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Quinn, Emanuel ‘very close’ on deal for Chicago casino, they agree

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) Gov. PQuinn.  | John H. White Keith Hale~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and Gov. Pat Quinn. | John H. White, Keith Hale~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 3, 2013 6:35AM



Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday they are “very close” to an agreement on a new casino bill that will include the ethics reforms the governor has demanded and earmark 100 percent of the money from a Chicago casino for school construction and modernization.

The two powerful Democrats met privately last week to put aside their feud over who will lead the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority and move on to more important issues.

They talked about providing provisional driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, about joining forces on a new capital bill and about the land-based casino that has eluded Chicago for more than two decades.

“I’m optimistic that, by the 9th of January, we can come up with a bill that meets all of our criteria,” Quinn said during an unrelated joint appearance with Emanuel.

“The mayor and I are very close on the issue of strong regulation and ethics and making sure the money goes to schools and infrastructure. Isn’t that true?”

Quinn then yielded the podium to Emanuel, who agreed.

“I believe that we are very close. Remember, this has been 25 years in the making. But that said, on oversight and the type of issues like that, we are in alignment,” the mayor said.

“And I know from our meeting the governor agrees that 100 percent of the money should go into modernizing our schools. ... Unlike any other casino in the state, all of the resources will go into ... modernizing the Chicago Public School system. Building new schools, doing new additions, modernizing to handle the type of education our kids are going to need to compete and win so the jobs of tomorrow don’t go to Japan, don’t go to Korea.”

Neither the mayor nor the governor would explain how Quinn’s ethics concerns had been resolved.

The governor has demanded a blanket ban on campaign contributions from casino interests, Illinois Gaming Board control over a Chicago casino and more resources and more time for the board to thoroughly vet operators and investors. He also wants strict procurement controls while ruling out slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports and at the Illinois State Fair.

Last year, Emanuel engaged in a months-long verbal battle with Quinn aimed at pressuring the governor to sign a bill that would have paved the way for a land-based casino in Chicago and slot machines at the airports.

When Quinn denounced the bill for “serious shortcomings” in the area of casino oversight, Emanuel all but dismissed those integrity concerns as a smokescreen. Emanuel also ticked off the wish list of projects he intended to build with casino cash.

The pressure tactic didn’t work with Quinn, who accused the mayor of “putting the cart before the horse” and spending casino cash he doesn’t have.

The governor subsequently vetoed the casino bill, putting the decades-old issue back to square one.

Although the governor was optimistic about passing a new casino bill before the new Legislature is sworn in in January, he was noncommittal about the bill now on his desk that would push back — from Dec. 1 to March 31 — the deadline for CPS to unveil a list of underutilized schools targeted for closing.

Roughly 140 Chicago Public Schools are half-empty and potential targets for closing.

“I just got that bill. I think it arrived today. I’ll have to look at it, look at it carefully and act accordingly,” Quinn said.

Why wouldn’t he give newly appointed Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett the extra time she says she needs?

“It’s important to read the bills before you sign your name,” the governor said.



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