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Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* OK, enough. This week seemed extra long for some reason. I will update this weekend if anything breaks in the 5th Congressional District, but I don’t want to. Check back if you feel like it.

* You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…


He buzzes like a fridge, he’s like a de-tuned radio

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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Friday, Feb 27, 2009

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Quinn won’t support limiting free senior transit rides

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* On the core populist issues, Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn are pretty close, even though I’m not so sure that Rod Blagojevich actually believed anything he ever said. Here’s a good example

Gov. Patrick Quinn said today that he would not sign legislation under consideration by the Illinois House to take away free bus and train rides from all but low-income seniors.

The governor said he thinks the free ride program, put in place last year under predecessor Rod Blagojevich, is worthy even as transit agencies face severe money woes.

“I think free rides for seniors is a good policy,” Quinn said following an appearance at a Joliet high school. “I hope they don’t pass a law ending the program. I think it’s a step forward.” […]

“I don’t think I would sign such a bill that would limit it so drastically,” [by basing the free rides on income] Quinn said. “I think we always want to keep an eye on everything, especially in tough economic times, but I’m not really interested in going to that program and slashing it. I think free rides for seniors is a basic public policy that we can support and maintain even in tough economic times.”

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      


5th CD roundup

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* My Sun-Times column today takes a look at the 5th Congressional District race. You only get 600 words in the CS-T, so it’s not as complete as I would’ve liked…

Almost nobody wants to make a prediction about the 5th Congressional District special election this coming Tuesday.

A crowded field, very high numbers of undecided voters, a lack of news coverage (particularly by the TV stations) and the fact that none of the candidates has really caught fire all add up to puzzlement for handicappers.

The guesstimates I’m getting from the campaigns have Democratic turnout at between 35,000 and 40,000 — about a quarter to a third of those who voted in the last primary. Somebody could win with as few as 10 thousand or 12 thousand votes. So you can make a case for any number of candidates.

Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley started the race way ahead in the polls, and he’s still at or near the top. That means he’ll do well with people who believe it’s their duty to vote in every election but are still vague about their final choice. He has a loyal cadre of workers, and his campaign believes they have identified more than enough supporters to win. They just have to get them to the polls.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz has spent the most money by far, both on her own and through huge independent expenditures on her behalf by the Service Employees International Union and EMILY’s List. Women often tend to vote for women, and women dominate Democratic primaries. Feigenholtz’s campaign has been almost purely targeted at female voters, so she’ll get lots of votes from undecided women. Feigenholtz also has a big field operation and enthusiastic support in the gay community.

Like Quigley and Feigenholtz, state Rep. John Fritchey’s base is in the eastern end of the district near the lake. But Fritchey also has the backing of ward and township organizations that control more than half the precincts in the district. Yeah, the Machine ain’t what it used to be, and there are still questions about how hard some of these committeemen want to work, but the reality is that if each of his precinct captains secures 30 to 50 voters, then Fritchey wins this thing.

I’m not posting the whole thing because we’ve got other stuff to post, so go read it all here.

* Let’s get back to the new Feigenholtz TV ad that set off a firestorm in comments today.

Last year, any Democratic legislative candidate who was directly tied to either Rod Blagojevich or Todd Stroger was toast. The Republicans played the Rod & Todd card in several races, but it didn’t work all that well unless there was a definable connection, like fundraising, jobs or contracts.

So, any TV ad that draws a direct line between a candidate and Stroger is potentially a deal-breaker for voters. That’s one reason why this thing has caused such an uproar.

With that in mind, let’s watch it again…


Does it work? Remember, though, that Quigley has been running a TV ad and direct mail trashing Todd Stroger, most likely in an attempt to inoculate himself from just such an attack.

The Quigley campaign estimates that Feigenholtz only has 270 ratings points behind this latest attack, spread out over last night, through the weekend and part of Tuesday. That ain’t much.

But Quigley did go all-out today in an attempt to turn the tables

QUIGLEY: This is Sara Nixon. The 11th hour, when its much harder to combat an unfair charge, that’s when you do this, because you know there’s limited ability — frankly, there’s been limited coverage of this campaign and there’s limited interest, just because it’s a special election. So that’s hard to overcome.

