Tag Archives: chicago

Indianapolis Experiences 142nd Homicide of the Year, Closes in on Chicago's Killing Rate

29 Dec

From Our Friend Paul Ogden in Indianapolis:

Indianapolis Experiences 142nd Homicide of the Year, Closes in on Chicago’s Killing Rate

With two more killings last night, Indianapolis now has 142 homicides for 2013 according to the Bart Lies! website which tracks Indy killings.  This is compared to 115 in 2012, 110 in 2011, and 119 in 2010.

A few years ago, City leaders conveniently redefined homicide to mean “murder” in order to get the count below 100.  Of course, “murder” is a legal term and something can’t technically be classified as “murder” until often a lengthy court process has taken place.  A person may have acted in self-defense and be acquitted of a murder charge, for example.  It still would be a homicide though.  Whether it is a homicide is determined at or near the time of the killing which makes it the figure used in crime reports, unless it is Indianapolis which tries to fudge the number, chiefly to fool media types who simply assume “homicide” and “murder” mean the same thing.

By contrast, Chicago, which has seen a substantial decline in killings, is closing out the year with about 458 homicides. If my math is correct, Indianapolis has one homicide for every 5,945 residents while Chicago has a homicide for every 5,928 residents.  So Indy’s homicide rate is still lower than Chicago…barely.

You can comment here or, leave a comment for Paul on his website http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/  This article is reprinted with permission.  All opinions expressed herein are those of the author.

 

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Carrie Hightman Tied to Bobby Rush Scandal

29 Dec

by Ken Davidson

A new investigation by the Illinois Better Government Association, while not specifically mentioning Hightman, calls the relationship between SBC Illinois and the Office of Congressman Bobby Rush into question. Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association is quick to point out “We’re not suggesting that Rush broke the law, but we are saying the fog needs to be cleared and real answers provided.” SBC Illinois was the donor of the $1M grant to Rush’s non-profit organization. The grant was supposed to build a technology center in Chicago’s troubled Englewood neighborhood. According to reports from the BGA, the center was never built and the money was never accounted for. Shaw calls for an investigation into:

[Rush] maintains the money wasn’t stolen or squandered, but that claim, without verification, doesn’t suffice, so we’re suggesting some options for shining more light on the situation:

The House Ethics Committee can see if Rush crossed any legal or ethical lines in regards to the million-dollar grant, his charity accepting tons of money from regulated companies seeking his legislative help, and his campaign office apparently not paying rent.
The Federal Election Commission can look at whether Rush or his campaign operation violated federal law by apparently accepting free rent, not reporting it as an in-kind donation and possibly exceeding donation limits.
The Internal Revenue Service can investigate the tax implications of all this, including whether Rush’s nonprofit violated the law by wrongly claiming on one disclosure form the tech center had been built, which wasn’t true.
The IRS can also find out if Rush used campaign cash to enhance his personal lifestyle, which is what got former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in trouble.
http://www.bettergov.org/the_million-dollar_question/?CategoryId=1

Any such investigation would obviously focus on whether or not the grantor received anything of value in return for the no strings grant. Regardless of whether there was any impropriety in the transaction, the situation calls into question the professional judgment of Hightman.

Carrie Hightman, the Chair of the Gary P3 Committee, became Chief Legal Office for NiSource in 2007 after serving as CEO of AT&T Illinois, which was formerly SBC Illinois. In a statement released when Hightman joined NiSource, her experience in ” regulatory, legislative, governmental and external affairs activities, as well as community and industry relations, throughout Illinois” were cited. The statement went on to explain:

During her tenure at AT&T, Hightman led the company through a series of important public policy initiatives as AT&T evolved from a traditional telephone company into a provider of diversified communications and entertainment services, including wireline, wireless, data and video services. Under her leadership, AT&T secured unanimous regulatory approval of a landmark agreement to deregulate local telephone service and offer competitive pricing in the metropolitan Chicago market, as well as helped the company return to the long distance telephone market after a twenty-year absence.

The SBC Foundation states that they provide grants of $25,000 to $50,000. The Gazette could find no evidence of any other single grant in any amount near $1M. Additionally, the 990 tax forms submitted by the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corporation listed no such contribution, despite a specific question asking about “Unusual Grants.”

28 Unusual Grants: For an organization described in line 10, 11, or 12 that received any unusual grants during 20001hrough 2003, prepare a list for your records
to show, for each year, the name of the contributor, the date and amount of the grant, and a brief description of the nature of the grant. Do not file this list with
your return. Do not include these grants in line 15.
423121 12-03-04 NONE Schedule A (Form BBO or 990-EZ) 2004

Source: http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/364/364078159/364078159_200503_990.pdf
Hightman was instrumental in selecting the contractor that was recently approved by the airport board to run the airport for up to 40 years.  While this information was not disclosed to the airport board, the Gazette has previously reported on the connection between Hightman and one of the companies involved in the partnership that was ultimately selected.

The Better Government Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is not affiliated with the Northwest Indiana Gazette.  You can read the entire BGA article at their website  The Million Dollar Question

Illinois Says to Indiana: Keep Your Petcoke and Take Ours Too

22 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Hammond corporation George J. Beemsterboer, Inc. is known to many Indiana residents as the operator of the J-Pit in Gary and a contractor at local steel mills and refineries.   As operator of the J-Pit, Beemsterboer has long been known for bringing  waste into the state of Indiana.  Now Beemsterboer is under fire for allegedly moving Petcoke out of Indiana and into Illinois.

