Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maher's Orland Fire Protection District jacks up taxes a whopping 12.51 percent of the total bill

Bookmark and Share

I have to say when I first met Patrick Maher, the president of the Orland Fire Protection District, I thought he was a pretty decent and honest person. Of course back then, the meeting I had with him was to simply put to rest many of the issues that plague the Orland Fire Protection District that he heads.


Since then, Maher only answered one issue, arguing that he's not going to make senior citizens pay for ambulance service by the OFPD. He just wanted the seniors who have insurance to submit the ambulance service costs to their insurance companies to see if the OFPD could recover money.


I wasn't sure why any Fire Protection District would have to worry about money but over the past year, I have seen why. Maher's OFPD spends like there is no tomorrow. And he has not been accountable on the major issues I have asked him about.


I am not sure why. He seemed like a good guy. A father with kids who takes them to sports games the way I take my son to participate in sports leagues too. But I do think it has a lot to do with the people he has chosen to associate himself with. Of course, for some, there was no choice.


But first, let's talk about the issues I have concerns with that Maher just can't seem to answer no matter how many times I ask him. Which makes me believe there are no real answers.


First, Maher has a battalion chief whose big-assed SUV is seen all over the place by a lot of people outside of the Orland Fire Protection District. This battalion chief drives his gas-guzzler everywhere like its his personal limousine doing personal things like taking his kids to sports activities outside of the district in places like Lemont.


Maher promised to look in to it, but apparently he doesn't want to do anything about it. The only vague response I got was that somehow Lemont and Orland have some kind of deal. I think it has to do with the fact that Maher's brother, David B. Maher, ran and lost in a bid to become a trustee out in Lemont this past April.


Maher did absolutely nothing about it.


Next, Maher decided to run against Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman for the office of Cook County Commissioner from the 17th District. Originally, I wasn't a big fan of Gorman's and my criticism has been published -- mostly dealing with minor political issues. But since then, Gorman, on her own, has done some amazing things fighting for the rights of taxpayers not just in the 17th District but in the entire Cook County. I have gotten to know her and recognize that she has the chutzpah to take on Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's government-as-usual, tax-hike driven antics.


If it wasn't for Gorman, the fight to repeal Stroger's 1 percent sales tax would have been forgotten long ago. The board would have made one effort and then turned their backs on the issue. But Gorman wouldn't let them do that. She persisted. Gorman made the fight against Stroger's Sales Tax a key focus of the county and she was the spirit behind the repeated efforts to repeal the tax. She just wouldn't give up. That fight helped give taxpayers hope that the repressive 1 percent sales tax will be repealed.


And, if it wasn't for Gorman making this tax fight the high profile battle that she did, the Illinois legislature would never have taken notice and finally, after many attempts, decided to roll back the number of votes it takes on the Cook County board to override a veto by the board president. It was 14 votes before and thanks to the legislature, and Gorman, it is only 11 (of 17 commissioner) today. That means that the county board commissioners -- who had 14 votes to repeal the Stroger tax, (betrayed only by the shameful conduct of Deborah "Do Nothing" Simms who voted for the repeal and then flip-flopped to support Stroger's veto)  -- can override Stroger's veto and put him in his place until he is replaced in office next year.


Liz Gorman's name is synonymous with the fight against rising taxes. And she has promised to try AGAIN to repeal and rollback the sales tax.


Yet this is what Maher wrote on his slick web site about the whole issue:

Patrick Maher supports legislation proposed by Illinois Sen. Dan Kotowski to lower the threshold for overriding a veto by the Cook County Board President. On two recent occasions, Todd Stroger used his veto to block the will of the voters to rollback his wildly unpopular tax increase. The proposed legislation would allow a 3/5th majority, rather than a 4/5ths majority, to override a veto. Currently 14 of the 17 members must agree for an override to pass.
Patrick Maher has reached out to local legislators to encourage them to support the measure. The incumbent Cook County Board Member from the 17th District has turned a blind eye to this important issue.

Gorman has "turned a blind eye to this important issue?" What planet are you on Maher? Why would you say something so stupid on your web site? 


But I don't think Maher is really running the show. When I first met Maher, the political enabler for the meeting was Tom Dubelbeis, the former Orland Park trustee whom I never had any real contacts with. He told Maher he could arrange the meeting. Turns out Dubelbeis not only is helping to run Maher's campaign, he is on the Orland Fire Protection District payroll.


Maher has to make it through the Democratic primary February 2 where he faces a tough challenges from independent Democrat Dr. Victor Forys. Forys has gotten all the big Democratic endorsements and most Democrats view the Maher race as a case of clout: a father (Orland Park Village Clerk and Cook County government patronage employee David Maher) using his clout to help his son get on a better more lucrative public payroll.


BUT TAXES IS THE ISSUE THAT CONCERNS ME MOST


I'm most concerned about taxes. Maher says he is going to fight taxes and he cites the great job he has been doing heading the Orland Fire Protection District.


Yikes! Maher's Orland Fire Protection District spends more money than most other Fire Protection Districts, it seems.


And when it comes to fighting taxes? Well, like all of you, I got my tax bill this weekend and I am pissed off!


Outside of the taxes for schools, which ALWAYS go up, Patrick Maher's Orland Fire Protection District had the highest tax increase in the county for Orland Park. The taxes for Maher's Orland Fire Protection District claimed 12.51 percent of the pot, which drove up taxes as much as 30 percent in some cases.


The Orland Fire Protection District is taking more money from your taxes than any other government agency on the list, with the exception of the school districts. The village is taking 7.4 percent. The Library is taking 3.01 percent. The OFPD District is taking twice as much as the county, which is taking only 6.86 percent for all county agencies.


What the hell are you spending all this money on Mr. Maher?


For the life of me I don't understand why a major city like Orland Park doesn't just have it's own Fire Department. Why do we have this overlapping tax-spending government called the Orland Fire Protection District taking more money out of our pockets?


Under Maher, the costs of politically connected attorneys hired by the district have skyrocketed. Some insist that the spending is politically motivated and that the legal work should be done in-house. And there is a big messy lawsuit out there, too.


But 12.51 percent? That is absolutely outrageous.


And yet, this is what Patrick Maher has to say about taxation and his promise to protect the interests of the taxpayers:
As President of the Orland Fire Protection District, taxpayers in Orland Township have seen the reforms initiated by Patrick Maher.
Patrick Maher and the fire protection board inherited a multi-million dollar deficit and, with a responsible spending, the district eliminated its deficit, balanced the budget, improved fire and emergency services AND saved taxpayers over $1.3 million.
Was that before or after you hammered the taxpayers with an increase this past year (12.51 percent of the county's total tax bill) in new taxes Mr. Maher?


