WBEZ | Alex Keefe http://www.wbez.org/tags/alex-keefe Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Cycling through World War I http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-31/cycling-through-world-war-i-110586 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/WWI-18.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WBEZ reporter Alex Keefe took a cycling trip through prominent sites from World War I.</p></p> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-31/cycling-through-world-war-i-110586 Lessons from the battlefields of World War I http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-31/lessons-battlefields-world-war-i-110585 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/WWITrenchCambrai.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This week is the centennial of the beginning of World War I. We&#39;ll reflect on the impact of the war with Adam Hochschild, author of &quot;To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918,&quot; and WBEZ&#39;s Alex Keefe, who just back from a tour of WWI battlefield sites.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-remembering-wwi/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-remembering-wwi.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-remembering-wwi" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Lessons from the battlefields of World War I" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-31/lessons-battlefields-world-war-i-110585 Mayors blast pension fix for cops, firefighters http://www.wbez.org/news/mayors-blast-pension-fix-cops-firefighters-110227 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_matt Turner_springfield_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A group of mayors and municipal groups from across Illinois is deriding an influential lawmakers&rsquo; blueprint for stabilizing their police and fire pension funds, some of which are teetering on the brink of insolvency.</p><p>The Pension Fairness for Illinois Communities Coalition, which comprises nearly 100 mayors and municipal groups, released a statement Thursday night claiming the package from State Sen. Terry Link risks leaving their pension funds in even worse financial shape.</p><p>&ldquo;This proposal is not an &lsquo;agreement&rsquo; that brings comprehensive and long-term solutions, but merely window dressing that covers up the real impact on taxpayers and allows the unsustainable public safety pension crisis to continue to spiral out of control,&rdquo; the statement reads.</p><p>Link, a Waukegan Democrat, outlined several proposals to municipal leaders and police and fire lobbyists this week that he said would provide stability to more than 600 public safety pension funds outside of Chicago. Altogether, those funds are projected to be underfunded by at least $8.4 billion.</p><p>Link has not yet introduced his proposals in bill form, and it&rsquo;s unclear whether he will before lawmakers head home for the summer at the end of next week. But the blueprint he outlined during a closed-door meeting, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/springfield-nears-pension-deal-downstate-cops-firefighters-110219" target="_blank">first reported by WBEZ</a>, would ease restrictions on how and where pension funds can invest their money, with the goal of allowing them to earn more in the stock market.</p><p>Link also wants to rejigger the makeup of the hundreds of five-member boards that govern public safety pension funds, and he aims to give smaller funds more investment power by allowing them to pool their money.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s Link&rsquo;s call for a five-year moratorium on further pension changes that would spell doom for the grander hopes of suburban and downstate mayors.&nbsp; They&rsquo;ve been calling for a cut to the three percent compounding annual pension benefit increases given to cops and firefighters, higher retirement ages, more contributions from workers and scaled back &ldquo;pension sweeteners&rdquo; - their term for benefit enhancements that state lawmakers have approved over the years.</p><p>To that end, Link&rsquo;s blueprint merely &ldquo;nibbles around the edges,&rdquo; said Mark Fowler, executive director of the Northwest Municipal Conference, which lobbies for dozens of northwest suburbs.</p><p>&ldquo;If you put a moratorium in on addressing any pension sweeteners or pension changes, you&rsquo;re five years down the road...[and] the problem continues to spiral out of control and you&rsquo;ve got pensions in Illinois that will not be able to pay out benefits,&rdquo; Fowler said.</p><p>Mayors around Illinois have been lobbying for years to have police and fire pension benefits reduced, but their efforts seemed to be gaining some traction this year, after state lawmakers <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/legislature-passes-historic-pension-vote-109287" target="_blank">overhauled pensions</a> for state workers and for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-headed-governor-109989" target="_blank">some in Chicago</a>. Towns across Illinois complain that ever-rising state-mandated pension contributions are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-suburbs-grapple-their-own-pension-crisis-110166" target="_blank">crowding core services out of their budgets</a>, while they watch the health of many pension funds continue to decline.</p><p>While the coalition blames benefit enhancements for their skyrocketing pension costs, unions and some actuaries claim the spike comes courtesy of a decades-old funding mechanism that backloads pension contributions.</p><p>Link has suggested he won&rsquo;t go for the type of benefit cuts included in other recent pension laws because he believes they violate a clause in the state&rsquo;s constitution that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished.&rdquo; The controversial new state pension law is now on hold, pending the outcome of several court challenges.</p><p>But Fowler said that shouldn&rsquo;t stop pension reform for downstate police and fire funds.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t quite understand why those were constitutional decisions or those were proposals that passed the muster of the General Assembly, yet we&rsquo;re not allowed to even present those proposals,&rdquo; Fowler said.