WBEZ | News http://www.wbez.org/news Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Is that the Loch Michigan Monster lurking off Fullerton Beach? http://www.wbez.org/news/loch-michigan-monster-lurking-fullerton-beach-111903 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/lake island.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Folks cruising along north Lake Shore Drive in recent days may have thought they discovered a new island in the water just off Fullerton Avenue. What they actually saw, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, was a barge holding materials for the new 5.8 acre <a href="http://chicago.curbed.com/archives/2014/10/14/nearly-6-acres-of-new-green-space-coming-soon-to-lakefront.php">Fullerton Revetment project.</a></p><p>The project, which broke ground last October, is expected to stretch 1,700 feet along the lake. It aims to reinforce the shoreline while relieving some of the congestion on the bike and running paths around the Theater on the Lake building.</p><p>Park District officials say they expect the Revetment to be finished by summer 2016.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/loch-michigan-monster-lurking-fullerton-beach-111903 Cardinal Francis George helped 'make his people holy' http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/cardinal-francis-george-helped-make-his-people-holy-111900 <p><p><em>Updated with visitation and funeral arrangements at 9:47 p.m.</em></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.archchicago.org%2FCardinal%2FBiography.aspx&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEGx5I7_Ml3Zb-0rkLV73BOMh_BXg">Cardinal Francis George</a>, who stepped down from his post late last year to fight cancer for the third time, died at home on Friday. He was 78.</p><p>George was the leader of 2.2 million Roman Catholics in Lake and Cook Counties for more than 17 years. He retired in November 2014 due to his health.</p><p>When asked at the time about his legacy, George told WBEZ:</p><p>&ldquo;I just hope people remember I tried to be a good bishop. It is administrative. You have to take care of the institutions that protect the mission. What I discover now in many letters is truly touching because people write and tell me, &lsquo;You don&rsquo;t remember me, but 10 years ago or five years ago, I was transformed (or helped anyway spiritually) by something you said or you did.&rsquo; And when I hear that, I realize the Holy Spirit is making use of me to make his people holy. And that&rsquo;s all the legacy I want. It&rsquo;s an unknown legacy. It has to be because it&rsquo;s invisible. But if you touch people, your work lasts forever.&rdquo;</p><p>George was the first Chicago native to become archbishop here. But he gained renown far beyond the Chicago region.</p><p>As former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, George led high-profile fights against same-sex marriage and the Obamacare contraception mandate. He was internationally known as an advocate for religious liberty.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve always been able to fall back on the law to protect us,&rdquo; George said. &ldquo;Now we feel it&rsquo;s the law that&rsquo;s writing us out of the American consensus, and it&rsquo;s a huge cultural problem.&rdquo;</p><p>He often said he viewed things as either gospel truth, or not.</p><p>&ldquo;Jesus didn&rsquo;t die on the cross so you could believe anything you want to. There is a faith. You can say, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m Catholic but I don&rsquo;t believe this, I don&rsquo;t believe that.&rsquo; Well, you&rsquo;ve created your own church,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That stance won him many fans, including Mary Anne Hackett, who heads the conservative <a href="http://catholiccitizens.org/">Catholic Citizens of Illinois</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;What he tried to do was restore the church in Chicago to what the church teaches about various things,&rdquo; Hackett said. &ldquo;You could call that conservative, I would call that Catholic.&rdquo;</p><p>But George&rsquo;s tenure wasn&rsquo;t without controversy. Supporters and critics alike described him as a reserved but kind man with keen intelligence and a quick wit.</p><p>They shared Hackett&rsquo;s respect for how he publicly endured both cancer and complications from polio, which he&rsquo;d contracted as a teen.</p><p>&ldquo;I was impressed that during all the time that he&rsquo;s been fighting these cancers, he&rsquo;s had an unbelievably busy schedule,&rdquo; Hackett said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really been admirable, and it&rsquo;s been a wonderful example to all of us how he has withstood this suffering and done his duty.&rdquo;</p><p>While George&rsquo;s strict interpretation of church doctrine won praise from many, it drew criticism from others.</p><p>&ldquo;Certainly if you&rsquo;re a progressive Catholic, your view of him was tainted by his stance on things,&rdquo; said Linda Pieczynski. She&rsquo;s the long-time former spokesperson and president of <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fcta-usa.org%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNH4W8mFnqT1vzViU7zOfyXAS2oFPg">Call to Action</a>, a national group of progressive Catholics based in Chicago. She&rsquo;s active in Dignity USA, which supports LGBT rights in the church.</p><p>&ldquo;But I do think he was a good man,&rdquo; Pieczynski said. &ldquo;I don&#39;t think we harbor any anger toward him as an individual. I think we recognize he was a product of his time and upbringing and being in a very isolated clerical culture. It would be surprising if he had been more open about dialoguing with people.&rdquo;</p><p>She lauded George&rsquo;s stances on immigration reform and helping the poor. But she said his opposition to same-sex marriage and women in church leadership could be &ldquo;tone-deaf.