Category Archives: sightseeing

Illinois Tax

An “in-between” tax rate is coming to Illinois for 2017 earnings.  There was a tax increase in the state and thus the Illinois Department of Revenue calculated a “blended” rate of 4.35% following an increase of the basic rate (in July) from 3.75 to 4.95%.  According to Terry Horstman – spokesman for the Department of Revenue – this figure is based on the amount of days under the two different figures.  Tax forms will comprise the blended rate facilitating the process for taxpayers.  The rate is for income from January-December 2017. The increase in tax rates is in order to raise over $5.1 billion for the 2018 fiscal year.

There are potentially more tax increases in the pipeline too that will go toward recreation programs.  With a  tax property increase the Chicago Park District believes they will get closer to their proposed $462.3 million budget for park expansion and “special recreation programming” and sites.  This would only cost the average homeowner an additional $6.48 and would generate a staggering $7.6 million in revenue.

When it comes to wind energy firms in the state, the taxing model there has been “touted as one of the best in the country, bringing in $30.4 million in property taxes in 2016, according to economic experts.”  Whereas it’s common for most of the nation to implore a very patchy system, Illinois has a much more “consistent” one which began in 2007 after its legislature found its system of property tax assessments was so problematic and confusing when it came to wind companies.

Benefits of Leaving Landfills

Sometimes it is essential to move a landfill.  But at other times – like in the case that exists in the St. Louis region – it makes a lot more sense to leave well alone and have the landfill monitored efficiently.

This is exactly what the situation is with the West Lake Landfill.  In this case, moving it would be very problematic.  Thankfully though, West Lake is a prime example of where monitoring over the years has been successful.  And, with the work of the dedicated EPA, this is happening.

In fact, the West Lake Landfill is one of America’s “most monitored sites of its type…with $200 million invested to help solve complex problems,” which currently exist there or with the Bridgeton Landfill that sits adjacent to it.

When there is no risk to public health – as has been deemed by both state and federal agencies in the West Lake Landfill situation – leaving alone is the best solution.

The Art Institute of Chicago Wins Interactive Award at SXSW

And the winner was: The Art Institute of Chicago for its digital tool called JourneyMaker in the Visual Media Experience division.

The tool allows families to create their own personalized tour of the Art Institute museum ahead of time, to make their “in-person” visit more rewarding.

The yearly Interactive Innovation Awards entered its 20th year at this year’s SXSW conference, and gave out a total of 13 awards. The awards cover a wide range of categories, including wearable tech, VR & AR, smart cities and new economy.

Visual media experience, the category for which the Chicago Art Institute was recognized, awards projects that “create content and deliver it in a way that moves beyond passive viewership by providing a more immersive and engaging entertainment experience.”

JourneyMaker was launched last year. Users create a personalized tour of the museum choosing one of eight storylines, like Superheroes or Time Travelers. They then select the works found in the museum that they would like to visit that fit within their chosen theme. When you are done, you can even print a hard copy of the guide you just created, and come well-prepared for some great museum fun.

The main goal of the tool is to make what otherwise could be a daunting, confusing experience at the museum into an organized, enjoyable journey which the whole family planned together in advance.

IRS Opening Branches at Your Nearby Seven-Eleven

Seven-11 will now take money from taxpayers for the IRS. Photo by HenryWBee
Seven-11 will now take money from taxpayers for the IRS. Photo by HenryWBee

In order to make it as easy as possible for the approximately 1 in 13 households in America that don’t have bank accounts to pay their taxes, the IRS will allow people to pay them at Seven-Eleven convenience stores.

Seven-Eleven convenience stores are small groceries found in a huge number of neighborhood strip malls has been catering to people without bank accounts or credit cards more every year. The IRS decision to allow payments in 7,000 of these stores throughout the country is a reflection of the need to make it easier for people to pay their tax bills.

“We continue to look for new ways to provide services for our taxpayers … this provides a new way for people who can only pay their taxes in cash without having to travel to an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Anyone that would like to pay their taxes at a Seven-Eleven will have to sign up first by going to payments page. They will receive instructions and an email confirming their information after the IRS verifies it. Then they will receive a payment code and more instructions. Then they will be able to make a payment at a local store.

