WBEZ | Pat Quinn http://www.wbez.org/tags/pat-quinn Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en State government could take over a school district near you http://www.wbez.org/news/state-government-could-take-over-school-district-near-you-110943 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000080958261-4swa0x-original.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ask Illinois residents what&rsquo;s most important to them and their families, and education is likely to be right up there&mdash;often at the top of the list.</p><p>So it&rsquo;s no surprise that citizens expect high educational standards from government (and solid financing). But most prefer their state involvement at arms length.</p><p>But the fact is Illinois, has the power to take over local schools. They can fire elected school board members and put a new superintendent in place.</p><p>Two years ago, it did just that. The state took over two school districts, one in East Saint Louis and the other in North Chicago, a low income and racially mixed suburb wedged between more the tony North Shore and Waukegan.</p><p>Chris Koch is the superintendent of all Illinois schools, and he explains it this way:&nbsp; &ldquo;You have to take actions when kids aren&rsquo;t getting the basics. And that&rsquo;s certainly what&rsquo;s happening here.&rdquo;</p><p>The school district in North Chicago had problems that read like a Dickens novel: 80 percent of kids not meeting state learning standards, burdensome debt, and school board meetings that sometimes collapsed into chaotic screaming matches.</p><p>State intervention has helped North Chicago reduce its debt. But the district is still operating on a deficit. The district superintendent there says he expects to run out of cash in four years.</p><p>But overall, education policy watchers say the takeover has been a win so far, with some private money is coming in and state superintendent Koch taking a personal interest in the people there.</p><p>But even with those positives, there is no endgame in sight.</p><p>That&rsquo;s something that worries Kenneth Wong, a professor at Brown University who&rsquo;s been watching school takeovers across the country. He says North Chicago is typical of school takeovers by state government.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;m seeing also is the absence of an exit strategy,&rdquo; Wong says. &ldquo;That is, they rush into direct intervention, but then oftentimes there is a lack of details.&rdquo;</p><p>For his part, Koch doesn&rsquo;t seem worried about an exit strategy in North Chicago just yet. The finances and academics are still too bad.</p><p>&ldquo;We really have to be there, I think, for the longer duration,&rdquo; Koch says. &ldquo;Because you don&rsquo;t want it to go back into its prior state and that could easily happen particularly with the precarious financial situation they&rsquo;re currently in.&rdquo;</p><p>Koch is also turning his attention to other failing districts around the state.</p><p>He&rsquo;s pushing legislation that would make similar state intervention easier in failing districts.</p><p>House Bill 5537 singles out 23 schools on state academic watch, which means they have to show better test scores, and higher attendance and graduation rates.</p><p>All of them are in Chicago&rsquo;s south suburbs. Nobody from those districts returned WBEZ&rsquo;s calls, but Ben Schwarm did. He lobbies in Springfield on behalf of school boards and he&rsquo;s going up against Koch when it comes to state takeovers.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea of anyone, especially an appointed body, having the authority to remove from office elected officials based on the decisions they made certainly isn&rsquo;t generally the way democracy works in Illinois or in our country,&rdquo; Schwarm says.</p><p>Koch&rsquo;s bill is moving in an election year in which the candidates for governor have been campaigning mostly about how best to finance education instead of education policy.<br /><br />Koch&rsquo;s actions in North Chicago provide a window into incumbent Democratic Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s strategy for failing schools.<br /><br />Republican candidate Bruce Rauner hasn&rsquo;t talked specifically about state takeovers. But he advocates for more charter schools statewide, especially for failing districts.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not fair for parents to be stuck in a school that is failing and not fitting their kids&rsquo; needs,&quot; Rauner says. &quot;We need to create options and choice, especially for lower income families that can&rsquo;t afford to move.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-government-could-take-over-school-district-near-you-110943 Rauner, Quinn battle for African-American votes http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-quinn-battle-african-american-votes-110940 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP911111007939.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-6f97a6f2-1582-0782-483a-897455cafe20">As the clock ticks down to election night, Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner continue to battle over what&rsquo;s best for Illinois&rsquo; future. The top candidates have now faced off in two televised debates.</p><p>The focus of Tuesday&rsquo;s debate, three weeks ahead of the election, was mostly African-American voters, and issues they&rsquo;ll be thinking about in the polling booth. The panel of journalists posing questions to the candidates focused on jobs, the economy, the minimum wage, public safety and the state&rsquo;s finances.</p><p>And it was obvious by their responses that both candidates on stage at the DuSable Museum of African American History realized the importance of getting those votes.</p><p>&ldquo;My investments and my donations to the African-American community have totaled tens of millions of dollars,&rdquo; Rauner said, when asked about his recent <a href="http://abc7chicago.com/politics/rauner-promises-$1m-to-south-side-credit-union-/231631/">million dollar donation</a> to a South Side credit union.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve opened up the doors to many more contracts&mdash;I think it&rsquo;s up to a thousand contracts&mdash;for African-American owned businesses,&rdquo; Quinn said, to a question about government hiring.</p><p>The two also wasted no time trying to cut their opponent down to size&mdash;a recurring theme in both televised debates and on the campaign trail. Quinn accused Rauner of not hiring any African Americans in his company.</p><p>&ldquo;My opponent had 51 executives in his company, no African Americans, not one,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>Rauner shot back that Quinn was &ldquo;taking the African-American vote for granted. He&rsquo;s talking but not delivering results.&rdquo;</p><p>Rauner also accused Quinn of kicking Stephanie Neely, Chicago&rsquo;s city treasurer who is black, off the list of running mates. Neely was rumored to be on the short list of Quinn&rsquo;s choices for lieutenant governor. Quinn later countered that his choice of Paul Vallas was due to Vallas&rsquo; experience with schools and budgeting.</p><p>&ldquo;African-American families are suffering in Illinois: brutally high unemployment, deteriorating schools, lack of proper social services and rampant cronyism and corruption that&rsquo;s taking away job opportunities from African Americans,&rdquo; Rauner said.</p><p>The candidates spent a lot of time in this debate talking about public safety and gun control. Rauner wouldn&rsquo;t say if he supported a ban on assault weapons. He said he believed the conversation about gun control should instead be on getting guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and creating jobs. Rauner said it was the lack of opportunity that has lead to the state&rsquo;s issue with crime.</p><p>Quinn came out in support of banning assault weapons and called for a limit on high capacity ammunition magazines.</p><p>The ongoing conversation about the minimum wage also surfaced in this debate. Rauner was pressed by the panel to explain his position, as there has been much back and forth about whether he wants to <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/springfield/rauner-admits-he-once-favored-eliminating-minimum-wage/thu-09042014-113am" target="_blank">ditch</a> the minimum wage all together, or raise it.</p><p>Rauner reiterated he wanted to see a national hike to the minimum wage, so Illinois could remain competitive, but he would support raising Illinois&rsquo; minimum wage (currently at $8.25) if it came with &ldquo;tort reform, tax reduction [and] workers comp reform.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn said he&rsquo;d work to raise the minimum wage to $10 by the end of this year, though he faced questions from both Rauner and the debate panel about why he hadn&rsquo;t boosted it in his six years in office. Quinn responded that &ldquo;you have to build a majority for anything in life&rdquo; and brought up President Barack Obama&rsquo;s tactics with passing the Affordable Care Act as an example.</p><p>The end of the debate featured a special opportunity for the candidates: Rauner and Quinn were able to ask one question of their opponent. You can listen to that exchange here:</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/172278238&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The candidates are scheduled to face off in at least one more debate before the election on November 4.