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;He just did not seem to want to engage in a dialogue about these types of issues,&rdquo; Pieczynski said. &ldquo;It was very dogmatic &mdash; this is what the church said, this is what it&rsquo;s always going to say and it&rsquo;s going to be that way forever. And of course, that&rsquo;s not true. Church teachings evolve.&rdquo;</p><p>The cardinal <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2F2010%2F04%2F16%2Frev-michael-pfleger-apolo_n_540220.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFXZ_AYI3npP0b4rzRnC_r0R8eHZw">asked some priests</a> who openly supported women&rsquo;s ordination - a stance against church teachings &mdash; to apologize.</p><p>In 2011, <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Farticles.chicagotribune.com%2F2012-01-06%2Fnews%2Fchi-cardinal-george-apologizes-for-linking-pride-parade-to-kkk-20120106_1_pride-parade-equality-illinois-lesbian&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEpHm1xfvBuztgiBpC-cCRDdQo4WA">he likened gay Pride Parade organizers</a> to &ldquo;something like the Ku Klux Klan&rdquo; when he feared the parade route would disrupt mass at a local church. He later apologized for the remark.</p><p>Dignity Chicago spokesperson Chris Pett said those remarks were hurtful and alienating for LGBT people and their families.</p><p>&ldquo;In some ways he tried to provide ministries to LGBT Catholics. Leadership from Dignity met with him, and we were always treated with respect and enjoyed his intelligence and wit,&rdquo; Pett said. &ldquo;But like many church leaders, his opposition to marriage equality put the church on the wrong side of history, and he made many Catholics, straight and gay, question whether they were really welcome in the church.&rdquo;</p><p>Pieczynski reserved her sharpest criticism for George&rsquo;s handling of the priest sex abuse crisis.</p><p>On the one hand, the cardinal was credited with leading a delegation to press the Vatican on a zero tolerance policy for priest sex abuse, which led to a series of reforms in 2002. And a review of thousands of pages of church records showed he did more than his predecessors to help victims and report abusers to police and prosecutors, rather than just moving credibly accused priests around to different parishes. After the 2002 reforms passed, George moved to pull numerous priests from active ministry and to defrock some of them.</p><p>But he still let some priests <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.andersonadvocates.com%2FArchdiocese-of-Chicago-Documents.aspx&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEijX6uWoyVpuMszQE6HmY1VH5Ggw">stay in their positions despite abuse allegations, and sometimes even after the church review board recommended their removal</a>. Most notably, Pieczynski said, he didn&rsquo;t act quickly enough to get rid of Daniel McCormack, who molested numerous boys before being arrested and defrocked.</p><p>&ldquo;I really thought he got it, which is why is was such a disappointment when he didn&rsquo;t follow his own rules in terms of removing Father McCormack,&rdquo; Pieczynski said. &ldquo;And that was a real tragedy, a Shakespearean tragedy, in terms of here was a person who knew better.&rdquo;</p><p>George said he was &ldquo;saddened by my own failure, very much so.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, by far, the most difficult challenge has been the terrible fallout from the sexual abuse of children by some priests,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I pray for victims, I&rsquo;m concerned as we try to accommodate victims and help them. That&rsquo;s been the overwhelming weight in a sense that has stayed with me.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/george%20and%20cupich.jpg" style="height: 403px; width: 620px;" title="Cardinal George welcomes Bishop Blase Cupich as the 9th Archbishop of Chicago. (Twitter/CardinalFGeorge)" /></div></div><p>Near the end of his tenure, the cardinal reflected on his accomplishments and his regrets.</p><p>&ldquo;I regret very much mistakes that were made, particularly if people were hurt. I regret that I tried sometimes to listen but didn&rsquo;t succeed either in understanding or agreeing, and I couldn&rsquo;t, I didn&rsquo;t think sometimes. I regret a certain bitterness that you find occasionally in people,&rdquo; he said, adding he also was encouraged by all the good and holy people he met at various parishes.</p><p>George gained national and international prominence for his defense of religious liberty and his warnings about the dangers of growing secularism.</p><p>&quot;I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history,&quot; <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.catholicnewworld.com%2Fcnwonline%2F2012%2F1021%2Fcardinal.aspx&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFd3Lfvm2tOP3QKccApGDcXvpZUjQ">he famously said</a>,</p><p>Locally, he steered the Archdiocese through the Recession, was a staunch supporter of Catholic schools, and worked to improve the seminary, lay ministry and catechismal programs &mdash; anything, he said, that affected people.</p><p>George was honored by the Jewish and Muslim communities for working to improve dialogue with them.</p><p>He also served as chancellor of <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.catholicextension.org%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFI6FXyXVY3KXtLanGjepDsEP2xrg">Catholic Extension</a>, a national group that sends funds and other resources to poor Catholic communities.</p><p>Catholic Extension President Father Jack Wall, the longtime former pastor of Old St. Patrick&rsquo;s Church, called George a &ldquo;man of deep faith, of great wisdom,&rdquo; and said George had a &ldquo;missionary heart&rdquo; in his desire to help the poor.