WBEZ | Politics http://www.wbez.org/news/politics Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Sheriff Dart to investigate unlicensed rehab centers http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-dart-investigate-unlicensed-rehab-centers-111938 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/pr follow.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is vowing to investigate whether unlicensed rehab centers in Chicago are breaking any criminal laws.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-rico-exports-its-drug-addicts-chicago-111852">As WBEZ recently reported</a>, some of the people who end up at these unlicensed residences are heroin addicts who are sent to Chicago from Puerto Rico. &nbsp;They are told to expect well-appointed treatment centers with nurses and pools. Instead they often wind up in rundown residences, and when they don&rsquo;t get the care they need, some of them end up homeless or in jail.</p><p>Dart said he was disgusted to learn of the practice.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-rico-exports-its-drug-addicts-chicago-111852">Puerto Rico exports its drug addicts to Chicago</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no one in good conscience on the other end, in Puerto Rico, who could say they&rsquo;re doing anything other than dumping hapless people in a foreign country,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;These folks are being misled at best &hellip; and the places they&rsquo;re being steered to, you wouldn&rsquo;t send anybody to in good conscience.&rdquo;</p><p>At least two people mentioned in WBEZ&rsquo;s recent story wound up in Cook County Jail.</p><p>Dart said one of the men, who used the alias Manuel, spent 50 days in the jail, for a cost to taxpayers of more than $7,000.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s expensive because once they find there&rsquo;s no services here, it&rsquo;s not as if they just hop back on the plane, no they&rsquo;re-one way tickets. And it&rsquo;s not as if they can go to plan B, there was no plan B. For many of them there&rsquo;s no family around either, so what&rsquo;s going to happen, they&rsquo;re going to end up in our hospitals, they&rsquo;re going to end up in our jails,&rdquo; Dart said.</p><p>While Dart saved his strongest words for those responsible in Puerto Rico, he also said local agencies need to step in.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t imagine there are not some criminal violations that are involved if you purport to be something that you&rsquo;re not and you end up harming people as a result of that,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re pushing our lawyers that we have in our office to see what it is that we can do.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/554/not-it">This American Life: Not It!</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>He also thinks other local agencies could do more.</p><p>&ldquo;I understand we are under all sorts of cuts throughout the state and the city and so on, but I thought at a minimum we would be having some cursory analysis of the different types of entities that put themselves out as treatment facilities,&rdquo; Dart said.</p><p>But the state and the city both say they aren&rsquo;t responsible.</p><p>Chicago mayoral spokesman Adam Collins said the city&rsquo;s health department looked into the story and determined that it was a state issue, because the state&rsquo;s Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse is responsible for licensing treatment centers.</p><p>But the director of that department, Theodora Binion, said her department doesn&rsquo;t get involved until someone applies for a license.</p><p>&ldquo;The city has jurisdiction over the actual buildings, what can happen in a building,&rdquo; Binion told WBEZ&rsquo;s <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/sets/morning-shift-april-23-2015">Morning Shift</a>. &ldquo;Zoning is not our area, nor is the building itself&hellip;. That would come from the city.&rdquo;</p><br /><p>But she said they are &ldquo;hoping to identify&rdquo; the people coming from Puerto Rico so as to help them get proper treatment.</p><p>&ldquo;Even though our jurisdiction &hellip; is fairly limited, we can talk to the people that are there and give them information about how they can get legitimate help,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Some of these residences are in Ald. Scott Waguespack&rsquo;s 32nd Ward.</p><p>Waguespack said such unlicensed, unofficial residences exist in a sort of legal gray area between the city and state. Still, he said the city should be doing more to make sure these places are up to snuff.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s pretty amazing that [the city] would try and push it off on the state,&rdquo; Waguespack said.</p><p>Waguespack said he will look at what is already in the zoning code for ways to &ldquo;rein in these businesses so they can&rsquo;t operate above the law.&rdquo; He also said he would explore ways the city could help the people being sent from Puerto Rico.</p><p>Waguespack also called on state officials to draft a law or policy that allowed Illinois government to regulate the centers.</p><p>While most officials said there is more the city or state could be doing to help, they were especially critical of the government of Puerto Rico for allowing - or even sanctioning - the practice.