Pat Maher was first elected to the Orland Fire Protection District in 2003. He was then fast-tracked as OFPD President in 2006 after being anointed with his father's clout.


So, Maher above says he "inherited" a multi-million deficit. Who did he "inherit" the deficit from? Himself? He was on the board for three years before becoming el Presidente!


And, if he turned the table on the so-called "deficit" -- every politically connected child put in office by their father always insists they had a "deficit" that they "inherited" -- but never from their parent, of course -- when and how did that table turn?


Did it turn in 2006 when he "inherited" the deficit from himself on the board? Or, is he using this windfall tax increase to cover the excessive spending in the OFPD?


Patrick Maher is a huge disappointment for me personally. I really liked him. I just don't like the bull-s--- that seems to be written all over his phony PR claims and campaign boasts and I am cautious about some of the political people he has chosen to surround himself with.


I am not convinced that Maher's Orland Fire Protection District's really cares about the  taxpayers at all. I have a nagging suspicion that his administration is all about the same old political patronage and insider clout that plagues the very Cook County Board he's trying to get elected to; a county board where Maher's 19th Ward relatives have had a longstanding and cozy political relationship with the Stroger's.


-- Ray Hanania
www.RadioChicagoland.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quinn announces his candidacy in statewide sweep Thursday

Bookmark and Share

Gov Pat Quinn is planning to formally announce his candidacy for election as Governor of Illinois. Quinn, appointed to succeed impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has a packed schedule tomorrow. It goes to show you how much elected officials have to do when the time comes.

The formal announcement begins in downtown Chicago at the Allegro hotel at 9:30 am and then shoots to Springfield at the Abraham Lincoln Capitol Airport. From there, he'll hit some towns throughout the state.


In a statewide, nine-community tour on Thursday, October 22, 2009, Governor Pat Quinn will formally announce his candidacy for Governor. The day's events are scheduled as follows:
 9:30 a.m. Chicago: Hotel Allegro, 171 W. Randolph St.
12:15 p.m. Springfield: Abraham LIncoln Capitol Airport Main Terminal, 1200 Capitol Airport Drive, Door C
  2:15 p.m. Cahokia: St. Louis Downtown Airport, 1680 Sauget Industrial Parkway
  3:30 p.m. Herrin: Herrin Civic Center, 101 S. 16th St. 
  5:00 p.m. West Frankfort: Teamsters Local Union 347, located at 509 West Main St
  5:55 p.m. Mt. Vernon: Granada Theater, 108 N. 9th St.
  6:40 p.m. Salem: Salem Public Library, 315 S. Maple
  7:15 p.m. Mattoon: Holiday Inn Express Great Room, 121 Swords Drive
  8:00 p.m. Tuscola: Woody's Family Restaurant, 1000 E. Southline Road
Quinn is being challenged by Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. If the Governor wants to score some points, he might add Hyne's backyard to his agenda. No, I don't mean the 19th Ward. I mean Orland Park where the 19th Ward Machine is slowly building up a satellite republic.
-- Ray Hanania
www.RadioChicagoland.com

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2nd Maher throws hat in for Cook County board ... and Orland Township committeeman

Bookmark and Share


Gerald Maher, who was soundly defeated in a bid to unseat Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin last Spring, has turned his sights against his own Republican Party and is soliciting signatures to challenge Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman both as Cook County Commissioner and the GOP Committeeman.

Maher, a Republican, believes he didn’t get enough support from Gorman and the Orland Township Republican Party in his bid to unseat McLaughlin and even alleged that Gorman backed McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, a union communications director, is also the Democratic Committeeman of Orland Park. Here's how Maher and McLaughlin did in the past three elections:

2001
Dan McLaughlin      6771 votes
Gerald Maher          2704 votes

2005
Dan McLaughlin      9248 (unopposed)

2009
Dan McLaughlin      5427
Gerald Maher         3049

Gerald Maher denied his candidacy is intended to help the candidacy of Patrick Maher, the Orland Fire Protection District president and the son of Orland Park Village Clerk David Maher, a McLaughlin ally.

“I am running because I want to make a difference in the 17th Cook County District,” Maher said Tuesday during a telephone interview while soliciting signatures for his petitions. “Liz Gorman has been in office eight years and what has she done? Nothing. But absolutely, this has to do with her not supporting me and not doing what a committeeman is supposed to do when I ran for office.”

Maher said he is running for both positions that Gorman holds including Republican Committeeman for Orland Township.

Gorman, who has been leading the effort to repeal Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s oppressive 1 percent Sales Tax, scoffed at Gerald Maher’s assertions.

“He’s a stalking horse,” she said. “I put out a mailer for every one who ran for office and the only group I endorsed who lost was Gerald Maher’s slate. The highest vote getter came from the Republican side and I am proud of that. I had him in the endorsement sheet and he didn’t even have a mailer,” Gorman said.

“At the end of the day, everyone will figure out that Gerald Maher is a disgruntled wannabe public official who is upset not because I and the Republican Party did not help him. He is upset because has tried repeatedly to win office and has been consistently rejected by the voters. ‘Liz Gorman’ didn’t make him lose. We didt everything for him. He lost because the voters don’t like him. He did it to himself.”

Gorman also said that she finds it ironic that Gerald Maher and David Maher got into a high profile battle over who was using whose name to win votes. (Read the story on the Maher vs Maher name controversy?) She is referring to the letter that was published in the Orland Pairie newspaper just before the village election in which David Maher, the village clerk, blasted Gerald Maher for using their good name.

Gerald Maher said he despises the tactics David Maher used in the last election and he insisted his own candidacy is not an effort to boost David Maher’s son’s chances next year. He also denied that Gorman endorsed his candidacy, but Gorman showed me her Township GOP brochure that in fact did include Maher's Ad, discounted..

“Is my candidacy a plus or minus for Pat Maher. I see it as an absolute minus. Contrary to what his father claims, I have been to Tipperary, Ireland and that is where the Maher name originates,” Gerald Maher said.

“They don’t pronounce it Mah-her there. They pronounce it ‘Maer.’ That name belongs to me as much as it does anyone else. For them to think they have the ownership of that name is na├»ve at best. Is it helping Pat Maher? Absolutely not. It is just the opposite.”