</p><p>&ldquo;Cardinal George was not a very demonstrative person in terms of his emotions but at the level of conviction he was very, very strong,&rdquo; Wall said, pointing to George&rsquo;s correspondence and meetings with many of his fellow cancer patients. &ldquo;Many of (his) acts of kindness and compassion were felt on a really very personal level.&rdquo;</p><p>Catholic Theological Union President Emeritus Father Donald Senior described George as deeply religious, brilliant, articulate and fearless about holding his positions.</p><p>&ldquo;Something I admired greatly in him, he was very direct. What you saw was what you got,&rdquo; Father Senior said. Even though some found that trait difficult, Senior said, that clarity of view made George a touchstone for Catholics.</p><p>The cardinal himself said he never expected to become a bishop.</p><p>George first felt a pull toward the priesthood while receiving his first communion. Then polio struck when he was 13, and Quigley Preparatory Seminary turned him away. He found another religious school downstate and later joined that order, the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oblatesusa.org%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFy3zSlnpXo1NeOtakoVf5RaN0glA">Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate</a>.</p><p>George started as a theologian, earning master&rsquo;s and doctorates in both philosophy and theology. He quickly rose through the ranks of his order before being appointed bishop of Yakima, Wash., and then Portland, Oregon. Then he returned home to Chicago as archbishop.</p><p>&ldquo;Many times I heard Cardinal George say he wanted to be a pastor, but his job prevented it, and I think that with all the administrative things at times kept him from being just a priest and the pastor that he sort of yearned to be,&rdquo; Father Senior said.</p><p>George had hoped to spend his retirement speaking and writing, but mostly focusing on doing pastoral work at local parishes like hearing confessions.</p><p>But the cancer didn&rsquo;t leave him much time.</p><p>Still, Father Senior said, George accepted those losses with serenity.</p><p>&ldquo;The skill of living is to live as if you&rsquo;re going to die tomorrow and still do your job,&rdquo; the cardinal said. &ldquo;In a sense prayer does that. You live for a while in a moment where you&rsquo;re not in charge, you&rsquo;re just at God&rsquo;s disposition. And as long as that&rsquo;s the case, then, well, I don&rsquo;t want to die tomorrow, but if I did, I&rsquo;m sure the Lord would still be providential in his care of the Earth. It doesn&rsquo;t depend on me.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes covers religion and culture for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p><p><br /><strong>Schedule of Services and Public Visitation</strong><br /><em>All services, including public visitation and the Funeral Mass, will take place at Holy Name Cathedral (<a href="http://holynamecathedral.org/" target="_blank">http://holynamecathedral.org/</a>), State and Superior Streets in Chicago. <em>Immediately following the Funeral Mass, the Committal Service will take place at All Saints Cemetery<em><em>, 700 North River Road in Des Plaines.</em></em> <em>(<a href="http://www.catholiccemeterieschicago.org/locations.php?cem=2" target="_blank">http://www.catholiccemeterieschicago.org/locations.php?cem=2</a>). </em>Per the Cardinal&rsquo;s wishes, he will be buried in the George family plot. (Open to the Public)</em><br /><br />Tuesday, April 21<br />1 p.m.&nbsp; Holy Name Cathedral Doors Open<br />2 p.m.&nbsp; Rite of Reception (Open to the Public)<br />2:30 to 6:30 p.m.&nbsp; Visitation (Open to the Public)<br />7:30 p.m.&nbsp; Prayer Vigil for Priests and Seminarians (Attendance by Ticket Only)<br />9 to 11 p.m.&nbsp; Visitation (Open to the Public)<br />11 p.m.&nbsp; Holy Name Cathedral Doors Close<br /><br />Wednesday, April 22<br />7 to 9:30 a.m.&nbsp; Visitation (Open to the Public)<br />10:30 a.m.&nbsp; Interfaith Service (Open to the Public)<br />11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.&nbsp; Visitation (Open to the Public)<br />7:30 p.m.&nbsp; Prayer Vigil for Women and Men Religious, Deacons and their Wives (Attendance by Ticket Only)<br /><br />9 p.m.&nbsp; Wednesday, April 22 until 7:30 a.m. Thursday, April 23<br />Visitation and All Night Vigil Conducted by Lay Ecclesial Movements (Open to the Public)<br /><br />Thursday, April 23<br />7:30 a.m.&nbsp; Prayer Service (Open to the Public)<br />8 a.m.&nbsp; Holy Name Cathedral Closed for Funeral Mass Preparation<br />11 a.m.&nbsp; Holy Name Cathedral Doors Open for Funeral Mass (Attendance by Ticket Only)<br />12 p.m.&nbsp; Funeral Mass (Attendance by Ticket Only)<br /><br />In lieu of flowers, donations to the Cardinal&rsquo;s favorite charities will be appreciated -- Priests Retirement and Mutual Aid Association (PRMAA) (<a href="https://www.givecentral.org/location/91" target="_blank">https://www.givecentral.org/location/91</a>) or To Teach Who Christ Is (<a href="https://givecentral.org/ttwci/" target="_blank">https://givecentral.org/ttwci/</a>), a campaign to support scholarships for students in Catholic Schools.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/cardinal-francis-george-helped-make-his-people-holy-111900 Chicago schools chief requests temporary leave amid probe http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-chief-requests-temporary-leave-amid-probe-111899 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/barbarabyrdbennett_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett requested a leave of absence Friday amid a federal investigation over a $20.5 million no-bid contract the district awarded to a training academy where she once worked as a consultant, according to her attorney.</p><p>In a statement this afternoon, Board President David Vitale said said Bryd-Bennett is taking the leave in &quot;light of the ongoing federal investigation and its impact on her ability to effectively lead Chicago Public Schools....