My suggestions for Illinois’ bankruptcy auction

Blogger at the Damen Silos

By John Ruberry

Last week I suggested that Illinois, arguably the most broke state in America, put itself under receivership to fix its dire financial problems, which include nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills and an astounding $138 billion in unfunded pension obligations.

I chose receivership as bankruptcy is not a legal option for the fifty states. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered bankruptcy as a possibility, so it appears he’s open to changing the law so financially reckless blue states, Illinois, as well as New York and California, can call into one of those 800 lines that advertise on television late at night offering Chapter 11 as a salvation. (Okay, I’m kidding on the 800 line.)

Oh, Mitch, your home state of Kentucky also has a financially anemic public worker pension fund.

So state bankruptcy is no longer a pipe dream, although Illinois and New York’s Democratic governors, J.B. Pritzker and Andrew Cuomo respectively, immediately dismissed McConnell’s sound idea. But right now these blue states are acting like old-money aristocrats who believe bankruptcy is beneath them even though their income stream has dried up and their trust funds are depleted.

When there is a bankruptcy there is often a liquidation sale. Illinois has many valuable assets. Not enough to cover the $7 billion in unpaid bills–let alone the $138 billion in unfunded pension obligations–but the Land of Lincoln has to begin somewhere to dig itself out of the hole created by irresponsible politicians from both parties. So here are my suggested on what needs to go.

The Damen Silos: Illinois has owned the abandoned grain silos at Damen on the Sanitary and Ship Canal on Chicago’s South Side since the 1970s. It’s a popular spot for urban explorers–I’ve been there–and for graffiti-taggers. An explosion scene for Transformers: Age of Extinction was filmed at the silos. But the state has owned it four over four decades. Get rid of it. The location is also near Interstate 55. While demolishing the site will be pricey for the new owner which will drive down the selling price, every dollar counts during Illinois’ financial emergency. As it stands now, the Damen Silos are a towering monument to Illinois incompetence.

Illinois’ governor mansion: The last Illinois governor to live full-time in America’s third-oldest governor’s mansion was Republican Jim Edgar, he of the failed “Edgar ramp” pension rescue. He left office in 1999. Another Republican gov, one-termer Bruce Rauner, led the recent private efforts to restore the residence, which was in poor shape. The renovation cost $15 million. The project was completed last July. Four months later Pritzker trounced Rauner in his reelection effort.

Sell the mansion. It can be central Illinois premier luxury B&B. In fact it can be America’s premier luxury B&B.

When Illinois’ governor needs to be in Springfield there are plenty of hotel rooms to choose from there. Or the state can buy a humble bungalow for the governor.

A whole bunch of state parks: Illinois has 142 state parks. Many are tiny and little-visited. Illini, William G. Stratton (named for a governor who was indicted for tax evasion), Jubilee College, and Gebhard Woods state parks immediately come to mind as expendable. At least of half of Illinois’ state parks need to go on the auction block. Illinois has a very popular state park that I’m thinking of that I’ll talk about later.

The former Tinley Park mental health facility: Governor Pat Quinn shuttered the sprawling 250-acre site in 2012. There are toxic wastes that need to be cleaned up. But in real estate, of course, the most important concern is location, location, location. And the old asylum has a great one, at Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street in southern Cook County a few blocks away from an Interstate 80 exit.

Illinois Department of Transportation snow plows: Snow removal and the spreading of salt on roads where IDOT bears maintenance responsibility should be privatized.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield: The Disney-esque ALPLM was the brain-child of Julie Cellini, the wife of longtime state contractor and power-broker William Cellini. A Republican, William got caught up in the Rod Blagojevich scandals which earned him a short stay in federal prison. Julie envisioned the state-owned library and museum as a way to upgrade Springfield as a tourist destination as opposed to merely being a two-hour detour and bathroom stop for travelers on I-55 who visited the Damen Silos in Chicago earlier in the day. It hasn’t worked. And it appears that the ALPLM was conned when it purchased $25 million worth of Honest Abe artifacts, the centerpiece of that swag was a stovepipe hat that was said to be worn by our 16th president. Except that there is no evidence that Lincoln ever wore that hat. At onetime the ALPLM owned a dress once worn by Marilyn Monroe. Who knows what other unrelated treasures that are gathering dust in closets there? Well here is one: There are five copies in Lincoln’s handwriting of his Gettysburg Address. All of them are considered priceless but a since-fired ALPLM director lent the one the library owns to a tiny museum owned by Glenn Beck for a paltry $50,000.

