Monday, December 31, 2007

Bill protects animals in Domestic violence situations, adopted in Illinois begins Jan. 1, 2008

Contact: Inga Fairclough

Ingaf@aspca.org / (212) 876-7700 x 4564

or (347) 578-2243

ASPCA-Driven Illinois Bill Goes Into Effect January 1

HB9 Increases Protections for Domestic Violence Victims and Their Pets

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is proud to announce that legislature HB9, a bill that the ASPCA worked closely alongside legislators to implement, will go into effect on January 1, 2008. Earlier this year, on May 22, the Illinois Senate voted unanimously to pass this bill that now allows judges to include animals in an order of protection.

“This bill goes a long way in ensuring that victims of domestic violence don’t have to fear for their pets’ safety when making the decision to leave a violent situation,” said Ed Sayres, president & CEO of the ASPCA. “We are extremely grateful to Rep. John Fritchey for sponsoring this important bill and proud that we were able to assist in seeing it to fruition.”

Research has shown that much like children, pets are often used as pawns in domestic violence. Without provisions to adequately protect their pets, victims of interpersonal violence may feel compelled to remain in abusive situations. Consider the following statistics:

  • 83 percent of directors of the largest shelters for battered women in the U.S. indicated women entering the shelters discussed incidents of pet abuse in the family;
  • 71 percent of pet-owning women in shelters reported that a pet had been threatened, injured or killed by their abuser; and
  • 49 percent of pet-owning victims who fled their abusers and sought shelter continued to worry about their animals after entering shelters.

Illinois House Bill 9 addresses these issues by enabling judges to include animals in orders of protection. The petitioner is given exclusive custody, care and control over the animal; the judge can order the respondent to stay away from the animal and forbid the respondent to take, transfer, encumber, conceal, harm or otherwise dispose of the animal.

For more information on other ASPCA legislative activities, please visit www.aspca.org.

About the ASPCA®

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first humane organization established in the Americas, and today has more than one million supporters throughout North America. A 501 [c] [3] not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA provides local and national leadership in animal-assisted therapy, animal behavior, animal poison control, anti-cruelty, humane education, legislative services, and shelter outreach. The New York City headquarters houses a full-service, accredited, animal hospital, adoption center, and mobile clinic outreach program. The Humane Law Enforcement department enforces New York’s animal cruelty laws and is featured on the reality television series “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet. For more information, please visit www.aspca.org.

###

Friday, December 21, 2007

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to host roundtable to discuss flexible workplace practices

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to host roundtable to discuss flexible workplace practices that address new economic, demographic and societal challenges

When Work Works roundtable will highlight employers that innovatively recruit, develop and train their employees; discuss application for Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility

CHICAGO – As changing demographics, an aging population and increased diversity continue to impact the region’s workforce, employers and human resource practitioners can gain firsthand knowledge about innovative workplace practices being used by top local companies to meet evolving employee needs. These best practices will be featured at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s When Work Works roundtable on Thursday, January 10. The Chamber has been selected by the Families and Work Institute and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to inform businesses in the region about trends in personnel management and to recognize effective and flexible workplaces in the 21st Century.

“As our local workforce continues to evolve, the demand for skilled workers will continue to increase especially as Baby Boomers begin to retire. Companies that offer their employees greater workplace flexibility will be able to best compete for the talent they need,” said Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Roper.

For the past several decades, Families and Work Institute (FWI) has been documenting the changes in the American workforce and workplace through its nationally representative studies of employers and employees. The Institute’s research finds that today’s fast-paced, 24/7 “wired” economy and diverse workforce are far different than in the past. There are four generations in the workforce, the workforce is aging, and values have shifted. In response, employers are looking for new ways to recruit, develop and retain their talent. When Work Works responds to these challenges by sharing research and best practices for managing in new and flexible ways.

Examples include compressed work weeks to decrease turnover and give employees more concentrated time at work and at home, telecommuting to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, sabbaticals to re-energize employees, and phased retirement to retain the talent of older workers.

“It is more challenging than ever to manage effectively—to recruit top talent, to engage and retain this talent, and to maximize productivity—in the face of fierce competition, more complicated jobs and changing workforce demographics. When Work Works is finding the best examples of effective and flexible workplaces locally and then sharing these strategies that work with the rest of the nation and the world,” said Ellen Galinsky, President of Families and Work Institute.

Attendees of When Work Works roundtable will share research, discuss best practices, and provide practical advice about how flexibility can be a strategic business tool. Businesses that specialize in workplace flexibility will be on hand, including the 2007 When Work Works award winner, Ernst & Young LLP, Age Lessons, and Flex-Options, a project of the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau.

The When Work Works roundtable will be held on Thursday, January 10, between 8:30 and 10 a.m. at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Aon Center, 200 East Randolph, Suite 2200, Chicago. Event registration can be completed at www.chicagolandchamber.org. More information about When Work Works, as well as research, company profiles, and tips on working flexibly, can be found at www.whenworkworks.org. Participants in the roundtable will be encouraged to apply for the Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility; applications will be accepted online beginning on January 2, 2008. Organizations of all types with ten or more employees can apply.

When Work Works is an ongoing initiative led by the Families and Work Institute, the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Twiga Foundation. Chicago is one of 30 communities selected from across the nation, with local leadership being provided by Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Chicago Workforce Board in collaboration with the Families and Work Institute, the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Twiga Foundation. When Work Works is made possible by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

For information about When Work Works or about the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in the Chicago region, please contact Peggy Luce, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce at (312) 494-6745 or at pluce@chicagolandchamber.org. For more information on When Work Works or the Sloan Awards at the national level, please contact Shanny Peer at (212) 981-2556 or at speer@familiesandwork.org.

In addition to recognizing workplace flexibility through the When Work Works initiative, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce also recognizes regional businesses for workplace excellence through its annual Right Workplace Award. Applications will be available beginning February 15.
# # #



About the Project Partners of When Work Works

About the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Since its founding in 1904 as the first regional chamber of commerce in the United States, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to make Chicagoland the most business-friendly region in America and enhance its members’ success through aggressive programs of advocacy, member benefits and services, and actionable information. The Chamber’s 2,600 members employ more than 1.2 million individuals in Chicagoland. Learn more by visiting www.chicagolandchamber.org.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation was established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr., then President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation. For the last 12 years, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has funded six Centers on Working Families, one workplace center, and many other research projects to examine issues faced by working families. Many of the findings reveal that while the demographics of the American workforce have changed dramatically over the last 30 years, the American workplace has not changed as rapidly. With today’s very diverse workforce, it is not surprising that now nearly four out of five working Americans, across age, income, and stage in life, want more flexibility at work. For more information, visit www.sloan.org.

Families and Work Institute
Families and Work Institute (FWI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that studies the changing workforce and workplace, the changing family and the changing community. As a preeminent think-tank, FWI is known for being ahead of the curve, identifying emerging issues, and then conducting rigorous research that often challenges common wisdom, provides insight and knowledge, and inspires action. Since the Institute was founded in 1989, our work has focused in three major areas: the workforce/workplace, youth and early childhood. For more information, visit www.familiesandwork.org.

The Institute for a Competitive Workforce
The Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW) is a 501(c)3 affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is working to ensure that businesses have access—today and tomorrow—to an educated and skilled workforce. Through policy initiatives, business outreach, and a strong grassroots network, ICW is finding solutions that will preserve the American workforce as this country’s greatest business asset and its strongest future resource. ICW promotes high educational standards and effective workforce training systems, so that they are aligned with each other and with today’s rigorous business demands. For more information, visit www.uschamber.com/icw.

The Twiga Foundation
The Twiga Foundation is dedicated to inspiring, promoting and maintaining a family consciousness at home, in the workplace and in the community. The Twiga Foundation acts as a liaison to key stakeholders in the When Work Works communities to address the issue of flexibility in the workplace. The Foundation helps build a broader leadership constituency for workplace flexibility within each community. For more information, visit www.twigafoundation.org.



