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In Illinois, Do You Get What You Pay For?

In Illinois, Do You Get What You Pay For? Let’s have a Look at Roads.

Illinoisans Are Paying A ‘Bad Road Tax’

It’s not just anecdotal, you didn’t just imagine it as you drove past the Illinois border into other states, now, studies bear it out - that Illinois has some of the worst roads in the nation. This year I personally have driven to South Dakota, Ole Miss in Oxford, Alabama, through Tennessee, down to Houston, and throughout Illinois. Our state roads are in poor shape compared to other states. According to the article below, Illinois’ infrastructure is ranked 14th worst in the nation with 20% of its roads ranked non-acceptable and 12% of bridges in poor condition by Federal Highway Administration standards. To make things worse, Illinois came in third from last when the study focused on what portion of transportation dollars Illinois spends on fixing existing roads. That article caught my attention and so I decided to put a simple chart together. I looked at size and population of state, whether the state has a major city (more roads to maintain), the gas taxes, and the Reason Foundation cost effectiveness of their highway system. According to Reason Foundation,  “A careful review suggests that numerous factors— terrain, climate, truck volumes, urbanization, system age, budget priorities, unit cost differences, state budget circumstances, and management/maintenance philosophies, just to name a few—are all affecting the overall highway system performance in each state. Here’s my chart. Take a good look at how we compare.

1. 2. 3. 4.

Among the states I picked out, Georgia is very similar to land and population size, but there is a big difference between our gas taxes and quality of infrastructure. Illinois pays a lot more for poor roads. But we just agreed to spend billions to fix our roads and bridges and other infrastructure back in 2019. That’s why the legislature and Governor agreed to double you gas taxes and hike 20 other fees. But here’s what else your gas taxes are funding. Read here and here from Illinois Policy Institute: Pork-barrel projects in the capital plan total at least $1.25 billion & include: 

  • $98 million for “noise abatement” at the Chicago Belt Railway Yard in Bedford Park, which happens to be in the suburban portion of Madigan’s district.

  • Another $50 million for the Illinois Arts Council chaired by Madigan’s wife

  • $50 million for capital grants to parks and recreational units for improvements such as pickleball courts

  • $15 million to the Chicago Park District to build a field house at Jackie Robinson Park

  • $14 million for a grant to Rush University Medical Center

  • Another $8 million for bike paths and pedestrian trails on top of the amount allocated in the operating budget

  • $5.2 million for construction, upgrades, or improvements at 36 playgrounds throughout the state

  • $5 million to Northwestern University for the purchase of science equipment”

AND another biggie - $25 million in student loan bailout money was funded by gas taxes. Read my op-ed here from last year in case you missed it. And this year there’s been another problem. Road work has been delayed. Have you driven past construction sites and noticed that nothing is happening? It is because 300 Local 150 quarry workers just ended a seven-week strike against the three largest aggregate producers on July 26th. The strike has delayed several projects around the Chicagoland area. It’s understandable for unions. In the last three years, the state began a $40 billion ten-year infrastructure plan and then federal lawmakers approved a $1 trillion “infrastructure” bill too of which Illinois is expected to receive $17 billion. No one should be surprised that the unions are looking to get something more out of it besides steady work.

Chicago Election Shenanigans  The following was published in the IL GOP Chairman’s letter this week. The person who wrote it is very informed about the situation. I think everyone should be aware of this ongoing case.

