* 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.
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.
* 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.
[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.
* 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.
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.
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?
* 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.
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.
* “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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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.
* Go to the 22:42 mark from the governor’s NIU press conference yesterday and listen to the crowd shout down CBS 2 reporter Mike Flannery as he tries to get a response out of Blagojevich on the “Public Official A” subject. The crowd objects to bringing up non-NIU topics into the presser, and the governor gets a chuckle out of it. But since Blagojevich is in the bunker these days it was the only chance to try to get him on the record. [Video is here]
* The IFT is not pleased with a reporter’s work, and the Illinois Times has the story…
Dave Comerford is unhappy with Scott Reeder and the Small Newspaper Group, a family-owned chain of Illinois newspapers. Comerford, media director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, says he’s frustrated by what he sees as dishonest reporting and the twisting of quotes to fit a political agenda.
*** UPDATE *** Scott Reeder has written a response to the IT piece. It can be found here…
If one does a quick Google search you’ll find that Mr. Downs [the author of the IT story] worked extensively for teacher union publications and received substantial campaign contributions from American Federation of Teachers affiliates.
Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is packed with shoppers and gawkers, but to some, the area just south of there is not so magnificent. Now, some downtown boosters want to change that.
Today, a downtown development group unveils a plan to bring glitz to Michigan Avenue south of the river. Ty Tabing directs the Chicago Loop Alliance. He says one suggestion is to create a set of grand, ornamental steps.
* This Houston Press article by former Illinois weekly newspaper reporter Todd Spivak is gaining some notoriety on the Intertubes today. The lede centers on how Barack Obama was upset at an article Spivak had written years ago for the Illinois Times…
It’s not quite eight in the morning and Barack Obama is on the phone screaming at me. He liked the story I wrote about him a couple weeks ago, but not this garbage.
* The IT story in question is still online. The basic premise is that some of Obama’s fellow African-American legislators didn’t care for him much (which is accurate) and a few didn’t support his US Senate campaign (also accurate), and that Obama didn’t start winning the black vote until Blair Hull was essentially knocked out of contention (grossly misleading)…
But in the weeks leading up to the election, back when multi-millionaire candidate Blair Hull led the pack of six candidates, polls showed a mere one-third of African-American voters had decided on Obama. It wasn’t until Hull’s campaign imploded, after revelations of a contentious divorce, that Obama’s ambition to become the Senate’s lone black member was dubbed a historic movement.
The IT piece completely ignored the history of how black votes tend to break late. Hull’s implosion had far less to do with Obama picking up black votes than Obama’s wooing of white Chicago-area voters, who were repulsed by the allegations against the newly disgraced millionaire and attracted to Obama’s TV ads.
* But Spivak’s Illinois Times story does cover some ground that reporters in the far more recent past have tried without success to retrace. Black state legislators were much more open with their criticisms back then than they are today, now that Obama is in the hunt for the presidency…
State Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, the original Senate sponsor of both the racial profiling and videotaped confession bills, likewise felt overshadowed by Obama.
“I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen,” says Hendon. “Barack didn’t have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit. […]
“I didn’t get swept up in any movement,” says Lou Jones. “A ‘movement’ didn’t even exist until a week before the election, when the media played it that way.”
Hendon agrees, saying, “There was no real movement. Barack’s no Dr. King or Harold Washington.”
The IT piece is worth a read just for those quotes. Earlier this month, Sen. Hendon was passing out t-shirts with a photo of himself and Obama and the slogan: “Yes, We Can!” Rep. Monique Davis, who was also critical of Obama in that long-ago piece, said nothing but nice things about the man on the campaign trail this year.
In addition to benefiting same-sex couples, the bill also would allow civil unions among opposite-sex couples who do not want to be married. Benefits would allow couples to participate in health-care decisions for their partner, in decisions regarding the remains of a deceased partner and would give them legal backing to settle estates, among other rights. […]
The bill states that two adults who enter a civil union and are at least 18 years old are entitled to all of the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits that are afforded to spouses. The state would certify the civil union, which also could be dissolved under existing laws, similar to divorce proceedings.
