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ere the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at:
Where the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at:

Officer Down

Saturday, December 31, 2011

R.I.P.: Special Agent John Capano

--Not what I wanted to have to do tonight :-(


Special Agent John Capano
United States Department of Justice - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Government
End of Watch: Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bio & Incident Details

Age: Not available
Tour: 23 years
Badge # Not available
Cause: Gunfire
Location: New York
Incident Date: 12/31/2011
Weapon: Handgun
Suspect: Shot and killed

Special Agent John Capano was shot and killed while struggling with a robbery suspect outside of a pharmacy on Merrick Road in Seaford, Nassau County, New York.

Agent Capano was off duty and in the shopping center's parking lot at about 2:00 pm when the suspect entered the pharmacy and robbed it of OxyContin and cash. Several patrons were able to exit the store during the robbery and then pointed out the suspect as he exited. Agent Capano immediately confronted the suspect and a struggle as Agent Capano attempted to disarm the man.

A retired Nassau County police officer and an off-duty New York City police officer who were in a deli next door were also alerted. Both came out of the deli and discovered the men struggling. One of the officers fired at them, killing the suspect. Agent Capano was also fatally wounded during the shooting.

Agent Capano had served with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for 23 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Acting Director B. Todd Jones
United States Department of Justice - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
99 New York Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20226
Phone: (202) 648-8500



From my family to all of you... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

If you are working, please be careful and be vigilant.

If you are not working, please be careful and vigilant.

May 2012 bring you happiness and prosperity.



Friday, December 30, 2011

R.I.P.: Police Officer Shawn Schneider


Police Officer Shawn Schneider
Lake City Police Department, Minnesota
End of Watch: Friday, December 30, 2011

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 32
Tour: 8 years
Badge # Not available
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 12/19/2011
Weapon: Handgun
Suspect: Deceased

Police Officer Shawn Schneider succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained 11 days earlier while responding to a domestic disturbance call on West Lyon Avenue at approximately 8:30 am.

After arriving at the scene and attempting to make contact with the male subject, Officer Schneider was shot once in the head. The suspect retreated into the home, where he was found dead after a daylong standoff.

Officer Schneider was transported to a local hospital where he remained until succumbing to his wounds.

Officer Schneider had served with the 10-officer Lake City Police Department for eight years.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Police Chief Gary Majchrzak
Lake City Police Department
209 South High Street
PO Box 448
Lake City, MN 55041
Phone: (651) 345-3344

NEWS: (Illinois) Illinois police must keep video even for minor cases

Story at Chicago Tribune

Associated Press
3:27 PM CST, December 30, 2011

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Supreme Court today backed up a judge who punished the prosecution after video of a drunken driving arrest was destroyed, a decision establishing that defendants have a right to see video evidence even in misdemeanor cases.

The defendant had made clear that she would fight the charges and wanted the squad-car video of her arrest. The court said that even though the Cook County case was a misdemeanor, police and prosecutors had a duty to preserve the video instead of routinely erasing it after 30 days.

"In sum, we conclude that the routine video recording of traffic stops has now become an integral part of those encounters, objectively documenting what takes place by capturing the conduct and the words of both parties," Justice Charles Freeman wrote for the unanimous Supreme Court.

The trial judge, as punishment for the video being erased, barred the arresting officer from testifying about anything that took place while the camera was running. Judge William Wise said it was the third time in three weeks that he had encountered video evidence being erased.

Prosecutors objected to such strict limitations on the police officer's testimony, but the Supreme Court said the judge was within his authority.

The case dates back to May 3, 2008, when Marina Kladis was stopped in the Chicago suburb of Northlake. After she refused to take a Breathalyzer test, Kladis was charged with drunken driving and her license was suspended.

Five days later, she filed paperwork saying she would fight the accusations and wanted prosecutors to produce any video evidence.

Despite this, Northlake police followed their policy of erasing video after 30 days. The prosecution argued that didn't matter because video is not one of the kinds of evidence that prosecutors must turn over to defendants in misdemeanor cases.

The state Supreme Court disagreed Friday. It said the types of evidence subject to discovery can change with time, and video has become so commonplace that defendants should expect to review it.

Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys' Association, said most states probably already guarantee defendants access to video in similar cases. And police typically would preserve video until a case is resolved, he said.

Kladis' attorney, Edward Maloney, called the ruling major and said it should help innocent people protect themselves in court.

"This will provide more evidence toward reasonable doubt," he said.

PENSION: (Illinois) Mingus v. Board of Trustees, 2011 IL App (3d) 110098 (December 9, 2011)

--This is a great decision for police officers.
It really expands on the line of duty definition.
I wish this case would have been in place when the shortsighted Northlake Police Pension Fund decision was made at the behest of their board attorney in my case.--

Disability Benefits
Illinois Appellate Courts

Mingus v. Board of Trustees, 2011 IL App (3d) 110098 (December 9, 2011).


A police officer who became disabled as a result of injuries incurred while helping to push a motorist's stuck vehicle out of the snow while he was on duty was entitled to a line-of-duty disability pension because he was performing an act of duty. The officer's actions involved a special risk not normally faced by ordinary citizens because he was required to stop and help the motorist.


The plaintiff, a Peoria police officer who was injured on duty while trying to push a motorist's stuck vehicle out of the snow, applied for a line-of-duty disability pension. After a hearing, the Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of Peoria found that plaintiff's injury was not a result of the performance of an act of duty and awarded him a non-duty disability pension instead. The trial court affirmed the board's ruling upon administrative review. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the board erred in finding that his injury was not incurred in the performance of an act of duty and in denying his request for a line-of-duty disability pension on that basis. The appellate court reversed the board's decision and remanded with instructions.

The only issue on appeal was whether the plaintiff became disabled as a result of an injury that he incurred in the performance of an act of duty. To qualify for a disability pension, an officer must be injured in the performance of an "act of duty." The Pension Code defines an "act of duty" as (i) a duty inherently involving special risk, not ordinarily assumed by a citizen in the ordinary walks of life, imposed on a policeman by the statutes of this State or by the ordinances or police regulations of the city by a special assignment; or (ii) any act of heroism performed in the city having for its direct purpose the saving of the life or property of a person other than the policeman.

According to the appellate court, the undisputed facts showed that at the time of the injury, the plaintiff was on duty in full uniform and in a squad car patrolling the roads. During that patrol, he came across a young driver who had skidded off the road in an icy area and gone into the ditch. The front of the driver's vehicle remained on a portion of the paved roadway. Unlike an ordinary citizen, as a police officer, the plaintiff was required to stop and attend to the situation. Thus, the appellate court determined that at the time of the injury, the plaintiff was performing an act of duty because he was performing a special risk and was, therefore, entitled to a line-of-duty disability.

According to the appellate court, the board, in reaching its decision following the administrative hearing, focused on matters that were not material to the issue in this case. While it is true that ordinary citizens at times stop during the winter to help motorists that have become stuck and that tow-truck companies are also available to assist motorists in such a situation, those facts, while relevant, are not dispositive of the issue that was before the board. The board lost sight of the fact that the plaintiff, as a police officer, was required to stop and assist the motorist, while ordinary citizens are not.

PENSION: (National) GASB Update: Latest News on Overall Process; Two Views of Proposed Reforms

Story at Federal E-News

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) still appears to be on track for a final decision by the middle of 2012 on its proposed changes to governmental pension reporting and accounting rules contained in the Exposure Drafts issued earlier this year, but there are some signs that changes in response to the results of the field testing process, and the concerns of cost-sharing plans, may yet be possible.   In the meantime, two recent studies provide contrasting views of the likely results of the proposed changes as they now stand.  The first, a working paper by Robert Novy-Marx, concludes that under the GASB rules as proposed, a governmental pension plan can improve its funding status “literally by burning money.”  The second, a brief produced by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR) finds that employers and plan administrators should be prepared for funded ratios reported in their financial statements to decline sharply under the new GASB rules, but that “[p]olicymakers should not let new numbers throw them off course.“ 

Current Status of GASB Proposals

In response to its Exposure Drafts containing proposed changes to the accounting and financial reporting for pensions by plan sponsors and to the financial reporting for pension plans by the plans themselves, GASB received 645 comment letters, including the letter prepared by NCTR, NASRA and NCPERS, which was signed by over 130 executive directors, administrators and trustees of 109 State and local government retirement systems.

In addition, GASB held three public hearings at which 33 organizations and individuals testified.   Three user forums were also held, with 19 participants, including representatives of citizen groups, bond rating agencies, academics, financial analysts and research organizations.

