Economy: Tourism

March 25th, 2017

Office of the Governor touts jobs through tourism to Illinois. The Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel and Tourism celebrated the second year of the “Illinois Made” program this week, which highlights products that are craft-made or were invented in Illinois. Illinois products, such as Chicago-based Eli’s Cheesecake, are eligible to be designated “global brands” representing the Land of Lincoln to the rest of the nation and world.

The program also showcases Illinois-experience goods and services, such as restaurants, craft wineries and breweries, and places of historical interest and experience, such as Lincoln’s Springfield, Nauvoo, the Illinois Amish country, and Cahokia Mounds. The Illinois Governor’s Conference convened in Springfield on Monday, March 20.

Chicago: Population Trends

March 25th, 2017

U.S. Census estimates that Chicago metropolitan area lost 19,570 in 2016 fiscal year. The period from July 2015 through June 2016 showed a slight dip in the population of the counties that make up the Chicago metropolitan area, from 9.53 million to 9.51 million. Although the decline during this twelve-month period was only 0.2%, it ran counter to the overall pattern of growth in the population of the United States. The decline coincided with patterns of stagnant job creation in Illinois as a whole, with significant outmigration by many demographic categories of former Illinoisans to other states. Groups leaving Illinois include young adults searching for employment elsewhere.

The 9.5-million Chicago metropolitan area, as defined by the Census Bureau, is a 16-county region that includes small sections of Indiana and Wisconsin. Centering on Cook County, the area is defined by the federal government for business and identity purposes. Of the 10 largest metro areas in the United States, however, only the Chicago area lost residents.

Budget: COGFA Projections

March 25th, 2017

COGFA presents budget projections and revenue estimate. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) presented FY17 and preliminary FY18 budget projections to the House Revenue and Finance Committee this week. COGFA presented a revised revenue estimate of $33.1 billion in FY17 general funds inflows, representing a significant reduction from the FY17 preliminary estimate of $33.9 billion published by COGFA in July 2016.

COGFA’s report that revenues are falling short of projections by approximately $800 million adds to the fiscal burdens facing the State. COGFA also warned House Revenue Committee members that further extensions of these fiscal trends could further worsen this picture in FY18, the fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2017. Fiscal trends listed in this context include disappointing income tax receipts due to high unemployment and stagnant Illinois job growth, disappointing sales tax revenues, rising pension costs due to low interest rates and revisions to pension fund rates of annual return, and continued increases in the costs of Medicaid and health care for state employees.

Budget: Pension Reform

March 25th, 2017

House Republicans offer comprehensive pension reform proposal and CPS relief. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin today called on Speaker Michael Madigan and the House Democrats to join the House Republicans in passing comprehensive pension reform that would provide significant savings for taxpayers and $215 million to the Chicago Public Schools for a one time pension parity payment.

According to Durkin, the legislation is modeled after legislation introduced in a bipartisan manner in the Senate. Specifically, HB 4027 includes:

  • Senate President John Cullerton’s “consideration model” that would require members of TRS, SURS, SERS, GARS, and CTPF to exchange their Tier 1 COLA for the right to have future raises to be counted as pensionable, or keep their COLA and sacrifice future raises as pensionable. This concept previously received union support by the We Are One Coalition
  • Provides a one-time normal cost payment to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund of $215.2 million for FY 17
  • Closes new member participation in GARS
  • Offers Tier 1 TRS, SURS, SERS and GARS employees the option to participate in a defined contribution (DC) plan
  • Creates a voluntary Tier 3 Hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plan for new Tier 2 employees under TRS, SURS, and certain SERS members who do not participate in Social Security

“With this legislation, we estimate the State of Illinois will realize short-term savings of $2.25 billion dollars from the general funds and a substantial step towards closing the deficit gap. This is a significant step towards achieving a balanced budget but also saving our pension systems.”

“I have secured 25 House Republican co-sponsors for this legislation. With our 26 votes the House Republicans have provided their pro-rata share of support for a structured roll call vote on this important issue. This means we will provide our fair share of votes. The Speaker needs to provide his 34 votes to move this legislation to the Senate. This legislation will earn the Governor’s signature. Speaker Madigan and I have worked in the past on pension reform and I am calling upon him to help secure passage of this legislation. This reform is a major piece of the puzzle for breaking the budget impasse,” said Durkin.

