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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      

Callahan’s “Daisy ad” and bailout fallout

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

* Democratic congressional candidate Colleen Callahan has a new TV ad that pays homage (to the point where it even seems to have the same voice doing the “countdown”) to LBJ’s “Daisy” ad from the 1964 presidential race…

Callahan’s other TV ad, which we’ve discussed before, can now be seen at this link.

* Meanwhile, many congressional candidates differed over yesterday’s botched financial systems bailout vote, but Colleen Callahan and Republican Aaron Schock were on the same page

Both the Democrat and Republican candidates for the 18th District Congressional seat say they would have voted for the bailout bill. […]

“Those questions I did have, have been answered. And as distasteful as this bailout is, I could and would vote for this package,” said Democratic candidate Colleen Callahan.

“Something has to be done. To do nothing in this case, absolutely nothing, would wreak havoc on our economy in this country,” said Republican candidate Aaron Schock.

* That wasn’t the case in the 11th District

The horse is out of the barn,” said [Republican Martin Ozinga]. “Instead of them talking about how the door was open, we should be catching the horse.” […]

“The banking crisis is more serious than most people realize,” said Ozinga. “What’s going on is so shocking and complicated it’s hard for people to understand.” […]

[Democrat Debbie Halvorson] said she would have voted “no” on Monday’s bailout plan. The lack of any meaningful protection for homeowners facing foreclosure was one of her key criticisms of the legislation.

“If we want people to pay their mortgages, why are we allowing them to go into foreclosure?” said Halvorson, who said helping homeowners pay their mortgages would prop up the banking industry.

* As I told you yesterday, Democrat Bill Foster voted “Yes.” His GOP opponent, Jim Oberweis, said he would’ve voted against the proposal. From a press release

“I support the action taken by the House of Representatives this afternoon in rejecting a flawed bailout plan that would have put American taxpayers at risk for $700 billion. Had I been a Member of Congress, I would have voted ‘no.’

“Now that the flawed measure has been rejected, Congress can take the time necessary to strengthen the legislation to improve the odds of its success at solving the problem at hand, while reducing taxpayer risk and improving taxpayer protections. It is important that Congress address this very serious economic crisis that we are facing, but it is equally important that Congress address this situation in a way that will subject taxpayers to the smallest loss possible while doing what is necessary to keep our financial system working in a positive way. We must not sow the seeds of future, equally serious problems by trying to solve this situation too quickly. We must do this right with reasonable speed rather than doing this wrong with great speed.”

* Republican Judy Biggert voted “No,” but her Democratic opponent Scott Harper said he would’ve been a “Yes.” From Harper’s press release…

“With our economy in trouble and with the American people deeply concerned about their homes, their investments and their retirements, Judy Biggert took the coward’s way out and voted against an economic package that would have helped rescue our markets.

“I would have voted yes.

“No one is happy about the current situation we’re in and if Judy Biggert hadn’t been asleep at the wheel on the financial services committee, perhaps we could have had more oversight and regulation and less corporate greed that got us into this mess in the first places.”

I’m more interested today in how you feel about the political tactics of the various incumbents and challengers - without the canned, pre-approved DC political talking points, of course. Let’s all take a deep breath and try to analyze the politics in a clear-headed manner without bringing that DC insanity into the blog. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Question of the day *** UPDATED x1 ***

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

Yesterday, we talked about your use of online social networks. Let’s continue in this technology vein today.

Question: Do you have a basic cell phone or one of those “smart” phones? If you have a smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Treo, etc.), which one? Besides calls and texts, how do you use your device during a typical work day? What do you like most and least about your smart phone? Explain fully, please. Thanks.

*** UPDATE *** Inspired by some of the comments today, I’ve decided to give a test run. The service tracks my RSS feed, and then every time a new post is added to this blog sends you a text message.

This is a free, easy-to-use Internet service, but standard text messaging rates from your own carrier apply, of course.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      

Daley appears to break promise on cop hiring; City air is filled with toxin

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

* For whatever reason. the Sun-Times focuses today’s “Daley’s 1,000 layoffs” story on possibly reduced garbage pickups, which if you scroll down in the piece probably won’t happn anywayl.

Here’s the more important item…

The 3,000 vacancies to be eliminated include: 329 sworn Chicago Police officers; 424 non-sworn police employees; 12 sworn firefighters, and 10 non-sworn fire employees.

