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House hearing Thursday to focus on how parents are exploiting financial aid loophole

House hearing Thursday to focus on how parents are exploiting financial aid loophole

Two Illinois House committees will hold a joint hearing today in Chicago on the subject of wealthy parents who put their teenage children into guardianship to qualify for financial aid. It remains to be seen whether any of the attorneys or parents involved in that practice will show up to testify.

But even if they don’t, Rep. LaShawn Ford, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the House committee that deals with funding higher education, said he hopes the hearing itself will deter other parents from trying to exploit the system.


“Bringing awareness to the issue should deter it in a big way,” Ford said Wednesday.

The issue came to light in a story published July 29 by the nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica Illinois.

Reporters had found dozens of cases of parents in Lake County who had petitioned a court to place their children in the custody of guardians — often a family friend or relative — so their children could declare themselves financially independent and thereby qualify for student financial aid, including grants from the state’s Monetary Award Program grants.

Ford said he and other lawmakers had consulted with attorneys who advised them there was nothing illegal about the practice. But he said it raises a number of “moral” issues because the MAP program has limited funding available, and typically as many as 80,000 applicants per year are denied grants because there is not enough funding to go around.

“I think the families may not understand the harm that they’re doing,” Ford said. “I don’t know if they morally knew that they were robbing another student of the opportunity to go to college.”


Ford’s committee will meet jointly with the House Higher Education Committee in a hearing set to begin at 10 a.m. in the Michael A. Bilandic Building in Chicago.

According to an agenda that Ford provided, the hearing will involve four panels representing the University of Illinois, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, other public universities and the Partnership for College Completion.

Ford said the committees had considered issuing subpoenas for representatives from law firms involved in the guardianship arrangements, as well as parents who had taken advantage of the process. But he said that process would have taken considerable time, so the committees instead invited those people to testify. As of Wednesday afternoon, he said, none had said they would attend.

Published at Wed, 07 Aug 2019 22:56:21 +0000

‘Feeding frenzy’ makes Illinois fair favorites affordable

‘Feeding frenzy’ makes Illinois fair favorites affordable

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois State Fair will offer daily discounts on fair-food favorites this year with its “feeding frenzy.”

Dozens of food vendors will participate by dropping prices on vinegar fries, cheese curds, lemon shake-up drinks and more from 2 to 5 p.m. each day of the fair.


The state fair runs from Aug. 8-18.

Kevin Gordon is Illinois State Fair manager. He says the fair should be “affordable and accessible to everyone.” He says the promotion should alleviate costs for customers and increase business for vendors.

Fairgoers will be alerted to the day’s feeding frenzy 15 minutes before it starts with the theme from the hit 1970s shark-attack movie “Jaws” playing over the loud speaker.

Face-stuffing time will end 15 minutes after the theme song plays again.

Published at Tue, 06 Aug 2019 08:47:00 +0000

After years of inattention, state parks getting maintenance

After years of inattention, state parks getting maintenance

DIXON SPRINGS, Ill. — Parks around Illinois are seeing a flurry of maintenance activity after years of inattention due to a state budget standoff.

An indication of the sprucing up of Illinois’ parks is at the Dixon Springs State Park swimming pool in southern Illinois, which has received a new slide.


Site superintendent Chris McGinness tells the Southern Illinoisan the pool dates to the 1940s. It was redone in the 1980s, and the slide replaced this year was about 40 years old.

The roughly $175,000 pool renovation project included upgrades to the chemical monitoring system.

Beyond the pool area, cabins and barracks in the park have been refurbished, along with a kitchen and dining hall. Workers have repaired 50 picnic tables.

McGinness says every picnic table in Dixon Springs is expected to be redone.


Information from: Southern Illinoisan,

Published at Mon, 05 Aug 2019 11:43:00 +0000

‘Dying California’ Drone Footage Highlights Homeless Crisis

‘Dying California’ Drone Footage Highlights Homeless Crisis

A Los Angeles man is giving the world a bird’s-eye view over some of the region’s homelessness encampments by deploying a drone in the hopes that it will light a fire under residents and council members and inspire change.

