Mourning Laurence Msall

With help from Olivia Olander

Good Monday morning, Illinois. The story of the Chinese spy balloon ended with a bang over the weekend, via POLITICO

Laurence Msall, who headed the Civic Federation and had a special affinity for explaining complicated budget issues, died Saturday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after undergoing a planned surgery to replace a heart valve. He was 61.

His death has stunned Illinois’ political world. For 21 years, Msall led the nonpartisan watchdog group that weighed in on tax hikes and budget plans for city, state and school districts across Illinois. “In many ways, he was the Civic Federation,” board chairman and business leader Donovan Pepper told Playbook.

Msall was beloved and feared on both sides of the aisle for his straight talk on numbers. Gov. JB Pritzker, noting Msall had worked for Republican governors George Ryan and Jim Thompson, credited him with “advancing fiscal discourse in Illinois.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted “the city’s and state’s recent financial turnarounds are undoubtedly a result of his advocacy, incredible intellect and guidance.” And former Illinois House Republican budgeteer Tom Demmer praised Msall for working “to really understand the details of public policy.”

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza added: “Even if I disagreed with some of his or his board’s policy positions, he was so professional in debating the pros and cons of budget options.”

Msall was a familiar voice at City Club of Chicago discussions, headlining 17 times. And Journalists, including your Playbook host, relied on Msall to straighten out confusing messages about budgets. We talked at length a few weeks ago about the mayor’s race. He was struck by the dynamics of it all, including that crime was a major issue even though Lightfoot had made strides in dealing with pensions. He thought the legislature should step up.

For all his acclaim in the public sector, Msall was especially passionate about his family. “He was a big-hearted man and involved in his family and his community and wanted to make it a better place,” daughter Lucy Msall told Playbook. She’s one of Msall’s eight children — three with his first wife and five he embraced as his own with current wife, Nicola Hill. Along with Lucy, his children are Camille, Matilda, Alex, Samantha, Thomas, Tess and Oscar.

Services are Tuesday and Wednesday. Details here

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Mayor Lori Lightfoot has launched a microsite linking Paul Vallas to a parade of Republicans, including former GOP governor candidate Darren Bailey and Jeanne Ives, the conservative former state lawmaker.

This isn’t Lightfoot’s first foray into attacking Vallas for leaning right. Earlier in the year, her campaign launched another microsite that also compared Vallas to Bailey.

The new attack on Vallas is a signal that he’s gaining traction with voters.

Endorsement musical chairs: County Commissioner Donna Miller is endorsing Lightfoot in her reelection bid. Here’s the release.
That’s interesting given Miller serves on the county commission with mayoral challenger Brandon Johnson. He in turn has been endorsed by Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell, reports Tribune’s Gregory Pratt. And Vallas has been endorsed by Ald. Brian Hopkins, notes Crain’s Justin Laurence.

Speaking of Vallas’ endorsements, he’s also backed by Richard Hagen, an ex-officer in the Laquan McDonald scandal, report WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos and Sun-Times’ Tom Schuba.
And Dick Mell, former alderman and a symbol of old-school machine politics, was spotted front and center at an 11th Ward meet-and-greet with Vallas.

Also on the campaign trail …

— NEW POLL: IZQ Strategies is out with a new poll on the mayor’s race that has Vallas and Johnson leading and 16 percent undecided. Details with toplines here

— Brandon Johnson is out with a new ad, in which he says he’s “ready” to be mayor.

— And Ja’Mal Green is out with a new ad, in which he says, “It’s time for someone new.”

— Column:  The uncomfortable kernel of truth in Willie Wilson’s ‘rabbit’ comments: “In Chicago, Black people are killing each other and getting away with it,” writes Tribune’s Laura Washington.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia joined women supporters to hammer on Vallas’ past comments about abortion, by Sun-Times’ Fran Speilman

Mayoral hopefuls offer plans to handle a shrinking CPS enrollment, less control and union friction, by Sun-Times’ Sarah Karp and Mariah Woelfel

If you are Dick Mell, Playbook would like to hear from you. Email [email protected].

