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Convention stuff

Friday, Aug 22, 2008

* As is my custom, I won’t be attending either national party convention. The Capitol Fax and the blog will be on hiatus next week, but I’ll keep an eye on things and write or post if something important happens. Doubtful.

* I see at least three possible reasons behind this free reception during the Democratic National Convention…

1) The governor has been shut out of just about every other public event, so he’s using Duckworth’s speaking role at the convention to glom a bit of attention;

2) This is yet another hint that the governor may appoint Duckworth to Obama’s Senate seat if Obama wins, which, of course, will attract more people to the party and give him a bit more attention;

3) He’s justifiably proud of his appointment of Duckworth to head the state’s veterans agency and wants to help showcase her talents in Denver.

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and choose “3″ because I’m so nice.

* Rep. John Fritchey predicts that Gov. Blagojevich will use his amendatory veto power to “Rewrite to Do Right” the ethics bill next week. The deadline for action is a week from today

I’m guessing that you AV the bill while everybody is focused on the Democratic Convention, while most of the major political reporters who are familiar with the story are half a country away, and while stories of Barack’s nomination are taking up most of the media space. I’ll even predict a Thursday or even Friday announcement of his action, so as to provide for maximum story burial potential, under the shadow of Barack’s acceptance speech.

So while many Illinois Democrats hope to ride Barack’s coattails, it looks like the Governor will try to hide behind them. It may be a good political move, but a profile in courage it isn’t.

We’ll see what happens. He might AV the thing today or tomorrow, which would really get buried.

* The Boston Globe has a rundown of the featured Illinois speakers at the convention

JERRY KELLMAN: The Chicago native hired Obama in the early 1980s as a community organizer for Chicago’s Developing Communities Project and is often cited as a mentor to Obama.

TOM BALANOFF: The president of the Illinois Service Employees International Union also burnishes Obama’s labor credentials. Balanoff has praised Obama’s votes against trade deals such as the Central America Free Trade Agreement. […]

REP. JESSE JACKSON JR.: The son of the civil rights activist has represented the Chicago area since a special election in 1995 and is a national co-chairman of Obama’s presidential campaign. In 2004, Jackson was an early supporter of Sen. John Kerry for his party’s presidential nomination. Party leaders say Jackson’s speech will “tell Barack Obama’s life story.” […]

LISA MADIGAN: Illinois’ attorney general has at times been mentioned as a candidate to replace Obama in the U.S. Senate for the remaining two years of his term if he wins the presidency.

DAN HYNES: Like Madigan, Illinois’ comptroller has been mentioned as a possible Obama successor in the Senate. Hynes unsuccessfully challenged Obama for the 2004 Democratic Senate nomination but has since been a major Illinois supporter of Obama’s.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS: The Illinois treasurer was backed by Obama, an endorsement that helped the banking heir win his seat. In return, Giannoulias helped Obama win support among Greek voters in the Chicago area and has raised more than $250,000 for Obama.

MIGUEL DEL VALLE: Chicago’s city clerk rounds out Monday’s group of Illinois officials talking up the candidate from their home state.

* Meanwhile, if you’re going to tomorrow’s event

People planning to attend Barack Obama’s pre-convention appearance in Springfield on Saturday should be ready to be patient.

“We’re going to be very patient, and we ask that they do the same,” said Eric Pingolt, Secret Service resident-agent-in-charge for an 85-county region of downstate Illinois. “We’re going to get people into the event, but it’s going to be in a secure manner.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Aug 22, 2008

* The setup

Gov. Rod Blagojevich will likely send legislation back to lawmakers that could affect the possible prosecution of former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson after an oversight left out the measure’s effective date, according to the bill’s sponsor.

“The governor’s likely going to do an amendatory veto, and the amendatory veto is going to make it clear that the bill is effective immediately,” said Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi (D- Joliet). “It’s unfortunate that this got left out, but we’re making sure that the bill . . . is corrected.”

