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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

Who do you think is the better legislative leader, Senate President Emil Jones or House Speaker Michael Madigan? Define “better” and explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


More ads than coverage

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

I’m still in catch-up mode this week. A while back, I linked to a study that showed the paltry coverage of politics by local TV news outfits. Well, the Joyce Foundation has a new study with the wholly unsurprising finding that TV viewers received much more political information during TV newscasts from advertisements than from the news programs themselves.

In the month leading up to the recent 2006 mid-term elections,
local television news viewers got considerably more information about campaigns from paid political advertisements than from actual news coverage, a new study shows. Local newscasts in seven Midwest markets aired nearly four and a-half minutes of paid political ads during the typical 30-minute broadcast while dedicating an average of one minute and 43 seconds to election news coverage.

The new post-election analysis also shows that most of the actual news coverage of elections on early and late-evening broadcasts was devoted to campaign strategy and polling, which outpaced reporting on policy issues by a margin of over three to one (65 percent to 17 percent). These findings come amid studies consistently showing that voters look to local television newscasts as their primary source of information about elections.

There’s more below. Click for a larger image.

tvadsnews06.jpg

Hopefully, we can get a breakdown of how Illinois stations fared in this comparison.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


Reform and renewal

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

Part 1 comes from the Tribune:

Following two scolding reviews, Illinois must repay $7.7 million in federal funds because of a litany of problems in running a federal job retraining program.

The program is supposed to match workers with training that will help them find new positions quickly after they have lost their jobs to foreign competition.

But the federal reviews found that Illinois officials seemed to ignore schedules and procedures established to make sure workers were not sitting by idly when they could be in retraining programs.

Reviewers found the state took as long as 16 months to approve training plans. Files lacked basic information, such as workers’ educational backgrounds and previous job duties, according to the reports.

And Part 2 is from the Sun-Times:

Pink slips have been handed to two East Coast law firms that made hefty political donations to Gov. Blagojevich and were placed on a preferred list for Illinois pension work.

This month’s vote by the state Teachers’ Retirement System to overhaul the way it hires lawyers for class-action cases followed a Chicago Sun-Times report in September.

That story detailed how federal authorities have been probing Blagojevich’s visits with the two firms during trips to New York in 2003. It also said Blagojevich’s interaction with a third law firm once employed by TRS also is under federal scrutiny. […]

Nonetheless, “We believe that all of our vendor selections should be made strictly on the basis of merit and suitability for the particular work assignment,” said Jon Bauman, TRS’ executive director. “In this particular situation, the campaign contributions … had the effect of placing a cloud over a number of the firms that were eventually selected.”

Bauman, however, stressed that the contributions were not the only factor in the TRS board’s decision to dismantle the preferred list, which also included three law firms not connected to the governor’s New York trips. The fact that none of the firms had brought a successful class-action case on behalf of TRS in three years weighed heavily, he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Tax cap politics

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

The Sun-Times has loads of property tax stories today.

If you own a home or property in Chicago, it’s probably worth more — maybe two or three times more — than it was three years ago, according to the Cook County assessor.

And you’ll be taxed accordingly.

The Civic Federation of Chicago calculates an average 36 percent increase in every property tax bill, or $829 more a year, unless state legislators renew a homeowners’ protection bill that would drop the average hike down to about $255.

The assessor’s office finished its triennial assessment of property in Chicago, and just about every corner of the city is seeing a whopping boost in housing value.

The 7 percent tax cap expires at the end of the year. According to the Civic Federation study, “The average Chicago apartment owner’s tax bill will drop $1,051 a year with the cap and $1,643 without it, the study says. It says that commercial property owners will see their bills drop $216 with the cap and $488 without.”

Speaker Madigan voted for the tax cap extension, but he wasn’t exactly a supporter. Assessor Houlihan has blamed Madigan for the delay. Other stuff is brewing, but that’s for subscribers only.

Also in today’s CS-T package, “Who wins, who loses under 7 percent cap” … “Figure out your taxes” … “Suburban homeowners not getting break, either

Meanwhile, over at Illinoize, Rep. John Fritchey expressed support for the Houlihan bill.

