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“No Kids,” and nobody else, either - UPDATED x1

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

This development means that new All Kids clients won’t be getting any appointments at two of the best hospitals in the Midwest.

Pediatricians at a nationally recognized children’s hospital in St. Louis will schedule young Medicaid patients from Illinois “in the last available appointment” beginning Friday because the state is six months behind in making payments.

However, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services said that under a new policy, all doctors who treat Medicaid patients “will now receive payment for their services in no more than 60 days from the time bills are received by the state.”

The chairman and vice chairman of the pediatrics department of the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis sent a letter to referring physicians that detailed the plan to delay appointments for new Illinois Medicaid patients. The medical school’s doctors are the exclusive staff for St. Louis Children’s Hospital, as well as for Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. […]

“Currently, Illinois Medicaid physician reimbursement does not cover costs,” the letter states. “In addition, (the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services) has not reimbursed any physician in the Department of Pediatrics in more than 200 days.” […]

An e-mailed statement from the medical school Wednesday said, “Unfortunately, over the last two years we have seen the lag time in reimbursement from Illinois Medicaid grow past 150 days, past 175 days, and after exceeding 200 days for several months, the lag time is currently at about 180 days.

“By contrast,” the statement continued, “Missouri Medicaid reimburses us on average in about 34 days, and Medicare reimburses us in about 25 days.”

UPDATE: The governor’s office responds. Via e-mail from a spokesperson:

First of all, this provider is NOT 200 days behind in getting paid.

They are being paid within 60 days if they’re docs covering adults and paid within 30 days if they treat kids. Here’s the problem with the situation laid out by the provider in today’s story: they’re counting Medicaid claims that are in DISPUTE with HFS — claims that have actually been PAID, but the provider feels that we didn’t pay them enough for the service they provided. So, this 200 day backlog in bills they’re claiming does not represent bills that are sitting at HFS going unpaid. They are claims already paid, but are in dispute because the provider wants us to pay more for the services they provided.

HFS has to follow federal guidelines to a “t” when processing claims for federal reimbursement. Every provider must demonstrate and document that the claims they’re submitting for reimbursement are medicaid-eligible. HFS will only reimburse for what is discerned as Medicaid-eligible services. Any provider can dispute claims that were rejected for reimbursement by HFS, but for the provider to characterize this situation as HFS being “behind” in making payments is very misleading. And, this group has been paid $2.7 million since the beginning of the current fiscal year.

HFS discovered what the specific situation was only after the SJR filed their story. Otherwise, HFS would have taken pains to describe the facts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


More shorts - UPDATED

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

[Updated and bumped up because of some interesting new content.]

· There may not be any blogging tomorrow because of the holiday. So while I’m waiting on the guv’s campaign to e-mail me its response to Rauschenberger’s piece, I figured I’d clean out my inbox.

· Senate President Jones has doubts that JBT can pass her casino idea.

A top Democrat from Chicago says it’d be difficult to get enough votes in the Illinois Legislature for a possible casino in the city.

State Treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka has proposed a plan to license a casino in Chicago to generate billions of dollars for Illinois.

State Senate President Emil Jones says some legislators from downstate won’t take kindly to that idea.

“It’s very difficult because you got several areas that want it, you know. So, it’d be very difficult. Very difficult,” he says.

· A southern Illinois school official was put on the hot spot this week and may have said more than he intended.

Despite invitations and despite being in the same town, Gov. Rod Blagojevich declined to visit Carterville High School Wednesday to see firsthand the conditions of the worse-for-wear facility desperately awaiting the passage of a capital bill. […]

The governor said he is well aware of the problems Carterville and many other construction-starved school districts are experiencing. However, he said the issue should be brought up instead with the Republicans, who would not extend the necessary votes to bond the capital bill projects during the spring legislative session.

I think the governor has been very plain as to where he stands,” [Carterville District 5 Superintendent Tim Bleyer] said. “We can’t get leadership to get Republicans and Democrats to work together to do what’s best for the state and what’s best for the kids.”

· AFSCME scored a big win this week when it forced an employer to give up the ghost.

Striking drug-abuse counselors at a LaSalle County prison agreed Tuesday to return to work after the private company that employs them decided to sever its ties with the state.

