Legislature refused to pass his reform agenda, I wrote that I believed Rauner was overplaying the hand voters dealt him in the election. (That post is here.)

Rather than viewing Rauner's victory in November as an overwhelming endorsement by the electorate of Rauner's big-picture political philosophy, I saw it more as voters reluctantly trying something different after 12 years of failure in Springfield.

Rauner won with 50.3 percent of the vote to Pat Quinn's 46.3. A solid victory, but hardly a landslide when compared with other recent results. More importantly, 66.7 percent of voters had answered yes to an advisory question on immediately raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour while 63.6 percent gave thumbs-up to a question about a 3-percent additional income tax on incomes greater than $1 million. There's probably no greater rejection of Rauner's core political beliefs than voters' overwhelming approval of those proposals.

Last week House Speaker Michael Madigan, the man responsible for putting those questions on the November ballot, went a step further. Speaking to Statehouse reporter Jordan Abudayyeh of Springfield ABC affiliate WICS Newschannel 20, Madigan said he saw the election results not as a Rauner victory but as a Quinn loss.

In his explanation, he says out loud what any sentient observer of the Capitol knew a year ago. The minimum wage question was there to pull sympathetic voters to the polls who also would vote for Quinn.

Watch Madigan's explanation, and read the rest of the analysis, at Reboot Illinois.

Madigan's remarks are in line with his relationship with the governor so far since Rauner's inauguration in January--mostly contentious. The back and forth continued this week when Madigan and Rauner disagreed over a bill passed in the Illinois Senate that would free up about $4.8 billion in federal money that has so far been tied up due to the state's budget stalemate. Check out Mark Fitton's description of the situation at Reboot Illinois.

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11 Illinois Hiking Spots You Should Visit This Summer

Wed, 2015-08-12 09:39
Take your Illinois summer to the incredible hiking trails our state parks and forests have to offer. Along with some fun campgrounds and water parks, these outdoor escapes in Illinois are sure to keep you and your family out and about this summer.

Drawing from a list of top-rated hiking trails in Illinois by as well as a list by Canoe Communications, here are 11 of 17 breathtaking Illinois hiking trails, in no particular order, you can traverse. Do you know of ones that didn't make the list? Share your recommendations in the comments below.

17. Trail of Tears State Forest (Jonesboro)

The fire trails are open all year for hiking. There are hiking trails at the Forest, including one designed for cross country running. Other trails pass through hills and valleys where one can appreciate the lush vegetation and abundant wildlife.

16. Starved Rock State Park (Utica)

Exploring the majestic bluffs and canyons is the park's primary attraction, and there are 13 miles of well-marked trails to help you enjoy them. The trails are open all year, but hikers are urged to exercise extreme caution and to stay on official trails. To keep you oriented, trail maps are located at all trail access points, intersections and points of interest. There are colored posts along the trails, corresponding to colors on the maps, and letter symbols on the trail brochure to further assist you. Finally, yellow dots on posts indicate that you are moving away from the lodge or visitor center, and white dots mean you are returning.

15. Shawnee National Forest

Totaling about 286,400 acres the Shawnee National Forest is located in the southern tip of Illinois and offers a variety of outdoor opportunities and diverse landscapes.  In contrast with the remainder of Illinois, the Shawnee boasts rolling landscape and rugged bluffs that are home to diverse of plant and animal life.  Covered in deciduous forests and cradled between two major riverways (the Ohio and Mississippi), there's never a shortage of things to do in the Shawnee National Forest.

14. Red Hills State Park (Sumner)

For the intermediate hiker, Indian Treaty, Robin, Valley Springs and Tulip trail loops overlap each other on the hilly north side of U.S. Rt. 50 for about 3 miles. There also is a 5-mile trail for horseback riding and bicycling when soil conditions permit.

13. Pere Marquette State Park (Grafton)

Approximately 12 miles of marked trails provide scenic hiking to beginners and experienced hikers alike. Lush forests, towering bluffs and an abundance of wildlife provide the perfect backdrop for your outing. Trail maps are available at the Visitor Center.

12. Mississippi Palisades State Park (Savanna)

The North System includes High Point Trail at 3.5 miles and Aspen at 1.9 miles. Sentinel Trail the 1.2 miles, including spurs, is the South System's longest hike, but it and other southern loops are not for the tenderfoot. Ozzie's Point, Louis' Point and Lookout Point, three developed overlooks accessible by short walks, offer a surfaced trail leading to an overlook. Oak Point offers a trail surface suitable for the physically challenged.