* The Tribune has been all over the problems associated with the problem of current police vacancies…

With retirements, firings and resignations, the department is down 250 officers and could be down more than 400 officers by the end of the year, said Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing patrol officers. The department has lost about 375 officers and hired only 125 since the beginning of the year, Donahue said.

* On Saturday the mayor said he was working to hire more Chicago cops.

Apparently, hizzoner’s statement is now inoperative.

* Chicago is facing a $420 million budget hole, but

The 1,000 layoffs are expected to save $100 million.

* There could be a whole lot more pain on the way, but stuff like this has to irritate Chicago police officers

A battle is brewing over a request by CTA President Ron Huberman to change his pension status. Huberman is a former Chicago police officer. He has angered other officers with a new application for police pension benefits.

* This ain’t helping relations much, either

A Chicago police detective who was beaten while off-duty on Chicago’s North Side over a week ago is reacting to the news that the man accused of beating him will not face a more serious charge. […]

Detective Amato and others believe the charges should be more serious because the attack was against a police officer. The police officer’s alleged attacker, 27-year-old John Jasas remains free after attending court last week, where a judge refused to charge him with attacking a police officer. That follows a decision by the state’s attorney’s office to file what is “perceived” as a lesser felony because, they say, Detective Amato was off duty. The veteran cop counters, saying a Chicago police officer is “always” on duty.

Beaten Chicago Police Detective Steve Amato left court feeling assaulted all over again. Not only was the man accused of attacking him not charged with battering a police officer, but the hearing the 18-year police department veteran was told to attend Monday morning took place last week without him or his testimony.

* Meanwhile, Chicago Public Radio has a story about a toxic chemical saturating Chicago’s air

The University of Iowa professor looked at air samples from all over Chicago, and found the chemical in about 90 percent of them. She says the source is a mystery. It looks a lot like a byproduct of paints, but it’s not concentrated near, say, paint factories.

HORNBUCKLE: It’s so ubiquitous that I almost wonder if it’s released from paint after the paint is applied to buildings and streets and walls. I don’t know.

PCBs have been linked to cancer and neurological problems. The government banned manufacture of PCBs, but Hornbuckle says PCB-11 isn’t manufactured. That means the ban may not apply.

* Background

Historically, PCB11 is one of 209 compounds manufactured between the late 1920s and the 1970s. The report noted that they were primarily marketed as mixtures called Aroclors by chemical companies until U.S. production ceased in the late 1970s. The distribution of PCB11 throughout residential areas of Chicago suggests that the compound is a past or current component of consumer paint products.

* Health effects

Health Effects related to pcb-11: Birth or developmental effects, Brain and nervous system, Cancer, Endocrine system, Immune system (including sensitization and allergies), Persistent and bioaccumulative, Reproduction and fertility

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

More Rezko revelations

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

* The Associated Press adds its take to the ever-increasing number of Tony Rezko stories

Convicted political fixer Antoin “Tony” Rezko has been quietly visiting Chicago’s federal courthouse, setting off speculation that he may be spilling secrets to federal prosecutors in return for a lenient sentence.

Prosecutors investigating Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration would plainly like to hear what Rezko knows, and there is plenty of incentive to talk.

“Jail is horrible and Tony Rezko has just two options,” says Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association. “One option is to do nothing and get a full sentence. The other is to cooperate with prosecutors.”

* As CBS 2 notes, Rezko’s current residence ain’t pleasant

Rezko had nothing to say to prosecutors while he was on trial. But all that seems to have changed after six months behind bars in the notorious federal prison in the South Loop.

“It is a dungeon and when you spend night after night in those conditions and face the prospect of doing it for years to come, all of a sudden a light goes off and you may want to cooperate with the federal government,” CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said.

* Back to the AP story

Two attorneys said Monday they and other lawyers have been contacted by prosecutors seeking to check information that only Rezko could have told them. Both attorneys spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying prosecutors have sought to keep such matters secret as part of the grand jury investigation.

The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday it had found four lawyers who claimed to have been called by prosecutors with information that seemed to be from Rezko.

* CBS 2 looks at potential problems ahead

“[The reported talks] could break off in a number of points in the process - - at the interview stage because the information isn’t checking out, and after the interviews because each side values the information differently and the two sides can’t reach a deal,” former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins said.