In an unexpected move, Gerald Maher's brother Robert Maher announced his unequivocal support for Gorman, blasting his brother and blaming him for his own election defeat. Robert Maher served as Orland Township Supervisor and was ousted in the April 7 elections by Democrat Paul O'Grady.

"I lost the election to Paul O'Grady mainly because my brother Gerald ran against Mayor McLaughlin and that caused a lot of confusion. But I think worst of all is my brother Gerald ran a terrible race," Robert Maher said in a telephone interview.

"I want to make it clear that I wholeheartedly support Liz Gorman's re-election for the Cook County Board and for Republican Committeeman. She has led the fight to repeal the 1 percent sales tax and to challenge County Board President Todd Stroger. She could not have done more for me in my election bid and I believe she is one of the most effective Republican leaders and county commissioners we have."

Patrick Maher is expected to file next week for the office of County Board in the Democratic Primary. He is expected to face Dr. Victor Forys in the February primary election. The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will face-off in the November 2010 general elections.

end

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reading the election fine print in the 17th Cook County District

Bookmark and Share

A friend went to Randy's Market Monday in the Mall that the Village has been trying to shut down for the past year at 143rd and LaGrange when a woman came up to him and said, "Can you sign this petition? We want to get rid of Todd Stroger."

Now, my friend is no big fan of Todd Stroger, the Cook County Board President who shoved a 1 percent sales tax hike down our throats forcing businesses in Orland Park and other communities on the county's western borders to flee. So he said he stopped to sign and saw that it was actually a petition to Put Patrick Maher, the Democratic candidate for the Cook County 17th District on the ballot.

The friend was smart enough to ask what was up considering Pat Maher's father is in fact David Maher, the clerk of the Village of Orland Park, the very same village trying to shut down Randy's Market. And of course, he also knows that those "Mahers" are related to the powerful 19th Ward family of Tom and Dan Hynes, who both, by the way, have been big political backers of the Strogers, Todd and his late father John, for years.

I emailed Pat Maher (earlier today) asking him if in fact he is campaigning to oust Todd Stroger, because that would be a good story. It's especially a good story since Maher and Stroger are both Democrats and he is trying to unseat Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman, the Republican incumbent from the 17th District who has been a serious pain in Stroger's ass this past year. It was Gorman who wouldn't relent on the campaign to repeal Stroger's sales tax. Although the effort fell short several times, her efforts have made the Sales Tax repeal the most talked about issue for voters in Cook County. Maher, by the way, is the president of the Orland Fire Protection District.

Maher must face-off first with Victor Forys, who has a penchant for raising huge campaign contributions, in the Democratic primary. It's not a certainty that Maher will win and Forys has lined up significant Democratic backing for his campaign from Gov. Pat Quinn and many Democratic commissioners and party leaders in the bowling alley district that stretches from Orland Park to the northwest suburbs.

When asked about the incident, a manager at Randy's Market told my friend that he thought the petitions were for the Mahers (Gerald and Robert) who opposed the closing of the mall but who are not related to the David and Patrick Mahers. Ironically, David Maher published a letter in the local paper blasting the "other" Mahers claiming they were telling people they were "related" and abusing their "good name."

(I emailed Maher asking for his response and comments and also also Gorman and Forys. I'll post their comments in an update if and when they come in.)

Candidates turn in their signatures for the February election beginning Monday October 26 and have until Monday Nov. 2, which is another story I'll be writing about called "coincidences." (There are no coincidences in politics.)

Aaah. Politics! Nothing changes whether its in Chicago's Machine backyard or in the mini-19th Ward called Orland Park.

-- Ray Hanania
www.RadioChicagoland.com

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Local legislators stand with taxpayers on fight to repeal Cook County sales tax

Bookmark and Share

Two legislators stood by taxpayers and voted to repeal the repressive 1 percent Todd Stroger Cook County Sales Tax. That's the tax that Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman has been fighting to lift off the backs of taxpayers. Without Gorman's campaign and repeated attempts to repeal the tax, that fell short on the county board, the issue would not have made it to the agenda of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Two legislators in particular stood out, State Rep. Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox) and State Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) both voted to repeal the sales tax in Wednesday's (Oct. 14) vote in the Illinois General Assembly.

Here's an overview of all the legislative skanks though who stuck it to the taxpayers. The vote was SIX (6) VOTES shy of passing and relieving you of the oppressive Stroger 1 Percent Sales Tax and several Cook County Legislators were responsible for keeping it in place.

Click here to read the full story and see the list of how your legislator voted.

Although McCarthy voted to repeal the sales tax, his critics said he was given a pass by Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan who ordered the failure of the repeal. His army of legislators, who rely on his for campaign funding to win re-election, include McCarthy who may or may not be facing a challenge from Orland Fire Protection District Trustee James Hickey (who has been trying to solicit signatures on his petitions. Click here to read story.) McCarthy was told he could vote "for the repeal by Madigan to protect his re-election bid. McCarthy would dispute that but he doesn't talk that much with the local news media, so who knows?

end

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

African American preachers endorse racism in February Cook County elections

Bookmark and Share

More than 100 African American religious leaders came together Tuesday to endorse beleaguered Cook County Board President Todd Stroger for re-election. Their argument was not his achievements, but rather the fear that a "White" candidate might win the election.

That isn't racism?

The Black pastors urged Black candidates Congressman Danny Davis, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown should not run because if they run, then the four Black candidates will "split the Black vote" and help "White" candidate Terrence O'Brien to win.

That sounds like racism to me. Why should Stroger get their endorsement? Because he is a good leader? Or, because they are receiving county funds and it is about them and their money. And they are not ashamed of turning to racism as a means of defending their political largesse.