This is a swift boat attack. You attack somebody at their greatest strength and you do it at the last hour because you know its much tougher to retaliate and defend yourself.

Then again, this morning’s presser might just bring far more attention to the whole thing.

* Meanwhile, Pat O’Connor has raised a few more dollars, but he’s still close to the bottom and a mailer has gotten him into a spot of trouble

Is Mayor Daley’s “unofficial floor leader” claiming “unofficial endorsements” from Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Dick Durbin?

No, no, no, Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th) is not trying to imply any endorsement by Durbin or Emanuel — the man he hopes to replace in Congress — by running their photos and testimonials in his campaign literature, a spokesman said.

According to the above article, Emanuel’s office also denies that it’s endorsing Rep. Feigenholtz, even though there’s a Feigenholtz yard sign in front of the guy’s house. Still, that certainly sends a message to the neighborhood, if nothing else.

* Related…

* Every Vote Counts in Crowded Primary for Emanuel’s House Seat

* The (Jan) Donatelli Interview

* The (John) Fritchey Interview

* Conason Backs Geoghegan, Forys Loans Himself $40K

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Not exactly just in…

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* 11:44 am - I told subscribers about this earlier today…

Longtime state Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield, will be named to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation by Gov. Pat Quinn, fellow lawmakers say today. […]

“He’ll bring his expertise from the House,” [ Sen. Deanna Demuzio, D-Carlinville] said. “I’m very excited. He’s from downstate.”

Hannig, 56, has been in the Illinois House since 1979. He is a deputy majority leader to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and has been the leading budget expert for House Democrats for years.

“I think it’s a great appointment. He knows the budget and to pick a downstater sends all of the right signals,” said Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, whose district is next to Hannig’s. “I think it’s a great pick for the governor and it’s a big loss for the speaker.”

* The Post-Dispatch gives a hat tip in this direction and explains

Why this matters is, A., the Dept of Transportation is among the most major posts in government, B., Hannig is a downstater from the outer edge of the Metro East, which indicates that maybe Quinn is serious about being governor of the whole state and not just of Chicago, as was his predecessor, impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich; and C., Hannig is a top lieutenant of House Speaker Michael Madigan, with whom Blago warred for years, to the serious detriment of the state. Quinn’s relationship with Madigan is still an open question, but a Hannig appointment would go a long way toward answering it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

Suppose, for the moment, that Illinois constructs its own Mt. Rushmore.

What would the mountain be made of and who would be on it?

Please, answer both questions, in order. Thanks. Snark encouraged, of course.

[Derived from suggestions on yesterday’s QOTD.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


The trouble ahead *** UPDATED x1 ***

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* The Daily Herald editorializes in favor of mostly cosmetic budget cuts

Start with furlough days. Cut or trim former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s expansion of health-care coverage for families with six-figure incomes. End free mass transit for wealthy senior citizens. Look at raising the income qualifiers that give some senior citizens “circuit breaker” tax cuts.

Look at eliminating or combining some state agencies, like the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity which was omitted in a different form once before.

Like many suburbs have, scale back or close the state fair until we pay our debts. Edgar did that too.

While feel-good, none of these will truly amount to a hill of beans. And I’m pretty sure that Quinn will make cuts along these lines - relatively small things that will get big media coverage and positive editorials.

The editorial is entitled: “Show us you’ll make tough cuts first,” but it demonstrates how difficult it really is to actually cut our way out of this mess.

“End free mass transit for wealthy senior citizens”? So, transit agencies will have to check everyone’s IRS returns?

“Cut or trim former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s expansion of health-care coverage for families with six-figure incomes”? That’s about ten bucks.

And isn’t it a little silly to argue for tiny cuts like this in order to justify huge tax hikes?

* And what happens when small cuts are made? Furor

It never made sense for Illinois to close seven state parks, but then there were many things Rod Blagojevich did that never made sense.