The bill, pushed by Will County State’s Atty. James Glasgow, would allow a judge to decide at a pretrial hearing whether hearsay testimony could be admitted into court if the prosecution could prove that the defendant made the witness disappear. The bill would apply only to first-degree murder cases.

But without an effective date written specifically into the bill, the law wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2009, said Brian Williamsen, a spokesman for the governor’s office. He declined to comment on whether Blagojevich will send the measure back to lawmakers through an amendatory veto, adding that it was still “under consideration.”

Wilhelmi said he hopes the legislature can reconsider the measure in September. Both Wilhelmi and Glasgow are confident the issue will be resolved. [all emphasis added]

* You can find the legislation in question by clicking here.

* More background

Critics of the proposal argue that it runs counter to the 6th Amendment, which states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”

Last month, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that hearsay testimony could be admitted into trial if it is proven that the defendant’s wrongdoing made the witness unavailable to testify.

* Question: Do you think that Gov. Rod Blagojevich ought to call the General Assembly back to town in September to fix this bill? Or should it wait until November? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


More on the school funding lawsuit, alternatives and the future

Friday, Aug 22, 2008

* The Sun-Times has an interesting story today about why this latest school funding lawsuit has better prospects than the previous two, which were shot down by the IL Supreme Court…

As in Illinois, previous suits challenging New York State’s school funding system had failed. But in 1993, a coalition there filed suit alleging for the first time that the system had a “disparate racial impact” based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

After 10 years and several appeals, New York’s highest court ruled in 2003 in favor of the plaintiffs. Further appeals by New York’s governor ended with the Court of Appeals upholding the ruling in 2006 and ordering the state to meet a minimum funding figure. That new funding level was finally enacted in April 2007.

Those involved in two previous lawsuits in Illinois said that without the new “disparate impact” claim, the Chicago Urban League’s suit would face bleak prospects.

“The earlier ruling of the court that there really wasn’t a binding right to a quality education had put a roadblock in the path of any lawsuits,” said Don Moore of Designs for Change. Still, he said, this new battle “is going to be difficult.” […]

Others argued that the Urban League’s suit has merit beyond its civil rights claims. Illinois courts declined to hear an earlier suit, based on a lack of criteria to determine whether schools were providing a “high-quality” education.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act and Illinois Learning Standards since enacted by the State Board of Education now fill that gap.

* Author and think tanker Richard Kahlenberg argues against the lawsuit and for Sen. James Meeks’ idea to open up suburban schools to inner city students

What Chicago students need even more than higher per capita spending is what New Trier, Naperville and Geneva schools provide: middle-class environments. It’s an advantage to have peers who are academically engaged and expect to go to college; parents who actively volunteer in the classroom and hold school officials accountable; and highly qualified teachers who have high expectations. On average, all these ingredients to good schools are far more likely to be found in middle-class than poor schools.
[…]

To provide genuine equality of educational opportunity, Sen. Meeks shouldn’t be seeking merely equal funding—a 21st Century version of “separate but equal.” Instead, a reasonable number of low-income students in failing Chicago schools should be given the opportunity to attend high-performing schools in Chicago’s affluent suburbs.

This may sound like a radical idea, but long-standing interdistrict public school choice programs exist in several metropolitan areas—including Boston, St. Louis, Hartford, Conn., Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Rochester, N.Y., and Indianapolis. Typically, low-income students who transfer into these programs achieve at high levels and are more likely to graduate and go on to college.

Even Chicago has experienced successful urban-suburban integration through the historic, court-ordered Gautreaux housing programs, which gave low-income minority families a chance to live in the suburbs. Gautreaux students rose to the occasion and performed significantly better when given the chance to attend good middle-class schools. Meeks would do well to push for a new school-based version of Gautreaux allowing low-income Chicago students a chance to attend good middle-class suburban schools. Overwhelming evidence suggests that equal spending just isn’t enough.