State officials will replace Gateway Foundation, which provides substance-abuse treatment programs at Sheridan Correctional Center, with a new company by the time Gateway’s contract expires Dec. 31.

About 40 of 53 counselors at Sheridan, which is devoted to treating drug-abusing offenders, walked off the job June 6 after failing to reach a contract agreement with Gateway. The non-profit Chicago operation continued to offer programs at Sheridan with management employees.

· And the governor’s campaign is making some bold statements about law-breaking by the Topinka campaign.

Topinka failed to meet the basic requirements of current campaign finance law on a report she filed last month which was loaded with violations in every section of the report. One month has passed and Topinka’s campaign has yet to amend her report to fix multiple violations of election law. Some of the violations include hiding payroll expenses for the month of June, and failing to find critical information on over 80 donors and improperly reporting of expenditures such as payments made directly to Judy Baar Topinka, in violation of rules for expenditure of that type.

· UPDATE: The Illinois Green Party will be on the ballot. From a Rich Whitney press release:

This morning, the State Board of Elections voted unanimously to certify the Green Party state slate to appear on the November ballot. The people of the State of Illinois will now have a third, and better, choice of candidates for all state constitutional offices. […]

Whatever one may think about me or my proposals, I think that we have at least established that I am a serious candidate for governor. We have demonstrated this by making the monumental effort to get on the ballot and beating back the petition challenge. We have also demonstrated this by providing voters with detailed proposals and position statements on all of the major issues facing the people of this state. The voters deserve to hear the points of view of all ballot-qualified candidates in the debates. […]

At least one sponsor of an upcoming debate, the Illinois Radio Network, has informed me that, as of now, I am not being invited to participate in a debate scheduled for October 2nd. However, they also informed me that their position could change if the other two candidates agree to include me in that debate. Unfortunately, we cannot seem to get a straight answer from the Blagojevich campaign regarding whether I should be included in
future debates. When asked by reporters, Mr. Blagojevich has repeatedly dodged the question. On the other hand, at least one Blagojevich spokesperson has stated that the decision is up to the debate sponsors. So if a sponsor tells us it’s up to the other candidates and one other candidate tells us it’s up to the sponsors, I hope you can appreciate that this creates quite a dilemma for us.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


“Report cards” issued

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

A+ Illinois has just released its “report cards” of the education plans put forth by both Gov. Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka. The following is from a press release with the “grades” added in brackets:

A+ Illinois graded the strength of each candidate’s proposal in four key areas:

* Fair and adequate school funding that meets the recommendations of experts at the state’s Education Funding Advisory Board and provides increases for inflation; [Blagojevich “D+” and Topinka “B”]

* Sustainable school funding source that provides reliable, stable long-term resources for schools; [Blagojevich “D-” and Topinka “D+”]

* Meaningful property-tax relief for homeowners and businesses that shifts the burden of school funding away from local property taxpayers; [Blagojevich “F” and Topinka “C-”]

* Strategies to close Illinois’ student achievement gap, one of the highest nationwide; [Blagojevich “B-” and Topinka “B+”]

* A plan to improve the state’s ailing fiscal health and protect funding for essential programs such as health care and human services. [Blagojevich “F” and Topinka “D”]

The full Blagojevich “report card,” which explains the grades, is here. Topinka’s report card is here. [pdf files]

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Jerry’s friends

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

I just about spit out my coffee when I read the lede on this press release.

The campaign manager for 11th District congressional candidate John Pavich today drew attention to 6-term incumbent Jerry Weller’s acceptance of a campaign contribution from a man described as a “world-class phone sex operator,” and challenged Weller to explain actions he took on behalf of the contributor. […]

Pavich’s campaign manager was speaking in response to news that in April 2005, Congressman Jerry Weller, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, of the House International Relations Committee, personally delivered a letter on behalf of his donor, Jeffrey Prosser, to the prime minister of Belize in an attempt to reverse the seizure of a Belizean telephone company owned by Prosser.
The story was carried by The Hill, a Washington based newspaper. […]

Prosser, whose Atlantic Tele Network traffics in phone-sex calls on a 900-number, contributed $2,100 to Weller on June 30, 2005 after Weller made a personal visit to Belize on Prosser’s behalf. Prosser’s wife contributed an additional $2100 in September, 2005, and Prosser declared bankruptcy earlier this month. […]

Please see this for information on how Mr. Weller wrote a letter on April 1st, 2005 on behalf of Mr. Prosser’s company, which he personally delivered to the prime minister of Belize.