&quot;</p><p>&quot;Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz is taking the responsibilities of the chief executive officer while Bryd-Bennett is on leave,&quot; Vitale also announced.&nbsp;</p><p>A statement from the mayor&#39;s city hall office in response to the resignation read: &quot;Mayor Emanuel supports today&rsquo;s actions by Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the Board of Education so that the focus of our teachers, principals and parents can remain on the nearly 400,000 students who depend on the district for a quality education. Though there have been no formal allegations, the Mayor has zero tolerance for any type of misconduct from public officials and welcomes today&rsquo;s decision to help ensure this issue does not distract from the incredibly important work happening in our neighborhood public schools.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p>The schools chief &mdash; chosen by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the post in 2012 &mdash; requested the leave effective April 20, according to Chicago lawyer Michael Scudder, whom Byrd-Bennett has hired.</p><p>&quot;In light of the attention given to my position as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, I believe that my continuing as CEO at this time would be a distraction,&quot; she wrote in a letter sent to Chicago Board of Education members on Friday. &quot;Although this is a very difficult decision for me personally, it is one I believe is in the best interests of the children of CPS that I am so fortunate to serve.&quot;</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey also released a statement on the resignation, including that &ldquo;&ldquo;Barbara (Bryd-Bennett) will be most remembered as the person who was brought in to sell the mayor&rsquo;s school closing plan. While it is our understanding that she is taking a leave of absence due to her potential inability to lead the district during the investigation into her connection to SUPES, she is not the only individual who may be at fault for any wrongdoing. Board president David Vitale was the architect of a financial deal that has cost the district hundreds of millions of dollars, and no one has asked for him to take a leave of absence. Board member Deborah Quazzo has received millions in profits from her private investments in companies with CPS contracts, and no one has asked for her to take a leave of absence either.&quot;</p><p>Byrd-Bennett, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, directed requests for comment to her attorney.</p><p>The longtime educator with ties to school systems in New York, Detroit and Cleveland, also worked as a consultant for SUPES Academy in suburban Chicago before coming to CPS, according to published reports. The group trains principals.</p><p>Emanuel and Board of Education President David Vitale confirmed earlier this week CPS was being investigated by federal officials, but didn&#39;t provide details. A spokesman for SUPES Academy in suburban Chicago said it has turned over records and files to federal investigators.</p><p>CPS had entered an agreement with SUPES in 2012, but according to the Chicago Tribune, the two sides agreed to replace that contract with another one. The following year, school officials approved a &quot;leadership development services agreement&quot; for up to $20.5 million. The agreement was approved by the board.</p><p>More than a year ago, Catalyst Chicago, a news organization focusing on education, said an investigation was being conducted by the CPS inspector general. Inspector General James Sullivan, who resigned last year, confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that there was an investigation of the contract. He didn&#39;t provide further details.</p><p>The news follows a hard-fought re-election battle for Emanuel, who spent much of the time on the campaign trail defending controversial schools decisions and his choice of Byrd-Bennett. Among the most scrutinized moves was a 2013 push to close dozens of neighborhood schools. During the campaign, Emanuel said it was a tough, but necessary decision to improve school achievement and he was proud of his choice of Byrd-Bennett.</p></p> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-chief-requests-temporary-leave-amid-probe-111899 Rauner's first 100 days: The politics of negotiating a budget http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-politics-negotiating-budget-111898 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raunersots02042015_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>During his first 100 days in office as Illinois governor, Bruce Rauner has proposed big financial cuts to Illinois universities, social services and some health care programs. We wanted to better understand the Republican politicians&rsquo; playbook when it comes to negotiations as Statehouse leaders turn their attention on spending more than $30 billion next year.</p><p>Senate Democrats have held hearings about how those cuts could affect, say, disabled citizens who rely on state aid for services. So, picture a hearing room that&rsquo;s packed full of people who have physical handicaps, parents who rely on daycare and the people who run agencies helping them.</p><p>Democrats might&rsquo;ve seen the cuts as the state government being heartless by reducing services to the people in the room. But Republican State Senator Matt Murphy saw it as part of negotiations and took the hearing to mean something else entirely. His comments caused an uneasy shift in the tone among the crowd.</p><p>&ldquo;To be perfectly clear, so everybody in this room understands why this problem hasn&rsquo;t been solved yet, (that) is because the Senate Democratic caucus wants to leverage this issue and push this debt into next year and they&rsquo;re using you as political pawns in the process,&rdquo; Murphy said to people at the hearing. &ldquo;I mean, somebody&rsquo;s got to speak the truth in this room.