CN Feb 6, 2014

According to Chris Fusco of the Sun-Times, the current Republican race for Governor  is “one of the goofier political races we’ve ever observed. “

And WBEZ’s Tony Arnold had a front-row seat for one of the more bizarre chapters this week at a Republican forum in Naperville. Candidate Bill Brady said the following:

“The number one issue I run into when I travel around to manufacturing plants particularly, when I ask them, ‘How’s it going?’ They say, ‘I can’t hire my people back.’ They say, ‘They’re enjoying – I’ll use – their unemployment insurance. And I can’t get them back to work.’ So we’ve gotta motivate people to get back into the workforce.”

“I really wanted to know form Bill Brady, who’s telling you these things?” says Arnold. “This is something that hasn’t come up in the whole campaign. And now all of a sudden you’re saying it’s the top issue you’re hearing from Illinois’ manufacturers?”

Brady told Arnold he wouldn’t name the manufacturers because  he didn’t have their permission to identify them.

Of course, Bruce Rauner  continues his aggressive TV ad buys, which gives him far more visibility. And Rauner can keep the TV commercials coming. Money isn’t a problem. “He has plenty more to keep going as long s he wants to,” Arnold tells us.

As we know, there was quite a dust-up recently between Rauner and candidate Dan Rutherford, who claimed that a staffer in his office  had made allegations of wrongdoing against him. Arnold describes the bizarre press event. The allegations “are wrong, they’re false,” Rutherford says,  ”and he’s being put up to it by my opponent Bruce Rauner. Any questions? Well, yea, we have a million questions. What are the allegations?”

Arnold’s predicting a pretty quiet upcoming session for the General Assembly. There will possibly be an attempt to “fix” the Chicago pension crisis by cutting benefits for current and retired City employees, but as Governor Quinn campaigns for re-election, Arnold says, Governor Quinn will need the support of all those City workers.  ”When they’ve tried to bring up Chicago pensions in the past, it’s not gone over well at all,” he concludes.

However, there could possibly be a hike in the Illinois minimum wage. “The last two times the General Assembly has passed a minimum wage increase it’s been right around campaign season. And so here we are right on schedule for 2014,” he says.

Possibly the biggest story of the week was the unsealing of Special Prosecutor Dan Webb’s report on the Koschmann case. Chris Fusco, along with a team of dedicated S-T reporters, have been dogging the story for years. The report added some new facts to the public knowledge of the case.

“We know that early on,” Fusco explains, “independent of whatever the Mayor knew, there was an Area 3 Lieutenant where this crime was being investigated that said within hours, surely within a day or so, both he was aware of this incident and he had discussed it with his commander.”

It was about this time that a police investigator attired yet another “quote of the week”.

“Holy crap, maybe the Mayor’s nephew is involved”

“We know that when the two detective went out to interview Vanecko’s friend Kevin McCarthy, McCarthy is lying to them telling them he doesn’t know who’s at the scene. But yet at that same time frame it appears that the Area 3 brass, going up to the Commander level, is discussing that the nephew is involved. Fast forward. The police in their official report they gave us when this case was closed said – we didn’t know Vanecko was involved for 18 days. Well, we all know now that’s impossible.”

“Webb leaves you with the impression that the point of the 2011 investigation was to justify the 2004 investigation, which wasn’t really an investigation to begin with,” Fusco concludes.

Arnold and Fusco were the reporters for a recent collaborative series by the Sun-Times and WBEZ in which they examined the deaths of infants and children who were “in contact with” DCFS.

“We’ve gone over ten years of child deaths in Illinois that have resulted from abuse or neglect,” Arnold explains. “We went through those case by case and we looked at the circumstances of each one of them,” he says, and what they found was a higher number of neglect deaths than had been reported before. That’s due in part to DCFS itself beginning to report different types of neglect deaths, such as unsafe sleeping arrangements.  Although the number of outright abuse deaths – what might later be judged as murder – has not risen significantly, when the new data about neglect is added in, the totals essentially double.

“The bottom line,” says Fusco, “is that the individual stories where you have failures in the system, they are so horrific. One of those is eye-popping and it makes you wonder about other cases in the system where kids aren’t dying.”

There’s a related issue, according to Arnold. “Ten years ago, DCFS made a drastic policy shift to remove fewer kids from their homes. And since then, there hasn’t been a big evaluation of whether that policy is working well. And we looked, not just at child deaths, but different elements, and that’s the one that really popped out to us.”

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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