Justin DeJong
Director of Communications
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
200 E. Randolph Street, Suite 2200
Chicago, IL 60601

Daley endorses Smith for Recorder

Today Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley endorsed Ed Smith for Cook County Recorder of Deeds."Ed Smith is a tremendous leader in Chicago," said Mayor Daley. "He will be a great asset in Cook County government, and I am proud to endorse him today."Mayor Daley now leads a growing coalition of city and suburban public officials supporting Ed Smith and demanding change in the Cook County Recorder's office."I am extremely gratified to have Mayor Daley's endorsement and support," said Alderman Smith. "He has been a tremendous leader for the City of Chicago and I look forward to campaigning with him."Also, last night the Independent Voters of Illinois - Independent Precinct Organization endorsed Ed Smith for Recorder of Deeds. A complete list of endorsements can be found on the campaign web site at http://www.EdSmithForRecorder.comAlderman Ed Smith is a Democratic candidate for Cook County Recorder of Deeds. He is an accomplished member of the Chicago City Council who most recently, passed the Chicago Smoking Ban. Throughout his career he has served with unquestionable integrity and has built a reputation for speaking against injustice. Alderman Smith was first elected to the Chicago City Council in 1983 after helping to organize the Chicago's West Side for Harold Washington's historic mayoral campaign. He holds a Masters of Arts in Urban Studies from Northeastern Illinois University and served for two years in the Peace Corps in India. He and his wife Carolyn live in Chicago's Garfield Park neighborhood.
# #

Blagojevich letter on special session

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
SPRINGFIELD 62706
Rod Blagojevich
GOVERNOR December 20, 2007

Honorable members of the General Assembly:

As you know, despite the immediate and growing need to fund the Chicagoland mass transit system, Speaker Madigan decided to cancel session this week. This delay leaves millions of people waiting in uncertainty. I had hoped to receive legislation on my desk before the end of the calendar year. I considered calling a special session this week, but was informed by the legislative leaders that many of their members would be unavailable, and that it would be counterproductive to call them in right before their holiday break.

It has been ninety-two days since the Senate approved a capital plan with bipartisan support. That plan also provided for $200 million in interim relief for mass transit. In the three months since, the House has taken no action. Additionally, twice in the past four months I have been forced to bail out the Chicago Transit Authority to avoid crippling service cuts and fare hikes. In the absence of a permanent funding source, these bailouts have totaled almost $100 million.

Transit riders deserve better. The people of this state deserve better. As such, I am writing to notify you that I will call for a Special Session after the holiday break, beginning January 2, 2008, and to ask you to work quickly to pass a statewide infrastructure plan, so that there is also sufficient support for a long-term solution to mass transit funding. As I have said before, I support Representative Saviano’s plan, or a comparable plan, to provide mass transit funding by redirecting the sales tax on gasoline in the RTA region. This legislation received a near-majority of 57 votes on November 28, even though many members were absent or failed to vote on the measure.

With the RTA prepared to implement drastic layoffs, service cuts and fare increases on January 20 if no agreement is reached, our time is running out. You must focus on passing legislation in this short timeframe. There will be only 18 days to work before the transit doomsday, so you should be prepared to meet as often as needed during that period.

I am providing this notice now so that all members of the General Assembly can make arrangements to be present, and be prepared to vote. Let’s start the New Year on a great note by passing a long-term solution for mass transit. The citizens of Illinois are relying on us to get the job done.

Sincerely,

Rod Blagojevich
Abby Ottenhoff Director of Communications Office of Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lipinski lists funds secured for district

Lipinski Secures Millions of Federal Dollars for Local Communities
FY2008 Appropriations Bill Passes Congress

[Washington D.C.] – Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) announced that with the passage of the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill today, he has secured millions of dollars that will aid Third District residents.

"These federal funds will help our communities by easing traffic congestion, expanding mass transit, cleaning up the local environment, increasing care for abused children, housing homeless veterans, providing communications equipment for area first responders, protecting food safety, helping local communities improve water infrastructure, and developing environmentally friendly transportation,” said Congressman Lipinski. "These are the issues that affect people every day, and I am proud to be bringing back the funding that will improve the daily lives of Third District residents.”

In addition, thanks to Congressman Lipinski’s efforts, the legislation also includes more than $20 million for the Capital Grants Rail Line Relocation and Improvement Program, a federal grants program that could help create quiet zones, build underpasses, improve safety, and aid economic development in local communities with rail lines.

The FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill includes funding for the following projects requested by Rep. Lipinski:

$400,000 for a parking garage in Berwyn that would serve area communities as well as provide economic development and traffic mitigation in the area.
$500,000 for extension of the Chicago Transit Authority's Orange Line from its current terminus at Midway Airport to Ford City Mall. The extension would feature a new station with intermodal connections to nearby neighborhoods and southwest suburban communities.
$250,000 for the construction of a community center at Saint Richard Parish serving the Archer Heights Community. This center will be used by the parish, the local community, and organizations such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
$238,000 for the Cook County Environmental Infrastructure Fund, to aid in improving local water and sewer systems and community environmental infrastructure needs.
$500,000 for a feasibility study of the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River, also known as Bubbly Creek, to address problems of odor and water quality issues.
$100,000 for a study to determine alternatives to using the Lucas-Berg Confined Dredged Facility as a disposal site for dredged material from the Calumet-Sag Channel Modification and Illinois Waterway.
$1,000,000 for fuel research and development at Northern Illinois University. Working in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, Northern Illinois University will continue a joint research program to develop a viable fuel cell vehicle that will provide environmentally-friendly transportation.
$2,228,000 for the National Center for Food Safety & Technology, run by the Illinois Institute of Technology, to continue conducting food safety, security and prevention technology research. With recent events having raised awareness of the importance of food safety, this funding will facilitate research that will help ensure that Americans have a safe food supply.
$316,000 for Advocate Health Care’s Childhood Trauma Treatment Program for specialized and comprehensive psychotherapy and support for abused and neglected children and their families.
$243,000 for Northern Illinois University’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology for a center developing new technologies and working on interdisciplinary projects ranging from homeland security to noise cancellation.
$487,000 for Catholic Charities for a proposed St. Leo’s Residence to provide all aspects of rehabilitation to homeless veterans with the goal of them self sufficient.
$2,256,000 for Cook County to spend on Interoperable Safety and Emergency Communications Radios to allow local villages and municipalities to communicate in the event of a biological, chemical or terrorist attack and would assist thousands of first responders in the Cook County region.

The funding bill has been approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and is expected to be signed into law this week.

###

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias on radio show Wed Dec. 19

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias will guest on Ray Hanania's radio show, Radio Chicagoland, Wednesday Dec. 19, 2007.

Visit www.RadioChicagoland.com for details

Giannoulias: Drive Clean, Save Green

Hybrid buyers eligible for $1,000 rebates
July 15, 2007

To combat rising gas prices, Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias today unveiled a new statewide rebate program designed to make fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles more affordable.
Under the “Green Rewards” program, the Treasurer’s Office will partner with banks and credit unions throughout the state to issue $1,000 rebates to Illinois residents who purchase a hybrid or other energy-efficient automobile.

“Hybrid cars use less gas, but they cost more upfront,” Giannoulias said during a press conference at Grant Park. “Green Rewards entices Illinois residents to buy fuel-efficient, clean-burning vehicles by offering $1,000 rebates. This will help them recoup their investment faster while they save money at the pump.”

Green Rewards is the first incentive program to encourage hybrid purchases in Illinois. The program offers the largest state rebate for hybrids in the nation.

Giannoulias is pledging $2 million in Green Rewards during a statewide tour in his personal hybrid vehicle. The Treasurer’s Office will fund the program by depositing money at local banks and credit unions at a below-market interest rate. The money that those institutions save in interest is passed to consumers in the form of $1,000 rebates at the time of purchase.

To take advantage of the program, buyers must secure a car loan from a participating bank or credit union for a new hybrid vehicle or an eligible electric or fuel cell vehicle. Purchasers can receive one rebate per vehicle, allowing municipalities or other entities to receive additional cash back when acquiring fuel-efficient fleets.

Mayor Richard M. Daley endorsed Green Rewards, saying it complements Chicago’s commitment to protecting the environment.

“This is a great program that will encourage people to purchase hybrid vehicles which conserve fuel, save money and protect our environment by reducing harmful emissions,” Daley said. “In Chicago we are leading by example by purchasing City vehicles and buses that are hybrids or run on alternative fuels. Purchasing these types of vehicles will go a long way to help conserve and protect our valuable natural resources and our quality of life for future generations.”

Current hybrid cars can get up to 60 miles to the gallon on the highway and produce up to 80 percent less harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases than comparable gasoline cars. But they cost $1,200 to $10,000 more than their fossil fuel counterparts.

Studies show that the Ford Escape, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Toyota Prius all recover their price premium through fuel efficiencies after the first five years or 75,000 miles of ownership.

Fourth of July gas prices were 89 cents higher this year than two years ago. As of Friday, the price of regular unleaded gasoline in Illinois was $3.30, 25 cents more than the national average. If gas prices remain at this rate, average hybrid drivers could save $5,000 in gas by the time they drive 120,000 miles.

“For every dollar that is spent on the program, drivers will save $5 on fuel over the life of their vehicle,” Giannoulias said. “That’s a deal government should make every day of the week.”
Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter, supports the Drive Clean, Save Green campaign.