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian.</a></em></p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-quinn-battle-african-american-votes-110940 Battle over state facility is personal, political http://www.wbez.org/news/battle-over-state-facility-personal-political-110925 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mdc.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Kathryn Groner, 26, has lived at the <a href="https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=58719">Murray Developmental Center </a>for eight years.</p><p>The Murray Center is a state-run institution for people with developmental disabilities - things like cerebral palsy and autism. It&rsquo;s a circle of single-story residential cottages on a grassy campus in Centralia, Illinois, about an hour east of St. Louis.</p><p>Groner lives in a big room with one other woman. The area around her bed is filled with firefighter memorabilia and dolls. She&rsquo;s obsessed with firemen and calls people &ldquo;butthead&rdquo;--affectionately.</p><p>Groner is friendly and funny and completely there.</p><p>But she also has what her mom calls &ldquo;meltdowns,&rdquo; times when she tries to hurt herself, badly.</p><p>&ldquo;I hardly ever show these to people,&rdquo; her mom Judy Groner says as she presents a picture of Kathryn with a bruised and battered face. &ldquo;Broken nose, day after day.&rdquo;</p><p>When she has a &ldquo;meltdown&rdquo; Kathryn bashes her head against the wall as hard as she can, or slams her knees up into her face or bites her forearms.</p><p>&ldquo;And afterward she would say to me &lsquo;Mom, you better go and grab the frozen vegetables,&rsquo; because that&rsquo;s what I would put on her bruises afterward. And that was our life. She was going to kill herself by hitting her head so much if I didn&rsquo;t have a place like [Murray].&rdquo;</p><p>Judy Groner says the decision to place her daughter in Murray was the hardest - and best- &nbsp;decision she and her husband had ever made.</p><p>Before that they had struggled for years to keep Kathryn happy and safe at home, putting a helmet on her and lining her bedroom walls with corrugated cardboard. But eventually it became impossible.</p><p>She says Murray is a Godsend, and Kathryn is thriving. She&rsquo;s down from multiple &ldquo;meltdowns&rdquo; a day to about one a week.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Groner was devastated when, two years ago, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced he would be closing Murray and moving its 250 residents out to group homes in the community.</p><p>&ldquo;We will provide individualized care, and achieve savings for the people of Illinois,&rdquo; Quinn said in his 2012 budget address.</p><p>The announcement was horrible news to Murray residents and their guardians, and they immediately mobilized to fight the closing. But other disability advocates were ecstatic.</p><p>The decision was part of the &ldquo;Rebalancing Initiative,&rdquo; which also included plans to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center --that center has already been shuttered--and two other unnamed developmental centers. The initiative earned Quinn the President&rsquo;s Award from an advocacy group called the ARC of Illinois.</p><p>Tony Paulauski, the executive director of the ARC of Illinois, says institutions like Murray are outdated and bad for residents. They warehouse people with developmental disabilities, while group homes in the community give people a chance for fuller, normal lives, he says.</p><p>In Paulauski&rsquo;s ideal world, every one of the state&rsquo;s institutions would close and all of the residents would settle into smaller homes.</p><p>&ldquo;Community living is much more individualized, and presents a much higher quality of life. A much healthier, safer life,&rdquo; Paulauski says.</p><p>And he says it helps the bottom line.</p><p>&ldquo;You can serve three people in the community for the cost of one person in the institution,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Depending on who you talk to, that would either mean a savings for the state or it would allow the state to help more people. More than 20,000 people are on the state&rsquo;s waiting list for some kind of developmental disability service. Advocates say moving people out of expensive institutions will allow people to come off that list.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>A room of his own</strong></span></p><p>Eddie Fleming lived in the Jacksonville Developmental Center until it was closed in 2012.</p><p>Now he lives in a gracious four-bedroom home in Springfield. He has two roommates, both former Jacksonville residents, but he has his own room.</p><p>He clearly loves his new home. He has control over the money he makes at a part time job picking up trash and has used that money to fill his bedroom with electronics - two stereos, a TV and a karaoke machine.</p><p>Fleming and his roommates get along famously, they smoke cigars on the porch and help cook delicious dinners.</p><p>Their services are provided by the Individual Advocacy Group, which manages the property and provides workers. But the lease is in Fleming and his roommates&rsquo; names. This is their home.</p><p>The people from IAG who work with Fleming say he has flourished since the move from Jacksonville, and they paint a grim picture of the services or lack of them he got from the state-run institution. Fleming, they say, is a testament to the benefits of community living.</p><p>One of the bedrooms in Fleming&rsquo;s house is an office. But when they first moved in, in 2012, there was a fourth roommate. Early on he and Fleming got in a fight over the TV. It got smashed and the cops were called. That fourth roommate was taken away by police and moved somewhere else.</p><p>That sort of volatility - and response - is what terrifies Murray parents like Judy Groner. They say that kind of police contact is traumatic, and what if, they fret, the police who come don&rsquo;t know how to deal with a person with developmental disabilities and hurt their loved ones?</p><p>The state only requires one worker in each four-person group home at one time, although IAG leaders say they usually have at least two workers.</p><p>Judy Groner says there is no way one or two workers could safely help Kathryn if she started having a meltdown. Especially if they were also responsible for three other people at the same time.</p><p>&ldquo;I always kid, I say she&rsquo;s like the incredible hulk and it takes five people to try and hold her, she&rsquo;s that strong and powerful,&rdquo; Groner says. &ldquo;The community just isn&rsquo;t set up for someone like her yet. And I just feel so bad because I want her to be able to leave Murray someday but it has to be on her terms, when she&rsquo;s ready.&rdquo;</p><p>But many researchers say the evidence doesn&rsquo;t support this fear. Instead, they say people with the highest needs, people like Kathryn, are the ones who benefit the most from a move to the community.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>&lsquo;Down here he just doesn&rsquo;t seem to care about that&rsquo;</strong></span></p><p>Beyond the struggle over care, the fight ito keep Murray open is political and geographical.</p><p>The fight over Murray pits those of us upstate against everyone down there - at least that&rsquo;s how the people in Southern Illinois see it.</p><p>And it has a lot of Democrats and Republicans reversing their typical battle lines.</p><p>The strongest political ally of the Murray center is State Rep. Charlie Meier, 108th.</p><p>He&rsquo;s a farmer by birth, and a small government Republican.</p><p>And yet he&rsquo;s dedicated his life to keeping this big, government run institution open.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s the governor. A Democrat elected with the support of unions. And here he is pushing to eliminate 550 union jobs.</p><p>Paulauski of the ARC sees that as a sign of Quinn&rsquo;s political bravery.</p><p>&ldquo;Here you have a Democratic governor, strong support from these state unions. And then on the other side you have Republicans all of a sudden saying we need to keep these facilities open. This is where waste is in the Illinois disability system,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>But Meier says it&rsquo;s not about politics, it&rsquo;s about geography.</p><p>&ldquo;Centralia, most of it sits in Marion county and that is typically one of the five highest unemployment areas in the state. Those 541 jobs are the equivalent of 80- to 100,000 jobs in Chicago. Can you imagine if he tried to eliminate 80,000 jobs in the Chicago area? But down here he just doesn&rsquo;t seem to care about that,&rdquo; Meier says.</p><p>One thing people on both sides of the Murray fight agree on is that state government is there to help its most vulnerable citizens.</p><p>It may be the only thing they agree on.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer/reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 06:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/battle-over-state-facility-personal-political-110925 Two neighboring states, one big financial gap http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 <p><p>George Brown of Valparaiso, Indiana, works for a steel mill these days, but at one time, his main gig was construction &mdash; across the state border in Chicago. The commute and that &ldquo;living in both worlds&rdquo; familiarity didn&rsquo;t prevent him from noting differences between the two states. Among them: The differing fortunes of state government.