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Chicago Police Supt. wants Chevy Tahoes for officers

Thursday, Mar 27, 2008

* This article caught my eye today:

At a Chicago Crime Commission luncheon held in his honor Wednesday, Weis said he would like to update the department’s “horrible” fleet of squad cars in answer to a question about how he might help patrol officers on the street.

With Chicago’s rugged winters, a sport-utility vehicle might make more sense than the traditional Ford Crown Victoria, he said.

If Chicago police switched from the Crown Vic to an SUV, some might question the cost, maneuverability and environmental consequences of such a fleet, especially in light of the Mayor’s push to make the city green.

But some smaller cities, such as Plano, Texas, have moved toward SUV fleets, citing higher resale value and more room for police gear.

* The first thought that jumped into my mind was what about the fuel efficiency of the cars, and the added tax burden? Then I read this:

And an extensive annual test of police vehicles conducted by Michigan State Police and reported in Law and Order magazine in November showed that the police-package Chevrolet Tahoe actually “accelerates, brakes and corners like most police sedans” and has a fuel efficiency estimated to be the same as that of the Crown Victoria.

However, it turns out that the fuel efficiency is an abysmal 11 miles per gallon. Wow. Okay, how about we replace the Crown Vics, but with a more fuel efficient car?

Chevy Tahoe

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   42 Comments      


Question of the Day

Thursday, Mar 27, 2008

* Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica announced today that he will advance a resolution at the April 9, 2008 County Board meeting that provides for a November 2008 ballot referendum calling on the Illinois General Assembly to rescind home rule for Cook County:

“Cook County is the only Illinois county with home rule authority – and that authority has been abused by political insiders who continue to enact oppressive taxes on the county taxpayers,” said Peraica. “Home rule allows a governing board like the Cook County Board of Commissioners to vote to raise taxes without seeking voter approval. I believe that Cook County has abused the home rule powers granted by the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and that Cook County’s home rule powers should be repealed.”

Rescinding Cook County’s home rule authority would require voter approval for future tax increases.

Question:Is this a good idea?

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   27 Comments      


U of I approves tuition increase

Thursday, Mar 27, 2008

* On Monday I wrote a post on how U of I was considering raising its tuition at two campuses by 8%.

Well I was wrong. Yesterday they ended up approving a 9.5 % increase for the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

For the first time, new undergrads this fall will have to shell out more than $20,000 to attend the state’s flagship university. With the minimum cost to attend the school jumping past $20,000, families are going to react with sticker shock, some experts said:

“What you are going to see is more and more people are going to start getting more and more panicked about these things,” said John Immerwahr, a senior research fellow at Public Agenda who has studied public opinion about higher education.

* Joseph White, University of Illinois president, said “Quality education costs. There is no way around that.The $20,000 total cost of attendance at a top university like the University of Illinois is a very good value when you think the equivalent number at top privates is more than twice that.”

However, this decision comes at a time when elite private universities are guaranteeing that students from lower- and middle-income families will graduate with little or no debt. That sounds like a better bargain to me.

Many other Illinois residents are pondering the same question:

High school counselor Amy Thompson, whose daughter is a high school freshman, said she thinks that as prices continue to rise, students will turn to less-expensive community colleges for two years before transferring to a four-year institution.

“It just starts to get so ridiculously expensive that you start to think, ‘How are we going to do this?’ ” Thompson said. “I think more people will question whether it is worthwhile to do it right away.”

Thompson said her husband was shocked when he heard that U. of I.’s total cost will break the $20,000 mark. “He said, ‘We could just send them to Harvard. What’s the difference?’ ”

* At the University of Illinois at Chicago, fixed-rate tuition will also increase by 9.5 percent. Fees will be an additional $2,384 a year. At the Springfield campus, tuition will be $7,215 for 30 credit hours while fees will be $1,398 a year. The tuition increases at the three campuses will add about $46.5 million to the university’s budget, officials said

I spoke with a former university official, and they said that residents should keep in mind that the trustees have to keep enacting these increases because of the locked rate on tuition for students. They claim that inflation is around 3% each year, and the university has to keep pace.

Well I’ve heard it before on this blog, and I’ll echo it again. Maybe some should wake up the bureaucratic fiefdom that exists at U of I, and take aim at that. It’s time to start making some cuts, rather than to pass the burden on to Illinoisans.