Gov. Pat Quinn fulfilled a promise and undid one of his predecessor’s mistakes today when he reopened Castle Rock, Lowden and five other state parks.

I didn’t agree with the park closures, either, but they were exactly the sort of “tough” cuts that the DH is arguing for.

This isn’t gonna be easy at all because logic gets tossed right out the window.

*** UPDATE *** Another case in point

So you think your property taxes are too high and want to appeal? Doing so will cost you at least 25 bucks if a state agency that handles appeals gets its way.

In a formal legal notice filed Friday, the state Property Tax Appeals Board, known as PTAB, said it intends to begin charging from $25 for fairly small appeals filed by homeowners to as much as $450 for multi-million-dollar cases filed by factory and office-tower owners. […]

[PTAB Executive Director Louis Apostol said] the agency’s budget is half of what it was in 2003, when Cook County Assessor James Houlihan engineered a roughly 50% cut in the agency’s budget in an attempt to limit its jurisdiction to areas of the state outside of Cook County. […]

But Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a Chicago watchdog and tax-policy group, said PTAB needs to specifically spell out what property owners will get for their money and even then could face his opposition.

“PTAB is known as the ‘poor-person’s court’,” Mr. Msall said. “This has the potential to restrict access to PTAB.”

People are really gonna hate that move, but where the heck else is the money going to come from after PTAB’s budget was slashed?

* Related…

* Lawmakers move to launch hospital assessment program

* Quinn turns thumbs down on gas tax hike idea

* Quinn hopes to reopen Dana-Thomas House

* With parks reopened, Gov. Quinn wants to do same with historic sites

* Quinn opens parks, fixes boneheaded Blagojevich decision

* Petition-drive leaders help reopen park after Quinn’s announcement

* Illinois reopens 7 state parks

* Gov to reopen 7 state parks including Lowden

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


The “bad guys” win one, world freaks out

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* You’d think the world was coming to an end

According to U.S. District Court Judge Milton I. Shadur, Former Chicago Alderman and judicial kingmaker Eddie Vrdolyak is not an insider.

And when Vrdolyak agreed to act as a “finder” for a crooked land deal in which he knew the fix was in and he would have to split that finder’s fee with a crooked school board member who would steer the sale to Vrdolyak’s client, that was not a “kickback,” Shadur said.

When the school board, because of the crooked board member, passed up a $15.5 million bid for its property and instead took the $15 million crooked bid, that did not represent a tangible, calculable loss to the school of $500,000, Shadur said.

After finding all of that, Judge Shadur then called Eddie Vrdolyak “a good man” and let him go free.

With no prison time, and not a penny in restitution to the school.

* More

It was supposed to be the day of reckoning for former Chicago Ald. Edward Vrdolyak, the day he at last got sent to prison for an inside deal after what some say was a career built on them.

Instead, Chicago witnessed what seemed like another “Fast Eddie” moment.

* More

If you didn’t know the federal judiciary in Chicago was considered to be on the square, if you didn’t know that Judge Milton Shadur had built a reputation of integrity over three decades on the bench, if you didn’t know both those things, then you might suspect the fix was in Thursday for the benefit of Edward R. Vrdolyak.

As it is, I guess we’ll have to come up with other explanations for Shadur’s almost indefensible decision to allow Fast Eddie to continue his charmed existence by walking out of the Dirksen Federal Building with no jail time — even if no other explanation but a fix will ring true to corruption-weary Chicagoans.

* But lots of people believed that the original indictment was a real stretch. Here’s the meat of the judge’s argument

Shadur said he drew a line between Levine’s corruption and Vrdolyak’s role in the matter. He noted Vrdolyak had worked to bump up Smithfield’s initial offer of $9.5 million and that there seemed to be no concrete offers on the table that would have made any more money.

Shadur, who has a background in real estate law, said finder’s fees are a recognized part of such transactions and few real estate deals involve truly open bidding. […]

Shadur sometimes sparred with Assistant U.S. Atty. Christopher Niewoehner and cut him off as the prosecutor noted that Vrdolyak had connections to the powerful in Chicago.

