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This just in… Quinn: Deficit could be far worse, won’t rule out gas tax hikes *** Hurtgen pleads guilty ***

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

* 1:32 pm - I told subscribers about this earlier today…

Gov. Pat Quinn says the state’s massive budget hole could be bigger than $9 billion by next year, creating a crisis unlike any Illinois has ever seen.

Quinn, in an impromptu discussion with reporters after a Wednesday meeting at the Capitol with Senate Republicans, said the state’s budget picture could get worse as the world’s economy continues to falter. That could mean very difficult budget decisions facing him and lawmakers, although Quinn wouldn’t commit to pushing tax increases or other solutions.

The deficit could be as bad as $11.5 billion.

More…

“It’s no fun to talk about taxes, but we have to have a fair fiscal system that pays its bills,” Quinn said he told Republicans.

The governor said he’s skeptical of raising the state’s motor fuel tax or fees on driver’s licenses and vehicle titles to help solve the financial problems but can’t rule anything out at this point.

That “can’t rule anything out” is quite telling.

*** 1:48 pm *** Nick Hurtgen pled guilty today. He’s looking at 22.5 months behind bars and is cooperating. Hurtgen may provide a lead to a couple of different people, for instance, there was that infamous plane ride

Levine said he spoke to Gov. Blagojevich about state boards only once: while on a flight back from New York. A fundraising trip, Levine had again footed the bill for the private jet. On board the plane to New York on Oct. 29, 2003, had been Blagojevich, Levine, lawyer and fundraiser Joseph Cari, Bear Stearns financier Nick Hurtgen, Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk, Blagojevich friend John Wyma, fundraiser Chris Kelly and Blagojevich bodyguard Joe Morrero. On the way back, said Levine, it was just Kelly, Levine and the governor as passengers.

Levine thanked the governor for his reappointment to the Health Facilities Planning Board.

“The governor said … ‘Never discuss any state board with me,’” Levine said. Instead, Blagojevich told Levine to talk only through Rezko or Chris Kelly. But he did add, “But you stick with us and you’ll do very well for yourself,” Levine testified. “I took it to mean that I would have an opportunity to make a lot of money.”

“Mr. Kelly (then) changed the topic of the conversation,” Levine said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

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Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

* The Republicans do not currently allow voters to elect state central committeepersons. The Democrats do, and quite a few Republicans, particularly the “insurgent conservatives,” want the same democratic rights. The GOP powers that be fret that the elections could open up all sorts of nasty wounds and further divide the party.

A bill to mandate open elections can be found here.

* The Question: Should the General Assembly pass that bill? Explain why or why not.

- Posted by Rich Miller   84 Comments      


Lisa Madigan under fire

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

* AG Madigan is getting some political heat

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is being threatened with political retribution if she insists on washing her hands of torture cases tied to former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

Chicago Alderman Ed Smith said Tuesday sending five of the 25 Burge cases back to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office as Madigan requested will mean they will not prosecuted.

Smith warned Madigan will pay a price in a race for governor or for re-election, if she insists on passing the cases back to the state’s attorney’s office.

Smith lost his countywide race last year, but he has a powerful local organization and his political retribution threats cannot be taken lightly.

* A little background

Burge and officers under his command were accused of torturing many into confessions through beatings, electric shock and other odious acts. He was terminated by the Chicago Police Department in 1993 and indicted in October 2008 on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Federal prosecutors have expanded the investigation to include officers under the former commander’s command when the alleged torture acts took place.

* More background…

The [five cases Madigan wants to give back to the state’s attorney] were among 21 turned over to the state attorney general in 2003 after a judge ruled that then-State’s Atty. Richard Devine had a conflict of interest because he once represented Burge in private practice.

* Devine is gone, so the conflict no longer exists, according to Madigan…

“Given the fact that there has been no activity and the fact the conflict no longer exists, we have asked Judge Biebel to consider assigning them back to the state’s attorney, where they would have been if not for Devine,” [Cara Smith, Madigan’s deputy chief of staff] said.

