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Afternoon odds and ends

Thursday, Feb 28, 2008

* 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.

* Illinois’ top 10 consumer complaints

For the second year in a row, identity theft heads the list of the top 10 consumer complaints received by the Illinois attorney general’s office.

* New Glitz for Michigan Ave?

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.

* JibJab video

[hat tip: Fritchey]

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Spivak and Obama

Thursday, Feb 28, 2008

* 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.

* More from today’s Houston Press article

The morning after the story was posted online, I arrived early at my new offices. I hadn’t taken my coat off when the phone rang. It was Obama.

The [IT] article began, “It can be painful to hear Ivy League-bred Barack Obama talk jive.”

Obama told me he doesn’t speak jive, that he doesn’t say the words “homeboy” or “peeps.”

It seemed so silly; I thought for sure he was joking. He wasn’t.

He said the black legislators I cited in the story were off-base, and that they couldn’t have gotten the bills passed without him.

I started to speak, and he shouted me down.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 28, 2008

* The setup

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.

* Here’s the bill’s brief description

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      

Let’s think about this first

Thursday, Feb 28, 2008

* 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.

* The Tribune editorial board made some good points today

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”?

* Rep. Lang also had a good idea…

“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.

* Chuck Sweeny laid it on the line

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.

* And the Daily Herald editorial board adds itself to the list of skeptics…

Unfortunately, the rushed presentation of the project could lead the more cynical among us to wonder whether this proposal may be a subtle manipulation of the tragedy.

After all, Peters conceded that NIU officials considered Cole Hall to be outdated and that the university already had plans to replace it rather than renovate it.

* And the shootings got dragged into a House committee hearing yesterday to ban semiautomatic weapons and outlaw more than one handgun purchase a month…

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Too late, guv

Thursday, Feb 28, 2008

* Governor Blagojevich had this to say yesterday about the Tony Rezko trial

“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.

* Meanwhile, it looks like Patrick Fitzgerald sandbagged Rezko’s team

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.

* And the Sun-Times looks at Tony Rezko’s billionaire buddy

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Greenburg’s slur and Oberweis’ bumbles

Thursday, Feb 28, 2008

* Oy

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

Morning shorts

Thursday, Feb 28, 2008

* Ag director resigns to care for sick wife

* Will Wrigley Co. buy what it’s been getting free?

* The Tribune vs. Chicago

“If I think about it logically and not sentimentally, Wrigley Field is a corporately named field,” he said. “But it’s been that way for so long that nobody even connects the two things anymore.”

* Zell wants more night games, concerts

* Lawmakers push for income tax increase

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.

* Tax hike to help schools moves up

* The new “tax swap”

* Time for state to join civilized world and end death penalty

* Board eyes budget cuts after Stroger shuns smaller tax hike

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.

* Cook commissioners OK bigger staffs, deny mammogram funding

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.

* Board’s D.C. trip costs you $10k

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.

* Public schools to close, merge in Chicago

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.

* Chicago’s plowing budget in red

* Democratic chairman won’t run again

Party Vice Chairman Kathleen Bergan Schmidt is considered a front-runner to replace Cynor. The party convention begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Woodstock Opera House.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   10 Comments      

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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Sign of the times?
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