“The cars we drive in Illinois account for 26 percent of the global warming pollution we put into the atmosphere,” Darin said. “By rewarding car buyers who choose a hybrid over a gas guzzler, Treasurer Giannoulias' Green Rewards program will help more Illinois drivers get into a car that is part of the solution to global warming, while saving money at the gas pump.”

Giannoulias has ordered two hybrid vehicles to replace a pair of gas-only vehicles and will replace others with fuel-efficient models when their leases expire.

Hybrid and other fuel-efficient vehicles reduce harmful environmental triggers that contribute to asthma, said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of Illinois-Greater Chicago. In 2003, approximately 20 million Americans had this chronic lung condition, which accounted for an estimated 12.8 million lost school days in children and 24.5 million lost work days in adults.

“I applaud the Treasurer’s Office for encouraging Illinois residents to proactively reduce their exposure to harmful environmental triggers that contribute to asthma, such as gasoline exhaust,” Wimmer said. “Hybrids are a clean air choice that will help to prevent lung disease and promote the lung health of all Americans.”

Illinois State Rep. John Fritchey believes Green Rewards will pay off for Illinois residents who want to save money and reduce global warming.

“This is a great example of what can be accomplished through innovative ideas and proactive leadership,” Fritchey said. “The Treasurer’s investment will result in financial dividends for people wanting to drive energy-efficient vehicles, and environmental dividends for all Illinoisans now and into the future.”

Green Rewards also received an endorsement from Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Hybrid cars produce much less pollution and can save car buyers money over time because of high gas costs,” Learner said. “The State Treasurer's program provides a helpful incentive for purchases of these cleaner cars that help solve our global warming problems through technological innovation.”

Green Rewards is one of the State Treasurer’s Cultivate Illinois Agricultural and Environmental programs.

For more information contact:

(312) 814-1901 or (217) 557-6436 or cultivateillinois@treasurer.state.il.us.


State Treasurer overhauls 'Bright Start' $2.1 billion college savings program to become one of the most affordable in the nation;
New program manager commits millions
in scholarships to Illinois students

March 12, 2007

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias today named a new administrator for the state’s tax-exempt college savings program so Illinois families can earn more money to send their children to college.

The new program manager, Oppenheimer Funds, Inc., will significantly reduce the costs of Bright Start, making it among the lowest-cost programs in the nation, and will offer better investment options to gain a higher rate of return. In addition, Giannoulias negotiated $3.5 million in scholarship money that Oppenheimer will earmark for Illinois students planning to attend college.

Bright Start has come under criticism for its underperforming funds and high structural costs. Savingforcollege.com, an independent authority that analyzes college savings programs, recently ranked Illinois’ Bright Start program 47th out of 48 plans nationwide. Giannoulias is confident this overhaul will turn Bright Start into one of the best college savings plans in the nation.

“Stronger performing funds, increased investment options and lower fees will make Bright Start a vastly improved program for current participants and much more attractive to prospective investors,” Giannoulias said. “With costs of college skyrocketing, Oppenheimer will give Illinois families the biggest bang for their buck.”

Bright Start’s former program manager, Legg Mason, will complete its transfer of accounts to Oppenheimer within the next few months.
Scholarships

As part of its seven-year contract, Oppenheimer will allocate $3.5 million in scholarship money to college-bound students. The Treasurer’s Office is developing a selection process and criteria to award the $500,000 in annual scholarships to Illinois students from low- and middle-income families from every region of the state.

“The $3.5 million devoted to scholarships demonstrates the state’s and Oppenheimer’s commitment to support students who do the right thing, work hard and understand the importance of going to college, but require some extra financial help,” Giannoulias said.

Better Performing Funds

As one of the nation’s largest and most experienced money managers, Oppenheimer will offer Illinois residents an impressive portfolio lineup, which will include popular, strong-performing Oppenheimer and Vanguard funds. All of the underlying funds Oppenheimer will employ in Bright Start are currently ranked in the top quartile by Morningstar, Inc. and Lipper. Both Oppenheimer and Vanguard equity portfolios have outperformed the existing Bright Start portfolio during the past three years.

Along with its actively managed funds, Bright Start will offer a portfolio of index funds for the first time. Index funds seek to match the performance of specific stock and bond market indexes, such as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. Index funds generally have lower fees than actively managed funds, which rely upon managers to buy stocks in an effort to outperform the market as a whole.

“Our Vanguard Index funds are safe investments that take the guess work out of investing at a much lower cost than actively managed mutual funds,” Giannoulias said.
Investors will have the option of choosing from different investments that provide exposure to three equity options – an S&P 500 index fund, a small-cap index fund, and an international index fund.

Current investors will have their assets transferred from existing mutual funds to similar actively-managed funds managed by Oppenheimer. The asset allocation and the percentage of the investments in stocks, bonds, international investments, etc., will remain the same. The Treasurer’s Office will notify all Bright Start account holders about the changes to the program and will provide information on how to transfer assets to index funds.

Costs and Fees

Giannoulias also announced significant reductions in the costs of Bright Start, which will make it one of the most affordable college savings plans in the nation.

“There is no reason why a college saving program with in $2 billion in assets should have such high fees,” said Giannoulias, referring to the old plan that required participants to pay a .99 percent annual fee.

Under the new plan, costs will vary from .19 percent to .21 for index funds and .53 percent to .64 percent for actively managed funds.

“High expenses can siphon off returns and limit financial gains that ultimately eat away at money that would have gone toward tuition,” said Giannoulias, noting that Morningstar criticized Bright Start’s high fees, saying they took up a “sizable portion” of fixed income returns.

Under the new contract, the typical Bright Start investor will save approximately $5,000 to $10,000 in fees. These figures are based on a family that contributes $3,000 per year for 18 years and earns an industry-average 8 percent return. Investors who choose Vanguard funds will save the most because the fixed index funds have a much lower expense ratio.

The Treasurer’s Office also negotiated break points in the new contract, which call for Oppenheimer to reduce Bright Start’s fees as investor’s assets increase. This will ultimately reduce the overall costs for individual participants.

Tax penalty

In addition to naming a new program manager, Giannoulias is seeking to pass legislation that will eliminate the tax penalty imposed on Illinois residents who invest in out-of-state 529 programs.

Illinois is one of two states that impose a 3 percent state tax on the earnings residents receive from 529 plans administered in other states, and residents must pay income tax on contributions to out-of-state plans.

“We should not punish Illinois residents because they want to get the most for their money,” Giannoulias said. “Illinois’ savings plan should attract investors based on its own merits and because it’s the best in the country, not because investors will get penalized if they go elsewhere.”

Giannoulias’ bill (HB 376), sponsored by State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) and State Sen. James Clayborne (D-East St. Louis), to remove the penalties has won unanimous approval in the Illinois House and now awaits a vote in the Illinois Senate.

Nearly every state runs a college savings program, called a 529 plan after the section of the IRS code, which offers tax advantages to investors who use the money to cover the costs of higher education. Earnings on 529 plan investments are exempt from state and federal income taxes.

Bright Start, which was created in 2000, boasts more than $2.1 billion in assets and has more than 142,000 separate accounts.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Subscribe to my radio show archive links

You can subscribe to my radio show archive links each week either by clicking on this link: SUBSCRIBE

Or, by visiting the Radio Chicagoland Blog

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lipinski denounces illegal Japanese whaling

Lipinski Denounces Illegal Japanese Whaling

Calls on President to Condemn Japan’s Actions and Seek End to All Future Hunts

[Washington, D.C.] Today, Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) sent a letter to President Bush requesting his public condemnation of Japan for disregarding an international ban and allowing the killing of over 1,000 whales, many of them endangered. The letter, signed by 76 Members of the House of Representatives, also calls for an end to all future hunts and expresses support for trade restrictions on Japan that would help conserve whales.

“I am deeply troubled by Japan’s complete disregard of an international ban on whale hunts that has protected whales since the 1940’s,” stated Lipinski. “The Bush Administration should take a firm stance against Japan’s actions by pursuing appropriate diplomatic, economic, and trade measures to ensure that international protections for whales are not undermined, but strengthened. We must continue to protect these fragile creatures that are being threatened by human activity.”

On November 19, a fleet of Japanese whalers set sail from the port of Shimonoseki with plans to kill over 1,000 whales, including the Minke Whale and the endangered Humpback and Fin Whales. Although an international moratorium against commercial whaling has been in effect since 1986, Japan has circumvented this international treaty, killing nearly 11,000 whales for commercial purposes under the guise of “scientific research.”

“My very first venture into political activism occurred when I was 9 years old and I collected signatures on a petition to the Japanese government protesting the killing of dolphins by tuna fishers,” stated Lipinski. “Now, over 30 years later, I continue to work to protect our environment and its inhabitants because it is critically important that we conserve the planet for future generations.”