Public loses in Baucus health care plan; the only winner is the insurance lobby

Bookmark and Share


So let me get this straight. President Barack Obama makes a clarion call to reform healthcare so that the 30 million Americans (not including the 12 million "non-Americans" living in America) can have affordable and fair health insurance, and what does the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate do?
They pass a "health care" plan that is touted for doing one major thing: require every American to purchase health care.
Thanks Senator Max Baucus. That's the problem. I've been hesitating to purchase healthcare insurance because I "can't afford it." I've paid into the healthcare insurance industry for 30 years and now that I am working as a freelance journalist with no permanent or fulltime employer, the reason I don't have health insurance is because I don't want to buy it?
Are you nuts?
Do you really think that the majority of the 30 million Americans who don't have insurance, don't have insurance because they can't afford to purchase it or because they don't want to purchase it?
Most Americans who don't have insurance, don't have insurance because the greedy robber barons in the insurance industry, who line the back pockets of most of our politicians in Washington DC with campaign cash payola, won't give us the insurance coverage we need. What they offer us to pay for is worthless. And ironically, thanks to you, the insurance industry is exactly the ones who will be benefiting from this stupid, worthless bill that is so far from reform it is pathetic.
This isn't reform. This is just another typically tepid Washington bureaucratic response to the real needs of Americans.
I can't get health care insurance because every time I try to purchase it, the health care insurance giants won't give it to me. They eliminate everything they can from the policy so what is left to purchase is not health care insurance but a profit machine for the insurance industry. I can't get insurance because the insurance industry has denied everything that I am likely to need in a policy. I don't have health care insurance because the policy I CAN afford doesn't include coverage for any ailment that is any way related to BREATHING!
And what's worse, the state laws which define the rules which prohibit an insurance carrier from denying coverage to someone who had fulltime healthcare with full coverage is NOT ENFORCED.
No coverage for anything related to breathing because of asthma care received eight years ago from a doctor; no coverage for anything related to heart related issues because I had a heart checkup (which everyone over 50 should get) five years ago.
I had fulltime coverage through a newspaper from Humana. Then, when I shifted to self-employment, Humana denied me coverage for everything they were covering me with. The options were: Pay three times my monthly insurance to COBRA (appropriate predator name by the way) for ONLY 16 months; take the worthless policy Humana did offer which eliminates almost everything; or don't waste my money on garbage!
What did they offer? An empty shell of coverage! It costs me $2,500 in deductibles (compared to $50o before) upfront, plus $700 a month ($8,400). That doesn't include the $500 deductible on prescription drugs which has a list a mile long of things they WON'T pay for even if I do pay the deductible. So add it up, Senator Baucus and the rest of you losers in Washington DC. I have to spend $11,400 before I get even one minute of major health care coverage. So what's the point?
Maybe you all can't add that up because you are busy adding up the cash you all expect from the health insurance lobby coming your way in gratitude because the ONLY winners in this lousy healthcare reform bill sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus is the health industry robber barons.
Then again, why would you all really care in Washington DC? You get a gold-plated, taxpayer funded PUBLIC OPTION-like health care plan that is better than anything anyone else gets in this country.
Thanks but no thanks. You are not forcing me to purchase junk. With no public option, I'd rather go down fighting!
-- Ray Hanania
www.RadioChicagoland.com

Monday, October 12, 2009

Orland holds annual Fall Cleanup Campaign Oct 22-24

Bookmark and Share


Orland Park announce Fall CleanUp Campaign

ORLAND PARK, IL – The Village of Orland Park will hold its annual Fall Clean Up Campaign in cooperation with Waste Management of the South Suburbs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 22, 23 and 24.
            Dumpsters will be placed at the Public Works facility, 15655 South Ravinia Avenue (one block west of LaGrange Road). Residents may dispose of normal household garbage on Thursday, October 22 and Friday, October 23 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. and on Saturday, October 24 from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. All disposed materials must be placed inside of the dumpster and not along side the dumpster. Construction and other hazardous materials are prohibited.
            For more information, call the Public Works Department at 403-6350.

###

Marcus Theaters expands its 3D theaters and revenues

Bookmark and Share

Dig Deep folks. Marcus Theaters on LaGrange Road is expanding its 3D screens adding a second one. That means going to the movie is going to send you to the poor house. They are also adding 3D screens at their Addison, Gurnee and Elgin theaters, too. I can hear the change clanging -- if you use those gold presidential dollars to do business.

Most of the 3D movie selections are animated and for kids, which is great, although the quality of the 3D showings are poor. Toy Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are a good example of poor 3D quality. One of the benefits of 3D is not only seeing depth in a film but actually seeing the characters and animation jump from the screen. So far in watching all of the 3D films at Marcus -- and this is probably true at most other theaters, the experience has been costly and only so-so. There were only a few films where the 3D jumped from the screen.

Animation films are doing well mainly because Hollywood has lost its creativity, All they do is remake this and remake that. I don't want remakes. I want original creative thought and it's just not there. Gun shy? Maybe. They are afraid to take chances so they look for what they've already had success with and then they try to spin it into something else.

Not good enough.

Of course, we don't have much choice. There's not much competition in the movie theater business these days. They shut the one at the Orland Park mall long ago. To be honest, I was talking with my son and if the Hollywood theater industry wants to do anything, they should go back to drive-in movie theaters.

That would be far more fun that the cheap theatrics in today's 3D films that only occasionally impress. My son would love the animated film with or without 3D and frankly, for what little excitement that we get, so far, I would too, saving the price hike and the added charge for the 3D glasses.

Here's the press release from marcus Theaters that was sent out last week:

Marcus Theatres® Announces Six New RealD 3D InstallationsOver 60% of company’s theatre locations will offer life-like digital 3D technology for moviegoers
Marcus Theatres®, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE: MCS), today announced plans to install six new RealD 3D systems at Marcus Theatres locations in Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The company plans to install the six additional 3D systems in time for the December 18 opening of Avatar, James Cameron’s highly anticipated 3D release. With the addition of the six RealD 3D equipped screens, Marcus Theatres will offer digital 3D at 32 locations in seven states.

“Expanding our digital 3D footprint is part of our growth strategy, as the studios produce more and more digital 3D films. With up to 14 digital 3D films scheduled for release in 2010, this powerful technology is expected to continue to have a positive impact on our box office,” said Bruce J. Olson, president of Marcus Theatres.

Olson said digital 3D technology continues to attract a wide variety of audiences. “Digital 3D films are not only animated films, but live-action films, comedies and documentaries. Popular 3D films opening this fall include re-releases of Toy Story 1 & 2 and the popular Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as a re-make of A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey.”

“The positive response from moviegoers to digital 3D films continues to grow. That’s because digital 3D technology engages the viewer with interactive graphics and life-like images, providing a much more dynamic form of movie entertainment. We are excited to provide our guests with these realistic 3D images using the latest RealD digital technology,” added Olson.