Finally, field tests were held.  These were designed to obtain information about one-time and ongoing preparation time and costs associated with the proposals in the Exposure Drafts; to identify difficult-to-understand provisions of the Exposure Drafts; and to receive feedback on the methodology employed by field test participants on certain proposals in the Exposure Drafts.  Field test participants were also asked to provide pro forma note disclosures and required supplementary information and details of the calculation methodologies used to determine the discount rate—specifically, their projections of benefit payments and plan net position.

In a memo to the GASB board members, staff summarized the results.  According to this memo, GASB received results from 18 participants, including 3 single-employer Plans; 3 single employers that also report plans; 3 multiple-employer agent plans; 2 agent employers; and 7 multiple-employer cost-sharing plans.

As noted, participants in the field test were asked to provide estimates of time and cost related to both initial implementation efforts and ongoing efforts that would result from the Exposure Draft proposals.  (For purposes of the field test, it was requested that the estimates of time include only internal staff time and that cost estimates include out-of-pocket expenditures (such as consulting fees), software acquisition, and system changes but not include costs associated with staff time.)  The results varied dramatically.  Initial implementation time ranged from 2 hours for one agent employer to 56.000 hours for one cost-sharing plan.

Similarly, implementation costs varied tremendously, from a low of around $3,000 for one cost-sharing plan to as high as $18 million for another cost-sharing plan.   This was then compared to current costs under existing GASB rules, which were much, much lower, underscoring the impact of the proposed GASB changes.

The staff memo also details many of the specific concerns with various aspects of the Exposure Draft that participants identified, as well as the methodologies used in the calculation of (1) the weighted-average expected remaining service life of active employees and (2) the proportionate share of collective totals of employers in cost-sharing plans.

The memo concludes with issues that arose from the field tests and which “will be considered in the redeliberations of the Exposure Drafts,” including:

   * Concerns about increased internal costs and external actuarial and audit costs, particularly in multiple-employer plans in which employers have different fiscal year-ends.  GASB staff notes that “Specific concerns were expressed regarding the valuation of assets without market prices and the determination of other changes in plan net position that currently are evaluated only annually”

   * Applicability of the proposals to hybrid plans and plans in which defined contribution pensions may be converted to annuities

    * Request for additional guidance related to proprietary funds and entities that use regulatory accounting

   * Request for clarification regarding the projection of benefit payments in circumstances in which employees provide services to multiple employers that participate in a plan or in which employee contributions are greater than service cost

   * Request for additional guidance related to plan reporting of investment types, pensions of the plan’s own employees, and presentation of a statement of plan net position

   * Concerns about proposed plan note disclosures, including issues related to the separation of investment expenses from returns in the calculation of return on plan investments, difficulty in obtaining or calculating rates of return on a money-weighted basis, and a general concern about the volume of disclosures.

All of this suggests that these “redeliberations” may well result in changes to the Exposure Draft, although it should also be noted that , based on the projected GASB work plan,  the final voting on the Exposure Draft is still scheduled for the May-June, 2012, time frame.   In other words, the “fast-track” still appears to be in place.

Cost-Sharing Plans

One area of the proposed changes in the GASB rules that has been particularly worrisome has been those related to the manner in which cost-sharing plans will be required to allocate their net pension liability, pension expense, and deferred outflows of resources and deferred inflows of resources  to their participating employers.   The impact of this aspect of the proposed GASB changes on employers who participate in cost sharing plans could be devastating.

For example, in a recent article on the specifics of the cost-sharing proposal as it applies to employers, David Powell with the Groom Law Group stresses that “If these proposals are finalized without change, participating employers will need to substantially revamp their accounting systems at considerable expense.”   Compliance is expected to be the responsibility of the employer, he explains, “and the retirement system's ability to provide assistance in many cases may be limited.”  Powell warns that this “may leave the burden of compliance on the contributing government employers” and not the plans – a point that many plan sponsors have yet to fully appreciate.

NCTR continues to believe that cost-sharing plans constitute a form of insurance and that the costs should not be allocated to the individual employers, and has made this point consistently in comments filed with GASB.   Nevertheless, for now, GASB appears to be set on its allocation approach.

Accordingly, a number of cost-sharing plans have formed an ad hoc group, the Employer Cost-Sharing Coalition, which has filed separate comments with GASB focused solely on this issue.   These comments, prepared by the Groom Law Group, argue that:

   * There is a lack of a clear relationship between the arbitrary proportionate share and actual liability

   * Varying and uncertain rules in different jurisdictions means that actual liability of a cost-sharing employer for plan underfunding, however measured, will often be difficult or impossible to predict with any certainty; thus, it is not a faithful representation of the potential liability.

   * Instead, plan underfunding and other information could be disclosed in notes with a description of any rules in the jurisdiction for determining employer liability for underfunding.

    *Comparability to the new FASB multiemployer rule also justifies this approach.   (In 2010, FASB had initially proposed a rule similar to the one GASB has proposed, to be applicable to private sector multiemployer plans, but changed its mind because of cost concerns; because the actual payment in the future might be limited by legal constraints; and because the estimate of a liability did not represent the amount an employer would actually have to pay.)

This new approach, which has reportedly been received with much interest by GASB staff, as well as the comments from the field testing conducted by cost-sharing plans, may be having an impact.  For example, GASB has now indicated that, at its March, 2012, meeting, it will consider the creation of a working group to assist the Board with regard to cost-sharing matters.

Hope springs eternal.

Novy-Marx Working Paper

Robert Novy-Marx is an Assistant Professor of Finance with the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester, as well as a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which published his new paper.  It is entitled “Logical Implications of GASB's Methodology for Valuing Pension Liabilities,” and in it, Novy-Marx argues that GASB does not really provide a valuation method.  He notes that a valuation method should recognize that “more is more,” in the sense that adding a dollar to any given set of assets and liabilities increases the set’s value.  Furthermore, he says that a valuation method should also assign a unique value to a given set of assets and liabilities.

But the GASB methodology for accounting for net pension liabilities “does not satisfy either of these conditions,” he asserts.  GASB instead gives different “valuations” for the exact same assets and liabilities when they are partitioned differently among plans, he argues, and moreover, since the marginal valuation of assets can be negative under GASB, then in such cases, GASB would allow a plan to improve its GASB funding status literally by burning money.

For example, he claims that GASB, while recognizing that cash and bonds are valuable assets, nevertheless “penalizes a plan for holding these, by forcing it to recognize a larger liability.”  Thus, he says, destroying a dollar (i.e., reducing its cash or bond holdings by a dollar while holding all other asset holdings fixed) reduces a plan’s assets by exactly a dollar, but can reduce its GASB liability by more than a dollar.  “In these cases plans can reduce their GASB recognized underfundings by destroying assets,” he concludes.

Finally, Novy-Marx insists that GASB’s methodology for accounting for liabilities has an equivalent alternative formulation.  “The explicitly prescribed procedure, which entails discounting a plan’s liabilities at the expected return on its assets, is completely equivalent,” he argues, “to one in which a plan’s liabilities are discounted at rates that reflect the liabilities own risks, but the plan’s stock holdings are valued at more than twice their market values.”

CRR Brief

The CRR brief is entitled “How Would GASB Proposals Affect State and Local Pension Reporting?”  It  takes a look at the GASB proposals and focuses on those elements dealing with valuation of assets and liabilities, namely (1) plan assets would no longer be smoothed but rather valued at market; (2) liabilities would be discounted by a blended rate that reflects the expected return for the portion of liabilities that are projected to be covered by plan assets and the return on high-grade municipal bonds for the portion that are to be covered by other resources; and (3) the entry age normal/level percentage of payroll would be the sole allocation method used for reporting purposes.  CRR examines these effects by first determining funded ratios based on current GASB standards and then funded ratios calculated using the market value of assets.  Next, CRR combines market assets with liabilities discounted by the blended rate to demonstrate the full impact of GASB’s proposed changes.

Looking at the effect of the change from an actuarially smoothed l value of assets to a market value, CRR finds that the aggregate funded ratio using market assets was only 67 percent in 2010 compared to 77 percent using actuarial assets.  “[P]olicymakers should be prepared for a sharp decline in funding if GASB introduces this change,” the CRR brief concludes.

Next, looking at the new blended rate for determining liabilities, CRR found that the aggregate funded ratio of state and local plans (based on 2010 numbers) would have decreased from 77 percent to 53 percent under the GASB plan. 

