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READER COMMENTS CLOSED FOR THE WEEKEND

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

Talk at you Monday.

Head to Illinoize for your weekend fun.

(Statehouse rotunda from the Artwork-Etc blog via Disarranging Mine)

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Friday music blogging… Please come to Chicago

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

…Or anywhere else in Illinois for that matter.

I just stumbled across Chatham County Line this morning while reading the songs: Illinois blog.

Man, are they good. Most modern bluegrass music is just too whitebread and “safe” for my ears. But as the songs: Illinois blogger points out, Chatham County Line’s members think of themselves as more of a rock band than a bluegrass group.

The band’s sound is much more raw than most bluegrass bands around these days, which probably explains why they don’t want to be associated with that genre. I don’t care what they call it, I love this sound.

Check out some videos from a live performance here. But be prepared to turn up the volume. You can find links to their recordings there as well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Topinka is a zombie

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

My Sun-Times column runs today.

I have this image in my head of Judy Baar Topinka that I can’t shake. It came to me after she won the Republican gubernatorial primary last month and it won’t go away.

She’s a zombie monster.

I don’t mean that literally. It’s not like I expect to see her wandering the streets chewing peoples’ faces off. I mean politically.

As any horror film buff knows, it isn’t easy to kill an undead zombie monster. The heroic victims try and try, but nothing seems to work at first.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Lane Evans open thread - UPDATED

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

Congressman Evans has not yet officially withdrawn from the race.

A letter from U.S. Rep. Lane Evans withdrawing his Democratic nomination for Congress has not been received by the Illinois State Board of Elections, potentially slowing the process to replace him on the November ballot.

I presume he’s waiting in order to put pressure on the locals to agree to his chosen replacement.

What have you heard?

UPDATE: A commenter points to this state statute

(10 ILCS 5/25‑2) (from Ch. 46, par. 25‑2) Sec. 25‑2.

Events on which an elective office becomes vacant. Every elective office shall become vacant on the happening of any of the following events before the expiration of the term of such office: […]

(3) His or her becoming a person under legal disability.

…And notes:

Evans has not sent in his letter to decline the nomination because his lawyers are probably trying to figure out what the heck to do.

A Circuit Court Judge has adjudged him to be a disabled adult. In the Petition for Appointment of Guardian they said that he was not competent to sign a power of attorney, otherwise they wouldn’t have needed the guardianship.

Sec. 11a)2. “Disabled person” defined.) “Disabled person” means a person 18 years or older who (a) because of mental deterioration or physical incapacity is not fully able to manage his person or estate, or (b) is a person with mental illness or a person with a developmental disability and who because of his mental illness or developmental disability is not fully able to manage his person or estate

Since he can’t sign, it is likely that his guardian will have to get the Court’s permission to sign it for him since a guardian in Illinois would not normally have the power to do it on his own. […]

The catch is that only the Governor can declare the vacancy and call a special election for the balance of the term.

[emphasis added]

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

Do you think we need a constitutional amendment in Illinois banning gay marriage? Why or why not?

Background here and here.

Bonus question: If the anti-gay rights people do get this on the ballot in November, how will it impact the governor’s race and downballot races?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


And still more trouble for Alexi

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

Tribune editorial #1:

Illinois voters are blessed with an excellent candidate for state treasurer.

No, not Alexi Giannoulias, the Democrat on the ballot. He has some serious issues to explain. They first surfaced March 15 in a Tribune scoop with a striking headline: “Loans to crime figure haunt state treasurer hopeful.”

Six weeks later, Giannoulias has only made matters worse. The more he tries to wriggle out of fully discussing the millions of dollars in loans his family’s Broadway Bank of Chicago gave to a convicted felon, the more questions he raises. Giannoulias, 30, is the senior loan officer and vice president of the bank.

Tribune editorial #2:

Imagine you’re Barack Obama, with enough charisma and political capital to make kings or queens of mere mortal Democratic candidates. Imagine the March 21 Illinois primary is approaching. Whom should you choose to endorse? Who should receive your coveted blessing?

Ah, perhaps your friend Forrest Claypool, who’s running for president of the Cook County Board? You’ve never been cozy with the incumbent, John Stroger. Why, Stroger backed one of your Democratic opponents when you were a little-known legislator running for the U.S. Senate in 2004. You tell people you like Claypool’s reform agenda. Your endorsement might well win the race for Claypool.

Or you could endorse Alexi Giannoulias, a candidate for state treasurer. He was one of your financial backers in 2004.

Sure, it seems odd that you, a U.S. senator, would care more about a state treasurer’s race than about who runs county government in your home county. But your endorsement might well win the race for Giannoulias. […]

Obama is free to endorse anyone he wishes or no one at all. But the Obama seal of approval means something. In this case it means Obama tied his tin can to what has become a very troubled candidacy.

UPDATE: A press release from Sen. Christine Radogno can be found here. (pdf file)

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Governor tapes attack ads at public school

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

Reform and renewal.

Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich used a Chicago public school to tape attack ads against his Republican challenger despite a city school ethics policy that prohibits political activities on school grounds.

The ads, taped at Waters Elementary School near Blagojevich’s home on the Saturday after the March 21 primary election, feature the incumbent governor appearing at what is described on screen as a town hall meeting. In the commercials, Blagojevich criticizes Republican opponent Judy Baar Topinka’s positions on assault weapons and raising the minimum wage.

Peter Cunningham, a Chicago Public Schools spokesman, said this week the ethics policy does not explicitly prevent political commercials from being filmed in public schools, but he acknowledged that “it’s probably wrong to do.”

“The ethics policy appears to discourage it, and we’ve shared that with the principal,” Cunningham said. “It’s skirting the ethics rules.”

The ethics code was adopted by the School Board in June 2004 as a result of a state ethics reform law championed by Blagojevich.

The code states: “Employees shall not intentionally misappropriate any board property or resources by engaging in any prohibited political activity for the benefit of any campaign for elective office or any political organization.” In addition, the ethics training for public school employees for the current school year notes, “CPS buildings and offices are politically neutral.”

[Emphasis added.]

Meanwhile, columnist Ray Hanania is already sick of the guv’s negative ads.

If Gov. Rod Blagojevich wanted to convince Illinois voters that he is the better candidate for the office he now holds, he is doing a poor job.

His constant, ugly, mud-filled, issueless advertising attacks against his Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka are nauseating. They’re not even intelligent and they certainly don’t even sound accurate. […]

One of the attack ads actually sounds like a big lie, the one about how Topinka, the state treasurer, allowed the state to not fund the state pensions so they could use the money for other, budget needs, is ridiculous.

And Eric Krol is not impressed at all with Topinka’s post-primary effort.

Judy Baar Topinka apparently didn’t learn many strategic lessons from the Bush administration’s experience in Iraq.

The U.S. invasion was a relatively easy triumph, but Bush was roundly criticized for not having a solid post-victory plan for stability.

Also, ArchPundit isn’t thrilled with JBT’s gas tax idea.

This idea is about as useful of opening up ANWR, which despite a Hastert’s whining as of late, wouldn’t actually affect world oil supply by much

UPDATE: Topinka campaign press release:

DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett said this morning’s revelation in the Chicago Tribune that Rod Blagojevich’s campaign attack ads are not only fake, but illegal, symbolizes his tenure as Governor.

“Fake and illegal. It’s the story of the day and the story of the last three years under Rod Blagojevich,” said Birkett, running mate for GOP gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka, the state Treasurer.

Birkett called on the Blagojevich campaign to produce evidence that it reimbursed taxpayers for school expenses incurred while filming the commercial. […]

Earlier this week, state Auditor General Bill Holland, a Democrat, found Blagojevich’s administration in massive violation of that same act Blagojevich and Quinn bragged about passing.

Holland’s audits also found massive waste, fraud and abuse for the second year in a row at Blagojevich’s Central Management Services Agency, the clearinghouse for many state contracts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Tollway board member balks at contract

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich has the tollway board pretty much locked, down, which is why this story is such a surprise.

In an unusual move, a tollway board member on Thursday took issue with a politically connected firm winning a multimillion-dollar consulting contract. […]

Tollway board member Ronald Materick of Oak Brook objected to hiring McDonough and Associates for $1.7 million to plan Tri-State widening near O’Hare International Airport. A list compiled at the earlier request of board members shows McDonough drew the most tollway consulting work during the last three years — nearly $20 million.

“I know these are politically connected firms,” Materick said of the list. “It causes other firms to be less interested in competing.” […]

Materick voted against the contract, an oddity on a board where all the members are appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Materick could not be reached for comment after the meeting.

The company and its owner have donated more than $61,000 to Blagojevich since 2002. The company did not return phone calls Thursday. […]

Meanwhile, the tollway re-hired IGOR, The Watchdog Corp. of Tinley Park on a three-year, $3.2 million contract for I-PASS packaging, delivery and promotion at more than 200 Jewel grocery stores. IGOR has donated $76,000 to Blagojevich’s campaign. Its lobbyist is John Wyma, Blagojevich’s former congressional chief of staff and 2002 gubernatorial campaign director. The new contract comes after two years of no-bid extensions on an original $150,000 deal in 2003 that jumped to $7 million by 2006.

And then there’s this:

Contractors rebuilding toll plazas on Interstate 90 need more than $3 million more than expected to finish their projects thanks to hastily-crafted construction.

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board approved change orders for all plazas on I-90, including a $1.7 million increase to the contract to rebuild the Elgin toll plaza. […]

The authority wants open-road tolling available at every plaza by this fall.

But the hurry to get the construction done fast meant that the toll authority was not ready with some aspects of its engineering. For instance, the Elgin, River Road and Devon plazas need more electrical work than the bids originally specified because the board wanted to get the bigger job of adding lanes started.

Gee, I wonder why they want the new lanes completed, along with their giant Brought to you by Rod Blagojevich signs, by this fall?