&rdquo;</p><p>Maybe you see the Democrats who are in the majority as protectors of government services. Or, maybe you agree that they are cynically using people for their own political priorities, and not spending taxpayer money effectively. Or maybe you think it&rsquo;s a combination of the two.</p><p>Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich used to make the case for his budget priorities by often talking about &ldquo;no growth&rdquo; budgets, or cuts to programs for children. And Republicans often opposed Democratic budgets saying spending was out of control.</p><p>The point is, budget negotiations may be seen as a game of chess, but they have very real consequences.</p><p>This year, there&rsquo;s a new entity in the negotiating room, and some of those tried-and-true tactics are shifting.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re still feeling each other out,&rdquo; said former House Republican leader Tom Cross. &ldquo;I guess you&rsquo;d say they&rsquo;ve probably gotten to know each other. Now they&rsquo;re venturing a new road and trying to balance a budget with limited resources.&rdquo;</p><p>As the top House Republican, he was in the room to negotiate budgets with the Democrats who previously had majority control of state government. He said there was going to be posturing and leveraging in any negotiation, but right now, people are just trying to figure out Gov. Rauner, who&rsquo;s an unknown entity as a first-time office-holder.</p><p>Lee Daniels is another former House Republican leader, who also served as Speaker of the House for one term in the 1990s during a time when his own party controlled state government. He said even when negotiating a spending plan with members of his own party, there was still drama.</p><p>&ldquo;We all fought like cats and dogs as we should in a democracy in the legislative process. But at the end of the day, the people that I worked with when I was there, we understood that we had to come together in the end, we had to balance the budget,&rdquo; Daniels said.</p><p>Daniels also made the point that negotiations on the budget with the governor and the Democrats didn&rsquo;t mean his job was done. He then had to go sell the plan to his own fellow Republicans. If they weren&rsquo;t on board, he&rsquo;d have to negotiate with them to get enough votes to pass the whole thing.</p><p>Charlie Wheeler, a longtime Statehouse observer and political science professor at the University of Illinois-Springfield said putting the necessary votes on a negotiated budget can be tricky because leaders want to remain in power. And the way they keep that power is by protecting members of their own party, who may get asked to vote for unpopular ideas. So those who won&rsquo;t have serious opponents vote yes and those who typically have hard-fought elections don&rsquo;t have to.</p><p>&ldquo;It may sound cynical but I think it&rsquo;s reality. Particularly in this day and age when we have such polarized campaigns,&rdquo; Wheeler said.</p><p>But even as budget negotiations begin and the Democrats who have a majority of lawmakers in the Statehouse start to see Rauner&rsquo;s priorities on paper, Rauner has a slightly different viewpoint on the budget than previous administrations.</p><p>&ldquo;It ain&rsquo;t that hard to balance the budget,&rdquo; Rauner told a crowd recently.</p><p>The governor has said he&rsquo;s not focused on negotiating the budget just yet because - as he puts it - it&rsquo;s rather easy.</p><p>Instead, Rauner is first going after something he says is more difficult: something he calls making structural changes to government, or eliminating conflicts of interest.</p><p>But opponents have another name for it: Union-busting.</p><p>So how is Rauner doing on that front?</p><p>We&rsquo;ll have more on that next week - as we continue to look at Governor Rauner&rsquo;s first 100 days in office.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-politics-negotiating-budget-111898 Settlement in NCAA head injury lawsuit gets first hearing http://www.wbez.org/news/settlement-ncaa-head-injury-lawsuit-gets-first-hearing-111896 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/concussion.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; A U.S judge will soon get his first chance to scrutinize a reworked deal in a class-action, head-injury lawsuit against the NCAA.</p><p>A Friday hearing in Chicago follows Judge John Lee&#39;s December rejection of the first proposed settlement.</p><p>The second isn&#39;t dramatically different.</p><p>It also requires the NCAA to create a $70 million medical fund to test current and former athletes in contact and noncontact sports for brain trauma. And like the first, it would toughen return-to-play rules after a concussion.</p><p>Lee complained the first agreement was murky in places, and the new settlement seeks to provide clarity. That includes new evidence to address Lee&#39;s concern that the $70 million for testing won&#39;t be enough.</p><p>He may take several weeks before giving a thumbs-up or down to the new proposal.</p></p> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 09:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/settlement-ncaa-head-injury-lawsuit-gets-first-hearing-111896 CPS, training academy cooperating in federal investigation of district http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-training-academy-cooperating-federal-investigation-district-111891 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/barbarabyrdbennett.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated April 16, 4:12 p.m.</em></p><p>A former employer of Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s hand-picked chief of Chicago schools &mdash; a company that was awarded a no-bid contract of up to $20.5 million with the nation&#39;s third-largest district &mdash; said it is cooperating with federal authorities investigating the district.