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Monday, Jan 29, 2007

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Local elections roundup and open thread

Monday, Jan 29, 2007

* Our buddy Jake, the 14 year old video blogger who broke through last year when he was interviewed by Chicago Public Radio, is making news again. Jake just scored an interview with mayoral candidate Dorothy Brown, which you can view in three parts, here, here and here. Congrats, Jake!

* Dog Fight in the 50th, a blog about the four-way battle in broken down warhorse Bernie Stone’s 50th Ward race, is coming of age. A recent post about AFSMCE’s endorsement of Greg Brewer has 78 comments. Go take a look, it’s quite the flame war. Brewer, himself, blogged at his own site yesterday about yard signs being stolen, which is not an unusual thing in politics.

* The Sun-Times has an interesting story about the 25th Ward race. Seems that Ald. Danny Solis is being accused of forgery.

The charge is serious: Ald. Danny Solis (25th), the president pro tempore of the Chicago City Council, had someone forge his notarized signatures on his statements of candidacy and economic interest while he was on a fact-finding trip to Israel with other Hispanic aldermen.

He was back from the trip before the final deadline, but they had to be filed while he was away to make him eligible for the lottery for top ballot spot for the Southwest Side ward that includes Pilsen.

Solis’ attorneys have said he signed the documents himself before he left, and they expect the lawsuit filed against him Friday will be thrown out just as the electoral board threw out the charge earlier.

But Solis reportedly was seen talking angrily to his Chicago staff on his BlackBerry while in Israel, and handwriting expert Diana Marsh says whoever signed “Danny Solis” to the statement of candidacy and economic interest is not the same person who signed “Danny Solis” on all of Solis’ other documents.

* Chicagoist has a good backgrounder on the race.

Adding to the bitterness of this contest is not only Medrano’s attempt to reclaim the seat he lost when he went to prison, but the various other people who have thrown their hat into the ring against Solis. Having fallen out with the pro-Daley Hispanic Democratic Organization (which has seen diminished influence in the wake of federal corruption probes) over his ties to such HDO rivals as Rep. Luis Gutierrez, and Solis’ own congressional ambitions. Besides Medrano, he is also facing Aaron del Valle and Joe Acevedo, who, while not necessarily strong challengers, have added enough chaos to the mix to give Danny a headache.

We can’t prove it, but we suspect that they are stalking horses put into the race to muck things up. While it seems a fair bet that he will pull a lot of votes in the election next month, being drawn into a bitter runoff against a strong challenger probably isn’t Danny Solis’ idea of a good time. Taking on either the HDO or Medrano, and whomever the group of losers throw their support behind, will just complicate things for him. […]

(T)his race is as much about getting control over the spoils of TIF money and development in the ward as it is about making political careers. […]

With so much at stake, and so many cynical players grabbing for power, it seems that there are no good choices to be made in this race, with the status quo being the only real prize for residents.

This is a local elections open thread and, as always, it is not limited to Chicago politics. Have at it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Question of the day *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Jan 29, 2007

Should Illinois raise the minimum driving age to 18? Why or why not?

*** UPDATE *** In case you were wondering, I ask this because a recent study found that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers.

In fact, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as other drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Obamarama - Facebook, tricks and poll numbers

Monday, Jan 29, 2007

Last Thursday, Adam Conner made note of the explosive growth of a new Facebook group called “Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack).” [Facebook registration required]

The group was started January 16th - 13 days ago - by what appears to be political amateurs, and hopes to have signed up a million members by February 5th. It seemed impossible, but the group has really taken off.

Conner noted last Thursday that the group had grown by “23,364 members in less then 24 Hours,” and had jumped about a thousand members from the time he started writing his post until he was finished.

Clearly, something is happening here. But are growth rates like this possibly sustainable?

They are. In fact, because of the way that Facebook is structured, the more people join the group the more people are aware of it.

Since late Thursday afternoon, the Facebrook group - which hit 100,000 members a day before the group leaders had hoped to hit 10,000 - has grown from 90,094 members to 157,725 members at 9:10 this morning.

On another topic, Political Insider chastises the media for falling for one of the oldest tricks in the political playbook.

