In another implicit rebuke to the lump of clay that occupied the Governor's Mansion for four years, Illinois finally got a bump in its credit rating after Governor Pritzker started paying our bills again:
In upgrading Illinois’ credit by one step — to two notches above junk bond status instead of one — Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service noted that the $42 billion spending plan for the year starting July 1 “increases pension contributions, repays emergency Federal Reserve borrowings and keeps a backlog of bills in check with only constrained use of federal aid” from President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan.
Even after the upgrade, Illinois remains the lowest-rated state on Moody’s scale, two notches below the next-lowest: New Jersey. Generally, states with higher credit ratings are able to borrow money at lower interest rates, ultimately saving taxpayers money.
While the upgrade from Moody’s is welcome news, it only returns the state’s rating to where it was before the last of three downgrades during the tumultuous tenure of Pritzker’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
It still baffles me why Rauner screwed Illinois so hard and without lube. He may have qualified as a "moderate" Republican by today's standards, but he still moved to kill unions, kill the state budget, and kill working people in Illinois.
Rauner now lives in exile in—where else?—Florida.
After taking Cassie on a 45-minute walk before the heat hits us, I've spent the morning debugging, watching these news stories pile up for lunchtime reading:
- The US Supreme Court once again upheld Obamacare, with only Alito and Gorsuch dissenting.
- The Illinois legislature passed a common-sense gun control law, supported by the State Police, that largely brings us back in line with the rules we had in the 1990s.
- Illinois Deputy Governor Dan Hynes has resigned (ahem) ahead of the 2022 election.
- The BBC fact-checks this week's Iranian elections.
- Dana Milbank fact-checks Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has started repeating Republican Party lies about BLM and our election. Writing in the Atlantic, Anna Nemtsova says Putin has nothing to offer the West because he has dropped all pretense of liberalism.
- National Geographic has a photo essay of 20 natural wonders that disappeared in the past few years.
- After the warmest first half of June in history, Northeastern Illinois (i.e., Chicago) is in a severe drought that tonight's thunderstorms won't actually help. But Illinois has nothing on the southwestern US, which has it far, far worse, including forecast 50°C temperatures over large areas of Arizona and California.
Finally, Chicago architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has revealed conceptual drawings for a moon base.
I spent the morning unsuccessfully trying to get a .NET 5 Blazor WebAssembly app to behave with an Azure App Registration, and part of the afternoon doing a friend's taxes. Yes, I preferred doing the taxes, because I got my friend a pile of good news without having to read sixty contradictory pages of documentation.
I also became aware of the following:
Tomorrow morning, I promise to make my WebAssembly app talk to our Azure Active Directory. Right now, I think someone needs a walk.
As much fun as Cassie and I have had over the last few days, the news around the world didn't stop:
- After 448 days, Illinois will finally reopen fully on Friday.
- Security expert Tarah Wheeler, writing on Schneier.com, warns that our weapons systems have frightening security vulnerabilities.
- Fastly's content-delivery network (CDN) collapsed this morning, taking down The New York Times, The Guardian, Bloomberg News, and other major properties; no word yet on the cause, but we can guess.
- About 12,000 volunteer software developers around the world contributed to the Mars Helicopter project through GitHub.
- Josh Marshall looks at the burn-it-all-down ethos of defeated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and our own XPOTUS.
- Alexandra Petri wonders why anyone would buy a Swiss Army knife when an AR-15 does the job better?
- ProPublica divided income tax by (unrealized) wealth growth and found that the wealthiest 25 Americans paid almost no income tax from 2014 to 2018; however, they did not apply that methodology to the millions of middle-class families whose 401(k) funds appreciated, which would show that most people paid smaller percentages than they thought.
- Earth's CO2 levels have reached 419 ppm, a level not seen since around the time humans and chimpanzees split from their last common ancestor.
Finally, journalist Jack Lieb filmed D-Day using a 16mm home movie camera, which you can see on the National Archives blog. It's really cool.
The northern hemisphere started meteorological summer at midnight local time today. Chicago's weather today couldn't have turned out better. Unfortunately, I go into the office on the first and last days of each week, so I only know about this from reading weather reports.
At my real job, we have a release tomorrow onto a completely new Azure subscription, so for only the second time in 37 sprints (I hope) I don't expect a boring deployment. Which kind of fits with all the decidedly-not-boring news that cropped up today:
- The XPOTUS and his wackier supporters have a new conspiracy theory about him retaking office in a coup d'état this August. No, really.
- In what could only 100% certainly no doubt how could you even imagine a coincidence, former White House counsel Don McGahn will testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning.
- Also uncoincidentally, a group of 100 historians and political scientists who study this sort of thing have put out a statement warning of imminent democratic collapse in the US. “The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections,” according to the Post.
- Speaking of democratic backsliding, Josh Marshall takes the Israeli cognoscenti to task for still not getting how much the Israeli government aligning with an American political party has hurt them.
- Here in Illinois, the state legislature adjourned after completing a number of tasks, including passing a $46 billion budget that no one got to read before they voted on it. (I'm doubly incensed about this because my own party did it. We really need to be better than the other guys. Seriously.)
- For the first time since March 2020, Illinois has no states on its mandatory quarantine list. And we reported the fewest new Covid-19 cases (401) since we started reporting them.
- The Northalsted Business Alliance wants to change the name of Chicago's Boystown neighborhood to...Northalsted. Residents across the LGBTQ spectrum say "just, no."