</p><p>He had picked up details here and there about how Illinois owed money (the state comptroller recently said Illinois has more than $5 billion in unpaid bills), how the Prairie State was hounded by bills coming down the pike (it has approximately $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities), and how it has the worst credit rating among U.S. states.</p><p>On the other hand, just a few years ago, Indiana&rsquo;s coffers were so flush that it returned money to state taxpayers.</p><p>The night-and-day financial picture between the neighboring states got him wondering enough that he sent us this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why does the state of Illinois have a huge deficit, while next door Indiana has a surplus?</em></p><p>George&rsquo;s question couldn&rsquo;t come at a better time. Voters on the Illinois side of the border are deciding between candidates for governor, either of which is certain to confront some hard fiscal realities. The contest between the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Pat Quinn, and Republican Bruce Rauner is odd, though, in that there&rsquo;s a phantom player in the mix, too: Mitch Daniels, Indiana&rsquo;s former governor of Indiana.</p><p>Rightly or wrongly, Daniels is credited with cutting Indiana&rsquo;s budget and making the state&rsquo;s finances the envy of Illinois as well as the rest of the nation. Quinn pushes back on some of Daniels&rsquo; key tenets, while Rauner says he wants to emulate what Daniels did.</p><p>Regardless of where you fall on whether any state at all should follow &ldquo;the Daniels playbook,&rdquo; it is worth looking at what happened during his watch.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Daniels&rsquo; account of how the Hoosier State did it</span></p><p>After an eight-year term, Daniels left the governor&rsquo;s office in 2013. He&rsquo;s now president of Purdue University in West Lafayette. He rarely talks politics now, but after hearing George&rsquo;s question, he was happy to revisit his tenure as governor, especially as it relates to Illinois&rsquo; financial mess.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard not to notice, I mean it&rsquo;s national news the trouble you folks have had,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;They asked me what it was like and I said it&rsquo;s sort of like living right next door to&nbsp;<em>The Simpsons</em>, you know. Dysfunctional family on the block and we&rsquo;re looking in the window.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Daniels purdue shot..jpg" title="Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature at the Statehouse Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)" /></div><p>As Daniels tells it, things were bad for Indiana as he entered office nearly a decade ago.</p><p>&ldquo;The state was absolutely, by a literal definition, bankrupt,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So, it had bills much bigger than whatever cash it had on hand. We said this has to end and I want to do it as fast as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>On his first day as governor in 2005, Daniels did something that is unimaginable in Illinois: He stripped bargaining rights for all state union employees.</p><p>&ldquo;These union agreements wouldn&rsquo;t let you change anything,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t consolidate departments; you couldn&rsquo;t divide departments or reorganize them. You certainly couldn&rsquo;t outsource anything if you thought you could get it better and cheaper by hiring Hoosiers in the private sector. So, I finally decided that we simply had to cut clean.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indiana icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Indiana." /></p><p>But Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics in Fort Wayne, says it&rsquo;s uncertain how effective Daniel&rsquo;s move was in shoring up the state&rsquo;s bottom line.</p><p>&ldquo;Some would argue that when the unions had less ability to bargain, it made it easier for the governor to get some things done,&rdquo; Downs said. &ldquo;But given (Daniels&rsquo;) personality, I don&rsquo;t know if that would have been the sort of thing that held him back a whole lot. I think it had more to do with his approach to economics: The freer the trade, the better.&rdquo;</p><p>Daniels didn&rsquo;t stop with state union employees.</p><p>A few years later, he signed a bill to make Indiana the Midwest&rsquo;s first right-to-work state. The policy changed workers&rsquo; relationship to private employers; new employees were no longer required to pay union dues at workplaces governed by union contracts. It effectively weakened unions&rsquo; standing in the state. Indiana&rsquo;s GOP argues the move attracted business to the state and that, in turn, boosted state revenue.</p><p>Daniels also pushed through a cap on local property taxes across the state. The cap limits the amount of taxes local communities can collect from a homeowner at one percent of a home&rsquo;s assessed value. Proponents say that&rsquo;s lead to robust home sales and &mdash; again, the argument goes &mdash; puts money back into the state&rsquo;s coffers.</p><p>If you hear Daniels and other supporters tell it, these policies created enough fiscal momentum that a few years ago the state sent $100 checks to each Indiana taxpayer. The state currently has a $2 billion stockpile, which it&rsquo;s likely to hold onto this time around.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/stillinoyed billboard image2.jpg" title="An example of a Stillinoyed campaign billboard designed to highlight Indiana's business opportunities. (Source: Economic Development Corporation, Indiana)" /></div></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The fallout</span></p><p>If you&rsquo;ve driven through the Chicago area, perhaps you&rsquo;ve seen billboards along expressways that read <a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">&ldquo;Illinnoyed by high taxes?&rdquo;</a> That advertising campaign (<a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">conducted by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation</a>) lures city residents and businesses to cross from Illinois to Indiana.</p><p>Michael Lucci says those ads &mdash; or at least the argument driving them &mdash; works on plenty of Illinois residents. Lucci is the Director of Jobs and Growth at the conservative Illinois Policy Institute. He estimates that Illinois has lost more than 100,000 residents to Indiana over the last decade.</p><p>&ldquo;It does hurt Illinois that we have such a business-friendly neighbor right next door because the people in Chicago can look east 30 miles and say &lsquo;Look, there are jobs there, there are opportunities there and I can move there and still be close to my family,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lucci said.</p><p>But not everyone sees Daniels&rsquo; bumper crop budget as an achievement. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn isn&rsquo;t willing to stomach Daniels&rsquo; sacrifice of collective bargaining rights.</p><p>Earlier this year, the incumbent governor told a union-heavy crowd that he believes in collective bargaining.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s the best way to go and I look forward to working with you on it,&rdquo; Quinn said during an April debate in Chicago. The governor has argued that strong unions improve state residents&rsquo; income and quality of life.</p><p>Some in Indiana see a darker side to the budget surplus too. Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is among them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/illinois icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Illinois." /></p><p>&ldquo;We do have $2 billion in the bank and we are in a much better position in Indiana than they are fiscally in Illinois, but at the same time, I think Illinois streets might be in better shape than our streets right now,&rdquo; McDermott said. &ldquo;I think Illinois is providing better services during crisis than we are because they have more tools available. It cuts both ways.&rdquo;</p><p>McDermott, a Democrat, said that last winter the state did a poor job dealing with the snow and ice that shut down several Indiana highways. (Notably, according to the most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, both Indiana and Illinois received a &ldquo;D+&rdquo; in infrastructure spending.)</p><p>McDermott&rsquo;s point is this: What&rsquo;s the use of a surplus if some basic services aren&rsquo;t being met?</p><p>&ldquo;We could expand the affordable healthcare act [ACA] in Indiana right now and insure hundreds of thousands of additional Hoosiers but they just refuse to do so even though there is 2 billion dollars in the bank, those hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers don&rsquo;t deserve health care like people in Illinois do,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Does Illinois have a chance of turning things around?