When the six new 3D screens open, over 60% of Marcus Theatres’ first-run theatre locations will be equipped with digital 3D technology. RealD will provide the equipment and glasses for the six new digital 3D systems.
New 3D Locations:
The new RealD installations will be introduced at Sheboygan Cinemas in Wisconsin; Chicago Heights Cinemas and a second 3D screen at Orland Park Cinemas in Illinois; Elk River Theatre and Shakopee Town Square in Minnesota and 20 Grand in Omaha, Nebraska.
Existing 3D Locations:

Wisconsin
 
Bay Park Cinemas, Green BayPoint Cinemas, Madison
Cedar Creek Cinemas, WausauRidge Cinemas, New Berlin
Eastgate Cinemas, MadisonSouth Shore Cinemas, Oak Creek
Hollywood Cinemas, Grand Chute
La Crosse Cinemas, La Crosse
Marcus Cinema at the Renaissance, Sturtevant
Marcus Majestic Cinema, Brookfield
Menomonee Falls Cinema, Menomonee Falls
North Shore Cinemas, Mequon
 

Illinois

Minnesota
Addison Cinemas, AddisonDuluth 10 Theatre, Duluth
Elgin Theatre, ElginOakdale Cinemas, Oakdale
Gurnee Cinemas, GurneeParkwood Cinemas, Waite Park
Orland Park Cinemas, Orland Park
 

Iowa

Nebraska
Coral Ridge, CoralvilleLincoln Grand Cinema, Lincoln
Crossroads, WaterlooTwin Creek Cinema, Bellevue
Village Point Cinema, Omaha
 

Ohio

North Dakota
Crosswoods Cinemas, ColumbusCentury Cinemas, Fargo
Pickerington Cinemas, Pickerington
end

Friday, October 9, 2009

Analysis of Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer's sponsorship of the video gaming machine ban

Bookmark and Share


COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS
Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer's pro-Casino ban on video gaming machines
By Ray Hanania


Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10th) received at least $2,000 in campaign contributions from Illinois casino gaming interests three weeks before she publicly unveiled her campaign to block video gaming machines in Cook and DuPage Counties, her financial records show. 


She then rammed through the Cook County Board an ordinance that broadens the Cook County ban on video gaming machines to include all of the unincorporated areas of the suburbs, places her district up north in Chicago does not represent.


She says she did this because Gov. Pat Quinn pushed through a law to permit video gaming machines as a means of funding the state's $31 million capital improvement plan. She accused the governor of approving the ban in the dead of night and with no public debate. Gainer also denounced video gaming machines and said they would cause trouble for law enforcement and for our troubled society which is suffering through a terrible economy.


What a phony!


Here are some facts Gainer doesn't want you to focus on.


1 - Gainer's family comes from the 19th Ward and is close to the powers there who are behind the gubernatorial candidacy of of now state Comptroller Dan Hynes. This bill helps Hynes and hurts Quinn.


2 - Gainer comes from the city of Chicago and her district doesn't even represent the unincorporated areas of the county. She was anointed by the Chicago Machine Committeemen and doesn't represent the suburban communities and she wasn't even elected to any office.


3 - Gainer blasts Quinn for pushing through his law to legalize video gaming machines in Illinois, but the fact is Gainer did the same thing that she accuses Quinn of doing:“passed in a late-night legislative session, with no public hearings or debate.” 


Suburban commissioners like Liz Gorman and Joan Patricia Murphy urged that the Gainer bill be deferred so that more discussion could take place. Gainer said no and pushed it through using mostly Chicago votes. Communities throughout the state and county are discussing this law and weighing the benefits of Quinn's capital improvement plan against the so-called scoured of "expanding gambling."


4 - Gainer says legalizing video gaming machines is bad for society, but says nothing about the fact that we now have 10 casinos in Illinois, we legalized the lottery and fraternal organizations and churches rely on Bingo for most of their free cash. Those are okay, but not an option that literally means no change for the state's gaming balance.


So the question is why? Why did Bridget Gainer, a 19th Ward political princess and former lobbyist for the past 8 years for the AON Insurance Corporation, decide to make legalizing video gaming machines a major issue?


FOLLOW THE MONEY


1 - AON, the Insurance giant headed by Patrick Ryan, has longstanding ties to the gaming industry.


2 - Gainer received at least $2,000 from the principles of the newest casino license, the first to be built in Cook County. 


Gainer told the Chicago Tribune -- she won't answer questions put to her with a hard edge and refuses to talk to me -- that she didn't know the $2,000 came from gaming interests. She told a Chicago TV reporter that the money came from two women she met socially.


Fact, the money came in two donations to her election campaign committee on June 30, just three weeks before she decided to push the video gaming ban in Cook County. The contributors are far from socialites from the wine and cheese circuit. They are:


Leslie Bluhm, a partner in Midwest Gaming & Entertainment LLC, and the daughter of Neil Bluhm, the chairman of Midwest Gaming. Leslie Bluhm, I presume, gave Gainer $1,000.


The second $1,000 donation came the same day on June 30, quite a coincidence even for a wine and cheese diva, from Gregory Carlin, who happens to be the president of Midwest Gaming.


Gainer told the Chicago Tribune that she will return the $2,000. (Actually, returning conflicted donations is not unusual for Gainer. If you check her campaign finance report, you find she returned about $4,000 in donations from a major Cook County contractor, yet kept thousands more from interests directly tied to that same county contractor.)


Gainer’s campaign contribution lists also show she received many more donations from other companies and groups that have received thousands from Bluhm or Bluhm-related interests.


Why rush it through and reject a delay on the county vote? Why not give the people of Cook County, especially in the suburbs, time to weigh Gainer's ban more time?


GAINER COULDN'T WAIT


On the morning that Gainer's bill was rushed through the dead of night at the Cook County board over the objections of suburban county commissioners who were pleading for more time to consider the legislation, Neil Bluhm was before the Illinois Gaming Board agreeing to commit his $540 million to the new Cook County Casino that will soon be built in Cook County's suburbs.


Not so ironically, legalized video gaming machines DO rival casinos and especially would "harm" a casino in Cook County because that is where the largest concentration of video gaming devices would be placed. In Cook County, in the backyard of Midwest Gaming.


Only 10 days before the Finance Committee hearing, Gainer also surfaced at a high profile press conference with Cook County Clerk David Orr to announce a new Lobbying and Ethics “Sunshine Law”.


At the press conference, Gainer was quoted in the Arlington Heights Daily Herald vowing, "The time to know all this information is when you are awarding the contract and when the vote happens."


The newspaper added “Lobbying information would be included on agenda items. In effect, it would cast light on the sometimes-shady elements of awarding county contracts.”


Gainer did not respond to two requests for information regarding her ties to the casino gaming industry and to Chicago firms that have engaged in lobbying on behalf of the state’s riverboat casinos.


But Gainer’s web page (www.BridgetGainer.com) reflects an obsession with casino related issues. Her Twitter account is filled with dozens and dozens of postings on the video ban and the casino industry.


