* 3:46 pm - Acting CMS Director Maureen O’Donnell has sent a letter to all state agency heads asking them to terminate purchasing contracts for bottled water…
As Chief Procurement Officer, I am charged with continually seeking ways for the State of Illinois to reduce its expenditures. I am therefore requesting that all State agencies cease purchasing bottled water with State funds. This shall apply both to purchases of individual water bottles and larger bottles that are dispensed through water coolers… The notification to vendors should be accomplished by no later than Friday, November 16th.
O’Donnell’s request does not cover “water funds” established by employees. The full memorandum can be downloaded here.
If the plan, which failed earlier this year, doesn’t pass Friday, Madigan said he plans to call it again for a vote next Monday. Madigan predicted the bill would pass in the House and suggested there’s a “high level of support” for the sales tax plan in the Senate.
“I think more people in the House and Senate have come to realize that this is a good, solid bill that ought to pass,” Madigan said.
And the gaming proposal…
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan appears to be warming to the idea of a gambling expansion, saying today that the “political conditions” in Illinois leave more casinos as the only way to pay for a state construction program.
Toward that end, the Speaker proposed a fully revamped, independent Gaming Board to regulate what could be a significant expansion of casino gambling and slots in Illinois.
“I should not be viewed as a proponent of gambling,” Madigan told reporters in Chicago. “I don’t gamble. I don’t go to casinos. I don’t go to horse tracks. I don’t play cards. I don’t bet on sports. It’s the last thing I wanted, but … the political conditions in Illinois today are such that, right now, what appears to be the only way to have a viable public works construction program is an expansion of gaming.”
A record 650 candidates filed official nominating petitions by 8:00 am today - the first day of filing at the Illinois State Board of Elections. On the first day of filing four years ago, 350 had filed.
One reason the number of candidate filings is higher is the decision by the Democratic Party to have Presidential candidates and their delegate candidates file at the same time as candidates for the U.S. Senate, Congress, the state legislature and judges.
Last election they filed a month later - as the Republican Presidential and delegate candidates are still doing. The filing period for these candidates begins Nov. 28. […]
“Many of the candidates think they can gain an advantage by being listed first on the ballot, so they arrived at the State Board office in the early morning hours - or a day earlier - to try to win a top spot,” Executive Director Dan White said. “A lottery for ballot order will be conducted Nov. 14 for all those who filed by 8 a.m. Our second busiest day will be Nov. 5, the last day of filing, when some candidates will file near the 5 p.m. deadline because they think they may gain an advantage by being listed last on the ballot.”
* 9:56 am - House Speaker Michael Madigan is holding a 1 o’clock press conference this afternoon to discuss “gaming.” No further info was supplied. There’s an 11 o’clock briefing for reporters, but the info from that briefing will be embargoed until after the press conference starts, so make sure to check back around oneish.
* 1:09 pm - The press conference has begun, so the embargo is now lifted.
What Madigan is talking about today are specific reforms that he wants to see implemented before he will sign on to any casino expansion. This is the biggest indication yet that we are moving towards an expansion bill, but when that might pop is still anyone’s guess, and this might even be a bit of a poison pill.
Madigan says he wants an “independent” Gaming Board. He wants a “nomination” panel to recommend nominees to the governor, who would then choose from that pool. The nine-member panel would be appointed by the IL Supreme Court. Of those, two would be former federal or state judges; two formal federal prosecutors from IL, one former sworn federal officer with investigatory experience, two former members of federal agencies with experience in regulartory oversight, and two more with at least 5 years’ experiene with nonprofit agencies in Illinois “committed to public-interest advocacy named after soliciting recommendations from the Campaign for Political Reform, Better Government Association, Chicago Crime Commission and League of Women Voters.
The new Gaming Board would be funded directly by the casinos via a fee in order to take it out of the annual budget wranglings. There would be much tougher ethics standards, including five-year revolving door prohibitions. Also, ex parte communications involving any issue would be prohibited, including with the governor and the Senate and their staffs except during open meetings.