11. Matthiessen State Park (Utica)

The park has 5 miles of well-marked, well-surfaced hiking trails for a relaxing walk or a vigorous hike. Large trail maps are located at all major trail intersections so visitors can choose a variety of routes. The upper area and bluff tops are easy hiking paths for the novice, but the trails into the interiors of the two dells may be difficult to negotiate, particularly during spring and early summer. Hikers must stay on marked trails, as steep cliffs and deep canyons can be dangerous. Hikers will marvel at the plant and animal life along the trails, and have an unparalleled view of geological wonders as they travel through the park.

10. Hidden Springs State Forests (Strasburg)

Possum Hollow Nature Trail, 3/4 mile in length, provides access to Park Pond and the pine seed orchard. Trail guides, available at the headquarters, campground and picnic area, guide the visitor to the 35 interpretive stations. The Big Tree Trail, 1 mile in length, features a sycamore 78 inches in diameter, one of the largest in Illinois. Rocky Spring Trail, 3 miles in length, includes Rocky Spring, a forest improvement area, walnut production areas and varied land and vegetation types.

9. Giant City State Park (Makanda)

Exploration of the picturesque natural wonders of Giant City State Park can be enjoyed along the Post Oak, Devil's Standtable, Giant City, Stonefort, Indian Creek, Trillium and Arrowwood trails. The Post Oak Trail has been designed for disabled visitors. The 12-mile Red Cedar Hiking Trail provides an invigorating challenge to the truly dedicated backpacker.

8. Ferne Clyffe State Park (Goreville)

Eighteen diverse trails offer visitors the chance to view the beauty of Ferne Clyffe at their own pace.  Motorized vehicles and bicycles are not permitted on the trails.  Equestrian use is allowed on equestrian designated trails.  Equestrian trails are closed to horses from November 1 to April 30.  Naturally occurring dangerous areas exist within the park, so hike on designated trails, exercise awareness and caution. Each trail has been assigned a number, as well as a name, to make map reading easy for even the novice hiker.

7. Dixon Springs State Park (Pope County)

Dixon Springs State Park is one of several state parks in the Illinois Shawnee Hills. The park is situated on a gaint block of rock, which was dropped 200 feet along a fault line that extends northwesterly across Pope County. The 786-acre park is about 10 miles west of Golconda on Illinois Route 146 near its junction with Illinois Route 145.

See 6 more Illinois hiking trails, including some with beautiful canyons and gorgeous waterfalls, at Reboot Illinois.

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This Jail's Urban Farming Project Benefits Inmates, Local Charities

Wed, 2015-08-12 09:18

The next time flowers are delivered to your door in Chicago, the bouquet just might be made up of blooms nurtured by an inmate at Cook County Jail.

Chicago-based startup Flowers for Dreams, last week, announced the start of a partnership with the jail’s urban farming initiative, which offers nonviolent inmates an opportunity to learn job readiness and teamwork skills while learning about horticulture and tending to the jail’s urban farm.

The initiative expanded last year to include a one-acre flower garden where zinnias, dahlias, sunflowers and other blooms grow, and caught the attention of Flowers for Dreams CEO Steven Dyme after the initiative’s deputy director Kerry White, a fan of the flower startup, contacted him.

The two met a number of times before Dyme came to the jail to speak with a classroom of inmates who tend to the farm, and toured the flower garden. He was impressed by what he saw and signed onto the initiative.

“The flowers looked good, which is the key thing, but I was really happy to support their effort,” Dyme told The Huffington Post. “It’s a great way for us to buy local flowers, a huge priority for our business, and to support this innovative rehabilitation program simultaneously was a win-win.”

Funds received from the partnership go back to the jail’s inmate welfare fund, which supports rehabilitative programming, including the urban farming initiative, culinary classes and other vocational programs.

A significant portion -- 25 percent -- of profits made by Flowers for Dreams are donated to Chicago-area nonprofit groups, such as, this year, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Boys and Girls Clubs, RefugeeOne and One Tail at a Time Dog Rescue.

A photo posted by Flowers for Dreams (@flowersfordreams) on Jan 15, 2015 at 7:53am PST

Dyme said, later this month, the company will reach a total of $100,000 in donations to charity groups since launching in 2012 -- a milestone he calls “probably our most important accomplishment.”

