Banks are Still Failing

Maybe you’ve read that nine more banks failed last Friday, including two Illinois banks. That makes 19 for Illinois and 115 nationwide in 2009 so far.

Prior to the collapse of nearly 85% of the failed banks this year, major public enforcement actions were handed down by the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation (FDIC), the Office of the Currency Comptroller (OCC), or the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS). These actions are listed online and are eminently searchable in a variety of ways.

FDIC is an independent agency charged with maintaining stability in the U.S. banking system. Its enforcement search form is here.

OCC regulates all national banks and federal branches of foreign banks. It is a division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Click here for OCC enforcement actions.

OTS supervises savings associations and their holding companies. It is a division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Find its enforcement search function here.

Let us know if you find anything interesting.

SB 189 > Public Act 096-0542

Gov. Quinn signed Senate Bill 189, the upgrade to FOIA. The full text can be read at this link. It takes effect January 1, 2010. It seemed to take him a while to get around to signing it but I see that his office created a new Web site which is here: http://accountability.illinois.gov/.

This is very important legislation, important enough to throw a party. There should be a FOIA-writing party on the afternoon of January 1, 2010. Continue reading SB 189 > Public Act 096-0542

Illinois & Stimulus Transparency

[Updates 8/2: Handy ARRA map w/links to state summaries and Illinois’ ARRA site.]

We love Good Jobs First because it’s taught us about development subsidies and TIF. This week, GJF released a report rating the quality of each state’s disclosure of its use of funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The Good Jobs First study examines the quality and quantity of disclosure by official state websites on the many ways ARRA funding is flowing through state governments to communities, organizations and individuals. Looking at both spending programs and individual projects, it evaluates the general ARRA websites that all states have created as well as their website reporting specifically on ARRA highway projects. Based on ten different criteria, each state (and the District of Columbia) is graded twice on a scale of 0 to 100.

Six states score 50 or better for their main ARRA site: Maryland (80), Colorado (68), Washington (63), West Virginia (60), New York (53) and Pennsylvania (50). Thirteen states score 50 or better for their highway reporting, led by Maryland (75), Washington (73), Colorado (65) and Nebraska (60). The average score for the ARRA websites is 28, and for highway reporting 38.

Where do you suppose Illinois ranked? Continue reading Illinois & Stimulus Transparency

Illinois’ Own Darn Fault

According to Pro Publica, Illinois is the 16th state to have to borrow to keep paying out unemployment benefits, but — just as is true of the City of DeKalb — the primary problem apparently is not due to the state of the economy:

Going into the recession, Illinois had a dangerously low level of reserves, a situation that’s gone on for years. Indeed, Illinois was forced to borrow federal money in 2005, relatively good economic times.

To make matters worse, the tax rate on employers was not high enough to sustain benefits paid, let alone to accumulate a safe level of reserves to prepare it for a recession — even one much milder than the current train wreck.

The graphs will make you want to hurl. Check them out anyway, to reinforce your sense of urgency to put some grownups in office at the earliest opportunity. Continue reading Illinois’ Own Darn Fault

Corrupt Illinois Politicians vs. the Sicilian Mafia

The Chicago Tribune continues to follow the admissions scandal at the University of Illinois. Columnist John Kass wrote a piece and in the comments section was this gem:

“Voice of reason
Hammond, IN
7 hrs ago

John, I have read your articles comparing the corrupt “pols” to the Outfit. I googled Mafia and found an interesting article that printed the Mafia’s 10 Commandments.
“In November 2007 Sicilian police reported to have found a list of “Ten Commandments” in the hideout of mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo. They are thought to be guidelines on how to be a good, respectful and honorable mafioso.
1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.
2. Never look at the wives of friends.
3. Never be seen with cops.
4. Don’t go to pubs and clubs.
5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty – even if your wife is about to give birth.
6. Appointments must absolutely be respected.
7. Wives must be treated with respect.
8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth/
9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.
10. People who can’t be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn’t hold to moral values.

After reading this I don’t believe the “pols” have enough character to be in the Mafia.”