</p><p>SUPES Academy in suburban Chicago, which trains principals, said it has handed over records and files to federal investigators.</p><p>Officials have said very little about the probe, with the Chicago Public Schools and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett declining to comment beyond a news release issued by the district and a statement by Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale saying he was made aware of the investigation this week. Emanuel said he had little information and did not even know the &quot;target&quot; of the investigation. And on Thursday, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said he did not know any details about the investigation.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett, a longtime educator in New York, Detroit and Cleveland &mdash; where she was the school district&#39;s CEO for seven years &mdash; also worked as consultant for SUPES, according to published reports.</p><p>After coming to Chicago as a consultant for the CPS in April 2012, Byrd-Bennett was appointed CEO in October of that year by the mayor.</p><p>The CPS had entered an agreement with SUPES in 2012, but according to the Chicago Tribune, the two sides agreed to replace that contract with a new one. In 2013, the district approved a &quot;leadership development services agreement&quot; for up to $20.5 million. The agreement was approved by the Board of Education and signed by Vitale in June of that year.</p><p>More than a year ago, Catalyst Chicago, a news organization that focuses on education, said a probe was being conducted by the CPS inspector general. Inspector General James Sullivan, who resigned last year, confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that there was an investigation of the contract, but would not elaborate.</p><p>At a news briefing after Wednesday&#39;s City Council, Emanuel said he has talked only briefly to Byrd-Bennett when she told him earlier in the week that federal authorities were &quot;looking at a matter at CPS&quot; and said that he had not at that point talked to her further.</p><p>When he was pressed about whether he had confidence in Byrd-Bennett, whose contract expires at the end of June, Emanuel said, &quot;I can&#39;t answer. I don&#39;t even know who they are looking at.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-training-academy-cooperating-federal-investigation-district-111891 Emergency room visits for mental health skyrocket in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/emergency-room-visits-mental-health-skyrocket-chicago-111890 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ambulance_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s no secret that both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois have major budget problems. Both governments have made cuts to services in recent years. But there is evidence that shrinking mental health services could actually cost money.</p><p>Heather Linehan is a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department. She is tall, with strong arms and gray hair. She has the kind of presence that is gentle, but also seems to say, you probably shouldn&rsquo;t mess with me.</p><p>Linehan said she has developed that demeanor from working over 30 years in emergency medical services. She said that kind of work gives her a particular view of the city. When you deal with emergencies you see what is not working. You are with people in their worst moments, the times when all the other safety nets have failed.<br /><br />&ldquo;On the street we say, you know what rolls down hill and who it lands on,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Linehan said when policy decisions get made, she sees a difference in who shows up in her ambulance. Years ago, she noticed when state hospitals started to close and not enough community based services filled the gap. More recently she noticed when the state cut funding and later when the city closed half of its mental health clinics.</p><p>If Gov. Bruce Rauner&rsquo;s proposed budget passes she will be bracing herself again.<br /><br />Linehan is not alone. People who work on mental health say the cuts to Medicaid and mental health services would mean more people with mental illness visiting emergency rooms.</p><p>It is a trend that is already underway. Data WBEZ obtained from the the state show startling increases in Chicago. From 2009 to 2013, 37 percent more patients were discharged from emergency rooms for psychiatric treatment. The biggest jump came in 2012, the same year the city closed half of its mental health clinics.</p><p>The city did not agree to an interview for this story. But in a statement it said the mental health infrastructure in Chicago is stronger than it was four years ago.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Inside an Emergency Department</span></p><p>The emergency room spike has already forced some emergency departments to make big, costly changes, just so they can keep these patients safe. Including literally rebuilding parts of their hospitals.</p><p>Sheri Richardt is the manager of Crisis and Behavioral Health at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where construction is underway on a new behavioral health unit.</p><p>Richardt said when a psychiatric patients come in to the emergency department they need special examination rooms. She pointed out how the pipes under the sink and toilet are covered.</p><p>&ldquo;There is nothing on the walls you could hang yourself with or hurt yourself with,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />As visits climbed the hospital needed more spaces like this. The new rooms will be designed for safety, but also to give the patients a more quiet and private space, away from the hustle of the rest of the emergency department.