By the year’s end, he expects to hit $120,000 in donations as business is growing. According to a Chicago Tribune story, sales have tripled since 2014 to about $1.5 million through this spring.

Flowers from the garden and other products of the farming initiative -- including fresh produce, eggs from the farm’s chicken coop and honey from its beehives -- are also sold to local restaurant partners like Yusho, A10 and Billy Sunday, as well as at the popular weekly farmers’ markets at Daley Plaza, DNAinfo Chicago reported this summer, generating revenue that allows the programs to continue.

The initiative has also led to employment opportunities for some participating inmates. According to the jail, eight have gone on to work at restaurants or landscaping companies upon their release.

Education and vocational programs like Cook County Jail’s urban farm initiative not only improve inmates’ chances of finding a job after their sentence are up, but also, according to a 2013 report from the RAND Corporation, significantly reduce their chances of becoming incarcerated again. 

In addition, the same analysis found that such programs are cost-effective, though more research is needed to determine the types of correctional education that produce the best results.

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Moral Mondays in Chicago, Speaking Out Against the Rauner Budget

Tue, 2015-08-11 17:07
Click here to see video of Moral Mondays in Chicago.

On Monday I heard from Illinoisans who are struggling to make ends meet. They work hard every day, but Governor Bruce Rauner's ruthless budget policies are making their lives even harder. As the Governor holds the budget hostage, Illinoisans are paying the price.

Families need affordable child care -- but currently 90 percent of families applying for childcare assistance are being denied. People with disabilities are losing independent living services. The autism program is not being funded. Social service programs that help people get by are being closed. Governor Rauner wants to cut Medicaid by $1.4 billion and eliminate adult dental and foot care, breast and cervical cancer programs. He wants to cut higher education by 30 percent.

That's what some corporate executives do with a turnaround company -- the bottom line matters, but people don't. That is no way to run a state.

We can ask people who have more than they or their children or grandchildren can ever spend to pay a bit more to the common good, money that won't dent their life-styles, money that will hardly be missed. Instead, Governor Rauner reduced his own Illinois tax liability by $750,000 when the income tax rate fell from 5 percent to 3.5 percent.

We don't have to operate this way. A graduated income tax in Illinois would go a long way toward solving our problems, as would close corporate tax loopholes such as ending subsidies to big oil.

Instead of forcing through budget cuts that hurt children, hardworking families, people with disabilities and seniors, we must raise the revenues that will let us meet our priorities. That is the point of these Moral Mondays and we will keep speaking out, rallying and marching until there is a budget that is best for all Illinoisans.

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Accused Sex Toy Thief Claims His Name Is 'Obama Is A Criminal'

Tue, 2015-08-11 16:52

Thanks Obama.

An Illinois man accused of stealing a vibrator from an Orland Park sex shop apparently gets bad vibes from the current president.

Enough that he signed his name as "Obama is a criminal" on a Miranda rights consent form, according to the New York Daily News.

Christopher Hucko, 44, was arrested last month after an employee at the the Orland Park Lover’s Lane reported seeing the suspect walking around the store with a $48 sex toy stuffed in his pants.

By the time officers arrived at the sex shop, Hucko was leaving the store "with a large bulge in his pants,” according to Orland Park Patch.

When an officer asked Hucko whether he was stealing or just happy to see a cop, the suspect allegedly confided “that he had a tattoo of a cherry on his penis and asked me if I wanted to see it,” according to the police report.

The officer then searched Hucko's body and found a pink "G-Spot Delight Vibrator" under his boxers.

Hucko told police he had no idea how the stolen sex toy got there.

Cops also found marijuana and a pot pipe on Hucko, according to The Smoking Gun.

After Hucko was taken to a holding cell, he allegedly stripped naked and made derogatory comments about President Obama. Later, he signed the Miranda rights form with his new name.

Hucko was charged with retail theft, possession of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia, all misdemeanors.

This isn't Hucko's first arrest. In March, 2012, he was accused of stealing an electric scooter shopping cart from an area grocery store, according to Homewood-Flossmoor Patch.

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Chicago Police Department and Mayor's Office Question Plan to Provide Lawyer Contact Information for Arrestees

Tue, 2015-08-11 16:12

Charles Jones and his two-year-old daughter, Carlee.