</p><p>Dart said they were an example &ldquo;of people at their absolute worst.&rdquo;</p><p>In a recent <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/554/not-it?act=1">interview on This American Life</a>, Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla acknowledged his state was giving heroin addicts one-way tickets to Chicago. But he insisted the addicts were getting good treatment here.</p><p>Since it has been revealed that often isn&rsquo;t the case, Padilla thus far has refused to do another &nbsp;interview explaining what he plans to do now.</p><p><em>Adriana Cardona-Maguigad contributed to this story. Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-dart-investigate-unlicensed-rehab-centers-111938 Mayor Emanuel taps CTA director to be chief of staff http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel-taps-cta-director-be-chief-staff-111935 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/forrestclaypool.jpg" style="height: 190px; width: 140px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Then-Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool speaks to the media outside the Cook County Board President's office at city hall Friday, June 30, 2006. Claypool was named Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chief of Staff. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)" />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has named the head of Chicago Transit Authority to be his new chief of staff.</p><p>Emanuel said Friday morning that Forrest Claypool will replace Lisa Schrader, who is leaving after two years. The mayor&#39;s office said Claypool&#39;s replacement at the CTA would be named in coming weeks. Claypool will take the job after Emanuel is inaugurated for his second term. The mayor won re-election earlier this month.</p><p>Claypool also served as chief of staff to former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and was superintendent of the Chicago Park District. Emanuel lauded Claypool as being a &quot;world-class manager.&quot;</p><p>Claypool has a reputation for being a reformer. A Democrat, he made an independent bid for Cook County assessor in 2010, although he lost to the Democratic Party candidate.</p></p> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 08:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel-taps-cta-director-be-chief-staff-111935 Lawmakers fast-track bill on Obama library, Lucas museum http://www.wbez.org/news/lawmakers-fast-track-bill-obama-library-lucas-museum-111931 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/springfield_0_3.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The Illinois Legislature quickly approved a bill Thursday to ensure that Chicago has legal authority to use public park land as potential sites for Barack Obama&#39;s presidential library and film producer George Lucas&#39; proposed museum.</p><p>The legislation comes amid a controversy mostly centered on whether the city can build the Star Wars creator&#39;s museum, which is supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, on formerly submerged lakefront property. A lawsuit filed by Friends of the Parks argues that the city need state approval and has no authority to hand over the land because it&#39;s technically a protected waterway.</p><p>It also comes a week after the advocacy group&#39;s president &mdash; a vocal opponent of both projects, yet strongly supported by the mayor &mdash; abruptly resigned. The group didn&#39;t immediately return phone messages seeking comment Thursday, and Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s spokesman declined comment.</p><p>The bill would clarify state law to expressly allow Chicago to construct museums on park land, or &quot;formerly submerged lands.&quot; Supporters said the bill, quickly approved Thursday in the House and Senate, is aimed at eliminating any questions over the city&#39;s authority to go ahead with plans for both projects.</p><p>The proposal also would specifically allow the construction of &quot;presidential libraries&quot; on public park land, as long as the public can access the grounds &quot;in a manner consistent with its access to other public parks.&quot; Obama is expected to soon choose a site in Chicago, New York or Hawaii for his library, though local park advocates oppose a bid from the University of Chicago, where Obama taught, to build it on park district property.</p><p>Still, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat, said the legislation is equally about plans for Lucas&#39; Museum of Narrative Art. The proposed project, which estimates have placed at costing about $400 million, would be built on land that is currently a parking lot near Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.</p><p>Some members of a House committee considering the bill questioned why state approval was necessary for either project, especially because a location hasn&#39;t been selected for the presidential library.</p><p>&quot;Aren&#39;t we putting a cart in front of the horse?&quot; said Rep. Luis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat.</p><p>But in a nod that the legislation was mostly focused on Lucas&#39; project, Sen. Matt Murphy noted there was &quot;more involving this legislation than the presidential library.