How is it that Illinois has lost more jobs during the month of July than any other state in the nation, a total of 24,900 non-farm payroll jobs, after having lost 7,200 jobs in June?   These numbers represent the most recent figures of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   Additionally, the BOL report notes that Illinois’s unemployment rate has increased to 9.5 percent, which is higher now than the national average.

Like other states, Illinois was beginning to create jobs toward the end of 2010 after the economy seemed to be turning around.  But what did Illinois legislators do in Springfield?  While nationwide states were adopting policy changes to hasten the economic recovery, here in Illinois the General Assembly increased taxes for individuals by 67% and 46% for business, subsequently creating a hostile environment for job growth.

A chart published by the Illinois Policy Institute illustrates the correlation between the steady downward trajectory of jobs lost beginning with the increase of taxes in January through the month of July, 2011.   http://www.illinoispolicy.or/news/article.asp?ArticleSource=4362

Between January and June of this year, 56,223 fewer Illinoisans were employed, thus according Illinois with the dubious honor of having the worst job performance of any other neighboring state during the first half of 2011.

Despite Illinois’s rich cultural history with headquarters locations for several major industries, why has Illinois performed so dismally in job production?

Raising taxes as a workable economic policy to encourage growth is not a recipe for success, yet here in Illinois Democratic policy makers remained chained to the same failed economic policies of the past hoping that this time around success will be the outcome.

Businesses are not prone to hire when the economy is faltering and economic uncertainly exists. Coupled with the expense of doing business in Illinois, existing rules and regulations make it difficult to start and to run businesses.

Just how serious is the exodus of Illinois businesses and jobs to neighboring states?

In an article written primarily by reporter Julie Wernau of the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, August 24, Politicians employ all means to create jobs, a chart is featured listing 10 companies which have announced plans to move some or all of their operations to Indiana.  Also noted are the financial incentives given by Indiana to each of the10 companies and the projected number of jobs Hoosiers will be the beneficiary of, a net total of 1,171 jobs.

Governor Quinn did convince several high-profile companies not to leave the state by offering tax breaks and incentives.  But is giving tax incentives to a select few and making everyone else pay higher taxes any way to create good will among those who are not so rewarded?

It speaks of favoritism and represents business as usual in Chicago and Springfield, employed especially by those who depend on favoritism to hold on to their reins of power.  It is evident that favoritism has not worked to improve Illinois’s dismal economic outlook, nor has it benefited Illinoisans.

Insuring that Illinois is destined for further economic decline is that the state’s fiscal year 2012 budget increased spending, but it did nothing to address the state’s billions in unpaid bills or its unsustainable  and massive unfunded pension system (Illinois’s 2012 fiscal budget comes in at $32.2 billion; however, in reality the 2012 fiscal budget really amounts to $33.2 billion.  $1 billion was conveniently hidden by carrying the $1 billion amount over into fiscal year 2013.).

Weren’t Illinoisans hurting back in November of last year during the 2010 elections?  It’s evident that many weren’t hurting enough.  Allured by false promises, what did Illinoisans receive for their loyalty in returning to office Democratic legislators who believe in higher taxes, overspending, and rules and regulations that limit economic growth.

Kristina Rasmussen, executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute, had this to say in a recent press release from the Illinois Policy Institute:  “The policies currently in place — higher taxes, more spending, and unreformed liabilities — are clearly not working for those who are struggling to make ends meet.”

According to Ms. Rasmussen, “A great starting place for lawmakers eager to create an atmosphere of job growth would be to repeal the recent income tax increase, which robs families and businesses of resources they could put to better use.”  http://www.illinoispolicy.org/blog/blog/asp?ArticleSource=4364

One thing is certain, business as usual cannot continue in Springfield.

Illinoisans are presently receiving a hard dose of reality.  Only time will tell whether the upcoming 2012 elections will allow enough time for enough Illinoisans to understand that a government controlled by one party works to the detriment of all, with only more misery to show for it.

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If electricity in Illinois is not supplied by coal, and not by Nuclear, then by what?  Surely not by solar and wind power!

Not only has coal been blocked through a recent Executive Order by President Obama — the rules of which are now being finalized over the next 18 months to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants — but politicians have also blocked Nuclear, oil and shale oil, etc., and have used our tax monies to subsidize windmills, solar farms, grain to alcohol, etc., all of which are inadequate or impractical pipe dream sources of power highly rated by politicians, which will never be able to fulfill this nation’s increasing future energy needs.

Consider the fate of the Zion Dual Nuclear Plant here in Illinois. Two operating, safe, least expensive cost per kilowatt, PWR electricity generation plants were prematurely closed back in 1998 are now being demolished.  It’s tremendous source of 2,100 MG of power will soon be no more, lost forever, because of a foolish, short term decision made by Exelon Corporation.

It is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPR), under Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, that is responsible for putting in place the regulations issued through Executive Order by President Obama last month for mercury, smog, ozone, greenhouse gases, water intake, and coal.  According to Jackson, since pollution goes across state lines, no longer can states be trusted to deal with it.

According to an article written by Brad Plumer, “Getting ready for a wave of coal-plant shutdowns,” industry groups such as the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, claim that the regulations will cost utilities up to $129 billion and force them to retire one-fifth of their coal-fired, electricity generating plants, resulting in higher electric bills, more blackouts and fewer jobs (Presently coal provides 45% of this nation’s power).

Meanwhile Environmental groups are claiming that the EPA rules will bring sizable public health benefits, with further claims that industry groups have been exaggerating the costs of environmental regulations since they were first created.

Who is right?  And why is there so much concern over the EPA’s flurry of new rules, which some have dubbed as “EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck”?

Curious about coal plants here in Illinois and how Illinois might be affected by the new EPA rules, I located two articles on interest in searching the Internet.