Two little girls crowd around Charles "Slim" Jones, who at 6'4 and 230 pounds hardly comes across as a "Slim." The girls, Jones's two daughters ages 4 and 2, barely reach his knee as he rifles through folders of paperwork, searching the details of a crime from more than 20 years ago.

In 1993, Jones was convicted as an accomplice in the 1990 murder of Quovadis Gates, who was shot during an armed robbery attempt. Jones, only 17 at the time of the shooting, went on to serve 19 years in Illinois state prison, during which time he repeatedly appealed his conviction, citing his original lawyer's mishandling of the case.

In notes from the sentencing hearing, Jones testifies that, when police first picked him up, he was never placed under formal arrest. Instead he was taken to a southwest side juvenile police station where he was questioned, and then, according to Jones, physically assaulted by police until he agreed to sign a statement placing him at the scene of the crime.

Throughout court proceedings, Jones, who was 18 by the time of his arrest, states multiple times that he was held for close to 48 hours and not allowed to see his mother.

"My mother was demanding to see me," said Jones, now 42. "[The detectives] said, 'well, you're not a juvenile, you don't have an absolute right to see your parents.'"

We're sitting in an apartment in Roosevelt Square, a Near West Side mixed-income housing complex, which two years ago the district's police commander deemed the highest priority for area violence. So far, Jones, who moved in with his wife and two daughters Anaiyah and Carlee over a month ago, said he hasn't had any trouble.

Having an apartment and spending time with family are relatively new for Jones, who only received parole in 2010 and has since filed for clemency. It's Jones's exact situation - incarceration without having early access to a lawyer - that a Cook County-based nonprofit called First Defense Legal Aid says could be avoided with a change in city policy.

Charles Jones, outside his apartment in Chicago's Roosevelt Square neighborhood.

Last July, members of First Defense - a network of lawyers who provide pro bono legal assistance within Cook County - met with representatives from both the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office to propose such reform.

According to First Defense, it's crucial for individuals to access a lawyer within hours after arrest. Sometimes this doesn't happen until some 24 hours later, and more often, the nonprofit says, it doesn't happen until the arrestee's first hearing when they may be appointed representation from the Cook County public defender's office.

Less than half of one percent of arrestees have had a lawyer present at a police station since the department began tracking lawyer visitations in May 2012, according to reporting by Medill University. For every thousand arrests, only three arrestees saw a lawyer prior to the day of their first court hearing.

"Everybody grows up knowing the Miranda rights from Hollywood movies, so the fact that these rights exist but they're not being accessed by 99.8 percent of people who have them is a serious point of disenfranchisement," said First Defense Executive Director Eliza Solowiej.

A cost savings study commissioned by First Defense found that Cook County stands to save between $12 and $43 million per year via facilitation of that kind of early access.

By state law, all Chicago police stations are required to post signs stating that arrestees have the right to a lawyer. But the signs are not required to provide resources, like a phone number or website, towards securing that lawyer. Getting a general nonprofit phone number on those signs was a major part of talks between First Defense, the mayor's office and Chicago police. Ultimately, after months of discussion, the Chicago Police Department nixed the idea, saying it would be perceived as favoritism if any contact information was added.

Instead, the department agreed to install new signs (the old ones hadn't been updated in over 15 years) and potentially produce a pamphlet containing resources for arrestees, which might include advice on requesting counsel and phone numbers for various pro bono legal resources including First Defense, among other information.

Juliana Stratton is the director for Public Safety and Justice at University of Illinois at Chicago. She said the earlier an individual has access to a lawyer, the less likely they are to say or do anything that violates their rights or harms their defense.

"You have a constitutional right for access to counsel and you should be able to invoke that right as early in the process as possible," Stratton said.

From the police department's perspective, in certain cases, it's not that arrestees don't understand they can access a lawyer, it's that they choose not to, according to Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

"Our prerogative is to make sure people understand their rights under the law. So if there are little things we can do to help people understand what their rights are, then we're gonna do it," Guglielmi said. "But at the same time, our core focus is always the pursuit of justice."

But for Charles "Slim" Jones, who sat in on the meetings between First Defense and the city, the signs and pamphlets don't go far enough. He said he feels the early access to a lawyer is more important because of the check it puts on the police force.

"When you hold the police accountable, you can unite people," Jones said. "Right now the black community has a total distrust for the police. And in turn, the police are not trusting the community."