Finally, a Texas A&M business professor expects a "wave of resignations" as people go back to their offices.
We have an odd debate in Chicago about the name of our most iconic road. A group of aldermen want to change the name of Lake Shore Drive to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive, in honor of the first non-native permanent settler, who was also Black. The (Black) mayor and a contingent of other aldermen of varying races disagree:
The proposal’s sponsors faced opposition from some colleagues and the mayor’s office over fears that renaming the iconic road would lead to a nightmare at the post office and for residents with thousands of address changes.
Ald. David Moore, 17th Ward, attempted to quell some of those concerns at a contentious committee meeting in late April, saying his proposal would only change the outer drive — not the inner, residential portion of the road. That meeting saw a shouting match between aldermen when the Chicago Department of Transportation tried to substitute Moore’s ordinance for one they said served the same purpose but cleared up confusing language.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended the move to delay the vote Wednesday, saying she has concerns over changing the name of Chicago’s most well-known roadway.
“It’s one of the most iconic assets the city has. When you say Lake Shore Drive, people know you’re talking about Chicago. And I think that that’s very important,” Lightfoot said.
The effort to get DuSable recognized on a grand scale in Chicago is not new. In the 1990s, then-Ald. Toni Preckwinkle introduced her own ordinance to rename Lake Shore to DuSable Drive, the Chicago Tribune reported.
His name is already affixed to several existing institutions, including the DuSable Museum of African American History, a high school and a monument on Michigan Avenue. But proponents have argued the man deemed the city’s “founding father” deserves more.
I find the whole thing odd. I have no idea which side to support, if either. We should have a DuSable drive. But we should also have Lake Shore Drive.
The decision won't come around again until late June. I'll keep my eyes peeled for follow-up stories on the subject.
The four-year, $40m Navy Pier flyover finally opened this week after 7 years and $64m:
The $64 million flyover, started in 2014, was originally planned for a ribbon-cutting in 2018 but it was repeatedly delayed. The 1,750-foot-long, 16-foot-wide steel and concrete flyover goes from Ohio Street Beach to the south side of the Chicago River.
City officials have blamed prior delays both on issues with the Lake Shore Drive bridge and a delay in getting funding from the state during the budget crisis under former Gov. Bruce Rauner.
With the substantial completion of the Flyover, built to keep pedestrians and bicyclists from being in conflict with auto traffic, the Lakefront Trail now runs, uninterrupted, from Hollywood Avenue to 71st Street, according to the city.
Block Club Chicago has photos.
The biggest budget increase came when engineers discovered that the original plan to tunnel through the southeast Lake Shore Drive bridge tower would have cut a load-bearing column. But like so much in Chicago, the biggest delay came from our incompetent and ideologically-blinkered former governor refusing to fund the state government for two years.
But hey, it's open now, so bikes and runners no longer take their lives into their hands crossing the off-ramp from Lake Shore Drive to Grand Avenue.
Travel in the US just got slightly easier now that the Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline to get REAL ID cards to May 2023. Illinois just started making them a year ago, but you have to go to a Secretary of State office in person to get one. Due to Covid-19, the lines at those facilities often stretch to the next facility a few kilometers away.
Reading that made me happier than reading most of the following:
And finally, Ravinia has announced its schedule for this summer, starting on June 4th.
After languishing for four years while former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R-of course) refused to govern, Metra's Peterson/Ridge station project...has stalled again:
Crews for Metra were slated to break ground in May on the train station at Peterson and Ravenswood avenues. Due to a permitting issue with the city, work will be delayed by roughly three to five months, said Joe Ott, director of Metra’s construction department.
If the permits take any longer to secure, major construction on the new station could be pushed to spring 2022, he said.
The problem is that the ground beneath the station holds city water mains, and the city’s Department of Water Management was worried about groundwater from the station leaking into the water mains, he said. The city agency said the project’s groundwater system needs revision before a permit will be granted.
It is just the latest setback for a project first announced in 2012.
The project fell by the wayside during the state’s years-long budget impasse. Local officials said in 2017 funding for the project was nearly secured, but a $1 billion fund earmarked for Metra was slashed in half that year.
At least they've cleared the vacant lot connecting where the station will go. Apparently they've also put up a sign. It's a start, I suppose.
In tangential news, Amtrak announced that it will offer tickets up to 50% off to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. I wish my travel plans would allow me to take a long train trip somewhere.
This photo came up in my Facebook memories this morning:
This struck me for a few reasons. First, as I noted when I posted it on Facebook the morning of 13 March 2017, we hadn't gotten any snow for almost three months that winter. No snow in January; no snow in February; no snow the first 12 days of March; then this crap.
Second, four years later, Metra still hasn't finished constructing the new inbound platform at the Ravenswood station. Construction began in 2014. Then it stopped, partially because they needed to build a new inbound track between the new outbound track and the old inbound track, which meant they had to replace all the inbound bridges from Grace to Winnemac. But all of that construction halted in early 2015 when then-governor Bruce Rauner (R-of course) stopped spending state money. So we've had to endure five winters from the inbound platform's projected completion in fall 2015 until now out of an ideological tantrum by one of the best examples of how business CEOs make terrible politicians. Construction finally resumed, uncoincidentally just after governor JB Pritzker (D) took office, and we should have a new platform this summer.
Finally, look at all those people! A year ago this week, those crowds thinned out to nothing. When I went into the office yesterday, four people got on the train with me. A year ago, plus or minus a few days, Ravenswood had the third-largest passenger numbers of any station on Metra.