Volunteers Sought for Community-Wide Service Day on April 8

March 23rd, 2017

Free cookout included for all who assist

Community groups, Scouts, students, residents and families are invited to come together for a “One Day” service project targeting portions of the Fox River and nearby Fox Valley Park District locations from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 8.

Volunteers will be utilized at various sites to help pick up litter, haul light brush and assist in the removal of invasive plant species. Volunteers will be placed in parks that are closest to their homes, or can start at the Cole Center (101 W. Illinois Ave.), which will serve as project headquarters.

For those who check in at the Cole Center, transportation will be available to and from the various work areas. Breakfast snacks are provided, and a free cookout will be held for volunteers afterward at the Cole Center.

Portions of the Fox River from Ashland Avenue north to the Cole Center will be covered. Other sites include:

More than 350 volunteers participated last year, and “the goal is once again to gather as many volunteers together to have the biggest impact we can to better our community,” said Debbie Smith, Community Outreach Manager.

The service day project is a combined effort between FVPD, Kiwanis Club of Aurora, Fox Metro Water Reclamation District, City of Aurora, Aurora Township, Aurora University, Volunteer Fox Valley and Waubonsee Community College.

Interested volunteers should contact Debbie Smith at (630) 966-4555 or dsmith@fvpd.net to register.

State of City, Candidate Meetings

March 20th, 2017
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March 20, 2017
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Wednesday: 2017 State of the City Address
State of the City
Library, Chamber, PAC sponsor five candidate meet-and-greets
The Aurora Public Library, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Fox Valley PAC are sponsoring informal meet-and-greets for voters to get to know mayoral, aldermanic, park district, and District 129 and 131 board candidates vying for seats in the April 4 election.

“Today’s libraries are sites for civic engagement,” said Daisy Porter-Reynolds, executive director of Aurora Public Library. “I’m happy we can provide these opportunities for Aurora residents to speak with the candidates and make informed decisions ahead of election day.”

All of the meet-and-greets will begin at 6:30 p.m. and conclude at 8 p.m.

Schedule

Eleven Fox Valley Park District candidates vying for seven seats have been invited to the first meet-and-greet on Monday, March 20 at the Richard and Gina Santori Public Library at 101 S. River St. This will be the first elected board in the park district’s 70-year history.

The candidates (and their districts) are:

1st District: Charles Anderson, Aurora; Matt Hicks Jr., Aurora

2nd District: Jerry Butler, Aurora; Mary Anne Cummings, Aurora; LuAnne Kelsey, Montgomery; Elizabeth “Beth” Waller, Montgomery

3rd District: Cynthia G. Penne, Aurora; Giovanni Santana, Aurora; Holly Scholz, Aurora; Roger Schnorr, Aurora

At-Large: Alexander G. Alexandrou, Aurora.

The board members will be elected from geographic areas dividing the 65-square-mile park district. One at-large seat will be elected from the entire park district.

A Wednesday, March 22 meet-and-greet will feature West Aurora School Board candidates at the library’s West Branch, 233 S. Constitution Drive.

Four candidates are vying for three open seats in that race: Rich Kerns and Christopher Sparks, both of North Aurora, and incumbent Valerie Dykstra and Joseph Grisson, both of Aurora.

The two candidates for Aurora mayor, Richard E. Guzman and Richard C. Irvin, will speak with voters in a casual setting on Monday, March 27 in the Dunham Atrium of the Santori Public Library.

Alderman-at-large candidates Matt Harrington and Robert J. O’Connor, and Ward 10 aldermanic candidates Keith Bradley, Judd Lofchie and Robert H. Paolicchi, will greet the public on Wednesday, March 29 in the Dunham Atrium.

Incumbent city council members in Wards 2, 4, 7 and 9 are running unopposed. Citizens will cast a vote for one at-large council member on their April 4 ballot, as mayoral candidate Irvin’s seat is not up for reelection this year. Should Irvin win the election, he would appoint his successor. Should Guzman win, Irvin will remain an at-large alderman.