While incarcerated, Jones said it was access to education that kept him going. He received his Associate's degree and studied the legal process, filing lawsuits when he felt he was being mistreated in prison. Now he works with CeaseFire, an organization that works with young men and women considered targets for gun crime.

"When you teach these people they have rights, they feel human again. They see results," Jones said. "So I think knowing your rights then plays a direct role to reducing violence in the community."

This story was reported by Chloe Riley for JTM Legal.

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<i>The Boy From Oz</i> at Stage 773

Tue, 2015-08-11 15:55
In an age of reality TV and viral videos, star-making stage turns are few and far between. When Hugh Jackman headlined in the Broadway production of The Boy From Oz in 2003, he made such a splash portraying beloved Australian performer Peter Allen, the musical remained a sell-out during its year-long run and earned Jackman every theatre award of the season, including the Tony. And while most reviews praised Jackman's performance, they also admitted the show was a star vehicle, and not much more.

For this Chicago premiere, Pride Films and Plays' production doesn't have the resources for a Jackman-like personality. And it wouldn't be fair to the very game and appealing Chris Logan to compete with such wattage. That said, for all the charms this production offers -- and there are many -- it's, ultimately, a slight show that glosses over the peaks and valleys of Allan's life to favor the more splashy moments, including Allen's relationships with a lushy Judy Garland and a pre "Liza with a Z!" Liza.

And as those two legends, Michelle Lauto as Liza and Nancy Hays as Judy each give compelling approximations, without veering into camp or caricature. And Kudos to costume designer John Nasca for sourcing the perfect looks to accompany these performances.

Chris Logan and Michelle Lauto as Peter Allen and Liza Minnelli in Pride Films and Plays' "The Boy From Oz"

But it's not until the second act, when Allen embraces his sexuality and discovers his sound (excellent music direction by Robert Ollis, executed by a tight six-piece band), that the show finds its footing. And as Allen finds love, the show's once-narrow center is filled with heart (Luke Meierdiercks makes for a charming romantic counterpart to Logan's Allen).

While Allen may have passed way too early, his legacy lives on through his music, which this show unabashedly casts a spotlight on -- even if it means the story gets sidelined to the wings.

Physically, the show impresses, using the compact Stage 773 space to full advantage (scenic design by Katie-Bell Springmann). A nimble ensemble executes Cameron Turner's zippy choreography -- which covers bee-bop, tap, kick lines, Fosse and conga -- with boundless energy.

"The Boy From Oz" plays through August 30 at Stage 773. More info here >

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Has Rauner finally found effective union reform rhetoric?

Tue, 2015-08-11 12:09
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner now has spent months trying, with little success to convince the General Assembly and regular Illinoisans that his union reduction plans are the right way to enter a budget discussion. But Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek says Rauner might finally have found a message that sticks:

Earlier this summer, someone said to me something along the lines of, "I support what Rauner is trying to do, except that union stuff. I really don't get what he's trying to do to unions."

I suspect there are a lot of Illinoisans who have been thinking the same thing. If you're not an activist, far-right Republican, or an activist, far-left, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat who studied Gov. Bruce Rauner before the general election, you're somewhere in that silent-majority middle, surprised at how vehement Rauner is in insisting upon changes for unions.

Before he announced his candidacy, Rauner talked and wrote about his distaste for the way he saw "union bosses" in a corrupt, conflict-ridden cabal, primarily with Democratic lawmakers. Unions fuel their campaigns and, in return, secure generous salaries and benefits for their members, he said. Republican activists heard this theme from him, but once the primary was past, that line of attack nearly disappeared until Inauguration Day. In the general election campaign, he used to say he was "pro union," noting his grandfather's union membership.

After he took office, the attacks and the anti-union ideas flowed freely. Unions should not collect "fair-share" fees from government workers who don't belong to the union. Unions shouldn't be allowed to make campaign donations, he said. The state should have "right-to-work" zones where local governments could decide whether union fees are collected and whether to pay prevailing wage rates. Rauner traveled to several downstate and suburban communities early on and then pushed mayors and councils to endorse his anti-union ideas to pressure super-majority Democratic lawmakers to go along. Every plan he's offered since May has had language that alters collective bargaining or prevailing wage rules.

In a state that has voted more Democratic blue in recent presidential election years, the anti-union aspects of the governor's Turnaround Tour largely failed. After all, Democratic super majorities still were elected along with Rauner last November. Of course, they were elected from a map Democrats drew and with campaign money and workers that largely came from unions.