Possible Election Fraud in Cook County (Shocker!) We’ve had a lot of talk lately about election integrity in different places, but Chicago is still best-known for voter fraud. Cook County avoids transparency like a vampire avoids the sun, and the Courts provide cover from the light. The case of Frank DiFranco is illustrative of this dark history. Mr. DiFranco, a successful suburban attorney, ran for Cook County Judge as a Republican in the November 3, 2020, General Election. Mr. DiFranco led his opponent, Democrat Patricia Fallon, by 10,439 votes on election night. However, Cook County continues to count any Vote-By-Mail (“VBM”) ballots received for an additional two weeks before certifying the election. Mr. DiFranco’s lead began to slowly dwindle as the VBM ballots trickled in. On November 14th at 5:00 pm, the Cook County Clerk’s website showed that Mr. DiFranco had prevailed by 485 votes. But it wasn’t over. From November 21st through December 1 after the VBM ballot counting deadline had passed, and after the clerk sent everyone home because there were no more ballots to count, the Clerk’s Office magically added another 5,660 ballots to Fallon’s total, declaring Fallon the surprise winner by 502 votes. The shocking part was that although the Clerk disclosed that there were only a possible 43,139 VBM Ballots that were outstanding the day of the election, the Clerk ended up counting an additional 18,423 unexplained VBM Ballots for a total of 61,562. Mr. DiFranco smelled a rat. He filed suit against the Clerk in the Cook County Circuit Court. The Court reluctantly granted Mr. DiFranco a partial discovery recount of VBM Ballots in 20% of the judicial district precincts. The goal of a recount is to establish the number of valid votes for each candidate and then extrapolate from the sample count whether the level of voting irregularities would have changed the election. VBM ballots are ‘recounted’ by evaluating the accepted VBM ballot envelopes (since the VBM ballots are removed and made indistinguishable from other counted ballots). It is important in a discovery recount to not only count the number of envelopes, but also to evaluate the outside contents of each envelope. This is because the ballot inside a VBM envelope should only be added to the counted ballots if the envelope properly contains the voter’s signature, address and the signature of a witness. For reasons still unknown, the Clerk failed to provide all of the accepted VBM envelopes from the sample precincts at the discovery recount. Moreover, Mr. DiFranco and his volunteers were only permitted to passively observe County employees flipping through VBM envelopes that were “readily available”. Despite Mr. DiFranco’s objections, the County employees counted the envelope bundles at lightning speed, preventing any meaningful review of outside of the envelopes. Mr. DiFranco’s volunteers watched closely and tabulated 3,298 fewer VMB envelopes than the total number of VBM votes tabulated in the discovery precincts. Mr. DiFranco filed a Motion for Summary Judgment based on the massive discrepancy in VBM votes cast versus the number of VBM envelopes after the farcical recount. In a stunning move, the County Clerk responded by filing its own Motion for Summary Judgment. The Clerk had suddenly “found” electronic images for all but 455 VMB envelopes, even those envelopes not produced in the discovery recount! Mr. DiFranco went to work, manually reviewing and cataloging each and every electronic image – and noticed something very odd. About 70% of VBM envelope images had been partially redacted (portions were deliberately blackened out) by the County Clerk. Most of the redactions were so poorly done that the outside envelope contents were still visible. Mr. DiFranco and his legal team could see plain as day that the Clerk had attempted to hide the blank voter signature fields, voter address fields and witness signature fields on the envelopes. Every deficient VBM envelope reflected a VBM ballot that should not have been counted in the election. And the County Clerk had attempted to cover up 8,186 faulty ballots. Mr. DiFranco moved to amend his lawsuit and obtain Summary Judgment based on the cover-up. The County, realizing its massive mistake, immediately circled the wagons. First, the Court denied Mr. DiFranco’s request to amend his suit as “late” because he “should have known” that the VBM envelopes were facially defective at the recount – even though he was not permitted to review the contents on the outside of each envelope. The Clerk also complained about the “re-publication” of voter data in Mr. DiFranco’s court filing – the very same data that the Clerk used in its own filing. The Clerk further claimed Mr. DiFranco had violated voters’ privacy by cataloging the deficient VBM envelope fields – despite the lack of any expectation of privacy on the outside of mailed envelopes and the public availability of voter rolls. The newly-minted Cook County Judge Fallon then piled on, too, joining the Clerk’s opposition against Mr. DiFranco with more arguments about how election materials are private records. Not a single word was uttered by either County Judge or the County Clerk regarding the government’s active concealment of facial deficiencies on VBM envelopes for counted ballots. In true Chicago-style fashion, the Court dodged Mr. DiFranco’s revelations. The Clerk provided the Court a fig leaf for this maneuver with a last-minute affidavit from a Clerk employee who swore that the VBM envelope images were legitimate. Mr. DiFranco objected, pointing out that the employee admitted he had never reviewed the physical or electronically-imaged VBM envelopes. No matter. The defective ballots were ignored, and Mr. DiFranco’s lawsuit was summarily dismissed. At the end of the day, the Court spared the Clerk’s office from ever having to produce all of the original, non-redacted VBM envelopes in its possession (which it should have under the law’s “best evidence” rule). Fortunately, Mr. DiFranco continues his fight. He has filed an appeal in the Illinois Courts, as well as a Federal lawsuit (which is stayed pending an outcome in the state proceedings). We can only hope that one of these Courts will have the courage to pull back the curtain on apparent Cook County voter fraud with a real discovery recount.

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