“We do not sentence stick figures,” the judge said. “We do not sentence them because of what people might think about them.”

Shadur was right to cut off the prosecutor on that last point. And I’m pretty sure he’s right on the finder’s fee point.

* From the US Attorney…

“We strongly but respectfully disagree with the sentence of probation imposed on defendant Vrdolyak. As we argued in court, we believe a sentence of incarceration was appropriate for a defendant who schemed to share a $1.5 million fee with a corrupt insider involving the sale of a non-profit university’s valuable real estate asset.

“We will carefully consider appropriate options, including an appeal. We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute people who corrupt public or private boards through kickbacks and insider-dealing.”

Do you think Fitzgerald should appeal this sentence?

* Another win for Fast Eddie

* Ex-Chicago pol Vrdolyak gets $50K fine, probation

* Former Alderman Vrdolyak Avoids Prison

* Judge’s ‘respect for the law and integrity are unquestioned’

* ‘Fast Eddie’ a disgrace and a hero

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Daley for Senate? Brady to announce for guv

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* Bill Daley told me last year, flat-out, that he was not interested in going back to Washington, DC, whether in the Obama administration or in the US Senate. He may have changed his mind. Sneed

Sneed hears former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, a major President Obama supporter, plans to enter the U.S. Senate sweepstakes.

• • Translation: Sneed is told Daley plans to emerge as a major contestant for the controversial Senate seat once held by Barack Obama; now held by the embattled Roland Burris!

• • The stats: Daley, who will trade on his stature and experience, has already talked to potential fund-raisers and plans to make an announcement in mid-April.

• • To wit: Daley’s keen interest in the U.S. Senate seat pits him against state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, 32, a rising star in Dem politics who recently accompanied U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin on a congressional trip overseas. Giannoulias, who plays basketball with Obama, plans to announce the formation Monday of an exploratory committee to run for the Senate.

* And, as I told subscribers yesterday, Sen. Bill Brady announces for governor on Monday

State Sen. Bill Brady will formally kick off his second bid for governor with a four-city fly-around Monday.

The 47-year-old Bloomington Republican, who received about 20 percent of the vote in the 2006 gubernatorial primary, is planning stops in Chicago, Springfield, Marion and Bloomington.

With his announcement, Brady becomes the first candidate to formally announce plans for the for the 2010 election.

As a conservative Republican, Brady said his campaign themes may hinge on what happens in the spring legislative session, where the Democrat-controlled House and Senate, as well as Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, are hinting at raising taxes to close a massive budget gap.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


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Friday, Feb 27, 2009

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Morning Shorts

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

* Integrys keeps dividend, cuts capital budget

Peoples Gas is cutting its capital budget by a whopping 46% this year as parent Integrys Energy Group Inc. conserves cash in large part to continue paying a dividend — one that it just raised — to investors.

* Economy Shrinks Faster Than Expected In 4Q

6.2 Percent Contraction In 4th Quarter Of 2008, Worst In 25 Years

* Foreclosure crisis: Federal aid to help Joliet and Will County fix and resell foreclosed homes

* Sidetracked by slump, realty pros eager to get back on course

* GM posts $30.9 billion loss, keeps spending billions

* Tough times drive up community college enrollment

* More students a two-edged sword

* Northwestern approaches $50,000

Facing a steep drop in its endowment, Northwestern University says its tuition, room and board will rise 3.6 percent this fall, — to nearly $50,000.

* Dire Budget Predictions for Chicago Schools

There is the perfect storm of reduced revenues, and ballooning and explosive pension payments. And the only word I can use for it is explosive, because they go up by hundreds of millions of dollars in one year.

The district will not be able to plug budget holes with an estimated $390 million from the stimulus package, since much of that money is earmarked. Huberman, who’s been on the job about four weeks, said he’ll cut central office jobs before touching schools.

* Unfiltered: Ron Huberman on the CPS Budget

* Chicago schools chief wants kids safe from crossing gang turf

Ron Huberman, the chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, said he wants to replace a piecemeal approach with a districtwide effort with police to evaluate how gangs affect school attendance boundaries, what gang boundaries students must cross to get to school and even how CTA bus routes intersect boundaries as they carry students to class.