Also on Wednesday, March 29, School District 131 school board candidates will greet the public in Rooms 125 and 126 of the Santori Library.

Four candidates are running for three open seats: Dan Barreiro, Anna Ishmael, incumbent Annette Johnson and Bruce Schubert.

Refreshments will be served. Call (630) 264-4125 for information.

These meet-and-greets are sponsored by Aurora Public Library, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Fox Valley PAC.

Did You Know?
Did you know that you can offer member-to-member discounts? Through your login profile page, you can offer specials deals to fellow Chamber members. This is a great way to connect with other Chamber members and creates a win for all. If you have questions about your login or posting member to member discounts, contact Reba Osborne, director of membership, at (630) 256-3184.
Calendar of Events
Candidates’ Meet & Greet: Fox Valley Park District
Monday, March 20, 6:30-8 p.m.
Santori Library, 101 S. River St., Aurora

Coffee & Connections Networking
Tuesday, March 21, 8:30 a.m.
Painters District Council #30, 1905 Sequoia Dr., Aurora
Sponsored by Eye Boutique

2017 State of the City Address
Wednesday, March 22, 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Piper’s Banquets, 1295 Butterfield Road, Aurora

Candidates’ Meet & Greet: Aurora Mayor
Monday, March 27, 6:30-8 p.m.
Santori Library, 101 S. River St., Aurora

Candidates’ Meet & Greet: Aurora City Council
Wednesday, March 29, 6:30-8 p.m.
Santori Library, 101 S. River St., Aurora

Fox Valley Networking Professionals
Thursday, March 30, 8-9:30 a.m.
Pomegranate Restaurant, 55 S. Commons Dr., Aurora
Sponsored by The Joint Chiropractic

Grand Opening: Bickford Senior Living
Thursday, April 6, 3:30-7 p.m.
7 S. Orchard Rd., Aurora
Ribbon Cutting: 4 p.m.

Ambassadors Meeting
Thursday, April 13, at 4:00 p.m.
Orchard Valley Apartments, 1240 W. Indian Trail Rd., Aurora

Fox Valley Networking Professionals
Thursday, April 27, 8-9:30 a.m.
Pomegranate Restaurant, 55 S. Commons Dr., Aurora
Sponsord by Advanced Auto Parts

Grand Opening: Round One
Thursday, April 27, 3:30-8 p.m.
Fox Valley Mall, 195 Fox Valley Center Drive, Aurora
Ribbon Cutting: 4 p.m.

A Report Card: The First 100 Days of Trump Administration
Wednesday, May 3, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Location TBA

Save the Date: Chamber Golf Classic
Monday, July 10, 2017
Aurora Country Club, 1548 Prairie Street, Aurora

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Jobs: Revised December Numbers

Human Services: Developmental Disabilities

Elections: Fair Maps, Redistricting Reform

Education Task Force

Budget: Unpaid Bills

Taxes: Property Tax Burden

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Save the Date! 30th Anniversary Open House @ IMSA

VNA Health Care Dental Clinic Expansion: New Patients Welcome

Food Hub Project Site Request for Information

Kane County Winter 2017 ExporTech Program

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Jobs: Revised December Numbers

March 19th, 2017

Revised figure shows 18,700 more jobs in December 2016 than previously thought. The revised number, from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), indicates that Illinois’ private-sector economy may be in better shape than has been publicly reported. Preliminary figures previously reported by IDES showed a net loss of 16,700 jobs in December, but a revision to these numbers erased this job loss and indicates that Illinois actually gained 2,000 jobs in the same month.

The problems noted by analysts upon release of the initial December 2016 figures remain in place. In particular, the “Christmas sales season” in job-creating retail activity was affected once again this year by the migration of significant transaction volumes to the Internet.

