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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      


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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008

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This just in…

Monday, Sep 29, 2008

* 3:31 pm - Martin Ozinga attempts to explain that big contribution to Rod Blagojevich

Republican congressional candidate Martin Ozinga III said Monday he donated $10,000 to Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s campaign fund so that he and other concrete industry officials could have a private audience to express their concerns to him about state construction projects. […]

But Ozinga said he saw nothing wrong with the private luncheon held with Blagojevich and other concrete and construction industry officials. He said the donation was made at the request of another concrete industry official he did not name. […]

“It’s interesting to me that making contributions to Democrats is automatically considered pay to play,” Ozinga said. “That, in my opinion, is outrageous and I would challenge my opponent or anybody else to show that my company’s benefited in any which way shape or form by making political contributions to anybody.”

Ozinga said his company, Mokena-based Ozinga Bros., does not have any major state contracts, and instead acts as a subcontractor on some construction projects. It does hold a long-time contract with the city of Chicago.

Perhaps more explaining is needed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Bailout roll call… *** UPDATED x11 ***

Monday, Sep 29, 2008

* As you probably already know, the financial systems bailout bill just failed in the US House. The roll call is here.

* Illinois congresscritters voting “Yes” - with those who have serious or semi-serious November opposition in bold…

* Bean (D)
* Davis (D)
* Emanuel (D)
* Foster (D)
* Gutierrez (D)
* Hare (D)
* Kirk (R)
* LaHood (R)
* Schakowsky (D)

* Illinois congresscritters voting “No” - with those who have serious or semi-serious November opposition in bold…

* Biggert (R)
* Costello (D)
* Jackson (D)
* Johnson (R)
* Lipinski (D)
* Manzullo (R)
* Roskam (R)
* Rush (D)
* Shimkus (R)

Congressman Weller was the only member of the US House recorded as not voting. Typical.

*** UPDATE 1 *** From a press release issued by Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr….

“To heal the systemic problems in our financial system we need to treat the cause, not only the symptoms. Congress needs to pass and the president needs to sign into law the following provisions: 1) a second stimulus to help those squeezed by the financial crisis; 2) a substantial investment in infrastructure which could jump start the economy while creating jobs, and; 3) a program that helps keep taxpayers in their homes. This bill does not contain provisions that explicitly help borrowers restructure their mortgages. Buying ‘trash (bad mortgages) for cash ($700 billion bailout)’ may not cure our financial system, since it was these bad mortgages that engineered this market collapse,” said Jackson.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Suburban context from the Daily Herald

From the start, Bean was working to win support for Paulson’s $700 billion plan.

Bean’s challenger, Steve Greenberg, supported the proposal as well.

Foster was also an early backer, despite facing attacks from challenger Jim Oberweis in the largely Republican 14th District in the far western suburbs.

Roskam and Manzullo were the most skeptical from the start.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Finger-pointing

After the vote, Republicans claimed that the Democratic leadership had been warned that fewer than 60 Republicans would vote for the bill. Democrats denied the claim, saying they never would have brought the bill to the floor if they had been told there was so little Republican support.

“We delivered our votes,” Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said.

*** UPDATE 4 *** Judy Biggert explains her opposition to Chicago Public Radio.

BIGGERT: Everybody seems to be in such a hurry to go home that I don’t think Congress is thinking clearly.

Biggert says the proposal the House voted on today did not go through the normal committee channels, which hurt its odds of passing. She says she would like a rescue bill to include a measure that would beef up the number of FBI inspectors looking into mortgage fraud.

*** UPDATE 5 *** From a Phil Hare press release

“It was not a gift or a blank check. It provided the federal government the authority to loan money to certain financial institutions so they could resume lending to ordinary Americans. This would have allowed more families to afford their homes, cars and tuition payments and enabled our farmers to continue buying equipment, seed and fertilizer.

“Now it is imperative that we go back to the drawing board and craft new bipartisan legislation that protects Main Street from Wall Street. As we consider our next steps, I will continue to fight to enact stronger protections for homeowners facing foreclosure, something this bill lacked.

“We should also pass an economic stimulus package that creates jobs by investing in our crumbling infrastructure.

*** UPDATE 6 *** From Peter Roskam’s press release

“While action is necessary to keep our economy on track, the heavy-handed push from the Bush Administration and this Democrat majority places too great a burden on taxpayers with no guarantee of success. The plan voted on in the House incorporated watered down aspects of executive compensation limits and provided for insufficient use of private capital.

“Unfortunately, negotiations were unable to produce a solution to keep our economy on track without exposing taxpayers to extraordinary risk – this is why the bill failed.

*** UPDATE 7 *** From a John Shimkus press release

“The free market system can deal with the crisis on its own. The free market system is not compassionate, but it is the quickest way to turn an economic crisis around.”

*** UPDATE 8 *** Another explanation

Prior to the vote, LaHood, R-Peoria, said he would back the $700 billion plan because changes made to it in recent days ease the concerns he previously had.

“I think it will give confidence to the market. I think it will give confidence to investors. I think it will give confidence to the American people,” LaHood said.

*** UPDATE 9 *** From Melissa Bean…

“I voted to support Secretary Paulson’s proposal only after working to improve it with limits on executive compensation for those who got us into this mess. I pushed for a strong equity stake for taxpayers, so that when the financial sector profits, taxpayers profit too. And I pushed for strong bipartisan oversight of this unprecedented authority.”

*** UPDATE 10 *** From Rep. Bill Foster…

“Nobody likes the situation we are in, and this bill was far from perfect, but today, in an extremely tough and close vote, I supported the Emergency Economic Stabilization bill to ensure the economic hardships facing our middle-class families and small businesses all over the 14th District would not worsen,” Rep. Foster said. “The bill was the tough medicine we needed to get the economy back on solid footing.”

After the bill failed, as a result political gamesmanship, the New York Stock Exchange lost 777.78 points or 7%. The NASDAQ lost more than 9 percent. According to Bloomberg News, $1.2 trillion in market value was erased from American equities.

Said Foster, “We now know the price of inaction — $1.2 trillion lost today alone. You don’t have to be a scientist or a businessman to know that the $350 billion we were committing to stabilize the market – with good prospects for most of the money being returned over time — was a much better deal for Americans than what happened as a result of the bill being defeated.”

*** UPDATE 11 *** Schock and Callahan both would have voted “Yes”

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller   85 Comments      


« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Good morning!
* Final thoughts before calling it a night
* *** UPDATED x3 - Script *** Quinn airs radio ad of Rauner joking about being "scared" of four African-Americans
* Karen Lewis endorses Chuy Garcia for mayor
* Friday night TV ad rating
* Yesterday's blog posts

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