The first article, titled, “Why is Coal Important?”, informed me that coal is mined in 32 states and that one of the three major U.S. coal producing regions is found in the Illinois Basin (Illinois, Indiana and Western Kentucky).  Also of interest is that the Illinois Basin mines primarily bituminous coal, generally below the surface, yielding coal that is high in energy content, but also high in sulfur.

Because acid is an important environmental issue, the fact that Illinois produces coal high in sulfur content could adversely affect the future of Illinois coal plants, given that the stiff new government emissions regulation for sulfur must be met by every company that burns coal.  One solution to curb sulfur emissions is to install scrubbers in coal plant stacks, but this comes at a considerable expense.

As a matter of interest, Illinois ranks #6 in the ten top coal producing states by rank and tonnage produced (2,246,000) and #2 in the top ten states with the largest reserves of coal (% of Total in U.S. – 16.5%),

The second article of note, published by CLEAR THE AIR, portrays a rather over-the-top presentation, as could be expected from its title, with its report: “Illinois’s Dirty Power Plants.

According to thereport issued by CLEAR THE AIR, titled, “Illinois’s Dirty Power Plants, “Chicago ranks as the second hardest hit city in the entire country for the impacts of power plant pollution.  In addition, power plant mercury pollution has contaminated fish, ozone smog is causing thousands of asthma attacks, pollution cuts short the lives of over a thousand Illinoisans every year, and global warming caused in part by carbon dioxide pollution from power plants threatens the the economy and health of the Prairie State.”

Moreover, “Coal-fired power plants throughout the nation are responsible for more than 68% of the total annual emissions of sulfur dioxide from all sources, the primary ingredient of deadly fine particle pollution.”

In light of the shocking claims made by CLEAR THE AIR, citizens of Chicago and Illinois should be experiencing horrific death rates and health problems linked to the twenty-five operating Illinois coal-fired plants spewing pollution into the air.  After all, coal-fired power plants are being tagged for the lion’s share of dangerous pollution attributed to the electric power industry.

What a difference from 1903 when the Fisk Generating Station in Chicago had its first steam turbine installed.  Engineers hailed the new coal-fired power plant as a marvel!  Once perched on the outskirts of Chicago, the plant (rebuilt in 1959) now sits in the middle of the working-class Hispanic neighborhood of Pilson.  Also in operation after 86 years is Fisk’s sister plant, Crawford station.

One-third of the coal plants now operating in the U.S. came on-line, as did  Fisk, Crawford, and other coal-fired plants here in Illinois, before the Clean Air Act of 1970 was written.  This 1970 bill exempted existing power plants from its clean act provisions under the assumption that older plants would soon be retired.

Utility companies, however, found it profitable to keep the older plants in operation.  Congress then failed in 1977 to clarify what exactly was meant by the “major” modifications that had to be made for older plants to continue operating, as dictated by the1970 Clean Air Act.

As for Illinois, the new 2011 EPA standards require that aging coal-fired power plants (like Illinois’s Fisk and Crawford) will either have to install costly new retrofits or shut down altogether.  Additionally, the new EPA standards will likely force up to one-fifth of the nation’s oldest coal-fired plants to retire in the next five years, largely in the Midwest and the South.

The National Center For Public Policy Research has accused the EPA of misleading the public with claims that it had worked with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in determining the impact of its new regulations on the reliability of the nation’s electricity capacity.

The FERC chairman revealed that  a formal assessment was never done by the EPA to assess the impact of its regulations on the ability of the power grid to reliably deliver electricity to the nation’s homes and businesses.  As such the chairman deplored the EPA’s zeal to regulate without regard to the consequences of its actions, which could affect the reliability of this nation’s electricity supply.

Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project had these strong words to say: “Congress must step in and get control of the EPA which is operating under its own rules with arrogant disregard of Congressional oversight and the interests of the American people.”

Also a matter of common sense is that by removing a significant amount of affordable electricity from the power grid, it will have an impact on this nation’s economy.  At a time when this nation’s economy is faltering, the last thing the American people need are power outrages and skyrocketing utility bill because of a rogue EPA agency.

Outside of Nuclear power, which is clean, green, cheap, safe and reliable, the advantage of coal is that it is cheap, abundant and available domestically.  It is estimated that this nation has coal reserves capable of meeting current demand for more than 200 years.  Already mentioned was the abundance of coal Illinois has at its disposal.

Because the EPA focuses on the possible health benefits of its regulations, it does not weigh in on the impact on jobs.  The National Economic Research Associates estimates that the new EPA cross-state rule will result in an employment loss of 1.4 million jobs by 2020.  Many of them will be in Illinois.

In states like Illinois who rely on coal for electricity, electricity prices will increase immediately and may rise by 17% by 2016.

Of concern to many power companies is that the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, and which deals with the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, will cost an estimated $130 billion by 2015.

Because of its speed of implementation, utility companies are complaining that adequate time was not allowed for the installation of cleaner coal technologies and other efficiencies.  Many utilities have already indicated that they will be closing their coal-powered power plants because of the compliance costs of meeting the EPA’s new air emissions standards.

Regarding the grave concerns expressed by the EPA and others over the health hazards of coal-fired plants, are not poverty and joblessness also health hazards with their own health risks?

Energy security should be a top concern of the Obama administration, along with the ramifications caused by the absence of a sound energy policy. Illinois, with its massive and unsustainable debt level, cannot afford more job losses or an increase in electricity costs.  Illinoisans are already hurting, not unlike the rest of the nation in these difficult economic times.

And why should Illinoisans pay more for electricity just because the EPA is playing bureaucratic games while putting this nation’s economy at even a greater risk?  Higher electricity rates would limit what Illinoisans have available to spend on other goods and services.

Illinois is blessed with huge coal resources to supply its energy needs far into the future.

As I stated in my opening sentence:  “If electricity in Illinois is not supplied by coal, and not by Nuclear, then by what? Surely not by solar and wind power!