</p><p>Representatives for downstate police and fire pension funds did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Senator Link has not returned several phone calls from WBEZ.</p><p>But earlier this week, Link said he may officially introduce his pension changes &ldquo;fairly soon.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;And I think that this is something that everybody agrees on,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-ece037e0-2a71-69d8-b578-db2facad95ff"><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 23 May 2014 13:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayors-blast-pension-fix-cops-firefighters-110227 Emanuel skeptical of teachers union pension plan http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-skeptical-teachers-union-pension-plan-110148 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rahm-crop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration is swatting down key aspects of the Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s proposal to shore up the ailing pension fund for city teachers.</p><p>On Tuesday, Emanuel suggested a proposed tax on financial transactions would hurt the big Chicago-based financial exchanges like the Chicago Board Options exchange and CME Group, which owns the Chicago Board of Trade and other exchanges. The Chicago Teachers union is pushing what it calls a &ldquo;LaSalle Street tax&rdquo; on futures and derivatives trades. CTU estimates it could reap $10 billion to $12 billion a year.</p><p>But Emanuel seemed to dismiss that idea when asked about it Tuesday.</p><p>&ldquo;Years ago, people referred to &lsquo;Lasalle Street&rsquo; because it was a financial center, and Chicago had a lotta banks that were...Chicago-based. There&rsquo;s only one left. They&rsquo;re all gone.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel also suggested a financial transaction tax might hurt the city&rsquo;s thriving futures and options industry.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a place where Chicago&rsquo;s still, economically, a dominant player,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;And there&rsquo;s more competition.&rdquo;</p><p>The transaction tax was just one part of the Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s pension plan, first reported last week by WBEZ. The union wants to borrow $5 billion to help shore up the underfunded Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. Right now, the fund only has about half the money it would need to pay out in future benefits, for about $9 billion in projected future pension debt.</p><p>The union&rsquo;s plan would pay for the borrowing with several new streams of revenue. In addition to the transaction tax, the teachers would also impose a &ldquo;commuter tax&rdquo; on people who work in the city but live elsewhere. Union officials also propose extending the life of the city&rsquo;s tax increment financing districts, or TIFs, which divert tax money into economic development projects. The union would use the extra money generated during the life of the TIFs to pay for their proposed borrowing.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s administration is giving those ideas a chilly reception, raising questions about whether the two sides can reach any sort of compromise on pensions before next year. In 2015, Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; state-mandated payment into its teachers pension fund will jump to $613 million - a roughly $400 million spike - after three years of making reduced payments into the fund.</p><p>Emanuel didn&rsquo;t directly address the question of a tax on commuters, but mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said City Hall doesn&rsquo;t have the authority to levy such a tax.</p><p>&ldquo;It would be unconstitutional under the Federal constitution for commuters living out of state, such as Indiana and Wisconsin,&rdquo; Quinn said via email. &ldquo;It would also be unconstitutional under the Illinois constitution as to Illinois commuters.&rdquo;</p><p>Additionally, Emanuel said a financial transaction tax would first require approval from both state lawmakers and federal regulators.</p><p>Emanuel has said repeatedly that he wants pension negotiations to focus on &ldquo;reform before revenue,&rdquo; which some critics have interpreted as referring to the<a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fmayor-emanuel%25E2%2580%2599s-pension-plan-headed-governor-109989&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEkaheRa-XzrnvOzy_rLdgFgfy0EA"> type of benefit cuts the mayor</a> has pushed for the city&rsquo;s laborers and municipal workers. But Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, a vociferous adversary of Emanuel&rsquo;s, has said tackling benefit changes first without new revenue streams in place would be like &ldquo;cutting our own throats.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 07 May 2014 15:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-skeptical-teachers-union-pension-plan-110148 Chicago aldermen crack down on plastic bags, pedicabs http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-aldermen-crack-down-plastic-bags-pedicabs-110113 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Plastic bag FILE - AP_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Grocery shoppers and pedicab drivers alike will feel the effects of tougher regulations approved Wednesday by Chicago&rsquo;s City Council.</p><p>Aldermen, by a vote of 36 to 10, gave final approval to a partial ban on plastic carryout bags. Several aldermen abstained.</p><p>The partial ban, championed for years by 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno, had been pitched as an environmentally friendly measure meant to reduce the number of bags stuck in trees and snagged on chain link fences.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t be a &lsquo;City in the Garden&rsquo; and have a set of policies that actually hurt the environment,&rdquo; said Mayor Rahm Emanuel after Wednesday&rsquo;s vote, echoing Chicago&rsquo;s city motto.