“It’s a little scary even to see from the air,” said Johnny Perez, the drone pilot who runs the @dyingcalifornia Instagram account. “It’s just encampment after encampment.”

Perez shot the drone video and shared it in the hopes that — as he says — the squeaky wheel will get the grease.

“It’s encampments of 20-plus, 30-plus tents, and chop shops for bikes,” he said. “It’s their home I guess, but it’s not right!”

In a video he posted a week before, the footage shows a sprawling encampment near the Northridge mall that sits above the LA River, and down below, trash that teeters on a health hazard.

He said he’d hoped to get a group of people angry and “pissed off” at council members, and maybe they’d do something.

The Bureau of Sanitation said the property belongs to Metro and falls under their jurisdiction.

In another location, Perez wonders where the refuse that’s left behind is going. 

“I can see the trash from the air but I don’t know what’s in there. I can only imagine whatever they produce — people use the restroom, drug use,” he said. “That same Chatsworth wash connects with the river by Griffith Park which is what the mayor promotes for kayaking. It’s the same river, man. I don’t want to go kayaking.”

The Bureau of Sanitation said area near the Chatsworth wash is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Recreation and Parks, and Recreation and Parks will be leading a cleanup at the beginning of August, with LA Sanitation providing support.

A third location Perez shot is just off the 405 Freeway north of Burbank Boulevard and Oxnard Street. The NBCLA I-Team has had its eye on this spot for more than a month, and the growing trash pile the city has yet to clean up.

“The regular people and the taxpayers are losing,” Perez said.

Perez said that’s the reason he started “Dying California” on social media platforms. From his vantage point, he says the solution is simpler than anyone is letting on.

“Just enforce the laws, enforce parking laws, enforce vehicle dwelling laws,” he said. “Enforce trash and littering laws. Just irritate them. Either it will force them out or they’ll stop.”

The Bureau of Sanitation said staff sample and test Los Angeles River water twice a week at three locations in each of the Los Angeles River Recreation Zones — the area where it starts, the middle, and the end of each zone. Water quality results can be viewed at this site. 

Mayor Eric Garcetti has called the homeless crisis a national emergency that requires federal action. The Democratic mayor proposed an unlikely political partnership earlier this month when he called on President Trump to help take on the crisis.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Figures released in June showed a 16 precent jump in Los Angeles’ homeless population over the last year, pegging it at 36,300 — the size of a small city. The jump came after the mayor helped convince voters in 2016 to borrow $1.2 billion to construct housing for the homeless.

After the report’s release, Phil Ansell, who runs the county’s homeless initiative, said that in a growing economy rental rates have outpaced wages, particularly for people living at the margins and making minimum wage. Officials have said more needs to be done to increase the supply of affordable housing and prevent more families from becoming homeless. 

Published at Tue, 30 Jul 2019 17:13:41 +0000

Mario Lopez Walks Back Remarks on Kids and Gender Identity

Mario Lopez Walks Back Remarks on Kids and Gender Identity

Mario Lopez apologized Wednesday for telling conservative commentator Candace Owens that it’s “dangerous” and “alarming” for parents to honor the wishes of young children who identify with a gender other than the one assigned at birth.

The longtime “Extra” host, who recently was named a host of “Access Hollywood,” said in a statement released by his publicist that his remarks were “ignorant and insensitive.” Lopez said the backlash has brought on a “deeper understanding” of how “hurtful” his remarks were.

He outraged many when he told Owens on her PragerU YouTube show that, like Owens, he is “blown away” when parents tolerate very young children who make gender determinations at such a ripe age.

Lopez may be best known for starring in the teen sitcom “Saved by the Bell.”

Published at Wed, 31 Jul 2019 18:39:48 +0000

Top Bears Players to Watch This Season: Allen Robinson

Top Bears Players to Watch This Season: Allen Robinson

With Super Bowl expectations heavy on their minds, the Chicago Bears will begin preparations in earnest for the 2019 season this week when they report to Bourbonnais for training camp.

As the team arrives in the Chicago suburb, we’re taking a look at 10 of the players that will have the biggest impact on the Bears’ fortunes in the coming year, and today we’re focusing on wide receiver Allen Robinson II. 