* Low CPI has local school districts slashing expenses

Stimulus plan or no stimulus plan, many suburban school districts are hacking away at next year’s budgets because of a steep drop in the Consumer Price Index, a figure that determines how much property tax revenue schools can collect.

* Lake County Journals Honors Congressman Mark Kirk and Sheriff Mark Curran, Jr. with ForeFronts Award

* Democrat Bean votes against spending plan

U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean was one of 20 Democrats to vote against this fiscal year’s federal appropriations plan Wednesday, putting the Barrington resident on the side of Republicans in the suburbs.

* Southland reps bring home projects

Local members of Congress used their clout on Capitol Hill to include millions of dollars for Southland projects in a $410 billion spending bill that passed the House on Wednesday.

* County Budget Axe Spares Jobs at Health Bureau

Cook County health officials say they can absorb the latest budget cuts without trimming more jobs or services. But one heavy-hitter in county government says he’s not so sure.

* Whose side is he on?

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis thinks it’s a bad idea to release the names of officers who have multiple citizen complaints against them—such a bad idea that he’s defying a federal judge’s order to do so.

* Aviation, CTA get new chiefs

* New CTA President Will Face Serious Challenges

When he takes over as the new president of the CTA on Thursday, Richard Rodriguez will face a bevy of challenges and a $242 million budget gap.

* Mayor Richard Daley names new CTA, aviation bosses

Richard Rodriguez had barely enough time to learn his way around Chicago’s airports before he was reassigned Thursday to the CTA, the nation’s second-largest transit system.

* A look inside Illinois’ only super=max prison

* Tollway directors push for high-tech violation process

- Posted by Mike Murray   7 Comments      


Feigenholtz goes negative *** UPDATED x1 ***

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

[Bumped up to Friday for visibility and updated.]

* Rep. Sara Feigenholtz’s campaign has launched a TV attack on Mike Quigley. Feigenholtz has swapped out her entire ad buy with this ad, so she’s now 100 percent negative, but there’s still the positive SEIU ads…


Text…

In the race for Congress, who’ll deliver for us? Mike Quigley? He talks a good game, but he endorsed Todd Stroger. Even sending his county staff to help Stroger’s campaign. And Quigley voted for Stroger’s budget, cutting nurses and hospital workers to keep Stroger friends on the payroll.

The better choice? Sara Feigenholtz passed healthcare for kids. More mammogram coverage. This Tuesday, let’s end the games. Choose the candidate who always stands with us.

* This tongue in cheek copy of the Feigenholtz ad was posted to YouTube by Quigley’s campaign. There’s some biting commentary before, during and after the ad. There’s even a Blagojevich/Feigenholtz smooch tacked onto the end…


*** UPDATE *** From a press release…

Cook County commissioner Mike Quigley, candidate for Congress, will be joined by Cook County commissioner Forrest Claypool on Friday morning to respond to a new negative and misleading television ad from a rival campaign.

On Thursday, Sara Feigenholtz’s campaign began airing a new attack ad that includes several falsehoods which Quigley and Claypool will refute.

Quigley and Claypool will speak outside the Cook County building, 118 N. Clark, at 10:00 A..M.

Quigley has been endorsed by the city’s two major newspapers. In endorsing Quigley, both the Tribune and the Sun-Times cited Quigley’s record fighting for reform and opposing Todd Stroger.

- Posted by Rich Miller   77 Comments      


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Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009

* Every now and then I have trouble coming up with a QOTD. Today is one of those days.

* The Question: What question of the day would you like to see asked here? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   109 Comments      


5th CD roundup

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009

* Democrat Victor Forys has gotten little to no media coverage in the 5th Congressional special election. That’s unfortunate. Forys has an interesting campaign strategy that’s spelled out pretty well in an article written by a Polish Daily News reporter

Out of approximately 650,000 residents in the district, more than 111,000 (17%) are of Polish descent.