* The Tribune editorial board supports some of Meeks’ agenda and offers up a bit of advice…

“If we’re not going to evaluate educators on student performance, we’re missing the boat,” he said Thursday. “If we evaluate students based on their performance every week when they take a test, why shouldn’t we regularly evaluate teachers on the job they’re doing?”

This sort of imaginative thinking drives the public education industry berserk. Follow Meeks’ line of thinking and you might get to other frightening heresies, such as paying big bonuses to the best teachers—and promptly firing the worst.

* And Phil Kadner recalls former state Sen. Art Berman’s scenario from nearly 20 years ago

Berman predicted at the time that state legislators never would address the [school funding] problem. A tax hike would be required, and they wouldn’t want to put their careers at risk by voting for such a measure.

“So how is this problem going to get solved? I asked. Berman’s response seems prophetic today.

Someone is going to file a lawsuit against the state, he said, claiming it has failed in its constitutional responsibility to adequately and fairly fund the public schools.

A court then will order the state to change the way it funds public education, Berman continued.

“And that will solve the problem?” I inquired.

Berman laughed and shook his head from side to side.

“No, because the legislators will never be able to agree on a solution,” he said. “They will argue a lot. But they will do nothing. And then someone will file another lawsuit claiming that the state of Illinois had failed to follow the previous court directive to change the school funding system.”

Then the court would spell out exactly what the state had to do to comply with the law, and the legislators would be happy because they could go home and tell the voters that it wasn’t their fault that taxes were being raised. The legislators would blame the court system.

“And then we’ll get public school funding reform,” Berman said. “Of course, that process could take five years.”

He was probably right.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Threemil appointed to the ballot

Friday, Aug 22, 2008

* No surprise here. The committeemen in Senate President Emil Jones’ district voted unanimously yesterday to appoint Jones’ son, Emil Jones, III, to the November ballot

At the meeting, the elder Jones defended his decision to anoint his 30-year-old son and asserted he would remain active in politics after he retires in January.

“Just because you’re in public office does not mean you’re a second-class citizen,” he said. “And I respect fathers who take care of their children. So would I support my son? Sure I’m going to support my son.”

* The younger Jones spoke to the gathered Democratic committeemen before the vote

The 30-year-old Jones touted his longtime residency in the district and the skills he would bring to the job. He works for the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in economic development.

“Economic development is my strongest point,” he said.

* ABC 7 had probably the best story today. They allowed a couple of people to shoot themselves in the foot

The Jones post-primary, hand-the-office-off-to-a-family-member plan, is reminiscent of events that led to Dan Lipinski’s 2004 election to succeed his father, Bill, in Congress:

“I think it’s really the news media the only ones who focus on anything that happened four years ago,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski, (D) Chicago.

Yeah, right. Only the news media cares. Sure. Great spin, congressman. Did you think of that all by yourself or did daddy help?

* Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) represents half of Jones’ district and has been involved in a long-running feud with the Senate president. Davis was portrayed positively in just about every story

Even though Emil Jones, Jr., is her state senator, State Rep. Monique Davis are longtime rivals. She said voters in the 14th Senate District know little or nothing about 30-year-old Jones III.

“A naïve young 30-year-old man, with limited knowledge, limited wisdom,” Davis said. “People have not had the opportunity to hear from the son… when you’re running for office and you want a seat, you really should have made some sort of communication with the district that you’re running in.”

* Rep. Davis even put up somebody against Jones, III yesterday

Davis’ nominee, 73-year-old retired schoolteacher Dozier Thomas, didn’t score any votes. But Davis used his candidacy to make a point that others should have been encouraged and given time to seek the South Side and south suburban seat the elder Jones is vacating after 25 years.

“The public, in my opinion, should be much more involved,” said Davis, a fierce opponent of the Senate president despite living in his district. “You have a meeting, and anyone interested should come and present yourself to the public. Then there could be a final meeting.”