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Should Ryan get a new trial? - UPDATED

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

The Sun-Times has been all over this.

Just two days after a judge shot down their last attempt, former Gov. George Ryan’s lawyers will appear in court again this morning with what they say is new evidence of improper “outside influence” on the jury that convicted him of corruption.

Ousted juror Evelyn Ezell claims another juror, during deliberations, read aloud from research the juror had conducted on case law.

Some appellate courts have ruled that jurors’ independent research constitutes the kind of “outside influence” that requires courts to throw out convictions and grant defendants new trials. […]

Ezell said another juror brought in a couple of sheets of paper she surmised were reprints of information from the Internet. Reading aloud, the juror said, “A juror can be dismissed for not deliberating in good faith,” Ezell recalled. Then the juror read the section number and other citations for the law or case she was quoting from, Ezell told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday.

There is a recent case that seems to come close to this problem. Ed Rosenthal, the self-proclaimed “Guru of Ganja,” just got a new trial.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based appeals court, in overturning the verdict, said a juror had had inappropriate communication with an attorney.

“Juror A” had asked the attorney during trial whether she had to follow the law or could vote her conscience because she suspected Rosenthal was growing marijuana for medicinal uses. The attorney told her she must follow the judge’s instructions to follow federal law or she would get in “trouble.”

“We hold that here the communication was an improper influence upon Juror A’s decision to acquit or convict,” the appeals court wrote.

[Hat tip: RandomActOfKindness]

UPDATE: From a reporter friend:

Judge Pallmeyer got angry today…by her standards, anyway. For me, it’d be called even-keel. She ripped Webb and Co. for continuing to imply there was an anti-George conspiracy on the jury or in her courtroom.

Basically, she gave the feds until Wednesday to respond to Webb’s assertion that Ezell should be brought in and questioned. Ruling to come Thursday.

UPDATE 2: AP:

Former Gov. George Ryan’s trial judge said Friday that she takes seriously a defense claim that legal documents might have been imported into the jury room, bringing improper outside influence on the jurors, and she added that she might order an investigation.

“I do take it as a very serious allegation,” U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer told both sides after Ryan’s defense attorneys asked her for permission to interview former juror Evelyn Ezell about her claim that outside legal documents were read to her by another juror.

Ezell has said in numerous media interviews including one with The Associated Press over the past two days that during deliberations a juror brought papers into the jury room.

She said the papers involved the law on when a juror could be dismissed for failing to deliberate in good faith — something she was being accused of by fellow jurors.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Grand jury whistles in Scott

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

It looks like Lisa Madigan’s grand jury is still quite active.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s environmental chief has been questioned before a Cook County grand jury investigating whether the governor’s office overstepped its authority last year in shutting down a landfill run by a relative of the governor’s estranged father-in-law, sources said Thursday.

Prosecutors last week brought before the grand jury Douglas Scott, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, as part of the joint probe begun more than a year ago by Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Atty. Richard Devine’s offices, according to two sources familiar with the proceedings.

Earlier this year, the grand jury heard testimony from two EPA administrators who were involved in the closing of the Joliet landfill, including a bureau chief for the EPA’s land management division.

Scott did not head the EPA at the time the agency shut down the landfill, but the sources said that during his April 19 appearance, he was asked to detail what the EPA’s standard operating procedures are for closing landfills. Former EPA Director Renee Cipriano, now a lobbyist, headed the EPA at the time. Cipriano did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday. […]

A law enforcement source has said the investigation centers on the EPA’s decision to close the landfill in January 2005 and whether the governor’s office engaged in official misconduct or abuse of power in calling for the EPA to look into the landfill. […]

Prosecutors have visited the homes of EPA field inspectors who were initially involved in the inspection of the 45-acre dump.

Madigan’s grand jury was empaneled for 18 months, so we could hear something out of it this summer.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Morning news roundup

Friday, Apr 28, 2006

· Editorial: Rod Blagojevich sounded more like a king than a governor this week in announcing $10 million in grants for stem-cell research in Illinois. “I’m not going to wait for a bunch of politicians in Springfield who won’t do the right thing to help cure diseases,” the governor said without making distinctions between legislative supporters and opponents.

· Editorial: Not-so-special funds

· Gas prices fuel debate on taxes in race for Illinois governor

· [Mayor] Daley on Thursday expressed hope that the General Assembly, after the fall election, will consider a swap involving an increase in the state’s income tax in return for a statewide cut in property taxes.

· State disciplines mortgage firms

· Long ballot could be split in 2

· Hiram has a good, link-filled post on Dan Hynes’ ethics proposal.

· Looking for a lunch activity? Senate GOP spokesperson Patti Schuh, Senate Dem spokesperson Cindy Davidsmeyer and House Dem spokesman Steve Brown are speaking at the East Bank Club at noon today. No Dring, apparently.

· Speaker Madigan presses national banks to sign lending vow

· Friday beer blogging.

· Starved Rock struggles; Park services dwindle; state says it’s `doing more with less’… and Topinka outlines her vision of what IDNR could become

· Oops:

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


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