Pritzker Touts Reelection Year Tax Relief

By Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

January 31, 2022

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Governor J.B. Pritzker plans to present on Wednesday a reelection year budget proposal with $1 billion in one-time tax relief.  Many critics see this proposal as a reelection gimmick to buy votes.

Pritzker was set to present his budget before a joint session of the state legislature.  However, House members canceled the session after being frightened by a typical Midwest snowstorm that is expected on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Despite the cancellation, the Governor’s Office will release the plan to public. 

According to the governor’s budget office, the new budget proposes to temporarily remove a 1% sales tax on food, a freeze on the gas tax that is conveniently tied to the Consumer Price Index, and a small rebate of $300 dollars on property taxes.  The freeze on the gas tax is expected to save consumers a measly two to three cents per gallon.

Deputy governor Andy Manar said “It’s about groceries, gasoline and property taxes.  Those three things combined are what the governor is proposing to the legislature that we have a robust discussion about. And that’s tackling the impact that inflation is having on working families across the state.”

According to Illinoispolicy.org, Illinois property taxes are ranked the second highest in the nation.  Despite task forces and investigations, property tax reform has never been taken seriously at both state and county level.

Pritzker believes the temporary tax relief is necessary and will not be a long-term burden on the Illinois budget.  However, Pritzker hopes the temporary relief will help on the campaign trail as he seeks reelection.

Frank Conklin, Illinois Political Reporter/Columnist for The Chicago Times.  Views and comments expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Chicago Times.

Plainfield Man Arrested After High-Speed Chase In Indiana

By David Slavik, The Chicago Times

January 21, 2022

LAPORTE COUNTY, IN – A Plainfield man was arrested Thursday after leading Indiana State Police in high pursuit chase in LaPorte County, Indiana.

According to Indiana State Police, state troopers were following a black Jeep Grand Cherokee with stolen plates southbound on Franklin Street.  After several minutes the Jeep sped off westbound on Interstate 94.  ISP pursued the Jeep onto I-94, which then exited onto I-90 where the it suffered a flat tire near mile marker 27.

Keyvon Johnson, 23, was arrested along with a male passenger.  Johnson, from Plainfield, Illinois, was charged with resisting law enforcement with a vehicle, theft, reckless driving, and possession of drugs, according to ISP.

ISP later said the Jeep was reported stolen in Plainfield, Illinois as part of a Facebook sales scam.

Pritzker Announces Next Phase Of Houbolt Road Project In Joliet

By Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

January 20, 2022

JOLIET, IL — Gov. J. B. Pritzker announced Thursday the next phase of construction on the new Houbolt Road bridge and interchange which is part of Pritzker’s $1.2 billion commitment to improve and modernize Interstate 80 through the bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program.

“The next phase of I-80’s modernization begins today at Houbolt Road, giving new life to one the interstate’s most critical interchanges and a key access point for Joliet.  Our state investment of $32 million right here in Joliet will help widen Houbolt Road and reconfigure its interchange into a high-capacity, diverging-diamond design. These improvements are making it safer and more efficient for truck drivers, but also for the tens of thousands of commuters and families who drive this interstate as they navigate their daily lives.” Pritzker said in a statement.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, City of Joliet, and CenterPoint Properties have partnered in a $33.5 million project to widen Houbolt Road and reconfigure its interchange with I-80. It has been reported that the State of Illinois will provide $32 million in capital funding for the project.

Illinois and partnering municipalities have leveraged a CenterPoint investment of up to $170 million to build a new tolled bridge on Houbolt Road over the Des Plaines River. The new bridge will connect I-80 and CenterPoint’s intermodal facilities.  The CenterPoint facility provides thousands of jobs and $75 billion in freight activity annually, including 65 million bushels of agricultural products exported each year.  The project is estimated to be completed by 2023.

“Under Gov. Pritzker, IDOT is leveraging public resources to advance projects across all modes throughout the state in new and exciting way.  The Houbolt Road improvements are going to bring much-needed relief to I-80 while delivering a crucial piece of the governor’s larger vision to remake one of the country’s major interstate corridors.” said Omer Osman, Illinois Transportation Secretary.

It is hoped that improving access to CenterPoint’s intermodal facilities via Houbolt Road will reduce congestion on I-80 and reduce traffic near the entrances to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie along Illinois 53.