How 2018 Went for Robinson: 

A year after suffering a torn ACL and appearing in only one game for Jacksonville, Robinson had a solid season for the Bears, catching 55 passes for 754 yards and four touchdowns. 

The numbers weren’t quite what he had put up in his first three seasons with the Jaguars, but he quickly became one of Mitchell Trubisky’s favorite targets, as he was targeted 94 times in just 13 contests for the Bears.  

The Biggest Question He’ll Face:

Realistically, there are two questions Robinson will face when the new season begins. The first is whether he can stay on the field after missing three games a season ago, but the more important question is whether he can get back to the production level that he was at in his second and third seasons with the Jaguars.

That answer will largely depend on Robinson’s health and on the advances made by Trubisky in his third pro season. He did target Robinson 94 times last season, but he’ll need to improve upon his accuracy if he’s going to help the receiver get back into the 65-75 catch range that he was during his prime years in Jacksonville. 

Our Prediction:

The Bears are going to air the ball out a lot again this season, and if Robinson can stay healthy, he is entirely capable of grabbing 70 or more receptions in the 2019 season. 

To that end, we’ll say he hits that mark, appearing in just about every game and helping Trubisky to bump up his production in the new year. 

For more on our examination of the 10 Bears players to watch this season:

7/27 – Offensive lineman Kyle Long 

7/26 – Safety Eddie Jackson 

7/26 – Running back David Montgomery

7/25 – Wide receiver Anthony Miller 

7/25 – Defensive end Akiem Hicks 

7/24 – Cornerback Kyle Fuller

7/24 – Tight end Trey Burton

Published at Sun, 28 Jul 2019 03:45:05 +0000

Chicago aldermen approve reforms proposed by new mayor

Chicago aldermen approve reforms proposed by new mayor

CHICAGO — Chicago’s City Council has approved a package of reforms proposed by its new mayor that includes increasing the power of the city’s inspector general.

There was no debate Wednesday prior to the passing of an ordinance proposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The aldermen voted 50-0 for them despite members being long opposed to giving the inspector general more power to investigate them.

Ending government corruption was a centerpiece of Lightfoot’s campaign for mayor. She won all 50 wards in April and got over 70% of the vote.

In addition to giving Inspector General Joseph Ferguson the ability to audit the council’s committees, the mayor’s ordinance also tightens rules on outside jobs and City Hall lobbying, and increases fines for ethics violations.

The ordinance prohibits aldermen and city employees from doing outside work that could conflict with the city’s interests, such as representing people in property tax appeals.

Published at Wed, 24 Jul 2019 22:35:00 +0000

Bicyclist killed in Aurora hit-and-run

Bicyclist killed in Aurora hit-and-run

A 61-year-old woman was killed early Tuesday morning by a hit-and-run driver in Aurora.

A Kane County sheriff’s deputy noticed a bicycle in a grassy area on the side of the South Edgelawn Drive, just south of Prairie Street at around 1:20 a.m. Tuesday.

Upon seeing the victim, identified as Elizabeth Kakoczki of Aurora, the deputy called for Aurora police officers and the fire department. The officers performed CPR on the woman as they awaited paramedics, and Kakoczki was then taken to an Aurora hospital. She was pronounced dead shorty after arrival.

Officers and investigators determined Kakoczki was struck by a vehicle that quickly fled from the scene.

Anyone with information about the accident is asked to call the Aurora Police Department’s Traffic Unit at (630) 256-5330 or Crime Stoppers at (630) 892-1000 to anonymously report details.

Published at Tue, 23 Jul 2019 23:50:46 +0000

Trump disavows ‘Send her back!’ chant as Omar stands defiant

Trump disavows ‘Send her back!’ chant as Omar stands defiant

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has chided his supporters who chanted “send her back” when he questioned the loyalty of a Somali-born congresswoman, joining widespread criticism of the campaign crowd’s cry after Republicans warned about political blowback from the angry scene.