Please see this and type in the name Prosser to search for the Prossers’ donations to Weller’s campaign just months after Weller’s personal actions on Mr. Prosser’s behalf.

Please see this in regards to Mr. Prosser’s Atlantic Tele Network and “substantial percentage” of revenue that comes from sex calls.

The Columbia Journalism Review did a story several years ago on Atlantic Tele Network and Presser, claiming he “makes much of his money from a phone-sex business.” Prosser recently filed for bankruptcy.

It should be interesting to see if the big media picks this one up.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Filan fires back

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

First we saw the Topinka budget plan. Then Budget Director John Filan lambasted it. Then Sen. Steve Rauschenberger slammed Filan’s criticism. And now we have Director Filan’s retort, done on his own time.

Thank you to Senator Rauschenberger for providing a little more information on Judy Baar Topinka’s spending and revenue proposals. But it still doesn’t add up. Taxpayers need to know how Topinka calculates her proposed revenues and cuts, rather than just taking her guesses at face value, and how much is she really going to invest in education and health care. Unfortunately, the Senator’s response still does not present a clear picture of either the details of Topinka’s proposals or of how the spending proposals and the revenue proposals, when put together add up to a balanced budget in each of the next four years. This stands in clear contrast to the Governor’s budgets, which have won national recognition in consecutive years for being clear and complete by Government Finance Officers Association.

More information helps citizens make an informed judgment about the competing priorities of the candidates, and it also exposes the real problems with Topinka’s budget analysis. Unfortunately, many of Senator Rauschenberger’s comments show the same flaws as Topinka’s plan. The comments, and the Plan, misleads taxpayers, relies on inflated revenues and unrealistic assumptions, and shows continued policy flip-flops.

1. Education

Misleading Taxpayers. If the Topinka budget plan assumes including teacher pension spending in its “education” spending, it is misleading. It provides school districts with an inaccurate estimate of how much they can expect to receive from the State, and claims money for education that actually will be used to pay interest on pension payments prior administrations failed to make. In addition, Topinka has said that she would spend more on schools than the Governor. To the extent that her plan would spend $8.2 billion and also pay for the pension costs of teachers, this is impossible. She should come clean about her spending plan – you can’t say that the same money is going to both pensions and schools, you can’t spend the same money twice.

2. Property Tax Reimbursement

Misleading Taxpayers. Topinka’s property tax proposal continues to mislead taxpayers and local governments. Despite the fact that Topinka claimed $2.4 billion in property tax relief, real tax relief based on historical property tax growth associated with schools from her proposal is only $1.8 billion over 2 years. Moreover, this spending binge will create a harsh hangover in 2010, as the first “unfrozen” school property tax bill will rise by an estimated $1.8 billion, which will be three times as much of an increase as the current property tax our taxpayers have been paying. As the Chicago Sun-Times noted yesterday, “her proposal is akin to pulling a drowning victim into a leaky boat: It merely prolongs the inevitable.” (See: Richards, Cindy “Neither school plan deserves an ‘A’” Chicago Sun-Times 8/30/2006)

3. Cutting Healthcare

Misleading Taxpayers. There is no reason why “Medicaid math” would work differently than ordinary arithmetic. Medicaid eligible individuals are real people who receive healthcare, and the State pays hospitals and doctors based upon the rates they charge, then gets reimbursed by the federal government. To cut these costs, you have to serve fewer people or reduce the rates that hospitals and doctors are paid, or both. Simple math. And if you do this math, you realize over four years 450,000 children, 275,000 parents, or 100,000 seniors could lose needed medical care.

Unrealistic Assumptions. The Topinka plan shows no detail on how these savings will be realistically achieved. But there is one reason that these cuts can’t occur immediately: moving to a block grant requires federal approval, and this takes time. This means that the cuts won’t be achievable in 2008, which means that actually the State would need to cut Medicaid spending by nearly $1 billion- with a B- each year to meet the Treasurer’s claimed targets. Because of federal reimbursement, described below, this means that actual services provided will have to be reduced by as much as $2 billion a year (a quarter of the size of the current Medicaid program). To achieve the savings Topinka claims, the plan also assumes no growth in healthcare costs while this approval process occurs.