Continue reading at Reboot Illinois to see why Rauner's union pushbacks failed, including because of high union membership in the state.

Rauner has said he would be more willing to talk about passing a budget if legislative Democrats were more willing to talk about these union deals. But going a long time with no legal budget (even if 80 percent of spending is still being carried out like normal) still isn't good for the state. Mark Fitton of the Illinois News Network explains that "lawyers for the developmentally disabled, care providers and the state are to meet in federal court Tuesday morning over whether the state is meetings its obligations under consent degree rising from a 2005 lawsuit" as the budget stalemate drags on. Get the whole story at Reboot Illinois.

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12 of Illinois' Most Politically Corrupt 21st Century Women

Tue, 2015-08-11 08:01
"Old boys network" is a term used to describe the culture that allows political corruption to thrive. According to a study from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, this shorthand term does not accurately reflect the female gender.

"Unsupervised, Ensnared, Relational, and Private: A Typology of Illinois' Corrupt Women" takes a look at the women of Illinois who have been convicted for abusing their official powers. It challenges the notion that "female public officials have a deterrent effect on corruption" and examines the methods and motivations most common among female officials who have been convicted.

Author Ryan Ceresola finds four common themes in the female officials and their crimes.

  1. Accesses public resources with little to no supervision

  2. Collaborates with others in some misdeed

  3. Commits corrupt acts with family members, specifically spouses or boyfriends

  4. Uses corrupt gains for personal, rather than career-advancing, reasons.

With this analysis, I suggest that simply changing the gendered composition of a political body will not prevent corruption, and in fact, may encourage different types of corruption such as nepotism or embezzlement used for personal reasons. Instead, I argue that:

  1. Greater representations of women in political bodies will have little to no effect on reducing overall systemic corruption, without a change to the system itself.

  2. Political bodies in Illinois and elsewhere should ensure that their government officials are supervised, and are independently audited by outside investigative agencies.

  3. A series of checks and balances should be put into place to discover corruption earlier and more often, especially in organizations where public money is transferred between accounts.

With that in mind, here is a look at 12 of the 20 most recent cases involving women who were part of the culture of political corruption in Illinois.

Miriam Santos--2000

Position: Chicago city treasurer

Crime: Mail fraud, extortion, though the extortion conviction was overturned

Sentence: 40 months in federal prison

Betty Loren-Maltese--2002

Position: Cicero town president

Crime: Racketeering, wire fraud, mail fraud

Sentence: Eight years in prison

Janet Thomas--2004

Position: Harvey School District president

Crime: Falsifying documents

Sentence: 180 days in jail

Patricia Bailey--2005

Position:  State representative from the South Side of Chicago, Cook County probation officer

Crime: Perjury and forgery (election fraud)

Sentence: Two years of probation

Arenda Troutman--2008

Position: Chicago 20th Ward alderman

Crime: Bribery

Sentence: Four years in prison

Sharon Hyde--2011

Position: Island Lake director of village-run Creative Playtime Preschool

Crime: Falsifying documents

Sentence: $629 court costs fine

Rita Crundwell--2012

Position: Dixon city treasurer

Crime: Embezzlement

Sentence: 19 years and seven months in prison

Sara Glashagel--2012

Position: Antioch teacher

Crime: Computer tampering

Sentence: One year of probation and 80 hours of community service

Sandi Jackson--2013

Position: Chicago City Council member

Crime: Filing false tax returns

Sentence: One year in prison

Constance Howard--2013

Position: State representative from Winnebago County

Crime: Mail fraud

Sentence: Up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors recommended six to 18 months

Gwendolyn Robinson--2013

Position: Executive director of the Maywood Housing Authority in Chicago

Crime: Theft and official misconduct

Sentence: 10 years in Illinois state prison

Nancy Dobrowski--2014

Position: Burnham village clerk

Crime: Embezzlement, wire fraud, filing false tax returns

Sentence: 18 months in federal prison

To see the full list of 20 politically corrupt Illinois women (including Linda Hudson, whose crime was wire fraud and theft), as well as the full study on women and corruption, check out Reboot Illinois.

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The Most Spectacular Glamping Destinations in the U.S.

Mon, 2015-08-10 15:45
No one is really sure where the term "glamping" first originated, but what's mostly incontestable is that this luxurious and lavish style of camping is growing in popularity at a seemingly exponential rate.