It should concern all Illinoisans that the state is losing forever Zion’s massive 2,100 Megawatts of energy through its decommissioning by ZionSolution. Troubling is that its premature shutting down in 1998 was never fully explained or justified by its owner, Exelon Corporation of Chicago.

Hopefully Congress can get control of the rogue EPA before it drives this nation’s economy off the cliff.

 

On Friday, August 19, Arnie Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education and Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools prior to his Cabinet appointment by President Obama, told Bloomberg Television’s Al Hunt that the Texas school system “has really struggled” under Rick Perry (Governor of Texas since December of 2000) and the states’ substandard schools do a disservice to children.

Secretary Duncan went on to tell Al Hunt, “Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college. I feel very, very badly for the children there.”

Coming on the heels of Rick Perry’s formal entrance on August 13 into the field of Republican 2012 presidential candidates, followed by Perry’s much criticized statement by the media of August 15 in which Perry called “almost treasonous” should Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke increase stimulus spending before the election, it is not unreasonable to peg Arnie Duncan as a surrogate of President Obama to discredit Texas Governor Perry.

Might President Obama likewise harbor negative feelings toward Governor Perry as Perry was an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s education policies?

Perry declined to participate in Obama’s Race to the Top Initiative that awards federal grants in exchange for adopting national standards, saying it “smacks of a federal takeover of public schools” and that participating “could very well lead to the dumbing down” of the rigorous standards we’ve worked so hard to enact. Calling Arnie Duncan a “true bureaucrat” further didn’t win any Governor Perry any brownie points with Duncan.

The day after Arne Duncan’s remarks disparaging Governor Perry’s Texas education system, Andrew J. Rotherham, a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a nonprofit working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students, had this to say in his education column for TIME.com in response to facts obtained from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP):

“Texas’ fourth and eighth-graders substantially outperformed their peers in Chicago in reading and math on the NAEP. I would have to look at all the details, but there are real challenges in Texas. And like every other state, they should be addressed openly and honestly as in Illinois, as in Chicago, and everywhere else.”

Rotherham went on to say:

“So why is Duncan dissing the Long Star State? And according to an Aug. 17 report by the group that administers the ACT college-admissions exam, Texas high school graduates only narrowly trail national averages for college readiness. True, the national averages aren’t great, but Texas is right there with the pack. Its minority students outperform minority students in Chicago, albeit by smaller margins. And with a high school graduation rate of about 73%, Texas may be slightly below the national average, but it’s doing a lot greater than Chicago, which only graduates about 56% of its students.”

“Education Week” of September 2009 recognized Texas as a national leader in adopting college and career ready standards that will assure that Texas students graduate prepared to succeed in college and the workplace.

Arnie Duncan had better remove the speck from his own eye that is preventing him from seeing the deplorable state of Chicago’s Public School System under his failed leadership, before he dares to cast another stone in a nasty political ploy to sully a candidate who has great potential and who represents a threat to the one he serves, President Obama’s re-election.

Governor Perry, however, as the longest serving governor in Texas history, isn’t only being marginalized from the Left as he seeks to position himself as the Republican presidential candidate in 2012. Perry, an uncompromising conservative who is now leading the Republican field in some polls, is already transforming the race.

As reported by Toby Harnden’s “American Way” column published in the Sunday Telegraph on August 20, “Under the guise of ensuring Republicans don’t choose a candidate too extreme for the general election, Mr. Rove, as a former erstwhile hate figure on the Left, has been welcomed back into the Left’s polite society with murmurs of his wisdom and moderation.”

In conclusion Mr. Harnden writes: “The Texan governor’s rough edges or some other factor may yet be his downfall. But the approach of the Perry posse signals not just a threat to Obama’s White House but also to the Republican ranch that Karl Rove built for George W. Bush.”

Returning to the education issue, in regard to Governor Perry and the Texas educational system, although schools in Texas are no great shakes, they’re hardly the nation’s worst!

Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has cancelled the deportation of illegal aliens in response to Obama’s executive order (fiat) issued on Thursday, August 18, which is akin to the Dream Act Congress was unable to pass and have signed into law, while the EPA is ordering more stringent regulations on coal-producing companies that will have the effect of shutting down plants and a respective price increase.

Meanwhile, the Obamas are vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard staying at an expensive estate and living the lifestyle of the rich and famous while hobnobbing with the same, while regular Americans are suffering in a down economy which some financial analysts are predicting will result in an even deeper recession.

When taking into consideration the many failed policies President Obama has so far been able to impose upon the American people through the blessings of Congress, like ObamaCare, and Obama’s failure or unwillingness to understand policies implemented in past administrations which would actually stimulate the economy and create jobs, it would not be untold to ask this question: Is Obama trying a fast-track on destroying this nation’s economy in case he doesn’t get re-elected next year?

As a confirmed Leftist — even a Marxist, if political correctness would not have it otherwise for one who seems determined to spread the wealth around! — President Obama has displayed, through rhetoric, his detest for capitalism and, as an arrogant narcissist, he cannot stand the criticism now coming from Republicans and many of his fellow liberals in Congress and the news media.

Might it be that George Soros periodically issues Obama his marching orders, after which Obama instructs his minions in the Cabinet — Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security; Kathleen Sibelius, Department of Health and Human Services; Timothy Geithner, Department of the Treasury; Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Justice; and Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency — to enact policies and methods which Congress need not approve, and which, because of their unworkable and radical rules and regulations, are destined to destroy the fabric of this nation in short order both economically and ethically.

In so much as Obama’s Leftist philosophy is being established through proxy by his dedicated and cooperative Cabinet minions, Obama and Michele and family are free to relax and have fun enjoying the high life, seemingly without guilt or regret, at taxpayers’ expense.

Could it be that Obama and Michele are inwardly laughing at “We The People?”, keeping in mind that the Obamas are not normal Americans. Both remain frustrated, angry and envious individuals who from time to time allow inklings of behavior to surface that seem to be at odds with love of country.