In addition to this effort, Rep. Lipinski has been committed to animal welfare issues in the 110th Congress, including efforts to strengthen prohibitions against animal fighting and the use of dog and cat fur products. As a member of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, he is a cosponsor of legislation to protect rare cats and dogs, to prohibit aerial hunting of wildlife, to restore healthy populations of salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, and to permanently protect the Arctic coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while also supporting efforts to prevent the importation of polar bear trophies.

###

Chris Lyons | Legislative Assistant

Office of Representative Dan Lipinski (IL-3)
1717 Longworth House Office Building
| Washington, DC 20515
( 202.225.5701 (main) | 202.225.1012 (fax)

Governor challenges Madigan's cancellation of session

Sadly, it’s not surprising that Speaker Madigan would, at the last minute, cancel a scheduled session to consider a plan to fund the CTA. That unfortunately has been more the rule than the exception over the last three months. The Governor has taken unilateral action twice to prevent a CTA doomsday. We agree with Mayor Daley, the CTA, the RTA and the transit unions that the legislature needs to pass a plan that properly funds mass transit before the end of the year. That’s why we are continuing to work with the Senate President and the two Republican legislative leaders on a comprehensive plan to fund mass transit in the Chicago area and transportation needs across the whole state, with the intention of calling the legislature back into session next week to take action.

Abby Ottenhoff

Director of Communications
Office of Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mayor Bennett statement on Bush veto of Schip bill

For Immediate Release: December 12, 2006

Contact: Alex Behrend, 708-907-5063

Statement of Mayor Jerry Bennett (Candidate for Congress, IL-3) re Bush Veto of SCHIP Bill

"As a small business owner and Mayor, I have always made sure my employees and those working for the City of Palos Hills have quality, affordable health care because it is devastating to be without coverage.

George W. Bush’s veto of health insurance for children is outrageous and an all-too-familiar example of why we need experienced leaders in Congress who can be effective on key issues such as comprehensive health care – especially for the youngest and most vulnerable in America."

- END -

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Jerald Bennett receives endorsements of neighboring mayors

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett received endorsements from the following mayors this week ... Bennett, it should be noted, is the Chairman of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which is a part of the Southwest Conference of Mayors.

Mayors for Bennett List

Larry Hartwig, Addison
Patrick Kitching, Alsip
Arlene Mulder, Arlington Heights
Catherine Melchert, Bartlett
Jeffrey Schielke, Batavia
Donald Peloquin, Blue Island
Roger Claar, Bolingbrook
Donald Maue, Breese
Henry Vicenik, Broadview
Elliot Hartstein, Buffalo Grove
Brad Cole, Carbondale
Joe Cook, Channahon
Thomas Gray, Chatham
Stan Schaeffer, Collinsville
Dwight Welch, Country Club Hills
Aaron Shepley, Crystal Lake
Scott Eisenhauer, Danville
Gary Niebur, Edwardsville
Ed Schock, Elgin
Tom Marcucci, Elmhurst
James Sexton, Evergreen Park
Robert, Walter, Fairbury
Gail Mitchell, Fairview Heights
Saul Beck, Ford Heights
Anthony Calderone, Forest Park
Rodney Craig, Hanover Park
Keith Hunt, Hawthorn Woods
Victor Ritter, Herrin
Don Roberton, Hometown
John Piazza, Lemont
Bill Muller, Lombard
Darryl Lindberg, Loves Park
Tom Murawski, Midlothian
Timothy O'Donnell, Monee
Marilyn Michelini, Montgomery
George Pradel, Naperville
Nicholas B Blaze, Niles
Chris Koos, Normal
Gary Graham, O'Fallon
Daniel Lightner, Oreana
Eugene Marks, Northbrook
Linzey Jones, Olympia Fields
Kyle Hastings, Orland Hills
Dan McLaughlin, Orland Park
Rita Mullins, Palatine
Robert Straz, Palos Heights
John Mahoney, Palos Park
James L Ardis, Peoria
John Spring, Quincy
Richard Reinbold, Richton Park
Zenovia Evans, Riverdale
Irene Brodie, Robbins
Lawrence Morrissey, Rockford
Dale Adams, Rockton
Gayle Smolinski, Roselle
Leonard Ferguson, Salem
B.J Hackler, Saint Joseph
Al Larson, Schaumburg
George Van Dusen, Skokie
David Owen, South Chicago Heights
Timothy Davin, Springfield
Louis Sherman, Steger
Edward Zabrocki, Tinley Park
Sal Saccomanno, Waucunda
Gary Pretzer, Willowbrook
Alan Nowaczyk, Willow Springs

END
Bill Murphy, Woodridge

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes pushes Barack Obama in letter

Dear Friends:

It was just over a year ago that I wrote my friend, Barack Obama, a letter urging him to run for President of the United States. I believed then and I believe now that he offers the unique qualities of leadership, integrity and vision so desperately needed in our nation. In February of this year, Barack announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, and has been campaigning tirelessly ever since.

We are now only 37 days away from the Iowa caucuses, which will play a large part in determining who will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. And Barack needs your help. I have maintained all along that Barack's supporters in Illinois could play a vital role in our neighboring state of Iowa. As a long-time supporter of mine, and as someone who I'm sure has come to admire and respect Barack Obama, I am asking you to consider lending your grass-roots support to the Obama Iowa campaign effort. You can help in a number of ways, including:

Go to Iowa
On Saturday, December 8th, I will be leading a crew of volunteers to campaign for Barack in eastern Iowa. I would love for you to join us. We'll leave early in the morning and be home later that evening.

Make Phone Calls into Iowa from Illinois
If you're not able to make the trip to Iowa, you can make phone calls from the Obama headquarters on weeknights and weekends.

Call People You Personally Know in Iowa
If you know anyone who lives in Iowa, even one person, we would love for you to contact them and urge them to attend caucuses in support of Barack. Once you've made the contact, the Obama campaign will follow up with them with the necessary information.

Please help Barack Obama win Iowa and the Democratic nomination by replying to this e-mail and choosing one or more of the above. Please include the best phone number to reach you. We will follow up with you with details, especially for the trip planned for December 8th.

Thanks so much for your consideration.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Rachel Fox

October 30, 2007
202.879.5594

****MEDIA ADVISORY****

PRESS AVAILABILITY

Chicago Small Businesses Unite Against

Wine, Beer and Spirits Tax

Wednesday, October 31st at 9:30 AM, Chicago small business owners and supporters will gather at City Hall to demonstrate against the Chicago City Council’s proposed excise tax increase on wine, beer and spirits.

While this increase will greatly affect consumers, who already pay seven different taxes every time they order a bottle of beer, a glass of wine or an after-dinner drink, Chicago’s small businesses will bear the greatest burden.

After a 2005 increase earned Chicago the dubious distinction of the metropolitan area with the United State’s highest taxes on adult beverages, the City Council is now considering raising the taxes on city residents even higher. In fact, the new proposal would mean an 85 percent tax increase on liquor in the past three years.

WHO: Chicago Small Business Owners and Supporters

Larry Stevens, President of the City Wide Liquor Association

Melvin Burnside, Owner of Reese’s Lounge & City Wide Member.

Mike Moreno, Owner of Moreno’s Liquor

Beth Murphy, Owner of Murphy’s Bleachers

Mary Lindsay, Owner of Jokes & Notes

WHEN: Wednesday, October 31st, 9:30 AM
WHERE: Chicago City Hall, 121 North LaSalle, 2nd Floor (just outside the elevator bank)

To schedule interviews, please contact Rachel Fox at the number above.

# # #

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

US urges businesses to organize job fairs in honor of Veterans' Day

U.S. Department of Labor For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs Oct. 17, 2007
Washington, D.C. Contact: Brad Mitchell Scott Allen
Release Number: 07-1538-NAT-Chicago Phone: 312-353-4807 312-353-6976

For Veterans’ Day, U.S. Department of Labor encourages employers to participate in 25-day, nationwide ‘blitz’ of job fairs
November 9 event in Chicago one of 92 nationwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In observance of Veterans’ Day, the U.S. Department of Labor today announced plans for a 25-day blitz of 92 veterans’ job fairs to be held in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico between Oct. 23 and Nov. 16, including a Nov. 9 event at Richard J. Daley College, 7500 S. Pulaski Rd., in Chicago.

“The qualities America’s soldiers are known for – discipline, strong work ethic, leadership and technical skills – are in high demand by employers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, “These job fairs are an important part of our effort to help America’s soldier transition back to civilian life when their tour of duty ends and a tremendous opportunity for employers looking for great workers.”

Employers looking for excellent job candidates either for immediate or future hire are encouraged to attend the Chicago Job Fair for Veterans. Interested employers can contact Luis Gonzalez or Floyd States at the Illinois Department of Employment Security, 312-814-3143, to learn more.