&quot;</p><p>Emanuel commended senators for approving the bill, saying it makes clear they agree with the city&#39;s position &quot;that a presidential library and other museums enhance park land for the benefit of the public.&quot; He urged the House to follow suit. The Barack Obama Foundation added that the legislation was a &quot;welcome development.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawmakers-fast-track-bill-obama-library-lucas-museum-111931 Emanuel announces more FAA meetings on O'Hare noise http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-announces-more-faa-meetings-ohare-noise-111927 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/plane.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>After a quick trip to Washington this week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city will hold two more public hearings before a new runway opens at O&rsquo;Hare International Airport. But the Northwest Side community group that&rsquo;s long protested the noise problems is calling the mayor&rsquo;s move &ldquo;insufficient.&rdquo;</p><p>Many Northwest Side residents--mainly those who hail from the 39th, 45th, 41st and 38th Wards--have complained about loud noise since flight patterns changed at O&rsquo;Hare in 2013. Another new runway is set to open in October of this year.</p><p>While in Washington, Emanuel met with Federal Aviation Administration Administrator, and former colleague, Michael Huerta. In a statement, Emanuel said that after sharing Chicagoans concerns, the FAA agreed to increase the number of public meetings about the new runway from two to four.</p><p>&ldquo;The residents who live near O&rsquo;Hare deserve every opportunity to share their thoughts and views about O&rsquo;Hare with federal officials, and I&rsquo;m glad the FAA has agreed to hold more public meetings,&rdquo; Emanuel said in a statement.</p><p>But Jac Charlier, co-founder of the <a href="http://www.fairchicago.org/">Fair Allocation in Runways (FAiR) Coalition</a>, said he and his neighbors haven&rsquo;t had that opportunity.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m glad that Mayor Emanuel traveled all the way to Washington, D.C. to meet with the FAA, [but] FAiR coalition has asked 13 times for Mayor Emanuel to travel all the way to Chicago&rsquo;s Northwest Side to meet and hear and speak directly with the residents who are being impacted,&rdquo; Charlier said.</p><p>Charlier said four hearings isn&rsquo;t enough for the tens of thousands of residents who are affected by this problem. He said that FAiR has heard from aldermen, a few members of Congress and suburban officials; and the group has two pieces of legislation working their way through Springfield--but still, no sit down with Mayor Emanuel.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s office said the city will spend approximately $120 million insulating 4,700 residences over the next three to five years, and that it will add more noise monitors in the affected areas.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 17:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-announces-more-faa-meetings-ohare-noise-111927 Zion residents want body cameras for police officers http://www.wbez.org/news/zion-residents-want-body-cameras-police-officers-111926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/policebodycams_ap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>ZION, Ill. &mdash; Residents of the northeastern Illinois city of Zion are calling on all of its officers to be equipped with body cameras following the police-involved shooting death of 17-year-old Justus Howell.</p><p>The Chicago Tribune <a href="http://trib.in/1OFfLCW" target="_blank">reports</a> about 150 people attended a city council meeting Tuesday in Zion, where more than two dozen members of the Zion-Benton Ministerial Association made the plea for body cameras.</p><p>Pastor Robert Williams of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, a member of the association, said the ministers also would like the city to hire a community liaison officer who can assist in communication between the police department and the community.</p><p>Mayor-elect Al Hill and new members of the city council are expected to consider the group&#39;s proposal at the next meeting.</p></p> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/zion-residents-want-body-cameras-police-officers-111926 Red light camera ban passes House http://www.wbez.org/news/red-light-camera-ban-passes-house-111922 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/redlightcamera.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The Illinois House has approved a proposed ban on red light cameras in certain communities.</p><p>The legislation would take away the authority of non-home-rule municipalities to use red light cameras after Jan. 1, 2017. It was approved Wednesday with a vote of 79-26. The measure now heads to the Senate.</p><p>The proposal came in response to investigations into whether the devices hurt drivers.</p><p>Bill sponsor Republican Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills says the cameras are seen as a revenue generator for communities instead a way to make intersections safer.</p><p>McSweeney says there&#39;s &quot;growing evidence that red light cameras actually do more harm than good.