</p><p>Under the new law, both franchise retailers and groups of three or more chain stores will no longer be allowed to hand out plastic bags to customers. Retailers must also provide or sell recyclable paper bags, reusable bags or compostable plastic bags as an alternative.</p><p>In response to concerns from some aldermen and business groups, the ordinance exempts owners of independent shops from having to ditch their plastic bags. All restaurants are also exempt.</p><p>Moreno had originally pushed for an outright ban on plastic bags, and he has said he hopes to tighten restrictions further once a partial ban is in place. Some business groups, including the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, bemoaned the ban, saying paper bags cost three times as much as plastic ones.</p><p>The Washington, D.C.-based American Progressive Bag Alliance lobbied against the ordinance, saying it would cost plastic bag manufacturing jobs in Chicago.</p><p>Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston said she was voting against the bag ban because she worries it will increase costs for grocers, arming them with a new excuse not to open shop in her South Shore neighborhood, which already suffers from a dearth of grocery stores.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m watching my community go to hell in a handbasket while rich communities debate plastic bags,&rdquo; Hairston said during Wednesday&rsquo;s debate.</p><p>&ldquo;Why would I support an ordinance that limits the food choices I get to make based on the type of bag I get to use?&rdquo; Hairston said. &ldquo;Right now, the type of bag I use really doesn&rsquo;t matter because I can&rsquo;t buy groceries to put them in. If I voted for this ordinance, where would I bring my bags to shop in my community?&rdquo;</p><p>Big chain stores - larger than 10,000 square feet - have until August 2015 get rid of their plastic bags. Stores smaller than that have until August 2016.</p><p><strong>Chicago&rsquo;s first pedicab regulations</strong></p><p>Also on Wednesday, aldermen approved the city&rsquo;s first-ever regulations on so-called &ldquo;pedicabs.&rdquo;</p><p>The new restrictions come just in time for warmer spring weather, when the tricycle rickshaw taxis can be seen ferrying passengers to and from baseball games and downtown tourist hotspots.</p><p>After years of operating in a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fno-rules-road-chicago%25E2%2580%2599s-pedicabs-thrive-106557&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFsBfWvdKL2fvg5iDZx9d_j4alTbw">legal grey area</a>, the new ordinance imposes restrictions on how, where and when pedicab operators can peddle their trade. It requires operators to get a city-issued $250 license for each pedicab, and drivers to get a $25 &ldquo;chauffeur&rdquo; license. Pedicab owners must also buy insurance and they post fare their schedules.</p><p>Some in Chicago&rsquo;s pedicab industry have lauded the move toward some regulations. But other restrictions have drawn protests from pedicab drivers who worry their industry will take a hit.</p><p>The ordinance caps the number of pedicab licenses at 200 citywide. In an effort to cut down on congestion, it also bans all pedicabs from riding through part of the Loop during rush hour. They also would be banned entirely from riding on Michigan Avenue and State Street, between Congress Parkway and Oak Street.</p><p>&ldquo;Ninety percent of my time is spent down here in the restricted [area],&rdquo; said operator Antonio Bustamante, who said he spends 50 to 60 hours a week operating one of the two pedicabs he owns. Bustamante and a handful of other drivers parked their pedicabs on the sidewalk along LaSalle Street outside City Hall after Wednesday&#39;s vote, protesting what they see as an unfair restriction on their industry.</p><p>&ldquo;I need to look for another job,&rdquo; Bustamante said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll have to sell both of my cabs and move on to something else, which is ridiculous. It&rsquo;s very upsetting that this is where we are.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Pet coke ban in place, but Southeast residents aren&rsquo;t exactly cheering</strong></p><p>The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance today that places stricter restrictions on the storage of a product known as pet coke.</p><p>Pet coke is stored in large quantities on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast side where it arrives by the train load from the nearby BP Refinery in Whiting, Indiana.</p><p>Since last summer, residents have pushed loudly for an all out ban, believing it makes them ill when it becomes airborne.</p><p>It appeared that the mayor and others agreed but political support for a ban waned in recent months. 10th Ward Alderman John Pope says a ban isn&rsquo;t legal.<br /><br />&ldquo;Obviously, there&rsquo;s concerns and desires from pretty much everyone to have a ban but legally that&rsquo;s almost impossible,&rdquo; Pope said. &ldquo;So, the next best recourse is I think what we&rsquo;re doing: Making any new uses impossible and limiting to the three existing operators. It does a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>The largest handler of pet coke, KCBX Terminals Inc., which is owned by the wealthy Koch Brothers,, says its already invested millions in a dust-suppression system so the pet coke doesn&rsquo;t blow away.</p><p>Residents worry that the new law only regulates the storage of pet coke and may invite companies who want to use the product for other uses, such as converting pet coke, considered an energy source, into diesel fuel. Residents, working with national environmental groups, say will continue to push for an all-out ban.</p><p>&ldquo;It is thoroughly unacceptable for these piles to sit just a few hundred yards from people&rsquo;s houses,&rdquo; said Southeast Environmental Task Force executive director Peggy Salazar said in a statement. &ldquo;People are complaining about finding dust from these sites inside their homes. Black dust is coating their houses and probably their lungs. This has to stop.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, Henry Henderson, Midwest Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the City Council is moving in the right direction but more needs to be done.