(Ray Hanania is a veteran Chicago political reporter and radio talk show host. Read his past columns on this issue at www.RadioChicagoland.com)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Local restaurant review and the meaning of "all you can eat"

Bookmark and Share

My wife hates my blogging. Not because she disagrees with everything I write. She does! And so does everyone else, I think. But because every time we find something great, I have to share it. "Why are you going to tell the world about this vacation resort?" ... "Why are you going to tell the world about this great restaurant?

"Well, dat's vat I do wit da writin and stuff!" I shrug in my Chica-ga accent that I can't shake with a Louisville Slugger. (I know, you're asking yourself, "Who learned you English?")

Anyway, Alison told me about this great sushi restaurant and I am figuring, what's so great about a sushi restaurant? They serve a chunk of rice with a sliver of raw fish on it and sell it for 5 times the cost. Kind of like the American Auto industry trying to get me to unload one junk lemon and pay $10,000 more to buy another junk lemon with a "energy efficient" label slapped on its fat, sluggish and unreliable ass.


Worse, I was in the middle of my freakin diet. I've been on the Atkins diet for 8 weeks and my arteries have turned into stone. But I have lost 22 pounds on that diet and I am within the strike zone. Well, I'm 206 and I want to be 195, which is kind of like saying that the Chicago Cubs will make the World Series. They get close and I guess that's good enough in Chicago-ese.

So we decided to kill my diet and she takes me to the Big Tuna sushi restaurant at 13137 S. LaGrange Road. I've been watching with amazement how some developer is building this exclusive, gated home and condo and town house community, with an Aldi at the front entrance. Why not just go all the way and put Cub Foods there and a Wal-Mart? But I did notice two new restaurants popping up. One called "It's Greek to Me," which sounds intriguing and the other called "Big Tuna."

Now, tuna is on the Atkins Diet so I don't say "no" right away. But then that hunger for carbs is eating away at my inside like a politician for a campaign donation, I'm ready to compromise my diet ethics faster that a Cook County Commissioner protecting the casino industry, and I yelp "Yea Baby! Let 'er rip."

Hey, I can also follow Bridget Gainer's lead on the county board and explain away $2,000 in donations from two casino interests trying to squash the video gaming machine legislation by saying "I met the restaurant at a social gathering of Atkins dieters. I didn't know that the restaurant served carbs. I thought they just liked me!" (Come to think of it, I think some members of the Cook County Board have replaced the Chicago motto "Where's Mine" with a new one, "All-you-can-eat ... in donations.")


So we drive to Big Tuna in the Big Lincoln Clunker for a Big Day of Big Meal.

Hey, $20 to stuff my face. That's not bad. And I have a face that is craving eight weeks of badly needed carbohydrates. My hunger is roaring, and it's not even Saturday so I can't eat a pizza. The "all-you-can-eat" option is only good for lunch between the hours of 11:30 am and 2 pm, not a minute past, my wife explains making me wonder how often has she been to the all-you-can-eat sushi trough? So we get there at exactly 11:31 am.

And, I wave to the waiter and tell him I want a nice booth by the window, but he points out (again like a U.S. Attorney laying out the indictment for a Chicago alderman) that no, the rule says we have to eat at the restaurant's bar. Okay. Fine. We'll eat at the restaurant's bar. We're the first ones there and every stool is empty. So we plop down on two seats. Not just anywhere though. I'm one of those OCB people who plans all seating in movie theaters and counts the seats. Have to be an even number group. Can't be next to the wall or the corner. Two seats away from the wall in the next two seats. Right here honey!

Normally, Alison would be rolling her eyes but she's thinking "all-you-can-eat" sushi so I can get away with a lot of crap at this point. "Hey look at that hot babe honey. What a set of mellons, huh? Don't you think?" Her response at this point with the sushi she loves staring her in the face would be a simple, "Yea sure, honey. Go ahead. Jump all over it." At which point my internal neurons start to overload and I go into cardiac arrest.

But we are at Big Tuna and I'm ready to jump all over their sushi. I am craving a hunger like no other hunger in my life. And for $20. That's the kind of patriotic American spirit President Obama is talking about when he says we have to do a service to our country and help the needy because I am needy for carbs at this point.

We sit down and the waiter brings us out Miso Soup and a salad. I take the seaweed salad because, well it tastes like Gummy Bears without the sugar. And it's sprinkled with sesame seeds and that's the secret to any Ay-rab's heart.

Then the big question. What would we like to order? "All-you-can-eat?" Yes sir the waiter smiles back. After all, I'm only on my first order. Turns out, he explains, there are some rules. You can order only three items at one time. But he doesn't tell me that right away. Being polite I order two sushi roles. Spicy Tuna and a California Roll with avocado.

It takes seconds to gobble those down and I sit there staring like a Chicago County Commissioner at a campaign donation in a contributor's hands. Not moving. Like a statue. Waiting patiently because I don't want to give away the vast emptiness of my internal hunger's abyss.

Finally, the waiter gets the hint and comes back and says can I get you another order? Sure, I say, "King Crag Avocado Roll and a Dragon Roll." Those are the top dogs when it comes to sushi. Alison puts in her order, too. We're each paying $20 for "all-you-can-eat."

I noticed that the waiter's smile seems to be twitching and I mention my observation to Alison. "Honey. He flinched when I ordered." She tells me I'm just seeing things as she waits for the second round of food to arrive.

By this time, the bar area is getting jammed packed with cheap-assed customers like me. I think they wandered in from the Aldi. Or maybe they came from the Cub Foods at 159th Street and Harlem, which is a long way to smell a good deal.

The waiter brings the food. Beautiful. As he puts the food down, he says "No Waste the food." I'm oblivious to what he says, of course, because I am hungry. It's great tasting. And gone in 90 seconds flat. And I go into statue mode again when I am done consuming. I want my sushi the way my dog wants his chew-bone every time he comes in from going outside to poop. I even try scratching my paw on the counter-top the way my dog tells me he wants to go outside to get the waiter's attention. It doesn't work.

Finally, and I mean finally, he comes back and asks if we are "done." Done? Done? Are you kidding? This is America, buddy. And Americans are NEVER done when it is "all-you-can-eat." So, I politely say "No" and then ask if I can order more. After all, we've only been here 25 minutes starving to death and we have two more hours for the "all-you-can-eat" period to end. Right?

So I ask if I can order "three" sushis this time. He did say three at a time per order, right?

And I swear, the waiter looked like he went into cardiac arrest. He stared at me like I violated some kind of Geisha Code or something. "More?" Yes more, I'm thinking. But I am too polite to tell the waiter what I really think so I purr out, "Yes, please?"