“All we need is 30,000 Polish-Americans to come out and vote and we’ll win,” Forys claimed in a phone interview. The candidate is counting on a very low turnout by the area’s non-Polish residents.

He probably only needs a fraction of that number, considering the expected low turnout. Forys has been pushing early voting very hard, and from what I hear the early voting roster is jam-packed with Polish surnames. Forys claims he’s already leading going into election day, and he might not be all wrong.

Forys runs a huge medical clinic in the district which serves the immigrant community. He claims the clinic serves 10,000 patients in the district. He attended grad school in Poland and has apparently been quoted often in Chicago’s extensive Polish media. The guy is very plugged in.

* But with visibility comes scrutiny, and being scrutined is not always fun. Consider this Forys press release, which features an attack on Mike Quigley by Republican gadfly Tony Peraica

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica called Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley a big phony when it comes to reform and in fact the worst kind of political insider.

Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley has sent out nearly 10 mail pieces showing Commissioner Quigley standing next to Commissioner Forest Claypool slamming Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.

The Minister of Propaganda for Germany in World War II, said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

“Commissioner Mike Quigley is telling a big lie, and he is repeating it over and over and over,” said Dr. Victor Forys, M.D.

Nazi baiting? What the heck?

Peraica’s support probably helps Forys in a fractured and impossible to predict Democratic primary. Media scrutiny might just help his campaign, even if it’s negative. But that hit was way over the line.

* Meanwhile, another little-noticed Democratic candidate is continuing to pile up endorsements from groups that are better known for backing conservative Republicans. From a press release…

Illinois Citizens for Life Federal PAC announced [yesterday] that the organization is endorsing Cary Capparelli, candidate on the Democratic ballot to fill Rahm Emanuel’s seat representing Illinois’ 5th Congressional District. […]

The Illinois Citizens for Life Federal PAC endorsement is the third one in less than a week for Cary Capparelli. Cary has received an endorsement from Family-Pac Federal last weekend. National Taxpayers United Illinois endorsed him on Monday. […]

“Cary Capparelli is a traditional Democrat who represents the values of the majority of hard-working Democrats in the 5th District,” said Paul Caprio, director of Family Pac Federal.

* And another “second tier” candidate, Tom Geoghegan, is trying to get some publicity by attaching himself to the Roland Burris issue. From a press release…

A suit was filed in court today calling on Governor Patrick Quinn and the state of Illinois to call a special election for the Senate seat previously occupied by President Barack Obama, as required by the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

* And now to the “top tier” campaigns. The Sun-Times smacked down Mike Quigley

The fight for the open 5th Congressional seat is getting ugly.

And Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley deserves a knock for moving it in that direction.

With Election Day looming Tuesday, mailboxes in the North Side and suburban district have been littered with flyers, including a cheap and misleading one by Quigley. The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board endorsed Quigley and we stand by that endorsement. But that means we’re holding him to a higher standard, including calling him out when he strays.

Several of his ads blame his opponents Sara Feigenholtz and John Fritchey, both state representatives, for giving Chicago the highest sales tax in the nation.

That’s not accurate.

* The Tribune continues to omit sentences from its print edition in its online stories, which is just plain bizarre. For instance

Of all the candidates in the congressional race, Feigenholtz perhaps has the strongest ties to Blagojevich. Her campaign committee gave more than $10,000 to Blagojevich, including $5,000 in June 2006, when it was clear to the state’s political class that the then-governor’s administration was under federal scrutiny.

This line was in the print edition, but not online…

She also has hired as a campaign aide Becky Carroll, a deputy chief of staff to Blagojevich until September 2007.

* The Trib also whacks Rep. John Fritchey today

Like his predecessor in the Illinois House, John Fritchey is trying to jump from Springfield to Washington running as a reformer.

And much like then-state Rep. Rod Blagojevich did in his bid for Congress, Fritchey enjoys the backing of a politically connected father-in-law, other clout-heavy Democratic North Side ward bosses and many labor unions.

The piece is drenched with overt hostility. Go read the whole thing.