</p><p>&ldquo;The City is to be commended for attacking the petcoke problem, but a lot more has to be done before Chicagoans who live near sites where petroleum coke and coal have been mounded by their homes, schools and parks can feel safe,&rdquo; Henderson said in a statement. &ldquo;The Mayor has been very public in his desire to push this dirty stuff out of Chicago. Given the City&rsquo;s multi-pronged approach today&rsquo;s vote is a step forward, but we need ongoing, concerted effort and enforcement to achieve Emanuel&rsquo;s goal.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Deferral of rideshare vote</strong></p><p>Council members deferred a vote on a set of regulations for controversial ridesharing services until Springfield legislators have a chance to consider state rules for the new industry. Alderman John Arena (45th) asked to &ldquo;defer and publish&rdquo; the <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fsoundcloud.com%2Fmorningshiftwbez%2Frideshare-ordinance-passes%3Futm_source%3Dsoundcloud%26utm_campaign%3Dshare%26utm_medium%3Dfacebook&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNF3255bBLHeonjfuX7UqqFrXfN5tg">mayor&rsquo;s proposed ordinance</a>, with the backing of Aldermen Anthony Beale (9th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and Roderick Sawyer (6th). The parliamentary move requires the support of only two aldermen.</p><p>&ldquo;This was clearly an effort to protect taxi owners from competition and preserve the existing taxi monopoly,&rdquo; said Uber Midwest Regional Director Andrew MacDonald, in a statement released to the media. Uber and Lyft, the two largest ridesharing services in Chicago, favored the proposed regulations. The companies provide smartphone applications to help people use their personal cars for hire.</p><p>Scores of Chicago cab drivers gathered in the lobby outside Council Chambers, and let out a big cheer immediately following the deferral. But they still remained uncertain of what city council might do when they reconsider the issue. The drivers also remain concerned about how ridesharing services have cut into their industry.</p><p>&ldquo;Can they still operate as they have been in the past and make money (and) interfere with our money?&rdquo; asked one driver, who floated the idea of a taxi driver strike. Organizers from the American Federation of State, County &amp; Municipal Employees told them they would do better to focus their efforts on organizing and lobbying aldermen.</p><p>State legislators are expected to consider a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fillinois-house-moves-rein-ridesharing-110011&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNExxaXHMc-BPpJ5R6hPiTbjx9cmiQ">much stricter set of standards</a> in the Senate for the ridesharing industry in May.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p><p><em>Michael Puente contributed to this report. You can follow him on Twitter @<a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p><p><em>Odette Yousef contributed to this report. You can follow her at <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Foyousef&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHKQ6bayggMubwgs9U53FsOML-b9A">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZoutloud&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGciFiqidUKx7xm655BDbaPU9eB3g">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 16:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-aldermen-crack-down-plastic-bags-pedicabs-110113 Feds seek arrest of former Emanuel aide http://www.wbez.org/news/feds-seek-arrest-former-emanuel-aide-110076 <p><p>Federal marshals in Ohio issued an arrest warrant on Friday to a former top financial aide to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>The U.S. Marshal&rsquo;s service issued the warrant for ex-city comptroller Amer Ahmad Friday morning, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Andrew Shadwick. In December, Ahmad pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and bribery charges stemming from his time as Deputy Treasurer for the State of Ohio.</p><p>The feds want to arrest Ahmad for violating the terms of his bail, Shadwick said, but he would not release further details. Ohio Federal Judge Michael H. Watson ruled Friday that he would not unseal the contents of the arrest warrant.</p><p>Ahmad&rsquo;s lawyer, Karl Schneider, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.</p><p>Following his guilty plea in late December, Ahmad and his family had continued living in Chicago.</p><p>Prosecutors say Ahmad abused his position in Ohio state government to steer lucrative state investment contracts to a former high school classmate who had gone on to work as a securities broker. As part of the scheme, the government says the broker, Douglas E. Hampton, funneled more than $500,000 to Ahmad and some co-conspirators via phony loans and a landscaping company that Ahmad partly controlled.</p><p>Ahmad has not been charged with any wrongdoing relating to his tenure as Chicago&rsquo;s comptroller, from May of 2011 to July of 2013.</p><p>Ahmad has not yet been sentenced, but could face up to 15 years in prison. As part of his plea agreement, he&rsquo;s agreed to pay more than $3.2 million in restitution.</p><p>A spokeswoman for Emanuel, Sarah Hamilton, declined to comment on news of warrant. The Chicago Police Department did not have an immediate comment Friday morning.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 11:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/feds-seek-arrest-former-emanuel-aide-110076 Madigan drops property tax mandate in pension bill http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is removing a controversial provision from a Chicago pension bill that would have required the City Council to raise property taxes in order ease the city&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion pension crisis.</p><p>The move to strip the property-tax language in the bill came late Monday, just a few hours after Gov. Pat Quinn signalled he would not back a proposed property tax hike that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing in order to bolster the ailing pension funds for Chicago laborers and municipal workers.