“The United States military is the finest, most technologically advanced in the world,” said Charles S. Ciccolella, assistant secretary of labor for the department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS). “Our nation invests billions of dollars annually to train America’s armed forces, instilling and developing valuable hard skills in our service members. Equally important are the skills service members learn, such as loyalty, discipline, selflessness, leadership, and the ability to follow instructions and perform under pressure. These are all inherent to the military culture. The HireVetsFirst campaign is about increasing employer awareness of the skills veterans bring to their businesses, and to encourage employers to hire veterans, not just out of a sense of patriotism, but because it makes good sense for employers who want to grow their businesses.”

A list of job fair locations by state and more information about the HireVetsFirst campaign are available at www.hirevetsfirst.gov. For more information on all the veterans’ employment programs offered by VETS, visit www.dol.gov/vets.

# # #

Radio show guests to explore Cook County Budget

Cook County Commissioners Larry Suffredin and Anthony Peraica will be among the guests on my radio show today exploring the budget proposed by County Board President Todd Stroger. The budget is an effort to place the burden on a bloated bureaucracy on the taxpayers and to pay the enormous fees to Strogers consultants, lawyers and family patronage.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fred Thompson names Illinois campaign leadership

Thompson Campaign Announces Illinois State Leadership

October 16, 2007

McLean, VA - Senator Fred Thompson’s campaign today announced its top leadership for its operation in the State of Illinois. State Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington will serve as the Chairman of the campaign’s state organization and Congressman Don Manzullo will serve as its Vice-Chairman.

“The groundswell of support that we’re seeing among Illinois Republicans makes me very excited to be a part of this organization,” Senator Brady said. “Senator Thompson's consistently conservative record and his willingness to take on America's most pressing challenges uniquely prepares him to not only lead our party, but also win a general election, ensuring that our nation's military will remain strong, our families safe, and our taxes low."

"I'm honored to serve as Vice Chairman of Fred Thompson's Illinois operation. Fred Thompson has the clear vision and common sense conservative principles that we need in Washington to address the modern challenges facing our nation,” said Congressman Manzullo.

“These two leaders bring a wealth of experience to our Illinois organization,” said National Political Director Randy Enwright. “Senator Brady and Congressman Manzullo and their combined experience in the state will help us lead a strong campaign in the state of Illinois.”

Senator Brady has served in the Illinois Senate since 2002 and previously served in the state House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001. He was a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2006 and has continued to travel throughout Illinois to help build a stronger state Republican Party. He has been a leader in urging stronger state ethics laws, promoting a stronger business climate in Illinois and in defeating massive tax increases proposed by the current Democratic administration.

Congressman Manzullo was first elected in 1992 to serve the people of the 16th Congressional District of Illinois, which includes the counties of Winnebago, Boone, Stephenson, Jo Daviess, Ogle, Carroll, the majority of McHenry County and parts of DeKalb and Whiteside counties. In the 110th Congress, he sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he is the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment and a member of the Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade. He continues to serve on the Financial Services Committee, where he sits on the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises and the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology.

###

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Another letter from a reader of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald

Here's another letter from a reader of the Arlington heights Daily Herald that really makes no sense. But, I run it anyway followed by my column, which the reader probably did not read. (Some people just Hate Arabs and Iranians and no matter what you write, reasoned or not, they will attack you.)

Is it just me, or does Ray Hanania write in generalities and neglect to give specifics regarding his positions for a reason?

(HANANIA: I only get 540 words to write one column each month and although they are very detailed, you have to really read to understand in order to understand.)

Is there a society in the universe which at some level is not biased toward something? Believing is not enough to indict an entire society, which he himself is part of, of bias toward a group he belongs to. Specifics are required, not anecdotal but examples on the same scale which he accuses our society.

Has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recanted his statement, reported by CNN in December of 2005, that the Holocaust was a myth or was that one of the translation problems that he writes of but provides no example of?

(HANANIA: I don't know if the listener ever really heard Ahmadinejad or just the so-called translations from CNN and MEMRI, which is the source of much political motivated improper translations which are intended to undermine truth and advance Israel. I watched Ahmadinejad on live television at Columbia and he SAID that he believed the Holocaust occured and that 5 million Jews -- not 6 million -- were murdered by the Nazis. Yet, why won't the reader accept what he says? Well, because it doesn't fit his agenda of what he wants to believe. And I provide a very specific example, but again, the writer is not interested in truth.)

Was Ahmadinejad translated incorrectly by everyone when he states that Israel should be wiped off the map?

(HANANIA: No. Ahmadinejad explained what he meant, that ALL of the Palestinians of 1948 including the Christians and Muslims had a right to vote to decide their future but that vote was denied to them by the United Nations which partitioned Palestine into two states against the will of the majority population. Again, the reader really doesn't care about facts, only namecalling.)

Is the professor, mentioned in Mr. Hanania's piece, Norman Finkelstein, late of DePaul University? Who became, according to provost's memo, dated June 26, 2007, both orally and physically threatening to fellow faculty members after he was denied tenure?

(HANANIA: The reader ignores my point of course, which is that Finklestein, who is Jewish, was not targeted because of what happened AFTER the controversy, but because of false allegations made against him that provoked the controversy. Again, the reader only wants to address what is convenient to his bias rather than to the truth. Finklestein NEVER denied the Holocaust, but that doesn't matter apparently.)

As for free speech, Mr. Hanania seems to think that free speech encompasses a right not to be disagreed with when one is being outlandish. There is a right to free speech in the United States, but words do have consequences. To think that statements should not be challenged is to deny the responsibility of free speech, not oppress it.

(HANANIA: Free speech does not mean people can lie or manipulate the truth as this read does. And the consequences are that his claims are pure hogwash and lies, a part of a campaign of hatred and bias intended to deny Arabs and Muslims the right to challenge the lies perpetrated in the news media. I write ONE column each month in the Daily Herald and it is partnered with the mandatory Pro-Israel view of a rightwing extremist. There is no other voice like mine in the country. And that is what the reader is most upset about that I have been given an opportunity to express views he dislikes and it bothers him. Far more people support my views but fear writing because of the campaigns of hatred and attack that are directed and them and at me.)

Don Parker
Glenview

END

A final thought from me:

The real issue here is not whether or not Iran did or did not do something threatening to the United STates but rather that he is a critic of Israel and that's what this reader can't tolerate. If the issue and concern is about the safety of the United States, why is all the public debate about Iran's views and policies towards Israel?

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blagojevich criticizes legislature for failing to permanently extend Cook County tax cap and phasing out property tax relief

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACTS:
October 12, 2007 Abby Ottenhoff 312/814.3158
Rebecca Rausch 217/782.7355
Gerardo Cardenas 312/814.3158


Statement from Governor Rod R. Blagojevich

On the Illinois General Assembly’s vote to override Governor’s amendatory veto that strengthens property tax relief

SPRINGFIELD – “There is good news and bad news. The good news is that the legislature extended the property tax cap that Cook County homeowners have enjoyed since 2004.

“The bad news, and what they won’t tell you, is at a time when the city of Chicago is considering the largest property tax increase in history, the legislators voted to begin phasing out property tax relief in the second year and completely take it away in the third year. That’s going backward, not forward. Homeowners deserve real meaningful property tax caps that will last for more than just one year.

“I am going to continue to work with Senate President Emil Jones and Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan to increase property tax relief for homeowners and make it permanent. Unfortunately, the Illinois House, led by Speaker Madigan, passed a plan that would take that relief away from homeowners by protecting the big downtown commercial real estate developers.

“Considering how long it took to provide just one more year of property tax relief, Assessor Houlihan and I think it’s critical that the legislature address the long-term need for property tax relief now, before taxpayers face even higher bills. I am asking the General Assembly, on their own schedule, to reconvene before the end of the year to restore the property tax caps they just voted to take away. If they fail to do that, then it is my intention to call them into special session sometime by mid December to get it done.”



- 30 -

<<10.12.07>>

Annie Thompson
Press Assistant
Office of the Governor
205 Statehouse
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217.782.7357
Fax: 217.524.1676

Moved my books from CafePress.com to Lulu.com

For a long time, CafePress.com was a great place for independent authors to publish but recently, the web site has been showing some disturbing trends that seem to be based on racism, targeting Arab and Muslim Americans. For the past four months, all of my books have been in limbo, and unable to be updated. They kept insisting that it was a "bug" but after three months, it was clear the only bug was the bug up their asses about my book topics.

So, I have closed the CafePress.com shops and am migrating to a new site called Lulu.com. Lulu is more sophisticated but charges more than CafePress.com. And I am sorry that part of the increase in costs have to be passed along to buyers of my books. Still, because of the discrimination that exists in the New York Book Publishing industry against Arabs and Muslims, I've had to turn to the more effective online print-on-demand publishing system.

