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Monday, Feb 28, 2005

Saw a teaser on Fox Chicago last night about an interview with Maya Keyes, the not-so-right-wing daughter of the infamous Alan Keyes. The station will run the story Tuesday night at 9. I’ll be in Springfield, so I’ll miss it, but this ought to be interesting.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


HST would love this one

Monday, Feb 28, 2005

The Rockford Register-Star’s Aaron Chambers has written one of the best Hunter S. Thompson tribute column without ever mentioning the dead writer’s name.

On Tuesday, [Governor Blagojevich] explained during a news conference that Flushy, the steer he bought at an auction for $9,600, appeared destined for another auction to benefit 4-H, the agriculture development program for youth.

AFTERWARD, I asked Blagojevich if that meant Flushy would not be the subject of a finger-licking barbecue.

“There was an idea,” he told me. “Brunsvold (Joel Brunsvold, the natural resources director) recommended why don’t we just let him off, just kind of let him go and then go hunt him.”

With assault rifles?

“Right,” Blagojevich said. “But there’s no sport in that. Can you imagine? We’d take him down to Pike County and just kind of let him loose. We’d all kind of get dressed up in those fatigues, in the camouflage, and we go out and there’s stationary Flushy just kind of standing there. We’re like all positioned ourselves. And the way that would probably work is they’d probably give the governor the best first shot. Right? Like in ‘The Deer Hunter.’ But we’re not going to do that.”

Would you give him a head start?

“Yeah we’d give him a head start. But I don’t see him going that far. Do you? I’ve met Flushy, and he’s kind of (got) weight there,” Blagojevich said, motioning toward his midsection to indicate Flushy’s diameter.

If you hit him hard enough, don’t you suppose he would run?

“Anyway, I rejected that option, totally rejected it,” the governor said. “I thought it was unsportsmanlike.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      


Feeling yucky

Monday, Feb 28, 2005

Bad chest cold, hacking all the time. No energy. No fax today, sorry. Very little to no blogging expected today.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Things that make you go “Hmm”

Saturday, Feb 26, 2005

Another “old” story, but generally missed by the mainstream media. Illinois Issues looks into a controversial state contract with a private company.

The Blagojevich Administration has doled out at least $68 million in consulting contracts, eyeing cost savings of up to $1 billion.

But a look at one of the administration’s most lucrative arrangements, a $24.9 million contract with a politically connected Chicago firm designed to help CMS streamline its property management practices, suggests savings projections were overblown. […]

CMS says its contract with Illinois Property Asset Management LLC, a Chicago consortium, saved taxpayers $6.5 million. But the contract was supposed to save at least $14 million last year. […]

In an interview last spring, CMS Director Michael Rumman estimated that the contract with Illinois Property Asset Management could eventually save the state $100 million a year. The budget proposal Blagojevich unveiled a few months earlier estimated savings of $120 million by 2006. Today, that estimate has been cut in half. CMS spokeswoman Nicole Grady now puts the total savings at $57 million over a three-year period. […]

And at least two real estate deals signed since Illinois Property Asset Management came on board raised questions about the effectiveness of the high-priced advice CMS is getting. The first is a two-year no-bid lease for storage space near the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. The Illinois Lottery inked the $48,000 deal with Mark IV Realty, which also rents billboard space to the agency and donated $90,000 worth of billboard space to Blagojevich during his campaign for governor.

The second deal involves the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. At the suggestion of Illinois Property Asset Management, DNR employees moved out of the Thompson Center last summer and into $61,000-a-year office space in the Chicago Loop. The five-year no-bid lease was signed a few months before the agency laid off 124 employees. […]

Documents released by CMS do not indicate that Illinois Property Asset Management has suggested reforms that would have made those no-bid deals any less likely. In general, the advice the state is getting remains a mystery outside the administration. […]

With CMS taking its cues from the private sector, the business of state government is increasingly becoming a private matter for this administration. Critics argue this sells short the 12 million Illinoisans who are the de facto shareholders in the business of state government. While the private sector might produce a better work product, so far Illinois taxpayers aren’t seeing much more than the price tag.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      


Tattoo artists, rejoice!

Saturday, Feb 26, 2005

I suppose the rationale for the current law is that people shouldn’t be allowed to legally get a tattoo until they can work up the courage by legally getting drunk.

The Illinois House Friday approved a proposal that would allow 18- 19- and 20-year-olds to get tattoos without parental permission.

House Bill 29 also would bar anyone younger than 18 from entering a tattoo parlor or body-piercing shop unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling, cleared the House on a 73-35 vote. There was no debate.

At present, anyone younger than 21 may not legally get a tattoo without parental consent.

This story is old, by the way, but I came up with the (allegedly) funny line this week, which is why I’m posting it now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Friday Topinka blogging

Friday, Feb 25, 2005

I have no idea what that means other than it looks like a menu.

Friday Topinka blogging is beginning to bore me, mainly because I’ve used up most of the good pics of her that can be found online. Any suggestions? Or do you want to keep your weekly dose of Topinka?


- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Debating society

Friday, Feb 25, 2005

Three good debates are taking place in the comments section right now.

  • Archpundit and a couple of anonymous posters are going back and forth about higher education spending and tuition.
  • Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide and suicide in general are being discussed here.
  • Governor Blagojevich’s ethics, or lack thereof, are being debated here.