U of I now ranks only second to Penn State as the leader in tuition rates within the Big Ten. Conversely, Ohio State costs $16,848, Indiana $15,311, and Wisconsin $13,835. How do they manage?

* Discuss

Other links:

* U. of I. freshmen to pay over $20,000
* U of I trustees approve tuition increase
* University of Illinois raises tuition again
* U of I will hike tuition at its three campuses

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   27 Comments      


White not interested in Senate seat

Thursday, Mar 27, 2008

* For all the speculators out there you can finally put this one to rest. Secretary of State Jesse White said he plans to seek one more term in office and denied Wednesday that he’s interested in a U.S. Senate spot if presidential hopeful Barack Obama were to win:

“There has been speculation that I would be considered the heir apparent to Barack Obama if he became successful in becoming our next president,” he said in an interview. “When I came on board in 1998, when I was running for this office, I indicated that I was going to run for this office and this office only.”

* While previous holders of the position, such as Jim Edgar and George Ryan, have used the post as a launch pad for other positions, White claimed that he has no intention of seeking higher office:

“I believe when you take on a job, you take on the responsibility that goes on with it,” he said. “I’m a former military man … When I have a duty, or commitment or mission, I’m going to see it from its beginning to its conclusion.”

Furthermore, the secretary gave his two cents for who would be likely to fill the vacancy:

“Probably the person who has campaigned the hardest for that position is Comptroller Dan Hynes,” White said. Obama beat Hynes in 2004 for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. Senate.

Carol Knowles, a spokeswoman for the comptroller, said Hynes was currently focused on the state’s fiscal issues and helping Obama’s presidential run.

While Jesse White expects to run again for secretary of state, there’s no clear opposition yet and Sen. Dan Rutherford said it’s too early to discuss another run.

* White also said he would not support lowering the drinking age, an issue currently being debated in other states like Missouri and Wisconsin:

“I could not support (lowering the drinking age) because I want to keep the roads of Illinois as safe as ever,” White said. “The greatest cause of loss of life for our young drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 is automobile crashes. I think if you lower the (drinking) age, those numbers will come off the chart.”

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   14 Comments      


BREAKING NEWS: Radio Legend Wally Phillips dies at 82

Thursday, Mar 27, 2008

* Wally Phillips, one of Chicago’s most popular and influential radio personalities of all time, has died this morning.

Phillips had been battling Alzheimer¹s disease since 2004. He died at his home in Naples, Florida, at the age of 82.

At the peak of his popularity at WGN Phillips attracted half of all Chicago area radio listeners, an audience of nearly 1.5 million each day, making him the most listened-to radio host in the country:

“When we say ‘WGN Radio is Chicago,’ I quickly add that ‘Wally Phillips is WGN,’” said Wayne Vriesman, vice president and general manager of the Tribune-owned station. “He is the most creative, humorous and innovative person I have ever met in broadcasting. . . . (with) a lifetime of great radio listening and a public service never equaled in broadcasting.”

* My condolences to the Phillips family. Wally will surely be missed.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   Comments Off      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, Mar 27, 2008

* Downtown CTA stop to get $67 mil. facelift

* Court fight threatened over Children’s Museum

Mayor Daley has the 26 votes he needs to win City Council approval of a new, $100 million Children’s Museum in Grant Park, according to influential aldermen, but opponents are threatening a protracted court fight to block construction.

* Under the pressure, it finally cracks

Motorola Inc. intends to reinvigorate its floundering business by spinning itself off into two separate companies while still maintaining its suburban and Chicago operations, the company announced Wednesday.

* Elk Grove Village officials lament apparent Chicago victory in O’Hare land game

* County will lobby for its portion of capital bill

* Michael Jordan’s ex-lover stymied by Illinois Supreme Court

The Illinois Supreme Court declined on Wednesday to hear an appeal in the long-running legal dispute between Michael Jordan and a former lover who claims the retired superstar promised her $5 million.

* Longtime judge was known for his integrity

* ‘Earth Hour’ campaign will dim lights on Chicago landmarks

* State begins assessing flood damage in 19 counties

* Union files charge against school

Illinois’ largest teacher’s union has filed a charge against the Cambridge Lakes Charter School for a Feb. 25 meeting at which the union claims the school violated teachers’ right to organize.