</p><p>&ldquo;Working with legislative leaders, bill sponsors, the Governor, and our partners in labor, we have addressed their concerns and can now move forward to save the retirements of nearly 60,000 city workers and retirees in Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement late Monday afternoon.</p><p>But the removal of the property tax language doesn&rsquo;t mean Emanuel&rsquo;s tax hike proposal is going away. That plan, which would bring the city $750 million in revenue over the next five years, still seems to be central to the mayor&rsquo;s plan to pump more money into the city&rsquo;s pensions.</p><p>The difference is that state legislators, who must approve changes to Illinois pension law, don&rsquo;t have to worry about being blamed for raising Chicago property taxes during an election year. The bill&rsquo;s original language mandated that the City Council raise property taxes to pay for pensions. The latest version allows the city to use &ldquo;any available funds&rdquo; to make its annual payments.</p><p>Speaking at an event Monday morning, Emanuel said he is not trying to hang a potential property tax hike around legislators&rsquo; necks.</p><p>&ldquo;It was never anybody&rsquo;s intention to have Springfield deal with that,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s our responsibility. But I do believe to actually give the 61,000 retirees and workers the certainty they deserve, you need reform and revenue. And we&rsquo;ll deal with our responsibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel said he will continue to &ldquo;address people&rsquo;s concerns&rdquo; about the pension plan, though he would not speak directly to its fate in the City Council, which would also need to approve any property tax hike.</p><p>To placate public worker unions who had wanted a dedicated revenue stream, Madigan&rsquo;s changes also beef up the penalties if City Hall wriggles out of paying its pension contributions. The bill directs Illinois&rsquo; Comptroller to cut off state funding to the city indefinitely if it doesn&rsquo;t pay its pension tab, and it gives pension funds the right to sue City Hall in order to get their money.</p><p>The new bill would also guarantee that retirees who make $22,000 or less in annual benefits would get a cost-of-living increase of at least 1 percent each year. Prior proposals set the annual increases at the lesser of 3 percent or half the rate of inflation. Right now, city laborers and municipal workers get a guaranteed annual benefit increase of 3 percent, which builds on the previous years&rsquo; increases.</p><p>The changes to the mayor&rsquo;s proposed pension fix came just hours after Gov. Pat Quinn slammed Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve gotta come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue,&rdquo; Quinn said at an unrelated press conference. &ldquo;But if they think they&rsquo;re just gonna gouge property taxpayers, no can do. We&rsquo;re not gonna go that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn, a populist Democrat who is seeking re-election in November, has made property tax relief central to his 2015 state budget proposal. And while he shot down Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, the governor did not offer an alternative source of revenue for Chicago pensions.</p><p>&ldquo;I think they need to be a whole lot more creative than I&rsquo;ve seen so far,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>State legislators could consider the new amendment as soon as Tuesday.</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 Quinn quiet on mayor’s pension plan, questions property tax hikes http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is raising questions about whether he would support a plan to bolster Chicago&rsquo;s underfunded public pensions by raising property taxes, telling reporters today that property taxes are already &ldquo;overburdening&rdquo; state residents.</p><p>State lawmakers are now debating <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Femanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHVMds9AwIwUN5U23ljh0rlrgfAPg">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan</a> to prop up city&rsquo;s pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. Central to that is a proposal to raise property taxes by $50 million each year for five years, which would ultimately net the city $750 million. The mayor also is calling for city workers to chip in more money toward their retirement benefits, and he wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s blueprint, which he said would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion public pension crisis, first needs approval from the state legislature and the governor, because all Illinois pensions are governed by state law.</p><p>Quinn on Thursday would not say whether he would sign the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Fbillstatus.asp%3FDocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26GA%3D98%26DocTypeID%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26SessionID%3D85&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCEIli0kRUcM8Np1l1LxGkpZmWDg">Chicago pension bill</a> if it landed on his desk.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that bill is, frankly,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters in Chicago. &ldquo;I think it has all kinds of different descriptions. They&rsquo;re, I guess, looking at it in Springfield. When they have something put together we&rsquo;ll look at it. But I wanna make it clear: I believe in reducing the burden of property taxes in our state.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn would not detail any specific concerns he had with Emanuel&rsquo;s pension plan. But he returned repeatedly to the talking points he has been using to push his own 2015 state budget proposal. &ldquo;The bottom line in our state is we have to reduce our reliance on property taxes and we have to invest in education,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>The governor&rsquo;s 2015 budget would make permanent a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fincome-tax%2Ftemporary-tax-hikes-dont-always-stay-way&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHDXygwYKimhgniQZB0Efijo86f_Q">income tax hike</a> enacted in 2011, while guaranteeing all Illinois homeowners a $500 property tax refund. The governor is hoping that will allow municipalities around the state, boosted by trickle-down state income tax revenue, to lower local property taxes, which Quinn thinks disproportionately favor wealthy areas.