Interestingly, what I find most telling about the issue has nothing to do with taxes. People, especially conservatives, are always talking about local control. Here we have a bill that is rooted in that very concept. There is nothing mandatory about the bill, it is opt-in legislation that allows a county to implement the provisions if it so chooses. Those county officials eventually have to stand before voters and answer for their actions.

And Greg Hinz has a fascinating column about how Houlihan flexed his political muscle to “effectively take control of both of the regulatory agencies with the power to overrule his decisions.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Durbin touts Obama for prez

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

So, what do you make of this?

Sen. Barack Obama’s biggest cheerleader, Sen. Dick Durbin, launched an online petition drive on Monday to persuade his fellow Illinois Democrat to run for president.

Several people tell me that Obama, who is seriously considering a bid, is phoning people he knows to get input — and cold-calling key figures in Iowa and New Hampshire.

He’s not asking people in those two important early primary states for support, since he’s not in the race. Rather, he’s asking them to stay neutral until he decides.

Durbin’s petition drive is a free-lance effort. He sent the e-mails to his list of donors and supporters without an explicit request of, or permission from, Obama & Co., the freshman senator’s small circle of advisers.

Durbin’s online petition can be found here.

As many of you may know, I’m a huge Barack Obama fan. I’ve known Barack since he was first elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996, and I’m impressed by what he has accomplished in his relatively short political career. I’m also proud to call him my friend.

Not only does Senator Obama do a wonderful job representing the people of Illinois, in just a few short years he has proven himself to be an incredibly inspirational national leader. From his memorable and unifying speech at the Democratic National Convention to his new book The Audacity of Hope, Barack has shown that he has the best interests of all Americans at heart.

That is why I want to see Barack run for President in 2008. I believe that he is the right man to lead our country at a time of such turmoil around the globe, bringing Americans together at a time in our nation’s history when we need unity more than ever.

Barack has said publicly that he is considering a run, and part of his consideration will doubtlessly include measuring the level of his support from Democrats across the country. So let’s show him how strong that support is.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Morning shorts

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006

* Blagojevich hasn’t paid for lawsuit

* Journalism.org: With each election cycle come more websites and more political predictions. With a Democratic surge apparent, and more competitive contests this year, the race for prognostications was even more intense than usual. Who fared best in the 2006 midterm elections?

* Rasmussen: When it comes to the issues of taxes and abortion, Democrats hold a very modest advantage over Republicans. However, on health care, Social Security, and education, voters trust Democrats more than Republicans by a double-digit margin. But, despite the difference of degree, Democrats have the edge on all five issues.

* Who Is Middle Class? - Democrats Take Up The Cause, But Group Is Undefined

* Democratic gains in suburbs spell trouble for GOP

* Bouman: The re-election of Gov. Rod Blagojevich in Illinois showed the country that fighting for expanded health care is not only good policy, it’s good politics.

* Editorial: Duckworth a fine choice for vets post

* Editorial: Stripping a racketeer’s pension

* AP: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling that dismissed a $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris USA, ending a case that became a windfall for the county where it originated but helped feed its reputation as a “judicial hellhole.”

* Malpractice caps face big challenge

* Tribune: An attorney for Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Thomas said today his client offered to accept a reduced settlement after a $7 million victory in a defamation case against a Kane County newspaper but opposing attorneys didn’t respond.

* Murnane: More to Thomas verdict than victory for chief justice?

