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COMMENTS CLOSED FOR THE WEEKEND

Friday, Feb 24, 2006

Albert wants you to go here this weekend.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Friday, Feb 24, 2006

First, read this story. Here’s an excerpt:

One of Gov. Blagojevich’s appointees to a state panel combatting discrimination and hate crimes came under fire from Jewish groups and a leading Jewish lawmaker Thursday for her close ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

The Blagojevich administration faced questions about why it appointed Claudette Marie Johnson in 2005 to the governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes when she is minister of protocol for Farrakhan’s group.

“When we got word she was placed on the commission as a representative of the Nation of Islam, we were clearly concerned,” said Lonnie Nasatir, regional director of the greater Chicago region of the Anti-Defamation League and a member of the commission. “This is a body aimed at eradicating hate. In Mr. Farrakhan’s words over the years, he’s actually espoused hate.”

Another story is here.

But another commission member, Rick Garcia, public policy director of Equality Illinois, a statewide gay civil rights organization, said he plans to attend the speech.

“I know that he has said things in the past that have been offensive to some groups of people - gays, in particular to Jews,” said Garcia, who is Roman Catholic and lives in Chicago. “But I think that the invitation from the Nation of Islam to Jews and to gays may be a step in the right direction. I took it as such.”

The question: Do you think that the governor should withdraw this appointment? Should the governor take heat for this? Why or why not?

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


School funds stripped

Friday, Feb 24, 2006

This story is kinda strange because the kid in question may be here legally, on a tourist visa.

In a drastic and unprecedented move, Illinois education officials on Thursday voted to cut off state funds to the Elmwood Park school district for refusing to admit an immigrant teen to its high school.

The action not only blocks the district from collecting $3.3 million in state aid, but could bar its student athletes from competition. Although district officials can appeal, it remains unclear whether doing so would enable them to receive their next state payment of $331,587 due next week.

Amid tense and emotional exchanges with district officials Thursday, the Illinois State Board of Education signaled that it will move swiftly and powerfully to protect the right of immigrant children to go to public schools, regardless of their immigration status.

“Frankly, I’m offended that we are dealing with this,” said board chairman Jesse Ruiz, who mentioned that his own father had been an undocumented immigrant from Mexico before becoming a citizen. […]

School officials in Elmwood Park refused to admit the girl and allegedly told her that they would report her to immigration authorities, said Alonzo Rivas, a staff attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who talked to the girl about suing the district.

Please read the whole story before commenting. Thanks.

UPDATE: The school board has backed down.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


More trouble for the guv

Friday, Feb 24, 2006

It appears the grand jury is leaking like a sieve.

A Cook County grand jury is looking at the role two members of Gov. Blagojevich’s inner circle may have played in the shutdown of a landfill, which sparked a feud between the governor and his father-in-law, Ald. Dick Mell (33rd), sources told the Sun-Times.

Lon Monk, Blagojevich’s campaign manager and former chief of staff, and Christopher G. Kelly, a top fund-raiser for the governor, are not accused of any wrongdoing.

The grand jury, however, is focusing on whether the Blagojevich administration overstepped its authority by quickly closing the Land Reclamation Services landfill in Will County that is owned by Mell’s relative.

The investigation also is looking into contacts that Monk and Kelly may have had with at least one state agency before the closure last year.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


6th District roundup

Friday, Feb 24, 2006

Tammy Duckworth got a little bad press today.

There’s nothing Kathleen Yosko likes more than publicity for Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital.

But not when it’s tied to a political event.

That’s why the CEO of the Wheaton hospital is clarifying Marianjoy’s position following a highly publicized tour there Feb. 16 by 6th Congressional Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth.

Duckworth, who flew helicopters with the National Guard in Iraq before being wounded, toured the building along with former Sen. Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat. Both are veterans and double amputees.

The hospital gives frequent tours, and that’s all Yosko thought she was providing.

Instead, a posse of television, radio and print reporters followed Duckworth and Cleland around the hospital. Midpoint, the two held a news conference chastising the Bush administration for failures on health care issues.