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s Springfield allies put his plan into legislative form on Tuesday, shortly after he outlined it for reporters. The bill passed a key House pension committee on Wednesday, but is still awaiting a debate before the full House.</p><p>The State Senate, meanwhile, adjourned for the week on Thursday without taking up the plan.</p><p>The blueprint Emanuel outlined earlier this week aims to pump more money into the two pension funds for more than 56,000 city workers -- one for city laborers and the other for municipal workers, including administrators and skilled tradesmen.</p><p>By 2020, Emanuel&rsquo;s plan would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fexperts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGzLcw0b8YPzM-h-NQSYombAlYX5g">archaic math</a> the city has been using for decades to calculate how much money to chip into its workers&rsquo; retirements. Experts say that is a primary reason the pension funds have been shorted for decades, leading to their current dire shape. Instead, the proposal in Springfield would slowly ramp up contributions from the city, before switching over to a self-adjusting funding formula.</p><p>If the city tries to skimp on payments -- or skip them altogether -- <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Ffulltext.asp%3FDocName%3D09800SB1922ham004%26GA%3D98%26SessionId%3D85%26DocTypeId%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26DocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26Session%3D&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL9MZWqOZTKPul1CQW64R2_sAHpA">the current proposal</a> allows the pension funds to take Chicago to court, or even garnish City Hall&rsquo;s share of state grant money.</p><p>But the stabilization of the pension funds would also come at a cost for taxpayers and city workers.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, which would still need approval from the City Council, would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $58 more in property taxes each year for the next five years, according to the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Current and retired city workers would also kick more into their pension funds, but get less out of them. Employee contributions would jump from the current 8.5 percent of each paycheck to 11 percent by 2019.</p><p>But the mayor also wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year. Retirees in the municipal and laborers pension funds currently see their retirement benefits grow at a 3 percent compounded annual rate. The mayor wants to cut that down to a flat 3 percent, or half the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. And retirees would see no benefit increase in 2017, 2019 or 2025.</p><p>Several of Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful city workers&rsquo; unions quickly came out against the mayor&rsquo;s plan, arguing it violates a part of the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Fcommission%2Flrb%2Fcon13.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHYjOR9TNeMJMsYGbhWyAumt2lbbA">Illinois Constitution</a> that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes the unions for police, firefighters and teachers, whose members all have their own woefully underfunded pensions systems that would not be affected by Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal. What&rsquo;s more, the mayor&rsquo;s plan does nothing to stave off a state-mandated spike in the city&rsquo;s contributions to its police and fire pensions next year, which will cost nearly $600 million.</p><p>The jump in required payments was designed to finally bring the city&rsquo;s police and fire pensions into the black, after decades of City Hall shorting the funds. But Emanuel has threatened that such a huge, one-time increase would force drastic budget cuts or steep property tax hikes.</p><p>A spokesman for venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November election, said in a statement that Rauner disagreed with the mayor&rsquo;s proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;Bruce has always maintained that true pension reform requires moving towards a defined contribution style system and believes that should also be part of the solution for Chicago,&rdquo; said campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 Views differ on job description in Cook sheriff's race http://www.wbez.org/news/views-differ-job-description-cook-sheriffs-race-109781 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/tom dart_AP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Incumbent Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has much more money and name recognition than any of his three challengers for the March 18 Democratic primary. The contest has not been getting much attention.</p><p>But the race is underscoring how much the sheriff&rsquo;s job has changed since Dart took office in 2006.</p><p>On a recent chilly Monday morning, challenger Bill Evans greeted shivering commuters at the 95th Street &amp; Dan Ryan &lsquo;L&rsquo; stop, handing out campaign literature. One of his palm cards features a photo of a younger, shirtless Evans, from his days as a professional boxer.</p><p>Evans is a compact, energetic guy who is now fighting Dart for the sheriff&rsquo;s job in next month&rsquo;s primary. Like the other two challengers, Evans is pitching himself as a lawman -- a 23-year veteran of the Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s police, who now works the graveyard shift as a lieutenant.</p><p>Evans walked over to some uniformed Chicago cops patrolling the train station. They are members of a group he sees as a key potential support base, especially after nabbing the endorsement of Chicago&rsquo;s police union in January.</p><p>&ldquo;Hopefully you guys consider me,&rdquo; Evans told the officers. &ldquo;Spread it around a little bit. We gotta stick together.