Illinois is incapable of running the ALPLM.

Lincoln’s New Salem: A twenty-minute drive north of Springfield near Petersburg is Lincoln’s New Salem. This was Lincoln’s first home away from his parents. The town lasted only ten years but it is central to Lincoln lore. This spot, consisting mostly of rebuilt log cabins, has many visitors, primarily kids on school field trips, but its value to buyers grows if it is packaged with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Young Americans for Freedom owns the former Ronald Reagan Ranch in California. Perhaps they might be interested in the above sites tied to our first Republican president too. Hey, Disney might want to grab them for a Lincoln Land attraction. Is that a dumb idea? Well it is not as dopey as buying a Marilyn Monroe dress for a Lincoln museum.

The James R. Thompson Center in Chicago: Colloquially known as by its original name, the State of Illinois Center, it was designed by renowned German-American architect Helmut Jahn. Great artists are capable of colossal flops, after all Prince released several unlistenable albums, and Jahn’s Thompson Center is the turd in his career punch bowl. The heating and cooling systems have never worked well and they are expensive to operate. Its marble floors are slippery when visitors bring in snow from their shoes and it snows a lot in Chicago Ironically its atrium is supposed to be a monument to openness in government. But under the decades-long tenure of Boss Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the speaker of the Illinois House, government in Illinois has not been transparent at all. The building is named for James R. Thompson, the Republican governor who signed the three-percent annual compounded pension raise into law. Governors back to Blago have suggested selling the white elephant, which sits on prime real estate in downtown Chicago.

Starved Rock State Park: Illinois’ crown jewel in its state park system is Starved Rock in LaSalle County. Desperate times call for drastic action and that is why the Prairie State needs to sell its most-visited state park, which includes an NPS-style lodge with cabins. Private industry can do a much better job running the park, which has crumbling roads, and perhaps new owners build a couple of more lodges. What did I say about location earlier? As with the former Tinley Park mental home, Starved Rock is a short drive from I-80.

What are your suggestions for things and places for divestment by Illinois?

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

Dynasty 100 Loss All Futility League Report: West Divisions

The latest in our weekly reports on the various Division of the Dynasty Leagues that I run. Today we look at the West Divisions in the All Futility League:

Note that this was written before all of Saturday night’s games were complete.

AL East

1982 Minnesota Twins:

With 33 days to go the pre-Pucket Twins are neck and neck for the top spot of the west, can the young studs who would mature in half a decade bring them over the line or will that lack of seasoning show in this division run?

Heroes: Kent Hrbek is top 10 in the league in every offensive category except Doubles and stolen bases and has been insane in key moments (.372 with runners on ..397 with RISP, .393 RISP 2 outs and .600 with the bases loaded). Robert Castello hasn’t just been the anchor, but the whole hull of that staff with a 3.25 ERA (a full 1.22 below the team avg) in 196 1/3 innings (a full 18% of the teams innings) he’s gone 16-8 with 8 complete games and a 1.14 WHIP

Zeroes: Jeff Little has not provided value out of the pen blowing as many games as he’s saved (4) and put up an ERA of 5.57 in 38 games. On a lot of teams a .240 avg 6 HR & 40 RBI’s would not land you on the zero list but on a team hitting .281 those numbers from Tim Laudner look rather thin.

Wild Card: The good news for Minnesota’s pitching staff, they lead the league in games saved and save percentage (.750) but on the down side they are tied with Baltimore for the most Home Runs allowed

Coming Attractions: After completing yesterday’s series vs Texas they travel to 2005 KC for a pair , stop back home for 3 with the 2018 Orioles before heading to Detroit for three more with the 2003 Tigers.


2008 Seattle Mariners

The Mariners and the Twins are heading to the finish line neck and neck, but can the Mariners with the fewest runs in the AL west finish the job?

