Tony Rezko hung out to dry-Daley Family Clam up

$2 mil. — for what?
REZKO TIES | Subcontractor on county deal hasn’t shown it’s done any work
April 30, 2007
Four years after a company with ties to indicted political insider Tony Rezko landed a lucrative no-bid Cook County contract, there’s no evidence the firm has done any work for the millions of dollars it has made.
Crucial Communications is a minority-owned subcontractor on AT&T’s pact to provide phone services at the county jail. But a recent audit shows the company has not submitted any documents showing what it has done for the more than $2 million it has received, other than help AT&T meet its minority contracting requirement.
Crucial Communications has ties to political insider Tony Rezko (inset), who has been indicted in an alleged kickback scheme.
Crucial Communications is headed by Jabir Muhammad, son of former Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. In 2005, the City of Chicago accused Muhammad of serving as a minority front for Rezko on an O’Hare Airport contract.
Records also show Cook County government did not receive more than $1 million it was owed on that contract, which commissioners have called an insider deal from the start.
The findings by the county’s own auditors have prompted County Board President Todd Stroger to shake up leadership, as “we’re very troubled by it,” chief of staff Lance Tyson said. “It’s not going to be tolerated.”
A spokesman said the county won’t renew the contract when it expires in July.
In a letter to county officials, AT&T says a computer glitch and oversights caused the company to short Cook County $1.2 million it was due from phone fees received by AT&T. The phone company agreed to pay it after the discrepancy was uncovered.
But it disputes auditor’s findings that it short-changed the county even more. Former county IT director Catherine Maras-O’Leary says the audit includes “glaring inaccuracies and innuendo.”
She was fired just days after it was released.
AT&T concedes Crucial Communications hasn’t provided any documentation showing what it does as a minority subcontractor on the contract.
Headed by a dead woman
But an AT&T spokesman says that’s because the contract — which was valued at $16 million when it was awarded — doesn’t require it and adds the firm “is meeting the obligation of the contract.”
The contract requires a minority-owned company to get at least 35 percent of the work.
Crucial Communications was created just before the contract was awarded. It had no other phone experience, has no other clients and has just a handful of employees — some politically connected.
When the contract was awarded, Commissioner Mike Quigley called it “incestuous as hell.”
Rezko, indicted for allegedly demanding kickbacks on state contracts, shares office space with the firm, is close to Muhammad and has a brother on the firm’s payroll. Rezko denies he has anything to do with Crucial Communications, even though he is part owner of a separate firm in the same office, Crucial Inc., which provided the startup money for Crucial Communications.
For almost a year, Crucial Communications was nominally headed by a dead woman, and John Stroger’s personal assistant notarized documents confirming her continued involvement.
A person who answered the phone at Crucial Communications twice replied “who?” when asked for Muhammad. When Crucial was mentioned, she referred the call to a Cook County government number.
A message left at that county number was not returned.
An attorney for Muhammad, who has been seriously ill for years, also did not return a call.

Chicago Tribune weighs in on TIFs

My goodness, the TIF districts are out of control in Chicago and now suburban mayor’s are smoking this politicial crackpipe. Please read this from the Chicago Tribune: EDITORIAL
Another form of TIF abuse
Published April 30, 2007
The great thing about tax increment financing, we often hear, is that money generated in those magical new taxing districts stays in the districts, promoting development close to home. But some Chicago aldermen have been chagrined recently to learn that it’s perfectly legal for the city to move money from one TIF district to another, as long as the districts touch each other.

It’s called “porting,” and it’s explained in a 49-page primer on TIFs being circulated by Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley. The report — produced by Quigley’s staff and reviewed by urban policy experts at DePaul University, Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago — spells out the impact of the city’s ever-expanding TIF empire. It provides real numbers to back up Quigley’s assertion that Chicago’s TIFs are siphoning money from other local governments — and driving up property tax bills.
TIFs are a moneymaking machine for the city. Once a district is established, the property taxes collected by the local governments that overlap the district — the county, forest preserve, schools, parks — are frozen for 23 years. New taxes generated by rising property values are reinvested to promote development within the TIF. The other local governments see no increase until the TIF expires, at which time they share in the increased tax revenues generated by higher property values. The idea is to promote development in economically distressed areas.