* Legislator pushes bill to help Fairmount

* Proposed bill for state buildings to go green

Representative Mike Boland’s law would require new state offices and buildings constructed with 40 % of state money, to be built with energy-efficiency in mind.

* Rutherford pushing for recall amendment

* Bill would extend child-porn reporting requirement to computer techs

* One degree of Stuart Levine

* 2nd Blago fundraiser to go to trial

Today a federal judge set a trial date for Chris Kelly, former fund-raiser to Gov. Blagojevich.
Kelly’s trial is set for Nov. 10.

* State gets bids for Collinsville hotel

* SIUC coal plant study details to be discussed

* Political consultant convicted of perjury

* Ozinga prepares for election

* Green candidate gets into race to succeed Rep. LaHood

* Keyes bolts GOP; announces yet another presidential bid

* Meghan McCain has offbeat campaign blog

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   7 Comments      


Question of the Day

Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008

* Oliver Stone is directing a movie about George Bush called “W,” and Josh Brolin will be playing the embattled President.

Our Question of the Day consists of two parts. If a movie was made about Governor Blagojevich….

a) Who would you cast to play our embattled governor?

and

b) What title would you give the film?

* Let’s have some fun with this one…

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   81 Comments      


Your Daily Dose of Blago Blunder

Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008

* The administration was doing so well today. No slip-ups, and some praise for the ‘deadbeat’ parent program. Then I came across this little diddy:

The Illinois auditor general says the state Public Health Department overpaid seven grants for stem-cell research by $863,000.

Auditor William Holland claims that more than half of the grants given by the administration were for more than originally agreed. Additionally, He says Public Health officials have no documentation explaining the overpayment.

The seven grants were supposed to amount to about $6.4 million. Instead, the recipients got $7.3 million. It gets better:

Holland also says there’s nothing to indicate the method used to determine how much Public Health would pay toward the governor’s failed court defense of restrictions on violent video games.

Public Health paid 14 percent of the total bill, plus some attorney fees. Administration spokeswomen haven’t returned calls for comment.

* In 2005 the governor made the controversial move of inserting millions of dollars into the state budget for stem cell research without telling lawmakers in advance.

Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says that the state doesn’t currently have a budget for stem cell research, but doesn’t know what the next year could bring. Arnold and a spokesman for state Auditor General Bill Holland’s office both agree that the appearance of being over budget is a paperwork error:

“It is simply a difference in documentation,” Arnold said.

For lawmakers’ part, they’ve in past years considered various proposals concerning stem cell research, but Blagojevich moved largely on his own to begin awarding grants for such work.

That doesn’t sit well with some.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for private medical research,” said Dave Smith, director of the Illinois Family Institute.

* It’s a shame too, I had my fingers crossed that we could go 24 hours.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   16 Comments      


Misdirected woes over Stateville

Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008

* The Chicago Tribune published a story today about the possible effects of Stateville Prison’s closing of its maximum security wing on the families of the inmates.

Stateville is home to 3,280 prisoners and is the closest state correctional facility to Chicago and its growing suburbs. Rather than spend an estimated $100 million to renovate Stateville to the level of other maximum-security prisons, Blagojevich wants to close the section that houses the most violent criminals and ship them to more secure rural prisons hours away.

Some of the families have begun writing letters and speaking to lawmakers at budget forums, such as one held Tuesday at Kennedy-King College. They are organizing a bus trip to Springfield, where legislators will vote on the governor’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.

* Department of Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp said, “We understand families are a very important part of an inmate’s success when they go out. That’s part of what makes this so tough. But the No. 1 issue for us is safety and security.”

If Stateville closes, some prisoners will be sent to the maximum-security wing of the next closest facility in Pontiac, 100 miles from Chicago. But others could be transferred to Thomson, which is 150 miles away from Chicago; to Menard, 350 miles away; or Tamms, 363 miles away.

The article cites the difficulties that will be placed on the families who would be affected by a transfer:

“I’m honestly afraid we’ll lose my brother if we can’t see him and talk with him face to face,” said Paula Carballido, 25, of Waukegan, whose 21-year-old brother, Juan, is four years into a 35-year murder sentence. “We don’t want him to disconnect, to break off from the family.”

and:

Similarly, Cicero resident Pearlie White frequently comes to Stateville to visit the father of her 17-year-old son. The man, Steve Robinson, has been serving a life sentence, but White often brings her son so the two can have some kind of a relationship. Despite his incarceration, Robinson is a “father figure” for her son and teenage daughter, she said.