Unlike the Topinka plan’s lofty assumptions, the only real solution to controlling healthcare cost increases is to implement realistic cost-controls, like prescription drug controls that are working now, and the primary care case management and disease management managed care initiatives that the Governor has implemented this year, leading to liability growth of 4.4%, significantly lower than historical averages, or what Topinka would have you believe. Republican Governors had 25 years to implement statewide managed care- we’re doing it after just 3 years.

4. Lost Federal Revenue

Senator Rauschenberger notes increased federal receipts from a block grant. The Topinka plan does not provide substantiation for this in its materials, and there is no basis to believe that total federal reimbursements would increase under a block grant. The Bush Administration has been trying for the past three years to significantly reduce State Medicaid funding, not increase it, including recently reducing funding for special education to Illinois schools. In fact, Topinka’s support of block grants (like the Medicaid Block Grant Program President Bush announced in 2003) will reduce federal revenues to the State significantly- which is the Bush Administration’s goal, less money for healthcare, not more. For an example of a non-partisan analysis of California’s attempt to move to a block grant, (See:
http://www.cbp.org/2004/0407medicalrestructure.pdf).

Misleads Taxpayers. Illinois receives 50% reimbursement from the Federal government for most medical services it pays for. Under a block grant, this federal reimbursement will disappear, and by making cuts, our reimbursement would also be reduced, by nearly $500 million a year. It is misleading to suggest that moving to a block grant will allow spending cuts that will offset this lost revenue, in fact such cuts would have to be twice as deep.

Unrealistic Assumptions. In addition, block grants do not allow for intergovernmental agreements or assessments, and the Topinka plan is proud to eliminate this revenue. The assumption that the federal government will replace these revenues is unrealistic. Eliminating transfers and assessments will cost the State and its healthcare providers in the following ways, with a total cost to Illinois (and its healthcare providers) of more than $1.3 billion. The Topinka proposal indicates that it will get rid of these revenues:

Cook County IGT- The State receives $317 million in 2007 from this transfer, and Cook County receives approximately $270 million from this transfer. The State and the County would have to find ways to make up for this lost revenue.

Hospital Assessment Tax - Illinois generates over $600 million from this assessment, of which Illinois Hospitals will receive almost $500 million, GRF receives $80 million, Illinois Nursing Homes receive $40 million and the Illinois developmentally disabled community receives $40 million.

University of Illinois IGT - The State and the University of Illinois share the $48 million that this transfer generates.

DD Assessment - Illinois developmentally disabled community receives an additional $40 million as a result of this assessment. Though GRF is not impacted by the assessment, this will leave a hole in community funding that GRF spending would need to be increased to replace.

Nursing Home Assessment - GRF receives $15 million and Illinois nursing homes receive an additional $30 million from this assessment.

5. Gaming

Flip-flop from Prior Position. Some of the details of Topinka’s gaming plan have only recently been received. While $1 billion in one-time revenues may be plausible given the massive expansion of gaming that Topinka proposes, Topinka provides no detail to support this assertion. More importantly, she provides no detail for recurring revenue assumptions either, and these assumptions seem to fail to take into account relatively obvious results of such an expansion. The Topinka plan would increase overall gaming positions in the state from just over 10,000 to 30,000, supposedly without expanding gaming, and assumes that this expansion will magically create more discretionary dollars to be spent on gambling, rather than competing with the current gambling that exists in the State, as well as, other businesses that rely on consumers discretionary dollars.

Inflated Revenues. When you increase the gaming opportunities in the State as much as Topinka has suggested, these opportunities begin to become counterproductive. That is, casinos are luring the same dollars statewide, and these dollars will begin to be split among facilities, rather than moved from other facilities. Some market share will be taken from Indiana and Wisconsin casinos, and as a result, we estimate based on studies by Deloitte Consulting, LLC and the Illinois Department of Revenue that about $600-700 million annually may be obtained from recurring revenues, about half the $1.25 billion annually that Topinka predicts. There is absolutely no empirical support for an additional $1.25 billion in revenue per year.