* Lawmaker miffed that mayor said ‘no’ to state flood aid; mayor didn’t want to jeopardize federal aid

* “Official Use of the name ‘Republican’”

* Bill Brady: The GOP of Lincoln and Reagan can rebuild

* McNamee: How our Dirty Dozen would lock up Olympics

* Employee fired by Cook commissioner last year says she did political and personal work on county time, but he says she is retaliating

* American Spectator “analyst” claims that in Illinois, “Republicans are closer to the majority in the state senate”

* Zorn: Pension windfall for Steele is no accident of law

* Media Week: The battle for audience supremacy in the online news category continues to be a fiercely competitive three-horse race, despite efforts by some of the biggest traditional news players to strengthen their digital output.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Proft defends storming the county building

Monday, Nov 27, 2006

Dan Proft, a consultant to Republican Cook County Board presidential candidate Tony Peraica, tries to answer the question: “In hindsight, do you think it was a good idea to lead your supporters in a march on the county building in the wee hours of the morning on Nov. 8?”

Remember the context. The election literally hung in the balance.

For more than three hours, we had no update of the suburban Cook County vote total. When Peraica and his supporters left the Hotel Intercontinental, only 48 percent of suburban Cook County precincts had reported with Peraica leading in suburban Cook by a margin of approximately 62 percent to 38 percent.

Peraica’s numbers in the city were holding at 31 percent of the vote and, as we said repeatedly, anything over 30 percent of the vote in the city gave Peraica a real shot at victory. He needed to pull in the high 60 percentiles in suburban Cook (depending on turnout) and we were being told at the time by suburban Republican township committeemen that some of our key townships, like Palatine Township, had not yet reported.

The election outcome was clearly in doubt and the Stroger camp knew the same thing we did.

That may or may not have justified serious concern, but Proft never comes out and says exactly why the absurd middle of the night political theater was the right thing to do, particularly since there were allegations that some of Peraica’s stormers may have broken seals on boxes containing ballot data once they got there.

He finishes with this:

We ultimately lost the race not because of what happened on Tuesday evening but because we were not able to secure the margin of victory we needed in suburban Cook County. The massacre of the GOP statewide candidates and a few key legislative candidates in northwest Cook County negatively impacted Peraica just enough to make Stroger the victor.

Peraica lost by about 100,000 votes.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


Not sure what the problem is…

Monday, Nov 27, 2006

I turned comments back on but most of them aren’t posting immediately. Not sure what’s going on, but I’m working on it.

*** UPDATE *** I think I found the problem. Not sure how it happened, but without going into details I can now understand why so many comments were being sent to the moderation cue.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Monday, Nov 27, 2006

Let’s ease our way back into blogging with a softball question:

What were you most thankful for during the holiday season?

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Rewards great, risks high for Duckworth

Monday, Nov 27, 2006

The appointment of Tammy Duckworth to run the state’s Veterans’ Affairs Department was a good move by Gov. Blagojevich. Politically, it keeps the failed congressional candidate and war hero alive until she decides what else to do, but the risks are great to her future if the federales ever close in on this administration.

Duckworth also seems to understand some of the problems well.

Duckworth also said she intends to work with the governor and legislators to make changes to Veterans Care. After 185 outreach events in the last few months, only 15 veterans have enrolled in the program, which prompted some lawmakers to brand the program as a publicity tool for the governor rather than a necessary program.

Duckworth said restrictions in the program need to be changed so it can help more veterans.

Before a veteran can qualify for Veterans Care, the state must first verify the veteran isn’t receiving federal benefits. But Duckworth said many of those qualifying for services from the Veterans Administration can be so low on the agency’s priority list that they must wait years for services.

That’s a very good point and someone with Duckworth’s stature should be able to muscle through the needed changes if this program is to survive.

However, she hasn’t changed her tune much from the campaign about the administration’s skirting of state hiring law.

Duckworth said she was not aware of the reports of hiring violations that may have cost veterans jobs.

“But if they are, then that will be part of my job to cut through that,” she said. “If we have a problem, it’s time to fix it.”

It’s never too late to fix a problem, but that particular horse has already left the barn.

One final word of caution to Ms. Duckworth. This governor is infamous for picking blue-ribbon directors and then filling the lower rungs with political hacks whose loyalties lie solely with the top dog. Duckworth’s high-profile campaign gives her the political ammo to insist on picking her own team.