</span></p><p>Of all people, Daniels is among those who say &ldquo;yes.&rdquo; Of course, it&rsquo;s no surprise that he recommends Illinois gubernatorial candidates Quinn or Rauner wrangle with public sector unions, pay more bills on time and slash spending. But the architect of Indiana&rsquo;s brand of fiscal conservatism also says Illinois can draw from its own good ideas. And he ought to know: He stole a few of them.</p><p>After <a href="http://tollroadsnews.com/news/chicago-skyway-handed-over-to-cintra-macquarie-after-wiring-1830m" target="_blank">Chicago leased its public Skyway to a private operation</a>, Daniels did the same thing for the Indiana Toll Road.</p><p>And then there was the program to let delinquent taxpayers pay with no penalty.</p><p>&ldquo;I got the legislature to conduct a tax amnesty,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;Indiana never had one. Many other states have, including Illinois. I can remember citing Illinois. It&rsquo;s kind of ironic now thinking back. I was saying then, &lsquo;Hey look, they had a successful program.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&#39;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 Quinn vetoes 'Uber Bill,' some cry for override http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-vetoes-uber-bill-some-cry-override-110700 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rideshare.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Supporters of limits to rideshare services in Illinois vowed Monday to push for an override of Governor Pat Quinn&rsquo;s veto of the so-called &ldquo;Uber Bill.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-passes-ride-sharing-rules-110191" target="_blank">bill</a>, which would have affected popular technology platforms such as Uber and Lyft, would have forced rideshare companies to track more closely how many hours each of their drivers spent behind the wheel in the state, and to comply with safety standards similar to those required in the taxi industry. Supporters of the bill blasted Quinn&rsquo;s decision, saying it was motivated out of a concern for votes in the November gubernatorial election, rather than out of concern for public safety.</p><p>&ldquo;Governor Quinn is making the decision solely because of politics,&rdquo; said State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-11). &ldquo;Governor Quinn has decided (he&rsquo;s) not doing well in the polls, and based on his political advisors and lobbyists that he needs the &lsquo;lakefront liberals&rsquo; to come out in big numbers for him, and maybe that&rsquo;s what this is about.&rdquo;</p><p>Sandoval said he will push to have <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&amp;SessionId=85&amp;GA=98&amp;DocTypeId=HB&amp;DocNum=4075&amp;GAID=12&amp;LegID=77989&amp;SpecSess=&amp;Session=" target="_blank">HB 4075/5331</a> on the General Assembly&rsquo;s override calendar in November. The Illinois House passed the measure 80-26 in June, and would require only 71 votes for an override. The Senate passed the measure 46-8, and would require only 36 to override.</p><p>But in his veto statement, Quinn said he objected to the bill&rsquo;s pre-emption of &ldquo;home rule,&rdquo; meaning that it would prohibit local municipalities from creating or enacting their own regulations for rideshare services. &ldquo;A statewide regulatory framework should only be considered when it is clear that it is not possible to address the problem at the local level,&rdquo; he wrote. &ldquo;At this point, there is not yet enough evidence to make a judgment about the effectiveness of local ordinances in dealing with the challenges of ridesharing technologies.&rdquo;</p><p>The bill would have required rideshare companies to closely track how many hours each of their drivers averaged on their platforms. Those who offered rides more than 36 hours every two weeks would have to comply with safety regulations similar to taxi drivers &mdash; namely, obtaining a public chauffeur&rsquo;s license, getting fingerprinted and submitting to a criminal background check. Additionally, the companies would have to provide commercial liability insurance identical to that which is required for taxis, for all its drivers -- regardless of how many hours they spend on the platform.</p><p>Several Chicago taxicab medallion owners joined Sandoval in protesting Quinn&rsquo;s veto, saying they believed Quinn&rsquo;s track record as a champion of consumer rights and safety would have led to a different outcome. But many believe that the issue has become politicized &mdash; even briefly becoming campaign trail grist by Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent Bruce Rauner &mdash; such that the governor had little choice but to veto it. They said they are confident that the General Assembly will override.</p><p>Ehsan Ghoreishi, a Chicago taxi driver of ten years and former medallion owner, said the state sanctioning of rideshare companies will ultimately be bad for labor. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a taxi driver, I lease from big companies,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m sure there&rsquo;s some exploitation, and it&rsquo;s not a clean industry. But the question is: Do I prefer to work with a guy who owns 600 medallions? But I can reach him &mdash; he&rsquo;s a tangible person, I can call his office, I can go make a complaint. Or, do I want to be exploited by a guy that I cannot reach in any tangible fashion?&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, changes that Uber and Lyft made to their fare and revenue structures this summer have alienated some of their most devoted drivers. Uber slashed its fares 15 percent, and started charging $10 each week for use of the data plan on iPhones that it issues to each driver. Chris Taylor, General Manager for Uber Chicago, said the price experiment has resulted in a greater number of people using their platform to get around. In other words, while drivers may earn less per ride, they&rsquo;re getting more rides.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re confident that drivers on average will still have the ability to earn, on average, double minimum wage in Illinois in fares per hour,&rdquo; he said. Additionally, to offset the smaller earnings per ride, Taylor said Uber has negotiated discounts on gas, maintenance services and car washes for its drivers.</p><p>But Dan Burgess, who has driven for both Uber, Lyft, as well as a third competitor, Sidecar, said he and other drivers are definitely not earning double Illinois&rsquo; $8.25 minimum wage. &ldquo;If you take into account our car expenses for fuel and wear and tear, we&rsquo;re probably netting about $10 an hour,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just not a worthwhile experience for us anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, relatively <a href="https://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1657453&amp;GUID=48EE4E9D-5D88-4001-8753-74FA1D4C47AF" target="_blank">light regulations</a> for the industry are set to take effect Tuesday in the City of Chicago. The rules would require the companies to apply for different classes of licenses, depending on how many hours their drivers, in aggregate, average. Companies whose drivers average fewer than 20 hours per week would be allowed to continue mostly as they already do. Both Uber and Lyft are working to gain this type of license.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 18:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-vetoes-uber-bill-some-cry-override-110700 Hey Gov: An Illinois politics road trip http://www.wbez.org/news/hey-gov-illinois-politics-road-trip-110657 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Bu1yd1ZCcAEYqlk.jpg" alt="" /><p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/hey-gov-an-illinois-politics-road-trip/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/hey-gov-an-illinois-politics-road-trip.js?header=none&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/hey-gov-an-illinois-politics-road-trip" target="_blank">View the story "Hey Gov: An Illinois politics road trip " on Storify</a>]<h1>Hey Gov: An Illinois politics road trip </h1><h2>WBEZ political reporters Alex Keefe and Tony Arnold took off from Chicago and drove along the Illinois River until the hit the State Fair. All along the way, they stopped to ask people what they want from the next governor. </h2><p>Storified by <a href="https://storify.com/WBEZ">WBEZ</a>&middot; Thu, Aug 14 2014 16:56:40 </p><div>WBEZ&apos;s @akeefe &amp; @tonyjarnold are following the Illinois River to the State Fair, asking citizens what they want from a governor. #HeyGovWBEZ</div><div>Best Game in Town: Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair by WBEZ's Afternoon ShiftThe Illinois State Fair hosts &quot;Governor's Day&quot; today at the fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois. Governor's Day is the traditional rally and picnic for the Illinois democratic party. Tomorrow is Republican Day. The big story is how Governor Quinn has changed the format of today's festivities.</div><div>Gov. Quinn heads to Illinois State Fair to rally his base by WBEZ's Morning ShiftThe Illinois State Fair brings out politicians, special interest groups and voters looking to get some answers from candidates. Incumbent Governor Quinn is following the same pattern as last year and making Wednesday's Governor's Day at the Fair a family event rather than an opportunity to hash out political agendas.