Thus, CRR finds that the GASB proposals “will sharply reduce the reported funded levels of public sector plans.”  However, CRR also stresses that it would be “unfortunate if the press and politicians characterized these new numbers as evidence of a worsening of the crisis when, in fact, states and localities have already taken numerous steps to put their plans on a more secure footing.”   The Brief concludes that “[r]eforms need to be done carefully and thoughtfully, remembering that pensions are an important part of the total compensation of public sector workers.”  

The CRR brief also makes a number of other observations that are very similar to those made by NCTR and its members in connection with the GASB exposure drafts.  For example, CRR says that there will be implementation problems, the main one being with GASB’s proposed blended rate.  It will require a complicated calculation based on a number of assumptions, including assumptions not only about plan returns but also about future contributions from the government and from employees.   “These contributions may or may not come to pass,” CRR observes, and “[o]ne can imagine extended disputes about the validity of the underlying assumptions.”

CRR also criticizes the new GASB discounting proposal because the data it will produce will fail to provide meaningful measures of government obligations and be inconsistent across states and localities and over time.

Finally, the CRR brief is worried about the impact on the annual required contribution, or ARC.  First, the move from actuarial to market value of assets and the new liability measure increase the unfunded liability and thereby the required amortization payment, CRR notes.  Then, a blended discount rate will raise the normal cost.  Therefore, CRR cautions that “reported” ARCs are likely to increase substantially but employers may likely continue to use the traditional actuarial smoothing techniques to calculate their ARCs for funding purposes.  As NCTR has warned, there could be an unfortunate and confusing disconnect between the reported number and the number being used for funding.

Next, CRR is also worried about what they refer to as the “disciplinary role of the ARC” and the likelihood that it will be undermined.  Specifically, they point out that in states with statutory contribution rates, they will no longer technically be required to calculate an actuarial ARC.  “This change not only represents a loss in analysts’ ability to assess how close plan contributions are to those required to keep the system on track,” CRR notes, “but also creates an escape valve that states could use as ARCs rise beyond reach:  introduce a statutory rate and dispense with ARC calculations.”

In an effort to address some of these concerns with the loss of the ARC, NCTR and other national public sector organizations, in conjunction with the public plan actuarial community, are holding preliminary discussions to determine what could be a possible alternative and how its uniform use could be encouraged.

One final note regarding the CRR brief:  appendix B of the brief contains a “run-out” date for 126 public pension plans.  It is well to note that CRR has reassured Keith Brainard, Research Director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA), that these dates are not actual projections of when the plan could become insolvent.   According to CRR, these dates “are not reflective of an ongoing plan, and are only intended for use in implementing GASB’s particular liability concept.”  As Keith puts it, “in other words, these dates are based on an accounting basis, not a funding basis.”

R.I.P.: Police Officer Clifton Lewis


 Police Officer Clifton Lewis
Chicago Police Department, Illinois
End of Watch: Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 41
Tour: 8 years
Badge # Not available
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 12/29/2011
Weapon: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect: At large

Police Officer Clifton Lewis was shot and killed while attempting to take action during a robbery at a grocery store on North Austin Boulevard.

He was working an overtime security detail at the store, which had been robbed several weeks earlier, when two male subjects entered the store at about 8:30 pm. One of the men shot Officer Lewis multiple times before grabbing his service weapon and badge and fleeing the store.

Officer Lewis was transported to Stroger Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds. The two suspects remain at large.

Officer Lewis had served with the Chicago Police Department for eight years and was assigned to the 15th District's Tactical Team. He is survived by his mother and fiancee.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy
Chicago Police Department
3510 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60653
Phone: (312) 746-6000

R.I.P.: Special Agent Daniel "Danny" Lee Knapp


Special Agent Daniel "Danny" Lee Knapp
United States Department of Justice - Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Government
End of Watch: Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 42
Tour: 6 years
Badge # Not available
Cause: Drowned
Location: Puerto Rico
Incident Date: 12/29/2011
Weapon: Not available
Suspect: Not available

Special Agent Daniel Knapp drowned while attempting to rescue a distressed swimmer in the ocean at Playa Escondida, Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Agent Knapp was on vacation at the beach with a friend when they saw the man calling for help and struggling in the water. Agent Knapp immediately entered the water in an attempt to rescue the man, but became distressed himself. The man he was attempting to rescue was pulled from the water and survived, however, Agent Knapp drowned.

Agent Knapp had served with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for six years.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Director Robert Mueller
United States Department of Justice - Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Washington, DC 20535
Phone: (202) 324-3000

NEWS: (National) Mass. cop's widow denied death benefits

--There is so much I could say right now. These places that do this stuff to their employees and their families should be ashamed of themselves.
No matter if it is a state or a municipality, they take advantage of every loophole they can so as not to do what is right by their employees.--

Story at

Video at FOX News Boston


December 29, 2011

Maura Shaw, widow of Officer Kenneth Shaw, wants the state to stop denying he accidental death benefits

By PoliceOne Staff

BOSTON — The state of Massachusetts has repeatedly denied accidental death benefits to an officer's widow, saying they can't prove he died in the line of duty.

Fallen officer Kenneth Shaw worked in the identification unit at the Boston Police Department, according to My Fox Boston. Shaw contracted hepatitis C and died from the disease 13 years ago after his body rejected a liver transplant, and widow Maura Shaw — plus two doctors — believe the disease was transmitted while Shaw worked a crime scene.

"His only risk factors were exposure to blood as a policeman at work," one doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center said. "In particular, there was no history of intravenous drug use or blood product transfusion."

In 2001 The Boston Retirement Board signed off on Maura Shaw's application for benefits, but the state would not approve it, adding financial strain to already emotionally drained Shaw.

"It's like a slap in the face. He loved his job. He loved doing what he did," Maura Shaw said. At one point, Shaw lost her house and pawned a diamond ring that was a gift from her husband, she said.

Shaw plans to ask a lawmaker to file a bill on her behalf in order to collect the benefits, she said, and police support her continued fight.

"The Boston Police Department is saddened to hear about the struggles Mrs. Shaw has faced in the wake of losing her husband," a Boston Police Department statement reads. "Officer Kenneth Shaw is fondly remembered as a hard worker and valuable member of our department. We fully support Mrs. Shaw in her efforts to secure the benefits to which we believe she is entitled."

FB Test

Just testing my syndication.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

OFFICER DOWN NEWS: Off-duty police officer shot, killed in West Side convenience store

--R.I.P. Officer Clifton Lewis
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Lewis' family and the Chicago Police Department.--

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Liam Ford and Jared S. Hopkins
Tribune reporters
11:52 PM CST, December 29, 2011

An off-duty police officer was shot and killed Thursday night during a robbery at a convenience store in the Austin neighborhood where he worked as a security guard, officials said.

Two men walked into the M & M Quick Foods in the 1200 block of North Austin Boulevard about 8:30 p.m. and shot the officer, Clifton Lewis, several times with a "machine-type" pistol. They then grabbed his gun and star and fled, sources said.

Lewis, 41, an eight-year veteran assigned to the Austin District, was rushed to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. About 200 police officers joined Lewis' family at the hospital into the night.

Darrell Davis, 22, who was in the store with a friend, said the shooter didn't say much and the officer didn't have time to react. “It happened so quickly,” Davis said.

Store owner Jaimini Patel said the store, which is equipped with security cameras, was robbed about three weeks ago.

“For so many years, nothing happened like this," she said. "Not like this, a shooting, somebody dying. Never happened. I don’t know what to say now."

James Bowman, 35, who lives nearby in Oak Park, said hiring a security guard "was supposed to stop the problem. But now it’s a bigger problem.”

Bowman said his friend was killed on the same block about 10 years ago. “Stuff like this, it’s normal here,” he said.

Another man, who asked not to be named, said he stopped by the store Wednesday after his son’s basketball game and spoke with the officer.

His son was dribbling the ball and the officer asked the man about his son’s game.

“Shocking, it’s shocking,” the man said about the shooting.

A woman who lives near the store was on her way to play the lottery when said she heard one shot and then saw police gather quickly.

Just before midnight, more than a dozen police cars were parked near Stroger with their Mars lights flashing, waiting for Clifton's body to be taken to the Cook County medical examiner's office a few blocks away.

Tribune reporters Jeremy Gorner and Peter Nickeas contributed.

NEWS: (Chicago) City sees drop in murder rate, but not in South Side’s Englewood

Story at Chicago Sun-Times

Staff Reporter/
Last Modified: Dec 29, 2011 05:34PM

If you look at Englewood, you might think violence is spiraling out of control in Chicago.