Christine Cegelis was endorsed by Democracy for America.

Since granting its endorsement Wednesday, DFA said it has raised more than $5,500 for Cegelis from more than 200 supporters–a boost to a campaign that had the least cash on hand at the end of last year among three Democrats seeking the nomination.

That group knows how to raise money fast. And, despite what her supporters have been saying in comments here this month, Cegelis certainly needs cash.

Barack Obama will appear in a TV ad for Duckworth.

Playing one of her trump cards, congressional hopeful Tammy Duckworth began airing a television commercial featuring U.S. Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday — marking the freshman Democratic senator’s first appearance in a TV ad for another candidate.

And Bill Baar wants the Democratic Party to rebuke Lindy Scott.

Apparently, I forgot to post that the Machinist’s union has endorsed Cegelis, a former member.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Morning shorts

Friday, Feb 24, 2006

· Krol says that Gidwitz attacks could backfire

· Illinois tourism surges.

· Charles Box still waiting on ICC confirmation, and a race comment during a hearing yesterday made the Senate committee chairman “uneasy.”

· Tollway has new interim director.

· More Tribune endorsements.

· Lawmakers voice concern over plan to sell student loans.

· Nurses want to reduce shortage by improving working conditions.

· “Gov. Blagojevich has reappointed an Illinois State University trustee whom student environmentalists had sought to remove after the company he owns was linked to a series of oil spills.”

· Is it just me, or is the US Attorney’s office going a bit overboard?

· Quote of the week:

Blagojevich said he hasn’t seen a groundswell for resumption of executions.

“I don’t hear it from anybody, from real people,” he said. “I’ve heard from some legislators.”

· Electoral College Daze.

· The nickname appears to be sticking.

· It’s a restless hungry feeling, That don’t mean no one no good. When ev’rything I’m a-sayin’ You can say it just as good. You’re right from your side, I’m right from mine. We’re both just one too many mornings An’ a thousand miles behind.

· Have you seen this man?

· Another quote of the week, this time from Tollway board chairman John Mitola:

“In today’s political climate, everything’s going to be investigated,” Mitola said of the subpoena. “There’s apparently a lot of young prosecutors sitting around needing to be busy.”

· I just realized I had the wrong date on this morning’s Capitol Fax. Oops.

· And, yes, the rumor is true. I’ll be writing a monthly Sun-Times column starting early next month.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 23, 2006

The hotel deal has been a festering sore for years. Topinka has never been able to put the questions aside, so she tried a new tack with the Daily Herald.

Republican governor candidate Judy Baar Topinka expressed regret Wednesday for a decade-old, ill-fated hotel loan settlement proposal and also said she doesn’t think she’ll be hearing from federal prosecutors any time soon about a 2003 subpoena. […]

Asked Wednesday if she’d handle the loan situation differently in hindsight, Topinka said she would have tried to “create a consensus” instead of going at it “head on.” If she had done that, then-Republican Attorney General Jim Ryan, who eventually quashed Topinka’s settlement, might have helped her avoid what’s become a political albatross.

Topinka also denied any relationship with Cellini, despite his bank board’s ties. “He doesn’t contribute to me. I do not socialize with him,” she said.

The treasurer also said she doesn’t think anything will come of a February 2003 subpoena that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office issued after a former Topinka contract employee complained that workers were campaigning on state time. Topinka attributed the complaint to her decision not to renew the individual’s contract.

Will it work?

UPDATE: Audio here. (Scroll down.)

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


Oy, Part 64,389

Thursday, Feb 23, 2006

I didn’t write about this in today’s Capitol Fax because I figured everybody else would be all over it. They were.

The Blagojevich administration’s count of how many jobs it has created is filled with errors and loose definitions that inflate the total, state auditors reported Wednesday.

Auditor General William Holland said Gov. Blagojevich’s commerce department counts jobs it expects will be created through grant programs instead of tracking the number actually created.

Holland, who is appointed by the General Assembly, also criticized the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for shoddy administration and failure to follow mandates from the Legislature.