Until April 1st, there’s only one game that matters in the battle for the Democratic Presidential nomination — the donor’s game. The contest to put up the biggest first quarter fundraising number possible is intense and is prone to misinformation and stunts.

Hence, James Carville talks talks and talks some more about Al Gore getting into the race. Let’s boil this down to reality:

* Carville supports Hillary Clinton
* Obama is making a hard and fast play for Hollywood money
* An Al Gore entry into the race is the only thing preventing Obama from running the table on that money in this quarter.

End of story.

And Media Matters takes on the same subject.

A January 28 New York Times article by reporter Jodi Kantor included a quote by Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, saying that Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) “style of leadership” might be better suited to running the Harvard Law Review, of which Obama was the first black president, than to “running a country.” […]

But the article did not note that Klain has reportedly signed on with Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-DE) and said he would support Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) if Biden “chooses not to run.”

Which makes me wonder about New Yorker Al Sharpton’s recent negative comments about Obama and his friendliness to a Hillary Clinton campaign.

Laura Washington has a different take on that particular subject.

For America’s black leadership, Barack Obama is both an enigma and a pain in the posterior. Just ask the Reverends Jesse L. Jackson and Al Sharpton and Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters, Andrew Young, Donna Brazile and Julian Bond.

They don’t know what to do with him.

Finally, the Daily Herald has some poll results that show a quarter of the American public would be “angry or upset” if a woman was elected president.

Respondents were asked how many out of a list of five statements made them angry. The topics were rising gas prices, pro athletes making millions, requiring seat-belt use, large companies polluting the environment and a woman serving as president.

The survey found 26 percent said they’d be angry or upset about a female president. The surprise was that the level of unease at a female leader cut across gender, income, geographical and education lines.

“We expected to find people were lying (in past polls). And we also expected to find some groups lied more than others. But that really wasn’t the case,” Streb said.

While the survey didn’t ask the related question of whether people would be angry about a black man as president, Streb suggests “the same theory applies.”

I’ll post the full results if I can find them.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Corruption roundup *** Updated x2 ***

Monday, Jan 29, 2007

Federal Judge John Grady has an interesting state corruption hearing docket this Wednesday, all of them tied to the ongoing hospital board scandal. Check out the last entry [emphasis added].

1:05-cr-00408 USA v. Glennon 10:30 Status Hearing
1:05-cr-00408 USA v. Hurtgen 10:30 Notice of Motion
1:05-cr-00408 USA v. Hurtgen 10:30 Status Hearing
1:05-cr-00408 USA v. Kiferbaum 10:30 Status Hearing
1:05-cr-00408 USA v. SUPPRESSED 10:30 Status Hearing

Meanwhile, the AP has a story today about the numerous holes in the administration’s case against former CMS personnel honchos Dawn DeFraties and Michael Casey.

The state executive inspector general’s office, which conducted a yearlong investigation, concluded that many job applications were submitted through the governor’s office or state lawmakers. The inspector’s confidential report, obtained by The Associated Press last summer, also indicated that the allegedly improper practices continued for months after DeFraties and Casey left CMS. […]

The case centers on 28 so-called “special applications.” The administration claims that for all but one of those applications, DeFraties and Casey did not officially record a grade if it was below an “A” and let the applicant try again later.

An Associated Press analysis of the 28 cases in November showed weaknesses in each one. Investigators relied on the wrong dates for key events, some applicants who investigators said got “A” grades never got any grade, and some candidates were never hired. […]

The administration says it found the 28 improper applications in a log that Casey kept to track more than 2,000 “special applications” his office received. […]

Each line of the printed log is numbered chronologically, but the AP found there are 67 numbers missing. The administration and its lawyers have refused to explain what information is omitted.

Go read the whole thing.

Also, a recent Post-Dispatch story adds that the administration’s attorneys want to exclude evidence that people from the governor’s office allegedly lobbied DeFraties and Casey to hire politically connected workers.

*** UPDATE *** OK, I can’t help myself. From the Belleville News-Democrat:

A new statewide tax incentive for businesses is meant to promote the hiring of Illinois’ veterans, according to a news release from the office of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Employers can now earn income tax credit of up to $600 for every qualified veteran they hire.