</div><div>What Walt Willey, Ottawa #il native and longtime &quot;All My Children&quot; soap star, wants from the next gov http://t.co/IFmdwcg9u9 #heygov @WBEZAlex Keefe</div><div>A brief history of Ottawa, #IL, in mural form. #heygov @ Illinois River, Ottawa IL http://t.co/LpoCI5xsA8Alex Keefe</div><div>.@akeefe is driving me to Springfield. At least if we take a wrong turn I know we have a map. http://t.co/0ZBKrpc8E7Tony Arnold</div></noscript></div></p> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/hey-gov-illinois-politics-road-trip-110657 On education, candidates for Illinois governor closer than they think http://www.wbez.org/news/education-candidates-illinois-governor-closer-they-think-110575 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rauner-christie.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Republican candidate for Illinois governor says he&rsquo;ll soon be talking more about his top priority: education. Bruce Rauner has been involved in education for years, giving lots of money to schools and programs he believes in. But expanding his vision in Illinois&rsquo; political climate is another matter altogether.</p><p>Bruce Rauner, the Republican venture capitalist, has made a name for himself in education - literally. Rauner College Prep is a charter school on Chicago&rsquo;s near west side. He&rsquo;s also been recognized by education groups for his philanthropic work.</p><p>&ldquo;Education is simply the most important thing we do together as a community. There&rsquo;s nothing more important,&rdquo; Rauner said during a debate organized by ABC 7 and Univision in the Republican primary. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s our future. It&rsquo;s our democracy. It&rsquo;s our income level. It&rsquo;s at the core of every challenge that we face.&rdquo;</p><p>Sources say Rauner was active behind the scenes in one of the biggest education policy initiatives to pass the state legislature in recent years. Senate Bill 7 was later signed into law by Rauner&rsquo;s now-Democratic opponent, Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>The legislation dealt with teacher strike votes, evaluations and tenure. But when negotiations around those issues veered away from Rauner&rsquo;s own vision, he distanced himself from the bill.</p><p>Some who&rsquo;ve worked closely with Rauner on education issues say debates like that are why he is running for governor - to have the authority &nbsp;to put his stamp on education policy.</p><p>&ldquo;More charter schools, vouchers for poor kids, merit pay for great teachers, modified tenure so ineffective teachers aren&rsquo;t locked in jobs forever,&rdquo; Rauner said in that same debate.</p><p>But a governor&rsquo;s accomplishments are rarely solitary efforts. &nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s a pretty unique example, but 10 years ago, then-Governor Rod Blagojevich was in full rhetorical mode for an hour of his State of the State address. He spent more than an hour of his 90-minute address completely trashing the state&rsquo;s education board.</p><p>&ldquo;The Illinois State Board of Education is like an old, Soviet-style bureaucracy,&rdquo; Blagojevich said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s clunky and inefficient. It issues mandates. It spends money. It dictates policy and it isn&rsquo;t accountable to anyone for anything.&rdquo;</p><p>Blagojevich called for abolishing the Illinois State Board of Education and creating a new cabinet department under his office - a Department of Education.</p><p>The idea went nowhere. Blagojevich didn&rsquo;t get legislators or interest groups on board.</p><p>That bit of history points to the political structure Rauner would have to work with.</p><p>More charter schools?</p><p>That means getting the legislature&rsquo;s okay.</p><p>School vouchers?</p><p>That&rsquo;s also a legislative issue.</p><p>Paying teachers based on the quality of their work?</p><p>He&rsquo;d likely have to get lawmakers on board.</p><p>&ldquo;I think whether this is a Governor Rauner or a Governor Quinn, what we&rsquo;re finding is there&rsquo;s a lot more support by legislators quietly to support some transformative policy,&rdquo; said Myles Mendoza with Ed Choice Illinois. His organization is a non-profit that wants to expand educational alternatives for families.</p><p>Mendoza said a good example of the bipartisan movement around education change is Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s Democratic running mate, Paul Vallas. Vallas ran public schools in Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.</p><p>&ldquo;Both Paul Vallas and Bruce Rauner have really been aligned, very, very similar in their thinking of how they would approach education policy,&rdquo; Mendoza said.</p><p>I asked Mendoza if it&rsquo;s weird, seeing Republicans and Democrats &nbsp;aligned that way.</p><p>&ldquo;It certainly does scramble the radar,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>What he means is that Vallas, a Democrat, and Rauner, a Republican, have taken similar stands against teachers unions and the Democrats who traditionally support them.</p><p>Dan Montgomery heads the Illinois Federation of Teachers, a union that represents about 80,000 teachers in the state, including charter schools.</p><p>Montgomery said politics has framed the debate around education in the wrong context.</p><p>&ldquo;The challenges we have in this state are not about tenure, you know? They&rsquo;re not about merit pay,&rdquo; Montgomery said. &ldquo;The challenges we have in the state are parents who look around and they say, &lsquo;How come my kid&rsquo;s school doesn&rsquo;t have a library?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>He says Bruce Rauner has made unions the enemy, and his economic and tax policies are examples of the misguided debate. Montgomery repeats something Quinn&rsquo;s campaign often says, that Rauner&rsquo;s plans will lose the state millions and he&rsquo;ll end up having to cut education funding.</p><p>Montgomery says unions should get ready to find support in the legislature to resist negative education changes if Rauner&rsquo;s elected.</p><p>But they should also be ready for another tactic: That Rauner would go around the legislature altogether with executive orders.</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> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education-candidates-illinois-governor-closer-they-think-110575 Prison health care worker finds request for medical care after inmate dies http://www.wbez.org/news/prison-health-care-worker-finds-request-medical-care-after-inmate-dies-110470 <p><p>On July 28, 2012, Elawndoe Shannon put in a request for sick call at the prison where he was housed in Lawrence, Illinois. Two days later, he died. The day after his death a nurse in the health care unit finally got his request slip for medical care.</p><p>&ldquo;That means somebody took it and just said, &lsquo;Oh it don&rsquo;t matter, ain&rsquo;t nothing wrong with him.&rsquo; That&rsquo;s crazy!&rdquo; said his sister Jackie Shannon in a recent interview on the front porch of her house on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody&rsquo;s entitled to see a doctor. I don&rsquo;t care, you could live in a hole somewhere. If you come out of that hole and you&rsquo;re sick, you should be able to see a doctor. How many other ones in there that need to see the doctor are not seeing a doctor?&rdquo; she said.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157870823&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="736.25px"></iframe></p><p>It&rsquo;s not unusual for Illinois inmates to complain that they have trouble seeing doctors.</p><p>In another story, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-inmate-dies-3-hours-after-seeking-medical-care-110460">WBEZ reported on Anthony Rencher</a> who went to the prison health care unit in the middle of the night where he was observed in the waiting room for an hour before he returned to his cell where he died.</p><p>And then there&rsquo;s the case of Daniel Nevarez.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-10%20at%2012.15.56%20AM.png" style="width: 620px;" title="Salvador Nevarez sitting on the front stoop of his home near Midway Airport with his son, Alonzo. (WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer)" /><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24.44444465637207px; line-height: 22px;">Letter from the grave</span></p><p>Daniel&rsquo;s brother Alonzo Nevarez sits on the front stoop of his dad&rsquo;s bungalow near Midway Airport and reads through a letter his brother Danny wrote from prison.</p><p>&ldquo;We got the letter after Danny passed, and it was, it&rsquo;s him talking from the grave actually,&rdquo; said Nevarez.</p><p>It&rsquo;s in Spanish and Alonzo translates while he reads. &ldquo;The reason for this card, to beg you to help him, he&rsquo;s sick, and the people from this facility, no me quieren, they don&rsquo;t want to help me. These people are not taking me serious. I need help.