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State Stix

Straws in the wind

"Should the federal government reduce the military budget by 10 percent each year for the next five years and use the savings to provide better housing, health care, job training, environmental protection, education, mass transit and drug abuse prevention and treatment?"

When this advisory referendum question was put in the April 2 election, Chicago voters responded with "yes" votes of 306,770 (73 percent) and "no" votes of 110,392.

The referendum, sponsored by 14th Ward Alderman Edward Burke at the request of a coalition of community groups, passed the council unanimously. A similar referendum in Evanston last November got a 75 percent "yes" vote.

Source: Bernice Bild, New Priorities Campaign, Chicago.

A surprise in the vote

"We thought we'd be successful if we got 62 or 63 percent. . . . The referendum was introduced without knowing there would be a war in the gulf. After the war broke out, people said, 'Too bad. If only you'd introduced some other point.'

"The campaign was a coalition of 60 civic, labor, race relations and social service groups in Chicago. ... If we had not introduced the referendum, millions of people around the U.S. would be saying, 'Maybe we can spend less on the military.' But they would not know that other people are thinking the same thing."

Source: Joyce Bowen, Chicago Urban League.

Words from the Pentagon for folks in Chicago

"The budget is for the benefit of the U.S. as a whole. The military budget must be judged by the miltary threats to the U.S. that it is designed to deal with, not by the need for domestic programs, much as we'd like to do that."

Source: Susan Hansen, Public Affairs spokesperson, Department of Defense, Washington, D.C.

Should Chicago buy ComEd?

Well, not the nukes. Just the stuff within the city limits the utility's transmission and distribution system and two small coal-fired generating plants.

On April 2, Chicago voters also passed a second advisory referendum proposed by a coalition of unions, community groups and ward organizations. The question was whether to purchase Edison's facilities in Chicago when the city's franchise with Commonwealth Edison expires at the end of 1991.

Source: Louis Rosen, Labor Coalition on Public Utilities.

150,000 signatures?

The ComEd question was the first citywide referendum to get on the ballot via petition. This is because you need 150,000 signatures. To run for mayor you only need 4,400.

"People who have collected petition signatures know you could never get 150,000. We had around 10,000 signatures. We didn't make the deadline for the February ballot but submitted them to the Chicago Board of Elections in time for the April 2 election. The board did not challenge the signatures. If it had, we would have challenged the law."

Source: Same as above.

301,397 votes

The advisory vote was 301,397 (70 percent) for buying ComEd's facilities and 129,457 against. The "yeses" carried in every ward and in 2,854 of the city's 2,912 precincts.

Source: Same as above.

ComEd is not impressed

"We didn't put much stock in the referendum because of the loaded language. The question began by asking if consumers would like better service with lower rates. . . .

"Commonwealth Edison and the people at City Hall as well are not taking the results very seriously. I've heard nobody outside the small group that sponsored it [the referendum] considering it a mandate. Certainly no one on the mayor's team has come forward and called it a mandate."

Source: John Hogan, director of communication services. Commonwealth Edison, Chicago.

What would a buyout mean?

Chicago would still buy most of its electricity from ComEd and resell it to customers. But money that used to pay ComEd's plant construction costs and its stockholders could be used for energy conservation.

Source: Louis Rosen.

A tax hike that passed!

A referendum raising property taxes in Sangamon County to support a Child Abuse Advocacy Center passed in the April 2 election. The. vote was 26,997 "yes" (60 percent) and 18,010 "no" for all of Sangamon County, including Springfield. In Springfield the vote was 21,001 in favor and 13,137 opposed.

Legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1989 mandated child advocacy centers for advocacy and the prosecution of child abuse cases. The law gave each county an option to pass a .004 property tax increase by referendum. The tax will raise about $60,000 in Sangamon County, about three-fourths of the center's operations budget.

Source: Betsy Goulet, director, Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center.

Confounding the pundits

"We were told there was no way to pass the referendum without a $15,000 campaign. We had $5,000, but we did it. . . . Newspaper articles helped convince people of the need, as did newscasts on Channel 20, radio interviews and brochures. It also helped that the tax increase was very small."

Source: Same as above.

General funds: trouble

The general funds end-of-month balance in March was $42.711 million. The lowest ever was $37 million in 1976, but that's about $200 million in today's dollars. The average daily available balance in March was $70.742 million.

Source: Office of the Comptroller.

Unemployment: trouble

In March the nation's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, up from February's 6.5 percent; Illinois' was also 6.8 percent, up from 5.9 percent.

In March the state's civilian work force consisted of 6.093 million people; 5.676 million had jobs a decrease of 53,000 from February; 417,000 were unemployed an increase of 60,000. In March 1990 the jobless rate of 5.7 percent; in March 1989 it was 5.8 percent.

Bad weather slowed construction start-ups; several manufacturers temporarily slowed or idled production, and there were losses in the trade sector in general merchandise.

Final unemployment rates in January in state's metro areas were:

Aurora-Elgin, 7.6 percent.
Bloomington-Normal, 4.7 percent.
Champaign-Urbana-Rantoul, 4.9 percent
Chicago, 6.7 percent
Davenport-Rock Island-Moline (Illinois sector), 7.9 percent.
Decatur, 8.5 percent.
Joliet, 8.3 percent.
Kankakee, 8.7 percent.
Lake County, 5.1 percent.
Peoria, 6.9 percent.
Rockford, 7.3 percent.
Springfield, 5.4 percent.
St. Louis (Illinois sector), 8.9 percent

Source: Department of Employment Security

Margaret S. Knoepfle

4/May 1991/Illinois Issues

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