As such the frivolous and care-free lifestyle often displayed by President Obama and his wife might represent revenge against “Whites” who have in the past kept them from enjoying “a piece of the pie”? Now they can have it all because Affirmative Action has decided that they deserve it.

Just how might George Soros be tied to President Barack Obama? In a post at Human Events on November 5, 2008, Rowan Scarborough wrote the following: “No man has a larger stake in President Barack Obama’s administration than ultra-liberal billionaire George Soros.”

Soros channeled tens of millions of dollar — funded by a fortune of $7 billion he amassed through rampant speculation on world currencies — into such groups as Moveon.org and the Center for American Progress, in an attempt to destroy the Republican Party and the conservative movement while promoting the wish list of the political Left, the Democratic Party and its candidates.

According to Scarborough: “He (Obama) may rightly claim any Democrat victory as his own on Election Day 2008 and expect President Obama to adopt the Soros American vision.”

George Soros has repeatedly and explicitly condemned the United States and its capitalist ideology as a threat to world peace. Such an attitude must surely set off alarm bells as to how Obama seems to view the place of this nation on the world stage?

Soros likewise wants to destroy America’s economy; keep us from producing energy; have open borders; government-run health care; a secular society; abortion on demand; legalize drugs, take away guns, etc. Sound familiar?

Just a cursory read of the above Soros goals for the U.S. will indicate that President Obama is making excellent progress in installing the type of Soros-on-demand government envisioned by Soros even during the first George W. Bush administration, when Soros likened Bush to Hitler with claims that Bush’s war against radical Islamic terrorists was standing in the way of funding the scores of leftist positions he favored.

Perhaps Richard Lawrence Poe, co-author with David Horowitz of “The Shadow Party,” said it best when he told Human Events: “He (Soros) created Obama. An Obama presidency will be a Soros presidency.”

It would not be out-of-line to suggest that the “Fast and Furious” operation was meant to discredit gun shop owners and close them down, but instead it backfired on the Obama administration. Hopefully Senators Grassley and Issa will persist with their investigation.

Some people have called for the impeachment of Obama, but how long would that take? In addition, if impeached by the House, the Senate would never vote for conviction.

Republicans are hoping to change this nation’s path toward Armageddon with the 2012 Elections, but will it already be too late to save this country? Can the next President, even a Republican, do anything to reverse the course of this nation?

If America does go belly up because of its unsustainable debt and the unwillingness of legislators to drastically slash a $4 trillion annual budget down to $2 trillion — as suggested by Mark Steyn in order to portray a serious effort to the world to balance this nation’s budget — who will bail out America?

Certainly not Europe who was brought to its knees financially after WWII. It was this nation and its financial wherewith all that helped Europe recover from what had been some of its darkest days ever.

What would a world without American leadership look like? I recommend reading Mark Steyn’s recently published book, After America: Get Ready For Armageddon. I did.

Steyn’s book presents an alarming and frightening prophecy of where this nation is headed. He recommends drastic measures that must be taken if this nation is to avoid facing economic and cultural Armageddon.

One thing is certain; this nation cannot continue to embrace the same doomed policies that have resulted in Europe’s present economic and cultural decline.

Hopefully American has not already caught up with Europe on its rush to self-destruction.

How sad and unnecessary it would be if this once great nation, with so much promise when founded, became impotent just like Europe, all because present day leaders placed their faith in Europe instead of in the greatness of America and the ingenuity of its people to invent and to create jobs through the free enterprise system without unnecessary and unreasonable dictates and restriction imposed by government.


I found much common sense expressed in your editorial of Saturday, August 12, Prevention’s costs, as  the fallacy of preventive medicine was often a topic of conversation with my late physician husband and now with my physician stepson and step daughter-in-law.

Your editorial conclusion assumed correctly that the widespread use of preventive services tends to exceed the savings from averting illness, costing society money they would not have spent otherwise.

How can this be?

Under the assumption that prevention care will not only make Americans healthier, but it likewise will save money, fairy-like dust was sprinkled on the individual mandate preventive services section of the health care reform bill, even though it is well documented that many diseases can be traced to the accidents of ones gene pool (heredity).

It might be true that dealing with a medical situation early on generally reduces the cost later on, but since it is impossible to know in advance which patients are going to develop costly illnesses such as heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and diabetes, to avert even one case many individuals would need to be screened through the mandated preventive services under ObamaCare, most of whom would never have suffered that illness anyway.

Preventive care can increase health and happiness, but it is not a cost-saving measure.

Even though widely advertised as such, preventive care is not healing on the cheap or the magic bullet to either lower or to contain health-care costs when Obamacare take effect in 2013.

Common sense should dictate that sensible eating, not smoking, refraining from drinking an excess of alcohol and exercise will contribute more to ones health and well-being than any mandated screening test, and it doesn’t even require a trip to the doctor’s office!

 President Obama and his administration shot all their existing arrows from their political and economic policy quiver over the past two years to jump-start this nation’s economy, yet none of their policies worked to stave off the debt-ceiling crisis.

 

Even the upscale communities of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff in northern Illinois are being affected by the economic down turn affecting communities, not only here in Illinois, but all across this nation.

 

It stands to reason that if upscale communities are experiencing negative economic reactions, less affluent communities must be suffering even more.

 

Unfortunately President Obama, instead of dealing with the dreadful economic situation as is demanded of him as president — according to the latest Gallop Poll, only 26% of Americans agree with Obama about his handling of the economy — he is off on a 10-day vacation in the wealthy conclave of Martha’s Vineyard, with a promise to unveil his plan to jump start the economy upon his return to the White House.

 

While Obama lives a life of luxury subsidized by taxpayers, he continues to condemn those who pay themselves for the luxuries they enjoy.

