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Monday, Jun 30, 2008

White Sox rule. End of story.

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      

Question of the Day

Monday, Jun 30, 2008

[Posted by Kevin Fanning]

* Reason magazine recently ranked how the 35 most-populous cities in the U.S. balance individual freedom with government paternalism.

They ranked the cities on how much freedom they afford their residents to indulge in alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, gambling and food.

The result

The sad news, Chicagoans, is that your town came in dead last. And it wasn’t even close.

Chicago reigns supreme when it comes to treating its citizens like children (Las Vegas topped our rankings as America’s freest city). Chicagoans pay the second-highest cigarette tax in the country, and the sixth-highest tax on alcohol.

Chicago has more traffic-light cameras than any city in America (despite studies questioning their effectiveness), restricts cell phone use while driving, and it’s quickly moving toward a creepy public surveillance system similar to London’s.

* If you could repeal any Chicago ordinance what would it be?

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   44 Comments      

Judge orders file on Gov interview to be sealed

Monday, Jun 30, 2008

[Posted by Kevin Fanning]

This was a big story last Friday:

Federal investigators met with Gov. Rod Blagojevich “multiple” times as part of their Operation Board Games investigation, but the governor denied telling fundraisers he could reward them with government contracts, court documents unsealed this week revealed.


According to this week’s filing, a defense response to those allegations, Blagojevich sat down with prosecutors at least twice and denied ever saying any such thing.

“Governor Blagojevich was interviewed on multiple occasions and denies these conversations. Cari failed to recall his conversation with the governor until his fifth interview by government agents,” wrote Rezko attorney William P. Ziegelmueller in a Jan. 25 filing.

However, late last Friday Judge Amy St. Eve ordered those same documents to be sealed again without any specific explanation:

She acted on her own. No one requested that the document be sealed.

However, Natasha Korecki at the Sun Times speculates

It might have been made public in error. The filing, authored by Rezko’s lawyers, also contained a brief reference to the private life of witness Stuart Levine. St. Eve previously ruled that details involving Levine’s “secret life” should not be made public. Levine testified he took part in multiple drug binges with other men at area hotels, including Lincolnwood’s Purple Hotel.

St. Eve was extremely cautious during the trial to keep parts of Levine’s life out of the record. It would make sense for her to re-seal the document if some of these references were mistakenly missed. Any other insights into why it could have been re-sealed on the same day?

* Related…

* State Capitol Notebook: Gov. busy with federal agents

* Feds Questioned Blagojevich ‘Multiple’ Times

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   11 Comments      

Suburban House Dem challenger reveives press boost

Monday, Jun 30, 2008

[Posted by Kevin Fanning]

* Another suburban Democratic challenger running in a traditionally safe Republican district got some significant press today.

Aurora Austriaco, who is running against Rep. Rosemary Mulligan in Illinois’ 65th Legislative District, was featured in a piece in the Sun-Times on the possibility of becoming the first Asian American elected to the Illinois General Assembly:

Aurora Austriaco is running to represent Illinois’ 65th Legislative District. She’s knocking on doors four days a week, aiming to become the first Asian American elected to the Illinois General Assembly.

To get there, she’ll need to knock off a 15-year incumbent–state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, who represents voters in a district that includes portions of Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Niles, Rosemont and Chicago’s Northwest Side.

The article adds that:

Austriaco won 10,641 votes in the Democratic contest, compared with Mulligan’s 5,358. On election night, Mulligan shrugged it off by telling the Journal, a local community newspaper, that 2008 was “a very unusual year.” Many Republicans, she speculated, took Democratic ballots to weigh in on the epic battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

It is no doubt that Mulligan will have a tough race. However she has been extremely careful on how she has been voting lately.

For instance, Mulligan was one 14 Republicans to break with her party and vote on a motion to table and effectively kill the gaming expansion component of the capital bill on the last night of session.

* The real crux of the story is how unusual it is that a democrat stands a chance in this district:

The district is a traditional Republican redoubt. That would appear to put Austriaco’s bid in Don Quixote territory, but the times, they are a-changin.’ The Illinois GOP is looking to the November election as a patient would prepare for a visit from Dr. Jack Kevorkian. A mercy killing might be the order of the day.

That, on top of exploding gas prices, a tanking economy, and the Barack Obama juggernaut, could make Austriaco a history maker.

Austriaco joins Democratic candidates like Dianne McGuire of Naperville who have been generating lots of buzz. If the Republican party can’t hold on to these two spots, then it is truly in a dire jam…

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   27 Comments      

Blagojevich: A horse is a horse, of course

Monday, Jun 30, 2008

[Posted by Kevin Fanning]

* Kristen McQueary had a very funny article yesterday about another Blagojevich

At first, I couldn’t quite see the resemblance. The flowing mane, maybe. The brown eyes, a little. The flaring nostrils, a touch.

Then, the more I got to know Blagojevich, the more I appreciated how aptly named he was — this tall, dark and handsome creature born into a political family and groomed for great things but alas, disappointing to his keepers.

At least for Blagojevich, a standard bred harness-racing horse at Balmoral Park Racetrack in Crete, his struggles are behind him after successful throat surgery. The horse’s potential for greatness remains largely unrealized.

And continues…

Blagojevich’s grandmother was Would I Lie, an award-winning horse who produced another strong performer, Political Promise. When Political Promise gave birth in 2005, extending the political lineage only made sense.

