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March 2019 Infrastructure Strains Under Weight of Neglect

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President-Business Manager James Sweeney Nominated to Illinois Tollway’s Board of Directors

From the Chicago Tribune:

James Sweeney, president and business manager of the politically influential International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, was returned to a post on the Illinois Toll Highway Authority Board on Thursday by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The union was an adamant opponent of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s efforts to weaken organized labor’s power. While it backed Pritzker, the union-affiliated Fight Back Fund and the engineers’ Washington, D.C.-based affiliate gave more than $4.3 million to Republican state Sen. Sam McCann’s third-party run for governor in 2018, which was widely viewed as an effort to further weaken Rauner’s re-election chances.

Pritzker defeated Rauner, 54.5 percent to 39 percent. McCann got 4.2 percent of the vote.

In the campaign for Chicago mayor, the union-affiliated Fight Back for a Better Tomorrow fund put $1.2 million worth of TV ads on the air to attack Bill Daley, the son and brother of two former mayors. Daley had indicated support for a potential state constitutional amendment aimed at weakening union benefits. Daley finished third and out of the two-way runoff in which Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle were nominated.

The union also is behind efforts to push a new state public works bill to pay for road and bridge improvements across the state. Pritzker is supportive of an infrastructure bill as are lawmakers in both parties, but no specific list of projects has been developed and no way to pay for the work has been floated. A task force has been convened to look at the issue.

Sweeney was previously named to the Tollway board by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 2011 and served until Rauner took over the governor’s office in 2015.

Sweeney was announced along with a new slate of members for the tollway board, the result of legislation sought by Pritzker to revamp the makeup of an agency that had long been considered a source of Republican favoritism in contracts and hiring.

Pritzker named energy and engineering consultant Will Evans, the former president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, to chair the board. Among those named to the tollway’s board of directors was former Republican state Sen. Karen McConnaughay of St. Charles, the former Kane County Board chair. McConnaughay chose not to seek re-election last year.

 



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