&quot;</p><p>Eight Illinois counties currently have the authority to use red light traffic cameras.</p></p> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 08:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/red-light-camera-ban-passes-house-111922 Final votes tallied: Sadlowski Garza wins 10th ward race, Pope considering legal challenge http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/final-votes-tallied-sadlowski-garza-wins-10th-ward-race-pope-considering-legal <p><p>It&rsquo;s been two weeks since Chicago&rsquo;s runoff election; and as of Tuesday afternoon, every last vote has been counted.</p><p>One big story from the final tallies comes out of the 10th Ward on the far southeast side of the city, where Chicago Public Schools counselor and community activist Susan Sadlowski Garza beat longtime incumbent, Ald. John Pope. At the final unofficial count, Sadlowski Garza beat Pope by 20 votes. The Chicago Board of Elections doesn&rsquo;t issue their official proclamation of the results until Thursday, but elections officials said they don&rsquo;t anticipate any of these numbers to change before then.</p><p>Both Pope and Sadlowski Garza&rsquo;s campaigns filed complaints with the board, so Pope&rsquo;s team could still file a legal challenge over the results. His campaign manager Jake Breymaier said they haven&rsquo;t yet made a decision, one way or the other.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact that both campaigns filed briefs with Board of Elections--we believe that both campaigns want to see a fair outcome with all the votes counted,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Breymaier added that the Pope team hopes to have a decision by the end of this week.</p><p>Meanwhile, some of the other aldermanic runoffs that were close--just not 10th-Ward close--have also been unofficially called. In the 31st Ward, on the Northwest Side, former reporter Milagros &ldquo;Milly&rdquo; Santiago ousted long-time incumbent Ray Suarez by 79 votes. Suarez chaired the Committee on Housing and Real Estate.</p><p>All of the unofficial results, for every runoff election, can be found at the <a href="http://www.chicagoelections.com/dm/general/SummaryReport.pdf">Chicago Board of Elections website</a>.</p><p>Inauguration of the newly-elected council is set to take place on May 18th.<br /><br />Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></p></p> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 18:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/final-votes-tallied-sadlowski-garza-wins-10th-ward-race-pope-considering-legal Rauner's first 100 days: The fight between unions and Rauner http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-fight-between-unions-and-rauner-111909 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raunerface.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Remember the protests in Wisconsin four years ago? When thousands of union members and their allies flocked to Madison?</p><p>Somewhere in that crowd, at least, the one that gathered in the winter of 2011, was Mark Guethle.</p><p>&ldquo;It was cold. Hat and gloves. I&rsquo;m used to cold weather so we&rsquo;re good,&rdquo; Guethle recalled. &ldquo;My colleagues and I were out there and we supported what the labor movement was doing at the time.&rdquo;</p><p>Guethle, with Painters District Council 30, is from Aurora in Chicago&rsquo;s western suburbs.&nbsp;He traveled to Wisconsin because he feared if policies he saw as anti-union could happen there, they could happen here.</p><p>This, at a time when Wisconsin lawmakers who hated that law so much, fled: They came to Illinois to avoid taking a vote, so Wisconsin Republicans couldn&rsquo;t get a quorum.</p><p>That was when Illinois was a blue state. Now, it&rsquo;s run by Rauner, a Republican.<br /><br />&ldquo;You got a governor who&rsquo;s running his anti-worker agenda,&rdquo; Guethle said.</p><p>He&rsquo;s referring to what Gov. Bruce Rauner calls his &ldquo;Turnaround Agenda.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;A key part of our agenda: In your city, in your county, in your schools, you should decide what gets collectively bargained. Springfield shouldn&rsquo;t tell ya,&rdquo; Rauner said recently as part of his tour of the state in which he gives campaign-stump-speech-style overviews of his priorities to small audiences.</p><p>It has Illinois union leaders, who will have to negotiate contracts with Rauner, very upset.</p><p>&ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t heard him give one concrete idea, one actual solution to helping Illinois&rsquo; problems,&rdquo; said Dan Montgomery, head of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. &ldquo;Instead, he&rsquo;s focused maniacally on attacking working people. It&rsquo;s unbelievable.&rdquo;</p><p>Montgomery said Rauner&rsquo;s plan signals that the governor would prefer to have chaos, rather than govern the state. Like what happens when Rauner asks local governments to pass a resolution that in-part embraces so-called right to work laws?</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a circus,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a circus because this governor knows it&rsquo;s illegal. So he&rsquo;s spending his time going around trying to shill and sell this snake oil that he knows is illegal. So why does he continue to do this?