A federal judge in Chicago has refused to stop a suburban school district from observing a moment of silence, as required by a new state law. But Judge Robert Gettleman today allowed a lawsuit aimed at ending the practice move forward.
*** 2:16 pm ***The Illinois Senate will return Friday for session, according to the Senate Democrats’ spokesperson.
“To me, it’s pretty clear,” Daley said. “Either (the governor and the General Assembly) support public transit or they don’t. This is do or die time.”
Madigan also tried to get out front of the latest round of gambling expansion talks by pitching a plan for greater regulatory oversight of gambling in Illinois.
Daley, however, offered little reaction to Madigan’s proposal. The mayor said he’s been talking to legislative leaders, but declined to divulge details. […]
Daley also disclosed the results of a survey conducted earlier this month by the City Colleges of Chicago.
“They found out that more than 41,000 students use the CTA to get to school and that most of them don’t have access to other menas of transportation,” he said. “They found out that 14,000 students said they’d have to drop out of city colleges if the CTA cuts go through, that another 11,000 would reduce their coursework or postpone it.”
Illinois, like other states, is heavily involved in child support enforcement because of the cost to government when noncustodial parents (most of them fathers) don’t support their kids. Illinois’ enforcement tools — including the threat of criminal prosecution — helped collect a record $1.22 billion in child support last year, the third straight year of record-setting receipts, according to the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Still, some $3 billion in back child support remains unpaid in Illinois, with more than a half-million cases pending. Five-figure debts are common, and many noncustodial parents owe six figures. Madison County alone has suspended almost 2,000 drivers licenses in the past decade trying to prod the worst scofflaws into paying up.
* In addition to your drivers license being suspended, you could be put on an Internet list of deadbeats, your hunting and fishing licenses can be denied and your car can be slapped with a Denver Boot if you’re way behind in your child support.
* Question: Too far or are there more punishments that ought to be enacted? Explain.
* As I’ve said before, Chicago Tribune editorials simply don’t pack the political punch that they once did, partly because of the waning influence and readership of newspapers and partly because this has become such a Democratic state that the leaders don’t pay much attention to a Republican-leaning edit board.
Even so, yesterday’s Tribby editorial is worth a look. Entitled Removing a Governor, it’s a searing indictment of Rod Blagojevich…
The bill of particulars against Rod Blagojevich is numbingly familiar. His is a legacy of federal and state investigations of alleged cronyism and corruption in the steering of pension fund investments to political donors, in the subversion of state hiring laws, in the awarding of state contracts, in matters as personal as that mysterious $1,500 check made out to the governor’s then-7-year-old daughter by a friend whose wife had been awarded a state job. […]
Blagojevich is an intentionally divisive governor and a profoundly unhelpful influence. He is unwilling or unable to see the chaos all around him. This year, lawmakers failed to make progress on schools, on state pension reform, on any number of critical matters. Mass transit in the Chicago region is about to implode, largely because of the state government’s failure.
Yet Blagojevich said 10 days ago that “If you measure success on whether or not you are doing things for people, this is the most successful session in years.”
* The Trib claims that it’s doubtful that the General Assembly will impeach him, but goes on to suggest the possibility of amending the state Constitution to remove him from office…
The Blagojevich experience suggests that the answer is yes, Illinois should write a recall mechanism into its constitution. Having endured the Blagojevich era, we believe voters never should have to endure another one like it. They instead should have the power to recall an inept governor.
The National Conference of State Legislatures offers a succinct summary of how a recall provision would be useful in a predicament such as Illinois’: “Proponents of the recall maintain that it provides a way for citizens to retain control over elected officials who are not representing the best interests of their constituents, or who are unresponsive or incompetent. This view holds that an elected representative is an agent, a servant and not a master.” (The NCSL takes no position on whether states should have recall provisions.)
* My own opinion is that if the governor doesn’t get his horrifically poor polling numbers up, then voters will almost assuredly vote for a Constitutional Convention next year in the hopes that a recall provision will be implemented…
* Rich Miller: New poll shows unanimity, everyone unhappy with Blagojevich
* Schoenburg: Poll shows governor wearing thin in Cook Co.