Although the revised numbers show Illinois’ job market continuing to grow slowly, the Land of Lincoln continues to underperform most other U.S. states in terms of economic growth and activity. Illinois continues to have fewer jobs than it did at its peak unemployment level, reached in September 2000 prior to 9/11 and the collapse of the so-called “dot com” boom. Illinois added 1,700 jobs in January 2017, maintaining its unemployment rate of 5.7%.

Human Services: Developmental Disabilities

March 19th, 2017

House directs Auditor General to audit oversight of group homes for developmentally disabled. The Illinois House of Representatives approved legislation this week directing the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) program administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). The resolution (HR 34) sponsored by State Rep. Charlie Meier was introduced in light of the abuse and neglect which took place throughout the state in group homes for the developmentally disabled dating back to 2011.

The tragic reports of abuse and neglect came to light thanks to the Murray Parents Association’s work with the Chicago Tribune, sparking an investigation by the newspaper, then followed by the Tribune publishing its story earlier this year titled “SUFFERING IN SECRET: Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities,” in which the newspaper “identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 and determined at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years.”

“The audit unfortunately can’t undo the abuse and neglect which occurred; however this audit will help us learn more about what went wrong and how Illinois can improve the quality of care for our most vulnerable,” said Rep. Meier. “DHS has already made improvements, though I am optimistic this audit will further improve how the State properly cares for the developmentally disabled.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services has seven State-operated developmental centers (SODCs) serving approximately 1,800 residents. Individuals also receive services in community-based settings through Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs), which house one to eight residents each, otherwise called “group homes”.

A separate bill, HB 740 from Rep. Patti Bellock, is meant to create a secure “paper trail” for each individual resident of Illinois CILA group home care for persons with developmental disabilities. The paper trail should include a current photograph, personal contact information, family contact information, and a log of off-site overnight visits. The measure was approved by a unanimous House vote on Wednesday, March 15, and sent to the Senate for further discussion and debate.

Elections: Fair Maps, Redistricting Reform

March 19th, 2017

House Republicans call for vote on fair maps. Members of the House Republican Caucus called on House Democrats to respect the wishes of Illinoisans by allowing redistricting reform, HJRCA17, to be called for a vote immediately.

“This is one of the strongest statements we can make about reforming Illinois,” said State Rep. Tim Butler. “This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, so it’s time for the Democrats to decide if they stand for the status quo or for a stronger, better Illinois for generations to come.”

HJRCA 17 would allow voters to decide, by statewide referendum, to amend the Illinois Constitution to create the Independent Redistricting Commission for the purpose of drawing legislative districts. A poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute last fall found that 72% of voters, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, supported the creation of an independent commission to draw legislative district maps.

Members noted that redistricting reform is directly tied to the state budget and the failure of having unbalanced budgets for more than 10 years.

“When people are no longer able to hold their representatives accountable due to the political leanings of their district, the people have lost,” said State Rep. Tom Demmer. “That’s especially true when it comes to the fiscal issues of this state. Instead of being held accountable for taking vote after vote after vote to spend money that the State doesn’t have, far too many elected officials get a pass as soon as they go home for no other reason than the letter behind their name on the ballot.”

“Democrats in Illinois like to tout that they and they alone stand for the little guy, but how can they say that with a straight face when it’s clearly not the case,” said State Rep. Keith Wheeler. “It’s time for Illinois Democrats to stop hiding and letting ‘surrogates’ fight this crucial constitutional amendment. The question that House Democrats now need to answer is who do you stand with? Do you stand with a million reform-minded Illinoisans or Mike Madigan?”

Education Task Force

March 19th, 2017

Illinois House Education Task Force holds first meeting. The 26-member bipartisan Task Force has been asked to develop proposals that can be offered to the General Assembly as legislative language to implement the recommendations of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission. Earlier this year, the Reform Commission proposed that Illinois take steps to reduce the dependence of Illinois school districts on property tax revenues. Many Illinois lawmakers, citizens, and taxpayers believe that the current pattern of means used to fund Illinois schools is outdated in relation to other states.

The panel held its first meeting on Tuesday, March 14. Representative Bob Pritchard, the House Republican spokesman on the Task Force, called for key revisions to the Illinois school funding formula. The House Education Task Force is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, March 21.