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think he&rsquo;s looking for some way to build some support for his side of the bargaining table when he sits down with the leaders in Springfield,&rdquo; said Joe Gottemoller, the chairman of the McHenry County Board northwest of Chicago.</p><p>The McHenry County Board recently approved Rauner&rsquo;s non-binding resolution that&rsquo;s angered unions so much. Gottemoller doesn&rsquo;t dispute that Illinois law does not yet allow for some of Rauner&rsquo;s agenda, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean it&rsquo;s not worth trying to change the law.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not anti-union despite what they might say about me; but I&rsquo;m really not,&rdquo; Gottemoller said. &ldquo;I have unions to thank for me getting through college. But I also know that it doesn&rsquo;t do anybody any good to be an unemployed carpenter.&rdquo;</p><p>Gottemoller said McHenry County, which is right on the border of Wisconsin, is on the front lines of this labor fight. And he said growth and development in the county has slowed tremendously since 2008.</p><p>Gottemoller said he needs tools to compete with Illinois&rsquo; neighbors--and this resolution from the governor is a start. But even Gottemoller admits it&rsquo;ll be a long-time coming before these policies could actually be enacted. After all, a lot of Democratic and Republican lawmakers support labor, and vice versa.</p><p>So how do any of Rauner&rsquo;s plans get approved?</p><p>Guethle, the painter&rsquo;s union official who protested in Wisconsin, said he&rsquo;s got his eye on Rauner&rsquo;s campaign finance committee and a new Political Action Committee created by some of Rauner&rsquo;s allies. Guethle&rsquo;s trying to play the long game, much beyond these first 100 days, to see which 2016 candidates Rauner&rsquo;s going to be putting his money behind.</p><p>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</p></p> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 16:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-fight-between-unions-and-rauner-111909 Rauner's first 100 days: The politics of negotiating a budget http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-politics-negotiating-budget-111898 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raunersots02042015_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>During his first 100 days in office as Illinois governor, Bruce Rauner has proposed big financial cuts to Illinois universities, social services and some health care programs. We wanted to better understand the Republican politicians&rsquo; playbook when it comes to negotiations as Statehouse leaders turn their attention on spending more than $30 billion next year.</p><p>Senate Democrats have held hearings about how those cuts could affect, say, disabled citizens who rely on state aid for services. So, picture a hearing room that&rsquo;s packed full of people who have physical handicaps, parents who rely on daycare and the people who run agencies helping them.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-fight-between-unions-and-rauner-111909" target="_blank">The fight between Rauner and unions</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Democrats might&rsquo;ve seen the cuts as the state government being heartless by reducing services to the people in the room. But Republican State Senator Matt Murphy saw it as part of negotiations and took the hearing to mean something else entirely. His comments caused an uneasy shift in the tone among the crowd.</p><p>&ldquo;To be perfectly clear, so everybody in this room understands why this problem hasn&rsquo;t been solved yet, (that) is because the Senate Democratic caucus wants to leverage this issue and push this debt into next year and they&rsquo;re using you as political pawns in the process,&rdquo; Murphy said to people at the hearing. &ldquo;I mean, somebody&rsquo;s got to speak the truth in this room.&rdquo;</p><p>Maybe you see the Democrats who are in the majority as protectors of government services. Or, maybe you agree that they are cynically using people for their own political priorities, and not spending taxpayer money effectively. Or maybe you think it&rsquo;s a combination of the two.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/rauner">The Rauner Play-by-play</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich used to make the case for his budget priorities by often talking about &ldquo;no growth&rdquo; budgets, or cuts to programs for children. And Republicans often opposed Democratic budgets saying spending was out of control.</p><p>The point is, budget negotiations may be seen as a game of chess, but they have very real consequences.</p><p>This year, there&rsquo;s a new entity in the negotiating room, and some of those tried-and-true tactics are shifting.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re still feeling each other out,&rdquo; said former House Republican leader Tom Cross. &ldquo;I guess you&rsquo;d say they&rsquo;ve probably gotten to know each other. Now they&rsquo;re venturing a new road and trying to balance a budget with limited resources.