* But a Con-Con wouldn’t come early enough to change the Constitution in time to remove him. The Legislature would have to pass a recall provision in the spring, put it on the fall ballot and provide for a special election sometime between the ‘08 election and the end of his term.
Unless things change dramatically in the Senate, where Sen. President Emil Jones would undoubtedly block the proposal (he has kept the ethics bill locked up until after the governor’s annual fundraiser, and perhaps beyond), then we can’t expect an amendment, either.
In other words, you’re probably just gonna have to get used to him. That is, unless you have other ideas.
Please, don’t post silly drive-by comments like “Impeach the jerk.” They’ll be deleted. I’m curious if you have any thoughts about how a removal could be accomplished, or if you’ve resigned yourself to three more years.
The cash-strapped CTA would be forced to spend thousands retesting laid-off employees who are eventually reinstated if “doomsday” service cuts set for Sunday and Jan. 6 are implemented as a result of funding shortfalls.
The retesting costs could be a maximum of $92 per employee, depending on whether the CTA manages the testing in-house or hires an outside firm, said CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney. About 2,400 CTA employees have been sent layoff notices.
CTA officials have said more than $2 million has been spent on contingency planning for service reductions and fare increases Sunday.
* Opinion: What will you be getting for the CTA’s planned fare hike?
“Nothing is more important to parents than their children,” Blagojevich said in a written statement when he unveiled Preschool for All. “And nothing is more important to a child’s future than getting a good education. And that’s where preschool comes in.”
Not everyone agreed with the governor.
In a column published in The State Journal-Register in March 2006, Collin Hitt of the Illinois Policy Institute cited the claims of some researchers that “early formal education is ineffectual.”
“Whether a student attends public or private preschool, whether she enters kindergarten with skills superior to her classmates, she likely will lose that edge by the end of kindergarten,” wrote Hitt. “And it is all but guaranteed that that child’s prekindergarten education will have been a nonfactor by the time she exits elementary school.”
But even under wider public scrutiny after the BP controversy, U.S. Steel Gary Works hopes to cash in a new proposed wastewater permit that likely would increase the levels of chromium and other toxic chemicals it is permitted to discharge into the Grand Calumet River — which flows into Lake Michigan.
Once again, the Illinois contingent, including Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama and Representatives Rahm Emanuel and Jan Schakowsky, is shouting no. And this time, so is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
* State EPA sues over toxic chemicals in North Chicago
* Think illegals are more likely to be involved in crime? Think again.
* UIS’ Government Accountability and a Free Press project to start
* You’ve probably never heard of Blaze Foley. A singer-songwriter who died in 1989, Foley was mostly forgotten, although he was barely known to begin with.
Foley lived hard. He didn’t care about what others thought of his life, his appearance, his choices. He alienated many of his friends with his rough and tumble ways, rarely had a home of his own, drank all the time and got in too many fights with friend and foe alike…
My first memories of Blaze Foley date back to emmajoe’s. He was decked out in duct tape and mercurochrome. He was asleep under the pool table. A game of 8-ball was in progress on the green felt above him. Every time someone made a ball and it dropped with a thud Blaze would rouse up, smack his forehead on the bottom of the table and sprawl back out. Several championships were decided over his head as he slumbered on.
Through the haze of alcohol and drugs, and the perils of brawls and homelessness Blaze did his best to remain dedicated to his art…
[H]e told me that he was totally committed to his career as a songwriter and would never have a day job because that might dull his ambition or detour him from his artistic goals. He was uncompromising on that point and I never knew him to hold down a job just so he could pay rent. Blaze preferred the sofa circuit and he rotated among friends and lovers for sleeping quarters. He didn’t even have a car to sleep in in a pinch. And he didn’t care.