Breakfast and FOIA with the Attorney General

Attorney General Lisa Madigan gave an overview of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and proposed changes at a breakfast by the Better Government Association.
Better Government Association logo

The room in the Union League of Chicago was a little dark, perhaps because bright lights would not be friendly to the artwork on the walls. None of my pictures came out very well; I meant this picture to be a test with the lighting. The proposed changes appear in SB 189 and await the signature of Governor Pat Quinn. See the bottom of this article for how to find the text of the bill: http://www.daily-chronicle.com/articles/2009/06/05/16359524/

This is my summary of the handout “Key Components of Transparency Legislation Senate Bill 189” provided by the Office of the Illinois Attorney General on what the bill proposes:

Give the Attorney General’s Office the authority to assign fines for non-compliance
Create a process for FOIA requests, $2,500 to $5,000
Create an environment with the presumption of transparency
Requires that a response be given within five business days instead of seven
Establishes a Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General’s office to determine if documents should be released under FOIA or denied
The Public Access Counselor would also assist in determining if a public body violated the Open Meetings Act
Makes exemptions to FOIA more clear
Limits the charge on copy costs to the first 50 pages free and $.15 per page thereafter
If a citizen sues to get FOIA access, and wins, attorney fees will be reimbursed
Requires annual FOIA and Open Meetings Act training

A panel of speakers discussed the merits of the bill and any flaws. Continue reading Breakfast and FOIA with the Attorney General

Rally for Human Services Tomorrow

DeKalb Community Coordinated Child Care (4C) is planning a rally at Rep. Bob Pritchard’s office Thursday (tomorrow) at noon. The reason: social service agencies expect to be funded by the state this coming fiscal year at half the usual levels.

If this happens, agencies such as Children’s Learning Center daycare, which serves many low-income families with subsidized childcare, would have to close its doors. This would affect the livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of families.

Now, I’ve never visited Rep. Pritchard in his local office because he is just so very good about responding to e-mail, but I see it is listed as being at 2600 DeKalb Avenue in Sycamore–oh! I do believe that’s also where the DeKalb County Community Foundation is headquartered.

If You Like TIF, You’re Gonna Love STAR

This is STAR as in Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue bonds, and it’s a plan only big developers and pocketed or ill-informed legislators could love. I’ll put links to other articles after the jump so you can further clarify for yourself exactly how STAR financing works, but if you understand Tax Increment Financing (TIF) — and how TIF is regularly abused in Illinois — you’ve already got the concept. Just add the twist of developers capturing, via rebate, sales tax revenues generated within the district.

STAR is beginning to infect catch on across the country. The Illinois intro to it is SB1909, the STAR Bonds Financing Act, which establishes a 900-acre business park in Glen Carbon. SB1909 has passed both houses of the General Assembly. Heaven help us if Governor Quinn signs it. This bill represents the polar opposite of government’s obligations to facilitate a level playing field. It does, however, facilitate Illinois’ slide into bankruptcy. According to two state departments, the immediate impact to the state budget will be as follows:

Fiscal Note (Dept. of Revenue)
SB 1909, as engrossed, would have a negative impact on State government revenue from the Retailers’ Occupation Tax, Use Tax, Service Occupation Tax, Electricity Excise Tax, Gas Revenue Tax, and Hotel Operators’ Occupation Tax. The combined annual loss to these revenue sources could exceed $15 million annually per established district given the terms of the proposal and depending on the location of the district. Much of this loss will be due to the erosion of the State government tax base that existed before the STAR district was created.

Balanced Budget Note (Office of Management and Budget)
SB 1909, as engrossed, would cost the State $15,000,000 in lost sales tax revenue as estimated by the Department of Revenue. SB 1909, if enacted into law would add $15,000,000 in additional spending pressure to the General Revenue Fund and to the current Fiscal Year 2009 budget deficit.

Rich Miller at The Capitol Fax Blog calls it the “Worst. Bill. Ever.”

Once this thing starts, it’ll never stop. Guaranteed. It won’t be long before a very large chunk of this state is in a STAR bond district, meaning that state sales tax money will be spent on local projects, meaning that the state’s budget situation will only get worse while the locals try to cannibalize each other. Mark my words.

Continue reading If You Like TIF, You’re Gonna Love STAR