At Neighborhood Initiatives at 9:30 a.m. to announce a new industrial megasite development grant opportunity.

On South Chicago Avenue at 2 p.m. for the groundbreaking of Regal Mile Studios.

No official public events.

Have a news tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? I’d like to hear from you: [email protected]

— Leo Smith has been selected as a member of the Democratic State Central Committee. He replaces Mike Cabonargi, who stepped down after taking a job with the Biden administration. Smith won the spot Sunday during a private vote among Democratic members who are part of the 9th Congressional District.

Newly elected state Rep. Kevin Olickal also ran for the position. He had the support from Asian American groups that were pushing for more diversity on the central committee. Both men stated their case during a Zoom forum before the vote was taken behind closed doors. The meeting was opened up after Friday’s Playbook posted.

— Lemont Mayor John Egofske has been selected as the state rep in the 82nd District. He fills the vacancy of former Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who left state government last month.

Livingston County Board Member Jason Bunting becomes the new state rep in the 106th District: “Bunting replaces Rep. Tom Bennett, who was recently appointed to the Illinois State Senate,” via 25 News Now.

New Illinois Supreme Court justices got major boost from hidden spending by Democratic group: A political committee funded in part by state Senate President Don Harmon’s campaign was behind TV ads for television ads supporting winning Democratic Justices Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien. No one knew it because the committee didn’t file its campaign reports on time, report Tribune’s By Ray Long and Rick Pearson.

Worth noting: Three Black justices, five women, two men: Breadth of experience marks diverse state Supreme Court, writes Kerry Lester Kasper for Center for Illinois Politics

Illinois reverses decade-long fiscal tide in interim 2022 audit: “When factoring into the overall equation business-type activities — the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, Water Revolving Fund and Prepaid Tuition Fund — the net deficit of $181.6 billion improved 9 percent from $198.9 billion a year earlier,” by Bond Buyer’s Yvette Shields.

Abortion clinics, abortion opponents face violence after the fall of Roe, by Tribune’s Angie Leventis Lourgos

Illinois’ biometric privacy law strengthened by latest high court ruling, by Capitol News’ Hannah Meisel

Pension debt, property taxes, budget holes: Chicago’s next mayor faces huge financial problems, by Tribune’s A.D. Quig, Gregory Pratt and Alice Yin

Community policing and vote for police district councils becoming a focus of upcoming election, candidates for mayor, by Tribune’s Paige Fry and Adriana Pérez

— 1st Ward: Ald. Daniel La Spata’s campaign office windows smashed in overnight attack, by Block Club’s Mina Bloom  

— 10th Ward: Candidates talk police and development at Southeast Side forum, by Block Club’s Noah Glasgow

— 19th Ward: Incumbent Ald. Matt O’Shea is out with a new mailer showcasing his support for police. It counters the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police endorsing opponent Michael Cummings, a former cop. h/t Tribune’s Gregory Pratt

— 33rd Ward: Candidates talk housing, public safety and ‘Real Housewives’ at packed Northwest Side forum, by Block Club’s Alex V. Hernandez

— 45th Ward: Ald. Jim Gardiner defends record as opponents slam his closed-door policies, criminal probes at forum, by Block Club’s Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Inside the CTA’s campaign to put more drivers on the road: “The CTA has been pushing hiring fairs as a way to fill hundreds of vacancies — vacancies it blames for service delays and filthy trains that have been testing the patience of Chicago commuters. The agency has sweetened the pot for prospective job candidates in the past few months, offering to cover the cost of taking classes ahead of the road test for the commercial drivers license, rolling out hiring bonuses and increasing starting pay,” by WBEZ’s Claudia Morell

Ronald Watts, once a corrupt Chicago cop, destroyed hundreds of lives. Now victims want justice, by USA Today’s Grace Hauck

Violence in some Chicago neighborhoods puts young men at greater risk than U.S. troops in war zones, study finds, by Sun-Times’ Frank Main

— Bean envy? New York City gets smaller version of iconic Chicago sculpture, by Tribune’s Jake Sheridan

Holy Plow! Check out the winning names for seven Chicago snowplows, by Block Club’s Mack Liederman

Durbin, Schneider announce firearm safe storage legislation alongside Highland Park shooting survivors: “Their new federal legislation, the SECURE Firearms Storage Act, [is] geared at reducing the amount of stolen firearms used to commit violence,” by Pioneer Press’ Gavin Good.