The IRS urges anyone considering this option for payment to start in advance, because it could take a few days to get confirmation. To avoid penalties or late fees payments need to be made by April 18 this year. There is a $1,000 payment limit per day, and a $3.99 fee for each payment.

Uber’s Ads Designed to Sway Chicago to Their Side

Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010), Mayor of Chicago since 2011
Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010), Mayor of Chicago since 2011

Uber, the convenient app that allows customers to call a cab directly from their smart phones, has been competing with Chicago’s regular taxi companies for a while, but in what some might say is an unfair way. Currently Uber drivers are not allowed to operate to and from the city’s two major airports, O’Hare and Midway; nor can they take people to or from the McCormick Place convention center.

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a leveling of the playing field by giving Uber access to those three strategic locales, incensing the conventional taxi drivers who believe (and probably rightly) that such a move would bite off a huge chunk of their already diminished business.

On the whole Chicagoans would like to see Uber flourish, creating more completion which they believe will lower taxi prices and improve service, but the revelation that the mayor’s brother Ari is an investor in Uber did not help Uber’s case. Therefore an intense ad campaign has ensued to further persuade the public to get on board with Uber. The Uber ads are hitting the taxi industry where it hurts:

“You never know. Will a taxi show up in your neighborhood? Will an empty cab pass you by? That’s the reality with taxis. But now you have a choice. With just the touch of a button, Uber will show up anywhere you are,” explains the ad.

Chicago’s City Council will most likely be voting on this issue next week. The Aldermen will need to choose between what Uber says will be an additional $20 million per year into the city’s coffers from fees and surcharges; or to support traditional taxi cabs and their hold on the city’s taxi transportation industry.

Moody’s Says Chicago Pensions Burdensome for City

Chicago's pension funds underfunded in a big way. Photo credit: Flickr
Chicago’s pension funds underfunded in a big way. Photo credit: Flickr

According to a recent study by Moody’s Investors Service, Chicago’s pension fund has the most underfunded retirement plans in the country. How underfunded is that? Moody’s says the pensions cost the city 8 times annual revenues.

Based on a three year average calculated by Moody’s Chicago’s pension obligations add up to a total of $29.8 billion. That figure comes to 15.5 percent of its property tax base, making it also the highest in the nation using that parameter.

Chicago came in at the bottom of this list also two years ago, the first year of this Moody’s survey. The office of Mayor Emanuel did not comment on this report.

Unlimited Parental Leave New Policy at Netflix

Netflix offering new, liberal parental leave policy
Netflix offering new, liberal parental leave policy

The new policy for employees at Netflix is fabulous news for new moms and dads who would like to spend some quality and quantity time with their newly born children for the first year after birth.

Netflix announced that they are now going to allow workers to take unlimited maternity or paternity leave anytime during the first year after either a birth or adoption of a new child in the family.

The new policy is extremely liberal, with no demand for any kind of decision as to whether the employee wants to come back at all, or come back full or part time, or stop working now and coming back later, and anything in between or in combination. The Netflix policy will be continue paying the normal salary, regardless of the amount of time the worker works, with no cumbersome switch to disability, maternity or sick leave.

The company is being praised for its liberal policy regarding parenthood and time off from work. There is no regard whether the parent is the mother or father, and the time period allotted recognizes the key importance of a child’s first year of life.

Rob Hannah and the Chicago Yacht Yard

With over 8,000 boat slips available, the boating opportunities in Chicago are expansive. One company, the Chicago Yacht Yard with President Rob Hannah understands this and has as their goal to serve the Chicago boating community. They have storage and repair services and have built up a customer base with more than 450 wealthy boat owners. They are also adding boat sales to these plans. Rob Hannah certainly has a vision and a business and strategic plan. Originally educated as an architect, Hannah spent years as a bond trader before becoming a successful real estate designer, builder and developer of both residential and commercial properties.

Hannah has always loved boating and holds certifications for both powerboats and sailboats. He was an active large sailboat racer and is now an active power boater.

The Chicago Yacht Yard, with 10 acres of land and 200,000 square feet of heated indoor service and storage area, welcomes boaters to enjoy their services. They have a rich history in the marine business. During the World War II, their facility actually produced parts for US Navy submarines. They also served as the world’s largest Chris-Craft dealer for a while and they have been a service and storage facility throughout their eighty plus years.