* But ABC 7’s story nails it

Davis complained that the elder Jones, by announcing his retirement Monday, did not leave other prospective candidates time to mount a campaign for the nomination - other candidates, like her own son:

“He worked with me and Harold Washington and worked in government. He was a researcher. And he’s also a former staffer for (house) speaker (Michael) Madigan,” Davis said. [emphasis added]

It is Chicago, after all.

* Threemil gets the final word

Emil Jones III has never before faced reporters in a political campaign. But minutes after being chosen by the Democratic committee to run in place of his father he jumped right in and immediately faced questions about nepotism.

“I did not get in through the back door. I am officially on the ballot and will run in the election on November 4,” said the newest 14th District state senate nominee.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Thompson points fingers at everyone but himself

Friday, Aug 22, 2008

* Former Gov. Jim Thompson was in Rockford yesterday and discussed the obvious

“The current situation in Springfield is one of the most distressing I’ve ever seen. Certainly what I hear on the streets from Democrats and Republicans alike is that there’s plenty of blame to go around,” Thompson said. “There’s an inability to agree on most challenging problems. We haven’t had a construction program since Gov. George Ryan,” he added.

“There’s failure to agree on how to finance a program, failure of Democratic legislators to trust the governor to fairly appropriate money for programs; that’s something I’ve not seen before,” he said.

By way of contrast, Thompson, a moderate Republican and Chicagoan who worked with mostly Democratic majorities in one or both houses of the General Assembly, said he got everything he wanted from lawmakers “except a World’s Fair. I wanted to have a 1992 World’s Fair in Chicago, and they said no.”

* But, of course, Thompson shares some of this blame. He co-chaired Blagojevich’s transition team in 2002-2003, his law firm has made hundreds of thousands of dollars off the governor during the ongoing federal investigations, he helped create even more controversy this year when he agreed to negotiate on the governor’s behalf for a state buyout of Wrigley Field, and he recently defended Blagojevich’s radical amendatory vetoes

Former Republican Gov. Jim Thompson said he used the amendatory veto to try to improve bills. Lawmakers are the check on that executive power because they can reject changes they don’t like.

“He’s not out of bounds,” Thompson said of Blagojevich.

That’s right. Throw even more gasoline on the fire.

Amazing.

* Covering politics has been fun until this year. No more. Our miserable political situation is producing miserable “real world” results

The unemployment rate in the Chicago metropolitan area jumped to 7.5 percent in July from 5.4 percent a year earlier, and the area lost 2,700 jobs, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Thursday.

The higher rate followed a report last week that the state’s unemployment rate in July rose to 7.3 percent from 5.1 percent.

All 12 metropolitan areas in the state reported unemployment rate increases. The highest rate of joblessness was reported in Rockford, where the rate hit 9 percent, up from 6.1 percent. That was followed by Kankakee-Bradley, where the rate jumped to 8.6 percent from 6.2 percent; and Danville, where the rate was 8.6 percent, up from 6.8 percent.

Notice that Rockford number? Nine percent. Wow.

A capital bill would help, of course. But, as Thompson noted above, there’s a “failure of Democratic legislators to trust the governor to fairly appropriate money for programs.” He isn’t making things better with his enabling schtick.

I agree that Thompson was a very successful governor. I’ve always admired the man. But perhaps Big Jim could offer some advice to his client beyond the legal stuff. At the very least, he should stop encouraging RRB to pick fights with the General Assembly over this “Rewrite to Do Right” campaign.

Stop making things worse, dude.

Please?

…Adding… This David Ormsby post sums up just about everything

On August 19, Governor Rod Blagojevich signed into law Senate Bill 2857 the 2009 Hospital Assessment which, once approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will bring $777 million in federal matching funds to Illinois.

“Healthcare is a top priority in Illinois. This bill facilitates that process, secures the matching federal dollars and gets the money where it needs to go to ensure everyone gets the quality healthcare they deserve,” said Governor Blagojevich.

On July 9, Governor Blagojevich vetoed $55 million from the state substance abuse treatment budget, and – guess what – that veto will send $55 million of federal matching funds–health care money back to the federal government.

