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Must-see video

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

I had never heard of Alex Beinstein until one of his videos popped up in a YouTube search. From what I can gather, he’s a student at the University of Chicago with a show on WHPK radio who also does some video stuff and posts all of his interviews at his blog.

Check out what Beinstein does to Mayor Daley in this brief interview. Daley apparently expected a deferential softball from a harmless college kid. But watch Hizzoner’s expression change in an instant when Beinstein instead throws a hardball…

* Beinstein also interviewed House GOP Leader Tom Cross. Rep. Cross more than just hints that he wants to see another fare hike for mass transit riders.

* In our second video, watch Congressman Dan Lipinski’s chief of staff Jerry Hurckes try to swat away a citizen who is attempting to videotape the congressman’s answer to a question…

Hat tip: Carl, who adds…

I began filming after I saw Hurckes harassing Maniotis, so the total amount of time between when Hurckes started putting his hand in Maniotis’ face and when Lipinski told him to knock-it-off is longer than on this video

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


This just in…

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

* 11:20 am - House Speaker Michael Madigan has left the leaders meeting in Chicago. The meeting had been requested by House GOP Leader Tom Cross.

Madigan may be gone, but the other leaders, including the governor, are still in Cross’ office as I write this (minus Frank Watson, who is being represented by Sen. Christine Radogno). Madigan told reporters on his way out that there needs to be public hearings on any gaming expansion plan.

The Speaker has claimed that he supports a capital bill, but has so far refused to come on board any gaming expansion beyond more positions at current casinos. The Senate has passed legislation that would fund the capital bill with three new casinos and lots more positions at the current boats. Rep. Cross has said he could support a Chicago casino.

* 11:51 am - The governor just told reporters that there is now a consensus among all leaders except Speaker Madigan on capital and gaming.

* 12:52 pm - Some of the private spin coming out of the confab was that it was a “good” meeting and that Madigan was not as obstructive as some thought he would be. Still, Madigan expressed doubt that his caucus would go for such a big gaming expansion and has concerns about the capital bill as written.

* 1:28 pm - From GateHouse

“I don’t think that the people of Illinois have had an adequate opportunity to learn what’s in this bill,” Madigan told reporters who waited outside the meeting at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.

Madigan did not offer firm dates for the hearings, which would be held in Chicago and Springfield.

There are a lot of little things in that bill that could be dredged up in a hearing and put in the worst possible light.

* 1:46 pm - CBS2’s report

Madigan told reporters he is skeptical of the new plan, saying it would make Chicago a major gambling area, second only to Las Vegas.

* 2:20 pm - From a press release

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna today called on Governor Rod Blagojevich to oppose County Board President Todd Stroger’s plan to raise the Cook County sales tax. As a candidate himself, Blagojevich repeatedly indicated his opposition to higher taxes on working people, but now remains curiously quiet about a key ally’s proposal to drastically increase taxes on the working men and women of Cook County.

“Governor Blagojevich has spent years in Springfield grandstanding against higher sales and income taxes while secretly raising fees and other taxes,” said McKenna. “If Rod Blagojevich is to have any credibility on this issue he needs to tell his friend and ally Todd Stroger that Cook County families simply cannot afford this type of tax increase just to fund their lavish government spending.”

* 3:30 pm - This is exactly why I took a couple of days off. I had no confidence at all that the veto session will last just two weeks, and now I’m even more convinced. From the Tribune

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown, however, made it clear that the speaker is in no rush to convene the gambling hearings, which have yet to be scheduled. He said the sessions in Chicago and Springfield would be held sometime “in the coming weeks,” but he said there is no guarantee they will take place before Oct. 12, the end of the fall veto session. Transit agencies have set Nov. 4 as the date service cuts would be implemented, limiting people’s ability to get around.

In fact, Brown said, lawmakers shouldn’t expect the veto session to signal the end of the record-setting overtime session, which has been going on for four months and which Madigan seems to be willing to extend indefinitely.

“This has gone on an interminable length of time, so I don’t know why anybody would suddenly think the veto session would mark the end,” Brown said.

The House already is scheduled to meet through the end of October. “That could be extended if necessary,” Brown said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Random thoughts

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

* I got back late last night from New Orleans. If you’re thinking about going but are worried that the city still isn’t ready for tourism, disavow yourself of that notion. All the hotels are open in the French Quarter and the bars and restaurants are all serving up their own special brand of hospitality.

