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This just in… Blagojevich releases two subpoenas… Download them here… A spot of good news for the guv

Friday, Feb 29, 2008

*** Click Here To View The Subpoenas ***

* 8:38 pm - The US Attorney’s office claimed recently that they were OK with the public release of two of their subpoenas of the governor’s office, but not others because doing so might interfere with the federal investigation.

Blagojevich released those two subpoenas tonight. It’s not clear if USA Patrick Fitzgerald has wrapped up the probes connected to those subpoenas or not, but here are a couple of stories

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office released a pair of year-and-a-half old federal subpoenas late Friday that are tied to the investigation of hiring irregularities in his administration.

In one of the subpoenas from spring 2006, federal authorities are seeking computer records from 17 state agencies and the governor’s office itself. In the other, authorities are seeking hiring scales for a few specific jobs with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Department of Corrections.

The Tribune reported in 2006 that the governor’s chief legal counsel asked state agencies for the records as part of the federal investigation into hiring.

* More

The release of the subpoenas came just before a Monday court hearing in which a judge is expected to decide whether the Blagojevich administration has to make public all of the subpoenas it has received in a far-ranging federal corruption probe.

The Better Government Association sued to gain access to those documents. And in late February, the governor’s office produced a letter from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office asking that federal subpoenas remain private, except for the two that Blagojevich released late Friday.

*** Click Here To View The Subpoenas ***

* But there was a bit of good news for the guv on Friday…

A judge on Friday ordered prosecutors in the Antoin “Tony” Rezko trial to steer clear of evidence intended to show that the longtime fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagojevich manipulated the state hiring process.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, who will preside at Rezko’s trial when it opens Monday, also prevents prosecutors from seeking to demonstrate Rezko was behind large political contributions to Blagojevich from two members of a corrupt state hospital regulatory panel. [..]

The ruling puts some restrictions on testimony about several meetings in 2003 between Rezko and Blagojevich’s then-patronage chief, Joe Cini, who is under investigation in a separate federal probe of hiring in the Blagojevich administration. […]

The ruling allows prosecutors to pursue testimony about Rezko’s input on filling the board and commission posts, but not the state jobs.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Reader comments closed until Tuesday

Friday, Feb 29, 2008

* Monday is Casimir Pulaski Day, so we’re gonna use it to help make up for all the overtime last year. Enjoy. Head to Illinoize if you’re not a celebrant or if you just can’t get enough…

* In honor of Casimir Pulaski and all Polish people everywhere, here’s that great Polish punk band Abaddon

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Friday, Feb 29, 2008

[I’ve bumped this to the top and made it the QOTD. Instead of a question today, let’s send Rep. Watson our best wishes and our hopes for his speedy and safe return. Thanks.]

* Rep. Jim Watson sent me an e-mail frome Iraq this week and he told me yesterday that I could post it here. Watson is with the U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Civil Affairs Group in Fallujah.

Bethany Jaeger did a brief update on Rep. Watson at Illinoize this week. Watson was intending to blog at Illinoize himself, but he explains why that may not be possible…

Greetings from beautiful Fallujah. Things are going well here. I don’t think I will be able to blog because I doubt I will have the time to do it justice, but I sincerely appreciate the offer. Seems like most of my spare time is spent on e-mails from the office or calling in to check on things.

I also couldn’t blog because of the classified nature of the information that I handle. What I can tell you is that I am working on governance… I analyzed the three key pieces of legislation that recently passed the Council of Representatives: the FY08 budget (which is about $45-50 billion, yet only 12 pages long), the Amnesty Law, & Provincial Powers Law (which defines relationships between different governing bodies). Have given briefs to Marine Commanding General and that was certainly interesting.

Attended the Fallujah City Council meeting yesterday … felt like I was back in Springfield. Actually they have made amazing progress when you consider that 8 months ago the Marines had to repel an insurgent attack on the council meeting and the previous two council leaders were assassinated. Yesterday could have been a council meeting anywhere (with the exception of the Marine presence). Hope all is well in Springfield & I appreciate your website as it helps keep me abreast of the scene. Take care, Jim

Stay safe, man.

* Bethany also had this photo of Watson…

* And this explanation…

What’s in the bag? Watson said it held some of his gear. [Ben Jackson in Watson’s legislative office] said Watson replied, “Hey, you have to work with what’s available around here!”

As Rep. Watson said, he’s checking the blog. So you can use this opportunity to wish him well in comments.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      

A $40 million exorcism

Friday, Feb 29, 2008

* Despite the uproar in the media, the plan to spend $40 million to knock down Cole Hall and build something else has picked up another important supporter

House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) said he supports the bill to allocate $40 million for the demolition of Cole Hall and the construction of Memorial Hall.

Senate President Emil Jones is also on board.