* Related…

* 5th District Campaigns Adjust to Low Voter Turnout

* Last day for early voting in Rahm Emanuel replacement race: Through Wednesday, just 3,420 people in the Chicago portion of the district had cast a ballot. In the suburban Cook County part, a whopping 235 people have voted since the early voting started Feb. 16.

* Hopefuls spar over economy, Olympics

* IL-05: The (Victor) Forys Interview

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


More Burris revelations, more threats *** UPDATED x1 ***

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009

* Drip, drip, drip

The son of embattled Sen. Roland Burris is a federal tax deadbeat who landed a $75,000-a-year state job under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich five months ago, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Blagojevich’s administration hired Roland W. Burris II as a senior counsel for the state’s housing authority Sept. 10 — about six weeks after the Internal Revenue Service slapped a $34,163 tax lien on Burris II and three weeks after a mortgage company filed a foreclosure suit on his South Side house. […]

Burris II’s hiring, however, raises more questions about Sen. Burris’ interactions with Blagojevich and his inner circle at a time when the governor was soliciting Sen. Burris for campaign contributions and Burris was angling to have Blagojevich appoint him to the Senate seat once held by President Obama.

Burris also talked to former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris and Blagojevich insider John Filan about a job for his nephew before Blagojevich was arrested.

* More drip, drip, drip

In Springfield, the head of the legislative committee that took Burris’ testimony on how he got the Senate appointment from ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a timeline aimed at refuting Republican accusations that she sat on a controversial affidavit revising Burris’ story.

But in her written response to Republicans, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) acknowledged she received the affidavit from Burris’ attorney on Friday, Feb. 6, days earlier than was previously known.

“Without a closer look, I assumed the entire document was a routine response to committee questions,” she wrote. “Any suggestion that I engaged in a deliberate cover up, that I purposely delayed distribution of the information is totally false.”

*** UPDATE *** From House Democratic spokesman Steve Brown in comments…

Actually this part of the Trib’s reporting is dead wrong…her first statement and yeseterday’s letter contain the same info…As soon as Jim Webb returns my phone call the correction will be requested.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* Delmarie Cobb, Burris’ media adviser who more than hinted to Carol Marin this week that she intends to play the race card, sent a pretty frank letter to Ald. Freddrenna Lyle which was then posted on a local blog

In true David Axelrod style, all week, white progressive Democratic elected officials have called for Roland’s resignation–David Orr, Dan Hynes, Dick Durbin, Pat Quinn, and Alexi Giannoullias.

You may not be able to ask this question, but where have all of these self-righteous people been during all of the corruption, scandal, pay-to-play and mismanagement revelations that have been uncovered by the Chicago Sun Times and Tribune on Mayor Daley. Not once have these elected officials or the Chicago media called for Daley’s resignation. As John Kass said in his column on Friday, black elected officials are perceived as weak and white elected officials are seen as powerful. Consequently, we can do to Roland–with no evidence of wrongdoing–what we can’t do to Daley and others with mounds of evidence.

Also, all of them will need black votes to be elected or re-elected, so this isn’t a good time to make enemies of the black community.

It seems pretty clear where this is headed.

A not so veiled threat…

Many black elected officials didn’t like Barack, but they stayed quiet and got on board and they need to do the same for Roland.

The ultimate goal…

We need to help rehabilitate Roland’s image and try to get him elected. Then, over the course of his six-year term, we need to find a successor, who is African American.

…Adding… As a commenter rightly notes, Ms. Cobb supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama last year. The irony abounds.

* Related…

* Burris expresses concern over turmoil he’s caused state Dem leader: “We spoke very briefly; he expressed concern over attacks on me and said that he’d done nothing wrong. We did not discuss the affidavit,” Currie said Wednesday.

* Burris trying to appear as if situation is normal

* Burris ignores calls to resign, goes about day

* Burris? He’s all theirs.