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157730343&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><blockquote><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14.44444465637207px; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/natural-causes-death-illinois-prisons-110455" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Man who died of prostate cancer showed symptoms in prison 14 years before death</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>According to medical records, in March of 2010 Nevarez complained to a prison health care worker of pain in his knee. The prison took an X-ray but found nothing. The doctor prescribed some drugs and told Nevarez to exercise as much as possible.</p><p>A year later Nevarez was still complaining about his knee. He was prescribed Motrin and referred to a doctor. The next two appointments with the prison doctor were cancelled, one because of understaffing and another one because there was no security escort.</p><p>&ldquo;He called when he was in prison complaining that they were ignoring him. They wouldn&rsquo;t let him see the doctor,&rdquo; said Nevarez.</p><p>The medical records also show that on several occasions Nevarez refused to see health care workers. In one instance he&rsquo;s quoted as refusing to see the prison doctor because he wants to be immediately taken for surgery on his knee. On another occasion he refuses to pay the $2.00 co-pay and is therefore denied care.</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24.44444465637207px; line-height: 22px;">Cancer diagnosis</span></p><p>When the mass on his knee was diagnosed as cancer 15 months after his first complaints, the tumor was hard to miss. It was 5 centimeters by 5 centimeters by 3 centimeters.</p><p>Daniel&rsquo;s father Salvador Nevarez said his son was complaining that the prison wasn&rsquo;t giving him health care,&nbsp; so the family had a lawyer contact the prison.</p><p>Nevarez went to an outside hospital where the tumor was removed. He also went for 33 radiation treatments. A year after his treatments on December 13, 2012, Nevarez once again sought medical care. According to records he appears to have fainted and gotten a cut above his eye when he fell.</p><p>He told doctors his head hurt and he couldn&rsquo;t remember things. A doctor at the facility seems to have decided Nevarez was lying in an attempt to get drugs. The way it&rsquo;s recorded in the medical record is: &ldquo;appears to be med seeking.&rdquo;</p><p>Nevarez was sent back to his cell. He fell into a coma. A CT scan of his head was taken and it showed he had two large, dense brain tumors and swelling in his brain. He died that day at the age of 31.</p><p>The autopsy states, &ldquo;Given the lack of follow up care and systemic chemotherapy for this patient, in combination with with the poor prognosis in general for such a tumor, it is not surprising that he developed widespread metastases a year after diagnosis.&rdquo;</p><p>In the death review the department handed over to WBEZ, where it asks, &lsquo;Was an earlier intervention possible?&rsquo; the answer is redacted. On the non-redacted version given to the family, it says the cancer diagnosis could have been made sooner, though it says it was, &ldquo;probably too late for significant intervention.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24.44444465637207px; line-height: 22px;">Seeing a doctor &#39;can take months&#39;</span></p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a symptom of an overloaded system that it takes forever to get over to a doctor,&rdquo; said Alan Mills, an attorney specializing in prison litigation. &ldquo;And then once you&rsquo;re there you don&rsquo;t see the doctor right away, you go through two or three screening processes before you finally get to see a doctor. So that can take months.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;There are red flags all over the place,&rdquo; said Mills. &ldquo;But without the details, you have to get beyond just saying, &lsquo;well this person died too soon.&rsquo; You don&rsquo;t know that unless a doctor looks at the medical records and says, &lsquo;no this test was done or this test wasn&rsquo;t done, this is what the follow should have been and it wasn&rsquo;t.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>That work is now being done by a doctor appointed by a federal judge as part of the class action suit Mills filed over health care.</p><p>The State of Illinois pays a company called Wexford Health Sources more than $100 million a year to provide health care in the prisons. Wexford did not return repeated calls for comment over the last two weeks. That&rsquo;s just the most recent refusal&mdash;WBEZ has had an ongoing request for an interview with the company for almost two years.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-10%20at%2012.16.06%20AM.png" style="width: 620px;" title="Attorney Alan Mills says a review of health care in the Illinois Department of Corrections by outside medical experts will answer a lot of questions. (WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer)" /></div><p>Attorney Alan Mills has studied the contract between Wexford and the state.</p><p>&ldquo;Wexford gets paid the same amount whether they provide a lot of care or a little care, so therefore, every time they provide care their stockholders lose money. So that is a fine model, but you have to have some control to make sure that they&rsquo;re actually providing the care that you&rsquo;re contracted to giving them. Nobody in the state of Illinois regularly audits the Wexford contract, either financially, or more importantly, a health audit to see what the outcomes are that we&rsquo;re getting,&rdquo; said Mills.</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24.44444465637207px; line-height: 22px;">IDOC won&#39;t discuss Mills</span></p><p>Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer won&rsquo;t discuss issues raised by Mills. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to discuss anything that Alan Mills says because Alan Mills has been proven to state things that are false, so I&rsquo;m going to respectfully decline to include any information coming from Alan Mills in this interview. Anybody else you want to talk about, fine, not him,&rdquo; said Shaer.</p><p>The medical director who oversees more than $100 million Illinois pays Wexford for medical care refused to speak to WBEZ.</p><p>WBEZ asked Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s office about the medical director&rsquo;s refusal to discuss medical care. After an initial conversation the governor&rsquo;s office simply ignored follow-up calls and emails from WBEZ.</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24.44444465637207px; line-height: 22px;">Illinois prisons have low death rates compared to other prisons</span></p><p>Shaer says focussing on just a few cases does not give an accurate picture of health care in the department. He points to Bureau of Justice statistics showing Illinois&rsquo; prison system has one of the lowest death rates in the country compared to other prison systems.</p><p>&ldquo;We have pretty high standards here. We do the best we can within our ability to monitor that and if we felt that our ability wasn&rsquo;t adequate, we would find a way to address that,&rdquo; said Shaer.</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 24.44444465637207px; line-height: 22px;">Independent experts should provide some answers soon</span></p><p>&ldquo;I see enough things that tell me there are really some warning signs here. I mean there are problems,&rdquo; said State Rep. Greg Harris.</p><p>Harris held committee hearings last year to dig into allegations of poor care.</p><p>&ldquo;You know in the testimony, in the contacts from individual families, in the lawsuits that have been settled and paid by the state for deaths that should have been preventable, I know there are things that we should have done that we did not do and that there are probably things that we ought to be doing better now,&rdquo; said Harris.</p><p>As a result of the hearings, Harris concluded that no one in Illinois is paying close attention to the $100 million the state pays Wexford every year. Harris brought in the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to audit health care, both the finances, and the health outcomes.</p><p>He says independent experts who know how to evaluate health care in a prison setting are looking at the system and should provide some answers soon. That audit is in addition to a federal court monitor who is also evaluating Illinois&rsquo; prison health care system in response to complaints.</p></p> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 00:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/prison-health-care-worker-finds-request-medical-care-after-inmate-dies-110470 Illinois inmate dies 3 hours after seeking medical care http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-inmate-dies-3-hours-after-seeking-medical-care-110460 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 6.17.11 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Keith Dean has a manila envelope that causes him a lot of grief and regret, but he can&rsquo;t throw it out. On his front porch, by the light of a single lamp next to his front door on a quiet street in Gary, Indiana, he turns the envelope over in his hand.</p><p>&ldquo;I always looked at this envelope on the outside when I&rsquo;m going through my office trying to organize, throw away stuff I don&rsquo;t need but I never threw this away. I just kept it in a file,&rdquo; said Dean.