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Jones sez assault weapons ban a no-go

Monday, Feb 27, 2006

Senate President Emil Jones just said that he didn’t bekieve the assault weapons ban would pass the Senate this year. More in the Fax tomorrow

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Feb 27, 2006

We’re three weeks and a day away from election day. Handicap the big races. Governor, lt. governor, treasurer, Congress (6th Dem and 8th GOP).

UPDATE: New Rasmussen poll shows Topinka every Republican dropping.

The governor has nonetheless gained ground since our last poll, when he did not reach even 40% support in a match-up with the strongest Republican candidate, State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka.

Blagojevich now leads Topinka 42% to 36%. He leads businessman Jim Oberweis 49% to 37%, leads businessman Ron Gidwitz 47% to 33%, and leads State Senator Bill Brady 47% to 29%.

Though the governor is faring better, too many voters are leery of him for political comfort. Only 37% view him favorably, while an outsized 53% view him unfavorably. As for the job Blagojevich is doing, only 38% approve; 59% disapprove. […]

Topinka, currently seen as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, is viewed favorably by only 37%. Forty-one percent (41%) view her unfavorably–an 11-point jump since our last survey. That may be the result of sniping from the other Republicans.

About the same percentage, 36%, view Oberweis favorably, with 37% viewing him unfavorably and 28% not sure. Gidwitz and Brady are thus far known by even fewer voters.

Thanks to a commenter for the link.

UPDATE: It appears that Oberweis and Gidwitz also dropped. This is from last month’s poll [this month’s results in brackets]:

Blagojevich is tied with Ron Gidwitz at 40% [47-33]. The Governor holds a very slight lead over Jim Oberweis, 43% to 39%. [49-37]

They didn’t poll Brady last month.

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      

Guv defends himself, administration

Monday, Feb 27, 2006

A telling moment in the Trib interview:

On one hand, the governor said he doesn’t believe voters perceive his administration as suffering from ethical lapses. On the other hand, Blagojevich acknowledged a need to avoid negative perceptions of favoritism when he instructed his budget director in 2003 to not give any of the state’s $10 billion pension bond business to a firm that had retained a close friend.

He said he knew John Wyma, a close adviser and his former congressional chief of staff, was representing Lehman Bros. in the sale.

“The last thing I wanted was anybody close to me even remotely near something like that. And so, the only thing I told [John] Filan, our budget director … was, `Pick the best company, but if it’s Wyma’s firm or anybody close to me, we don’t want them,’” Blagojevich said.

“I think I acted beyond what I’m supposed to do because I just knew that that was a situation [in which] I didn’t want the folks close to me to be involved in that,” the governor said.

Asked why he didn’t require that the same hands-off policy apply to all aspects of his administration, Blagojevich said it was “a free country.”

Wyma wasn’t the only person banned from that bond work. It was so high profile that the governor was rightly scared to death that something like involvement by his pals would truly hurt his administration. Everyone was made happy with subsequent deals, however. Very, very happy.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

More Tollway troubles

Monday, Feb 27, 2006

The Sun-Times alleges more pay to play at the Tollway.

A company whose owners donated heavily to Gov. Blagojevich has seen a $150,000 state contract to package and deliver tollway I-Passes to Jewel-Osco stores balloon into a $7 million deal despite not being the lowest bidder.

Originally hired in 2003 for a six-month job involving just 25,000 I-Pass transponders, IGOR the Watchdog Corp. has since helped place the wallet-sized devices in more than 1.1 million cars and trucks through sales at Jewel.

The tollway twice extended IGOR’s contract without rebidding it and significantly upped its dollar value on five separate occasions. All this was perfectly legal and absolutely necessary, tollway officials say.

“The changes in the IGOR contract are directly tied to the unprecedented growth of the I-Pass program,” said Joelle McGinnis, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. “Since retail sales and the addition of more I-Pass-only lanes were unprecedented efforts, the tollway had no way to gauge how much the demand for transponders would increase.”