Heroes: Jose Lopez leading the league in doubles is impressive but doing so while hitting .354 with 16 HR and but also 77 RBI is even better. Closer Brandon Morrow has not only saved 18 of 23 chances with a 2.44 ERA A WHIP under 1.0 (0.97) but his 8-5 W-L shows he can do the job without a save on the line.

Zeroes: Carlos Silvia (10-11 in 24 starts) record seems OK but if his ERA was not 5.27 his avg against not .308 and his hits allowed considerably higher than his innings pitched Seattle might have a comfortable divisional lead. Meanwhile Jared Washburn’s 10-6 record would be a lot more impressive if he wasn’t 1-3 in his last 10 starts and a 4.96 ERA over all

Wild Card: While Ichrio’s base numbers .284 4 HR 44 RBI’s are not impressive given the competition he has managed to steal 40 bases and put himself in a position to score 90 runs for a team that scores less than everyone in the division.

Coming Attractions: After this week’s four game stint at east contending Tampa Bay the finish they welcome the rest of the east to Seattle facing the 1970 WhiteSox for 2 , the 2002 Tigers for 3 and the 2018 Orioles for four.


1973 Texas Rangers

There’s not a lot of time left but Texas has been surging, can a pair of power hitters and Pitchers carry them back into the race for the top?

Heroes: The only thing scarier for Texas foes than the combination of At the plate the combination of Jim Merritt 17-7 3.69 ERA 23 walks in 163 innings and Jim Bibby 11-10 3.52 ERA 24 starts 7 saves in 8 chances and 180k’s in 184 1/3 innings is the combo of Jeff Burroughs .282 37 HR 111 RBI and Bill Sudakis .275 31 HR 98 RBI’s at the plate

Zeroes: Clyde David’s 5.98 ERA and 122 innings in 22 starts is a big reason why his record is 5-10. Sonny Siebert’s 11-13 Mark might look respectable with his 5.38 ERA 24 HR allowed and nearly 200 hits allowed in under 170 innings is a big reason why Texas isn’t right up with the big boys.

Wild cards: Since Texas acquired their new manager they have risen from a sub .500 cellar dweller to an over .500 team with an outside shot of catching the front of the pack

Coming Attractions: Texas finishes their homestand with a pair vs 2003 Detroit before heading on the road to visit the 1970 White Sox for 3 and the 2005 Royals for four.


2005 Kansas City Royals

10 Back in the loss column is a bad place to be with only 34 games to go but can the Royals Slug their way past the rest or will their pitching continue to bring them down?

Heroes: Matt Stairs triple Crown numbers .315 17 HR 59 RBI with 60 walks are nothing to sneeze at but Mike Sweeney .306 29 HR 102 RBI more than make up for the lack of walks.

Zeroes: When four of your five Starters are at the bottom of your team ERA numbers D.J Carrasco 5.61, JP Howell 5.66, Jose Lima 6.08 and Runelvys Hernandez 6.46 it’s hard to pick THE zero but with a .325 Avg against a 1.81 WHIP, more walks than strikeouts it’s little wonder than Hernandez sits a 3-12

Wild Cards: Kansas City leads the Majors with a .444 team slugging percentage and the AL with a OBP of .355 & an OPS of .798 but also hold the worst ERA (4.86) in their division.

Coming Attractions: The Royals Remaining hopes might be determined in two of the next three series a brief two game home stand vs the 1st place 1982 Twins, a three game jaunt to Tampa Bay to face the 2002 Devil Rays and Back home for 4 with the 1973 Texas Rangers.


NL West

2012 Houston Astros

Houston has managed to put some distance between theselvs and the pack but as the final run continues will they be able to keep the pace long enough to counter a sudden surge?

Heroes: Jose Altuve’s .364 Avg at the plate is a big help but not nearly as big as the relief combo of Fernando Rodriguez 10-2 2.71 ERA .228 avg against Wesley Wright 9 Svs in 11 chances 2.79 ERA 68K vs 16 BB and Wilton Lopez 15 saves in 17 chances 3.29 ERA

Zeroes: Marwin Gonzalez’s .209 avg 4 HR and 20 RBI aren’t going to scare anyone. If there is anything less impressive than Matt Down’s .214 batting avg it’s his .905 fielding percentage at 3rd base.