&rdquo;</p><p>As the top House Republican, he was in the room to negotiate budgets with the Democrats who previously had majority control of state government. He said there was going to be posturing and leveraging in any negotiation, but right now, people are just trying to figure out Gov. Rauner, who&rsquo;s an unknown entity as a first-time office-holder.</p><p>Lee Daniels is another former House Republican leader, who also served as Speaker of the House for one term in the 1990s during a time when his own party controlled state government. He said even when negotiating a spending plan with members of his own party, there was still drama.</p><p>&ldquo;We all fought like cats and dogs as we should in a democracy in the legislative process. But at the end of the day, the people that I worked with when I was there, we understood that we had to come together in the end, we had to balance the budget,&rdquo; Daniels said.</p><p>Daniels also made the point that negotiations on the budget with the governor and the Democrats didn&rsquo;t mean his job was done. He then had to go sell the plan to his own fellow Republicans. If they weren&rsquo;t on board, he&rsquo;d have to negotiate with them to get enough votes to pass the whole thing.</p><p>Charlie Wheeler, a longtime Statehouse observer and political science professor at the University of Illinois-Springfield said putting the necessary votes on a negotiated budget can be tricky because leaders want to remain in power. And the way they keep that power is by protecting members of their own party, who may get asked to vote for unpopular ideas. So those who won&rsquo;t have serious opponents vote yes and those who typically have hard-fought elections don&rsquo;t have to.</p><p>&ldquo;It may sound cynical but I think it&rsquo;s reality. Particularly in this day and age when we have such polarized campaigns,&rdquo; Wheeler said.</p><p>But even as budget negotiations begin and the Democrats who have a majority of lawmakers in the Statehouse start to see Rauner&rsquo;s priorities on paper, Rauner has a slightly different viewpoint on the budget than previous administrations.</p><p>&ldquo;It ain&rsquo;t that hard to balance the budget,&rdquo; Rauner told a crowd recently.</p><p>The governor has said he&rsquo;s not focused on negotiating the budget just yet because - as he puts it - it&rsquo;s rather easy.</p><p>Instead, Rauner is first going after something he says is more difficult: something he calls making structural changes to government, or eliminating conflicts of interest.</p><p>But opponents have another name for it: Union-busting.</p><p>So how is Rauner doing on that front?</p><p>We&rsquo;ll have more on that next week - as we continue to look at Governor Rauner&rsquo;s first 100 days in office.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-politics-negotiating-budget-111898 Emergency room visits for mental health skyrocket in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/emergency-room-visits-mental-health-skyrocket-chicago-111890 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ambulance_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s no secret that both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois have major budget problems. Both governments have made cuts to services in recent years. But there is evidence that shrinking mental health services could actually cost money.</p><p>Heather Linehan is a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department. She is tall, with strong arms and gray hair. She has the kind of presence that is gentle, but also seems to say, you probably shouldn&rsquo;t mess with me.</p><p>Linehan said she has developed that demeanor from working over 30 years in emergency medical services. She said that kind of work gives her a particular view of the city. When you deal with emergencies you see what is not working. You are with people in their worst moments, the times when all the other safety nets have failed.<br /><br />&ldquo;On the street we say, you know what rolls down hill and who it lands on,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Linehan said when policy decisions get made, she sees a difference in who shows up in her ambulance. Years ago, she noticed when state hospitals started to close and not enough community based services filled the gap. More recently she noticed when the state cut funding and later when the city closed half of its mental health clinics.</p><p>If Gov. Bruce Rauner&rsquo;s proposed budget passes she will be bracing herself again.<br /><br />Linehan is not alone. People who work on mental health say the cuts to Medicaid and mental health services would mean more people with mental illness visiting emergency rooms.</p><p>It is a trend that is already underway. Data WBEZ obtained from the the state show startling increases in Chicago. From 2009 to 2013, 37 percent more patients were discharged from emergency rooms for psychiatric treatment. The biggest jump came in 2012, the same year the city closed half of its mental health clinics.</p><p>The city did not agree to an interview for this story. But in a statement it said the mental health infrastructure in Chicago is stronger than it was four years ago.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Inside an Emergency Department</span></p><p>The emergency room spike has already forced some emergency departments to make big, costly changes, just so they can keep these patients safe. Including literally rebuilding parts of their hospitals.