 

Living in Lake Bluff, I decided to investigate the impact of the continued excessive spending at the national level in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. Has the lowering of this nation’s credit rating by Standard and Poor from AAA to Aa+ affected the credit ratings for the Village of Lake Bluff and the City of Lake Forest?

 

In speaking with Susan M. Griffin, Director of Finance for the Village of Lake Bluff, I was informed that Lake Bluff’s present credit rating of Aa1 for all of its debt was set by Moody’s Investor’s Services in July 2006. Griffin also informed me that Lake Bluff’s Moody credit rating of Aa1 is one step down from the best, which is a triple AAA rating. As such Lake Bluff has the same rating as our nation’s credit rating.

 

According to Griffin, what happened at the national level won’t affect Lake Bluff in the here and now. Ms. Griffin hopes Lake Bluff will keep its Aa1 rating as the Village is not looking to issue any bonds in the near future.

 

Lake Forest has an AAA rating, although Mayor James Cowley, Jr. harbors some concern that Lake Forest could lose its rating stemming from a comment made by Standard & Poor that, although it expects that many who presently have an AAA rating would be able to retain it, there could be potential changes with some of the obligates. Lake Forest is considering refinancing its debt to take advantage of the recent decision by the Federal Reserve Bank to keep interest rates low for another two years.

 

I decided to look into their recent budgets. Unlike what is happening at the national level where government is spending too much, are the governments here in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff being good stewards of taxpayer monies?

 

I found that Lake Bluff’s budget for 2010-2011 was less than its budget of the previous year. In 2009-2010 Lake Bluff’s budget was set at $14.2 million for the Village and Library, while its annual budget from May 1, 2010 to April 30, 2011 came to $13.6 million.

In checking how the budgets in Lake Forest had fared, I found that its Annual Operating and Capital Budget for May 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010 totaled $82.9 million. In fiscal year 2011, Lake Forest’s Annual Operating and Capital Budget totaled $91.8 million. But the current fiscal year 2012 budget is down to about $75 million. All three budgets were balanced.

 

Obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests were somewhat disturbing reports about the compensations being received by the city managers of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. Being a Lake Bluffer, I was especially interested in what seems like an overly generous compensation for Lake Bluff’s village manager, but it’s up to residents of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest to consider what is an appropriate compensation for their city manager as their taxes are involved.

 

The compensation for Lake Bluff’s village manager includes: Starting salary of $142,000; $10,000 allowance for reimbursement of moving expenses; $10,000 deferred compensation; $4,800 auto allowance; life insurance policy valued at approximately $462,300; and $200,000 interest-free loan towards the purchase of a new home.

Here are some statistics for Lake Forest: Salary $175,860 in 2010; 100 percent health/dental/life; $84,000 home loan/no interest.

 

I decided to venture out into Lake Bluff and Lake Forest to hear first-hand how small businesses were faring in this down economy.

 

I made stops at five small businesses, all members of the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce. I was not surprised at what their shop owners and those in charge shared with me.

Peg Gronau, owner with husband Kurt of Peg Ann Kompany at 79 E. Scranton Avenue in Lake Bluff, was not shy in telling me that “people are watching what they are spending. They are being careful watching their pennies.”

 

It was David Lee, owner of the Clockworks at 34 E. Center Street in Lake Bluff, whose insightful explanation pointed to the failure of a federal policy. As a matter of background, President Obama passed a $831 billion stimulus bill in February, 2009 as a means to jump-start the economy.

 

According to David Lee, “People are not stupid. They are not spending more money before they are comfortable. The economic stimulus money has never gotten down to small businesses. It is sitting in the pockets of large businesses and banks who received it. They are not spending it or lending it out, but it is being used to fix their balance sheets.”

 

Emporium Luggage, located at 662 N. Western Avenue in Lake Forest, is a poignant sign of the faltering local economy, although Emporium Luggage is but the most recent small business to close its doors in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.

 

I spoke with Ingrid Schubert who informed me that the decision to close Emporium Luggage was an “economic” one. Ms. Schubert went on to say that “We are sorry to leave. We had a good relationship here in Lake Forest and we just had to go. We thank everyone for their patronage over the years.”

 

It was time to check with small business owners who sell and/or serve food.

I caught Douglas Karnazes, owner of Bluffington’s at 113 E. Scranton in Lake Bluff, at a most inopportune time when he was busy filling lunchtime orders. Even so Douglas replied: “I’ve noticed a little down turn but not all that much. I realize people have less money to spend, and I do appreciate those who support my business.”

 

Kristi Loucks of Wildflour Bakery & Cafe, in business with Ann Sorlie-Fisher for a little over two years and located at 14 East Scranton Ave. in Lake Bluff, told me, “Business is pretty much the same despite periodic seasonal drops. Every body needs to eat. Shoppers do watch their pennies even when the economy is good.” I find that a good pastry, especially a chocolate-based one, ranks high and is an inexpensive way to lift my spirits or to celebrate a job well done.

 

Given my somewhat dismal report of how Lake Forest and Lake Bluff businesses and residents are weathering uncertainty, it seems reasonable to conclude that it might take until after the 2012 elections until policies can be enacted which will at least start communities here in Illinois and throughout this nation on a road back to financial responsibility and solvency, which will accordingly result in a positive economic up tick for Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.

 

Hopefully by then it isn’t too late to right this nation from financial Armageddon.

“Will Lake Forest, Lake Bluff  hold up amid national economic turmoil?”  (Published in Pioneer Press/Lake Forester on Thursday, August 18, 2011)

President Obama and his administration shot all their existing arrows from their political and economic policy quiver over the past two years to jump-start this nation’s economy, yet none of their policies worked to stave off the debt-ceiling crisis.

What are the ramifications of the continued excessive spending at the national level for Lake Forest and Lake Bluff? How will the lowering of this nation’s credit rating by Standard and Poor from AAA to Aa+ affect the credit ratings for the Village of Lake Bluff and the City of Lake Forest?

