Daily dose: Local history, Gloomy gambling numbers, Advice to Gov. Quinn, Chicago casino, Illinois poverty, State moving workers

Daily dose: Local history, Gloomy gambling numbers, Advice to Gov. Quinn, Chicago casino, Illinois poverty, State moving workers

Local history

In 1911, engineer Hays and the surveying party working on the Kankakee-Urbana interurban line reached a point several miles northeast of Urbana last night and are expected to pass Thomasboro today and reach Rantoul by Saturday. For the rest of the week their headquarters will be in Rantoul.

In 1961, the exodus is under way. One by one the homes to the immediate south of downtown Urbana are being vacated to make way for progress. The houses and property have been purchased by the Urbana Central Development Co. and eventually will become the site of a new Carson Pirie Scott store and more retail development. The entire area includes a nine-block area with 64 or so properties.

Gloomy numbers about gambling in Illinois

From today's column ...

Riverboat gambling revenue, says the report from the Legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, is “on a staggering downward trend” and the amount of proceeds transferred to the state education assistance fund last year was the lowest in 12 years. The adjusted gross receipts of Illinois’ nine casinos last year were down 31 percent from four years earlier.
Sure, the economy is bad, the report acknowledged. But Illinois’ casinos are doing “significantly worse” than competitors in Indiana and Missouri. One big reason is the smoking ban that went into effect Jan. 1, 2008. In the Chicago area, for example, business at four Illinois casinos has dropped 35.5 percent in four years. But it’s up, albeit only about 1 percent, at Indiana casinos in the Chicago area. A similar observation was made about St. Louis-area casinos in Illinois and Missouri.
“Unfortunately for most Illinois casinos, due to their close proximity to the casinos of neighboring states that do not enforce an indoor smoking ban, an alternative choice to gamble and smoke is readily available,” the report said.
Further, the report said, Illinois is the highest casino-taxing state in the Midwest. It is also the lowest revenue-producing state in terms of adjusted gross receipts.
Illinois’ total of $1.35 billion is lower than the totals from Indiana, Iowa and Missouri, even though all have much lower populations.

Tribune's advice to Gov. Quinn

From today's editorial page ...

We don't know whether Quinn gets lousy advice from his inner circle, or gets sound advice but flouts it.

We do know that, year upon year, Quinn's theatrics build no public confidence whatsoever that he can manage state finances in difficult times. Instead, his scripted drama plots wind up looking as amateurish as another form of entertainment, "cartoon physics." That's the wry label for loopy laws of science that apply only in animated cartoons. Example: Bugs Bunny can race off a cliff without having gravity plunge him into the abyss before he scrambles back.

In the real world, governors who try to wangle all the government money can buy and then some don't enjoy the same protection as Bugs. Especially when someone like Speaker Madigan says: Make do.


Chicago casino at Thompson Center?

From the Chicago Sun-Times ...

If Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel can ever solve their public feud over casino gambling, a business leader has an idea about where Chicago should locate its land-based casino: the James R. Thompson Center.

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper said Tuesday the 26-year-old headquarters for state government — which occupies a full-city block at Clark and Randolph — would be perfect for a casino.

“It’s a burden to the state and it could make a great casino on the first floor and the lower level and hotel rooms surrounding it” on the upper floors, said Roper, who touted Block 37 for a casino before the under-whelming development opened there.

“If you take a look at the casino that is in Montreal, you’ll see that it’s the old French Pavilion. Turned upside-down, it looks just like the State of Illinois building. We showed it to the governor and he made a note of a re-purposed use of state property. Think about that building. As old as it is, it’s going to have to have a major renovation. Maybe you’re better off just allowing somebody else to renovate it.”

Converting the Thompson Center into a casino would require the state to empty out government employees. Even so, Quinn did not automatically shoot down the idea.

Instead, he changed the subject.

“Jerry’s a good man. I like him. But we have a lot of things to do before we get to that point,” the governor said.

“We’ve got to make sure the law is right — that there’s integrity at all times, that the state of Illinois gets its fair share of any gaming revenue. I’m particularly concerned about our school assistance fund. Some provisions were put into the bill that were not good for that fund and would shortchange children in Illinois. That all has to be straightened out.”


Illinois poverty

From the Chicago Sun-Times ...

Illinois had more poor people last year than it has had in nearly two decades, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau that also showed the number of impoverished nationally at a new high.

More than 1.82 million people lived in poverty in Illinois last year, up from 1.69 million. That was the biggest number of poor since 1992 when there were 1.86 million people who were impoverished.

The poverty rate last year rose to 14.1 percent from 13.2 percent in 2009, data showed.

Nationally, the overall poverty rate climbed to 15.1 percent, or 46.2 million Americans — the biggest number since the Census Bureau began tracking poverty in 1959 — and up from 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million in 2009.

The poverty rate in Illinois and nationally has risen for three straight years.

The report defines poverty as $22,314 for a family of four.


State saving money by moving workers

From the State Journal-Register ...

More than 180 state employees will be relocated to the underutilized Illinois State Police headquarters in Springfield, saving more than $800,000 a year in lease costs.

The plan was described to the Procurement Policy Board Tuesday as the first phase of efforts to bring more employees into the massive building and reduce the amount of office space leased by the state.

The headquarters, best known in Springfield as the former Franklin Life Insurance building, was touted as being able to house as many as 1.500 employees from multiple agencies when the state bought it. However, just over 500 state police employees have been in it.

The state spent $13.2 million in 2007 to buy the building from AIG General Life, which constructed a new facility on Springfield’s west side.

“We are at the point now where we basically have a plan in place which we would call phase one,” said Nick Kanellopoulos, property manager for the Department of Central Management Services. “We expect this move to be completed by the end of the calendar year.”










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