&rdquo;</p><p>Evans admits he feels a bit like a duck out of water having to campaign for a job in law enforcement.</p><p>And that is a unique thing about the sheriff&rsquo;s post. It&rsquo;s a law enforcement job that requires a politician&rsquo;s savvy to get. Dart was won his 2006 election comfortably, after serving as a top aide to his predecessor, Democrat Michael Sheahan. Dart was handily re-elected in 2010.</p><p>He now faces his most crowded primary in years. In addition to Evans, Dart is being challenged by longtime Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s police officer <a href="http://www.bakerforchange.com/Platform.html">Sylvester Baker</a>, the only African-American in the race; and <a href="http://palkaforsheriff2014.com/about-ted-palka/">Tadeusz &ldquo;Ted&rdquo; Palka</a>, a former deputy sheriff.</p><p>(Palka did not respond to an interview request from WBEZ.)</p><p>Dart&rsquo;s office runs a county jail long troubled with overcrowding, provides security for courtrooms, and patrols parts of the county.</p><p>But Dart has expanded the job description during his two terms in office. And candidates such as Evans say that raises questions about what the job should be, and what type of person is most suited to it: a politician or a cop.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a colossal mess in our county jail,&rdquo; Evans said. &ldquo;We have understaffing issues, we have, uh, supervision issues...and yet this sheriff wants to take on even more responsibilities that have nothing to do with his office.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, Evans and other candidates have criticized Dart&rsquo;s latest effort to to act as a corruption watchdog for some of Chicago&rsquo;s south suburbs, on top of his other duties.</p><p>And they suggest his much-publicized re-investigation of the John Wayne Gacy murders should have been a low priority for an office with so many responsibilities, even if it was a high-profile case.</p><p>But Dart defends those moves, saying he is tired of public officials who just do the bare minimum.</p><p>&ldquo;I looked as this as a mandate to get very involved with the criminal justice system, not just to sit here and say, &lsquo;Okay, here&rsquo;s your blanket, here&rsquo;s your bologna sandwich, there&rsquo;s your cell,&rsquo;&rdquo; Dart told WBEZ in a recent interview. &ldquo;Instead to look at it and say, &lsquo;Okay, well why are all these people flooding into the jail?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>So Dart says he focuses on treatment, not just lockup.</p><p>For example, he has started to connect prostitutes with social services. And after a federal court order, his office has added <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dart-%E2%80%98we%E2%80%99re-criminalizing-mental-health%E2%80%99-102218">mental health services</a> for the large portion of inmates at the jail who self-identify as mentally ill.</p><p>Dart maintains his different approach to the job has not taken away from his other duties. But since taking office, there has been an uptick in how often sheriff&rsquo;s police lend help to other jurisdictions.</p><p>Between 2007 and 2011, the Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s Office assisted other agencies an average of 8,477 times a year, according to data provided by the sheriff. Between 2012 and 2013, the average jumped to 10,700.</p><p>His approach highlights what challenger Baker says is a problem with Dart: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s never been a law enforcement professional...I say that because...you have a different philosophy when you have never actually been in law enforcement.&rdquo;</p><p>Baker spent more than two decades as a Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s officer, and he wants a tighter focus on a county-wide policing strategy aimed at reducing crime.</p><p>But Dart&rsquo;s background might be good for Cook County, said John Maki, who heads a non-partisan prison watchdog group called The John Howard Association.</p><p>Even though Dart is not a cop, Maki says the sheriff has used his politicians&rsquo; instinct to bring media attention to some of the big problems facing the criminal justice system.</p><p>&ldquo;The thing that I&rsquo;ve been impressed with is how he&rsquo;s used his office to kinda shine light on problems that the jail are simply not equipped to deal with -- poverty, mental illness,&rdquo; Maki said.</p><p>But Maki pointed out that &nbsp;the Cook County Jail is still being watched by a federal monitor,in large part because of longstanding overcrowding. The jail for decades has been under the eyes of the feds, on grounds of violating inmates&rsquo; constitutional rights with unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.</p><p>The monitors say conditions have improved a lot under Dart.</p><p>But they say overcrowding is still a problem because public officials are not working together to solve it.</p><p>&ldquo;In the absence of a collaborative effort, and goodwill among stakeholders to address crowding, and related dysfunction in the courts, probation, and pretrial services, more time has passed, crowding has increased, and there is no solution in sight,&rdquo; wrote federal monitor Susan W. McCampbell in December.</p><p>Experts say this is emblematic of a larger challenge facing the Cook County sheriff. While he may control the workings of the jail, he has little control over how many people are arrested and detained, how much money goes into his budget, or how court records are kept.</p><p>Those fall under the purview of other elected officials, such as County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, with whom Dart has had public clashes.</p><p>He acknowledges he is sometimes impatient with the way his fellow public officers handle their jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;Do I not play well with others at times? That is correct,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;But I usually feel pretty confident that&rsquo;s after I&rsquo;ve exhausted reasonable discussions with people and, when it&rsquo;s become clear to me that [they think] the issue is just &lsquo;too difficult to address, so it&rsquo;s just better if we just forget about it&rsquo; -- and I&rsquo;m not into forgetting about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Dart has not been campaigning much before the March 18 primary.