Unrealistic Assumptions. The Topinka budget also makes another misleading prediction in its four year plan. It assumes that new positions can be built immediately, and that the legal hurdles that have tied up the tenth riverboat license for years will be immediately surmounted and a new Chicago casino immediately constructed. As most of us know and as suggested in the discussion about capital above, it takes time to build additional space, we estimate very aggressively no less than 9 months for existing casinos and 18 months for the Chicago casino. This means that the full value of the gaming expansion won’t be available until 2010 or 2011- at the earliest. And this doesn’t even take into account the amount of time the 10th license will remain in limbo.

6. School Construction

Unrealistic Assumptions. As the Senator points out, debt service costs will mature at the same rate as the underlying capital spending. However, contrary to his assertions, school construction spending historically has occurred much more quickly than ordinary capital spending. This is also because Republican obstruction to a school capital bill has left our schools desperately in need of improvements, and these improvements need to begin in the next 18 months, not over a period of 5 years. Otherwise, the Topinka plan would unnecessarily delay the commencement of repairs critical to our children’s safety and ability to learn.

7. Pensions

Misleading the Taxpayer. The listed pension increase includes planned increases to POB debt service (at a rate which is consistent with the 1995 funding plan and is GRF funded), as well as increases in required contributions and includes all funds. However, Senator Rauschenberger is apparently unaware that 90% of our pension funding comes from the State’s general funds, and that over 95% of POB debt service does. A GRF value for FY08 is not $520 million, depending on employee payrolls, it will be over $600 million in FY08, and will rise similarly in FY09 and FY10. And, despite her claims, Topinka’s plan would not “fully fund” the pensions- it would only fund the pensions at the level proposed by the flawed Republican 1995 payment schedule, which underfunds the pensions each year until 2035.

8. New Hiring

Unrealistic Assumptions. The hiring of 400 correctional officers over 4 years is a departure from Topinka’s previously public support for the AFSCME proposal to increase correctional officers by 600 immediately and to increase statewide staffing (See: Chambers, Aaron “Union: Forensic shortage hinders evidence analysis” Rockford Register Star 3/28/2006). As AFSCME’s entire proposal was to increase statewide staffing by 2,000, rehiring was based on that calculation, and includes both salaries and related costs (pension, health insurance, social security, fringe benefits), raising average cost of employee to approximately $75,000 per employee (on average over four years)- the very number Topinka used in her August 17, 2006 budget cuts proposal. Her assumption that her budget can be based on a lower number is not credible in this context.

9. Pay Raises

Flip-Flop from Prior Position. “Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican candidate for governor, got big cheers from the crowd when she said non-union workers should get the same raise as union employees. Then she tells the IAMG that merit comp employees deserve a raise” (Finke, Doug, “Statehouse Insider” Copley News Service, 5/14/2006).

10. Energy Plan

The estimate simply includes $45 annually as debt service in support of $500 million in capital spending Topinka has proposed in her energy plan, as well as $15 million in one time spending proposed in the energy plan.

11. “Pork”, “No-Bid Contracts” and Firing State Employees

Misleading Taxpayers. The Topinka Plan also attributes $200 million annually in savings to “reducing pork”, eliminating “no-bid” contracts, and getting rid of merit compensation employees. These “savings” were not included in the initial critique of the plan because they are misleading and even her plan shows that they will be unlikely to occur.

Flip-Flop: Pork- Although Topinka claims that she can save $100 million a year by eliminating “pork” from the budget, she does not state what this “pork” includes and cites only tiny examples of what she claims is $100 million a year. Instead, in her description of one-time spending, she promises to allocate funds to “pay-as-you go local projects”- in other words pork. Topinka can’t both promise to pay for pork and eliminate it at the same time- that is a flip-flop.

Flip-Flop: No Bid Contracts. Although Topinka claims that the State can save $75 million a year on eliminating “no-bid” contracts, the Treasurer’s office from 1995-2006 has a significantly higher rate of issuing contracts that were not competitively bid than the Governor’s Office. If Topinka had wished to end “no-bid” contracts, she could have started with her own office, especially with contracts awarded to her campaign contributors. The contracts that Topinka would reduce also affect core state services, such as vaccines for poor children and the ability to get service for Medicaid recipients at Children’s Memorial Hospital, once again a tiny portion of her $300 million claim.