* But, man, that uproar is certainly picking up steam. The Tribune editorial page quotes one of its own readers today in a piece entitled “Time heals … not bulldozers”

I think we can all agree 100 percent that there should be a memorial in or near Cole for the fallen victims, but is tearing the whole thing down letting Steven Kazmierczak win? Didn’t he want to instill fear in all of us?

* And WIU’s student newspaper jumps into the fray

[Northern President John Peters] may say “an act of violence does not define” Northern, but we don’t think it’s appropriate or fair to let an act of violence finance them, either.

* This Belleville News-Democrat editorial gives new meaning to the word cynical

It’s nothing new for Gov. Rod Blagojevich to latch onto the news of the day and play politics with it. But his political opportunism over the Northern Illinois University tragedy is a disgusting, potentially expensive ploy. […]

Of course, doing something for NIU never was the point for Blagojevich; he just wanted another headline.

* The Daily Herald might’ve even one-upped the BND…

Either the governor thinks he’s running for some future office again or he’s working on burnishing a legacy tarnished by pay-to-play corruption allegations and the coming trial of his prolific fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko. Governor, your legacy would be much improved if you would stop handing out our money quite so easily.

* Meanwhile, possible copycat threats have been issued at Lincoln Land Community College and Illinois State.

* I’m thinking we’d be better off spending state money on something besides what Phil Kadner called a “$40 million exorcism.”

* This ought to give us all some perspective

In 1988 — 20 years ago this May — a deranged woman named Laurie Dann walked into Winnetka’s Hubbard Woods Elementary School and shot six kids, killing Nick Corwin, 8, a fine soccer player.

No one felt compelled to tear down Hubbard Woods. Just the opposite. Dann terrorized the school on a Friday. The next day — the very next day — those schoolchildren were brought back to the school, even though it was a Saturday.

“We want parents and children to get a reconfirmed feeling that the school is a safe place,'’ Winnetka School Supt. Donald Monroe said then.

How can it be that we don’t even consider asking college students of today to show the fortitude that we once expected of 6-year-olds?

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

Being Todd Stroger *** UPDATED x1 ***

Friday, Feb 29, 2008

* Todd Stroger is usually his own worst enemy, but there is no way he’s as bad as the media has made him out to be. Yesterday, he let the pressure get to him and unloaded

“My fault is actually running for office and being Todd Stroger. Being Todd Stroger means that there are going to be a certain amount of people who are going to be against me. The media are going to try to pull me over the rails. And that means they talk to the public. The public sees the government is not operating efficiently no matter what we’re doing.”

* It really does seem that everybody wants to believe the absolute worst about this guy. It’s more intense than the hatred of Blagojevich. And his coverage is slanted far more negatively. This is a bit much

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s latest choice for public relations chief has a tough job. Before he can begin to try to clean up his boss’ image, Gene Mullins has a PR problem of his own.

He’ll have to answer criticisms that Stroger’s hiring practices resemble a “friends and family plan.”

The rub for Mullins? He’s a childhood friend of Stroger.

Except he’s also a PR guy with the Chicago Police Department.

I’m sure most of you will tee off as usual. But, for once, try to take a deep breath here.

*** UPDATE *** From the Sun-Times

A compromise has been struck in the long-festering Cook County budget debate, sources said. Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has reached a deal to raise the county sales tax from .75 percent to 1.75 percent, according to four county officials. […]

The swing vote, sources said, comes from Commissioner Larry Suffredin — who demanded Stroger give up control of the hospital system to an independent board of outside professionals. In exchange, Suffredin will agree to vote for a 1 percent sales tax hike, giving Stroger his needed ninth vote to make it pass.

The move would give Chicago one of the highest sales taxes in the nation. But that, coupled with other, smaller tax hikes and some cuts, will balance the 2008 budget.

It will also likely generate enough revenue to prevent Stroger from having to seek another tax hike in 2009.

- Posted by Rich Miller   80 Comments      

Sam Zell: Public Enemy Number One

Friday, Feb 29, 2008

* “Villified” might be another way of putting it. Here’s Neil Steinberg

The values that working people cling to — family, tradition, community — are just another line item on the ledger to rich folk. Sometimes, those concerns pay; sometimes, they don’t.

Why else would the Berghoff family dump its century-old name in order to jettison its union employees? Why else would the new owner of Marshall Field’s scrap it to save money on shopping bags?

And Sam Zell. This newspaper is appealing to his civic spirit, asking him not to auction off the name “Wrigley Field” to the highest bidder. Naive. That’s like urging a buzzard not to feed on the body of a poet.

* The Sun-Times is even sponsoring a song contest

Attention Cubs and Sox fans: Write a song about Sam Zell’s attempt to sell off the name of Wrigley Field, put it on video, upload it to and submit a link to your YouTube video below.

They announced this, mind you, on the front page.

I love newspaper wars.