Week after week, the South Side neighborhood has been ground zero for harrowing crimes like Tuesday’s mass shooting at a fast-food restaurant that left two dead and five wounded. This year, 56 people were killed in Englewood through Tuesday — a 40 percent increase over the same period in 2010.

Citywide, though, murder was down more than 2 percent this year, and overall crime dropped 8 percent.

“If you live in a very dangerous neighborhood, you’re still seeing a lot of crime,” said Arthur Lurigio, a criminal justice professor and associate dean at Loyola University. “But the truth is that we’re safer now than we were 40 years ago.”

Chicago’s crime rates are at their lowest in decades. There were more than 800 murders in Chicago in 1970, compared to 419 this year through Tuesday and 437 through all of 2010.

Other big cities like New York and Los Angeles have seen even more dramatic reductions in crime. New York’s murder rate is a third of Chicago’s, and Los Angeles’ murder rate is about half of ours.

“The goal is zero,” police Supt. Garry McCarthy said. “When I stop hearing about kids getting killed, when I stop hearing about kids getting shot, then maybe I’ll be satisfied.”

McCarthy said he is not happy with this year’s murder totals but believes the department is responding to new strategies he put into place since he took office in May.

Of nine categories of major crimes, the only ones to increase this year were aggravated sexual assault and motor vehicle theft, McCarthy said. They both rose slightly, he said.

“We brought a new playbook,” he said. “It takes some time.”

Over the past seven months, McCarthy has carried out Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign promise to shift about 1,000 officers to the patrol division. They were moved to the city’s 25 districts from desk jobs and citywide crime-fighting units that McCarthy has disbanded.

The Fraternal Order of Police called the redeployment a “shell game,” saying the city should hire more officers instead of shifting them from one unit to another.

McCarthy said a key to his crime-fighting philosophy is giving district commanders more autonomy. They are held accountable through a process called CompStat, which was started in New York in the 1990s.

Under CompStat, the department provides commanders with a regular stream of crime statistics and expects them to adjust their strategies accordingly. They must explain their decisions to McCarthy and other police brass at weekly CompStat meetings.

“I’ve seen a real shift in the commanders as far as being proactive, understanding what’s happening, getting to the root of it and taking steps to put those strategies in place to prevent the next shooting,” McCarthy said. “That’s satisfying, but the numbers won’t be for a long time.”

McCarthy said he does not blame Englewood Police Cmdr. Anthony Carothers for the big spike in murders in that district.

“Tony Carothers has done a decent job since I’ve been here. He’s done a better job as we’ve gone along,” the superintendent said.

In the New Year, the department will boost its efforts to reduce crime in Englewood and the Harrison District on the West Side, McCarthy said.

The idea is to shut down open-air drug markets and keep officers on those blocks to prevent narcotics customers from coming back. Commanders will work with leaders from churches, community groups and other city departments to clean up territory seized from drug gangs, McCarthy said.

Lurigio, the Loyola professor, said he generally supports McCarthy’s moves, including shifting more officers to the patrol division.

“It’s good to have more police involved heavily in the community with more face time on a regular basis,” he said. “We’re seeing pretty good crime statistics. The numbers are going down.”

One of this year’s crime trends is perplexing, though.

While murders decreased about 2 percent citywide, the number of shooting victims was down about 4 percent and shooting “incidents” were down about 5 percent this year through Tuesday, McCarthy said.

In Englewood, where murders were up about 40 percent, shootings were up only 15 percent. “It’s a little frustrating we’re not down more in murders,” McCarthy said.

One explanation: in October and November, there was a spike in slayings that did not involve guns, McCarthy said. “As long as we reduce the shootings, the murders will eventually follow,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields said officers should be proud that the city’s murder total did not rise this year.

“I hope the city remembers this at the time the city negotiates a new contract,” Shields said. “Police officers are working harder than ever with less.”

NEWS: (Cook County) Cook County to close suburban courthouses on weekends

--Because Cook County isn't screwed up enough--

Story at Pioneer Press

Staff Reporters
Last Modified: Dec 29, 2011 05:23PM

Get into trouble on the weekends in Cook County and no matter where you’re arrested — from Schaumburg to the city’s West Side to Orland Park — soon your only option will be to appear before a judge at Chicago’s 26th and California courthouse.

That’s according to a cost-saving plan that would mean closing the five suburban courthouses on the weekends in the coming months and creating a single weekend bond court at the southwest side criminal courthouse, according to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office.

“Cook County has been holding weekend bond court at all five suburban courthouses despite a low volume of cases at some locations,” according to a statement from Preckwinkle’s office. “Consolidating weekend bond court at the criminal courthouse will make the criminal justice system more efficient.”

Five suburban courthouses now hold bond hearings on Saturdays: Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham. Only Markham holds hearings on Sundays, when defendants who would otherwise appear before a judge in the other four courthouses are transferred to 26th and California.

Preckwinkle spokeswoman Liane Jackson said an average total of 87 defendants appear before judges at the five suburban courthouses on Saturdays, while an average of 37 appear before a judge on Sundays in Markham.

Bond court at 26th and California now processes only defendants arrested in Chicago, said Cook County sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki. A judge can see anywhere from 150 to — when it’s busy — 350 defendants on a single weekend day in bond court, he said.

Typically those arrested and charged with a crime will appear before a judge within 24 hours.

During a bond hearing, a judge reviews the charge leveled against a defendant, decides whether the defendant will be released on bond until the trial and then sets the amount of the bond.

Suburban police who would normally ship detainees to a nearby courthouse for a weekend bond hearing will now have to transport them to 26th and California, Bilecki said. Once all suburban bond courts close on the weekends for good, the courthouses with lockups — including Maywood and Markham — would no longer house detainees on Saturdays and Sundays.

South Suburban Association Chiefs of Police President William Joyce called the change a “nightmare.”

Joyce, who is also the South Chicago Heights police chief, said the move will increase overtime costs and tie up police resources with increased travel time into Chicago.

“I think they threw it at us and said ‘Work with it,’ and now we have to work with it,” Joyce said.

In a letter sent earlier this month to judges, suburban police chiefs and other law enforcement, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans pointed the finger at the county board and Preckwinkle.

“Due to reductions in the FY 2012 budget adopted by the Cook County Board of Commissioners on November 18, 2011, as recommended by President Preckwinkle, the suburban courthouses serving Municipal Districts 2 through 6 will no longer be open on weekends and court holidays.”

He goes on to write: “Therefore, I have decided to consolidate weekend and holiday bond court proceedings currently convened in those courthouses to the Central Bond Court in Chicago, which is regularly in session 365 days a year.”

The closings don’t just affect criminals, Evans wrote.

“The closing of the courthouses on weekends also means marriages and civil unions will no longer be available in Districts 2 through 6 on the weekends.”

Although he did not have details, state’s attorney spokesman Andy Conklin said, “We are prepared to deal with the increased court call at 26th and California. It’s a cost saving measure that we support.”

Weekend court calls at the 26th and California are presently lengthy, lasting a few hours on some Saturdays and Sundays.

Preckwinkle believes $1.9 million alone could be saved next year by consolidating bond court. That’s especially true, her staff said, when you consider each suburban courthouse needs at least a judge, assistant state’s attorney, public defender, three clerks and seven sheriff’s deputies to hold weekend hearings, not to mention the cost of utilities.

Preckwinkle’s staff maintained they were able to work out the deal through an agreement reached with the county judiciary to the state’s attorney and sheriff’s office.

“Holding bond court on the weekend is expensive and diverts resources that could be dedicated to other functions within the County. The consolidation will allow public safety resources to be more efficiently utilized,” Preckwinkle’s statement said.

The process will begin Jan. 7th at the Bridgeview courthouse, and the rest of the courthouses will begin closing their weekend bond courts over the next two to three months, Jackson said.

NEWS: (Northlake) Man robs, disconnects Northlake cell phone store

Story at Pioneer Press

By Mark Lawton
Last Modified: Dec 29, 2011 05:09PM

A robber in Northlake pulled out a telephone cord, presumably to prevent a cashier from calling police — in a cell phone store.

About 7:15 p.m. Dec. 26, a man in his 30s walked into the Cricket store, 18 E. North Ave. He walked up to a cashier who was busy counting money, according to police. He reportedly pointed a silver handgun at her and, in broken English, demanded money.

The man handed over a white grocery bag with the words “Thank You” printed on the side. The cashier placed $340 from the register in the bag. Then he had the cashier go into the safe for another $180.