* But a recent AP story cited money as a big factor…

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office says it can’t handle the remaining cases related to former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge because of budget cuts imposed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

* Back to Ald. Smith

“If this is shifted back, it’s gonna get lost in the cracks, put on the back burner and nothing will happen. Those people who are in jail will remain in jail. I want her to follow these cases to fruition and make sure that justice is served from her office,” Smith said. […]

“Our community is still upset about these cases. It could give the impression that she just wants to walk away and let it go”

He has a point.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Quinn doesn’t like gas tax hike *** UPDATED x1 ***

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

*** UPDATE *** “Premature” does not mean it won’t happen, by any stretch of the imagination

Gov. Pat Quinn said today that talk of a huge state tax increase in next month’s budget proposal is “premature,” and he reminded local officials and interest groups lobbying for more money that times are tight. […]

“It’s premature to talk about that now,” Quinn said as he entered the Capitol through its main North entrance, a marked departure from Blagojevich’s habit of using a basement utility tunnel. “But when we have the plan, we’ll lay out in full detail what the needs are and how to pay for it.”

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* As I told subscribers this morning, Gov. Quinn isn’t at all enthused with increasing the motor fuel tax to pay for the capital bill…

While the governors meeting focused in large part on building the nation’s infrastructure, Illinois hasn’t approved a major public works program in a decade. Part of the problem was Blagojevich’s strained relationship with legislators, but funding remained a major stumbling block. Now, lawmakers there are floating the idea of using a gas tax to pay for it.

But after talking with fellow governors about how to pay for infrastructure improvements, Quinn said a gas tax hike sounds “counterproductive.”

“If we want to wean ourselves from a petroleum-based economy, then we can’t be using that particular source of funding to invest in the things we need to do to become energy-efficient,” he said.

The governor, who plans to run for re-election in 2010, said he’s “never been excited” about the gas tax because it is an excise tax that isn’t based on a customer’s ability to pay. But the idea of the gas tax as a user tax, to pay for infrastructure doesn’t make sense, because infrastructure is more than just roads, he said.

Quinn suggested that infrastructure plans should include non-transportation items — such as laying fiber optic lines along highways — to promote telemedicine, online education and Internet commerce.

The Senate Dems are looking at a 16-23 cents per gallon increase in the tax. The House Dems are mulling an 8 cents per gallon hike. But Quinn doesn’t appear to love either idea.

To raise a billion dollars for capital, he’d need about a third of a percentage point income tax increase. But that’s without all the exemptions he wants to put into place for lower income taxpayers. Some downstaters are looking at the income tax for capital, but the income tax will probably also have to be raised to close the budget deficit.

* Semi-related…

* Govs’ Q & A: Avoiding deficits post stimulus

* Illinois to Get First Chunk of Stimulus Money. But they’re unclear on how much it will be, and what it can be used for.

* Reform committee wraps up second hearing

* Illinois officials call for letting public see secret investigations of corruption

* Ill. government inspectors want more transparency

* State salary data ought to be online

* Green Party leaders in Illinois slam Senate President John Cullerton’s comments opposing campaign finance reform

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


5th CD roundup *** UPDATED x2 - Fritchey calls out Quigley *** Quigley fires back ***

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

*** UPDATE 2 *** Quigley claims he didn’t vote for the resolution calling on the General Assembly to pass the transit bailout. From a press release…

The Quigley for Congress campaign responded today to false statements made today by state Rep. John Fritchey.

“Just like when it came to vote on sales taxes, John Fritchey got it wrong again today,” said Tom Bowen, Quigley for Congress campaign manager.

Bowen added:

“Fritchey is doing what all politicians do when they are in trouble, they mislead the voters. Mike Quigley never voted for the resolution Fritchey cites, nor did he co-sponsor it. Quigley has said consistently that the reason the CTA was in such a dire condition was the direct result of John Fritchey and Sara Feigenholtz voting for budget after budget that shortchanged mass transit, while failing to hold the CTA accountable for the money it was wasting on mismanagement. When faced with a similar crisis in Cook County, Mike Quigley held his ground and voted against the Stroger sales tax hike while Fritchey and Feigenholtz voted for a sales tax hike, helping make Chicago’s sales tax the highest in the nation.”

“Mike didn’t vote for sales taxes on that day, any day before, or any day since. John Fritchey can’t say that. Sara Feigenholtz can’t say that.

“And that’s why the taxpayers of this district are saying they support Mike Quigley.”

Fritchey’s campaign claims that Quigley missed the committee vote, but was present for the floor vote, which was unanimous and a voice roll call. Quigley’s people deny it. Stay tuned.

*** UPDATE *** This is a very legit hit by Rep. Fritchey. Several legislators were talking about Mike Quigley’s attacks this week and weren’t happy about them. We’ll see if the media covers it. From a press release…

State Representative John Fritchey (D-Chicago), a candidate in next week’s Special Primary Election to fill the 5th Congressional District vacancy, today chided one of his opponents in the race as an opportunist and a hypocrite. Rep. Fritchey’s comments came in response to mailers and statements made by Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley regarding the state’s bailout of the CTA, Metra and Pace mass transit systems, and his supposed opposition to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.