</p><p>Sheri Richardt is the manager of Crisis and Behavioral Health at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where construction is underway on a new behavioral health unit.</p><p>Richardt said when a psychiatric patients come in to the emergency department they need special examination rooms. She pointed out how the pipes under the sink and toilet are covered.</p><p>&ldquo;There is nothing on the walls you could hang yourself with or hurt yourself with,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />As visits climbed the hospital needed more spaces like this. The new rooms will be designed for safety, but also to give the patients a more quiet and private space, away from the hustle of the rest of the emergency department.</p><p>Richardt said she witnessed one reason why psychiatric ER visits rose by 37 percent.<br />She said hospitals often recommend Medicaid patients that follow up with a therapist or maybe psychiatrist after they are discharged from the emergency room.<br /><br />But &nbsp;Richardt&nbsp;said some patients live in areas where there just are not enough places to get care. She said these patients could wait as long as nine months for an appointment, &ldquo;and if you come to the emergency room because you are in crisis and then you can not get follow up care for nine months you are probably going to go back to the emergency room for care.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The $2.5 million patient</span></p><p>Richardt&nbsp;saw the same patients rotate in again and again. So she pulled one patient&rsquo;s files and found that woman had visited the Illinois Masonic Emergency Room 750 times over the course of about 10 years.</p><p>Richardt&nbsp;said the patient was picked up by an ambulance or police officer almost daily. Sometimes the emergency department would discharge her, only to have her appear back a few hours later.</p><p>&ldquo;The cost of that for us was two and a half million dollars. Medicaid dollars,&rdquo; said Richardt. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s only at our hospital. This an individual who went between multiple hospitals and so we don&rsquo;t have the true cost.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many patients, she had different, interconnected problems. She had mental health needs, drank too much, fell down a lot. She didn&rsquo;t have stable housing and started having seizures.</p><p>&ldquo;And it wasn&rsquo;t only about the money; this is an individual we believed was going to...die on the street,&rdquo; said Richardt.</p><p>Richardt and her team decided to take full responsibility for this patient. They coordinated all aspects of her care, helped her get an apartment and worked with nurses and a chaplain. It worked. She&rsquo;s only visited the emergency room a handful of times in the last year.</p><p>About a year ago they launched a team with social workers, chaplains and nurses to provide the same type of care to more patients. They work with the hardest cases, including people with mental illness who often visit the emergency room frequently.</p><p>The hospital said their visits have begun to plateau.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Shifting Cost</span></p><p>The kind of wrap-around care performed at Illinois Masonic relies on a range of services. Those services are threatened under Rauner&rsquo;s proposed budget, which cuts millions from community services and housing.</p><p>We contacted his office and asked to speak to anyone from the administration about his budget. In a statement his office said cuts are needed because of reckless spending from the past. They refused to do an interview.</p><p>So we called other state Republican leaders and were referred to Rep. David Leitch. Leitch is a conservative who hates government bureaucracy and believes in fiscal responsibility. And that&rsquo;s exactly why he says he opposes these mental health cuts.</p><p>The cuts mean &ldquo;the emergency rooms pick up more and the jails pick up more. Any cuts the state makes, simply means somebody else has to pick up the cost,&rdquo; said Leitch.</p><p>But don&rsquo;t take Leitch&rsquo;s word that cuts one place may show up as costs somewhere else. Take it from someone who lives it.</p><p>Kathy Powers went to the city&rsquo;s Northtown Rogers Park Clinic for bipolar disorder. Even before the city closed her clinic, she was having trouble getting an appointment with a psychiatrist there, or anywhere else.</p><p>&ldquo;So I went to the emergency room, because I was a girl with a purpose,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Workers at the emergency room said they had a reference for a psychiatrist at Northtown Rogers Park Clinic &mdash; the exact place she had not been able to get care.</p><p>&ldquo;And I said, I just came from Northtown Rogers Park clinic&hellip; don&rsquo;t recommend it anymore, they don&rsquo;t have any psychiatrists,&rdquo; said Powers.<br /><br />Eventually the emergency doctors renewed her prescription for lithium. Medicaid picked up the tab. It really gets to Powers how much that simple prescription costs taxpayers. She said we could be giving her much better care for less money.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emergency-room-visits-mental-health-skyrocket-chicago-111890