* But it’s not all about the Sun-Times vs. Tribune fight. Fan bloggers are getting into the act. I like the title of this one: Sam Zell: The Anti-Christ, The Anti-Cub

* Bernie Lincicome writes a schmaltzy love poem to the wreck in Lakeview…

And, so, you read the story as your oatmeal grows cold, disbelieving that cruel, raw greed can replace the human heart, though you know it can because it always has.

* Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey tries to calm down the restless masses

The indignation that’s being thrown on this fire is humorous. People are getting upset that a moneymaking enterprise (Tribune Co.) is trying to make more money. And this surprises you how? Just because you’ve become emotionally attached to Wrigley Field doesn’t change the fact the building exists to extract money from your wallets and purses. That is its only purpose in life.

As far as I can tell, that’s the only mention of Zell in Mother Tribune’s august pages today.

* But Barry Rozner says everybody is missing the point

The real story is that the Cubs believe they’re closing in on a deal to sell Wrigley Field to the state. The bigger sell is the one they’re trying to make to the fans, consistently stating that by unloading the park separately they will ensure the club stays at Clark and Addison for the next 30 years.

* Thoughts on Zell? The sale to the state? The Cubs in general? Have at it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

Zombie Democrats: “Republicans baaaad”

Friday, Feb 29, 2008

* JibJab

Reporter: Amanda Vinicky
Republican Hero: Tom Cross
Republican Heroine: Frank Watson
Democratic Zombie 1: John Fritchey
Democratic Zombie 2: Jim DeLeo
Democratic Zombie 3: Dick Durbin
Democratic Zombie 4: Donne Trotter

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Morning shorts

Friday, Feb 29, 2008

* Media: ‘Mad Money’ guru says it’s time to dump GateHouse stock

Gatehouse owns the Peoria Journal Star and virtually every single daily and weekly newspaper in this part of Illinois.

* Freedom’s over: Conrad Black ordered to prison Monday

* From gov to Mr. Clean

There’s an irony in Ryan being sent to Terre Haute. The federal prison system’s only death chamber is housed at a neighboring, high-security institution. Ryan spent much of his last years as governor opposing the death penalty, emptied Illinois Death Row in 2003 and imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois.

* States OK pact for $640 million bridge; 4-lane structure set to open by 2015

“As long as I’m the governor of Illinois, I will do everything in my power to prevent it from being a toll bridge,” Blagojevich said during a press conference held at a union hall belonging to Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 in North St. Louis County.

* Woodstock lawmaker wants out of transit sales tax deal

“When we passed that bill we did something unique, we increased sales taxes on local counties without local county input,” Franks said during a House Mass Transit Committee hearing. “To the best of my knowledge, that’s never been done before in the history of the state of Illinois.”

* Republicans and Dupage - “We want local control”

* Lawmakers have their own plans for state budget

* Plan to shift inmates to Thomson prison up in the air

“I’m going beyond the fact that jobs are being offered to what it means to people and families with children and having to move their families,” Sen. Wilhelmi said.

* Legislators expect hearings on partial Joliet prison closing

* National party committees stepping up push in 14th

In just the last two weeks, the Democratic National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have spent nearly $127,000 in the race to replace retired Rep. Dennis Hastert.

* Elections complaint filed over Oberweis

The committee alleged that Oberweis failed to notify the FEC or Democrat Bill Foster’s campaign of the three loans within 24 hours - - a violation of the Millionaires’ Amendment contained in the most recent revamp of federal campaign law.

* Filing flap in the 14th Congressional District race

* Oberweis Earns House Conservatives Fund Endorsement in IL-14

* The Choice in the 11th Could Boost
All GOP Fortunes

If Republicans are shrewd in their selection in the 11th, they could utterly reverse those odds, taking Roskam’s seat out of serious Democratic calculations altogether.

* Lawmakers blast Canadian National rail plan

* Bill would boost pensions for older retired firefighters

* Lakes report cites gap

* Amputee has harsh words for VA Medical Center

* Car show must decide soon whether to move from fairgrounds

* Men acquitted in E2 nightclub stampede sue city for $2 million

* Judge rejects initial Lakin plea deal

U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert rejected the deal as it stood Thursday, listing concerns that included the proposed 6-year prison sentence. The original charges against Lakin carried a possible sentence of life in prison and a fine of more than $2 million.

* Daley names leader for panel to recommend property tax changes

In a press release, Mr. Daley said Andrew Mooney, executive director of the Local Initiative Support Corp., has agreed to chair the 22-member committee and submit a list of recommendations for long-range changes in two months.

* Businessman gets 33 months for bribing Cook County official

* ‘48 Hours’ to air show on Steidl-Whitlock case

* Friday Beer Blogging: Knitting Edition

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   4 Comments      

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Friday, Feb 29, 2008

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* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Zopp makes small cable TV buy during debate
* Exelon Just Received A $1.7 Billion Rate Increase Through The Market-Based Capacity Auction
* Question of the day
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* Violence spike blamed on budget cuts
* *** UPDATED - Home and doing better *** I'll be back later
* Gray hired by Trump
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