A recent Quigley campaign mail piece attacked Fritchey for supporting legislation that kept the buses and trains running in the Chicagoland area. But at the time the legislation was being considered in Springfield, Quigley actually voted for a Cook County resolution ‘urging the Illinois General Assembly to take such action as is necessary and appropriate to increase
operating funding.” (County Resolution 07-R-310)

“Mike Quigley has crossed the line from political spin and jumped right into the realm of deceiving the voters,” stated Rep. Fritchey. “When it was politically popular to keep the buses and trains running so people could get to and from work, Mike was fully on board. Now that he’s running for higher office, he’s criticizing the same bailout that he wanted passed at the
time.”

You can find the resolution on this page.

I wrote about Quigley’s attacks on Fritchey and Rep. Feigenholtz on this issue yesterday. You can click here to see one of the mailers in question.

* Also, Jesse Greenberg points to this whack of Quigley by Forrest Claypool after the 2007 budget vote….

On February 10, Commissioners Quigley, Gorman, Goslin and Silvestri switched sides and voted for President Stroger’s budget, which protected politically connected upper management personnel and sacrificed frontline personnel. These same commissioners then proceeded to vote against the very amendment they publicly supported a week prior, resulting in the defeat of our omnibus budget amendment 10 to 7.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* While Rep. John Fritchey’s ketchup on a hot dog mailer will probably go down as the goofiest ad of the season (if not the decade), his TV closer is quite strong…


Fritchey doesn’t have nearly the money behind this ad that Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and SEIU have behind their TV buys. But this isn’t a normal campaign. Phil Crane won a 1969 special congressional election (after Donald Rumsfeld left for the Nixon White House) with something like 3,000 votes in an 18-candidate primary. Weird things can happen when the ballot is crowded and nobody votes.

* I really don’t get the Chicago media’s aversion to this race. For instance, today’s Tribune profile of Ald. Pat O’Connor (at least the online version) makes no mention of the paper’s weeklong series of articles about O’Connor’s zoning “issues.” The paper’s edit board also made no reference to the series when O’Connor was mentioned in its endorsement of Mike Quigley. Also, the Trib’s Quigley profile posted online is only a small portion of the print story.

* Speaking of Quigley, David Ormsby claims the candidate is being hypocritical with his attacks on Feigenholtz and Fritchey over the mass transit bailout vote…

Fritchey and Feigenholtz had the courage to take a tough vote to keep the buses and trains running for thousands of their constituents and thousands of Quigley’s. Quigley had the cowardice to attack them for it.

* If you want to follow the campaign via Twitter, WindyCitizen has a handy new tool.

* I banned someone for life yesterday because of a very inappropriate comment about a candidate. That commenter will never be allowed back in, no matter what, for as long as this blog exists. I even deleted all of his/her previous comments for good measure. It was a very satisfying Orwellian erasure.

Besides that one idiot, the comments weren’t too horrible yesterday, but things have gotten out of hand in previous posts. I will ask one more time for a bit of civility and common sense. I’m in no mood and have no time to babysit overzealous campaign hacks today. Grow up or leave.

Also, please use only one screen name in comments. I can see your IP addresses, so I know when you’re attempting to post multiple “thoughts” under different names.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Burris adviser says he’ll run, planning to play race card *** UPDATED x1 ***

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

*** UPDATE *** Burris hires new staff. From a press release…

Brady King, interim chief of staff], a Capitol Hill veteran since 1992, has served Representative Chet Edwards (D-TX) as Appropriations Advisor, Representative Allen Boyd (D-FL) as Legislative Director, and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) as Defense Policy Advisor. King holds degrees from Texas A&M University and Baylor University, and he is completing a PhD at Temple University.

[Jim O’Connor, Communications Director] is a veteran of Chicago and Illinois politics. O’Connor has served as Press Secretary for US Senate candidate Blair Hull, Political Director at the firm of Wilhelm & Conlon, and has most recently been based in San Francisco as a political commentator for Bay-area evening news station, KRON4.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* He isn’t leaving and he’s talking about running again

“Roland is going to stay in the Senate, going to stay until the people of Illinois decide if he should leave,” [Burris media and political adviser Delmarie Cobb] said.