The new Lulu books will be available through Borders, Amazon and more. The links have been updated to reflect the new purchases resources. You can purchase my most popular books: I'm Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing Up Arab in America, my memoir on the humorous and serious side of ethnicity in America, the popular Arab American Media & Leadership Directory for 2008 which is the only resource offering detailed contact information for Arab American and Muslim American news media, activists, organizations, web news sites, TV and radio, and of course the very successful Arabs of Chicagoland from Arcadia Publishing can be purchased directly from Arcadia Publishing or from any major book store.

Thanks for your patience as I make this transition for the six other remaining books.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, September 28, 2007

Congratulations to the Chicago CUBS

What a great day. Finally. Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs. The Chicago Cubs clinched the National League Central with a 6-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Although I am a South Sider, my heart always belongs to the Chicago Cubs.

Ray Hanania

National Taxpayers United blasts County Commission Joan Murphy for proposing to raise taxes

Tax Accountability 2007
407 S. Dearborn, Suite 1170 * CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 60605
(312) 427-5128 * Fax (312) 427-5139 * Web Site <www.ntui.org> * E-mail <ntui@ntui.org>


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jim Tobin (312) 427-5128
September 28, 2007 (773) 354-2076 (Cell)

COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONER JOAN MURPHY
BREAKS ILL. TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE

CHICAGO—The chairman of Tax Accountability 2007 today charged that Cook County Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) has broken the Illinois Taxpayer Protection Pledge she signed, with two witnesses, on January 11, 2006.

“Commissioner Joan Murphy has decided that being a stooge for Board President Todd Stroger (D) is more important than the promise she made to taxpayers and voters,” said Jim Tobin, President of Tax Accountability 2007. “On January 11, 2006, she signed the pledge, saying, ‘I Joan Patricia Murphy, pledge to the taxpayers of Cook County, that I will oppose any and all efforts to increase any taxes,’ and she added in writing, ‘with the exception of the cigarette tax.’ Well, she might as well have added, ‘with the exception of any taxes Todd Stroger wants.’”

“The proposed 267% hike in the county’s portion of the sales tax, which Murphy introduced, and which will be considered and voted on next Monday, Oct. 1., would raise the county’s portion of the sales tax from 0.75% to 2.75%, a 267% increase that would funnel close to $1 billion new taxpayer dollars into an already corrupt system,” said Tobin.

“Joan Murphy’s tax increase, at the behest of Todd Stroger, would raise the total sales tax to 11% in Chicago, hurting low-income and minority families, and will encourage consumers to do their shopping elsewhere. Local businesses will suffer.”

“I urge the Cook County Board to vote NO on this gigantic sales tax increase, and I urge Joan Murphy to reconsider her vote, and to take the side of the taxpayers she pledged to protect.”

For a copy of Commissioner Murphy’s signed tax pledge please call (312) 427-5128.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bill Wirtz passing -- end of a legacy

Bill Wirtz died, losing a battle against cancer.

Although he was always criticized because of his ownership of the blackhawks, I hate sports so had no reason to dislike him. Actually, I liked him very much.

I had a chance to work with him and his son, Rocky, who shared the same birthday if I am not mistaken (October 5). During my sabbatical from journalism, I helped the Wirtz family's company, Judge & Dolph, fight back oppressive policies being rammed through the legislature by the California wine industry.

I got to meet both Bill and Rocky. Both great people.

My condolences to the Wirtz family for the loss of their father, grandfather. And condolences to the media hypocrites who will say how much they loved him: who are you going to pick on now?

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pera campaign in Southwest SIde Congressional district takes off on the Internet

Tuesday, Sept. 24 2007
Mark Pera already a hit with the netroots

The Mark Pera for Congress campaign started this week with a bang.

First, Mark visited his cousin U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, in her home district for a successful weekend fundraising trip.

Upon his return Monday, the Internet was bursting with news about his campaign in IL-03 against Congressman Dan Lipinski.

That coverage translated into almost $9,000 via Act Blue in less than 24 hours.

Mark’s campaign has also been added to the influential Blue Majority group on Act Blue, which is also backing Democratic candidates Al Franken, Darcy Burner and Donna Edwards. For more information, visit click here. With that boost, we once again made Act Blue’s Top Five list alongside Presidential candidate John Edwards and Senate candidates John Warner and Jeanne Shaheen.

If 2006 was any indication, a candidate like Mark, who is receiving this tremendous netroots support, will fare well in his bid to unseat Congressman Lipinski on Feb. 5

Please take a look at the following entries below. As always, feel free to contact the campaign with your questions. Let me know if you’d like to make arrangements to talk with Mark.

www.dailykos.com/story/2007/9/24/195020/099

www.dailykos.com/story/2007/9/24/181720/244

www.faithfullyliberal.com/?p=739

www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=1545

www.swingstateproject.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=853

www.mydd.com/story/2007/9/24/201131/525

www.prairiestateblue.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=3459

www.archpundit.com/blog/2007/09/24/30-by-30-for-mark-p

Patrick Corcoran
Media director
Mark Pera for Congress
www.PERA08.com
(847) 687-7579
###

Friday, September 21, 2007

Blagojevich extends property tax relief to

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
NEWS ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH - GOVERNOR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACTS: September 20, 2007
Abby Ottenhoff 312/814.3158
Gerardo Cardenas 312/814.3158

Gov. Blagojevich Provides Expanded, Permanent Property Tax Relief to Benefit 76% of Cook County Homeowners

Governor uses amendatory veto to permanently extend and expand the 7% solution

CHICAGO – Standing with Cook County Assessor James Houlihan in front of the home of Mike and Linda Vacala, a Cook County family hit hard by skyrocketing property assessments, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the permanent extension and enhancement of the 7% property tax solution. These changes will result in significant property tax relief for the vast majority of Cook County homeowners.

The Governor announced that he will provide the relief through an amendatory veto of House Bill 664, a property tax relief bill that provided some, but not enough relief for Cook County homeowners. If the vetoes are accepted by the General Assembly, at least 76% of Cook County homeowners will see lower property tax bills. Before the vetoes, fewer than half of Cook County homeowners would have seen property tax relief from House Bill 664, while many large office buildings, including the John Hancock Center and the Prudential Plaza would have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars in reduced property taxes.

“Forty-nine out of fifty aldermen said this bill wasn't good enough. The Cook County Board said it wasn't good enough. And Assessor Houlihan said it's not good enough. I agree, we can do better and with the changes I’m making today, over 75% of Cook County homeowners will see significant property tax relief,” said Governor Blagojevich.

Elected officials throughout Cook County, including Assessor Houlihan and the Cook County Board have criticized House Bill 664, calling for more property tax relief for homeowners. In July, 49 out of 50 Chicago Alderman signed a letter calling the House of Representative’s efforts to provide property tax relief, “nothing more than a disingenuous attempt at property tax relief [that] will result in most homeowners seeing increases as great as 40%.”

“It's my belief that the Expanded Homeowner Exemption should be available to everyone and that it be permanent, reliable and simple,” said Cook County Assessor James Houlihan. “I know we can find a solution which works better than this legislation but also understand the critical timing in getting something done to make sure that the tax bills go out on time.”

Governor Blagojevich made two primary changes to House Bill 664: increasing the Expanded Homeowner Exemption (often called the 7% solution) for Cook County homeowners to $40,000 per year from its current $20,000 maximum; and making the increased exemption permanent. The Expanded Homeowner Exemption is the mechanism that currently helps slow the growth of rising property tax bills to 7% per year; it expires this year.

The Governor did not change several new exemptions included in the legislation to reduce property taxes for vulnerable populations statewide, including returning and disabled veterans, seniors and persons with disabilities:

1) $5,000 homestead exemption for returning Veterans (only for the year they return from active duty);
2) $2,000 homestead exemption for disabled persons;
3) $5,000 homestead exemption for veterans with service-related 75% disability;
4) $2,500 homestead exemption for veterans with service related 50% disability;
5) $500 increase in seniors homestead exemption (to $4,000 in 2008)
6) $500 increase in general homeowners exemption in 2008 and 2009 (to $6,000).

In 2003, the General Assembly originally passed a three year property tax solution called the 7% Expanded Homeowner Exemption. This law increased the Homeowner Exemption from $4,500 to $20,000. The Homeowner Exemption is an exemption that most property tax owners can subtract from the taxable value of their home (Equalized Assessed Value or EAV) when calculating property taxes.