Yep. Health care is a top priority. Except when it is not.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Friday, Aug 22, 2008

* Governor setting up special committee on flood cleanup

The leaders of that group include: Rock Island County board chair Jim Bohnsack, former U.S. Rep. Terry Bruce, CEO of Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, and Madison County Board President Alan Dunstan.

* Developers drop plans for Pontiac project

* Pontiac fights long odds to save prison, jobs

* Just say no to drop in drinking age

* Daley not sold on lowering drinking age

“Will that be the motto: ‘Come to my university. Drink as much as you can as long as you pay your tuition’? … Do you think you send your son or daughter to come home as an alcoholic? … That’s a bad message … I’m sorry. You have enough time to drink the rest of your life,”Daley said

* Oberweis defends offshore drilling

* Sauerberg calls for hundreds of new nuclear plants

“Any candidate or elected official who is serious about reducing our reliance on foreign oil has to support the expansion of nuclear power,” Sauerberg said. “There is no realistic path to energy independance in the near future that does not include nuclear power.”

* Congressman, local mayors launch effort to support EJ&E takeover

* Ex-inspector gets 3-year sentence in city bribe case

* New Lenox asks voters for home rule

To keep its retail prospects alive, New Lenox officials will ask voters to give the village home rule powers. They pinned their hopes on a special census conducted last year, but it appears they have fallen short by about 1,000 people of the 25,000 needed to automatically become a home rule unit.

* “The Power of Penny Pritzker” Bloomberg’s inside look at Obama’s finance chair–business, family and politics

* Cops advise how to avoid arrest during Labor Day crackdown

* Friday Beer Blogging: Vitamins Added Edition

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   18 Comments      


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Friday, Aug 22, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Another open thread

Friday, Aug 22, 2008

Waiting on a couple of calls on a story that popped up early this morning, so I’m running way behind again.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Anybody still watching the Olympics?

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Cowboy up

Friday, Aug 22, 2008

[This post was bumped up from last night to today.]

* The governor was in Dallas, Texas yesterday. NBC 5 Dallas reporter Omar Villafranca fills us in

So why is the highest elected official of Illinois and an admitted Chicago Bears fan visiting Dallas Cowboys practice?

Money.

The Governor was in town for a fundraiser in Texas and decided to swing by Texas Stadium.

I chatted the Gov up about his trip. We talked sports and then the Chicago Cubs came up. I mentioned that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was very interested in buying the North Side’s Team…just to see what he’d say.

Get this….Governor Blag said he met with Cuban Tuesday! What did they have to talk about? Why would the acting Governor of Illinois talk to Cuban? We all know Cuban doesn’t waste his time, so something productive had to have come from that meeting. What? I don’t know. […]

It’d be interesting to see, when the filings come out, if Cuban donated to Governor Blag’s campaign. Greasing the wheel for ownership maybe?

* They appear to be courting each other. Set the Wayback Machine to just a couple of weeks ago

The biggest draw at the Kerry Wood Strike Zone fund-raiser Wednesday night wasn’t one of the star athletes — it was Mark Cuban.

Fans swarmed outside 10Pin Bowling Lounge, 330 N. State, and when Cuban stepped outside they rushed him for autographs. “I can’t really say anything,” he told reporters when asked about his bid to buy the Chicago Cubs. “I just love Chicago.” […]

Gov. Blagojevich came with his 12-year-old daughter Amy, a major fan who likes to call pitches when she watches games with her dad. […]

The party raised about $360,000, which is being matched in a state grant by the governor, to benefit the Organic Food Project. The money will go to supply healthy lunches to students at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School, 2625 N. Orchard, for a year.

So, to add to Villafranca’s question, I’m wondering if Cuban repaid the taxpayer-funded kindness at the Dallas fundraiser.

* The Dallas TV reporter also posted a photo of our “acting governor”….