Creates the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. Contains provisions regarding the purpose of the Act, religious freedom, and construction of the Act. Provides that 2 adults who enter a civil union, if they are at least 18 years of age, are entitled to all of the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits that are afforded to spouses. Prohibits a civil union between: an ancestor and descendant; 2 siblings; an uncle and a niece or nephew; an aunt and a niece or nephew; and first cousins. Prohibits a person from entering a civil union with a person who is in a marriage or civil union or a similar legal relationship created in another state. Provides that the Director of Public Health shall prescribe forms and documents for entering into a civil union. Provides for dissolution of a civil union under existing laws. Provides that a marriage between persons of the same sex, a civil union, or similar legal relationship, other than common law marriage, legally entered into in another state will be recognized in Illinois as a civil union. Provides for severability.
* And, now, the question: Do you support or oppose this bill? Explain your answers as completely as possible and try to be nice to each other.
* The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that the state should not spend $40 million to tear down NIU’s Cole Hall and build something else on the site of the recent tragic shootings. It just seems like an expensive, feel-good overreaction that won’t accomplish anything. Plus, most of the students who are there now and are undoubtedly traumatized by the events will be gone in a few years. As Phil Kadner notes…
The most obvious reason to do this is that students will find it difficult to enter the lecture hall without thinking of those who were killed or wounded I’m sure that’s true for those who were there that day or those who knew someone who was shot. It may also be somewhat upsetting in future years to students who had no personal connection to any of the victims.
But these aren’t young children we’re talking about. They’re young adults. Old enough to serve in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I think most of them are tough enough and smart enough to sit in Cole Lecture Hall and realize that life has to go on.
After last spring’s tragedy at Virginia Tech, the university formed a task force to decide the fate of Norris Hall, the site of the shootings. Late last year, the university’s president announced that the three-story building would be used for a new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. […]
Why not use the classroom where Steven Kazmierczak attacked in a way similar to what Virginia Tech has done? Use it to promote peace. Why not say, “We’re not going to allow Kazmierczak to change the face of Northern Illinois University”?
“My first reaction is we’d be better off spending a smaller amount of money and building a memorial right next to Cole Hall,” said Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie). “I’m not sure we benefit by spending that type of money for this purpose. Perhaps it’s good to keep [Cole Hall] there as a memory.”
* And a Northern Star columnist points out that another building on campus, the Stevens Building, is in dire need of repairs…
…Gov. Blagojevich triumphantly announced in planning for fiscal year 2008 that he had included $19 million for Stevens Building work. It was exciting to feel like our governor was indeed listening to us and taking initiative in supporting our education as college students.
The problem: Our $19 million for the Stevens Building never made it to NIU. Like so much else having to do with funding in Illinois, it seems to have disappeared somewhere in Springfield.
The governor and NIU leaders should not trivialize the massacre of students by using the traumatic event to lay a guilt trip on the General Assembly to fund a new building with $40 million the state doesn’t have.
Also testifying against the idea was Joel Brunsvold, a lobbyist for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. He said a one-gun-a-month law would not have prevented shooting deaths such as those at Northern Illinois University this month and Virginia Tech University last year. […]
Rep. Edward Acevedo, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the assault-weapon legislation, said he was “appalled” at Brunsvold’s suggestion that the committee was taking up the gun-control proposals because of the NIU shooting. “For years, we’ve been trying to pass common-sense gun-law legislation,” Acevedo said.
“I am not involved in this court case. I don’t know much about it. I have a job to do as governor. It’s a full-time job. I don’t think it’s fair to comment on a pending court case.”
That’s the response the governor should have given all along to this thing. Instead, he has injected himself into the debate from the very beginning. Here’s a comment from 2005 about Joe Cari’s plea agreement…
“This is hearsay upon hearsay upon hearsay from someone who just pled guilty to extortion,” the governor said, “What I find aggravating, because of this triple hearsay from someone who just pled guilty to extortion, I’m in a position to have to answer questions like this. I’m happy to do this, but it’s frustrating.”
So, now he he’s caught in a box. The “I can’t comment” line won’t work because he has commented several times before. Dumb.