I’m getting a kick out of all of them.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Simply amazing

Friday, Feb 25, 2005

Wow.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm.Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Find out you how you - yes, you - can play this game with The Scramblizer.

Here’s the Capitol Fax blog Scrablized.

(Link via In4mador.)

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


Good news

Friday, Feb 25, 2005

After months of saying it couldn’t possibly be done because of Illinois’ refusal to reform medical malpractice laws, it was done.

Memorial Hospital of Carbondale has recruited a new brain surgeon to open a practice nearly one year to the day the hospital’s two former neurosurgeons announced a hostile medical malpractice climate in the state was driving them out.

Hospital administrator George Maroney said Thursday, after several weeks of discussion, Dr. Allan Gocio, a licensed neurosurgeon currently practicing in St. Louis, has decided to re-open a neurosurgery practice in Carbondale. The practice will open in April under the name Neurological Surgeons of Southern Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


Sickening

Friday, Feb 25, 2005

I was willing to give ICC Chairman Ed Hurley the benefit of the doubt, but I was wrong (and I should have known better, since he’s such a pawn of the utility industry).

In a scathing rebuke, Attorney General Lisa Madigan accused the state panel that polices utilities of breaking Illinois’ open meetings law and ordered it to quit letting power company executives pay for commissioners’ restaurant meals.

One of Madigan’s top lawyers this week informed Illinois Commerce Commission chairman Ed Hurley that it was possibly illegal for him to have let Peoples Energy executives buy his and another commissioner’s lunch last month, even though Hurley paid back the executive later.

Moreover, Madigan’s office said the lunch date violated the state’s Open Meetings Act because two of the ICC’s four commissioners were present. The office “strongly recommended” the commissioners undergo a special training session to brush up on public meeting laws.

Worst of all, Hurley still doesn’t get it.

“I’ve got to assimilate some of this information and determine appropriate behavior, I suppose,” Hurley said of Madigan’s letter. “But again, I don’t think we did anything so terrible.”

The governor’s appointments to the ICC are at the very heart of my problem with him. The contractor contributions, the manipulations, the Elvis posing… that’s all small stuff.

Almost nothing that state government does impacts more people directly than utility regulation. The undeniable fact that this governor has appointed blatantly utility-friendly tools to the ICC - who have then marginalized or ousted pro-consumer staff - completely undercuts his claims that he is a progressive reformer.

His last appointment of a total unknown was designed to please both sides. That wouldn’t have been a bad idea if the ICC wasn’t already so heavily weighted against consumers. He should have appointed a real reformer, like former state Sen. Patrick Welch. But Welch has been told that he was too consumer friendly for the governor’s taste.

Right now, there is only one ICC commissioner who is on the side of consumers, and he was appointed by George Ryan.

Governor Blagojevich should be ashamed of his record. He has flagrantly pimped for SBC, ComEd and Peoples Energy for two years straight. He ought to be held accountable.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Whacked

Friday, Feb 25, 2005

It looks like everyone had this story today about the governor’s alleged meddling in the affairs of the supposedly independent Illinois Gaming Board, particularly through his fundraising chief, Chris Kelly.

The Tribune editorializes:

And here we thought Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s refusal to fill three empty seats on the Illinois Gaming Board was mere benign neglect–a mysterious devotion to not regulating the nine operative casino licenses that are among this state’s most valuable assets.

That’s evidently just part of the Blagojevich administration’s plans for the Gaming Board. What’s coming into focus is the picture of a governor meddling dangerously, and not for the first time, with a state agency that is supposed to operate independently of politicians like Blagojevich and his busy band of top aides.

Read the whole thing. Entertainment value = 8 out of 10.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


Reform and renewal

Friday, Feb 25, 2005

It turns out that I wasn’t the only one with the scoop on today’s press conference by Dan Hynes.

Comptroller Dan Hynes plans today to announce a new legislative push to clamp down on state contractors who get sweet taxpayer-funded deals and also happen to be generous political contributors.

‘’Taxpayers have a right to expect that government officials are basing their actions on sound public policy, not campaign cash,'’ said Hynes, whose effort also will involve Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago) and Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago). […]

Under the proposal Hynes will be unveiling today, companies with more than $25,000 in state contracts would be barred from donating to the officeholder who awarded the contracts.

Not mentioned, however, is that the plan has bipartisan support. See the Capitol Fax for more on that subject.

Os-blog was skeptical yesterday about criticisms of the governor’s penchant for accepting campaign contributions from contractors.

If you want to complain and say its a problem and unethical (and I’m pretty much with you)- then find me a legislator willing to deal with campaign finance reform and ban these sorts of donations/contracts.

He made a lot of good points in that post, but he spoke just a little too soon. Whether the bill will actually pass, however, is still unknown. The Os-man (another excellent regional politics blogger) could still be vindicated come the end of session.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


Uh-oh, updated

Friday, Feb 25, 2005

This is what I was talking about yesterday.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s plan to save money by changing pension benefits for state employees is “very risky,” the director of the State University Retirement System told lawmakers Thursday.

James Hacking said the plan assumes there will be long-term savings the state can divert to other expenses immediately. But if some of the revisions change in the future - for example, if the courts strike down certain aspects - the pension systems could be worse off than they are now, he said.

“We are spending the savings before it accrues,” Hacking told members of the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. “There is no room for error whatsoever. It is a very risky program.”

There’s more to this, but you have to subscribe to Capitol Fax to see it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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