</p><p>But Dean hasn&rsquo;t looked at the envelope for a couple years and can&rsquo;t actually remember what&rsquo;s in it. He knows it was some medical stuff from his brother in prison but when he opens the envelope he is surprised to find a letter from his brother as well. He pulls it out and reads from it to me.</p><p>&ldquo;&lsquo;This doctor has endangered my life by failing to provide me with the proper follow ups and examinations. I need to get out of this facility before something happens to me, man.&rsquo;&nbsp; That was dated February the 5th, 2011. Almost a month later, he passed away,&rdquo; Dean said with his eyes downcast.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">What are families supposed to do?</span></p><p>Kevin Dean was 49 when he died. Keith Dean says his brother used to complain all the time that he needed medical care and the prison wasn&rsquo;t giving it to him. Once Keith called the prison and was told that his brother was receiving proper care. Beyond that he wasn&rsquo;t sure what he was supposed to do. He still doesn&rsquo;t know.</p><p>&ldquo;He was sending me this to show me that definitely, there&rsquo;s something wrong, and they&rsquo;re not taking the proper steps as far as his medical care and I just didn&rsquo;t, I didn&rsquo;t know it was as bad as it was,&rdquo; said Dean. &ldquo;I just didn&rsquo;t believe it. I figured you&rsquo;ll be alright, you&rsquo;ll be okay and I have to live with that. I just wished I had a paid attention, man.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/natural-causes-death-illinois-prisons-110455" target="_blank">Man who died in prison of prostate cancer showed symptoms 14 years before death</a></strong></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:24px;">IDOC: Care is &#39;adequate&#39;</span></p><p>&ldquo;We do our job constitutionally and legally. Is it the best health care in the world? No, but it is adequate and that&rsquo;s our job,&rdquo; said Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer in a recent interview at the State of Illinois building in Chicago&rsquo;s Loop.</p><p>Between 80 and 100 people die behind bars in Illinois every year. The average age of the people who die is 54. The Department of Corrections says it carefully reviews every death, but information on deaths provided to WBEZ was scattershot and incomplete.</p><p>WBEZ has been reviewing IDOC records regarding deaths in custody in 2011 and 2012 and we&rsquo;ve found some cases that seem especially egregious.</p><p>For example, according to an incident report by a nurse at the Vandalia prison, on October 2, 2011 an inmate named Anthony Rencher went to the health care unit at 2 a.m.</p><p>In her report the nurse notes Rencher was complaining that he didn&rsquo;t feel well and couldn&rsquo;t walk. The nurse then wrote, &ldquo;but he could walk.&rdquo; I go over the nurse&rsquo;s report with IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer. Here&rsquo;s our exchange:</p><p>&ldquo;She says no abnormal findings,&quot; I said. &quot;She says she observes him in the waiting room for an hour. At 3 a.m. he requests to go back to his cell. To me that make very eminent sense. He goes for medical care, he doesn&rsquo;t get any, there&rsquo;s no tests run, there&rsquo;s nothing being done&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Let me ask you this right now,&rdquo; Shaer said.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, let me finish,&rdquo; I said.</p><p>&ldquo;No let me finish,&quot; Shaer said. &quot;So you just decided that the reason he asked to go back to his cell is that he didn&rsquo;t get the treatment, rather than he may have been feeling okay. How do you know why he made that decision? You just presumed that he decided that because he didn&rsquo;t get the care he sought so that&rsquo;s why he went back to his cell. How do you know he didn&rsquo;t decide to go back because he no longer had symptoms?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Because he died two and a half hours later,&rdquo; I said.</p><p>&ldquo;Okay,&quot; Shaer asked. &quot;How do you know that he had symptoms at the time, two and a half hours before his death?&rdquo;</p><p>According to the report, after sitting in the waiting room in the prison&rsquo;s health care unit for an hour at three in the morning, Rencher returned to his cell where he died. Shaer says unfortunately many of us know people who die unexpectedly without any warning signs.</p><p>&ldquo;To say that he went there and got no treatment is inaccurate. That&rsquo;s just not accurate,&rdquo; said Shaer. &ldquo;If he&rsquo;s in the healthcare unit being seen by a medical professional he is getting treatment and this inmate did.&rdquo;</p><p>To be clear, Shaer is a press spokesman, not a doctor. Dr. Louis Shicker, the medical director of Illinois&rsquo; Department of Corrections, refused to talk with us about the $100 million in medical care he oversees.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">IDOC: Documentation is difficult</span></p><p>Two years ago, after hearing complaints about health care, WBEZ submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for incident reports for all inmate deaths in the Department of Corrections. The department denied the FOIA, and fought it through an appeal to the attorney general of Illinois, saying it would be too burdensome. They said it would take months to collect the information because it&rsquo;s kept at all the different prisons around the state.</p><p>When WBEZ threatened to sue, the department did finally hand over documents, but the records were incomplete to say the least, and did not even reflect all the deaths that occurred. For example, the department says 97 inmates died in 2011 but the records handed over to WBEZ as part of a legal proceeding stretching out over the course of a year reflect only 79 deaths, omitting 18.</p><p>&ldquo;Eighteen out of 97, we don&rsquo;t feel, is indicative of a major problem with getting you the information you&rsquo;re entitled to. But I would say anything less than a hundred percent is not satisfactory. There are different levels of being unsatisfactory. This is a moderate level of dissatisfaction that we have and we&rsquo;re looking into it but I can&rsquo;t tell you why you asked for 97 and got 79,&rdquo; said Shaer.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">ACLU: Don&#39;t count on IDOC stats</span></p><p>&ldquo;If you say you look at every death and analyze what happened and how to fix it, that should be readily available and if it&rsquo;s not, what does that tell you?&rdquo; said Benjamin Wolf, the associate legal director of the ACLU of Illinois.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I also don&rsquo;t think any of the department&rsquo;s statistics are ones that I would count on as being accurate,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The ACLU is one of the parties in a federal class action lawsuit over health care in prison.</p><p>&ldquo;When we decide whether to jump into a major class action we want to make sure it&rsquo;s a good commitment of our limited resources, including our limited staff, and this problem emerged as one of the most serious civil liberties problems in this state,&rdquo; said Wolf.</p><p>Wolf says before deciding to join the health care case the ACLU did some research. They hired experts in correctional health care to go through lots of records and policies and data.</p><p>&quot;It looked to them like there were very serious problems and very serious deficiencies including some deficiencies that may have caused people to die,&rdquo; Wolf said.</p><p>As part of the class action suit, the court has now appointed an expert who is doing a review of health care inside Illinois prisons. It means an independent doctor has access to all the medical records and death reviews and is going into the facilities as well.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re going to learn that the department&rsquo;s excuses for these things and defenses for a lot of these things are not persuasive and that their system is in fact deeply flawed and dangerous to the inmates,&rdquo; said Wolf.</p><p>Wolf says, when the expert report becomes public, Illinois citizens will have a much more accurate picture of health care inside Illinois prisons.</p></p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 06:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-inmate-dies-3-hours-after-seeking-medical-care-110460 Of natural causes: Death in Illinois prisons http://www.wbez.org/news/natural-causes-death-illinois-prisons-110455 <p><p dir="ltr"><em>Updated 11:45 a.m. July 9, 2014</em></p><p dir="ltr">When Doris Green married an inmate in prison, she knew it was kind of weird, and yet for her it was also normal. As a prison chaplain the Rev. Green says she performed more than 20 weddings between inmates and women on the outside.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;No one else wanted to bring people together like that because it&rsquo;s something wrong with that because they&rsquo;re criminals,&rdquo; Green said in a recent interview at an office on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side where she runs a prison ministry program. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m like, &lsquo;aw, c&rsquo;mon now.&rsquo; They wanted me to do it because none of their chaplains wanted to, so I didn&rsquo;t care. I loved it. I loved counselling with them and preparing for their wedding and making sure their families got there and I did all that. Sure did.