</p><p>Richardt said she witnessed one reason why psychiatric ER visits rose by 37 percent.<br />She said hospitals often recommend Medicaid patients that follow up with a therapist or maybe psychiatrist after they are discharged from the emergency room.<br /><br />But &nbsp;Richardt&nbsp;said some patients live in areas where there just are not enough places to get care. She said these patients could wait as long as nine months for an appointment, &ldquo;and if you come to the emergency room because you are in crisis and then you can not get follow up care for nine months you are probably going to go back to the emergency room for care.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The $2.5 million patient</span></p><p>Richardt&nbsp;saw the same patients rotate in again and again. So she pulled one patient&rsquo;s files and found that woman had visited the Illinois Masonic Emergency Room 750 times over the course of about 10 years.</p><p>Richardt&nbsp;said the patient was picked up by an ambulance or police officer almost daily. Sometimes the emergency department would discharge her, only to have her appear back a few hours later.</p><p>&ldquo;The cost of that for us was two and a half million dollars. Medicaid dollars,&rdquo; said Richardt. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s only at our hospital. This an individual who went between multiple hospitals and so we don&rsquo;t have the true cost.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many patients, she had different, interconnected problems. She had mental health needs, drank too much, fell down a lot. She didn&rsquo;t have stable housing and started having seizures.</p><p>&ldquo;And it wasn&rsquo;t only about the money; this is an individual we believed was going to...die on the street,&rdquo; said Richardt.</p><p>Richardt and her team decided to take full responsibility for this patient. They coordinated all aspects of her care, helped her get an apartment and worked with nurses and a chaplain. It worked. She&rsquo;s only visited the emergency room a handful of times in the last year.</p><p>About a year ago they launched a team with social workers, chaplains and nurses to provide the same type of care to more patients. They work with the hardest cases, including people with mental illness who often visit the emergency room frequently.</p><p>The hospital said their visits have begun to plateau.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Shifting Cost</span></p><p>The kind of wrap-around care performed at Illinois Masonic relies on a range of services. Those services are threatened under Rauner&rsquo;s proposed budget, which cuts millions from community services and housing.</p><p>We contacted his office and asked to speak to anyone from the administration about his budget. In a statement his office said cuts are needed because of reckless spending from the past. They refused to do an interview.</p><p>So we called other state Republican leaders and were referred to Rep. David Leitch. Leitch is a conservative who hates government bureaucracy and believes in fiscal responsibility. And that&rsquo;s exactly why he says he opposes these mental health cuts.</p><p>The cuts mean &ldquo;the emergency rooms pick up more and the jails pick up more. Any cuts the state makes, simply means somebody else has to pick up the cost,&rdquo; said Leitch.</p><p>But don&rsquo;t take Leitch&rsquo;s word that cuts one place may show up as costs somewhere else. Take it from someone who lives it.</p><p>Kathy Powers went to the city&rsquo;s Northtown Rogers Park Clinic for bipolar disorder. Even before the city closed her clinic, she was having trouble getting an appointment with a psychiatrist there, or anywhere else.</p><p>&ldquo;So I went to the emergency room, because I was a girl with a purpose,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Workers at the emergency room said they had a reference for a psychiatrist at Northtown Rogers Park Clinic &mdash; the exact place she had not been able to get care.</p><p>&ldquo;And I said, I just came from Northtown Rogers Park clinic&hellip; don&rsquo;t recommend it anymore, they don&rsquo;t have any psychiatrists,&rdquo; said Powers.<br /><br />Eventually the emergency doctors renewed her prescription for lithium. Medicaid picked up the tab. It really gets to Powers how much that simple prescription costs taxpayers. She said we could be giving her much better care for less money.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emergency-room-visits-mental-health-skyrocket-chicago-111890 New Illinois education chief is urban school reform leader http://www.wbez.org/news/new-illinois-education-chief-urban-school-reform-leader-111887 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The Illinois State Board of Education moved unanimously Wednesday afternoon to make a leadership change, replacing one of the nation&#39;s longest-serving superintendents with a former professional football player who spent recent years at the helm of a high poverty, urban district in California that faced a multi-million dollar deficit.</p><p>The selection of Anthony &quot;Tony&quot; Smith &mdash; GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s recommendation to the board &mdash; sends a message about the new Republican&#39;s governor&#39;s priorities for the state&#39;s 860 school districts and its outdated school funding formula during an ongoing financial crisis.</p><p>In a statement, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly described Smith as &quot;a transformational leader and has a proven track record of increasing student achievement, while successfully addressing fiscal and structural issues at the local district level.&quot;</p><p>Smith is scheduled to begin the role May 1 at a salary of $225,000 annually, a slight bump from the $222,468 his outgoing predecessor, Christopher Koch, earns per year. The board also approved an $89,000 severance package for Koch, who has continued to serve in recent weeks after his long-term contract expired in May.