Homeowners who utilize the expanded exemption slow the growth in the taxable value of a home to approximately 7% per year until the next assessment, rather than increasing it all at once. Under the original 2003 legislation, 76% of homeowners in Cook County realized cash savings. In the first year under the original 7% solution, Cook County residents saved on average between $400 and $900 on their property tax bills.

Without the amendatory veto, House Bill 664 would have phased out while simultaneously reducing the 7% solution over the next three years from $33,000 in the first year to $26,000 in the second, to $20,000 in the third, and terminating the exemption in its fourth year. This could result in the doubling or tripling of a homeowner’s property tax bill.

Under House Bill 664, not only do homeowners get less relief as with the amendatory veto, but large office buildings could see big tax breaks. Because House Bill 664 phases down the Homeowner Exemption (from $33,000 to $20,000) the tax burden is shifted to homeowners, while owners of large office buildings would see their property taxes go down.

House Bill 664 also contains several other protections for homeowners that were not affected by the amendatory veto. These include:

Creates the “long-time occupant homestead exemption.” Creates a 10% cap on Equalized Assessment Value (EAV) increases for those who have owned their home for at least 10 years and have annual household income of less than $100,000. Creates a 7% cap on EAV increases for those with less than $75,000 income. This provision does not have a phase-out, nor does it have a cap on the amount of the exemption. However, most people have not been in their homes long enough to qualify.

Allows any county or municipality to abate taxes on property owned by the surviving spouse of a fallen police officer or rescue worker who died in the line of duty, provided the spouse has not remarried.

Creates Property Tax Reform and Relief Task Force, to study report about the property tax system in Illinois and alternative funding methods.

Creates a uniform property tax valuation for generators of wind energy. This will make local taxes more predictable for wind power developers and will deter counties from using tax policy to compete with each other for siting.

Cook County is the only county currently taking advantage of the 7% solution; other counties may opt-in to the legislation.

House Bill 664 becomes effective as soon as the legislature acts to concur with the veto.

- 30 -

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No opportunity to respond to the racists and irrational writers on the Northwest Side

I write a column in the Arlington Heights Daily Herald once each month on the first Monday thatr analyzes issues facing Americans as a result of Sept. 11, 2001, trying to better understand the Middle East conflict. The Daily Herald is one of the ONLY newspapers in the United States that runs a column on a regular basis that is written by an Arab American on Middle East issues. There is no other regularly written column -- there are many published in response to events.

But the response to the columns is not only discouraging, it exposes what I believe is a fundamental flaw in American society -- the intolerance of divergent and diverse voices and specifically the growing hatred and racism against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans.

What I get in response to my column is often a smattering of vicious hatred and racism from letter writers. I don't mind the fact that Muslims (who are mostly non-Arab) criticize me because I questions their failure to stand up and speak out against extremism in the Islamic community and the growing Islamic driven terrorism, but I do fault readers of the Daily Herald who are non-Arab and non-Muslim who are consumed by vicious racism.

These hateful letters are easily viewable online, although my own column in the Daily Herald is not viewable online, at least not now that the web page has been redesigned. Maybe it will be viewable in the future.

But here are some letters published in the Daily Herald recently followed by my responses to what I see as ugly, hateful vicious personal attacks by individuals who are racist and bigots and who ignore the substance of my columns and instead focus on the streotypes of my community. The columns they are responding too are published at the end, after the letters and responses:

>>>>>>>>>>

Hanania wrong about 9/11 lessons (Published 9/19, and 9/20 2007)
By conjecture, innuendo and assumption, along with a dose of Monday morning quarterbacking, Ray Hanania tries to say that "we" have not learned much since 9/11. We have learned something about Hanania. By using the phrases "sounded Arabic enough," "Officials seem intentionally unclear," "citizen terrorism vigilante" and "personal argument that was most likely driven by racism," he displays his ability to accuse others of shortcomings he harbors within himself.
Don Parker
Northfield

[Hanania Responds. The column was about how Americans complained about six Iraqis who were working for the United States military to train our American soldiers to fight in Iraq. They were targeted with hatred when they boarded an airplane and the plane was postponed and they were "investigated" because a woman overheard them speaking Arabic -- even though the woman could not speak Arabic -- so how did she know it was Arabic? The point is that Americans like her, and this writer, never learned anything from Sept. 11, except their own vicious hatred of Arabs and Muslims. Don Parker owes me an apology for his stupid and insulting comments.]

Hanania gets it wrong, again, published 8/31/2007

Ray Hanania's recent column, headlined "U.S. must be fair to achieve peace in Middle East, " confuses two separate issues and repeats many of the false claims he made in his April 2 column.

One must also take into consideration the similar item he wrote in the Jerusalem Post that same day headlined "Keeping Israel safe from Qatar".

He frames his column by stating that President Bush has proposed increasing aid to Israel and "has also proposed giving $20 billion to six Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia, our chief Arab ally in the war on terrorism."

He has it backward. Bush proposed the advanced arms to the Arab states, and the aid to Israel was proposed to offset the increased threat these sales posed to Israel. Israel wouldn't need any of these increased arms if we weren't giving some of our most advanced arms to countries officially at war with Israel.

Hanania, in his Jerusalem Post column, mocks the ability of the Gulf states to attack Israel from the Arabian Gulf. Israel may not be worried about Qatar directly attacking, but these arms could fall into the hands of Hamas or Hezbollah.

Hanania also has apparently never looked at a map or he would see that Saudi Arabia is barely five miles from Israel at its closest point, with air bases along that border. The advanced ships could be used to blockade the Israeli port of Eilat.

These weapons aren't just a danger to Israel. Look at the recent disclosure that 190,000 assault rifles that we supplied to the Iraqi army are now in insurgent hands being used to kill U.S. troops.

The militaries of these states are never going to be strong enough to defend against a concerted attack by Iran or Iraq without U.S. assistance. Look at how fast Kuwait, with all its American weapons, fell in 1990 to Iraq. The Saudi military is intentionally fragmented to protect against a military coup against the royal family. Al-Qaida is reported to already have infiltrated the Saudi military. These regimes are not totally stable, including Egypt, which could be taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. In a few years U.S. troops could be battling against these very advanced arms.

Which leads to the point against the arms deal regarding the Saudis specifically. With allies like these who needs enemies? The Wall Street Journal and New York Times report that between 40 and 50 percent of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis refuse to stem the border flow of these terrorists. State-sponsored Wahabi imams preach terror acts in Iraq.

Finally, I want to respond to Hanania's claim that "terrorism does not have an ethnic face."

Tell me, Mr. Hanania, how many Christian or Jewish suicide bombers have there been in the last year? The last five years? The last 10 years? They have been almost exclusively Muslim extremists. That is not American bigotry on the matter: that is plain fact.

Steven Peck
Riverwoods

[HANANIA RESPONDS: Steven Peck is also driven, in my opinion, by ignorance of facts and by racism against Arabs and that is apparent in his last line. His letter is nearly the length of my own column, and therefore deserves a response. The fact is that 99 percent of serial killers are white men, does that make White people serial killers? Was Tim McVeigh a Muslim? Was Andrew Cunanan a Muslim? There have been numerous instances of American soldiers who have been convicted (although unished with a slap on their hands) for murdering innocent civilians in cold blood, including the case of the 7 Marines who gang raped an Iraqi girl and then murdered her and her family to hide the rape. They were White, too. As for suicide bombers, is there a difference between a suicide bomber and a person who takes an innocent life using a weapon and then runs and hides? Yet somehow, Peck wants us to believe that everything Arab and Muslims is bad when the reality is that racists like Peck drive this country's fanaticism and undermine our ability to fight the terrorists. The facts of the column which weighed the ridiculous arguments against provide arms to our clear allies, the Saudis and the Gulf State nations. Saudi Arabia has stood by America in the War on Terrorism, helped hold down the price of oil and is a frontline state aganst rising Islamicist fanaticism, yet people like Peck, maybe ignorant of world affairs, close their eyes to the facts and they, not I, get it wrong. What is really pathetic is that while I argue for fairness and justice, Peck argues that Americans should NOT BE FAIR in the Middle East.]

The columns:

Sept. 2007 Column
Six years after 9/11 and we remember and we discriminate
By Ray Hanania

Maybe it’s the lies that led this nation into Iraq that are behind the apparent confusion some Americans have about how to respond to the terrorism threat.

Are we fighting the war in Iraq to "save" the Iraqi people, or are we there to fight terrorism?
Nowhere is that more apparent than at our airports.

American Airlines Flight 590 was about to depart San Diego on a redeye flight for Chicago when a woman on board called police complaining of a terrorist threat after hearing six other passengers, all men, speaking "Arabic."

Forget the fundamental problem here, for a moment. If she could speak Arabic, she would have known what they were saying and not called police. So, how did she know they were Arabs?
Sounded "Arabic enough," apparently. A vague complaint is enough to force a pilot to delay a plane’s departure and put six innocent men under police scrutiny, again.