* And makes this important point

“Mr. Rezko, if they do reach a deal, will receive no get-out-of-jail-free deal because then he’d have no value as a witness,” Collins said. “You can’t put up a witness who got to walk out of jail for a serious crime.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

Fighting the powers that be *** UPDATED x2 ***

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column (over a hundred papers) takes yet another look at the upcoming constitutional convention vote

The polling results I’ve seen from both sides of the debate say more of you will vote for a state constitutional convention this November than won’t.

The numbers still aren’t there yet. The question on the fall ballot must either be supported by 60 percent or by at least half of all those voting in the election itself. Still, it’s getting there.

I’m one of those who supports a constitutional convention. And after 18 years of covering Illinois politics, I am not only convinced a convention is necessary, I also believe I have a duty to tell you why.

Last week, I explained to you how our state constitution has allowed legislative leaders and the governor to seize infinitely more power than the constitution’s framers ever dreamt, and how that power grab is destroying our system of government.

This week, I’d like to toss around a few ideas that a convention might address to break at least some of that stranglehold.

Before I do, always keep in mind that once a convention is called, you have the right to elect all the delegates. When those delegates finish their task, you have the right to vote up or down on all proposed changes. Voters have the final word on everything.

One of the biggest Statehouse problems is that legislative leaders can serve as long as they can get themselves re-elected. I started to notice many moons ago that with every new session I covered, I gained a bit more respect and influence. That happens for pretty much everyone who sticks around. And it’s even more true for leaders, like the House speaker and Senate president, because they have so much institutional power to begin with.

Limiting a leader to 10 years of controlling the gavel would allow the Statehouse a fresh start on a regular basis.

But there is still the almost incomprehensible institutional power that the leaders already own. A new face every decade won’t change that fact.

One of the most refreshing reform suggestions I’ve heard is to require nonpartisan, computerized legislative redistricting.

Our legislative district maps look like they were drawn by crazy people. They’re all over the place, weaving this way and that for miles on end.

In reality, they are carefully constructed by the powers that be every 10 years to protect their favored incumbents.

Voters don’t choose their politicians, politicians actually choose their voters. As a result, only a small handful of incumbents ever have to face a serious opponent, all courtesy of their leaders who carefully draw the district maps.

Iowa’s legislative districts look more like squares. Iowa requires the use of a computer program that completely disregards party and power favoritism. Illinois has far more minority voters than Iowa, which would require more complicated district outlines to make sure a federal judge doesn’t kill it off, but this can be done here. The result? Lots more competition and far less reliance on all-powerful leaders.

Our campaign finance laws allow unlimited contributions by legislative leaders to their favored candidates. The leaders control most of the money raised in this state, so there’s no way those laws will ever change because the leaders also completely control the lawmaking process. A constitutional convention could curtail that fundraising power or eliminate it altogether.

Leaders appoint all committee chairmen, all members of those committees and all bills sent to those committees. This ensures that the chairmen and members always do their leaders’ bidding. Stop that, and you take away a huge amount of power.

Some people favor recall and term limits for all legislators. I’m an agnostic on recall and I’m pretty sure that term limits for legislators in general (not leaders, just legislators) would be a bad idea, but that can all be up for debate if there is a constitutional convention. Others want to give citizens a right to pass laws on their own through ballot initiatives. That could be chaotic, but certainly interesting.

Nothing is guaranteed in life, of course. None of these reforms may come to pass even with a constitutional convention. But none of it will ever happen without one. So, once again, please vote “Yes” this November.

Next week, we’ll take a look at what can be done to rein in the governor’s excessive powers.

* Eric Zorn has another angle today

As you may know, there will be a referendum question on the November ballot asking if we should hold a convention to overhaul the Illinois Constitution of 1970.

And as you may also know, most of those who are in power and doing fine under the current system are opposed to the idea. Soon, you’ll be subject to a well-funded campaign representing the entire political spectrum telling you what a risky and expensive proposition a so-called con-con would be.

But what you may not know is that even the ballot question itself seems to be part of that campaign. […]

And you may conclude, as I do, that it has only one purpose:

To marginalize the very idea of a con-con by reminding voters how unpopular it was 20 years ago.

*** UPDATE *** A friendly member of the special interest opposition noted that I missed a couple of stories out of Peoria today

Representatives with the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Labor Council of West Central Illinois gathered Monday at Peoria City Hall to voice their disapproval with a referendum they claim will only exacerbate problems in the state.

