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John Racasi (left) was sentenced to 18 months and Thomas Hawkins received two years for taking bribes to lower property tax bills. | Sun-Times file photo

Two Cook County employees get prison for bribery scheme

Two Cook County employees who took bribes to lower property tax bills were sentenced Wednesday to two years and 18 months behind bars respectively.

Visitors to the Empress Casino crowd the craps table while other play the slot machines in Joliet in this May 2003 file photo. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

City not at the table for casino discussion

A massive casino in the heart of Chicago’s downtown was the topic on the mind of state lawmakers during an hourslong hearing Wednesday across the street from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. 

The slow pace of fundraising by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has allies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel convinced she does not plan to challenge him for mayor. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Slow Preckwinkle fundraising makes mayoral bid seem unlikely

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s camp is more convinced than ever that Toni Preckwinkle is not planning to run for mayor after perusing the Cook County Board president’s latest campaign financing report.

Chicago Ald. Will Burns (4th, left) and Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) confer during the City Council meeting in March. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

Aldermen search everywhere for alternatives to property tax hike

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise property taxes by $250 million to shore up the Municipal Employees and Laborers pension funds — and a looming, $600 million payment to stabilize  police and fire pension funds — has aldermen looking under every rock for alternative sources of revenue.

Same-sex marriage license applications near 1,000 in Cook County

About a fifth of all marriage licenses issued so far in Cook County are to couples from outside Illinois. In all, 23 other states are listed on the licenses. About 950 applications had been filed by Tuesday, with the number expected to reach 1,000 by Friday, according to the Cook County clerk's office.

Illinois Gov. George Ryan listens while former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon speaks a news conference in April 2002. | M. Spencer Green/AP file photo

Who’s who of pols as job references on Metra clout cards

A former governor who went to prison. The chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. A U.S. senator who ran for president. A who’s who of Illinois politicians — from folks since shrouded in shame to names chiseled on the side of government buildings — were listed as Metra job references on nearly 800 index cards kept over an eight-year period at Metra headquarters. 

Judge Sheldon A. Harris in 2007

Harris spends $1 million for judge post — five times the salary

Landing a position on the Illinois appeals court now comes with a bigger price tag, newly released campaign finance reports show.  Sheldon “Shelly” Harris, whose ads blanketed TV for two weeks during the March primary, spent nearly $1 million — 14 times more than his closest competitor — in his successful bid for the state’s appellate court in the first district. Another first district appellate candidate, John Simon, spent $660,000 for a different vacancy and went on to win his bid. 

The 95th Street station is now the end of the Red Line. That station is due for a major renovation, and the CTA is looking at routes to extend the Red Line to 130th Street. | Sun-Times File Photo

CTA weighs two options for Red Line extension route

The CTA has narrowed to two the routes for a long-awaited Red Line extension from 95th to 130th Street — one down the middle of busy Halsted Street, the other mostly running along existing freight tracks.

Heart-wrenching stories of gun violence

It rose to 80 degrees in Chicago on Saturday, the warmest day of the year so far, and a spasm of gunfire quickly followed. Over 36 hours, at least 36 people were shot. Beyond the shock of the sheer numbers involved, the individual stories are heart-wrenching.

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