Further, Holland said the department changed its methods so that people undergoing training are counted as new jobs, even though the trainees are people who already have jobs, auditors said.

But, wait, there’s more.

*DCEO had “difficulty” proving that it created or saved most of the jobs it claimed. Holland said that “for eight of 10 jobs performance measures … documentation did not agree with the amount reported.”

*20 percent of DCEO’s job-creation performance measures “were poor measures that provided little insight into program effectiveness.”

*None of DCEO’s 11 bureaus have procedures for measuring their effectiveness for economic development.

*The department has no way of tracking mandates from the General Assembly or eliminating obsolete mandates. “We identified some unfulfilled mandates,” the report stated.

*DCEO Commissioner Jack Lavin came in for direct criticism. By statute, he is chairman of the Coal Development Board, but he has not taken up his duties or provided leadership on the board’s expenditures.

More here and here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Weird

Thursday, Feb 23, 2006

I wonder if the staff played a little prank on the boss, or whether they’re all just this inept. Apparently, Gov. Blagojevich didn’t know that his recent interview with “The Daily Show” was for a comedy bit.

Talking with Post-Dispatch editorial writers on Wednesday, the Democratic governor said he went into the interview believing it was a serious report about Illinois’ emergency-contraception debate. Blagojevich said he had never watched “The Daily Show,” and didn’t know what it was when he saw it on his schedule.

“It was going to be an interview on contraceptives . . . that’s all I knew about it,” said Blagojevich, who laughed about the episode. “. . . I had no idea I was going to be asked if I was ‘the gay governor.’”

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


Morning shorts

Thursday, Feb 23, 2006

· Tougher penalties for fake cops pushed.

· McSweeney goes on the attack.

· House bill would force online dating servies to investigate participants.

· Labor endorses Stroger, Stroger blasts Claypool.

· No real surprise, but Ryan won’t testify in his own defense and his wife is certain that he’ll be acquitted.

· Tribune endorsements for Illinois House and Senate.

· Wilmington’s water nightmare.

· Most inane editorial ever. And that’s saying something.

· Illinois lost 32,000 manufacturing jobs last year. (Hat tip: IR.)

· Fritchey loves him some Peppers, claims he was ripped off.

· If you’re a DuPage Dem, Hiram has your weekend planned. Man, that’s a good blog.

· Would somebody please ask Ray LaHood about this? Are all reporters in his district blind or just too afraid to offend?

· No executions yet, says guv.

· Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull. From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol. Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth. You’re an idiot, babe. It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

· “In the past year, Marly’s has had fewer police calls than all but two of the 3 a.m. bars near it, according to department records. Police have been called to Marly’s 51 times, while they were dispatched 150 times to The Firehouse, 67 times to PT’s, 56 times to Catch 22, 55 times to 11 West, 41 times to The Alamo and 14 times to Mojo’s.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Gidwitz explains contributions to insiders

Thursday, Feb 23, 2006

Is Ron Gidwitz a fool or an opportunist? Or did he truly have a political awakening that just happened to coincide with the gubernatorial campaign?

As a Republican candidate for governor, businessman Ron Gidwitz criticizes the Republican and Democratic players who he says have jointly controlled state politics for decades.

But a review of state and federal campaign finance records shows that he has been a prolific donor to some of the state’s most powerful GOP politicians, including former Gov. George Ryan, and has given to a handful of Democratic friends, such as Mayor Richard Daley.

On Wednesday, Gidwitz sought to distance himself from his fundraising past, saying it wasn’t “until relatively recently” that he understood the potential problems of contributions made by political insiders seeking deals in Washington and Springfield.

“My whole effort, for the last 30 years, was to try and get good people elected to public office who’d do the right thing by the people,” he said. […]

Records show Gidwitz has made more than $570,000 in donations to candidates and causes in the last decade, aside from another $1.7 million he’s given his campaign. He called the donations “contributions in the charitable and philanthropic sense.” He said he never sought anything in return. […]

Asked if he wasn’t helping to fund an organization he is now criticizing, Gidwitz said, “I was helping inadvertently.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


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