On his way out, the man yanked out the cord of the land line and knocked over a display. He then fled west on North Avenue on foot.

Police described the man as about 5 feet 7 inches tall, 150 pounds and possibly Hispanic.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PENSION: (National) States try to fix their miscalculations over 'air time'

Story at USA Today

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY

A $56,000-a-year analyst for the Michigan State Police at the time, Weiss agreed to pay $30,265 to buy five years of work credit, with $100 payments deducted from his biweekly paycheck.

The five years mean that when Weiss is eligible to retire in 2021 at age 55, his pension will be calculated as if he had worked for 32 years, even though his actual time with the state will be 27 years. The payoff: $6,825 added to Weiss' annual pension, assuming it's based on his current $91,000 salary. The total: $170,000 by the time Weiss turns 80.

"Knowing the world is moving away from pensions, I felt pretty fortunate to have that benefit," says Weiss, now spokesman for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

States, though, are finding that air time can be costly even when they set a price that is expected to cover the higher pension benefits.

That's because when workers such as Weiss buy "air time" — credit for work they never did — states make an educated guess about how much to charge. The guess is based on projections about when a worker will retire and die, what her pension will be and how successfully a retirement fund will invest its money.

Any of those can turn out wrong.

"It's been our experience that air time ends up costing the system money," says Kentucky state Rep. Mike Cherry, who heads the House committee that oversees the state pension systems. The Legislature limited teachers hired after July 2008 to buying only 10 months and barred other workers hired after July 2002 from buying air time.

"Individuals live longer than anticipated. Health care costs go up more than we anticipate. People retire earlier than we would estimate they retire," Cherry says.

"The problem is that occasionally — actually, quite often — actuarial assumptions are not realized," says David Driscoll, head of public-sector consulting at pension adviser Buck Consultants. "In years like 2008, when you have big downturns in the market, for people who had bought air time, the state retirement systems lost money."

The Texas Legislature approved air time in the 1990s as part of an effort to reduce the state workforce, but it soon found that the Employees Retirement System had made a costly miscalculation about how workers would use it.

"They were retiring at their first eligibility, when we expected they would have stayed for a few years after eligibility," system spokeswoman Catherine Terrell says.

The miscalculation meant the retirement system was paying more in pensions than anticipated, which forced state taxpayers and state workers to pay millions more to the system. In 2005, the Legislature reduced the amount of air time state workers can buy, to three years from five years.

States take varying approaches to minimizing the risk.

Washington, Vermont and Oklahoma require air time purchases to be made when a worker is retiring or is near retirement age. That way, pension systems can more accurately calculate a worker's retirement date and pension, and better predict the extra payments air time will generate.

"By doing it at retirement, there are fewer assumptions about what the lifetime payout will be," says Dave Nelsen, legislative and legal services manager of Washington State's retirement systems. "They know what your pension will be, your age at retirement, your amount of service."

But most states that permit air time let workers buy it a decade or more before they retire, making it harder to predict a worker's pension and retirement date. Michigan, Indiana and Montana don't make such predictions and base the purchase price on a worker's salary when he buys air time.

Weiss says Michigan's retirement system has urged workers to buy air time "when you're younger and making less money. They said, if you're going to do it, do it now because it's cheaper now." Even so, the Michigan system breaks even on air time, Weiss says.

In Montana, the cost of air time should be neutral because it's based on a worker's age and years on the job, says Patricia Davis of the state retirement system.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System says air-time purchases have been cost-neutral because CALPERS' investments have earned strong returns, averaging 8.4% a year over the past 20 years, spokeswoman Amy Norris says. The California Legislature allowed air-time purchases starting in 2004 after being pressed by legislative aides who wanted to get work credit for time spent on legislators' political campaigns.

California has had 34,202 workers buy air time since 2005. In Michigan, 4,434 state workers have bought air time. That's 5% of the 82,000 workers and retirees in the State Employees Retirement System. Ohio has had 7,708 air-time purchases; New Mexico, 1,974; Louisiana, 1,697; and Iowa, 1,449, according to figures from those states.

"They're getting a benefit that is not available to people outside public retirement systems," Driscoll says.

The Louisiana Legislature voted this year to let workers use air time to retire early, a move aimed at helping employees as the state prepares for layoffs.

"We wanted to make this a more humane approach," Louisiana state Sen. Butch Gautreaux says.

Critics such as Dan Pellissier see no reason to expose retirement systems to the risk that goes along with air time policies.

"Taxpayers should not be on the hook for a supplemental benefit like air time," says Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform, which is pushing to cut the state's retirement costs.

Pellissier, who was an aide to the state's previous governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, bought five years of air time in 2004. He says the system "made a bad bet on me, because I got a substantial raise after I bought my air time."

In Nevada, few workers have bought air time because of its cost, says Tina Leiss, the retirement system's operations officer. A 55-year-old worker earning $50,000 would pay $20,150 to buy one year of air time, the state's online calculator shows.

For workers who can afford it, air time pays the equivalent of about 8% interest. That's roughly twice as much as someone would earn on an investment bought from a private company, which would invest less aggressively and charge a fee, says Scott Hanson, a California investment adviser.

"It's been a great investment since it was first introduced," Hanson says. "We've highly encouraged employees of the state to take advantage of it."

PENSION: (National) U.S. State, Local Pensions Drop 8.5 Percent

Story at Bloomberg

By William Selway - Dec 28, 2011

U.S. public pension-fund assets fell in the third quarter by the most since 2008 as stocks sank amid concern that Europe’s debt crisis would curb economic growth, Census Bureau data showed.

Assets of the 100 largest public-worker plans decreased $237 billion, or 8.5 percent, from the prior quarter to $2.53 trillion by Sept. 30, the bureau said today in a report. It marks the first decline since the second quarter of 2010 and the biggest since the last three months of 2008, when holdings slid 13 percent during Wall Street’s credit crisis.

The setback may strain state and local governments that have set aside more money to cover retirement benefits. That’s pressured governments already coping with diminished tax collections and has propelled efforts to reduce benefit costs.

The asset decline was driven by losses in stock holdings, which slipped $134.7 billion to $769.6 billion, the Census Bureau said. The value of holdings of corporate bonds, U.S. treasuries, and international securities also fell.

The third-quarter (SPC) rout pushed the pensions’ assets back to where they were during the last three months of 2010, wiping out gains this year.
Markets Swinging

Pension funds typically count on earnings of about 8 percent a year to pay for promised benefits, which means they need more money to pour into their funds or to generate returns that will compensate for years when money is lost.

Fund overseers use accounting techniques to spread gains and losses over time. That prevents required contributions from swinging with changes in financial markets, though losses elevate required contributions over time.

U.S. stock markets have recovered some of the losses suffered during the third quarter as European authorities moved to ease strains on banks and countries in the euro currency zone. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained 11 percent since the end of September, recovering most of the 14 percent loss from the prior three months.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

PENSION: (National) How Prepared Are State and Local Workers for Retirement?

by Alicia H. Munnell, Jean-Pierre Aubry, Josh Hurwitz, and Laura Quinby

October 2011


A widespread perception is that state-local government workers receive high pension benefits which, combined with Social Security, provide more than adequate retirement income.  This study uses the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and actuarial reports to test this hypothesis.  The major finding from the HRS analysis is that most households with state-local employment end up with replacement rates that, while on average higher than those in the private sector, are well below the 80 percent needed to maintain pre-retirement living standards.  Even those households with a long-service state-local worker – those who spend more than half of their careers in public employment – have a median replacement rate, including Social Security, of only 72 percent.  And this group accounts for less than 30 percent of state-local households.  The remaining 70 percent of households with a short- or medium-tenure state-local worker have replacement rates of 48 percent and 57 percent, respectively.  Adding income from financial assets still leaves most state-local households short of the target.



NEWS: (National) Fatal Ambushes Targeting Police Increase

--Always be aware of your surroundings, treat EVERY call as if it is "the big one", trust no one, watch everyone's hands at all times. But most of all, just be smart out there, trust your instincts. 
Make sure you are going home at the end of your tour.--

Story at

By Kevin Johnson

The number of officers killed in the line of duty will increase for the second consecutive year, largely because of an alarming spike in ambush-style attacks, a DOJ review found.

Despite a national campaign focused on police safety, the number of officers killed in the line of duty will increase for the second consecutive year, largely because of an alarming spike in ambush-style attacks, a Justice Department review found.