The defense filing also criticized the government for apparently flip-flopping on whether to air at trial a “clout list” of nearly 40 individuals purportedly recommended for state jobs by Rezko. Prosecutors initially described the list as a trial exhibit but on Tuesday said they did not plan to introduce it after all.
Thinking the clout list would be fodder at trial, Rezko’s lawyers made the document public in a filing last week, prompting numerous headlines, the defense noted Wednesday.
Rezko’s lawyers have a point, but it’s also true that they got outmaneuvered here. Oops.
* The prosecution is trying to claim that Rezko broke the law because he needed money…
Indicted campaign fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko was deeply in debt, and jurors should understand that as a motive for his alleged political corruption, prosecutors told a federal judge Wednesday.
“Without the evidence, the defendant will almost certainly argue that he was financially healthy and therefore had no motive to commit the charged criminal activity,” federal prosecutors told Judge Amy J. St. Eve in a filing.
Republican challenger Steve Greenberg circulated a news release Wednesday referring to the Barrington Democrat as Melissa Luburich Bean, adding her Serbian maiden name.
The news release blasted Bean for not supporting Kosovo’s move to separate from Serbia and her backing by pro-Serbian organizations.
Greenberg defended the news release Wednesday, saying her maiden name was fair game and her support for Serbia is disturbing, especially in light of last week’s attack on the U.S. embassy in the Eastern European country.
“I think ultimately when you run for office you are being vetted many ways — your middle name and last name and you get called many names,” said the Long Grove businessman. “If we are thin-skinned about it … we are probably in the wrong business.”
Bean has a long record of supporting Serbian groups and Serbia’s efforts to prevent a Kosovo succession. The position is in conflict with the official stance of the Bush administration and that of several key Western European allies.
* The press release itself refers to Bean’s support by the “anti-American Serbian Unity Conference.” I couldn’t find a group called the “Serbian Unity Conference,” but I did find one named the “Serbian Unity Congress.” They apparently have some Hollywood support, but I’m not exactly sure why Greenberg thinks the group is “anti-American,” other than the fact that the American president supports Kosovo independence and the group doesn’t, and there were some recent riots in Serbia attacking the American embassy that were eventually put down.
* By the way, I’m speaking as someone who isn’t exactly a big fan of Serbia. I was in Kosovo in 1999 - shortly after the war ended - and saw what the Serbs had done to that country. I was also arrested and put on trial in Serbia (long story). But this schoolyard maiden name taunt and the loose definition of “anti-American” is over the line. Greenburg really needs to grow up.
* Meanwhile, Bill Foster’s campaign whacked Jim Oberweis but good in a press release yesterday…
A television commercial by 14th congressional district candidate Jim Oberweis has been pulled from rotation by WGN and NBC-affiliate WMAQ, in response to violations of Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The ad in question contains multiple failures to comply with disclaimer requirements, representing an attempt on the part of Oberweis to evade responsibility for the allegations levied against Mr. Foster contained in the ad.
Foster is also claiming that Oberweis may have violated the federal “Millionaires’ Amendment” law by not informing Foster that he was about to dump a bunch of his own money into the campaign.
And the Tribune had a story on the upcoming special election that’s probably worth a read.
An Illinois Senate committee on Wednesday approved a 66 percent income tax increase that would lower property taxes by 20 percent and spend billions elsewhere on education, pension debt and construction.
Commissioner John Daley conceded Wednesday that part of the big-tax strategy is so Stroger can avoid having to come back for tax hikes again in 2009 and 2010 –which is the year Stroger is up for re-election.
On a day when a block of Cook County commissioners cried out for tax increases to pay for health care, most of the same commissioners chose to raise their own office staff budgets by 26 percent rather than give up some of that money to pay for poor women’s mammograms.
Amid threats to cut jobs and close health clinics and courthouses, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and almost half of the County Board are set to get away from it all this weekend in Washington, D.C., at taxpayer expense.
But some parents walked away feeling they had been steamrolled. They accused CPS officials of using stilted statistics, of courting kids in “gentrified'’ areas and marginalizing poor ones and of experimenting on children. The changes didn’t go far enough, they said.