TIFs are just the thing to rescue seemingly hopeless pockets of neighborhood blight, and that accounts for their popularity among Chicago’s aldermen. But some of those aldermen are having second thoughts, and porting is why.

Like the TIF districts themselves, porting isn’t inherently parasitic. But the City of Chicago’s creative application of the law creates a ripe environment for abuse. By papering Chicago with TIFs, even in areas that are not blighted, the city has gained unfettered control over hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes. TIFs now cover one third of the city.

“In order to allow for more flexible use of TIF money, the city has gerrymandered TIFs in such a way that all but a handful now border at least one other TIF, suggesting that the borders are being drawn expressly to allow one TIF to take money from another,” the report says.

Some aldermen are learning that the hard way. Until now, they’ve been happy to rubber-stamp one another’s TIF proposals, quid pro quo. But that was before money started leaking from one district to another. Though it’s no secret that Daley plans to finance his $1 billion Modern Schools Across Chicago project largely through TIF revenues, aldermen didn’t realize that could mean moving tens of millions of dollars from their wards to build schools elsewhere. Ald. Gene Schulter (47th), no big fan of TIFs in the first place, supported one in his ward after holding a series of public meetings to discuss how his constituents would like to spend the new money — only to learn that Daley is counting on $50 million of that money for schools outside the 47th. That’s not just porting, it’s raiding.

Although it doesn’t go so far as to recommend a ban on porting, Quigley’s report concludes there should be limits on how much can be ported, and how far.

Quigley has been a lonely voice for TIF reform — the Cook County Board is unconscionably uninterested in reclaiming hundreds of millions it is losing to the Chicago TIFs — so the grumbling in the wards is a welcome sign. When aldermen realize the money grown at home isn’t staying at home, they might do something about it.
From Chicago Tribune Today: Correction Ben Joravsky has been beating this drum for a long time. Chicago Newspapers must look into TIFs and expose them. Patrick McDonough

Have you said your prayers lately?

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At the end of the day, many Chicago Department of Water Management employees say a prayer of thanks to our Lord God Jesus Christ. Do you pray every day for those sinners that never seem to learn to play by the rules? I admire people that pray every day, you should also. This is a photo of Holy Mary I took this weekend in Indiana when picking up my boat, Deep Water. I hope you enjoy this award winning photo by the best photographer in Chicago, Patrick McDonough

Thanks Chicago Sun-Times TIFs Need Reform!!

Study shows TIFs are ripe for reform

April 24, 2007
In recent years, local governments, especially Chicago’s, have relied on tax increment financing districts as if they’re a magical and painless solution to their economic development needs. But now a new report from Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley exposes some of the myths behind TIF districts and recommends some worthwhile reforms. His report should not be ignored.
When a TIF is created, the city determines the value of all property within its boundaries in the first year. For all taxing bodies, that base is used for the next 23 years to determine their share of the property tax pie, which essentially means their property-tax take is frozen for more than two decades. But property taxes are not frozen — they increase as the value of property in the district increases. The extra taxes generated by the rise in property value go into a pot that the city uses for development.

One of the myths of TIFs is that those taxing bodies are not losing money, because property values would not have increased if the TIF hadn’t spurred development. But as Quigley’s study found by comparing areas within a TIF with those outside a TIF, “there is evidence that a significant portion of the growth taking place inside the TIF districts would have happened even without the TIF, which means that the property tax revenues of local taxing bodies do in fact suffer.” Taxpayers suffer too, because dollars diverted to TIFs are dollars that must be collected elsewhere.

Quigley proposes several reforms. First, he wants the state’s TIF laws be changed so that the base year is adjusted for inflation annually, to help taxing bodies keep up with natural increases in their costs. He also proposes requiring an analysis of the effects on taxing bodies before any TIF is created; requiring TIFs to have detailed budgets tying every dollar to a spending goal; requiring TIFs to better account for surplus amounts each year, and requiring all taxing bodies affected by a TIF to have a say on a joint review board that oversees them. He also wants the county’s representative on the review board to vote as directed by the County Board. And he would replace Chicago’s TIF oversight board, which he says is too much of a rubber stamp for the Daley administration, with neighborhood-level oversight.

Those and other proposed reforms — such as making information about TIFs more easily accessible, particularly on tax bills — should not be seen as anti-TIF. Instead, they are ideas that would improve oversight, temper some of the negative effects of TIF districts and make the process far more transparent.