Unrealistic Assumptions. Topinka’s estimate that it can save money by firing merit compensation employees hired over the last four years shows an inability to understand the business of governing and is yet one more unrealistic assumption to base savings on. The 350 employees that Topinka would fire (and not replace any) are in many cases long-term state employees who have changed agencies, or whose term has expired and has taken a non-term position. Firing all of these employees would leave a vacuum that other employees would have to fill, not unlike the vacuum created by George Ryan’s $3.5 billion ERI mistake of 2003.

12. Economic Development Plan

Unrealistic Assumptions. Topinka’s Economic Development Plan makes unrealistic assumptions, and like most other giveaways to large corporations, will actually cost the Illinois taxpayer money. There are already plentiful tax credits that provides hundreds of millions of subsidies to these industries. Though Topinka seems lately to intend for this plan to apply only to incremental manufacturing jobs (or in the case of the new jobs credit, all jobs), in any given year the average job growth is made up of a lot of new jobs and job losses. Unfortunately, Topinka’s plan would provide credits to the new jobs (and make these credits transferable, so even large corporations who outsourced jobs to India could take advantage of them), but not provide a counter measure to offset the lost jobs. This doesn’t make sense, and is estimated, depending on how the plan is structured (whether or not retaining current manufacturing jobs) to cost between an incremental $90-450 million per year, growing each of Topinka’s four years.

13. Elimination of Fund Transfers and Chargebacks

Flip-Flop from Prior Position. Topinka has previously opposed the administrative chargeback procedure and blocked it for over a year (See: Sweeny, Chuck “Topinka blames gov for ‘dysfunctional’ state” Rockford Register Star, 4/21/2006), but now Topinka has flip-flopped and appears to support it, though she has publicly claimed to end “fund raids”. The estimate provided for lost revenue in total is an average of four years of transfers from FY2004 through those anticipated in FY2007. After opposing this practice for four years, we welcome her support if she currently supports processing administrative chargebacks to special funds.

Misleading the Taxpayers. However, Topinka’s opposition to fund transfers is also misleading. Fund transfers are approved and determined by the General Assembly, and Topinka has had and will have no ability to prevent them, short of vetoing fund transfers authorized by the legislature and creating a deficit.

We have responded to the unrealistic and misleading numbers thrown together in the Topinka proposals. However, like the public, we have little or no information. Topinka needs to answer the question – “How did you determine your revenues and budget cuts? Are they real?” Even Topinka’s spending is misleading and needs clarity, especially her education spending. Claiming it doesn’t make it true. Her budget just doesn’t add up.

I would like to thank both campaigns for putting the effort into these highly detailed pieces. This electronic budget “debate” is unprecedented in Illinois. If either side feels the need to continue this, I’m completely open to more.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Poll: 71% favor big box ordinance

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

I got this press release from several members of a coalition backing the big box ordinance:

Despite a million-dollar media blitz and vocal opposition from the Mayor, an overwhelming majority of likely voters in Chicago support a living wage law for large retailers according to a citywide poll released on Wednesday. According to the poll, 71% of Chicagoans favor the Big Box Living Wage ordinance, which would require stores like Home Depot, Target and Wal-Mart to pay a living wage of $10 an hour and provide $3 an hour in benefits like health insurance by 2010.

The poll comes after months of heated debate on the Living Wage ordinance. Large retailers and the Mayor have enjoyed repeated press coverage of their opposition to the ordinance, mounted a million dollar advertising campaign against the ordinance, and called 200,000 people to try and convince them to oppose the ordinance. Still, support for the living wage is both broad and deep. Of the 71% of Chicagoans who favor the ordinance, about 9 in 10 said they “strongly favor” it. […]

The ordinance’s broad support shows that the 35 Aldermen who voted in favor of the ordinance reflect the feelings of Chicagoans, while Daley’s opposition is out of step with almost three quarters of the city.

The Mayor’s work to convince Aldermen to switch their votes may make Aldermen politically vulnerable in February’s election. According to the poll, 68%of Chicagoans would view their Alderman less favorably if they took their own pay raise and voted against the Living Wage ordinance. […]

Conducted by Lake Research Partners, a highly respected Washington D.C. firm, the poll determined whether respondents were likely voters, then started with this question:

Now, I am going to read you a proposal that was recently passed by the Chicago City Council. It is called the Big Box Living Wage and Benefits Ordinance. This ordinance applies to any large retailer operating in Chicago with revenues of 1 billion dollars a year or more and 90,000 square feet or larger. This includes stores like Target, Home Depot and Wal-Mart. It requires these large retailers to pay an hourly wage of at least 10 dollars an hour and at least 3 dollars an hour towards benefits like healthcare by 2010. Do you favor or oppose this ordinance?