Prine began researching Foley, and in the process, received a bootleg tape from a friend in Austin, Texas. Foley sang a scruffy version of “If I Could Only Fly,” followed by “Clay Pigeons.” “When I heard ‘Clay Pigeons,’ I thought, ‘Man, that sounds like me,’ ” Prine said. “I couldn’t get the song out of my head. And when I can’t get a song out of my head, I have to learn it.”
I’m tired of running ’round looking for answers to questions that I already know
I could build me a castle of memories just to have somewhere to go
Count the days and the nights that it takes to get back in the saddle again
Feed the pigeons some clay
Turn the night into day
Start talking again when I know what to say
* Foley was shot and killed in 1989 while trying to help a friend fend off an attack. Years later, Lucinda Williams, a country goddess who knew Foley from her Austin days, wrote a song about Foley’s life and death called “Drunken Angel”…
Followers would cling to you
Hang around just to meet you
Some threw roses at your feet
And watch you pass out in the street
Feed you and pay off all your debts
Kiss your brow, taste your sweat
Write about your soul your guts
Criticize you and wish you luck
* Foley was a running buddy of the legendary Townes Van Zandt. Townes also wrote a song about Foley after his death called Blaze’s Blues. Here are the two friends singing one of my favorite Townes songs, “Snowing on Raton”…
* As with most folk/country songwriters, Foley was also political. He had no love for Ronald Reagan and wrote a stinging song about the president back in the mid-1980s called “Oval Room”…
At the factory, never been so slow
Got a big fourth down, ninety nine to go
And down on the farm, nothing growing there
But the debts they owe and their gray hair
In the desert sand, and the jungle deep
He thinks everything is his to keep
He’s a real cowboy, with his makeup on
Talks to kings and queens on the telephone
He’s the president, but I don’t care
* But he wrote some great, sad country songs about lost love and lost lives. Here’s one called Faded Loves….
Faded loves, and memories
How they take the best of me
This old chain around my shoulder’s
only makin’ me look older
Than I am — I’ll get over you someday
* Foley’s mother was a gospel singer and Blaze played in her band. Here’s a gospel number he wrote called “Let Me Ride in Your Big Cadillac”…
Let me ride in your big Cadillac, Lord Jesus
Let me ride in your big Cadillac
I can see the pearly gates
Where the angels wait
Standin’ all around your big Cadillac
Won’t you take me by the hand
Lead me to the promised land
And let me ride in your big Cadillac
His voice had its moments, but his real value was as a songwriter.
In reaction to the Urban Cowboy craze sweeping across the city, he mocked the make-believe cowboys with their shiny silver boot tips by putting duct tape on the tips of his boots […]
He loved duct tape, the miracle binder that kept his clothes and his life together. Foley slapped the adhesive to shoes, jeans, shirts, hats, jackets. Once he made a whole suit out of duct tape. Friends dubbed him the Duct Tape Messiah.
He was even buried in a coffin covered in duct tape.
* 100 percent of the profits from the movie will be donated to a project for the homeless. Foley was a champion of the homeless. This is what Townes Van Zandt had to say about Foley’s cause…
“He was a friend of the homeless, poor, elder, a real super caring guy. And he would sometimes seem bitter, you know. The only reason for that is he was brimming over with so much genuine love and caring. To see an injustice sometimes it would just put him over to a frenzy, kind of. He couldn’t stand to see a poor bag lady on the street. It threw him into a rage, almost. It just came from love.”
* Here’s one last Foley tune, this one covered by Gurf Morlix. Cold, Cold World…
I can’t get no job and I can’t get no rest
I started out east, but I ended up west
And I’m so glad to be here I’m sure, I would guess
Ain’t it a cold, cold world
* A commenter posted these thoughts here yesterday…
When people talk about taxing the rich I always wonder what their definition of rich is. I suspect they think of it in terms of some multiple of their income. After all, everything is relative. I am curious as to whether that multiple is consistent across all income levels.
* Question: What annual income would you consider to be “rich” for taxation purposes? Explain, please.