Meaning what?

“Petitions will begin to be circulated in September,” she responded. “Then we’ll see.”

Announcing that he wouldn’t run in 2010 would’ve forced Sen. Burris to give up his only remaining leverage.

* Cobb clearly intends to use the race card

Now, Cobb says, Burris’ enemies are trying to bloody him up and weaken him with mounting legal bills.

“And then it won’t be called racism,” said Cobb.

Oy.

* Dick Durbin ramps up the pressure, but there’s only so much anyone can do…

Durbin said he would not support Burris if he ran.

* Speaking of doing nothing

A plan to change the way Illinois fills vacant US Senate seats faces a tough road in the state Legislature.

* This is strange

Durbin said Burris told him he was under some financial pressure. Burris has said he now owes at least $400,000 for lawyers.

Burris said his legal bills were $400K three weeks ago, before the latest round of madness. Maybe he just hasn’t received the new invoice, or he’s just clueless or not telling the truth. The law firm he’s using is his own, so they’re really piling up the bills on the guy, or he’s just making stuff up.

* The congressman didn’t respond, but he could’ve said the same thing right back to Burris…

Burris approached fellow Illinois Democrat Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and while shaking his hand, said, “I did nothing wrong, Jesse. I did nothing wrong.”

* Burris was given a taste of the “DC diss” during the president’s speech last night

Members of Congress have special public rituals for pariahs who cannot, for various reasons, be ejected. At best, they show a distinct lack of made-for-TV enthusiasm for the scorned. At worst, they’ll stare into the middle distance as if through Those Not to Be Acknowledged.

More commonly, they smile, but not warmly; hug everyone else and issue a polite nod or maybe back-pat to the undesirable before moving on. Rarely, they’ll turn their backs or be rude. Particularly not on live television.

Oooo. That’s so… not gonna work at all. Whatta buncha goofs.

And, horror upon horrors, he had to walk alone

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris walked alone to President Barack Obama’s address tonight, while other senators walked in pairs.

* Brutal? Really?…

After the speech, Obama went around shaking hands. When Obama came near the area when embattled Sen. Roland Burris was standing — alone at this point and looking a little forelorn — Burris waved at him a few times.

Obama appeared not to respond. And the president certainly did not reach out. I don’t know if this qualifies as a snub, but it was a brutal reminder of the tough time Burris has ahead now that he has decided not to resign in the wake of controversies stemming from his appointment by ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

I really don’t think he cares…

Caption?

* Related…

* He’s not budging

* Burris rebuffs call to resign

* Heck, no, Burris won’t go — despite Durbin urging him to do so

* Durbin advises Burris to quit

* Durbin Suggests Burris Resign

* Burris gets frosty reception at Obama’s speech

* Stubborn Burris should resign

* Cross calls on Burris to give up Senate seat

* Brauer: Burris good for GOP, but he should quit

* Complicated Relationship Ahead for Burris, Durbin

* Beecher — Burris among missing at forum

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

* Voter turnout low for primary

* Cicero Town President Larry Dominick wins re-election

* Primary election results

* Machesney to have new village leader

* Experience rules polls in Dundee Township

* Riggenbach, Akeson advance in 3rd District race

* 205,000 people claim unemployment in Illinois

Illinois paid over 205,000 people unemployment checks last week.

That comes out to more than $114.7 million.

* ComEd cuts some workers’ hours

Power company ComEd slashed some employees’ work hours by 40 percent this week — just one week after announcing it would cancel projects under way, but avoid layoffs.

* Hard Working: Competing for a Job

* Chicago as a high-speed rail hub: Has the time for this idea finally come?

* New jobs declining in Will, Grundy

* South Shore Cultural Center face-lift draws smiles

* Sears Tower in silver?

110-story icon may get paint job to boost tenants, energy

* Background checks for sheriff’s office, police

The Cook County sheriff’s office and the Chicago Police Department are launching new efforts to weed out bad apples.

Sheriff Tom Dart recently ordered his internal-affairs investigators to conduct background checks on every one of the office’s roughly 7,000 employees, spokesman Steve Patterson said.

* Daley outburst faults feds’ focus

* Mayor wants feds to target gun trafficking

* Daley rants against feds

Daley’s broadside came during a news conference at police headquarters, called to unveil his annual package of gun-control legislation. The only new features are proposals to increase penalties for shooting students on or near school grounds and public transit and to prevent the private sale of handguns without a criminal background check.