Federal and local officials have been troubled for the past two years by the overall number of firearms-related fatalities, which are up 23% in 2011, even though violent crime has declined in much of the country, according to preliminary statistics compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Yet in 63 of the 65 shooting deaths that the Justice Department analyzed this year, 73% were the result of ambush or surprise attacks, said Josh Ederheimer, deputy director of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services Office. (The Justice Department hasn't reached a determination on the other two shootings.)

This year, a USA TODAY review of officer deaths highlighted a rising number of ambush slayings. In that August review, nearly 40% of the shooting deaths at that time were attributed to ambush or surprise attacks. That number was up from 31% in all of 2009, according to the most recent FBI study.

Although the pace of overall shooting deaths has slowed since midyear, the numbers continue to frustrate law enforcement officials who convened a national review of officer safety this year.

Less than two weeks until the end of the year, the total number of officer deaths from all causes -- 174 -- marks the third largest death toll in the past decade.

Alarmed by the recent spikes in officer deaths, Attorney General Eric Holder called a meeting of law enforcement officials in March to examine the problem. Police departments were directed by the Justice Department to require officers to wear body armor or risk losing millions of dollars in federal aid.

Ederheimer said increased use of body armor, though important, does not necessarily protect victims of ambush. Many of the officers were shot in the head or other unprotected areas of the body.

Ederheimer said Justice Department officials have scheduled a meeting of safety and training experts Jan. 26 to produce written guidelines for police agencies.

Atchison, Kan., police Sgt. David Enzbrenner, 46, was shot in the back of the head Dec. 9 as he was responding to a nuisance complaint.

Police Chief Mike Wilson said the gunman, who was not apparently involved in the incident, attacked the officer from the rear and later fatally shot himself. "It was an assassination," Wilson said.

Wilson said Enzbrenner, a 24-year veteran, was one of the "best-trained, best-educated and most-informed" of the department's 23 full-time officers. "He did all the right things to avoid something like this."

Before the shooting, Wilson said, he and his officers were aware of the rising number of officer fatalities and took appropriate precautions.

He said Enzbrenner wore body armor at the time of the attack, but the gunman targeted his head.

"When someone assassinates you from behind, all of the training, education and equipment is sometimes not much help," Wilson said.

Monday, December 26, 2011

R.I.P.: Deputy Sheriff Matt Miller


Deputy Sheriff Matt Miller
Seminole County Sheriff's Office, Florida
End of Watch: Monday, December 26, 2011

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 53
Tour: 27 years
Badge # MT60
Cause: Motorcycle accident
Incident Date: 12/26/2011
Weapon: Not available
Suspect: Not available

Deputy Sheriff Matt Miller was killed in a motorcycle accident on Maitland Boulevard, at the intersection with Gateway Drive, while attempting to make a traffic stop.

He had activated his emergency equipment and was attempting to catch up to a speeding vehicle when a car made a left hand turn in front of him, causing a collision. Deputy Miller was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries.

Deputy Miller had served with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office for 24 years and had previously served with the Longwood Police Department for three years.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Sheriff Donald Eslinger
Seminole County Sheriff's Office
100 Bush Boulevard
Sanford, FL 32773
Phone: (407) 665-6600

PENSION: (Chicago) Chicagoans Keeping Eye On Unprecedented East Coast Pension Cuts

Story at CBS News Chicago

December 24, 2011 1:01 PM

CHICAGO (WBBM) – Illinois and Midwest cities that are facing financial struggles in the coming year 2012, are closely watching an East Coast municipal bankruptcy that has taken an unprecedented turn with retired police and firefighters.

Retired police and firefighters in the small town of Central Falls, Rhode Island have agreed to sharp pension cuts which, if approved by the bankruptcy court, could be the groundbreaking canary in the coal mine. The retirees lawyer tells the New York Times big companies have done it, but not governments because public pensions are protected by statutes.

Rhode Island sidestepped the issue with a law that gives town bondholders more protection than retirees. These non-union retirees approved pension cuts of up to 55%.

PENSION: (Illinois) Finke: Pensions face public relations crisis

Story at Peoria Journal-Star

GateHouse News Service
Posted Dec 24, 2011 @ 10:04 PM

The state's pension systems are running out of feet to shoot themselves in.

A few weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune disclosed that two education lobbyists qualified for lifetime pensions from the Teachers Retirement System because each of them spent exactly one day as substitute teachers. It was legal. What hasn't been fully explained is how such a ridiculous law got on the books in the first place.

Then last week, the Tribune reported that Illinois State University was allowing people not employed by the university to become members of the State Universities Retirement System. It, too, is an arrangement allowed by state law, and ISU argued the people involved are in education-related fields. Still, the concept didn't sit well with many, considering the well-documented problems of the pension systems.

In the wake of the disclosures, Gov. Pat Quinn said he would form a panel to examine the pension systems and suggest changes. This may be for the best for the systems.

When disclosures like this occur, there is pension critic outrage, there is editorial outrage, there is public outrage. What tends to get drowned out in all this outrage is that these situations involve few people and relatively small dollar amounts in the grand scheme of things. That doesn't make them acceptable, but it obscures the fact that the vast majority of participants in these pensions didn't do anything sneaky to get in and aren't getting rich in retirement.

But it's these kinds of cases that get attention and get remembered by the public when the discussion turns to reforming pensions. For the sake of the systems, there better not be any more smoking guns lying around.

'Poor public policies'

Using federal data, the Illinois Policy Institute released a study showing Illinois lost 806,000 people from 1995 to 2009. The group said Illinois' "poor public policies are forcing them out."

Hmmm. Wasn't the revered Jim Edgar starting his second term in 1995? His policies forced people out of the state?

No deadbeats?

Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, sent out a news release announcing a new bill he's introduced in the House.

It would ban anyone who owes $10,000 or more in back child support from running for office in Illinois.

It is unclear how many aspiring politicians would see their dreams of public service dashed by the bill. We do know that U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-McHenry, has issues with back child support. Walsh is the tea party guy who is a favorite of conservative media outlets because of his outspoken views and willingness speak them at any time.

Walsh's ex-wife says he owes more than $100,000 in back child support. He disputes that.

Franks has a knack for capitalizing on things such as Walsh's child support issue. The only real question is what took him so long in this case? Walsh's child support problems have been in the news for months.

They're citizens, too

Speaking of Walsh, he made a ripple of his own last week when he complained about U.S. House rules governing taxpayer-funded holiday mailings.

The House rules prohibit holiday mailings with overt religious references, such as Merry Christmas. Walsh, of course, was outraged. This prohibition apparently fell in line with those who think the federal government is trying to banish Christmas.

Now, we don't profess to in any way be experts on federal ethics rules and laws, but it doesn't seem likely that there is a prohibition on congressmen going to the post office, paying for a few rolls of stamps out of their own pockets and then mailing out whatever kind of holiday cards they choose. And if you are one of those less government is better folks, it might be more intellectually honest to spend your own money to send holiday cards rather than the taxpayers' cash.

NEWS: (Illinois) Alcohol-related road fatalities decline in state

--A trend that we can all hope continues.--

Story at Pioneer Press

Last Modified: Dec 23, 2011 04:09PM

At the same time they announced a holiday season campaign to crack down on impaired drivers on the state’s roads, the Illinois Department of Transportation released crash data showing a continual reduction in the number of alcohol-impaired motor vehicle fatalities in Illinois from 2006 through 2010.

The measure of alcohol impairment involves at least one driver with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, or beyond the legal blood-alcohol limit in Illinois. IDOT and law enforcement agencies statewide also announced they are partnering this holiday season to boost safety and continue the fight against impaired driving.

According to data from IDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of motor vehicle fatalities involving an impaired driver declined steadily from 2006 through 2010, a release from IDOT said. The greatest reduction in impaired driving fatalities took place between 2007 and 2008, with a decline of 83 fatalities, a reduction of about 19 percent. This positive trend continued through 2009 and 2010, with impaired driving fatalities declining by 15 fatalities or 5 percent overall. In addition, 298 impaired driving fatalities occurred in 2010, representing a 33 percent reduction compared to 2006, when the total was 446, the release said.

“The reduction in impaired driving fatalities is due in large part to the team cooperation and dedication of IDOT, the Illinois State Police, and local law enforcement officers along with motorists who consistently comply with Illinois’ traffic safety laws,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said. “Even with these improvements, impaired drivers continue to wreak havoc and cause serious crashes and injuries on our roadways. This holiday season, the enforcement mobilization will continue to crack down on law violators and boost safety across the state.”