The consequences of right-wing reproductive health policies are devastating not only to women, but also to children and families. If you rate every country in the world starting with whether each provides full access to family planning, emergency contraceptives, pays for abortions and provides comprehensive sex education, and compare those to rates for countries where these policies are opposed, you will see that those who provide full access to EC, abortion, family planning and sex education have the LOWEST abortion rates, lowest STD rates, lowest infant mortality rates, lowest teen pregnancy rates, lowest maternal death rates as well as the best indicators for EVERY measurement of women’s health.
On the other side of the spectrum where abortion and family planning are illegal, the worst indicators for women’s health are found including the highest (and most dangerous) abortion rates in the world. Right now, today, as you are reading this, ½ the hospital beds in every large city hospital in Central and South America are taken by women suffering from illegal abortion attempts. And all these countries have the highest abortion rates in the world. […]
The use of contraception reduces the probability of having an abortion by 85%. In states which allowed emergency contraceptives without a prescription prior to the FDA’s move earlier this year, the abortion rate dropped by over 1/3. Some 70% or 42 million American women today of reproductive age are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant. Only 5% of women aged 15-44 in the U.S. use no contraception during sex and they account for 50% of the nation’s abortions. In light of this overwhelming evidence that unfettered access to contraception causes the abortion rate to plunge, it is stunning that NOT A SINGLE anti-abortion group in the United States supports the use of birth control. The best a few do is say nothing about birth control, but many so-called pro-life organizations lobby vigorously against it. The nation’s largest anti-abortion group, American Life League says “A.L.L. denies the moral acceptability of artificial birth control.” These are the very groups that say abortion shouldn’t be used as a form of birth control yet they oppose every type of birth control that would prevent unintended pregnancy. […]
The policies promoted by the pro-choice movement dramatically reduce the abortion rate here in Illinois, across the U.S. and around the world. The policies promoted by those who call themselves “pro-life” or anti-abortion drive up the abortion rate everywhere. The results are devastating to the women, children and families of our great state. Those who are against abortion for whatever reason shouldn’t have one which is why Planned Parenthood has The Cradle adoption agency at its Chicago medical facility.
So, it turns out that Gov. Blagojevich’s “secret plan” to “solve” the CTA’s budget crisis was never a real plan at all and doesn’t solve the problem.
But you probably knew that the moment the TV and radio news shows breathlessly trumpeted the governor’s pronouncement this week.
The people of this state have caught on to the governor’s games. Blagojevich is thoroughly unpopular with Illinois voters. Poll after poll since midsummer has shown his job approval rating to be somewhere in the neighborhood of nothingness.
Just 23 percent of voters said they approve of the way Blagojevich is handling his job, a recent Illinois Wesleyan University poll found. A different survey, from the respected Rasmussen Reports, found that only a tiny fraction of the population — just 5 percent — rate the governor’s job performance as “excellent.”
It’s to the point where Blagojevich probably wishes he could move “up” to Richard Nixon’s ratings. And he’s very close to George Ryan’s job approval ratings as the soon-to-be prison inmate was leaving office under a cloud of federal investigations.
* A few crosstabs…
Only 29 percent of voters in overwhelmingly Democratic Cook County said they approved of Blagojevich’s job performance, according to the Wesleyan poll. By contrast, 67 percent of Cook voters gave the thumbs up to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and 67 percent said they will vote for a Democrat for U.S. Congress. The governor’s doing better with county voters than President Bush, but statewide the two are locked in a dead heat.
Not a single demographic in Illinois, whether it’s race, party affiliation, gender, ideology, income or region, gives the governor a majority or even a plurality of support. Only 38 percent of Democrats say they approve of his job performance, but 41 percent disapprove. Thirty-two percent of liberals approve and 54 percent disapprove. Thirty-eight percent of nonwhite minorities approve and 40 percent disapprove, according to Wesleyan.
Rasmussen found this month that 63 percent of African Americans, 75 percent of Democrats and liberals, 77 percent of Cook County voters, 83 percent of women and 85 percent of independents rated Blagojevich’s job performance as fair or poor. If his “friends” think that way, you can imagine how his political enemies rate him. It ain’t pretty.
