By Kerry Lester
Some Ray Graham Association workers in DuPage County are leaving their posts for higher-paying jobs in fast food or big box stores as the clock is ticking on GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign or veto a bill raising pay for caregivers for those with disabilities. Workers statewide average $9.35 an hour.
President and CEO Kim Zoeller recalls an email she got the other day highlighting the placement of a disabled resident in a part-time job. "I'm so excited for this, but check out this wage," the email read. It was higher than the email's sender -- the employment specialist.
Zoeller says 50 of Ray Graham's 300 or so caregiver positions are open and the agency is experiencing higher turnover than ever. With those gaps, she says, the agency no longer is able to devote time to take residents into the community for such things as going to church or grocery shopping. Ray Graham serves 2,000 disabled children and adults in the suburbs and operates 23 group residential homes.
Illinois last increased reimbursement for such nonprofits in 2008. Efforts to increase reimbursements have fallen short with some arguing the state, faced with a multibillion-dollar bill backlog, must take care of existing obligations before taking on new ones.
But this year, a bill that was sponsored by a number of suburban lawmakers -- including Democratic Reps. Marty Moylan of Des Plaines and Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg and Republican Grant Wehrli of Naperville -- passed the legislature. It's been on Rauner's desk since the end of June, and spokesman Andrew Flach says it's under review. Rauner has until Aug. 29 to sign or veto the legislation or it automatically becomes law.
Did GOP state Rep. Michael McAuliffe lie about being a veteran in newspaper op-eds, as his Democratic opponent suggests? The issue's a little more complicated than that, I learned when I began looking into it this week. McAuliffe, whose district includes portions of Des Plaines, Mount Prospect, Rosemont and Park Ridge, wrote a letter to several newspapers last fall -- including the Daily Herald -- using the term "my fellow veterans" although he never served in the armed forces.
House Republican strategist Joe Woodward said the error was a staffer's and offered a revised letter to newspapers in short order. But Woodward says the Daily Herald was the only paper to print the revision. The issue is being highlighted now by Democrat Merry Marwig in a race considered to be one of the most competitive in the suburbs.
You've likely read my colleague Dann Gire's gripping account of the disappearance of Mount Prospect 14-year-old Barbara Glueckert in 1976, a loss that haunts the girl's family, searchers and Gire himself. Just what is Barbara's relationship to the Glueckert family that runs the Arlington Heights funeral home? Founder John Glueckert's cousin is the father of the missing girl, I'm told.
What's it like to jump out of a plane from 10,000 feet in the air? Elgin Area School District U-46 CEO Tony Sanders -- who was invited to sky-dive with the Army's Golden Knights while they were in town last weekend for the Chicago Air and Water Show -- calls the experience "terrifying until I was flying."
Then, he says, "fear gave way to exhilaration." Sanders says he didn't know, however, the Golden Knights were going to bring him into a formation. "You might have seen me jolt a bit when my arms are being grabbed."
Take a look for yourself at the video he posted on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/tony.sanders.7.
This sweet shot comes courtesy of Elk Grove Village spin teacher Sue Heaton, after her daughter Kim, left, met Michael J. Fox at Wizard World Comic Con in Rosemont last weekend. Kim, who has watched "Back to the Future" every day for two years, gave Fox a letter from the family and asked that he read it on the plane ride back home. "Disabled since birth and dealing with challenges that come with disability, Kim has always found comfort in the peace of our home where a favorite movie transports her into a different world where she finds fun and laughter and the characters in that movie seem to become her friends," the letter reads.