That appears to be Blagojevich pal and fundraiser John Wyma standing in the middle. I’ve posted Wyma’s lobbyist client list here, but if you want the links to work, you’ll have to look him up here.

* Since he was in Dallas, I also can’t help but wonder if he remembered to bring his Sun-Times cowboy hat…

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Aug 21, 2008

* The setup

An Illinois House committee Wednesday heard impassioned testimony from both sides on a bill that would provide early release for certain long-term inmates in state prisons.

The measure is prompted by the huge backlog of clemency petitions awaiting action by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It would allow inmates 50 years of age or older, who have served at least 25 consecutive years in prison, to petition the courts instead of the governor for early release, so along as they are not sentenced to death.

Supporters called it a long-overdue, restorative measure; prosecutors called it unconstitutional, an overreaction to a temporary problem and a slap in the face of crime victims and their families. […]

Supporters also said that the courts would have the right to reject an inmate’s petition if they deemed a prisoner to be a threat, and say it is needed because Gov. Rod Blagojevich has allowed more than 3,000 clemency petitions to pile up on his desk. Two of the state’s most prominent prosecutors disagreed. […]

…DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett said it would free prisoners “without a hearing, without any input from the state, without any representation by the state’s attorney or the attorney general, without a process or procedure, simply a petition and certain findings made by the court.”

* More

At a crowded hearing Wednesday, the Chicago police union chief and top local prosecutors blasted the bill. Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine warned of effects on relatives of murder victims.

DEVINE: This legislation would open up a whole new area of grief and concerns for these families who have already suffered so much.

* The question: Is this a good idea or not? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


New law does have a price, but it’s pretty small

Thursday, Aug 21, 2008

* The Tribune takes a clear-eyed look at the governor’s successful amendatory veto attempt to allow people to stay on their parents’ health insurance policy until the age of 26…

“Clearly, a bigger risk pool is always better,” said Todd Swim, a worldwide partner with the Chicago office of Mercer, an employee benefits consulting firm. “The cost of the average person in this age category is very low.” […]

“If additional people are added to a policy, that may increase the amount of claims incurred and will likely cause premiums to increase,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents some of the nation’s largest health insurers, such as Aetna Inc., Humana Inc. and UnitedHealth Group. […]

But the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, said it would add just 1 percent to the benefit costs of the average group plan. By comparison, employer health insurance costs have been rising 8 percent to 10 percent annually in recent years.

Two benefits consulting firms, Mercer and Hewitt Associates of Lincolnshire, said they could not say for sure how much health-care costs could rise.

But the approaches used by different states could tack on additional administrative costs to employers and insurers, particularly those who have employees in multiple states.

So, it’s likely to add to the cost of health insurance, but not much.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


School funding lawsuit examined *** UPDATED x1 ***

Thursday, Aug 21, 2008

*** UPDATE *** Mayor Daley told reporters today that the funding lawsuit was “very constructive”

“I think it’s a good lawsuit,” Daley said. […]

“They have been talking about this for 25 years,” he said. “It’s not good for Illinois in the long run … Other states have done this … Other states have been very successful in these lawsuits, and we think we can be here.”

Daley joked that the courts should mandate school funding change because “they mandate everything else.” A federal judge appointed a monitor to police city hiring in 2005 amid a patronage hiring scandal in Daley’s office.

***************

* Mary Mitchell takes a look at the school funding inequity lawsuit that was filed yesterday…

“The State’s failed school funding scheme has left many school districts, particularly those who serve high concentration of low income and minority students, with a mounting educational crisis,” the complaint claims.

Until now, the school funding disparity has been endured like a necessary evil.

But now [Rev. Sen. James Meeks] and others argue that given the high drop-out rates, low college attendance rates, and high incarceration rates, those concerned about this issue can no longer sit back.

The lawsuit could create a sense of urgency that will force parents to take notice.

Jenner & Block, a firm that is known for its aggressive representation of government officials, intends to seek a temporary injunction that forces the General Assembly to tackle the problem sooner rather than later.