</p><p>Koch, who began his tenure in 2006, has been the state&#39;s longest-serving superintendent in nearly five decades, according to state board spokesman Matt Vanover. The unassuming former special education teacher has received wide praise for his oversight of changes to state testing and teacher evaluations, but Rauner recently told the Chicago Tribune editorial board that Koch was &quot;a good person&quot; but &quot;not transformational.&quot;</p><p>Smith, a 48-year old father of two, is director of the W. Clement Stone and Jesse V. Stone Foundation in Oak Park, a nonprofit focused on early childhood education. The Ounce of Prevention Fund of which First Lady Diana Rauner serves as president, lists the group as of one of its funding sources. Smith was a member of the new governor&#39;s transition team following the November election.</p><p>A California native, Smith played briefly with the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, though not in any regular season games, after graduating with an English degree from the University of California Berkeley, where he later earned masters and doctoral degrees from its graduate school of education.</p><p>A deputy superintendent of the San Francisco school district and a superintendent of a two-school district in the bay area, Smith was named superintendent for Oakland schools in 2009, a district that was emerging from state control and faced a $40 million structural deficit. It had a balanced budget when he left the district four years later.</p><p>By statewide measures of academic progress, Oakland became the most improved school district in California during Smith&#39;s tenure, though he drew accolades and fierce criticism alike for the decisions he made along the way.</p><p>Smith is a proponent of &quot;full-service community school&quot; which aim to combat poverty and bring families and communities into the school improvement effort. He has advocated for charters and the privatization of Oakland public schools during his time. Smith also clashed with the district&#39;s teachers union over contract issues during his tenure.</p><p>State law permits the governor to make a recommendation to the board, which has the ability to approve or reject his recommendation.</p><p>Board chairman the Rev. James Meeks &mdash; a recent appointment by Rauner &mdash; said Smith was the only candidate considered to replace Koch. The board spent nearly an hour in private session discussing the selection, before emerging and announcing its unanimous decision.</p><p>&quot;Of course when you go behind closed doors, everybody is never in 100 percent agreement, but you figure out what&#39;s best for the state,&quot; Meeks said.</p><p>One board member, Steven Gilford, said he was &quot;disappointed&quot; Koch would leave the agency, but he decided to vote for Smith&#39;s appointment, anyway.</p><p>Meeks said the vote &quot;shows the good faith of the people that are on the board, the positive direction that we&#39;re moving in.&quot;</p><p>Smith did not attend Wednesday&#39;s meeting in Springfield, but had private one-on-one meeting with board members as well as the full board in early April, Meeks said.</p><p>Though his background is in urban schools, board member John Sanders of Marion said Smith indicated plans to travel across the state to better understand challenges of central and southern Illinois districts, many of which are suffering following years of state funding cuts.</p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-illinois-education-chief-urban-school-reform-leader-111887 Emanuel tells Spike Lee he doesn't like name 'Chiraq' for film http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/emanuel-tells-spike-lee-he-doesnt-name-chiraq-film-111886 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/spikelee.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he told film director Spike Lee that he&#39;s not happy the working title of Lee&#39;s upcoming motion picture is &quot;Chiraq.&quot;</p><p>Emanuel says he and Lee had an &quot;honest, frank conversation&quot; Wednesday and suggested the name would be offensive to the many good people who live in the Englewood neighborhood where the film takes place.</p><p>The mayor says he thinks that the subject Lee told him his film would deal with &mdash; black-on-black violence &mdash; is an important topic that should be examined.</p><p>But he says he&#39;s not pleased the title might be &#39;Chiraq,&#39; a word that suggests the city is as violent and dangerous as the war zone of Iraq.</p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/emanuel-tells-spike-lee-he-doesnt-name-chiraq-film-111886 CPS Board president says Chicago schools under investigation http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-president-says-chicago-schools-under-investigation-111884 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BoardOfEd1_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Officials with the nation&#39;s third-largest school district say federal authorities are &quot;investigating a matter&quot; at Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>In a statement released Wednesday, Chicago Board of Education president David Vitale says federal authorities requested interviews with several employees. He says the board was made aware of the investigation on Tuesday and is cooperating fully.</p><p>He did not offer details on the investigation. A spokesman for Chicago Public Schools didn&#39;t return a request for comment Wednesday.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters Wednesday that he didn&#39;t have further details. He says there isn&#39;t information yet on who&#39;s the target of the probe.</p></p> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-president-says-chicago-schools-under-investigation-111884