* Burris Presides Over the Senate

* Burris has campaign Web site, but not much on it: “Legislation,” “Endorsements,” “Accomplishments,” “Issues,” “News Articles” - these sections are all blank. The “Biography” section contains 500 words about Burris’ career, and he names his wife and children in the “Family” section.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


AG Madigan: Legislators can force special election

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009

* I’ll have more on Sen. Burris in a different post this morning, but this should kickstart the day in an interesting way…

In the latest installment of the saga of U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, Atty. Gen Lisa Madigan issued an opinion late Wednesday saying she thinks it would be legal for state lawmakers to move up the date of the Senate election to choose a successor to President Barack Obama, who vacated the seat.

The legal opinion by Madigan, which was sought by Republicans, means legislators in theory might be able to force Burris to run in a special election if he wants to retain the U.S. Senate seat he was appointed to by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich amid a cloud of scandal. Right now, Obama’s former Senate seat is set to be decided by Illinois voters in a February 2010 primary and a November 2010 general election.

If Burris lost, he would be out of office sooner than January 2011, when the term he is filling is set to end. That would also be the case if Burris chose not to run—Illinois’ new senator would take over shortly after a special election.

In a letter to members of the General Assembly, Madigan said such a move would be legal under the U.S. Constitution.

Read the opinion by clicking here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009

* ‘Fast Eddie’ Vrdolyak to be sentenced today

* GM posts $9.6B 4Q loss, burns through $6.2B cash

* New Report: Drop in Chicago Home Sales

The Illinois Association of Realtors says Chicago home sales are down about 25 percent. This January, about 900 homes were sold in Chicago… that’s compared to the nearly 1100 in January 2008. David Hanna is president of the Chicago Association of Realtors.

The report says the average home price last month for the Chicago area dropped below $250,000. The average in January of last year was more than $320,000.

* New reports due on jobless claims, home sales

* Public headaches for private schools

* Durbin urges regulator to fight CN appeal

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says Canadian National Railway should have to meet a key condition placed on it before its hotly debated acquisition of a nearly 200-mile railway line encircling Chicago.

CN this week asked a federal court to overturn a requirement from the Surface Transportation Board that CN pay around 70 percent of the costs of building overpasses or underpasses at two crossings.

Montreal-based CN says railroads have historically paid only up to 10 percent.

* Judge approves hospital settlement with uninsured

Tens of thousands of uninsured patients could qualify for up to $3.5 million in refunds on payments they made to eight Chicago and suburban hospitals under a class-action lawsuit settlement approved Wednesday.

* Despite probe, problems continue at psych facility

* Open government will lead to less political corruption

* Feds bag all kinds of bad guys

* Daley: Inspector General Can Stick Around

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says he’ll reappoint the city’s inspector general if he wants to serve another term. David Hoffman’s investigations have led to some embarrassing reports about city departments and employees. But Mayor Daley says Hoffman’s “done a very good job.” Daley was asked Wednesday if Hoffman had “stepped on any toes.”

DALEY: No, he hasn’t stepped on any toes. No, he hasn’t. He just does his job. I don’t know why you’re [asking if he’s] stepping on toes. He does his job. Rightfully. And that’s what his authorization is. Inspector general.

* Show Us The Money: City Aldermen Want Answers

* Slam brakes on Chicago’s rent-a-tax

* Chicago schools moving ahead with closings

* Protesters Vow to Keep Fighting School Closings

Sixteen Chicago Public Schools will be closed or revamped at the end of this school year. The Chicago Board of Education unanimously approved the plan yesterday.

The district says 12 of the schools are under-enrolled and 4 are performing poorly. Those four will see their entire staff dismissed.

* Former Aviation Commissioner to Take Over CTA

* Cook County to name new hospitals CEO

- Posted by Mike Murray   2 Comments      


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PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Schilling endorses LaHood
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Duckworth to announce on Monday
* Rauner mulls selling Thompson Center
* Question of the day
* It's just a bill...
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Brown: Exploring an exploratory committee is "under review"
* Rauner administration denies union report of progress on fair share suit
* *** UPDATED x2 - Durbin out of the running? *** Illinois Republicans react to potential Durbin elevation
* Is a new era finally dawning in Illinois?
* Meanwhile, in Opposite Land...
* Good morning!
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