He pulls out his pen and pad and I ask, "Can I have three?"

Get the defibrillator for the guy. "All-you-can-eat" sir means "all-you-can-eat," even in Arabic, buddy, I'm thinking. "Yes, three. Is that okay?" I purr in response.

"Yes. But no waste. No waste." He looks at my wife's plate and she has four asparagus sushis on her plate and hasn't eaten them. (Who eats asparagus sushi?) "Ma'am," he says, "you must pay extra if you leave four pieces on your plate." So I quickly reach over with my chop sticks and grab two at the same time and swallow them like a Chicago Cook County Commissioner pocketing a campaign donation. And I smile. Broadly.

I order three. And he says agin, "You must eat them all."

Sieg Heil! We must succeed. We cannot fail. Failure will not be tolerated. Four sushis and I wack your dinky. (Okay, that's a comedy term from the 1960s. I like sushi but I am not Gay.)

I could feel the pressure. All of the restaurant's staff's eyes were on me. If they had a spotlight on the ceiling it would have been shining on me. Smiles with internal scowls, if you know what I mean. Like I violated a "goes-without-saying" agreement or something. Sure, we offer "all-you-can-eat" but we don't really mean it. We're just trying to get people into the restaurant and get them addicted so they come back when we whack them with the $10 dollar charge per sushi roll! We are going to make lots of money in this country from these stupid Americans! Yea baby!

So now, I am slowly eating my 5th, 6th and 7th rolls and they are huge. And they are all looking at me wondering is this a-hole customer (me) going to order more? It's not even 12:15. We're at the start of the "all-you-can-eat" strike zone. It's like being the Chicago Bears at the one yard line with 90 minutes left on the clock and I can't jump over Big Tuna's defensive scowls and order more?

"More?" the waiter asks. It's not a question but it sounds more like a statement to me. My wife jabs me with her elbow.

"No. Thanks, though. Just the bill," I reply.

Suddenly, the place breaks out like it's Christmas time. Everyone is happy. Two of us only $43 including the tax. I leave a $6 tip because 15 percent of the dollar amount is 15 percent, even if "all-you-can'-eat" isn't really "all-you-can-eat." They should call it "All-you-can-get-away-with-eating." Or, "how much can you eat while we stare at you in disbelief, you fat gorging pig of an obese-assed customer?"

I'm going back. And this time I'll be there by myself. And they won't be able to pull me out of there with a Chicago police tow truck. I'll be a fixture there for the whole "all-you-can-eat" time period, eating all I can eat!

Check it out. Big Tuna is loads of fun. All kidding aside, the food is great. And, check out my restaurant review page where I post more of my out-to-eat experiences. Click here to go to the Restaurant Review page.

-- Ray Hanania
www.RadioChicagoland.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gainer's pro-casino video gaming machine ban approved at today's Cook County board

Bookmark and Share

Cook County Commissioners bowed to the only casino gaming interests in the county and backed casino Commissioner Bridget Gainer's pro-casino legislation to ban video gaming devices in suburban unincorporated areas of the county. Amazingly, two controversial suburban commissioners, Deborah Sims and Joan Patricia Murphy, decided to do the right thing during the final effort to delay the legislation, but it still wasn't enough.

The first vote was 9 to 5 to defer. The final vote was 10 to 4 to pass Gainer's pro-casino legislation.

Commissioners Sims and Murphy joined Commissioner Liz Gorman and Commissioners Edwin Reyes and Joseph Mario Moreno to support the deferral of the ban to give taxpayers and voters a chance to express their views and wishes on the issue. Commissioners Tim Schneider voted "present" and Larry Suffredin, a full time casino lobbyist, was out of town and did not vote. Both are suburbanites and that's two suburban votes down the drain.

Does anyone care about the taxpayers? Gainer just wants to be Cook County Board President or maybe congressman. She has high aspirations, apparently.

Most of the county votes were driven by selfish interests, not the best interests of the taxpayers, like the case of County Commissioner William Beavers who backed Gainer's casino legislation all the way. The Cook County casino wants this video gaming machine banned in Cook County so the machines won't compete with them. The unions supported fighting the video gaming machine ban and Beavers had it in for the unions.

The unions supported Sandi Jackson against Darcel Beavers, who was appointed alderman in the 7th Ward to succeed her father, Commissioner Beavers. And Beavers has a long memory and voted to support Gainer's pro-casino video gaming machine ban.

If any two of the nine commissioners who supported Gainer, including Commissioners Gregg Goslin, who moved to defer Gainer's pro-casino ban on video gaming machines at the Finance Committee hearing last week, had switched to defer, the taxpayers would have had a chance to more closely weigh this bill. What's that all about?

Commissioner John Daley's vote to support Gainer's pro-casino legislation is odd because his brother, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has suggested he might reverse the city ban and permit video gaming machines as a revenue source.

Commissioner Peter Silvestri left the meeting early. Silvestri is mayor of Elmwood Park which voted to ban video gaming machines, although he voted for deferral last week.

If Silvestri and Goslin had stuck to their guns, the interests of the taxpayers would have been defended.

Tragedy for taxpayers, tragedy for unions, tragedy for the state's $31 billion capital improvements plan, but not so un-lucractive to Gainer who told a TV reporter than the donations from the casinos came from "two women" she met at a wine and cheese party.

Ahh, Leslie Bluhm, the daughter of Neil Bluhm the chairman of Midwest Gaming and Entertainment LLC which is getting the 10th license is a woman. But Gregory Carlin, the president of Midwest Gaming who gave Gainer $1,000 -- not chump change by any stretch of Gainer's imagination -- is, I believe, a man.

A win and cheese party? Hosted by who? The county's milk contractor? Stay tuned ...

-- Ray Hanania
www.RadioChicagoland.com

More fallout from Gainer's sloppy campaign disclosure forms

Bookmark and Share

Leaders from Cook County and several unions decried Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer's proposed ban on video gaming machines that comes up for a fast-tracked vote this morning before the full board, citing possible conflicts of interest and the damage the legislation could do to local and state economies and job losses.

Visit www.SuburbanChicagoland.com for more on the story this morning.

County and Union leaders react to Gainer's conflicted video gaming ban plan

Bookmark and Share

Union officials urge County Board to delay today’s vote
By Ray Hanania

A proposal by newly appointed Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer to ban video gaming machines is bad for taxpayers, bad for the county and questionable because of her financial ties to the state’s casino industry, county officials and industry leaders said.