Apparently, state government has shut so many veterans out of the hiring process in order to fill jobs with political hacks that we need the private sector to pick up the slack. /snark

*** UPDATE 2 *** The SJ-R has posted an update on the hearing. I’d suggest you keep checking for more. [Hat tip to a commenter.]

Carl Draper will continue to represent two former state personnel officials in their attempt to win back their jobs.

Draper, a Springfield attorney, also might be called to testify in the appeals hearing before an Illinois Civicl Service Commission administrative law judge. That created a legal question over whethe Draper could be both a witness and a lawyer in the same hearing.

However, administrative law judge Anthony Dos Santos said this morning Draper would be allowed to testify if necessary while still representing Dawn DeFraties and Michael Casey.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Schools and money

Monday, Jan 29, 2007

Senate President Emil Jones reiterated his position that “all options are on the table” as far as raising new revenues for school funding, and made it clear that he intends to force Speaker Madigan to get on board.

“We’ve got to raise revenue, no question about it, so all options are on the table,” Jones said. “We in the Senate are going to push it through. We’re going to make the House deal with it, make them stand up and be responsible.”

UPDATE: Here’s my take on Jones and Madigan, from my syndicated newspaper column.

Anyway, Jones did go on to say that an income tax, particularly in conjunction with a property tax swap, is not necessarily on the horizon.

Jones distanced himself from some education advocates’ long-held hope that the state will shift the burden of school funding from property taxes to income taxes. […]

“There are other possibilities out there,” Jones said Thursday.

“Some of the corporations have been getting away with paying no taxes,” he said. “We want them to pay. You raise income taxes, that hits the individual.”

That pretty much matches up to Gov. Blagojevich’s stance.

Meanwhile, House GOP Leader Tom Cross said raising the income tax doesn’t make sense.

GOP House Minority Leader Tom Cross said Friday he doesn’t favor raising the income tax to collect more money for the state, an idea the Senate’s Democratic leader has said is up for discussion.

But Cross is willing to discuss a gambling expansion to help pay for capital projects like building roads and schools. That could include lifting the limits on riverboat gaming positions and opening casinos in Chicago or elsewhere.

Jones also favors gaming expansion, by the way.

And the Tribune’s editorial page, which has far less influence over state government now that it ever has, started a series of editorials this past weekend calling for a tax hike coupled with various reforms.

This editorial page usually expresses skepticism about tax increases. But we will argue in this series that there is a substantial need to put school funding on a more stable footing. That will cost each of us more money–and allow us to insist that our schools deliver much more.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Monday, Jan 29, 2007

* Praised by Blagojevich, criticized by others, IDOT chief resigns

* Mark Brown: More internal documents from the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

* Carol Marin: Give and you shall receive

* Editorial: Governor must explain lottery sale

* High paying political jobs vs. ones that matter: “Strausberg has a cushy new office and is paid $110,000 a year to be Cook County’s communications director, although she hasn’t been doing that job for weeks.”

* Tribune Editorial: For once, they have to say “No!”

* Rivals claim forgery, Solis denies it

* Civic Federation supports Stroger with reservations

* $6 million grant to boost minorities in trades

* Editorial: Tax hike? You’ve got to be kidding Commissioner Sims

* County cuts could mean less drug-war money… and that’s a good thing

* McQueary: Blagojevich, “Gotcha, Mr. Speaker”

* Fighting predatory lending requires a citywide focus:

Initially, supporters of the bill sought to create a statewide database that would be used to identify fraudulent lenders and mortgage brokers. That is still a good idea. This is not a battle that can be fought in a handful of neighborhoods without the people living in those neighborhoods being victimized by our good intentions.

- Posted by Paul Richardson   12 Comments      


This just in… Skoien to step down *** Updated x2 ***

Saturday, Jan 27, 2007

Cook County Republican Party Chairman Gary Skoein will announce Monday that he is stepping down to care for his wife, who has cancer. The move has been anticipated for some time.

*** UPDATE ***
The Daily Herald’s story is up.

*** UPDATE 2 *** The Sun-Times story is up as well.

A special meeting of the Cook County Republican Central Committee has been called for Feb. 12 at the Hyatt Regency to elect a new chairman, according to a release from the party.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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