In speaking with Susan M. Griffin, Director of Finance for the Village of Lake Bluff, I was informed that Lake Bluff’s present credit rating of Aa1 for all of its debt was set by Moody’s Investor’s Services in July 2006. Griffin also informed me that Lake Bluff’s Moody credit rating of Aa1 is one step down from the best, which is a triple AAA rating. As such Lake Bluff has the same rating as our nation’s credit rating.

According to Griffin, what happened at the national level won’t affect Lake Bluff in the here and now. Ms. Griffin hopes Lake Bluff will keep its Aa1 rating as the Village is not looking to issue any bonds in the near future.

Lake Forest has an AAA rating, although Mayor James Cowley, Jr. harbors some concern that Lake Forest could lose its rating stemming from a comment made by Standard & Poor that, although it expects that many who presently have an AAA rating would be able to retain it, there could be potential changes with some of the obligates. Lake Forest is considering refinancing its debt to take advantage of the recent decision by the Federal Reserve Bank to keep interest rates low for another two years.

I decided to look into their recent budgets. Unlike what is happening at the national level where government is spending too much, are the governments here in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff being good stewards of taxpayer monies?

I found that Lake Bluff’s budget for 2010-2011 was less than its budget of the previous year. In 2009-2010 Lake Bluff’s budget was set at $14.2 million for the Village and Library, while its annual budget from May 1, 2010 to April 30, 2011 came to $13.6 million.

In checking how the budgets in Lake Forest had fared, I found that its Annual Operating and Capital Budget for May 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010 totaled $82.9 million. In fiscal year 2011, Lake Forest’s Annual Operating and Capital Budget totaled $91.8 million. But the current fiscal year 2012 budget is down to about $75 million. All three budgets were balanced.

Obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests were somewhat disturbing reports about the compensations being received by the city managers of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. Being a Lake Bluffer, I was especially interested in what seems like an overly generous compensation for Lake Bluff’s village manager, but it’s up to residents of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest to consider what is an appropriate compensation for their city manager as their taxes are involved.

The compensation for Lake Bluff’s village manager includes: Starting salary of $142,000; $10,000 allowance for reimbursement of moving expenses; $10,000 deferred compensation; $4,800 auto allowance; life insurance policy valued at approximately $462,300; and $200,000 interest-free loan towards the purchase of a new home.

Here are some statistics for Lake Forest: Salary $175,860 in 2010; 100 percent health/dental/life; $84,000 home loan/no interest.

I decided to venture out into Lake Bluff and Lake Forest to hear first-hand how small businesses were faring in this down economy.

I made stops at five small businesses, all members of the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce. I was not surprised at what their shop owners and those in charge shared with me.

Peg Gronau, owner with husband Kurt of Peg Ann Kompany at 79 E. Scranton Avenue in Lake Bluff, was not shy in telling me that “people are watching what they are spending. They are being careful watching their pennies.”

It was David Lee, owner of the Clockworks at 34 E. Center Street in Lake Bluff, whose insightful explanation pointed to the failure of a federal policy. As a matter of background, President Obama passed a $831 billion stimulus bill in February, 2009 as a means to jump-start the economy.

According to David Lee, “People are not stupid. They are not spending more money before they are comfortable. The economic stimulus money has never gotten down to small businesses. It is sitting in the pockets of large businesses and banks who received it. They are not spending it or lending it out, but it is being used to fix their balance sheets.”

Emporium Luggage, located at 662 N. Western Avenue in Lake Forest, is a poignant sign of the faltering local economy, although Emporium Luggage is but the most recent small business to close its doors in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.

I spoke with Ingrid Schubert who informed me that the decision to close Emporium Luggage was an “economic” one. Ms. Schubert went on to say that “We are sorry to leave. We had a good relationship here in Lake Forest and we just had to go. We thank everyone for their patronage over the years.”

It was time to check with small business owners who sell and/or serve food.

I caught Douglas Karnazes, owner of Bluffington’s at 113 E. Scranton in Lake Bluff, at a most inopportune time when he was busy filling lunchtime orders. Even so Douglas replied: “I’ve noticed a little down turn but not all that much. I realize people have less money to spend, and I do appreciate those who support my business.”

Kristi Loucks of Wildflour Bakery & Cafe, in business with Ann Sorlie-Fisher for a little over two years and located at 14 East Scranton Ave. in Lake Bluff, told me, “Business is pretty much the same despite periodic seasonal drops. Every body needs to eat. Shoppers do watch their pennies even when the economy is good.” I find that a good pastry, especially a chocolate-based one, ranks high and is an inexpensive way to lift my spirits or to celebrate a job well done.

Given my somewhat dismal report of how Lake Forest and Lake Bluff businesses and residents are weathering uncertainty, it seems reasonable to conclude that it might take until after the 2012 elections until policies can be enacted which will at least start this nation on a road back to financial

Update:  One-woman crusade to save Zion Nuclear Power Station heads to court

by on August 15, 2011 in Aging nuclear, Nuclear Cost Data, Politics of Nuclear Energy

From Nancy Thorner:  This is an important lawsuit, whose resolution will have broad implications over how the trust funds set up will be handled when its time to decommission the other nuclear plants owned and operated by Exelon here in Illinois.
Sincerely,

It has been several months since I last reported on the efforts of Nancy Thorner, the Illinois resident who has been working diligently for several years to encourage Exelon to reconsider its 1998 decision to shut down the 22 year old (at the time) Zion nuclear power station. You can find links to previous articles about this situation below, but the basic story is as follows:

In the mid 1990s, Commonwealth Edison, the monopoly electric utility that built and operated many of the nuclear plants that are now owned and operated by Exelon as a merchant plant operator, was having difficulty managing and maintaining its nuclear plants. They were achieving low capacity factors, appearing on Nuclear Regulatory Commission watch lists, and suffering from power struggles between labor unions and management.