Click Here to see the Complete List of America's Most Spectacular Glamping Destinations

According to Bare Bones Living blogger Mindy Burton, if you really want to get specific, glamping could actually date all the way back to the Turkish Ottomans who "would set up extravagant tent cities as a mobile palace for the sultan."

These days, the trend is essentially rooted in the same idea, only we're not setting out to conquer new lands, we just want to enjoy an outdoorsy getaway without having to forgo comforting amenities like mattresses, bathrooms and, in some cases, even kitchens and gourmet meals.

Yes, depending on which destination you choose to visit, glamping can get that glamorous. On the other end of the spectrum, though, there are experiences that provide a little less luxury and a lot more wildernesses; glamping has a pretty broad spectrum.

From seriously chic to casually rustic, here's a look at some of the most spectacular glamping destinations in America.

Click Here to see the Original Story on The Active Times

- Katie Rosenbrock, The Active Times

More Content from The Active Times:
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Woman Claims She Had Miscarriage After Cop Used Stun Gun Against Her

Mon, 2015-08-10 13:36

An African-American woman is suing the city of Chicago, saying she had a miscarriage after a white police officer with a record of misconduct unfairly used a stun gun on her.

Elaina Turner and her fiancé, Ulysses Green, filed a civil rights lawsuit on July 31 against the city and Officers Patrick Kelly, Jeffrey Weber and James Kubick, stemming from an altercation with police outside of the couple's house two years ago. The suit claims that Turner was wrongly arrested, that officers used excessive force that lead to her miscarriage and that the city routinely engages in the “concealment and suppression of the existence of police officer misconduct.”   

Turner and Green's allegations echo broader complaints about systemic problems in Chicago's police department. The couple and their attorney, Jeffrey Granich, are challenging the continued employment of an officer with a questionable track record, as well as what they see as a “code of silence” that prevents the city from handling officer wrongdoing appropriately.

The lawsuit says that a number of officers came to Turner and Green's home on the afternoon of Aug. 2, 2013, to tow Green's van. The couple maintains there was no legitimate reason for the tow, and they began arguing with the officers about why the car was being taken. Turner, who was several weeks pregnant at the time, started filming the interaction on her phone. She asked to retrieve three of her children's car seats and Green’s work boots and badge from the vehicle before they towed it, and was told she could not. Nonetheless, she approached the car, she says, and one of the officers slapped the phone out of her hands. When she bent down to pick it up, he grabbed her wrist.

“I pulled my hands back with my hands facing him, both of my hands to him, like, ‘Officer, please don’t touch me, I’m not touching you, and I’m not doing anything, and I’m not going to approach the vehicle,’” Turner said. “And then I hear him say, ‘tase her.’”

Turner said Kelly used his stun gun on her three times, hitting her stomach, leg and arm. She claims the officer used the weapon while she was standing and again after she was on the ground.

“I’m screaming in excruciating pain, and I’m screaming, like, you know, what is going on? Like what am I being tased for, and I’m not even doing anything,” Turner continued. “My kids on the porch, they’re screaming, everybody outside, they’re looking like, what are you tasing her for, like, that’s a pregnant lady.’” 

Turner was arrested for resisting or obstructing, according to the lawsuit. She was taken to a hospital and spent the night in jail. Less than a week later, she says, she went to the hospital for heavy bleeding and was told she had miscarried. The lawsuit also notes that Green was charged twelve days later with aggravated assault on an officer.

A police department spokeswoman declined to comment on the suit. John Holden, director of public affairs for Chicago’s law department, said the city had not been served with Turner and Green’s lawsuit and could not comment.

Turner says she no longer has the video she shot before her arrest. Her criminal case is still pending. 

While fighting Turner's criminal charges, Granich became aware of past claims of misconduct against Kelly. In 2010, the officer was reportedly arrested for assault of a police sergeant, according to an unrelated lawsuit filed by the family of Kelly's friend, Michael LaPorta. The family claims Kelly's service weapon discharged and struck LaPorta in the back of the head while the two men were at Kelly's house after a night of drinking. Kelly claimed LaPorta, who is now permanently injured, shot himself. When a sergeant responded to the shooting, Kelly reportedly swung his arms at her, leading to his arrest.

Those charges were dismissed, according to the LaPorta family's suit, which is ongoing. Turner's suit indicates that Kelly later received a 60-day suspension, though that detail is not confirmed in the LaPorta suit.