The Illinois State Police joins local law enforcement agencies throughout the state for the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over/Click It or Ticket holiday campaign. During the next two weeks, through New Year’s weekend, more than 200 local police and sheriff departments will partner with the Illinois State Police in conducting nearly 100 roadside safety checks, 400 safety belt enforcement zones (at least half of those during late-night hours) and hundreds of additional impaired driving and nighttime safety belt patrols, the release said. Motorists are advised that impaired driving or failure to buckle up will get them arrested or ticketed.

“Illinois State Police will continue to keep the roads safe during the holiday period. Officers will enforce the law and will implement several enforcement details, including roadside safety checks, saturation patrols, seat belt enforcement and other directed patrols,” Illinois State Police Deputy Director of Operations Colonel Mark Piccoli said. “Officers will strictly enforce FATAL 4 moving violations and arrest impaired drivers.”

NEWS: (Northlake) Missing funds, economic woes make headlines in Franklin Park, Northlake during 2011

Year's Top 10 in Northlake and Franklin Park: Pioneer Press

Last Modified: Dec 25, 2011 11:57PM


Everything turned white on Feb. 1 as the great blizzard of 2011 struck. More than 20 inches of snow buried the Chicago metropolitan region.

The snow left only two lanes of North Avenue open, buried cars and challenged emergency services. In Franklin Park, firefighters and Public Works employees joined forces. When firefighters got calls, they’d contact Public Works, who would meet them with a plow so they could get near houses.

“Every truck has a snow shovel,” Fire Chief Steve Iovinelli said. “We’d shovel their walks so we could get a stretcher out of the house.”

When not engaged by calls, firefighters spent their time uncovering fire hydrants.

Mother Nature let the west suburbs know who was boss a second time on June 21, with major thunderstorms.

Strong winds blew off part of the roof of Chestnut Apartments, 9407 Chestnut, in Franklin Park. The storm also caused damage to a couple industrial companies. Trees fell on a dozen or so houses and garages. Many lost power for varying amounts of time.

Public Works, fire and police personnel worked much of the night cutting and removing downed trees and branches from streets.

Public Works employees spent another week collecting and cutting branches.

Municipal officials spent part of 2011 figuring out how to alleviate future flooding. In Northlake, the village government purchased two properties on South 45th Avenue near Addison Creek, a part of the city with the lowest elevation.

The city plans to demolish the houses on the properties and lower the land so water collects there and not in neighbors’ houses.

In Franklin Park, the village was thrown back on its own resources when the Cook County Water Reclamation District declined to pay for any of four large flood reduction projects.


Northlake Days theft

Close to $100,000 was stolen from Northlake City Hall on June 26 and — six months later — officials are still not talking or have nothing to say. You have to wonder-- Do they know who did it and are afraid to say because of embarrassment, fear of political reprisal, or does the person responsible have some really good dirt on the mayor?? Inquiring minds want to know. Sounds like someone had their hand in the Keebler cookie jar. 

Mayor Jeff Sherwin has declined to speak publicly on the theft in the last six months, only saying it is under investigation. Likewise for Police Chief Dennis Koletsos.

All that’s out is a two-paragraph press release prepared by Koletsos that was released June 28.

It states that at about 8 a.m. June 26, a burglary was reported at City Hall, 55 E. North Ave. Police arrived to find $99,000 in cash from the annual Northlake Days festival had been stolen from a “secure location” in the building. The festival ran from June 24-26.

In related news, the city council agreed to continue Northlake Days through 2012 after discussions of ending the 62-year-old festival. Sherwin initiated the conversation after Leyden Township created its own festival, Leyden Family Days.

“We need to determine the best use of resources,” Sherwin said at the time. “Layoff a policeman or blow off fireworks? Now that the township has gotten into the same business, I think we need to have a more in-depth discussion.”

The council did agree to survey attendees at the 2012 festival to find out how many were from Northlake.


Villages impacted by business closings

The economy remained a top story in 2011, affecting residents, businesses and local governments.

The year started off with Kmart, 10205 Grand Ave., announcing that it would close by April 3. The store, one of the largest retailers in Franklin Park, opened in 1975 and employed 92 people, mostly part-timers.

The closing also affected the village, which had received 1 percent of sales taxes on retail purchases.

In May, Ace Metal Crafts of Franklin Park announced that the business and its 90 employees were moving to Bensenville to consolidate and add space.

Municipal governments responded to less revenue. In Northlake, the city council voted to increase several city charges starting in 2012. Those include sewer, garbage pick-up, property taxes and pre-sale home inspections.

The news wasn’t all bad. A few companies decided to move to Franklin Park as long as they could pay reduced property taxes. Craftsman Custom Metals of Schiller Park plans to move to the village in 2012. Chicago Records plans to expand into the former Luxury Motors buildings.

A second data center opened in Northlake in 2011 and is gradually attracting tenants.

Meanwhile, trucking firms in the area were “cautiously optimistic” after seeing a bit of an increase in business.


Police station flap

The year opened in Franklin Park with dissension among village trustees over buying land for a new police station.

All agree that the existing police station, 9545 W. Belmont, is in poor shape. OSHA closed the courtroom and two interview rooms in December 2009 due to structural issues.

Village officials have said the building does not meet building code, has no sprinkler system, no fire alarm system, is not ADA accessible and has an insufficient electrical system.

The original building was constructed in the 1930s and over the decades seven additions were built around it. It’s roughly 15,000 square feet.

On Jan. 31, now former trustees Juan Acevedo and Paul Bellendir voted against spending $2.1 million for the former Unilever property at 9353 and 9451 W. Belmont Ave. Trustees John Johnson, Cheryl McLean and Rose Rodriguez voted for buying the 13.4 acres. Trustee Tom Brimie was absent.

“$2.1 million at a time when people are paying higher taxes than ever and the value of their houses have gone down,” Bellendir said. “I can’t look a voter straight in the face.”

Village President Barrett Pedersen, however, said taxpayers are already paying.

“The levy for the bond went on the tax bill,” Pedersen said. “The bonds should be issued no later than June.”

Unlike most, the vote to acquire the land requires a supermajority, or five votes. Also, unlike most, the village president may cast a vote. Pedersen voted for the purchase.

The village would like to build a station that’s 30,000 to 31,000 square feet, said Jeff Eder, director of community development. Long term, the village could move Village Hall and the public works building to the site.

On Feb. 7, Franklin Park trustees voted 5-2 to purchase land for a new police station.

Trustees Juan Acevedo and Paul Bellendir again voted against spending $2.1 million. Trustees John Johnson, Cheryl McLean, Rose Rodriguez and Tom Brimie along with Village President Barrett Pedersen outnumbered them.


District forced to dip into reserves

Leyden District 212 will dip into its reserves for the 2011-2012 school year. It’s been eight years since the district last went into its reserves.

Fortunately, the school district’s reserves are deep, about $69 million. That’s by design.

“That’s part of the long-term plan of the board and the district,” Chief Financial Officer Tom Janateas said. “The 2003 referendum allowed us to build up some fund reserves while revenue outpaced expenditures, knowing at some time it would flip.”

For the coming school year, the district anticipates revenue will dip by 1.4 percent. That’s due to the poor overall economy, which has affected housing, investments and governments.

“There’s a continuous threat on our property tax base,” Janateas said. “Interest earnings continue to be way down. General state aid, we’re not getting the last two payments.”

Like most school districts, Leyden gets the bulk of its revenue from local property taxes, 86.4 percent to be exact.

At the same time revenues are dropping, expenses are predicted to rise by 6.21 percent. That increase is due to about $5.1 million in projects done during the last budget year, but being paid for in the coming budget year.

Most of the money will go toward the transformation of the former Thompson Steel property across the street from East Leyden High. Smaller amounts will pay for upgrading locker rooms at East Leyden, fixing up the staff dining room and other smaller projects.

Due to the volatility of the economy, Janateas said predicting future budgets is getting more difficult. The district was only able to collect 92 percent of property taxes from the 2009 tax year (payable in 2010).

“I do see that (trend) continuing,” Janateas said.


Leyden District 212 administrative shuffle

In February, Superintendent Kathryn Robbins announced plans to retire in June 2013 after 20 years in the district, 14 of those as superintendent of Leyden District 212.

Robbins moved rather quickly to the top. In 1993 she started as assistant principal at West Leyden High School. In 1996 she was promoted to assistant superintendent. In 1999 she was named superintendent.

Her first meeting of the School Board was the same one in which Gregory Ignoffo was sworn in as a member.

“I’ve been cognizant of her leaving since I’ve been on board,” Ignoffo said. “Those are mighty big shoes to fill.”