In other words, Meeks ain’t playing.

* It still remains to be seen whether the courts will stick their noses into a legislative issue. Patterson points to the Supreme Court’s opinion in a previous case

While the present school funding scheme might be thought unwise, undesirable or unenlightened from the standpoint of contemporary notions of social justice, these objections must be presented to the General Assembly.

* More on that history from the Sun-Times

In the lawsuit that Nickels ruled on, the arguments for change hinged on whether the state Constitution requires all schools to be funded equally. In a second case, filed by parents in East St. Louis and decided in 1999, the question was whether the Constitution required the state to guarantee adequate school facilities.

In both instances, the high court held that the Constitution offered no such guarantees and punted the issue back to the Legislature, which has resisted higher taxes to finance education.

“Whether this case can thread its way through the two decisions already on the books is something that remains to be seen,” former state senator and 1994 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dawn Clark Netsch said of the Urban League effort.

“It is a tough obstacle,” said Netsch, who teaches law at Northwestern University.

* More about the suit itself

The lawsuit claims that under the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, the current system “disparately impacts” racial and ethnic minority students. […]

The suit also claims that the school funding system violates the Illinois Constitution’s Uniformity of Taxation provision, right to equal protection and right to attend “high-quality educational institutions” guaranteed by its education article.

Lisa Scruggs, the lead attorney and Jenner & Block partner, expressed confidence in the lawsuit’s likelihood of success based on its civil rights claims. Two previous challenges to Illinois’ system in the 1990s — based only on the constitution — failed.

* And still more

llinois’ current system of funding exacerbates the state’s segregated housing problem, especially in Chicago, said Lisa Scruggs, a lawyer for the group. Because homes in neighborhoods with high percentages of minorities have lower values than homes in white neighborhoods, schools in minority districts get less funding.

“The basic fact that you have a distinction between low property-wealth districts and high property-wealth districts, ultimately that leads down the road to gaps in education performance,” Scruggs said.

* More

Property values in highly-segregated, low-income neighborhoods become even lower when the school district is underfunded, the suit said, making the problem even worse for schools in those districts.

High drop-out rates and low test scores are in line with the lack of resources at certain schools — mostly in minority neighborhoods or communities, the suit said. Large class sizes and cuts in sports and art and music education leave many students “behind.”

* The governor is staying away

The governor’s office did not return calls for a response.

* And the attorney general is treading lightly

A spokesman for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office said the lawsuit will be reviewed.

* But AG Madigan was touting a new study this week…

An increase in Illinois high school graduation rates would bring about a sharp reduction in violent crime statewide, according to a study released Wednesday.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization of law enforcement officials and former crime victims, sponsored the report in an effort to investigate the root causes of crimes committed by young adults.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who presented the report with the organization’s Vice President Jeff Kirsch, said the study revealed a growing need for the state to play an active role in ensuring quality early education and on-time high school graduation.

* Related…

* Urban League lawsuit

* Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Threemil replaces father tonight

Thursday, Aug 21, 2008

* The Democratic committeemen in Senate President Emil Jones’ district will gather tonight to select a November ballot replacement for the retiring legislator. That replacement, of course, will be Jones’ son, Emil Jones, III. Kristen McQueary notes some ironies

The votes are sewn, due to the political cowardice of Austin and 21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins […]

[Jones] didn’t support Brookins in the February Cook County state’s attorney primary, but Brookins will graciously support Jones III nonetheless. What a nice man.

“I don’t know of anybody else vying for the position. And I need to come to reconciliation with (Jones) and I don’t think you can hold a grudge against his son,” Brookins told me Wednesday.

Brookins is also the son of former Sen. Howard Brookins, Sr., who was defeated by Sen. Emil Jones in the 1992 Democratic primary. He has every reason to oppose this move, but politics is politics.

* More from Kristen’s column…

In addition to Austin and Brookins, who will vote for the younger Jones, newly appointed Calumet Township Democratic Committeeman Robert Rita will give his support as well.