Turns out the "terrorism suspects" were six Iraqis working for Defense Training Systems, a military contractor. They had been training American Marines at Camp Pendleton.

It also seems one person with two children on the plane got into an argument with one or more of the Iraqi men. Maybe the same woman who complained?

Officials seem intentionally unclear in their public statements. And they should be. Incidents like this where innocent citizens who happen to be speaking Arabic, or something similar, are filing lawsuits and winning, after long, difficult battles.

Local police question the men, who had been screened, processed, questioned and had their bags check when they boarded the plane, along with everyone else including the "citizen terrorism vigilante."

Was the complaint prompted by fear of terrorism? Or fear driven by a personal argument that was most likely prompted by racism?

Get in an argument with an Arab, even one serving our military, and you can always play the "terrorism trump card." Call the police and the lives of the Iraqis are disrupted. They are embarrassed and humiliated.

One of the Iraqis said he was angry. Here he was, an American himself of Iraqi heritage, helping the American people protect their American soldiers in Iraq, and this is how he is treated?

I hope he doesn’t believe the United States sent their soldiers into Iraq to protect the Iraqi people from the savagery of the late dictator Saddam Hussein?

Clearly, as was demonstrated this week on American Airlines Flight 590, some Americans could care less whether Arabs are helping us or hurting us.

It reminds me of the quagmire that one Crusader commander faced in the siege of Beziers, a French town of Muslims and two groups of Christians, Catholics and Catholics of a condemned sect, called Cathars. Unsure of how to distinguish between the "good" Catholics and the bad Catholics in the siege, the Crusader general told his men, "Kill them all, God will know His own."

That may have been the solution for Crusaders. It certainly is not a good policy to prevent terrorism in today’s day and age.

If we Americans still can’t figure out which Arabs are "good" and which Arabs are "bad," then our problems are sure to worsen.

We Americans have not really learned anything since Sept. 11, 2001, have we?

End

August 2007 Column
America must be fair to achieve MidEast peace
By Ray Hanania

Apparently, it doesn’t matter to some that Saudi Arabia and several "moderate" Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and others have stood by the United States in fighting "terrorism."

All that matters to some congressmen, who happen to be of Jewish heritage, is Israel.

President Bush has proposed increasing foreign aid to Israel by 25 percent, giving the Jewish State $30 billion over the next decade. Bush has also proposed giving $20 billion to six Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia, our chief Arab ally in the War on terrorism.

Iraq is in turmoil and the Arab nations have stood with the United States against the interference of two nations, Arab Syria and non-Arab Iran. Nearly 100 American soldiers are dying there every month.

Bush has declared Iran a major threat. Should we wait until Iran invades and occupies Saudi Arabia or the other Gulf Arab states to react?

But a coalition of congressmen, led by Jewish American Congressman Tom Lantos, denounced the funding plan because he and his allies in Congress support Israel above American interests.

And Americans continue to wonder why Arabs in the Middle East "hate them," are angry at them, or distrust America?

The reality is American foreign policy is based on double standards, hypocrisy and even lies. It assumes Arabs must be too stupid to recognize these contradictions in American foreign policy.
Arabs and Israelis are again at a crossroads. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has once again tried to jump-start the Middle East process, exploring a comprehensive peace proposal offered by the Arab countries through the Arab League.

They are willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist (again – they’ve done it several times to no avail), and to negotiate the return of land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war four decades ago.

On the table is the difficult issue of the Palestinian Right of Return, which Arab countries and most Palestinians will compromise, if only Israel would show a willingness to give the victims of the 1948 and 1967 wars a modicum of respect and justice.

International laws gives refugees the absolute right to return to homes and lands they owned prior to the creation of Israel. Given today’s realities, however, Palestinians are willing to compromise if Israel acknowledged that right. They would settle outside Israel in Arab lands and the proposed Palestinian State.

Israel has indicated it will explore all these issues. After nearly a decade, the two sides might return to the peace table.

Instead of contributing to this effort to move the region towards peace, a handful of extremist, fanatic supporters of Israel led by Lantos wants to prove to the Arab World, once again, that the United States can’t be respected and that Americans are not just.

When will Lantos and other members of his pro-Israel coalition standup for what’s best for the Middle East and for the United States instead of always making Israel their number one priority?

As Americans, we have to stop separating terrorists on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality. Terrorism does not have an ethnic face. We need to support policies that are driven by justice and fairness, not partisan politics and selfish agendas.

To win the War on terrorism, and bring peace to Palestinians and Israelis, we must reinforce trust in the Arab World by being just and fair.
end

Monday, September 17, 2007

BP Media rep responds to column referencing BP's dumping of wastes into Lake Michigan

In fairness to BP ...

Dear Ray,

We have read with interest your article/column entitled, “The ‘Zambranos’ of our American Lives,” which was posted as part of the September 6, 2007 online edition of the Southwest Herald News.

We would like to provide clarification on some details in the column and provide you with additional information on the environmental efforts at BP’s Whiting Refinery. In your column, you stated, “We beat up on BP when they tried to dump more hazardous waste toxins into the already over-polluted Lake Michigan.”

BP’s Whiting Refinery does not and will not dump hazardous waste toxins into Lake Michigan. The water that BP returns to Lake Michigan is just that – water. It has been treated and is more than 99.9 percent ordinary water.

BP recognizes that it is a steward of the lake, and we are committed to meeting the growing energy needs of the community while minimizing the environmental impact of our operations.
We are balancing the challenge of meeting the increasing demand for energy with our environmental responsibilities - and we believe it is possible to achieve both goals.

BP is making investments in the U.S. to provide heat, light and mobility – all which are critical to sustaining the standard of living we have come to expect. For example, in addition to the refinery modernization, which will increase Whiting’s motor fuel production by as much as 620 million gallons per year, BP is investing billions of dollars in alternatives like solar, wind and biofuels.

In order to provide information on the Whiting refinery modernization to the media and the general public, we have developed a website on the project. We hope that you will access this site at http://whiting.bp.com. You can also learn more about BP’s commitment to the environment by visiting www.bp.com.

Best,

Jason Dananay

Jason Dananay
Account Supervisor, GolinHarris
Chicago

[HANANIA RESPONDS: I invited BP to put a rep on my radio show next week to talk about it.]

Sunday, September 16, 2007

One important fact that you overlooked in your article is that 9/11 was
an inside job. Check the facts and educate yourself: www.911sharethetruth.com
Peace,
Dudley L.

[HANANIA RESPONDS: Please Dudley ... there are so many other important things to think about ... to even waste your time on that garbage is ridiculous ... really, don't embarass yourself please ... all it does is play into Dick Cheney's hands when a bunch of kooks start screaming that it was an inside job and we destroyed the World Trade Center buildings

Thanks for writing
Ray Hanania]

Saturday, September 15, 2007

re-assessing Steve Brown on Madigan's staff

I have to say that since the first email I received from Mike Madigan's key consultant Steve Brown, I have to re-assess my views and give him much more respect than I have. Steve not only has a great sense of humor, but he clearly seems to show that he recognizes the ongoing battle between journalists and government officials and have a thick skin ... if everyone in public life had his ability to address the right of people to question and challenge their public servants, we would have a far better world ... so, I humbly offer any apologies to Steve for having assumed he would be like the political types I always encounter -- no sense of humor, arrogance and belief that they are always right -- and recognize that Madigan is lucky to have Steve on his staff

That doesn't mean we won't disagree, but Steve shows that his ability to engage in a discussion with civility suggests his points may deserve more credit than I have given him

Ray Hanania

Friday, September 14, 2007

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan's flak responds to column ...

Friday 9/14/07
Ray:
Hate to bust up the myth, but the $1 million waste was caused by the guy calling the special sessions, not the Speaker. Regular session days after May do not get per diem.
I realize you are doing opinion pieces, but you might want to do it on the square.
Have a great weekend!

Thanx & Keep'n Touch
Steve Brown

-- Hey Steve

still at the trough?

that's a nice spin on your part, but the fact that you stand in his way as he tries to reform the state contributes for something ...

It's kind of like President Bush in reverse, isn't it. He runs the country and the legislature is lame ... Blagojevich runs the state and you guys find courage to stop him ... too bad the Democratic congress doesn't have the moxxy you guys have

come on the radio show sometime and we can buzz about it :)

Ray Hanania

[Notice when you reads the column that Steve Brown interjects arguments I didn't make ... and avoids the ones I did make -- like the FACT that legislators get all kinds of perqs ... so why should they care if the state spends more money? Here's the column:

http://www.swnewsherald.com/news_inside/2007/09/091207cs_rh_gov.php

.]