 

Zion, like many of the other Commonwealth Edison units, had issues that culminated in a group of operators resisting management orders and taking off their shirts in the control room. There were some other complicating circumstances, but the bottom line was that the company shut down both units of the plant and decided to keep them shut down. The decision allowed the company to fire or reassign the recalcitrant union members and to establish a more powerful position over the behavior of employees. At the time, replacement power was cheap since natural gas was selling for less than $2.00 per million BTU and since the midwest was shedding much of its manufacturing base, reducing the overall electricity demand.

 

Nancy became interested in the situation several years ago after hearing a talk given by David Hollein, a key member of the Westinghouse technical support team for Zion. David had already been campaigning for years to tell people that there was nothing technically wrong with the facility; it could be profitably operated with the same kind of management and operational attention that Oliver Kingsley brought to the rest of the Commonwealth Edison fleet soon after Zion was initially shut down.

Nancy’s efforts have been aimed at trying to convince Exelon that times have changed and that a 2,200 MWe emission-free nuclear power station that is already complete would be worth fixing up, even if it costs a couple of billion dollars to get the license restored. (TVA has already restored a long shutdown Browns Ferry to operation, has invested billions into completing the suspended Watts Bar II project and is now considering an effort to complete at least one of the units at the long suspended Bellefonte project site.)

 

Recently, Nancy has decided to take a new tack. She is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against ZionSolutions, the company that currently holds the possession only license for Zion. What Nancy and her attorney, Daniel Sponseller, have found is that there is currently no government agency (local, state or federal) that is watching the financial aspects of the decommissioning process or monitoring the decommissioning fund that was filled by charging electricity company ratepayers for the “stranded costs” that Exelon assumed when it took ownership of the nuclear plants that the ratepayers had purchased for Commonwealth Edison under the old monopoly utility construct.

 

After investigating the situation carefully, Nancy and the other plaintiffs to the suit developed significant concerns that the decommissioning fund will be completely drained, with no money left to return to ratepayers, even if the actual cost of the decommissioning is hundreds of millions less than initially estimated. She is concerned that the companies involved will simply inflate their bills, attribute unrelated expenses, and assert outsized profit margins that will combine to make the vanishing act seem legitimate.

On July 14, 2011, Dan Sponseller filed a lawsuit against ZionSolutions, the limited liability company set up by EnergySolutions to handle the Zion decommissioning project.

 

For several weeks after the lawsuit was filed, there was a complete silence in the news media. Perhaps that was partially caused by the fact that Exelon was not named in the suit; it no longer officially owns the Zion nuclear station. Instead, the corporation named in the suit was ZionSolutions, a limited liability company that did not exist before the project and will not exist after the project is completed.

 

There was no reporting from outlets that might be interested in the precedence that would be set regarding the proper handling and oversight of decommissioning funds for the rest of the nuclear power plant fleet. Even I dropped the ball and neglected to provide a timely update on the situation.

 

However, a couple of enterprising reporters have become intrigued by the implications of the story. The first one who broke the story was Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun. He became interested because Exelon recently made a bid to purchase Constellation Energy, the largest corporation with headquarters in Baltimore. Jay’s story appeared in the Sun’s August 6, 2011 edition with the headline of Customers protest fund switch by Constellation suitor Exelon.

 

Baltimore residents and political leaders are nervous about what might happen if the proposed sale of Constellation completed. The company and its predecessor, Baltimore Gas and Electric (BG&E), have been the source of important support for community activities and cultural organizations for decades. Jay’s article included some strong questioning of the situation, with quotes like the following:

Who’s protecting consumers’ interest in the trust fund now?

Not us, says the Illinois Commerce Commission.

“I don’t think we have any jurisdiction at all,” said ICC spokeswoman Beth Bosch. “All those plants were spun off to an Exelon affiliate” after deregulation, she added, which put them beyond the ICC’s reach. “And I don’t know that we’re even monitoring that case.”

Not us, says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“From our standpoint, the fund is there to clean up the site and that is what is being done,” said NRC spokesman Scott Burnell. “When you start slicing up the pie and figuring out where the money goes, that starts to go outside our jurisdiction.”

Not us, says BNY Mellon, which became trustee for the decommissioning fund when EnergySolutions took over. The trust agreement says BNY has “no duty to inquire into the correctness or accuracy” of EnergySolutions’ requests for money from the fund.

Electricity deregulation in the late 1990s and early 2000s allowed valuable assets in many states to slip from the control of utility commissions into private hands.

As part of her campaign to save Zion, Nancy has developed good relations with local press outlets, so after Jay’s story appeared in the Baltimore Sun, she was able to get a lengthy commentary published in the Champion News titled ZionSolutions scrutinized for its handling of a trust fund to decommission the Zion Dual Nuclear Plant.

Jay Hancock’s investigation at the Baltimore Sun found that there is simply no one protecting the ratepayers’ statutory residual interests in the trust funds — all of which they paid over several years — which is one of the main reasons the lawsuit was brought.

The Baltimore Sun is a sister publication of the Chicago Tribune, yet it took the investigative skills of Baltimore Sun business reporter, Jay Hancock, to realize the story value of the lawsuit filed on July 14th questioning how the decommissioning fund is being handed by Zion Solutions.

Its mother paper, the Tribune, has never taken Chicago’s Exelon Corporation to task for its initial closing of the Zion Dual Nuclear Plant in 1998 and now the questionable handling of the decommissioning fund by ZionSolutions.

Other Chicago area newspapers have likewise been derelict in finding any fault or irregularities over the way The Zion Station was closed in 1998 and kept closed, for reasons never fully accounted for by Exelon Corporation, until Exelon handed the Dual Zion Nuclear Plant and its trust fund over to ZionSolution for decommissioning in September of 2011.