What suburban school districts are paying to attract substitute teachers: “The district now is paying a daily base rate of $180 to subs, a 56.5 percent increase from less than a year ago,” by Daily Herald’s Jake Griffin.

R. Kelly files for new trial, claims key witness lied about plans to seek millions in restitution, by Sun-Times’ Matthew Hendrickson

Illinois weed sales picked up in January, by Crain’s John Pletz

Rodney Boyd becomes highest-ranking person of color in Illinois National Guard: “I hope to inspire others that look like me to go out and just do those hard things, but do it with passion,” he told ABC 7’s Evelyn Holmes.

Charles Evans has retired after helping guide the U.S. economy through turbulent times the last 15 years, by Daily Herald’s Orrin Schwarz

John Rogers Jr. has come out of bear markets stronger: “The veteran value investor’s flagship Ariel Fund was up 14 percent in January after taking a hit in 2022. Now he is betting big on entertainment, private equity and — surprise! — housing,” via Forbes.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t attend Saturday night’s Equality Illinois gala but his presence loomed from the stage at the downtown Hilton. “We will never let them take away our rights,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said of DeSantis and his conservative supporters. Equality Illinois President Brian Johnson echoed that in his remarks, and honoree Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, brought the house down with her remarks criticizing DeSantis.

Spotted: Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Cook County Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Chicago Ald. Jason Ervin and state Rep. Suzanne Ness and her mom, newly elected McHenry County Commissioner Louisett (Lou) Ness. Mayoral candidates we saw in the house: Lightfoot, Paul Vallas, Brandon Johnson and Ja’Mal Green. Parade of elected officials.

We asked how you survive the February doldrums:

Vincent Brandys: “Listening to No Shoes Radio on SiriusXM, especially Kenny Chesney and Bob Marley songs!”

Ed Mazur: “Fresh flowers as often as possible.”

 Rey Nonato: “Watch Netflix and cook a special dish the kids.”

How far back should your social media posts be judged? Email [email protected]

Flexing his wins and eyeing a 2nd term, Biden will lay out contrasts with GOP in State of the Union, by POLITICO’s Jonathan Lamire

Trump’s ‘24 game plan: Be the dove among the hawks, by POLITICO’s Natalie Allison, Meredith McGraw and Gary Fineout

Biden’s top Covid adviser wishes he had tangled with Tucker Carlson, by POLITICO’s Adam Cancryn

— Richard “Dick” Wands, a former president of the Thornton Township Democratic Organization, has died. Wands was a familiar name in political fundraising, especially among Cook County Dems. Details here

Remembering WGN great Jack Taylor, who died at 94, by WGN 9’s Tahman Bradley, Jackie Bange and Eli Ong

— Thursday at 11:30 a.m.: Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin delivers a “State of the Treasurer’s Office” address. Live on CAN TV 27, and streaming on, Facebook and YouTube. Register at Eventbrite.

FRIDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Barbara Danis for correctly answering that the Edgewater Historical Society is housed in a former Chicago fire station.

TODAY’s QUESTION: What made the Mickelberry Sausage Co. so famous? Email [email protected]

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, state Capital Development Board Executive Director Jim Underwood, U.S. House legislative aide Tommy Brown and researcher John Santerre.

H/t to the late President Ronald Reagan, born this day in 1911 in Tampico, Ill.



via Illinois Playbook

February 6, 2023 at 07:17AM

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