* Daley: Feds Need Higher Priorities Than Celebs

* Tips for Mayor’s YouTube site

- Posted by Mike Murray   8 Comments      


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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

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This just in…

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* 2:54 pm - The teevee is reporting that US Sen. Dick Durbin asked US Sen. Roland Burris to resign. Burris said no, of course.

Durbin also said that Burris hasn’t made up his mind about whether he’ll run in 2010. So, the trial balloon from earlier today apparently was either false or was walked back.

From USA Today

Burris declined to comment as reporters circled around him and walked with him to the elevators. “My attorney suggests I don’t discuss this,” Burris said as he waited for the elevator.

* 3:05 pm - Politico

Durbin: “[Burris] said he had not made up his mind as to whether he would be a candidate [in 2010]…I told him that under the circumstances, I would consider resigning, in his shoes. He said he would not resign.”

* 3:38 pm - Video…


- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Improvements are in the eyes of the beholders

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* Ah, Cicero

Cook County Sheriff’s police escorted armed security personnel hired by Cicero President Larry Dominick from polling places during today’s primary election, according to the Cook County Clerk. […]

Officers from the Sheriff’s department may assist with security at polling places, [Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for Cook County clerk David Orr] said, but armed off-duty police officers hired by political candidates are not allowed.

Don’t tell that to the Cicero flack in chief…

But Cicero Town spokesman Dan Proft claimed the security personnel were necessary, “to make sure Garcia and his hooligans don’t cause any problems at the polling places.”

So, to stop some “hooligans” from causing trouble, Cicero is using armed guards who are not allowed at the polls and who had to be escorted off the premises by county sheriff’s deputies.

I suppose this is a big improvement from when Al Capone first took over the town’s government in the 1924 election. Capone used Tommy Gun wielding gangsters, not off-duty cops, at the polling places. And the sheriff’s deputies knew better than to show up.

Progress is relative.

* Meanwhile

Mayor Richard Daley alleged today that federal authorities ignore blatant drug and gun trafficking but are overzealous in prosecuting star athletes such as Barry Bonds and Michael Vick.

“They can find Barry Bonds and Michael Vick, but they can’t find a drug dealer?” Daley said at a news conference where he argued for tougher federal and state gun laws.

The mayor said federal law enforcement—which has targeted City Hall and Chicago police officials with indictments—has misplaced priorities because it charged football star Vick for dog-fighting and baseball slugger Bonds with lying about using steroids. […]

After his passionate defense of Vick and Bonds, the mayor would not say whether he thought the federal case against his former patronage chief Robert Sorich and two other aides was a fair use of law enforcement power.

And

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment on the mayor’s remarks.

The mayor seems a little edgy since the feds launched their probe of his airport.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Rove talks about the future in Schaumburg

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* The man who probably did more than anyone except maybe George Ryan to drive Illinois voters away from Republican candidates offers advice to Illinois Republicans…

“The people are looking closely at the quality of candidates you put forward,” Rove said. “You better not claw yourselves up and bloody yourselves up and cut yourselves up in a primary.”

That sounds exactly like what Jim Edgar has been saying for years. The message has been ignored, particularly by the right. The fact that these words are coming from the darling of the right wing is significant, if those who’ve hung on his every word in the past decide to listen now. The war between the two halves of the GOP here has been beyond destructive.

* More…

“It strikes me that you have a pretty easy message,” Rove told the several hundred attendees at the Schaumburg Marriott. “If you want change from the way things are then you ought to elect yourself a Republican governor.”

The message isn’t so simple, of course. Illinoisans are unhappy with the way things are going, but the polls I’ve published here in the past few months show the Republicans aren’t yet seen as a viable alternative. When a goofy Democrat who hasn’t held elected office since 1995 and was appointed to the US Senate by the completely disgraced Rod Blagojevich still led the best candidate the Republicans have by seven points, there’s real systemic trouble afoot.

* And a bit more from Rove…

“Republicans are going to start winning … when they get candidates who can talk to suburban voters” about kitchen table issues

Actually, Republicans may start winning the suburbs when their national party (including people like Rove) stops scaring moderate suburbanites away in droves.

There are some very good suburban GOP legislators who’ve managed to hold on or even thrive. Many of those people are not exactly Rovian types, like Rosemary Mulligan, Sid Mathias, etc. But victorious legislative Republicans have lately become the exception in Cook, Lake and Will counties. The 2006 Senate Democratic gains were mostly suburban, as were the 2008 House Dem pickups. The Democrats have picked up two suburban congressional seats this decade, and another one may be in the offing if Mark Kirk runs statewide.

