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Updated 08/31/11 – 5:31 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – A coalition of black and Hispanic alderman urged Governor Pat Quinn on Wednesday to immediately sign legislation that would bring a casino to Chicago, but the governor made it clear he won’t do that, repeating his concerns about protections against mob influence.
The City Council’s Black and Hispanic caucuses said that a delay in signing the gambling bill would present a barrier to safety improvements and employment, which would come from a Chicago casino.
“In Chicago, we have our mayor committed to making sure that the dollars that we raise from the casino are going to be committed to safety programs and infrastructure programs to make our city a safer place, create jobs,” said Ald. Ray Suarez (31st)
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A parliamentary maneuver has kept the legislation from reaching Quinn’s desk, despite approval by the General Assembly. Although he has yet to say outright if he would veto the legislation or amend it, the governor has called it “top-heavy” and indicated it needs a re-write.
Suarez and a dozen other aldermen in the coalition asserted that, if Quinn vetoes the gambling bill in hopes of getting better protections against organized crime, the whole deal might collapse and, with it, the dollar stream projected for Chicago.
They said Quinn should sign the bill right away and lawmakers can address his concerns about the legislation with a follow-up bill.
Although he didn’t say specifically that he plans to veto the legislation if it ever reaches his desk, the governor made it clear on Wednesday that that’s his plan.
“The legislature should pass a bill that’s good … in the first place. The notion that we work it out later, that’s not in my book. I think you do it right the first time,” Quinn said.
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Quinn said he has told legislative leaders and other lawmakers that the bill has a number of shortcomings, not the least of which are the safeguards that are supposed to keep organized crime from gaining a foothold in the expanded casino business.
He said Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe is among those who warned him that the safeguards are inadequate.
“I’m with Judge Jaffe here,” Quinn said. “We’re not going to let the mobsters and the gangsters in the door in Chicago or anywhere else when it comes to gambling. That’s a prescription for disaster.”
But bill supporters say that Quinn’s concerns can be addressed later in a trailer bill and what’s needed now is to have the bill signed and work to begin as soon as possible on a Chicago casino and its projected tax revenue.
The black and Hispanic coalition said the casino would bring $140 million in revenue to the city, which could used for infrastructure improvements. The coalition suggests projects at the CTA, replacing aging water mains, fixing substandard bridges and performing needed repairs and upgrades at dozens of Chicago public schools.
“A casino in Chicago would bring millions of dollas to the city annually to help fix some of these problems,” said Daniel Solis, who serves as the City of Chicago’s Hispanic Caucus Chairman.
“It’s our streets, our sidewalks. Right now we have not seen the type of investment in infrastructure that we would like in our neighborhoods and our communities,” said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th). “So if this becomes a catalyst to help us fund those projects, this is something we need to move forward on.”
But Quinn said Wednesday that signing the bill now and waiting for lawmakers to pass a follow-up bill to address his concerns is not an option.
“Do it right the first time and if it’s not right the first time, then you roll up your sleeves and you correct the mistakes and you go back to the drawing board and get it done right,” Quinn said.
The governor said he intends to tell lawmakers how to do just that. He sees a number of problems with the bill, notably protections against mob involvement that he considers to be too weak.
The governor said mobbed-up gambling would be a recipe for disaster.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has lobbied vigorously for Quinn to sign the bill. Quinn said their disagreement on the bill is not souring their relationship.
Either way, Quinn cannot act on the legislation until it is sent to his office by the General Assembly. Although lawmakers have signed off on the gambling expansion plan, Senate President John Cullerton has placed a legislative hold on the proposal, fearing a veto from Quinn.
Once Quinn gets the legislation, he has 60 days in which he must act.