“We believe it’s inappropriate, unpredictable and expensive,” League President Mary Jane Crowell said.

Two of those very same attributes would apply to our current system.

* And here’s the other one

“The special interest, current political dysfunction in Springfield and party politics may gain control of the delegate election selection process as well as deliberations. So results may be unrepresentative of voters concerns,” said Mary Jane Crowell with the Greater Peoria League of Women Voters.

So, we already know that those three things have a rock-solid grip on our current process, yet the League is currently in, um, league with those very same special interests and masters of political dysfunction and party politics to oppose the con-con. Slightly hypocritical? Surely not! It’s the Leauge of Women Voters, for crying out loud. They are above such associations, except, you know, when they’re not.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Houlihan throws in with the proponents

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan says he’s decided to urge voters to back a Nov. 4 ballot measure that would, if passed, require the state to convene a constitutional convention, or “con-con.”

Mr. Houlihan says he’s also decided to “bring some money to the table” on behalf of the so-far underfunded pro con-con side. The Cook County Democrat won’t say how much, but it could be substantial, since his political fund had $782,000 in the bank as of June 30, according to a disclosure report filed with the state Board of Elections.

And there are some money problems for the anti’s…

Business groups had pledged to raise $3 million to $5 million to oppose con-con, but amid a sour economy, that effort is lagging, according to a source close to the matter.

I’ve been hearing the same thing for weeks. Organized labor is apparently carrying most of the ball on this one, at least for now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   83 Comments      

Morning shorts

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

* Non-profits struggle as state delays funds

* IDOT to stop planting ash trees

* Giannoulias: Cap costs to death penalty fund

* Illinois treasurer proposes reforms in litigation fund

* Sweeps week at Illinois legislature

* Do we want to offer police protection only to candidates who can afford it?

* Freedom’s Watch Drops $150K Into IL-10

* GOP congressional hopeful explains donation to Democrat

* Ozinga defends Blagojevich donation, meeting

* GOP congressional candidate gave to Blagojevich

* Foster’s Playground

* Local lawmakers split on failed bailout

* Congress Plans for Next Step in Bailout Negotiations

* Oberweis on the bailout

* Vote On Bailout Plan Split Among Illinois Reps

* Bill to stop sale of EJ&E dies in House

* War in Afghanistan calls

The state is in the midst of its largest guard deployment since World War II, sending to Afghanistan one in every four citizen soldiers in the Illinois Guard.

* A reminder that police are heroes

Officer Taylor was 39. He had been on the force 14 years. He was, we are told, studious and ambitious, and he loved being a cop. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter.

Ask any cop and he or she will tell you — Officer Taylor’s widow and daughter are now family for life to the entire Chicago Police Department, kept close to the heart behind every badge. They will be welcomed to every police picnic, embraced at every police ceremony.

But, as they would be the first to add, it will never be enough.

All the kind words and all the warm embraces can never make up for the loss of one living husband, one living father.

And Chicago can never say thank you enough.

* City Paper Owner Files for Bankruptcy

* SPECIAL REPORT: Editors/Reporters Respond to Tribune Cuts

While the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune have earned the headlines in the Tribune shakeup, it’s the company’s other dailies, like The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., and Florida’s Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, that are feeling some of the most significant effects.

* Wrigleyville bars agree to stop serving alcohol after 7th inning

Tunney noted that the Daley administration initially wanted the seventh-inning cutoff to apply to all playoff games, not just potential title clinchers. They also wanted to implement it without notice when the Cubs clinched the Central Division championship.

“At the beginning, they didn’t want to do anything [to compromise. But], we listened. We’re all interested in the same goal,” he said.

* Strolling 63rd Street

* Tactics for reducing bus gaps

* Ride the CTA? Now you can wear it too

* Voter Registration Drive Targets Homeless

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   4 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax

Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

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* Pressure builds on Alvarez, McCarthy
* Final day to file!
* SEIU claims court victory on health insurance
* Question of the day
* So long, Kurt!
* Will "right to work" pop up again?
* A little bit of what's at stake this week
* More poison pills
* Time heals most wounds
* NYT looks at Griffin, Rauner
* LaQuan McDonald case: Three suggestions for state action
* Yesterday's blog posts

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