Many people have been beating this drum long enough, Thanks Ben Joravsky. Patrick McDonough

Little Village Discount Mall Sign in Chicago

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When you need false identification make sure you go to the 3100 block of West 26th Street in Chicago. Things will slow down for a while, but rest assured, Mayor Daley will keep looking the other way. In Chicago we call that, “Business as Usual”. As long as someone close to the top is getting a piece of the action, everyone in power will look the other way. We need to control the amount of people entering this country. We need to enforce the laws, and we need to make sure all immigrants will have a safe workplace and fair pay. In this neighborhood, I see many people that are injured and crippled, they need to be cared for. I get sick when society allows the injured no recourse, when downtown the wealthy feast like royalty. Chicago needs to get on the straight and arrow, No Justice, No Olympics. Photo by Patrick McDonough

Feds Raid Chicago's Little Village April 24, 2007

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In the parking lot of the Little Village Discount Mall, a massive fraud was in full swing. For cash you could obtain any form of identification necessary to get work in Chicago. During the raid many more people were arrested for not being American citizens. Many Hispanics in the ward were very upset and staged protests. My problem is why Mayor Daley allows this to go on and never enforces laws to protect Chicago citizens. Alderman Munoz’s father has a photo business in the thick of the mall. Are you going to tell me the Munoz family did not know what was going on? Everyone knew the process, meet in the parking lot, than find a vendor with the right price for false IDs and then enter Foto-Munoz for the picture. Alderman Munoz and Luis Gutierrez should come clean and explain their knowledge of these illegal businesses. I am not saying Munoz’s dad did anything illegal, but if he says he knew nothing, I will have a hard time believing that. Late last week, I went back to the Mall and found two vendors selling false IDs in the parking lot. Should Mayor Daley enforce America’s laws, or look the other way like Los Angeles? Photo by Patrick McDonough

Alderman Munoz's Ward Office

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When the Feds raided the Little Village Discount Mall Tuesday April 24, 2007 in Chicago, Alderman Munoz’s father was in the thick of it all. I work in this neighborhood everyday. Photo by Patrick McDonough

Chicago Water Management Safety Update

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Yesterday, I was faced with another questionable situation, this tree was within the 5 foot limit set by the Chicago Department of Water Management. Let me explain, Chicago Department of Management said not to dig a ditch unless a tree was removed so the tree could not fall injure or kill a worker or a Chicago Citizen if a wind storm blew the tree over. All trees within the 5 foot limit must be reported to the Forestry Division for review. I reminded my boss of the rule and called my supervisor and nothing was ever done. Maybe if a worker or two is killed, the rule will be enforced. Another million or two settlement will not make a difference to a widow and children. Photo by Patrick McDonough.

Watch Out Chicago Union Workers Lose Rights

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Chicago has opened their electric bills and the rate hike is nothing more than an outrage. The rates are higher month after month. The politicians are lying time after time after time. Well the front line workers are the suckers at ComEd. Please enjoy this picture of a camera and a microphone that watches every move a low ranking worker makes. The spy equipment is not on high ranking workers that visit massage parlors in the 11th ward during the workday. If a low ranking ComEd worker forgets to put on the seat belts loses a days pay, has a sip of coffee while driving, loses a days pay, smokes a cigarette, loses a days pay. Hitler would be proud of Management working in lockstep with with the great big rate hikes. I hate the rate hikes but I do not want workers treated like communist citizens or Burge detainees. Photo by Patrick McDonough.

Mayor Daley keeps Chicago Inspector General's Budget Nickels and Dimes

I am sad to report Mayor Daley will short change the Inspector General’s budget, I would personally double the budget and train the Inspectors on how to detect white collar criminal activity. The Chicago Inspector General needs to know how the contracts are handed out to friends and buddies of the Mayor. Inspectors must be allowed to inspect Alderman. The Chicago Inspectors waste too much time on low level investigations and need training to pull the big fish that scam millions from the Chicago Taxpayers. Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman needs the money to make this a first class operation, or the I.G. will be back catching low level employees taking pennies. We need the real Chicago Clout Players in Chicago behind bars. If they refuse to give you enough money to run a class operation David Hoffman, take a high ranking Judicial position. Patrick McDonough