Though this will probably never be admitted by the big city newspaper, that column in Champion News seems to have had the effect of a wake up call for the Chicago Tribune. On Wednesday, August 10, 2011, the Tribune’s Julie Wernau picked up the story with her report titled Lawsuit filed over Zion plant decommissioning. Here is a quote from her article that describes the precedent-setting nature of the lawsuit:

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by a group of local citizens, asks that a court-appointed third party manage the trust fund, which Commonwealth Edison customers paid into from 1998 to 2006.

“No qualified person or entity has been appointed to act as a trustee with respect to the trust funds to fully protect the rights of ComEd’s customers … or to review the withdrawals,” the suit asserts.

The case could be significant because determining how decommissioning costs are handled could set a precedent for other Illinois nuclear reactors that ultimately are mothballed. Each plant has a similar decommissioning fund that in total amounts to $4 billion—money paid by Illinois consumers.

In previous articles, I have described how Exelon determined that keeping the power that Zion could be suppling out of the “competitive” market was more valuable to the company than the revenue that the company would receive by selling the power. That slightly illogical construct works because limiting the available supply of electricity drives up the price at which the other 17 units in the Exelon fleet can sell their power. I have only recently begun to understand the scale of the money that is in play inside of the decommissioning funds and the lack of oversight regarding how those funds are expended in a “deregulated” market. Knowing a little about how invoices and payment systems work, it is easy to see the opportunity for some significant diversion of funds into the pockets of key individuals.

 

It will be interesting to see how the courts respond.

(1990 articles)

Pro-nuclear advocate with small nuclear plant operating and design experience. Former submarine Engineer Officer. Founder, Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. Host and producer, The A


 

On August 5, Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating from a sterling AAA to an AA+.

States were assured a few days later that the nation’s credit problems would not likely lower state credit ratings, yet Moody’s Financial Services issued a warning to Illinois on Wednesday, August 10 that the state could face a possible downgrade.

This warning came about for Illinois after Moody’s Investment Service implemented a major change in the way it would calculate state’s credit ratings.  According to the News & Blog report by the Illinois Policy Institute dated August 11, “Moody’s will now factor in a state’s unfunded pension liability, along with the traditional net tax-supported debt, when determining a state’s credit rating.”

This new rating change by Moody will reveal a significantly higher debt burden for Illinois than is commonly accepted by Illinois lawmakers, taxpayers and service recipients.

According to Moody’s, “The Illinois fiscal 2012 budget doesn’t address the state’s sizable backlog of unpaid bills and an unsustainable ascent in spending for pension benefits.”  Moody’s report also suggested that tax increases were only a short-term solution, leaving the state with a significant funding burden to meet its unfunded pension liability of about $80 billion, with the likelihood that late payments to vendors would continue.

The Illinois Policy Institute has calculated that Illinois has an unfunded pension liability nearly five times higher than in neighboring states and over three times as high as the national average of 3.27 percent, amounting to 9.90% percent of its GDP in 2009.

The state of Illinois has a right to be concerned.  A credit rating is an opinion about the ability of a debtor to meet its financial obligations (Standard and Poor and Moody’s Financial Services, the two largest companies along with Fitch, use rating systems which are comparable.). Standard and Poor’s long-term debt ratings range from AAA to D.  Ratings from AA to CCC may be modified by the addition of a plus or a minus sign. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bond_credit_rating

Maryland, South Carolina, New Mexico, Tennessee and Virginia remain under review by Moody’s for possible downgrading, but Illinois, because of the magnitude of is debt obligation, remains more vulnerable.

Just how does Illinois rank in state credit ratings?

Thirteen states have the highest possible rating of Aaa: Alaska, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

Ten other states, plus the District of Columbia, have the Aa2 rating: Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

It is not surprising that the state with the lowest rating is Illinois, which has a rating of A1 with a negative outlook. California also has a rating of A1, but with a stable outlook. New Jersey is third-worst state with a Aa3 rating.

Should Moody’s further downgrade Illinois’s credit rating, the Illinois Policy predicts that “Illinois tax-payers would have to pay higher interest rates for all state debts, including bonds issued, which ultimately would mean higher interest.  In the end taxpayers would be forced to contend with reduced services, such as inadequate road maintenance or reductions in aid to the poor) due to the crowding-out of services created by higher interest rates.”

This is not a pretty picture faced by Illinoisans, but in a state where one party rules, the responsibility to tackle the existing acute economic situation rests with the legislators and party leaders who have created the financial mess through their propensity to spend like there were no tomorrows.

The status quo can’t continue.  Failed legislative policies have created the financial Armageddon facing Illinois, but can they be trusted to do what it would take to fix it?

Might it be possible for Illinois voters to finally wake up in the 2012 election cycle to elect those who believe in less spending and smaller government, thus setting the stage for a gradual recovery in a state with great potential, and given sound economic policies, to rise to the top of the pack, instead of its current position of bringing up the rear?  I remain hopeful but doubtful at the same time.

As a Lake Bluffer, there was no way I was going to miss the Lake Forest Day Parade whose theme honored the Sesquicentennial anniversary of the founding of Lake Forest in 1861: “Time to Celebrate Lake Forest’s Sesquicentennial”.

Congratulations to the Lake Forest American Legion Post 264 for taking the reigns since 1921 in organizing what has become a much anticipated annual event in Lake Forest, Lake Forest Day, now celebrating its 103rd year.

As in past years Lake Forest Day, always celebrated on the first Wednesday in August, fell this year on August 3rd.

Through my photo gallery a narrative about Lake Forest Day will unfold. My photos represent a good cross section of the 104 entries in the 2011 Sesquicentennial Lake Forest Day Parade.

Congratulation, Lake Forest, as you continue to celebrate your 150th anniversary year in a grand style.

Picture Gallery posted at the TribLocal of Lake Forest Day Parade  – 20 photos with captions:

http://triblocal.com/lake-forest/community/galleries/2011/08/lake-forest-day-sesquicentennial-parade-the-best-ever/