Wild card: Houston’s -26 Run differential is worse than every other 1st & 2nd place team in the majors and only the 1967 Mets have a worse record in extra inning games in the NL. Justin Maxwell’s 26 HR & 73 RBI’s would be a lot more impressive if it didn’t come with a .208 Avg

Coming Attractions: A tough four game vs the 1998 Marlins will be followed by a pair vs the 1967 Mets before heading off to San Diego to try to put the 1973 Padres to bed


2004 Arizona Diamondbacks. Can a single pitcher and a new manager carry a team over the finish line? t might seem easy to lead a divsion when you’re the only team with a winning record in it

Heroes: Randy Johnson leads not just the NL but the MAJORS in every single non-relief Pitching Category except for fewest walks per 9 innings where he is 8th. Brandon Webb only has 11 decisions in 22 starts but that 9-2 record and 2.94 ERA means they aren’t standing on just one leg.

Zeroes: Casey Fossum has been one of the worst starters in the league the anti Randy Johnson is 3-11 (vs 16-7) 8.62 ERA (vs 1.94) 110 2/3 innings in 24 starts (vs 218 1/3) and .348 avg against ( vs .184). Casey Dagle’s 4-7 and 5.22 ERA seems worse is bad but only 70 2/3 inning in 16 starts? That’s horrible.

Wild card: Only 3 pitchers have over 100 innings for Arizona. Arizona was last place until their new manager took over.

Coming Attractions: Once they are done with their 4 games at the 1967 New York Mets they head home for a pair vs the 1998 Marlins before a quick trip to Milwaukee to take on the 2002 Brewers for 3 before coming back for a critical four games vs the 1st place 2012 Astros.


1973 San Diego Padres

Despite A sudden illness hitting their manager they are still in striking distance, can they over come that disadvantage and two teams ahead to make the race at the end? Or will their Worst in the league pitching make it impossible

Heroes: Willie McCovey not only still has the power .292 18 HR 64 RBI but also has an eye with 107 walks 2nd in the league is why he leads the team in runs. Dave Wiinfield’s .238 Avg is 18 pts below the team avg but toss in 21 HR and 86 RBI’s and that’s hero class to me.

Zeroes: This is hard because while the team has the worst ERA in the league (4.91) only Lowell Palmer 4-6 5.75 ERA 8 starts with more than 20 innings (67 1/3 innings ) is over that number and not even by a run. It’s the same on the batting side where Fred Kendell .240 9 HR 49 RBI is not horrible but is meh on a team full of meh

Wild Card : Derrel Thomas line .233 2 HR 58 RBI is poor and would make him a zero but load the bases and his line becomes .538 avg .600 obp and 14 RBI. Now that’s clutch.

Coming Attractions: It’s two in Pittsburgh vs the 2010 Pirates before coming home for a make or break 12 game home stand vs the 1st place 2012 Astros (3), the 2002 Brewers (4) the 2004 Diamondbacks (2) and the 1998 Florida Marlins


2002 Milwaukee Brewers

It’s do or die time in Milwaukee 12 games back with 36 to go it’s now or never if they want a shot at the postseason.

Heroes: Jose Hernandez .287 27 HR 67 RBI’s have been a bright sight on a dull offense while middle Reliever Luis Vizcaino with a 2.31 ERA and a WHIP of 0.91 has despite 4 blown saves in 8 chances has been a rare bright spot on the mound

Zeroes: You don’t get much worse than Ruben Quevedo with a 7.01 ERA a .295 avg against 26 HR allowed and a 3-13 record in 26 starts. Matt Stairs .201 14 HR 40 RBI is bad (10 outfield assists not withstanding) but Ronnie Bellard’s .200 2 HR 19 RBI makes it look good.

Wild Card: Milwaukee may be in last but you can’t blame their glove work their .987 fielding percentage is the best in the majors alas for them only the Padres have a worse ERA in the NL

Coming Attractions: A tough home series is next with 4 vs the 2002 Pirates followed by 2 vs the 2009 Washington Nationals and 3 vs the 2004 Diamondbacks will likely decide their fate.