Chicago mayor may have allies in fight to fix police, fire pensions
Mayors across the state have joined forces in hopes of getting relief from their own soaring police and fire pension costs if the Legislature moves to help Chicago. Their involvement creates both opportunities and complications for Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he tries to finish what he started with fixes to the pension funds of city municipal workers and laborers.
The opportunity is that Emanuel can expect to have most of those mayors — Democrat and Republican — in his corner next time as he lobbies legislators on police and fire pensions.
The complication is that he also could find every current and retired police officer and firefighter in the state converging on Springfield to oppose him.
The same dynamic was not in play when Emanuel asked legislators earlier this month to help him fix the pension plans for the city’s civilian workforce. That’s because equivalent employees for suburban and downstate communities are part of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, the most soundly financed of the state’s big pension systems and not currently a candidate for funding reform.
By contrast, most towns have their own separate police and fire pension funds, more than 600 in all, in varying degrees of financial health.
As a whole, those suburban and Downstate pension funds are in much better shape than Chicago’s, with funding ratios typically in the 50-60 percent range, compared to 24 percent for the Chicago fire pension fund and 31 percent for police as of 2012. Funding ratios in excess of 80 percent are considered preferable.
Chicago firefighters, cop among 8 injured in Far South Side fire
Two firefighters and a police officer were injured in a house fire on Chicago's Far South Side. Five other people were hurt, and some residents had to jump to escape the flames. The fire broke out around 6 p.m. Tuesday evening at 116th and Michigan in the West Pullman neighborhood. The cause of the fire is still undetermined, but it may have started in a first-floor ceiling area. The second floor was badly burned. Witnesses say two boys were there when they made the decision to jump. Cell phone video captured the fire's initial moments as the flames spread quickly and smoke billowed from the home.
"The second floor was definitely engulfed. The first floor seemed like it was starting to take fire also," said Charles Kirkland, neighbor.
The fire trapped several residents on the second floor, including an eight-year-old boy who neighbor Bernard Jones says decided to jump.
WLS-TV ABC 7 Chicago
Two dead in early morning Quincy fire
A man and his infant son died early Wednesday morning following a house fire on Quincy's south side. Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning says firefighters pulled the two from the burning home at 515 S. 17th St. The infant was immediately taken to Blessing Hospital by ambulance while firefighters attempted resuscitate the man until a second ambulance arrived.
The two were later pronounced dead at the hospital.
According to Adams Co. Coroner James Keller, the victims were 25-year-old Daniel S. Disseler and 4-month-old Hunter Disseler. He said an autopsy is pending.
Henning says crews were called to the home at 2:40 a.m. When crews arrived, Quincy police officers were pulling a woman from a basement window. The dispatcher talking to the woman directed her to that window after the officers were able to break through a finished wall blocking it.
The father and son were on the first floor and could not escape. They were found in the kitchen area.
Rock Falls ratifies labor agreement with firefighters
The City Council approved a new 3-year contract with its firefighters Tuesday after an executive session. The deal had already been ratified by the union, Rock Falls Firefighter Association Local 3291.
Firefighters received a 2 percent raise for each of the 3 years of the new contract, which runs from May 1, 2014 through April 30, 2017.
The captains will get a 3 percent raise for each year of the contract. There is no change in the benefits packages for the three captains and nine firefighters.
The collective bargaining process went smoothly, City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.
“We only had a couple of 2-hour sessions and we were able to get it done,” Blackert said. “The communication was good before we sat down and in between; the firefighters were very cooperative.”
Gary Cook, Twin City Joint Fire Command chief, said the firefighters were also pleased that negotiations moved along quickly.
“The process went very well,” Cook said. “I think it helps that there is a lot of respect on both sides.”
Stephenson County, ambulance crews still under fire for delays
Dealing with intense scrutiny since the death of a farmer and road commissioner, Tri-District Ambulance Service concedes that ambulance runs to this town are taking nearly four minutes longer than in 2012. For the 14 runs this year, crews have taken an average 11 minutes from the time they receive a call until they arrive at the scene of a fire, heart attack or other emergency. In 2013, it took them 8 minutes and 20 seconds; in 2012, 7 minutes and 8 seconds.
“I’m getting a little scared,” said Kathy Clay, who lives three doors from where Joshua Langholf, 24, died April 6.
A Tri-District Ambulance crew responding to the call had to phone a 911 dispatcher for directions to his house because a GPS device in the ambulance couldn’t get a signal. The crew relied on a cellphone GPS and arrived at Langholf’s home — a 5-mile drive — 22 minutes after the initial call to 911 was placed.
Fifteen minutes later, Langholf arrived at FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport, where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
Rockford Register Star