Metra To Expand Rail Service

by Jeff L. Tucker, The Chicago Times

April 8, 2022

CHICAGO – Metra to expand rail service on its UP Northwest Line and UP North Line starting April 25th.

Metra has announced that it will “significantly” expand weekday service on its UP Northwest Line and modification to its UP North Line.

“We have said since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that Metra is committed to adjusting its schedules to meet growing ridership and our riders’ changing needs.  We are greatly encouraged by the growth in ridership so far this year and we are happy to be welcoming returning riders and new ones to My Metra.” Metra CEO Jim Derwinski said in a statement.

According to Metra, the new UP-NW schedule will add 21 weekday trains to the current 45 scheduled.  In addition, Metra will modify schedules to offer more “. . . consistent service patterns and departure times, making the schedule easier for customers to understand and memorize. Most midday trains will now arrive in Chicago on the 10s, allowing better connections with other UP lines.”

Metra’s UP North Line schedule will also be modified in which “the schedule is being adjusted to add one more morning departure from and one more evening train to Kenosha. Train 310 will now depart Kenosha at 6:38 a.m. In the evening, Train 351, the 4:32 p.m. departure from Chicago, will provide service to Kenosha arriving at 6:02 p.m.”

Killer Nurse Convicted

By Janice Cameron, The Chicago Times

March 24, 2022

EDWARDSVILLE, IL – A licensed practical nurse has been convicted on charges of reckless conduct for failing to administer life-saving measures to a Collinsville Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center patient.

According to Madison County prosecutors, Christy McCall, 45, of Belleville was convicted and handed a sentence of 12 months of probation.  McCall plead guilty to reckless conduct that resulted in death of a patient.

Court documents revealed that McCall failed to administer Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation after a resident patient was found unresponsive by other nursing staff.  According to investigator reports, McCall did not even bother to enter the patient’s room.

As a result of the investigation and conviction, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation suspended McCall’s nursing license.

Alvarez Resigns From Illinois Tollway

By Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

March 15, 2022

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Another political appointee of Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker has resigned from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.

According to Pritzker’s office, Jose Alvarez submitted a letter of resignation that stated his departure would be effective immediately.  Alvarez was hand picked by Pritzker to head the allegedly corrupt and wasteful Illinois Tollway system.  Alvarez’s resignation follows the departure of Illinois Tollway System board president Will Evans.  Evans had struggled for power with Alvarez and attempted to take charge of day-to-day operations, but later resigned.

A Pritzker spokesman declined to comment if both Evans and Alvarez were asked to leave by Governor Pritzker.  Alvarez and Evans are connected with former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker.  Hooker became involved with the ComEd bribery scandal that now threatens to send former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan to federal prison.

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority was founded in 1941 and opened the first Illinois toll road in 1958.  The ISTHA oversees the construction, operation and maintenance of Illinois toll roads.  As of 2017, the ISTHA maintains and operates some 294 miles of tollways in northern Illinois.  The current budget for the ISTHA is a stunning $1.49 billion dollars.

Springfield To Address Teacher Shortage

By Janice Cameron, The Chicago Times

March 2, 2022

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers presented legislation last Thursday that proposes to solve the alarming teacher shortage that is plaguing Illinois.

The proposed legislation will extend the number of days retired teachers would be able to teach within a given school year, lower age restrictions for paraprofessionals, and waive substitute teaching licensing fees.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, there are 4,120 teaching and support vacancies across 852 school districts within the state. The Illinois Association of School Administrators claims that 88 percent of school districts that responded to a recent survey reported a shortage of full-time teachers.  Furthermore, the Illinois State Board of Education claims there are 1,242 vacancies for paraprofessionals statewide.

Lawmakers declined to comment if the shortage is related to the rapid decline in population that Illinois has experienced over the past decade, which has cost the State one congressional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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.

Elgin: Man Charged In Shooting

By Gary Parker, The Chicago Times

January 25, 2022

ELGIN, IL – An 18-year-old, has been arrested for involvement in a fight and reckless shooting Sunday in Elgin, Illinois.

The Kane County State’s Attorney announced that Jesus Canales, 18, has been charged with eight felonies including aggravated battery of a firearm, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm.  In addition, Caneles faces charges of armed violence, aggravated discharge of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon without a FOID card, and mob action.

According to prosecutors, Canales met up with Jonathan Alonzo, 19, Joselin de la Rosa, 20, Isaiah Lafuente, 19, and Ilich Vara-Morales, 19, at an Elgin home to fight someone on Sunday.  As the fight ensued, Canales allegedly pistol-whipped the victim and then cold bloodily shot the victim in the torso with a 9mm firearm.  Prosecutors also claim Canales shot two rounds into the ground before just before the shooting.

According to police, the victim remains in an area hospital.

Canales’ bond was set at $300,000 and is due back in court on February 9. 

Canales’ four co-defendants were charged with mob action.