Illinois Insights: An Update from Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies (9/21)

September 21, 2022


IDPH reports strong demand for new COVID-19 vaccines, by NPR Illinois.


Sen. Emil Jones III charged with bribery in red-light camera scheme

Illinois state Sen. Emil Jones III has been hit with federal bribery charges alleging he took a $5,000 bribe from SafeSpeed, a red-light camera company wanting to block legislation requiring studies for automated traffic enforcement systems, and then lied to federal agents about it.

Jones, a South Side Democrat and the son of former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., is the latest politician to be charged in the sweeping federal investigation centered on red-light cameras installed by SafeSpeed LLC.

According to the indictment made public Tuesday, Jones filed a bill (SB1297) in February 2019 requiring studies of all automated traffic safety devices in Illinois by IDOT but took a bribe from unnamed individuals to oppose the study outside Chicago in order to benefit SafeSpeed.

The indictment against Jones was filed as “information,” which typically means the defendant plans to plead guilty, according to the Tribune.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon said in a statement that he has asked for and expects “to receive Senator Jones’ resignation from his leadership post and committee chairmanship.”

“These are grave allegations. Members of the Senate and all public officials need to hold themselves to a high ethical standard for the public to have trust and faith in our work,” Harmon said.


More Migrants Expected in Chicago This Week as Pritzker, Bailey Disagree on Border Security: “More migrants are expected to arrive in Chicago this week as border security becomes one of the issues dividing Democrats and Republicans ahead of the November election,” by NBC 5 Chicago.

AG Kwame Raoul acknowledges provisions in the SAFE-T Act like the no-bail provision ‘deserve discussion’: “Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Tuesday acknowledged he has concerns about potential ambiguities in a sweeping criminal justice law that has become a major election year issue, and also spoke of the need to discuss clarifying some provisions, including one that eliminates cash bail, before they take effect Jan. 1,” by The Chicago Tribune.

Fear and misinformation rife as SAFE-T Act and the end of cash bail become political lightning rods heading into election: “Exactly how all of the provisions in the 700-plus page Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today law, known as the SAFE-T Act, will play out remains to be seen, and misinformation has been rife as Republicans use the law to paint Pritzker and his fellow Democrats as soft on crime,” by The Chicago Tribune.

Kane County eyeing first property tax increase in a decade: “Kane County Board members are considering a property tax increase of 3.5% or 5% as part of the 2023 budget. If approved, it would be the first increase in the county’s portion of the local property tax bill in a decade,” by Daily Herald.


City Council committee reverses vote on Chicago Fire soccer training facility

On Tuesday, the City Council’s zoning committee blocked a controversial plan (O2022-1838) to install a Chicago Fire soccer training facility on Chicago Housing Authority owned property.

Following Chair Ald. Tom Tunney’s (44) decision to recess and reconvene the panel Wednesday morning, the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards reversed its vote less than 24 hours later.

The proposed 24-acre, $80 million complex would include two hybrid grass pitches and a goalkeeper pitch; an underground heating system; a sand pit; three synthetic turf pitches, one with an inflatable dome for use six months of the year; a two to three story office building, an auxiliary structure for maintenance and storage and a parking structure for 147 vehicles.

Other proposed building and site features can be found here. The proposal will be up for a final vote Wednesday in front of the full City Council.


Aldermen send $25.9M in settlement payments, millions in funding for affordable housing to council for final approval: “Aldermen on Monday approved paying $25.9 million for four settlements including a $15 million payment to the family of a woman who was killed during a police chase in 2020,” by The Daily Line.

Mayor Lightfoot Launches Community Wealth Building Pilot Program: “On Monday, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the Office of Equity and Racial Justice (OERJ), and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) launched the Community Wealth Building Pilot, a $15 million program to create opportunities for low-income residents to build wealth through shared asset ownership,” from The Office of Mayor Lightfoot.

Ald. Vasquez seeks to cap City Council pay raises: “Ald. Andre Vasquez is not one of 17 council members who have declined the latest pay raise. But he’s not oblivious to the pre-election dilemma. In fact, he’s proposing a cap of 5% or the inflation rate, whichever is less,” by The Chicago Sun-Times.

Early poll has Lightfoot with very slight lead over Garcia: “The poll shows Lightfoot getting 25 percent to Garcia’s 24 percent. Businessman Willie Wilson: 13 percent. Former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas: 9 percent. And former Gov. Pat Quinn, who hasn’t officially jumped in the race, getting 6 percent,” by Capitol Fax.

More guaranteed income pilots launch as Chicago wraps enrollment for ‘Resilient Communities’ program: “As of September, officials said, 5,000 Chicago residents have received at least one $500 payment. They will continue to get $500 a month for 12 months,” by The Chicago Sun-Times.

Bally’s Chicago casino plan draws fresh fire: “In a letter to the Illinois Gaming Board, Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, not only repeated previous questions about Bally’s financial stability and operational capacity but cited critical comments by former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, who slammed the company’s operation of its Twin Rivers casino in her state while she was in office there,” by Crain’s Chicago Business.

Hostile work environment in Chicago’s Department of Water Management triggers $950K settlement: “Dilan Abreu, a 40-year veteran bricklayer, claims he was harassed, physically abused and retaliated against by the son of former Ald. Bernard Hansen due to an ‘unrestricted culture of overtly racist behavior and attitudes,’” by The Chicago Sun-Times.


Cozen Currents: Are Democrats Overplaying Their Hand?

  • For all the focus on the culture wars in the midterms this year, politicians in close races are spending most of their time focused on the economy, likely making it the decisive electoral factor.
  • Democrats are playing with democratic fire as they have sought to boost their chances in the general election by supporting MAGA GOP candidates in the primaries.
  • President Biden talks a big game about being “the most pro-union president in history,” but converting that rhetoric into reality isn’t simple.

Read the full Cozen Currents article here.


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