Officials of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association called on the county board to delay a vote on the ban which is scheduled for this morning (Tuesday Oct. 6) based on disclosures that Gainer received financial donations from casino related interests and concern for the county budget and state jobs.

Gainer, who was appointed by Chicago Machine committeemen to succeed Mike Quigley in the 10th district in Chicago, received at least $2,000 from casino-related interests to her election campaign committee three weeks before proposing the video gaming machine ban.

Video gaming is the heart of Gov. Pat Quinn plan to fund a $31 billion capital improvements program for the state. It would allow up to 45,000 video machines to be placed in establishments with liquor licenses. As much as $500,000 annually could be raised by financially-strapped suburban communities through licensing.

A spokesman for the Illinois Gaming Association, which represents 7 of the state’s 10 licensed casinos, added said the bill would siphon some revenues from casinos in the state, but that the IGA has not taken a stand against the legislation.

Chris Geovanis, a spokesman for Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, said Gainer’s bill would also take away funds needed for county expenses. She said banning the video machines could cost Cook County millions of dollars in lost state discretionary funds. Geovanis said that while Stroger has no comment on funds Gainer, the sponsor of the video gaming legislation, has received from casino related interested, the county is “concerned by the money that taxpayers will lose” if video gaming machines are banned.

“There is a concern the ban will have a revenue impact. The state has been pushing very hard on the counties not to ban video gaming because it is revenue for them,” Geovanis said.

“But there is a concern that if the discretionary funds they would normally provide to home rule entities like Cook County will be withheld. There is concern that if the board does move to ban video gaming under Gainer’s terms, the board should take into consideration the revenue impact that might run from tens of millions of lost dollars to hundreds of millions of lost dollars.”
ICMOA officials said that they plan to protest at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“Video gaming is critical to funding the Illinois Capital Bill, which was finally pushed through after a decade of debate over how to pay for improvements to our state’s deteriorating infrastructure,” said Tom Fiedler, president of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, Morris, Ill.

“The idea that kicking the gaming act back to the General Assembly will force a more palatable funding solution is laughable  … It’s taken 10 years to get this far. In a state that has lost nearly 325,000 jobs since the start of the recession, can the thousands who would be put back to work by the capital bill afford to wait?

Mike Pappas, ICMOA executive director said, “This bill was fast-tracked and introduced even before the Illinois Gaming Board could come out with the rules and regulations about the video gaming machine legislation,” said Mike Pappas, executive director of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association.

“The Illinois Gaming Board is the most respected board in the country and they haven’t even finished detailing how this law will be applied. Before they even can act, the county has moved to ban it. It doesn’t sound right.”

Pappas made his comments Monday during an interview on Radio Chicagoland WJJG 1530 AM. He called the board’s intention to ban the video gaming machines “a rush to judgment.”

Pappas said he first heard about Gainer’s bill only six days before it was brought before the Cook County Finance Committee.

“This ordinance hurts the suburban community but it also hurts everyone in Cook County no matter what district you represent as a commissioner,” Pappas said.

Pappas said studies show that Quinn’s Capital Improvement Plan, which depends on the video machine gaming component to generate the $31 billion, would create 439,000 jobs in Illinois and provide some $3.58 billion in transportation, $3.6 billion for lower education improvement and help impoverished areas of Cook County.

“The video gaming act is going to fund significant improvements and create more jobs, jobs, jobs to quote Governor Quinn,” Pappas said.

Asked about Gainer receiving funds from two executive of the 10th Casino licensee, Midwest Gaming & Entertainment LLC, Pappas said that the vote might have been different at the Finance Committee if other commissioners knew.

Tom Swoik, the executive director of the Illinois Gaming Association, which represents seven of the state’s 10 casino gaming licensees, said that Gainer’s bill would siphon money from the casino industry at a time when the economy is at its worst.

But, he said that when Quinn introduced the legislation, the IGA did not oppose it.

“When [Quinn’s] legislation went through, the association and its members did not oppose this legislation. But this is probably the strongest we have seen. It has more regulations in it. It will be administered by the Illinois Gaming Board. The problem is there is no money in the bill to get this up and running,” Swoik said.

Swoik also questioned the county’s motives saying that Quinn’s bill gives voters in municipalities and unincorporated areas the option to ban the machines in their communities.

But Swoik acknowledged that a prior cigarette ban in the state has dramatically impacted the revenues paid by the seven casino members of the IGA.

“The cigarette ban impacted our casino revenues dramatically and what we returned to the state and to local communities,” Swiok said.

He said prior to the cigarette ban, casinos paid $718 million to state and $116 million to local communities. After the ban was approved, casino revenues dropped and they only paid $473 million to the state and $93 million to communities.

“It was a 20percent drop in revenues,” Swoik said, noting the economy has also dragged down casino revenues 8 percent this year.

In a Sept. 24 letter to Cook County Commissioner Earlean Collins, Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis J. Gannon said: “Without collecting revenue from video gaming, the capital program will fall short of the necessary funding to improve our communities and put hundreds of thousands  of men and women to work.”

In an earlier letter to the Kane County Board, the Transportation for Illinois Coalition stated, “Despite the political momentum behind local ordinances to ban video poker, [we] remain supportive of video poker as a revenue source for capital construction.”  


Gainer has refused to respond to repeated queries to comment about the donations she has received.

On June 30, 2009, Gainer’s election campaign received $1,000 from Leslie Bluhm. Bluhm is listed on Gainer’s disclosure forms as working with “Lamb Partners.” On the same day, Gainer also received $1,000 from Gregory Carlin, who is also listed as an executive with at Lamb Partners.

Leslie Bluhm is the daughter of Midwest Gaming Chairman Neil Bluhm, and she is also a “partner” in Midwest Gaming. Gregory Carlin is President of Midwest Gaming. Neil Bluhm has many corporate interests in Illinois including Lamb Partners. He is also president of JMB Realty Corporation.

Gainer’s legislation was fast-tracked through the county board over the objections of several commissioners who asked that public hearings be held first. In fact, no "public hearings" were held on Gainer’s bill which sat dormant in the Finance Committee until Gainer asked Finance Committee Chairman John Daley to put the bill on an agenda for a vote. That vote was taken last Thursday, October 1, 2009 immediately after a few members of the public, last minute, were allowed to speak on the issue. It is scheduled to be voted on by the full board Tuesday (Oct. 6, 2009).

Click here to read yesterday’s story on casino gaming donations to Gainer.


-- Ray Hanania