One of the city’s biggest problems right now is a lack of tourists. Tourism is supposedly down by 50 percent from pre-Katrina days. The bright side of that for people like us is that we can get a dinner reservation at the last minute on a Saturday night without worry. So, head down there soon.

* Congratulations to Becky Carroll, a deputy governor who will soon take over the reins as the Barack Obama campaign’s “national director of women.” Paul linked to Bernie’s Sunday story about Becky’s departure, but I wanted to add my own two cents. I wish her nothing but the best.

* Congrats also to my old pal Jennifer Davis, who has been promoted to Lifestyles editor of the Peoria Journal-Star. John Sharp is taking over Davis’ role as co-author of the paper’s “Word on the Street” column.

* Press release from Gov. Rod Blagojevich on the passing of Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz

“Illinois has lost a true sports and business icon. The legacy of Bill Wirtz will live on through the numerous businesses he built, charities he funded and the thousands of Illinois residents he employed. Patti & I wish to extend our sympathies to the entire Wirtz family. They remain in our thoughts and prayers.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

First, the setup

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is expecting her second child, due in March.

The child will be the second for Madigan and her husband, Pat Byrnes, according to a release from the attorney general’s office.

Madigan expects to take a brief maternity leave following the delivery, then return to the office on a daily basis, as she did after giving birth to daughter Rebecca in January 2005.

Now, the question: If AG Madigan runs for governor, do you think her growing family will be - or even should be - a campaign issue? Explain.

…Adding… To those who dismiss this question, check out the lede from an AP story written in 2001

Republican Jane Swift took office Tuesday as Massachusetts governor apparently, the first pregnant governor in U.S. history and is sure to be watched closely for how she balances career and family.

You can say that it won’t be an issue, but it was a huge deal in Massachusetts, of all places, just six years ago. Never overestimate the punditry’s progressivity.

…Adding more… I didn’t notice this until it was pointed out by a commenter, but Illinois Review’s editor has already made AG Madigan’s pregnancy an issue

And we’ve been wondering why she hasn’t had time to work on enforcing the parental notification before abortion bill that’s stalled in her office. It appears she’s been pre-occupied — becoming a parent again.

Feel free to discuss this development if you’ve already responded to the original question.

- Posted by Rich Miller   131 Comments      


What’s next?

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

* As Paul told you yesterday, Speaker Madigan has filed a response to the governor’s lawsuit against him for not convening special sessions at the exact times the governor decreed…

House Speaker Michael Madigan has accused Gov. Rod Blagojevich of acting like a tyrant and asked a circuit judge to throw out the governor’s lawsuit claiming the speaker ignored calls for special legislative sessions, the latest chapter in an increasingly bitter battle between two of the state’s top Democrats.

Blagojevich and Madigan have framed their legal arguments as a question of constitutional authority and abuse of power, centered on the governor’s frequent demands that lawmakers meet to consider topics of his choosing during the record overtime session now in its fourth month.

The governor’s lawsuit accused the speaker of trying to erode Blagojevich’s “constitutional and statutory powers” by not ensuring House members showed up at the times the governor requested. Madigan fired back in an open letter to lawmakers Monday that accompanied his legal response, arguing Blagojevich used the special sessions to punish lawmakers who don’t agree with him.

* More

‘’The governor’s actions are far beyond the bounds of political gamesmanship,'’ Madigan wrote in a 58-page response to the lawsuit, which Gov. Blagojevich slapped on him a month ago for refusing to call special sessions at the specific times Blagojevich wanted during the Legislature’s record-breaking budget stalemate.

‘’Though his means may be the legal mechanism of a lawsuit, his ends traverse into a dark realm that ultimately seeks to replace the rule of law with rule by a single man,'’ said the response filed Monday in Sangamon County Circuit Court.

* More

“He seeks to control the start of the special sessions because he wants to force lawmakers to remain in Springfield indefinitely, with the hope that his effective imprisonment will force members to the point of exhaustion and capitulation to do his will.”

Madigan said the Illinois Constitution does not allow the governor to tell the House when to meet. The suit also should be thrown out of court, he argued, because the governor failed to include the Senate in the lawsuit, because the speaker cannot be sued for his actions in the House and because the dispute is a political one outside of the purview of the courts.

* And more

He goes on to say that “besides his evident contempt for fundamental constitutional principles, Governor Blagojevich has also done the legislative process harm through his gross abuse of the power to call special sessions.”

Madigan says Blagojevich has called 33 special sessions in five years. In contrast, he writes, the 39 governors who preceeded him called a combined 89 special sessions since 1818.