The poll of 500 registered voters has a margin of error of 4.4% was conducted Lake Research Partners, a nationally recognized polling firm based in Washington, D.C. The poll was funded by Chicago’s UFCW local 881 and Wal-Mart Watch, a national organization dedicated to improving the retailer’s business practices.

Topline results are here. [.doc file]

I’ve requested the crosstabs, and if I get them I’ll post them in the subscriber-only section.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Murphy; Gordon; Target News Feed (use all CAPS in password - use YESTERDAY’S password)

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

This post is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

No, this is not another caption contest. It’s just a humorous illustration.

Question: What would you do if you ran the Illinois government zoo?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


The baby sitter’s gotta go, says Dillard

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

The saga continues.

Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard called Wednesday on Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich to remove his children’s baby sitter from the Illinois Civil Service Commission.

The call for Betty Bukraba’s resignation from the panel that decides state employee disciplinary cases came after the Daily Herald reported that Blagojevich appointee Betty Bukraba is the some-time baby sitter for his two daughters.

“It’s unconscionable that taxpayers are paying over $20,000-a-year to reward yet another Blagojevich crony whose fairness and judgment are compromised by her close relationship with the Blagojevich family,” said Dillard, the DuPage County Republican chairman who was speaking as a surrogate for Republican governor candidate Judy Baar Topinka. […]

The civil service commission is poised to decide a key case involving two downstate personnel workers Blagojevich officials fired after accusing them of fixing hiring tests to get jobs for politically-connected applicants. The attorney for the two workers, who are trying to get their jobs back, says the duo was just following orders from Blagojevich higher-ups. The case is unfolding during the middle of a governor’s race as Blagojevich fends off a widespread federal probe into his administration’s hiring practices.

The governor’s office makes a good point, however.

Blagojevich spokesman Abby Ottenhoff defended Bukraba. […]

She said Bukraba is qualified to serve on the panel, pointing to the 14 years she spent as the director of personnel services in the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office before retiring.

It doesn’t matter. The baby sitter’s decision in the crucial Dawn DeFraties case will be severely tainted, so she should probably step down.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


Back and forth

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

The personalilty conflicts will always lead the stories.

The two Chicago-area candidates for governor took turns Wednesday wooing farmers’ votes in a sea of central Illinois corn, touting competing energy plans that would replace oil with ethanol and chiding each other for ignoring rural communities. […]

The governor’s new, $1.2 billion energy plan, featured this week in campaign commercials throughout the southern half of the state, would put ethanol-based fuel in all Illinois gas stations in 10 years.

“I have nothing against oil . . . , (but) if we want a lasting solution, it has to come from the heartland of America,” he said.

Minutes after Blagojevich left the event, Topinka took the stage to accuse him of being a late convert. She noted she came out with an ethanol-based energy plan several weeks ago, “and 10 days later, the governor presented almost the same idea and immediately began running television advertisements.”

But there is a legitimate policy difference here, too, that mostly gets pushed down to the bottom, as it was in this piece.

“I believe that if we’re successful in November, that we’ll get some sort of bonding program to do this sort of thing as well as build the schools and the road projects that are critical to our state and our infrastructure,” said Blagojevich, who also toured construction sites at Illinois State University during his visit Wednesday to Central Illinois.

Topinka, however, scoffed at any idea of borrowing more money. She said Illinois has special-use funds generated by agriculture-related business to build ethanol plants but the governor raided those funds.

“I’m going to use renewable energy dollars to build new renewable energy projects. I’m not going to raid those funds,” she said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Barney Fife strikes again

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

This is one of the worst cases of bureaucratic foolishness that I’ve seen in a very long while.

The governor’s inspector general flunked thousands of state employees on an annual ethics exam because they rushed.

Letters sent to 5,000 or more state employees rescinded “certificates of completion” on the ethics review because they didn’t spend the minimum amount of time on the computerized program.

A spokesman for an employees’ union called the situation “preposterous.”

Some employees spent less than 10 minutes on the program, which includes 80 pages. Inspector General James Wright’s office said employees, on average, spend more than a half-hour reviewing the training.