Gov. Blagojevich cannot afford a public spat with her over veterans issues. She has the leverage and she should use it to its fullest extent. Anything less, and her own reputation will be damaged.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Answers, please

Monday, Nov 27, 2006

The Sun-Times recently demanded answers from Patti Blagojevich:

No one argues with Patti Blagojevich’s wish to earn a living, have a career, sell real estate. She is entitled to her own life. But when some of those sweet real estate deals involve a man who has been indicted by the feds, it’s only natural questions are going to be asked about the relationship between the governor’s wife and this man, developer Tony Rezko. Mrs. Blagojevich received just over $47,000 from the sale of industrial land abutting Irving Park Road.

One would expect a liberated and self-assured woman like Mrs. Blagojevich to stand up for herself, to face the public and explain her business dealings with Rezko, a man who had the uncanny ability to sniff out up-and-coming politicians and donate to their campaigns. He has hooked up to politicians such as Sen. Barack Obama, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and new Cook County President Todd Stroger in addition to Gov. Blagojevich, who has given Rezko’s friends seats on influential state boards and hired former Rezko employees for state jobs.

Mrs. Blagojevich has remained silent about her real estate connections to Rezko, quaintly preferring to let the governor’s aides do the speaking for her. And the aides claim the press has “outdated and biased assumptions about women’s abilities in business.” The only assumption we have is that a successful businesswoman can speak for herself. So Mrs. Blagojevich, what’s the story?

I thought about this over the holiday break and a question came to my mind: How many real estate deals has Mrs. Blagojevich done since Rod Blagojevich was elected that were completely free of political taint? We know of most of them, I think, and if I remember correctly they all had something to do with insiders to one degree or another.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Naive or co-opted?

Monday, Nov 27, 2006

You gotta wonder what the heck Rodger Heaton was thinking when he made these dinner reservations. From Mark Brown:

If I were a gossip columnist, I could give you the entire substance of today’s column in just a sentence, then let the insiders make of it what they will.

It would read something like this:

Seen breaking bread recently in the Grill Room of Springfield’s Sangamo Club were Rodger Heaton, the new U.S. attorney for the Central District of Illinois, and his dinner companions, Republican power brokers William Cellini and Robert Kjellander. […]

But from the outside looking in, this seems exactly the kind of too-friendly relationship between federal prosecutors and Illinois political figures that caused former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald to insist on going outside the state for his U.S. attorney selections

Go read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Bernie Schoenburg followed up yesterday and got these interesting quotes from Heaton’s spokesperson:

Even PATRICK FITZGERALD, the Chicago U.S. attorney overseeing the TRS probe, was the choice of former U.S. Sen. PETER FITZGERALD, R-Ill., who made no bones about wanting to name someone from out of state, she said.

“It was still political, but it was just a different process,” Paul said.

Whether that dinner would have occurred had the names of Cellini and Kjellander surfaced earlier is another question. Paul said Heaton “would make every effort to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest or any sort of improper meeting.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


The Stroger beat goes on and on

Monday, Nov 27, 2006

The Sun-Times had a big headline on Sunday’s paper taunting Todd Sroger. The headline pointed to this editorial deep inside the paper.

Todd Stroger must immediately fire Gerald Nichols, his father’s former patronage chief who is still drawing a six-figure salary for doing next to nothing. The newly elected County Board president must distance himself from the do-nothing insiders of his father’s era. Asking for Nichols’ resignation but insisting that he will continue to be an adviser is far short of what’s needed to persuade voters that Stroger won’t run county government as a bloated haven of patronage and cronyism that wastes the taxpayers’ dollars. Stroger needs to demonstrate in the strongest way possible that he understands he needs to break with the past and that he is committed to doing so.

After his father, John Stroger, suffered a stroke in March, Todd Stroger controversially replaced him as the Democratic nominee on the Nov. 7 ballot. During his campaign, he portrayed himself as an agent of change who would reform the patronage-heavy county government. The first thing he said he would do would be to fire Nichols. Then post-election, Stroger backed off that pledge. While Stroger now says he will ask for Nichols’ resignation effective Dec. 31 — he doesn’t want to fire anyone during the holiday season — he says Nichols can — get this — provide him with insight that no one else can.