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Green says she eventually fell in love with and decided to marry Michael Smith, inmate N40598.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s my time, and I&rsquo;m gonna do this and here&rsquo;s your volunteer ID. Take it back,&rdquo; Green said.</p><p dir="ltr">She says she knows it was a little scandalous.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It is. I&rsquo;m so bad and I&rsquo;m a minister too. I&rsquo;m so bad you know, but whatever. Who tells who, who to love?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">When Green gave up her work as a prison chaplain she stayed involved in prison issues. She&rsquo;s currently the director of correctional health and community affairs for the Aids Foundation of Chicago. She helps connect inmates leaving prison with health care on the outside. Because of her job she knows health care workers in the Department of Corrections. But that didn&rsquo;t make much difference when her husband got sick.</p><p dir="ltr">On May 19, 2011, Smith died of prostate cancer. Green pulls out a medical record that she keeps protected in plastic. &ldquo;PSA was 7.6, high, they put in parenthesis &lsquo;high,&rsquo; and look at the date on here.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The date is December of 1997. Fourteen years before he died of prostate cancer a prison medical record shows he had a high PSA, which is an indicator of prostate cancer. The record says &ldquo;needs follow up,&rdquo; but Green says 14 years later her husband died from prostate cancer that hadn&rsquo;t been treated.</p><p dir="ltr">Between 80 and 100 people die each year inside Illinois prisons. WBEZ has sought information about those deaths, but the Department of Corrections under Gov. Pat Quinn is taking a &ldquo;trust us, nothing to see here&rdquo; attitude. However, persistent and disturbing complaints from inmates and their families make it hard to just move along.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Symptoms too obvious to ignore </span></p><p dir="ltr">Green says in 2011 her husband was getting up to urinate five times a night and was in extreme pain. That followed a decade of complaints of back pain, noted in the medical record. Green pushed the prison system to get him to a doctor at an outside hospital.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;So when the urologist tested him, really gave him the biopsy, it was Stage 4 prostate cancer and bone cancer in his back,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The treating physician says at that point the PSA level had risen from 7.6 in 1997 to 250.6. &nbsp;He says he then prescribed an anti-hormonal injection, but that the Department of Corrections must never have given Smith that injection because the next time he saw Smith the PSA level was 892. He says the cancer should have been diagnosed much earlier.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I know everybody,&rdquo; said Green. &ldquo;I got them on speed dial, the director, all of them. I work with them and help people make sure they have health care. I couldn&rsquo;t get it for my own husband. I could get, I could talk to the people but I couldn&rsquo;t get the people, as the wife, I couldn&rsquo;t get the people to respond to the urgency of my husband&rsquo;s condition.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Green says she didn&rsquo;t find out about that 1997 test with the high PSA level until after her husband&rsquo;s death.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img a="" alt="" and="" any="" at="" before="" care="" class="image-original_image" custody="" dramatically="" entering="" had="" have="" health="" hepatitis="" higher="" hiv="" idoc="" inmates="" issues="" many="" national="" not="" of="" or="" other="" percentage="" received="" regular="" serious="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/deathage.png" style="height: 196px; width: 500px;" than="" the="" title="*Source: WBEZ review of Illinois state prison death records for 2011 and 2012. **Source: Center for Disease Control, 2011. According to IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer: &quot;The 'young people' entering IDOC custody have a percentage of Hepatitis C, HIV and other serious health issues dramatically higher than the 'national average' and many inmates with serious health issues had not received regular health care (or any at all) before entering IDOC.&quot;" with="" young="" /></div></div></div></div><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Spouse kept in the dark</span></p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We couldn&rsquo;t do anything about something we didn&rsquo;t know,&quot; Green said. &quot;And when I say that, I ran across that one page after I got his medical records sent to me. That&rsquo;s when I seen the medical that he&rsquo;d had that prostate cancer, prostate test way back then. These people knew what was happening in my husband&rsquo;s body and just didn&rsquo;t tell him and didn&rsquo;t tell me! They knew he was suffering! It&rsquo;s all in here!&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">While pushing for medical care for her husband Green says she&rsquo;d also been asking the governor&rsquo;s office for compassionate release so her husband could die at home, but that didn&rsquo;t happen. She says he died in his cell.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;And that same day he died I got a call from the governor&rsquo;s office asking to meet with me about Michael Smith,&quot; Green said. &quot;And the receptionist that called me was so, I can feel it in her voice. I felt that I wanted to comfort her in some way. I told her, I said, he just died. And she said, I&rsquo;m so sorry. C&rsquo;mon. Too much. Too late. Too much. It&rsquo;s too late but it&rsquo;s not too late for those that are in there.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">IDOC: Green&#39;s claims &#39;false&#39;</span></p><p dir="ltr">The Illinois Department of Corrections strongly disputes Green&rsquo;s version of events. IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer says privacy laws prevent him from defending the department&rsquo;s track record in the case of Green&rsquo;s husband, but, &ldquo;I can tell you that the claims made by the third party in this case, Ms. Green, are filled with false statements covering the time from inmate Smith&rsquo;s diagnosis in 1997 and his death 14 years later, after I believe, I&rsquo;m not sure, she married him while he was in prison. There are many false statements covering that time. I wish I could get into further specifics but I can&rsquo;t do that. She evidently can. We legally cannot,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">Medical director won&#39;t discuss care</span></p><p dir="ltr">The medical director for the Department of Corrections refused to discuss medical care, even in general terms, with WBEZ because of pending litigation. But there are always lawsuits pending. In fact, according to Shaer, there are 4,600 lawsuits against the Department of Corrections right now. Nonetheless, Shaer says citizens should be confident in the health care inside prisons.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Things happen in health system,&rdquo; said Shaer. &ldquo;If they happen here, when we investigate we find them and we take whatever action is appropriate. I&rsquo;m not saying that there was any such action appropriate in this individual&rsquo;s case, or any particular case. I am telling you that we do the same thing as hospitals do. We review our performance of our staff, our vendors and we take action when appropriate.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Bureau of Justice statistics, Illinois has one of the lowest inmate death rates in the country. Shaer says that&rsquo;s proof that Illinois is providing good care.</p><p>&ldquo;The total number of deaths, the overall issue with people dying in Illinois prisons is absolutely a non-story,&rdquo; said Shaer.</p><p><em>Reporting on deaths in Illinois prisons will continue throughout the week.</em></p><p><em>Patrick Smith contributed to this report. </em></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img a="" alt="" and="" any="" at="" before="" care="" class="image-original_image" custody="" dramatically="" entering="" had="" have="" health="" hepatitis="" higher="" hiv="" idoc="" inmates="" issues="" many="" national="" not="" of="" or="" other="" percentage="" received="" regular="" serious="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/image (4).png" style="height: 487px; width: 620px;" than="" the="" title="*Source: WBEZ review of Illinois state prison death records for 2011 and 2012. **Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics report on mortality in local jails and state prisons, 2011. According to IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer: &quot;The 'young people' entering IDOC custody have a percentage of Hepatitis C, HIV and other serious health issues dramatically higher than the 'national average' and many inmates with serious health issues had not received regular health care (or any at all) before entering IDOC.&quot;" with="" young="" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 23:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/natural-causes-death-illinois-prisons-110455