“They would not have a man in their lives if not for [Robinson],” White said. “It might not be the best situation, but it’s all we’ve got.”

* Buried in the article, however, is this caveat:

While the closing could mean the loss of hundreds of jobs at Stateville—and deal a financial hit to the communities around it—state officials acknowledge the blow to families could have the most far-reaching effect.

While I am sympathetic to the families that would be inconvenienced by this proposal, I think the focus of the article is on the wrong subjects. How about those hundreds of people who could lose their jobs?

This could result in the most far-reaching effect. In an economy that is inarguably in a recession this would be devastating to these families, and the surrounding community. Discuss.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   31 Comments      


Millions for the cloutless

Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008

* It’s a good day for ex-employs of City Hall who lost their job to a rigged hiring system. Federal hiring monitor Noelle Brennan plans to send out letters notifying around 1,400 plaintiffs of their awards:

To qualify for cash, claimants had to prove they were bypassed for jobs and promotions since Jan. 1, 2000.

“We ended up with about 1,500 submissions. Somewhere between 1,350 and 1,400 will be eligible for some award,” Brennan said last week.

The monitor refused to say whether anyone would receive the $100,000 maximum. With 1,400 claimants, the average award would be $8,571.

* Michael Shakman filed the landmark lawsuit that was supposed to end political hiring and firing.

Shakman said Tuesday he’s not surprised that Brennan has exhausted the $12 million fund. “The scale was massive,” he said. “There were wholesale violations of the rules on political hiring, promotions and discharge.”

* Over 1,500 people applied to be eligible to part of the $12 million fund created to compensate victims. Thoughts?

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   12 Comments      


State program cracks down on ‘deadbeat’ parents

Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008

* A new state program is matching up hunting licenses against lists of parents behind on their payments is the state’s newest way to chip away at the long-standing problem of child-support collection. In the six months the program has been in effect, the state has collected nearly $130,000 from 90 parents.

Gov. Blagojevich vowed to improve on Illinois’ ranking among the nation’s worst at child support collection when he took office in 2003. Last year, the state collected a record $1.2 billion in payments. Despite some improvement in the last few years state officials say custodial parents, mostly women, still are owed $3.2 billion in back child support.

The new program is just one way to help chip away at the problem. A program launched several years ago withholds professional licenses, such as medical or accounting licenses, from parents behind in their child support.

In January, the state began sending warning notices to deadbeat parents threatening to suspend their driver’s licenses if they fail to start paying up within 60 days. More than $127,000 has been collected since.

llinois is trying to duplicate the success of other states, where people have paid large amounts to hunt. In Maine, one hunter paid $30,000 in back child support after being selected in an annual lottery for one of only 3,000 coveted licenses to hunt that state’s majestic moose.

The program seems to be working, and many are singing its praises:

“We think the program is good if the intent is to collect child support due to dependent minors,” said Jered Shofner, president of United Bowhunters of Illinois. “If that’s what they have to do to track them down, it’s a good thing.”

* What other avenues do you think the state could pursue to aid the problem?

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   25 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008

* Transit backers seeking money

* Cops may face fitness tests

* Harassment suit against state fails

* Rule aims to limit non-medical laser use

* Naperville to dole out millions to cultural events, projects

* Skunks appear to be making a comeback in Illinois

“There aren’t too many things that really care to tangle with a skunk,” Bluett said. “Some of the raptors will, particularly owls. Skunks are nocturnal for the most part. Owls are nocturnal. They’re the ones that are more likely to pick them off and they don’t have a sense of smell so it doesn’t bother them.”

* Bottled water tax brings less revenue than expected

* Facebook Activism Adopted By IL State Rep Greg Harris - Civil Union LegislationPalatine Opportunity Center

* Lakeview Museum V.P. joins race for 18th District

* GOP congressional hopeful has history of giving to Democrats

* Republican Seeks Vacant House Slot in Illinois — Amid Democratic Flak

* Throwing big rocks

For sheer mean ignoramus-osity, we give the nod squarely to 8th District Republican congressional whizbang Steve Greenberg who has stirred up a 1,500 year blood feud by arguing his foe, Melissa Bean, is a secret friend and agent of Serbian Neo-Fascist terrorists.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   12 Comments      


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