“He obviously knows everybody in the county, I don’t care what people say,” Stroger said.

The only way that makes any sense is if Nichols is going to identify all the patronage workers he put in place so Stroger can then fire them. Somehow we doubt that’s what he meant. Stroger also said he hadn’t seen anything about Nichols’ being investigated by the feds even though the Sun-Times has reported that six times in the last two months.

The editorial writers also expressed exasperation over interim county board president Bobbie Steele’s announcement that she wants her son to take her commissioner job.

She has performed her interim job admirably, bringing intelligence and common sense to tackling the county’s problems. No one can blame her for deciding to retire when she gets the best pension. But she will tarnish the fine work she has done if she goes through with her stated intention to get her son appointed to the County Board to replace her. Bequeathing government positions to children is bad old-style politics and she shouldn’t do it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


Morning shorts

Monday, Nov 27, 2006

* Suit seeks overturning of malpractice limits

* Crain’s: [Malpractice] Insurers credit a law that pulls back the curtain on a decade of ISMIE’s insurance data, a requirement of malpractice reform passed last year. ISMIE initially fought the measure but gave in to get caps on jury awards for patients who sue their doctors. So far, it’s the ability to crunch ISMIE’s numbers that is spurring rate competition, not the caps on malpractice payouts, insurers say.

* IL Lt. Gov. Calls for Action on Rate Freeze

* Tribune: The official state request for a proposal to do the work states, “[IDOT] has inadequate planning and management staff to develop and produce a state transportation plan within the time allowed by federal law,” which is July 1, 2007.

* Editorial: THUMBS DOWN! To Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Democrat-controlled legislature for considering a fuel tax break that would benefit only United Airlines. The legislation is part of a package aimed at keeping the financially troubled airlines’ headquarters in Illinois. But the fuel tax break would only apply to United, not other airlines that also serve the state well. The tax break also comes at a time when the state has refused to give motorists a break from the sales tax on high gasoline prices. We think appropriate tax breaks for business are good, but we’re concerned when the breaks benefit only one business.

* An enviable set of coattails - As the late Sen. Paul Simon’s daughter runs for mayor in Carbondale, some Democrats hope her father’s legacy will give her political career statewide cache

* Kadner: Yes, it’s time to give thanks for Stroger

* Helicopter offer takes police by surprise

* Will state hike in minimum wage cost jobs or put new shoes on a child’s feet?

* Crain’s: Chicago homeowners would face a median increase of 36.4% in their 2006 property tax bills — up from 10.6% otherwise — if the General Assembly does not extend a 7% annual cap on most residential assessment hikes, according to a new report by the Civic Federation. Business groups say the cap shifts the tax burden to them, but the the Chicago tax-policy group says the value of residential property is growing so fast that, even with the cap, the median bill for industrial property will drop 10.8%, with a 4% median decline on office and retail buildings. The federation supports a three-year extension of the cap.

* Editorial: Two things are clear after the Illinois Senate decided last week to give many top state officials a double-digit pay increase. First, the state needs to adopt a new method of granting pay raises. Second, the move by senators, and their comments about the pay raise, are arrogant almost beyond belief.

* DCFS walks fine line on child welfare - Advocates see risks in the push to keep some families intact

* IlliniPundit revealed

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


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* Mark Stefanik’s letter from Galway. Trump the Intruder.
* Random thoughts. This is not an election over who is a friend of Wall Street.
* Laundromat Coming To Wilson & Magnolia Strip Mall
* Trumps returns to old ways: denials and finger-pointing about Cruz


* Discount Admission Tickets Available For Purchase At Area Retailers - Fair to extend purchasing hours at Emmerson Building
* Governor Announces Appointments
* New Halsted Street Bridge Finished at Byrne Interchange, Multimodal Travel, Neighborhood Connectivity Enhanced - Last of Eisenhower bridges to be completed, project moves into next phase
* No Pokemon Go access on Veteran Home’s grounds
* Governor Takes Bill Action




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