Beemsterboer recently entered into an Agreed Interim Order with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.  According to a release issued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Order was designed to thwart a serious public health issue:

“The actions we are taking today mark a critical step forward in putting a stop to the
serious public health threat facing the residents that live near these facilities, but we will
continue to push for the strongest possible protections to ensure these conditions can
never happen again here in Chicago and across the state,”

Earlier in the month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel requested that citizens experiencing any problems with petcoke call the City’s 311 number.  Citizens reportedly complained of dust so thick they could not open their windows last summer.

The petcoke which was stored in Illinois by Beemsterboer came from a local refinery.  There are several refineries in the area which produce petcoke including BP in Whiting.  There are also refineries in Joliet and Lemont IL.  The most likely scenario now will be that petcoke from all of these refineries will be stored and shipped somewhere in Indiana or Wisconsin.

Petcoke is a byproduct of petroleum production.  The material is similar to coal in appearance.  The substance has been a byproduct of refining since the 1930’s.  It has become a national issue lately for several reasons.  The sheer quantity of petcoke has grown as local refineries have expanded.  The market for petcoke now lies outside the US, so it is primarily shipped overseas.  China is the main purchaser of petcoke products as many countries no longer allow the burning of petcoke as fuel.   Because shipping is the primary source of transporting the product, petcoke must be stored near water-in this case Lake Michigan or a local tributary.  Conveniently, Beemsterboer announced the purchase of the vacant State Line Energy plant after the Illinois Attorney General filed suit against them seeking to have the product removed from Illinois.  It has been reported that Beemsterboer will develop the State Line Energy site into condominiums.

One thing is clear, Beemsterboer is not storing petcoke in Chicago anymore.  So far officials have been mum as to future plans for storage of the material.

petcoke loaded onto barge in chicago

Petcoke is loaded onto a barge for shipment overseas

petcoke mountain in chicago

Petcoke Mountain on Chicago’s southeast side.

 

 

 

City Begins Demolishing 8th and Washington Hotel After Fire

21 Dec

by Ken Davidson

The City of Gary began the process of demolishing and cleaning up at the site of a December 5, 2013 fire at 8th and Washington Streets. Crews from Actin, Inc. of East Chicago were on hand with heavy equipment on Friday. A barricade fence was placed around the demololition area to prevent the public from entering the site. The fire, and now demolition project, sit directly across the street from the newly build 21st Century Charter School.

The Gazette previously reported on abandoned and falling down city and county owned buildings near schools. The buildings in this block were included in that article which can be viewed here. There are still no announced plans to barricade, repair or demolish the other unsafe structures on the block.

8th and washington hotel

Crews work to demolish a fire damaged hotel at 8th and Washington in Gary on Friday.

hotel fire gary indiana

Actin, Inc. of East Chicago begins demolition

BREAKING: Early Morning Homicide in East Chicago

20 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

by Ken Davidson

Coroner’s staff responded to an early morning call in East Chicago this morning. According to a release from the office of Merrilee Frey, investigators were called to the 3500 block of Guthrie Street in East Chicago at 5:35 am. Forty year old James Currie was pronounced dead at 6:00 a.m. The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.

Griffith Police Issue Alert Regarding Scams Targeting Seniors in Their Homes

19 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

Gazette Staff

Griffith, and other neighboring communities, have experienced recent incidents in which elderly citizens are approached at their homes by “a Hispanic looking man” posing as an employee of a utility company. The suspect in these cases then asks the resident to perform a task (usually to fill a bucket of water or to watch a testing device) as a distraction. Once distracted, the suspect speaks a foreign language into a “walkie talkie” like device and leaves the view of the resident. When this occurs, one or two accomplices enter the house and look for money or other precious metals to steal from the unsuspecting resident.

These types of incidents are called “Gypsy Scams” because they are most often committed by Gypsies, a wandering group of people of Romanian, Yugoslavian, Russian, Polish and Hungarian descent. And, unfortunately for us, our nearby neighbor of Chicago has a known and substantial population of active Gypsies.

To prevent being a victim of a Gypsy Scam, please be suspicious of anyone that approaches your home and asks to come inside for any reason. If they are from a legitimate utility company they will have an official identification badge that will properly identify them as such. If you are at all suspicious lock your door and call 911.

Please pass this information along to all of your elderly family, friends and neighbors.

QUICK BURST OF SNOW LIKELY THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING

16 Dec

Gazette Staff

The National Weather Service has issued a special advisory for areas including Lake and Porter County in Indiana.  The advisory warns that:

CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO BE VERY FAVORABLE FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF MODERATE TO BRIEFLY HEAVY SNOWFALL ALONG AND NORTH OF A LINE FROM
ROCKFORD TO AURORA TO VALPARAISO THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING.

The burst is expected to hit Chicago by 3:00 pm and northwest Indiana by early evening. The evening commute may be difficult for many.  The Indiana Department of Transportation reports that all highways are clear at this point and there are no major delays.