* The governor’s response

Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said the administration is standing up for the governor’s constitutional authority and would welcome a resolution out of court if Madigan would comply.

“We don’t care where the question is resolved — whether it’s in a courtroom, or out of a courtroom,” Rausch wrote in an e-mailed statement. “We just care about making sure the Constitution is upheld.”

This particular lawsuit is in front of the same judge court as the governor’s other suit, which attempted to force Madigan’s clerk to enroll the veto messages in a timely manner. Judge Kelley wanted a settlement, but Blagojevich rejected that idea and demanded a hearing. The judge tossed the case and the governor’s office claimed victory. This time around, the governor’s office is being a bit more humble, but not a lot.

Discuss.

…Adding… as OneMan points out, Fergus v. Marks is a major part of the Speaker’s argument against the governor’s lawsuit…

Similarly, in Fergus v. Marks, 321 Ill. 510, 152 N.E. 557 (1923), the Illinois Supreme Court refused to compel the General Assembly to assemble for the purpose of passing a legislative redistricting law, despite the fact that twenty years had passed since the previous enactment and notwithstanding the clear violation of an explicit constitutional command that “[t]he General Assembly shall apportion the state every ten years.” Ill. Const. 1870, Art. IV, § 6. Based on the principle of separation of powers, the Court was unwilling to compel the General Assembly to act even when that legislative body had a clear constitutional obligation to do so, because the Constitution left that obligation solely to the General Assembly.

Similarly, here the Governor seeks to compel the House to assemble session in concert (or so he claims) with a constitutional provision. As in Fergus, this Court should decline to enter into the legislative procedural arena, regardless of whether a constitutional provision has been breached. (Footnote: While Fergus construed the 1870 Constitution, the Supreme Court has relied on that case in interpreting the 1970 Constitution, which incorporated these same separation-of-powers principles.)

Madigan’s entire brief can be downloaded here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Quinn lashes out, and leaders scheduled to meet

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

* While the governor’s top staff has been trying to one-up the House Democrats’ statewide “fight the vetoes” tour by pointing out that the governor’s budget vetoes allegedly free up money for health care and talking up the benefits of the proposed capital plan, the HDems’ argument has been getting a boost from Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who is also touring the state

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday said Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration is being “bone-headed” by cutting funds that help Illinois school and park districts buy state-mandated heart defibrillators for their athletic facilities.

The governor’s recent budget cuts totaling more than $400 million included the entire $100,000 fiscal 2008 allocation that was anticipated for the HeartSavers AED Trust Fund, Quinn said. He said the fund, administered by the state Department of Public Health, offers units of local government matching grants to purchase “automated external defibrillators” at specially negotiated prices of about $800 each.

Mike Madigan and Pat Quinn: Two peas in a pod? Politics here has really taken a turn for the bizarre.

* Meanwhile, Tom Cross is trying to be the peacemaker

House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, invited the other legislative leaders and Blagojevich to a meeting about the casino-fueled capital bill. It was slated to begin at 9:30 this morning at Cross’s Chicago office in the James R. Thompson Center, a spokesman said.

I’ll tell you how it went later today.

* Speaking of the capital plan, here’s a little-noticed aspect

Illinois Works also would provide lawmakers about $2 billion to split and spend as they see fit in their districts.

As you might imagine, the pressure will be intense in the House to support this proposal.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


So, what’s really going on?

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

* The response to this proposal has been swift and loud…

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger called for a special meeting of the County Board Tuesday to consider a sales tax increase that would push the sales tax in Chicago to 11 percent — the highest in the country.

The County Board will meet October 1st — this coming Monday — immediately after a Finance Committee public hearing on a proposal to raise the Cook County’s portion of the sales tax by two percent.

Stroger’s office will not say whether he supports the increase, but has said some tax increase is likely. He has said he wants to find out what taxes board members will support before he releases his budget proposal in October.

Various media reports have put Cook County’s defict at between $300 million and $750 million (Commissioner Larry Suffredin’s guesstimate).

* More background

Chicago shoppers now pay 9 percent in sales tax, with 5 percent going to the state, 2.25 percent going to the city, 1 percent going to the Regional Transportation Authority and 0.75 percent to Cook County. Additionally, downtown diners pay a 1 percent food-and-beverage tax levied by the agency that runs McCormick Place and Navy Pier. If the county raised its sales tax by 2 percentage points, those diners would see a total 12 percent tax on their tabs.

The County Board has not raised its portion of the sales tax since it was first approved in 1992.