In a week that has been full of hostile exchanges over race and love of country on both sides, Trump also claimed he had tried to stop the chant at a reelection event Wednesday night in North Carolina – though video shows otherwise. The crowd’s “send her back” shouts resounded for 13 seconds as Trump made no attempt to interrupt them. He paused in his speech and surveyed the scene, taking in the uproar.

“I started speaking really quickly,” he told reporters Thursday. “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it” and “would certainly try” to stop any similar chant at a future rally.

The taunt’s target- Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota – responded defiantly Thursday. She told reporters at the Capitol that she believes the president is a “fascist” and cast the confrontation as a fight over “what this country truly should be.”

“We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us. We are not deterred. We are not frightened,” she told a cheering crowd that greeted her like a local hero at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as she returned from Washington.

The back-and-forth captured the potential impacts of Trump’s willingness to inject racist rhetoric into his reelection fight. Trump’s allies distanced themselves from the chant, fretting over the voters it might turn off in next year’s election and beyond. Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to the episode as a rallying cry to energy and mobilize their supporters to vote Trump out of office.


“We are ready,” Omar said to cheers, before heading to a town hall on Medicare for All.

Trump started the week’s tumult by tweeting Sunday that Omar and three other freshmen congresswomen could “go back” to their native countries if they were unhappy here. His other targets – all Trump detractors – were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

All are American citizens, and all but Omar was born in the U.S. She fled to America as a child with her family from violence-wracked Somalia.

The president did not back down from that criticism on Thursday.

They have “a big obligation and the obligation is to love your country,” he said. “There’s such hatred. They have such hatred.”

The chants at the Trump rally brought scathing criticism from GOP lawmakers as well as from Democrats, though the Republicans did not fault Trump himself.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California declared that the chant has “no place in our party and no place in this country.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois tweeted that it was “ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union.”


Citing Trump’s rhetoric, House Democrats said they were discussing arranging security for Omar and the three other congresswomen.

Even by Trump’s standards, the campaign rally offered an extraordinary tableau for American politics: a president drinking in a crowd’s cries to expel a congresswoman from the country who’s his critic and a woman of color.

It was also the latest demonstration of how Trump’s verbal cannonades are capable of dominating the news. Democrats had hoped the spotlight on Thursday would be on House passage of legislation to boost the minimum wage for the first time in a decade.

To many GOP ears, this time the attention wasn’t all positive.

Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, a conservative who attended Trump’s rally, told reporters at the Capitol that the chant “does not need to be our campaign call like we did ‘Lock her up’ last time.”

That was a reference to a 2016 campaign mantra that Trump continues to encourage aimed at that year’s Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.


Walker, who called the chant “offensive,” was among about 10 House GOP leaders who had breakfast Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence at Pence’s residence in Washington. Walker said he cautioned Pence that attention to the chant could distract voters next year from the economy and other themes Republicans want to emphasize.

“We don’t need to take it that far where we change the narrative of the story,” he said he told Pence.

The lawmakers attending agreed that the chant was inappropriate and could prove a harmful distraction, and Pence concurred and said he’d discuss it with Trump, said another participant who described the conversation on condition of anonymity.

In North Carolina, Trump berated each of the four congresswomen and said: “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ’em leave, let ’em leave.'” He added, “I think in some cases they hate our country.”

His criticism of Omar included a false accusation that she has voiced pride in al-Qaida.


Associated Press writers Padmananda Rama, Kathleen Hennessey, Zeke Miller, Deb Riechmann and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

Published at Fri, 19 Jul 2019 09:23:00 +0000

Consulting firm to evaluate Chicago casino feasibility

Consulting firm to evaluate Chicago casino feasibility

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Gaming Board has selected a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study for a casino in Chicago.

The Gaming Board announced last week that it had selected Union Gaming Analytics of Las Vegas.

The study is required by the gambling expansion law Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last month . It’s to generate revenue for a $45 billion capital improvement plan.

A Gaming Board spokesman said the contract will not exceed $100,000.

Union Gaming will present its study regarding the feasibility and ability to finance a casino in Chicago to Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in August. Chicago will pay for the study.

Union Gaming’s bid was one of three the Gaming Board received. But two were disqualified because they were submitted after the deadline.

Published at Mon, 15 Jul 2019 09:26:00 +0000