Rita was appointed to the township committeeman post Tuesday evening under a similar process. Rita’s father held the position for nearly two decades, but passed away last week after an illness. Precinct captains in Calumet Township voted for Rita to succeed his father. […]

And so, the appointment of son Rita facilitates the appointment of son Jones.

19th Ward President Kevin Joyce, a state Rep. who is strongly allied with Speaker Madigan and is also part of a South Side political dynasty, told McQueary that his committeeman will not attend tonight’s meeting out of protest. Rep. Joyce claimed that the process is supposed to be for emergencies, not stuff like this.

* Meanwhile, Mayor Daley says he won’t meddle in the race for Senate President

“That would be up to people in the Senate, that would be up to them to make the judgement what is good for the Democratic Party. They’ve had a lot of challenges over the years. I think they have to all come together in regards to a lot of issues.”

Daley may not take an active role unless he feels the city’s interests are being threatened.

* Related…

* Link wants to be Senate president

* Emil Jones III’s Easy In

* Chicago’s black politicians building own dynasties

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Far away *** UPDATED x1 ***

Thursday, Aug 21, 2008

*** UPDATE *** A couple of updates on Saturday’s speech from the SJ-R…

The Obama campaign says the event will happen rain or shine.

The current approximate time for Obama’s speech is 2 p.m. As previously reported, the gates to the speech site, located at Seventh and Washington streets, will open at noon. A handicapped-accessible gate will be set up just to the north on Seventh between Washington and Jefferson streets.

*************

* There are invitations and then there are invitations. I doubt this was one of those “We really want you there, please, please, please” invitations

Hmmm. Is this a classic case of tit-for-tat? Sneed is told Gov. Blago, who was snubbed by the Dem convention by not being given a speaking role by the Obama folks, was just invited to attend Barack Obama’s nationwide speech at the Old State Capitol Saturday — but he ain’t gonna go!

• • The pitch: Blago, who was the first governor to endorse Obama’s presidential bid, has opted not to go for two reasons.

• • Reason one: Sneed hears Gov. Blago didn’t want to muddy the Obama waters with pesky reporters asking him questions about convicted influence-peddler Tony Rezko, who was this/close to both Blago and Obama, despite Obama’s protestations.

• • Reason two: The gov has decided to keep a previous commitment to watch the deployment of 200 troops to Iraq on Chicago’s South Side Saturday . . . despite the invite to history.

Senate President Emil Jones is also skipping the Springfield event.

* Like the super-cold temps during the 2007 campaign kickoff, Saturday’s weather will be an issue

The weather Saturday afternoon is expected to be warm and humid, with highs around 90 and a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. The Obama campaign made it clear back in early 2007 that an outdoor event was greatly preferred to going indoors, so any switch in plans this time would likely be only for very severe weather.

Mike Coffey Jr., chairman of the board that runs the Prairie Capital Convention Center downtown, said people associated with the Obama visit “kind of checked … out” the facility this week, possibly for use as a bad-weather location. If all seats are used and there is standing room on the floor, Coffey said, the building can fit about 8,000 people.

* Meanwhile, because of all the stuff going on, I haven’t had time this week to take a look at this “partial birth abortion” controversy involving Barack Obama. I’ll have something soon. Illinois Review got the ball rolling, but Zorn and Larry have offered several rebuttals. I’ll try to post something tomorrow or later today.

* Also, notice the date on Tony Rezko’s delayed sentencing hearing…

A federal judge has postponed the sentencing of convicted political fund-raiser Tony Rezko by nearly two months, pushing his sentencing hearing back to Oct. 28 — one week before the presidential election.

Obama usually has pretty good luck. Not this time. This will put Rezko back in the news bigtime right before the voting begins.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


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Running behind open thread

Thursday, Aug 21, 2008

We’ll have stuff soon. Sorry about this.

Talk amongst yourselves.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


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