In the southwest suburbs, Ed Hammer, a former Secretary of State inspector demoted by Ryan for investigating corruption in the office, said he was “excited and relieved” that the appellate court left Ryan’s conviction intact.
Earlier this month, Hammer, who is writing a book about his experience, said he went to Ryan’s home.
“I went up and rang his doorbell,” Hammer said. “He answered the door. He actually invited me in. He did not remember who I was even though I testified at his trial.
“I asked him for an apology for myself and my partner Russ Sonneveld. His response real quickly was, ‘Apology for what?’ I told him I felt he hurt us, several Secretary of State employees, the Willis family and others. He said he had nothing to do with that.
“I just wanted to see if at this point in his life, facing federal prison, if he would have a change of heart and apologize to those he had hurt . . .
“But as I was leaving, all he said was, ‘I got screwed.’ “
* But if you still have hope for Ryan, here it is…
The three dissenting judges spent about half of their 15-page opinion slamming the length of the trial and what they consider to be U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer’s failure to rein in the proceedings.
“We agree with the panel majority that the evidence of the defendants’ guilt was overwhelming,” Posner wrote with Judges Ann Claire Williams and Michael Kanne. “But guilt no matter how clearly established cannot cancel a criminal defendant’s right to a trial that meets minimum standards of procedural justice.”
The dissent warned that marathon trials scare off many competent jurors. Those left become overwhelmed by the vast amount of evidence, they wrote.
“The longer the trial, the less likely the jury is to be able to render an intelligent verdict,” the opinion said.
The trials should not have gone anywhere near six months, the dissenting judges said. They said that in a “super-long trial,” jurors are more likely to become “bored, impatient, irritated” and to disobey the judge’s instructions.
In legal papers, neither side had put the issue of trial length front and center, but Thursday’s dissent appears to be written “with an eye toward Supreme Court review,” said Joel Bertocchi, a veteran appellate attorney.
[Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins] pointed out that the trial took as long as it did, in part, because of requests by the defense.
“That’s ridiculous. It was done by (Judge) Pallmeyer because she can’t manage a case,” said [Len Cavise, a DePaul University College of Law professor]. “She just doesn’t know how to say ‘no.’ … There are any number of judges who would have taken those lawyers into chambers and said, ‘Clean up your act.’”
The dissenters seemed to take that view as well.
“Federal trial judges … recognize and discharge a duty of active trial management. … They do not defer abjectly to the lawyers’ preferences regarding length of trial,” they wrote.
Pockets of students, parents and teachers who take issue with the law’s intent have staged walkouts, online protests and letter-writing campaigns to state lawmakers in the hope of reversing the measure, which makes Illinois one of 11 states with requisite periods of reflection. A 14-year-old student is expected to file the first legal challenge to the law Friday, thrusting Illinois even further into the thick of the national school-prayer debate.
But the problem that the Post and WDC found isn’t so much that some parents use their kids to sneak around the limits, it’s that candidates can become too reliant for money from a tiny number of donors. And we have that problem in Illinois in spades.
Here in Illinois, most candidates for statewide office get most of their money from donors who pony up $10,000 or more, and those donors account for a teeny tiny fraction of all Illinoisans — less than one-tenth of one -percent.
“The number of people getting into trouble is going to grow, and the need for housing counselors is going to grow as well,” said Tammie Grossman, executive director of Housing Action Illinois, a Chicago-based training and advocacy group.
Brenda Grauer, a prosecutor in the office of Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, said foreclosures caused by fraud are becoming “incredibly prevalent.”
Poor communities on the South Side and in the south suburbs, she said, are prone to illegal mortgage practices — everything from a broker or lender overstating a borrower’s income to inflating property values on a loan application.
* Daley said he heard the message and will trim the tax increase
* Clinton Landfill opposition group’s leader contends county board violated Open Meetings Act
The leader of a community-based watchdog group opposed to the permitting of chemical wastes at a landfill in Clinton is accusing a DeWitt County official of erasing an audiotape of a county board meeting.