The governor’s inspector general’s office established a minimum time for taking the exam, but they won’t say what those minimums are and didn’t bother to tell the test-takers that they’d better study long and hard before they took the goofy little exam at the end of the packet. Now, thousands of state workers face disciplinary action for pretty much no reason whatsoever.

The IG’s office ought to be ashamed of itself for being such a bunch of cruel nitwits. Unfortunately, like any bureaucrat without a clue of how to accomplish their mandates, and flush with their own authority (and eager, like Barney, to finally take that bullet out of their shirt pocket), they are probably patting themselves on the back right now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Gone?

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

Expect to hear a lot of cursing and moaning soon from just about every ex frat boy in the state.

After 80 years, Chief Illiniwek on Saturday will begin what is likely to be his last year of dancing at University of Illinois football games, university sources said.

The chief, who will appear at the season opener at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, will also dance at home basketball games this winter.

But after that, he will no longer be an official university symbol, the sources said

The Sun-Times also has a timeline of the Chief’s existence. According to the paper, the mascot was created in 1926.

My father once gave me a very old edition of The Illio, the official U of I yearbook, that he bought somewhere. My copy is from 1921, five years before the Chief was “created.” Back then, one of the officially sanctioned “inter-fraternity junior social organizations” on campus was the “Klu Klux Klan.” Here’s a scan:

Am I equating the Chief’s creators with the U of I chapter of the KKK (which I doubt is even the “real” KKK because it’s spelled differently, but you get the idea)? No. But it’s important to realize that there was pretty much no such thing as racial sensitivity back then. I doubt anyone cared in the 1920s if the Chief caused offense. We’re supposed to be different now.

Also, I’m perfectly aware that some Illini fans are gonna get all kinds of upset at me for this. So, again, I’m not equating the U of I’s officially sanctioned KKK chapter with the Chief. But I am suggesting that we should use it to think about the racial mores of the time period in which that currently racially controversial mascot was created. That way we might better examine the legacy that era has bequeathed us.

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      


All is not as it seems

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

On the surface, at least, most of the political hacks hired by some city departments appear qualified.

Ninety-seven percent of employees in seven departments at the center of the City Hall hiring scandal meet the minimum qualifications for the jobs they hold — whether or not they got them through clout, a $76,000 audit has concluded.

Virchow, Krause & Co. LLP reviewed the personnel files of 405 employees in the departments of Aviation, Buildings, General Services, Sewers, Streets and Sanitation, Transportation and Water Management to determine whether workers met city standards. […]

The audit was conducted by perusing personnel files for driver’s license, commercial driver’s license, union journeyman’s card and resumes.

However

The audit did not examine the process by which the workers were hired or attempt to determine whether they were the best candidates for their jobs, said Ron Huberman, chief of staff to Mayor Richard Daley.

And Cindi makes a good point.

Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the audit reveals very little.

“This report certainly is good as far as it goes,” Canary said. “It just certainly doesn’t go very far.”

“I think the question back at the city is, “How is the hiring process working?’” Canary added. “Are they in fact, in each search that they do, making sure that they are hiring the best-qualified person?”

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


Morning shorts

Thursday, Aug 31, 2006

· Mayor dodges 6th-term question

· The same Congress that has put our nation trillions of dollars in debt has the gall to come to Illinois and criticize how we handle our pension funds. Granted, Illinois is not doing a great job with the pension funds, but Congress ought to get its own act together before casting a stone this direction.

· “In a show of how far immigrants have moved to fulfill the American dream, scores of immigrant advocates will skip their barbecues and lakefront picnics this weekend to join in a 44.9-mile walk from Chinatown to the home office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert in Batavia.”

· Blagojevich, Topinka tout alternative energy plans

· Selling to state is roundtable topic

· “Visiting ISU for the first time during his term as Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich set out to talk about the importance of higher education and to congratulate ISU for being an outstanding university, applauding in agreement with a statement made by ISU President Al Bowman who cited the university as the first and the best public university in the state.”

· “[Frankfort Township assessor, Paul J. Ruff] says he hasn’t paid up because “a bunch of Mexicans” working for Fence Outlet made more than $2,000 worth of mistakes, like installing part of the structure in his neighbor’s yard.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


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