“I’m happy to see the progress being made on the construction of the Houbolt Road Bridge.  We know, moving forward, the critical role this will play as development continues around the two intermodal ports in our region.  The public-private partnership we have forged is a model for major capital improvements moving forward.  Thank you, Governor Pritzker and our state officials, for your commitment to Joliet.”  commented Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk.

According to a press release, Rebuild Illinois, passed in 2019, will invest $33.2 billion to rebuild Illinois’ aging transportation system and promote economic improvement.  Pritzker also claims the infrastructure project is not only the largest in Illinois history, but the first to focus on all modes of transportation.

Decatur: Man Arrested In Connection Of Carjacking A Good Samaritan

By Janice Cameron, The Chicago Times

January 20, 2022

DECATUR, IL — A man wanted for the carjacking of a good Samaritan in Indiana was arrested in Decatur, Illinois.

Decatur police reported that Randy Terrell Brown-Watkins was arrested on January 13 in Decatur on separate charges and is awaiting extradition to Lake County, Indiana.

According to Indiana State Police, on January 8, Brown-Watkins allegedly carjacked a good Samaritan at gunpoint who was trying to help Brown-Watkins after he was involved in a rollover crash on Interstate 65 in Lake County. Brown-Watkins allegedly forced the good Samaritan back into his van and was pursed into Cook County by law enforcement.

As Brown-Watkins forced the good Samaritan to speed down Interstate 94 in a high-speed police chase, the van suddenly stopped at 115th street.  While the van was stopped the good Samaritan exited the van and was rescued by police.  Brown-Watkins then got into the driver’s seat and sped off.  Police discovered the van two miles away from where the good Samaritan was rescued.

According to police, Brown-Watkins has been charged with four felonies including kidnapping while hijacking a vehicle, armed robbery, auto theft and pointing a firearm.

Brown-Watkins is being held at the Macon County Jail and is expected to be extradited to Lake County, Indiana.

DURKIN TO COMBAT ‘SMASH AND GRAB’ ROBBERIES

By Horace Douglas, The Chicago Times

January 4, 2022

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois State Representative Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, has proposed a bill to target the rise of “smash-and-grab” robberies.

Durkin, Minority Leader in the Illinois House of Representatives, proposed House Bill 4275 which will make organized retail theft a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison for the theft of goods valued more than $300.

According to the bill, organized theft is defined as someone conspiring with one or more people to steal merchandise with the intent of selling or returning the goods for profit.  The bill includes penalties for two or more people who receive, purchase or possess merchandise believed to be stolen.   In addition, the bill seeks to punish someone who acts as an agent of another person or group to steal merchandise or recruit, coordinate, organize, supervise, direct, manage or finance someone taking part in theft.

“Smash-and-grab retail theft has become disturbingly commonplace and these criminals are only becoming more brazen.  These crimes have many victims, from the people who own and operate these stores, to their employees and customers. We cannot let this stand. These criminals are sophisticated and organized like the street gangs that terrorize our communities and must be treated the same.” Durkin said in a statement.

Four Suspects Arrested In Bradley Hotel Shooting That Killed Police Officer

By The Chicago Times Staff

December 31, 2021

BRADLEY, IL – Four suspects in connection with the murder and wounding of police officers at a hotel in Bradley Illinois have been arrested.

According to Bradley police, Darius D Sullivan, 25, wanted in connection to the shooting, was taken into on Friday at about 9 a.m. in Indiana.

Bradley police also released a statement that Xandia A. Harris, 26, had surrendered at the Bradley Police Department later Friday around 4 p.m. and was then turned over to the Illinois State Police.

According to Bradley police, the events of Wednesday evening’s shooting began when Bradley police Sergeant Marlene Rittmanic, 49, was shot and murdered while responding to a call of barking dogs trapped in a car located in the parking lot of the Comfort Inn located in the 1500 block of North State Highway 50.  Rittmanic’s partner, Tyler Bailey, 27, was wounded by gunfire.

When Rittmanic and Bailey interviewed the alleged owners of the car in a hotel room, the two suspects attacked and shot the two officers.  Both Rittmanic and Bailey were taken to an area hospital where Rittmanic was pronounced dead.  Officer Bailey suffered severe head injuries and is listed in critical condition.

According to police, two other suspects have been arrested in connection to the brutal shooting on Thursday.  Nichele Newton-Carroll, 43, and Jelman Sullivan, 21, have been charged with obstructing justice and leaving the state in connection to a crime.

Photo: Illinois State Police