“We breed a lot of horses in Illinois and generally try to come up with theme names. We didn’t do it to pick on the governor, but we try to come up with names that are fun. Aside from Blagojevich, we’ve never named one after a specific person. You never know, the governor might come through for the horse-racing industry,” Hunt said.

* I recommend reading the article in it’s entirety.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   16 Comments      

Miller: Governor could blame proposed budget cuts on Madigan

Monday, Jun 30, 2008

[Posted by Kevin Fanning]

* Rich’s syndicated column for the Southtown Star takes a look at the budget, and some possible answers to the Governor’s reduction threats:

There are several important things to keep in mind when discussing the governor’s proposed budget cuts. The governor has threatened to slash $1.5 billion out of the state budget unless the House comes back to Springfield and passes some revenue-generating bills and approves a capital construction budget, all of which were approved by the Senate in May and blocked by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

We don’t really know what the governor actually is planning to do. Last week’s threat was just a media event to instill fear and loathing among the press and the various constituencies that would be impacted by his possible cuts. But there were no real details, just a broad brush.

Why would I ever doubt Blagojevich’s intentions? Well, the governor threatened deep cuts during the spring session to balance the supposedly out-of-whack budget and never followed through. Remember those draconian cuts to 4-H and other agricultural programs he threatened in April? The governor eventually released the money.

There is no doubt a budget hole exists, and cuts are inevitable. Let’s be very clear: There will be pain. We just don’t yet know what the governor will do when the budget bills are finally on his desk and he holds that reduction and line item veto pen in his hand.

The Senate Democrats insist the governor vastly inflated the size of fiscal year 2008’s deficit. So while everyone has focused on the governor’s claim of a $2 billion deficit for fiscal year 2009, which begins July 1, that figure could be inflated as well.

Quite a few of the announced cuts are not really “cuts” but reductions in proposed increases. Many may look horrible on paper, but they’re just expansions that won’t happen.

Education spending will actually increase by about $400 million in fiscal year 2009. The governor had little choice but to leave that increase intact because of threats of a revolt by the Senate Democrats, his only remaining allies.

If he loses them, he loses the war with Madigan. But giving education a relatively generous increase while threatening to cut back on some key social programs likely will create controversy before too long.

Quite a few of the cuts seemed designed specifically to generate media attention and threaten hardship. The entire $28 million state subsidy to Amtrak would apparently be eliminated, for instance, potentially killing off three of the five trains that run daily from Chicago to St. Louis. Two of the three trains between Chicago and Carbondale also would have to be eliminated.

The governor’s obvious intent was to shift the blame for these and other impending cuts to Madigan, which Madigan doesn’t appear too concerned about. It’s unlikely they’ll be coming back to Springfield to take any action, Madigan’s lieutenants told the media.

The House Republicans claimed they’d be willing to work out a deal but offered no solutions of their own. Their members oppose the two revenue-generating bills passed by the Senate Democrats and demanded by the governor (a huge pension obligation bond and some special fund sweeps), and now that May is over and legislative solutions require a three-fifths vote, the ball likely will be in their court to come up with an alternative if Madigan refuses to propose any of his own.

The Chicago Tribune demanded in an editorial last week that the governor veto the entire budget and bring back the General Assembly for a special session. That won’t happen because the all-important Senate Democrats oppose it. A Chicago Sun-Times editorial suggested a deal could be cut on the special funds sweeps, but there aren’t nearly enough House votes to pass it.

You’ll undoubtedly hear more “simple solutions” in the coming days, but the harsh political realities of Springfield make even the easiest solution close to impossible.

If the governor goes through with these draconian cuts, he certainly can make the case that Madigan is to blame. But in the end, the governor - any governor - always wears the jacket. It will be his veto pen doing the slashing. It is his administration.

Still, there’s no doubt the speaker has hurt the Madigan “name brand” with this horrific war. That could make any gubernatorial bid by his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, all the more difficult. Madigan doesn’t really care about what Blagojevich and the media does to him, but this mud will splash on his daughter.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   33 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Monday, Jun 30, 2008

* Dugan Retires

* CTA’s rail safety criticized

* Complex run by son of Daley ally

* Businessman says he bribed county official

* County error leaves housing funds unspent

* Smoke ban often defied Downstate

“We have been forced into a legal vacuum,” said State’s Atty. Tom Finks of Christian County, one of many Downstate counties that have not prosecuted a single violator. “Legally, the legislature has not given us the proper tools of enforcement. Our job is not to fill in the blanks.”

* Illinois adjusting to no smoking law

* West Siders Want Handgun Ban to Stay

* Organizers see spike in parade attendance

* Group calling for port district to be abolished

* Armory’s fate in limbo

* Killing pay raises is a good place to start

* Local projects ‘held hostage’ by funding feud

* State pays $2.2 million for hotel litigation fees

* Statehouse Insider: June 29

* Our Opinion: Grandstanding governor at it again

* Bernard Schoenburg: ’08 election up next, but 2010 talk already in the air

* Progressive Blogs Roundup

* Progress in fight against EJ&E buy

* Weekend Update: Obama, Seals, Link

* Unfinished business for library

“Schock could not be reached for comment” is becoming a trend in Journal Star stories.

* Rep. Hare: Probe troop security

* Consultant gets probation for faking signatures

“It was a politically motivated case from the get-go,” said McCulloch, 43, of Westmont, who had worked for at least one candidate opposing Birkett. “There should be some safeguards against going after political opponents.”

* Obama’s unity event hits the suburbs

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   16 Comments      

* Happy Thanksgiving!
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