Mayor Daley raised the city’s sales tax a couple of years ago and the General Assembly is now debating legislation to raise it again by 0.25 percent in the city and Cook County to help bail out public transit.

* But it seems doubtful that Stroger will get his full 2 point hike, or that he even wants it. The tax would raise a billion dollars and the deficit isn’t that high (or even a third that high, depending whose figures you use)…

There’s still general disbelief Stroger could find a majority on the board willing to go along with such a huge tax increase. But now commissioners are starting to believe that a smaller sales tax hike could emerge from Monday’s meeting, sort of a bait-and-switch “compromise.”

* And

By beating back a Draconian 2-point tax increase, Stroger, or one of his loyal commissioners, might be able to ride in on a white horse and “rein in” the tax increase to a “mere” 0.25 percentage point increase or 0.5 point increase — appearing fiscally responsible while still giving the county some much-needed revenue, some commissioners speculate.

* The vote isn’t shaping up too well for the full two-point hike, either…

Three Democrats — Suffredin, Claypool and Quigley — have announced their opposition to tax hike, and the five Republicans on the board are expected to follow suit. That means that every other board member would have to vote for it.

* But not all of the remaining commissioners are on board…

Commissioner Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago), a possible swing vote on the 17-member board, said Monday he is leaning strongly against a sales tax increase. […]

Maldonado said he would be more in favor of utility taxes that have been introduced by Commissioner William Beavers (D-Chicago), if senior citizens were exempted.

* Regardless, editorial writers are all in a huff

A government whose house is not in order hasn’t earned the public’s trust. And without that trust, that government can’t ask taxpayers for more money.

* This idea looks a whole lot like Gov. Blagojevich’s outrageously huge gross receipts tax. Blagojevich’s big mistake was not coming back with a smaller, more “acceptable” tax hike. I’m guessing Stroger will do what Blagojevich did not, probably combined down the road with more cuts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Morning shorts

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

* Daley’s top contract officer resigns - Lumpkin not satisfied with African-American share

* How Illinois kids did on test scores

Test results from the nation’s only uniform way to compare students across state lines put Illinois in the middle of the pack nationally, with Illinois grade school students making significant gains in math but sliding back or making modest gains in reading since 2003.

* Illinois students failing to keep pace

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings went out of her way to put Illinois’ scores in the best light during a conference call with reporters, saying it was one of only four states that had made notable progress toward closing the achievement gap among pupils of different races and income levels.

But that measure, too, carries mixed messages.

While Illinois’ minority and poor pupils made important gains on the tests, the gap also narrowed because the progress of white and more affluent pupils was minimal.

* Museuem ‘in a cave’ might be OK with Ald. Reilly

* Reilly welcomes, waits for Daley sit-down

* Editorial: State can’t rewrite federal worker law

* Rep. Acevedo loses suit against fellow officer again

* AG Madigan urges new cribs or refunds in recal

* ComEd customers get October surprise

* Cox to be U.S . Attorney for Southern IL

Benton attorney Courtney Cox — controversial in Springfield for representing a group of black police officers in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city — has been appointed the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Illinois.

* Hastert won’t quit soon

Congressman Dennis Hastert said Tuesday he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll vacate his seat before his term ends in January 2009, but scoffed at speculation he might quit soon to force a special election before the Feb. 5 primary. “I don’t see a primary before the primary,” the Plano Republican told The Associated Press. The Illinois lawmaker announced last month that he would not run again for the 14th District seat he’s held since 1986. His decision came about eight months after he lost his post as longest-serving speaker of the House, with eight years at the helm.

* Hastert undecided about vacating seat before the end of term

* Hopefuls emerge as Weller’s replacement

* Clout Street: Ex-AG Jim Ryan backs Giuliani

* Aldermen: End Burge saga; more here

* City’s violent crime shows a drop

* Chicago by the numbers

The good news for Chicagoans is that, while we fell as hard as any of the big cities on McDonald’s list during the ’60s and ’70s, we turned it around during the late 1980s and mounted the most dramatic comeback of all.

But we had a long way to come back. Chicago lost 17 percent of its population between 1970 and 1990. During that time, the poverty rate jumped to 21.6 percent from 14.4 percent. The average annual family income, measured in 2005 dollars, dove to $48,500 from $54,300. The murder rate jumped by 30 percent and the percentage of single-parent households nearly doubled to 41 percent from 22 percent.

- Posted by Paul Richardson   14 Comments      


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