The board has not yet considered when or how to search for a new superintendent, said Ignoffo.

Robbins’ announcement was the first of several changes at the administrator level in Leyden District 212. In September it was announced that Beth Concannon, principal of East Leyden High School, will move to the position of assistant superintendent of Leyden School District 212 starting in July.

She will take the position of Robert Johnson, who is retiring at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. This, incidentally, is the second time Concannon follows Johnson, who was formerly principal at East Leyden.

In November, the district announced that current assistant principal Jason Markey would be promoted principal at East Leyden.


Police contract settled

The village of Franklin Park and police negotiated a new three-year police contract in five months, the shortest time in recent memory.

“It was probably record time for Franklin Park,” Attorney Gary Bailey of the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council said. “I don’t recall one being done so quickly.”

The last contract, which expired in 2008, took two years to negotiate. So how did the two sides agree so quickly this time?

“We kept the attorneys out of it basically, this time,” Village Trustee Randy Petersen said. Petersen is liaison on police and fire issues to the board of trustees and a former Franklin Park police chief.

Chief Michael Witz negotiated directly with the union representatives. While attorneys on both sides reviewed the language in the contract, they mostly kept away from the bargaining table.

Bailey laughs when it’s suggested that keeping the attorneys away helped, but does not disagree.

“We dispense with a lot of formality,” Bailey said. “Some of the things we talked about were operational. They had less to do with finances and more to do with how department is running. If that’s so, what do lawyers know?”

Officers will receive 3 percent raises under the new contract, which expired April 2014. The village and officers also negotiated changes in how promotions are determined and hire back issues.

Bailey also credits the two sides listening carefully to each other while Petersen said that the “issues were pretty slim.” Both agreed that the continuing poor economy probably played a role in the speed of negotiations.

“The economy certainly impacts people’s expectations in advance of exchanging proposals,” Bailey said.

“We had a lot of information made available to us as far as comparable departments — about 11 other departments,” Petersen said. “We felt this was pretty reasonable. A good contract and fair to police officers.”

Salaries range from a salary of $45,225 for new officers to a top salary of $80,674 for those with at least five years.

It’s not clear exactly how much the new contract will cost the village.

“Overtime is an unknown factor,” Witz said. “We have high volumes of overtime. It depends on crime and training.”

Witz did say that the total appropriation for the police department increased from $5.3 million for the previous contract year to $5.4 million for the contract year that started in May.


Firefighters battle major fires

Area firefighters earned their pay in 2011. Perhaps the most unusual fire they fought was an April 30 fire of a crane in the Union Pacific Rail yard.

“It was quite spectacular,” said Deputy Chief Paul Feldmann of the Northlake Fire Protection District said at the time. “We had exploding cans of peaches and roofing materials and almonds on fire.”

Five other fire departments helped out in the two-and-a-half-hour effort, which caused an estimated $2 million to $2.5 million in damage to the loading crane, destroyed merchandise and lost work time.

Over on Mannheim Road, the Super 8 motel, 3010 Mannheim Road, caught fire a little before 2 a.m. the morning of Aug. 11. Firefighters from Franklin Park and 11 other departments took three hours and a cautious approach to the blaze.

“We had partial collapses of the roof, which obscured our view of the fire,” Fire Chief Steve Iovinelli said at the time. “We had to wait for the fire to burn through collapsed sections of the roof so we could extinguish the fire.”

While firefighters were still patrolling the scene for hot spots that could flare up, the village’s legal firm was busy. The Village of Franklin Park tried for months to have the foreclosed motel demolished, describing it as a public hazard and beyond saving.

Before that demolition, however, firefighters found evidence of arson. Residue from an ignitable liquid was found in the lobby.

Finally, several Schiller Park residents owe two Franklin Park firefighters — for being hungry.

On April 27, Lt. Robert Beuse and Tommy Thomson of the Franklin Park fire department took an ambulance to the Superlow market in Schiller Park to buy groceries for the department.

They were driving north on 25th Avenue, about one block into Schiller Park, when they saw what looked like steam near the store. They investigated and found heavy smoke coming from a nearby garden apartment.

They called the Schiller Park Fire Department and started to evacuate residents. They then heard a faint yell from the apartment that was on fire. They went down and kicked open the door to find a man in his early 20s wrapped in a blanket.

“There was so much smoke from the ceiling to the floor that he was just a few feet from the front door and had no idea where he was in the apartment,” Thomson said at the time.


Resident receives honors

Alice Byrne of Franklin Park was twice honored in 2011. On May 4, her 90th birthday, Byrne was honored by Leyden Family Services, for her work with mentally ill people.

The start came with one of her sons, John, who turned out to be schizophrenic.

During the course of helping her son, she became involved with Leyden Family Services, a social service agency headquartered in Franklin Park. An employee there arranged for parents of the mentally ill to meet and share ideas.

The group heard that the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill was being formed. Byrne and others helped create an affiliate in 1986, which met in the basement of Resurrection Lutheran Church.

“Other’s started to hear about it and soon I started getting calls from strangers,” Byrne said. “My son has this, my daughter has this.”

She started helping people find resources to help the mentally ill. Over time, she expanded, giving talks at agencies and nursing homes,

She spoke to politicians, including state Rep Angelo “Skip” Saviano and Secretary of State Jesse White (a former colleague in Chicago Public Schools). She worked with police and the former head of the Illinois Department of Corrections to help mentally ill people in legal trouble.

“When a (mentally ill person) loses control, they sometimes hurt people, not because they hate people but because they don’t now what they’re doing,” Byrne said.

In more recent times, Byrne has been working with others to put together group apartments for the mentally ill in the Northwest suburbs. The group has had success, gaining city permission and some money toward building a place in Mount Prospect.

On Aug. 31, Byrne was again honored, this time for her World War II service.

About a year ago, a friend of her son heard about a nonprofit organization called Honor Flight Chicago, which flies World War II veterans to Washington DC to see the World War II Memorial (which was completed in 1995) and other sights for a day. Byrne was selected join about 100 other World War II veterans on an Aug. 31 flight.

“To give us a chance to see what we worked for (during World War II),” Byrne said. “To take us oldsters who are about ready to kick the bucket. I think it’s so nice.”

At the age of 23, Alice Byrne was in charge of 3,000 wounded soldiers at one of the largest military hospitals in this country. And all for military service she never intended to serve.

With a master’s degree, Byrne was valuable. She also worked in the operating room, helped out on the orthopedic floor sometimes and with ear, nose and throat at other times.

When the Chicago area veterans landed in DC early Aug. 31, five trucks full of wheelchairs and a volunteer to assist every veteran met them. Doctors and nurses were traveling along.

Besides the World War II memorial, Byrne got to see Iwo Jima monument, Lincoln, Korean and Vietnam memorials and the museum that houses the Enola Gay airplane, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.


Killer denied parole, dies in prison

An almost year-long effort to keep the killer of two Northlake police officers in prison was successful in March 2011 when U.S. Parole Commission denied the release of Henry Michael Gargano.

“Mr. Gargano’s prison record, on top of his lack of remorse for the crimes that led to his imprisonment, showed that his release would be incompatible with public safety,” said Parole Commission Chairman Isaac Fulwood Jr. in a press release.

The effort began in April 2010 when Northlake Police found out that Gargano had a parole hearing.

Gargano was convicted of the killing of Det. John Nagle and Patrolman Anthony Perri during a bank robbery in October 1967, along with two others.

When Gargano was sentenced to 199 years in 1968, everyone thought that meant for the rest of his life. Gargano as accused of a robbery of an A&P grocery store in Canton, Ohio where two police officers were shot two weeks before the Northlake Bank robbery. Ohio opted to forgo a trial in favor of the more severe charges in Northlake.

A change in federal law in 1976, however, meant Gargano, then 78, was eligible for parole. Indeed, Gargano was required to be released unless the parole commission found he had “seriously or frequently violated institution rules or that there is the reasonable probability that he will commit any federal, state or local crime.”

The idea of parole for Gargano didn’t sit well with Deputy Chief Norm Nissen.

“Gargano is a poster child of a person who does not respect life,” Nissen said. “I don’t care how old he is or what is his physical condition. I don’t think he’s demonstrated the right to be free.”

Northlake police got busy, eventually gathering more than 8,500 signatures, both online and on paper, against the parole of Gargano.

Gargano died on Oct. 13, 2011 at Butner federal prison in Butner, N.C. said Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


On behalf of my family I want to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Please be safe and I hope the holidays bring you all that you desire.

Unless anything important comes up I will see you on Monday, Dec 26.