Kelly is also one of several officers accused of use of force and false arrest in an open federal lawsuit, and was accused of false arrest in another lawsuit that was settled in 2009. 

Turner said it was "chilling" to learn of the numerous allegations against an officer who patrols her neighborhood.

“You’re a police officer [meant] to protect and serve people; you have a record longer than the people you are arresting,” Turner said. “I’m scared for my life because I feel like you can do anything to me and they’re going to believe you over me.”

The police department declined to comment on Kelly's record.

The suit accuses the city of Chicago of “failing to adequately punish, discipline, investigate, or hold accountable prior instances [of] misconduct … thereby leading Chicago Police Officers (like Kelly and Weber) to believe their actions will never be scrutinized; and thereby directly encouraging future abuses such as those suffered by the Plaintiffs.” 

In addition, the lawsuit finds fault with the Independent Police Review Authority, which is tasked with looking into misconduct complaints. The IPRA took on-camera statements from Turner and Green two days after Turner’s arrest. 

The lawsuit claims that as of April, IPRA had not attempted to contact the involved officers.

IPRA spokesman Larry Merritt declined to comment on the lawsuit or on the pending investigation.

He noted, however, that each case is different and that there are no specific standards for the length of investigations or for when accused officers are contacted.

“Our main focus is to reach the proper conclusion and the proper findings, so it’s [about doing] it in a fair, thorough manner. It’s not about time,” Merritt said. 

IPRA was formed in 2007 amid backlash to poor handling of misconduct complaints. In the years since, the agency has been accused of long delays, failing to complete investigations and sustaining few complaints.  

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For Turner, a mother of nine, the most difficult thing about her arrest has been its effect on her kids, who she says watched her get “tased in the street like [she’s] an animal.”

“When they see officers, police cars, they automatically think they’re coming to get me,” Turner said. “I don’t want that to affect them and always be scared or always feel negative about police when they see them, because not everybody is like that.”

Woman Claims Asking Cop To Get Kids’ Car Seats Got Her Tased


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Bruce 'Almighty' Rauner

Mon, 2015-08-10 12:06
Governor Bruce Rauner is living up to his campaign promise as it relates to Shaking Up Springfield. However, the only people being hurt are the poor and working class of Illinois. This isn't a good sign of change in Springfield because the majority of political leaders don't agree with the governor's proposed agenda. The state budget is currently held up along with many programs that rely on state funding to operate.

Why hurt the very people that voted for change in your attempt to turn the state around?

There appears to be an epic battle going on with House Speaker Michael Madigan and the governor. Some politicians don't understanding how it feels to be poor and in need of resources. Single mothers, infants, mentally ill people, the elderly, and countless other people need their services now.

This message appears to be falling on deaf ears just like an old African Proverb which reads, "When the Elephants Fight it is the Grass Suffers." That's what we are dealing with right now in Springfield. Governor Rauner has big money, but Madigan has allies and seniority on his side. Therefore, the governor should take a page out of history and lay out the process of working together to help end this stalemate. My way or the highway will not work here in Illinois. Money alone does not influence some decision makers. It's all about control and maintaining power. House Speaker Mike Madigan has money and power. Bruce "Almighty" Rauner's money bought him the election, but not the solution for our great state.

If no one is willing to bend or let go, then the state will face one of the worst crisis in the history of Illinois. This crisis will be called "The Battle of the Ego's that Broke Illinois." Hopefully, select leaders can get through to both sides and help make since of this madness. For example, term limits sounds good. But what state official would actually place a limit on their staying in office?

This would represent a new start for career politicians that don't plan on changing their occupation. Sooner or later reality will set in for the newly elected governor. Springfield has been operating with an unbalanced budget for many years under the previous administration. What role did the poor and working class people play in the unbalanced budget ordeal? Political leaders have to accept the fact that the decisions they make today can come back to haunt them in the future. When you have big money it makes one believe that they are above everybody else.

The deck is stacked against Bruce "Almighty" Rauner. It's like playing chess when Mike Madigan has all of his chess pieces on the board and Bruce only has a few pawns left to fight off the King, Queen, and the supporting cast called the General Assembly. Time to grow up and face the music because the majority of political leaders in Illinois dance to a different tune called the Madigan Dynasty. Only time will tell if Governor Rauner has what it takes to Shake Up Springfield.

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