And then there’s this brick story that refuses to die.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Judy Baar Topinka on Sunday alleged that politics and campaign donations to Gov. Rod Blagojevich played a role in the state’s decision to use bricks to build expressway sound walls.

State Treasurer Topinka said the Illinois Toll Highway Authority’s decision to switch from concrete to brick sound barriers came after the local bricklayers union donated $20,000 to Blagojevich’s campaign.

“How can the governor continue to sell Illinois … in exchange for campaign contributions and not expect to get caught?” Topinka said in a written statement.

But a Blagojevich campaign spokesman said the contributions have nothing to do with the decisions made about the materials used in the tollway system.

And this.

The state’s top Republicans are calling for an investigation into a recent tollway decision to start making sound walls with brick instead of cheaper precast concrete.

Several state lawmakers Thursday asked Attorney General Lisa Madigan to see if the change in tollway policy has anything to do with a $20,000 contribution from the bricklayers union to the campaign fund of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“They believe there is a process here that should have been done,” said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson.

And this.

So the bricklayers win.

Two years ago, a tollway reform bill stalled in the General Assembly, due in part to a requirement that sound barriers along the tollway be made of brick instead of cheaper, precast concrete.

“Graft!” tollway reformers shouted.

“Wasteful!” penny-pinchers cried.

“Sham!” watchdog groups clamored.

But in 2006, everyone apparently came to their senses. Brick is good.

According to tollway officials, brick won’t cost that much more than concrete, and more people will be put to work — mostly bricklayers — which is good for the state. Besides, brick is prettier.

Long live brick!

“It’s favors for insiders, and this time it’s the bricklayers,” said lieutenant governor candidate Joe Birkett who dubbed it “pay to lay.”

Meanwhile, the tollway is requiring towns along the planned Interstate 355 extension from Bolingbrook to New Lenox to contribute at least $20 million of local taxpayer money toward interchanges near their towns.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

Tribune editorial, translated

Monday, Feb 27, 2006

First, the editorial:

Many Democrats yearned for a choice in the March 21 primary for governor. They deserved a credible alternative to Blagojevich–at least they deserved to hear the governor have to explain himself.

So when Edwin Eisendrath announced his candidacy Dec. 18, he engendered great hope. He seemed to have the smarts, the gumption and the public resume to provide a worthy, if long-shot, challenge.

So what’s Eisendrath been doing for the last 10 weeks? Not much.

Blagojevich’s $15.5 million campaign juggernaut has been rumbling down the road, and so far Eisendrath has served no greater purpose than that of a speed bump.

He and the governor met Friday with the Tribune editorial board. Eisendrath was asked where, precisely, to find his campaign. He replied: “Certainly a lot of it is [on the] Internet, which is kind of hard to see and feel. But that’s it. It’s not a big, traditional parade, rah-rah campaign.”

No kidding. Not only are the parade floats missing, so is the waving candidate.

Now, the translation:

“We really don’t want to endorse Rod, but EE is giving us no choice because he’s such a mope. And we’re flippin’ angry about this. Edwin, get in the game or get out!”

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Morning shorts

Monday, Feb 27, 2006

· Bernie takes another whack at the governor’s credibility, such as it is.

· Finke backs up other reporter’s claim that the guv was at least 20 minutes late to his own campaign announcement.

· Here’s a headline you don’t see every day: Syverson says governor’s plan gives Rockford area too much.

· Reporter follows Glenn Poshard around Springfield. Kinda cute.

· Health care reform in Illinois discussed.

· DNA tracking criticized.

· Medicaid crunching nursing homes.

· Has pay to play invaded one of my favorite public TV shows? Say it ain’t so!

· Delusional? Probably. And that might be kind.

· If the governor isn’t careful, he’s gonna get tied at the hip to Louis Farrakhan. Not good.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

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