</p><p>He has got way more money than his opponents -- and right now, he has no Republican challenger in the general election, though the GOP has the option to fill that vacant ballot slot after the primary.</p><p>Besides, Dart says, he just has too much stuff to do at the Sheriff&rsquo;s Office.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/views-differ-job-description-cook-sheriffs-race-109781 Chicago unions organize to fight potential pension cuts http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-unions-organize-fight-potential-pension-cuts-109720 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/401K2012bank_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful public workers&rsquo; unions are banding together to fend off potential cuts to employee pensions. This effort comes as City Hall and Springfield struggle to dig Chicago out of its multi-billion-dollar pension crisis.</p><p>The coalition, announced Monday, is called We Are One Chicago. It brings together nine labor groups representing nearly 140,000 city workers, from cops to nurses to teachers.</p><p>Organizers say the goal is to humanize the people who might be affected by changes to public pension benefits, like those in the controversial pension law affecting state workers that was passed by state lawmakers in December and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has suggested that law might be a model for overhauling some of the city&rsquo;s pensions, which together are underfunded by at least $27.5 billion.</p><p>The prospect of a slash in monthly retirement benefits ruffled public workers who spoke at a coalition press conference on Monday.</p><p>&ldquo;I paid my money into the pension, and the employment contract was that I would receive a pension,&rdquo; said firefighter Tom Ruane, who said he hopes to retire at the end of this year after 34 years on the job. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re gonna break an employment contract, how about they start with the Skyway or the parking meters?&rdquo;</p><p>Also on Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union released a <a href="http://www.ctunet.com/blog/report-great-chicago-pension-caper" target="_blank">report</a> calling for higher or expanded taxes to pay help pay for city pension benefits, in order to avert benefit cuts that they contend violate the Illinois constitution.</p><p>The union&rsquo;s &ldquo;revenue solutions&rdquo; include a graduated state income tax, rather than the current flat one; a city income tax that would encompass suburbanites who work in Chicago; closing corporate tax loopholes; and expanding the sales tax to include services as well as goods, while lowering the tax rate overall.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey dismissed notions that the state-level pension overhaul, now facing <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/unions-file-lawsuit-over-pension-changes-109588" target="_blank">several legal challenges</a>, could be a model for Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not a starting point we&rsquo;re willing to accept. There needs to be some meaningful conversations about revenue,&rdquo; Sharkey said.</p><p>A spokesman for Chicago Public Schools would not immediately comment for this story.</p><p>Coalition members are planning to rally in Springfield on Wednesday in hopes of persuading lawmakers not to trim city worker benefits. City Hall and CPS are both facing massive, state-mandated spikes in their required pension contributions this year, after decades of underfunding of their retirement systems.</p><p>Unless lawmakers heed Emanuel&rsquo;s call to delay those increases, the city&rsquo;s required contribution for police and fire pensions alone will jump by nearly $590 million this year. Chicago Public Schools, which has a separate budget but is still funded largely by property taxes, faces a roughly $400 million payment hike to its fund for Chicago teachers.</p><p>Emanuel, who as mayor also controls the CPS school board, has said the city simply cannot afford those payments, even though his administration has long known about the impending contribution spikes.</p><p>Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, a close ally of Emanuel&rsquo;s, has said the Chicago teachers will have to accept some benefit changes in order to avoid bigger class sizes and drastic layoffs. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/after-massive-layoffs-cps-suggests-teachers-contribute-more-their-pensions-108125" target="_blank">CPS has said</a> an earlier version of the state-level pension reform bill, sometimes referred to as SB1, should be used for Chicago teachers&rsquo; pensions.</p><p>That version would have capped teachers&rsquo; pensionable salaries and required them to kick in more money toward their retirement benefits. It also would have revised annual benefit increases and raised retirement ages.</p><p>It is unclear exactly what kind of fix Emanuel or state lawmakers envision for the city&rsquo;s other two troubled funds, for city laborers and white-collar workers. Mayoral aides have said one option could look similar to a recently-approved <a href="http://www.bondbuyer.com/issues/123_6/chicago-park-district-pension-reforms-signed-into-law-1058808-1.html" target="_blank">overhaul</a> of Chicago Park District pensions.</p><p>In an emailed statement, Emanuel said the city must provide &ldquo;financial security&rdquo; for city workers, but did not offer any specifics.</p><p>&ldquo;The resolution to this crisis must provide a secure retirement for them and retirees, while also looking out for taxpayers and homeowners in every neighborhood who struggle to make ends meet,&rdquo; the statement reads. &ldquo;We need a balanced approach to solve the biggest financial threat our city and school system have ever seen, and look forward to working on these solutions together.&quot;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 17 Feb 2014 17:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-unions-organize-fight-potential-pension-cuts-109720