Staring into the future will burn your eyes, but does anyone really think that when Barack Obama’s popularity starts to fall nationally that it will drop just as far in Illinois? So, rhetorical attacks on Obama or consistent votes against Obama’s major legislation by statewide GOP hopefuls probably won’t be a net positive next year.

* Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is doing robocalls to voters in districts represented by GOP Congresscritters Judy Biggert and Mark Kirk. Here’s the script, provided by the DCCC…

Hello, I’m calling on behalf of House Democrats with an important message about the economy.

Did you know [GOP member] voted against President Obama’s economic recovery plan, endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? [GOP member]’s empty rhetoric can’t hide that s/he voted to raise the AMT tax on 22 million middle class Americans and against the largest tax cut in history.

Call [GOP member] at [xxx-xxx-xxxx] to ask why s/he voted to raise taxes on middle class families.

I doubt this will convince either Biggert or Kirk to get in line with the president, but it’s interesting spin. Thoughts?

As always, keep your copy and paste DC talking points off of this blog, please. I’m not interested in what your favorite hack just told you to say on the radio or cable teevee. Be original. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


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Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

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Question of the day

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* Rep. Michael Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) has proposed creating a new, online searchable database with just about every possible bit of state government information imaginable, including state employee salaries

“There just aren’t any secrets in government,” Tryon said. “This is our opportunity to be second to none.”

But Joanna Webb-Gauvin, legislative director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, says AFSCME members have concerns about putting that information in a searchable database.

She says there’s no real public policy reason for rank-and-file state government workers to have their salaries disclosed, and doing so raises security and privacy questions. Instead, she says, lawmakers could put up salary ranges for job titles so the information is out there without tying it to specific individuals.

“They feel it’s a violation of their personal privacy,” Webb-Gauvin said. “They’re feeling sort of like their laundry is being aired in a searchable database.”

Other legislations questioned whether employees could benefit from seeing which employee make what, such as in cases of pay discrimination.

* The Question: Do you think state employee salaries should be included in a comprehensive, searchable online government database? Please explain fully. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   96 Comments      


5th CD roundup *** UPDATED w/ SEIU TV AD ***

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* Rep. Fritchey responds to a story we broke yesterday that SEIU will spend $250,000 on TV ads for Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, plus another $24K in phone-banking…

“It’s obvious that [SEIU] thinks this is an election that can be decided by dollars rather than by issues,” Fritchey said. “But it’s the same strategy that they used to elect Rod Blagojevich twice.”

That’s mild compared to the acrimony behind the scenes in this race. It’s pretty intense. Just hang around the comments section here for a tiny taste. And it’s not just the candidates. Unions battling unions is always entertaining theater because labor unions often view themselves as an almost religious entity, so the fights are sanctimonious and brutal.

But what everyone seems to forget in this circular firing squad bloodbath is that the election is over in a week. People will have to go back to working together at the Statehouse, city hall, etc. In some cases, bygones will be bygones. In others, I’m not so sure the wounds will heal in the foreseeable future, considering what’s been happening and the threats I’ve been hearing. Watch for trouble on the labor front, for instance.

* SEIU’s TV ad is up and running today. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m told that it’s a positive ad for Feigenholtz.

*** UPDATE *** Here’s the ad…


* Mike Quigley was on Don & Roma’s show this morning. Listen here. One of the first questions is about Feigenholtz’s weeks-old refusal to acknowledge that she ran a poll which had some negative and false questions about both Quigley and Fritchey. Quigley slammed both Feigenholtz and Fritchey for voting for a sales tax hike to bail out public transit, which is the subject of a recent Quigley mailer…

The full mailer is here.

* Two more unions have split with the Illinois AFL-CIO’s endorsement of Fritchey and are backing Feigenholtz. The United Steelworkers District 7, which represents 40,000 Illinois workers, and the University Professionals of Illinois both announced endorsements within the past 12 hours. UPI is a branch of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which is a major Fritchey supporter, so that one is quite fascinating…

“At this difficult time in our nation’s history, there is no better qualified or dynamic leader on the issues that UPI cares about than Sara Feigenholtz,” UPI President Sue Kaufman said. “Rep. Feigenholtz’s record of supporting Illinois’ public universities, expanding health care and fighting for the needs of working men and women make her the right candidate at the right time to partner with President Obama in getting our economy back on track.”

* Charlie Wheelan seems to be spending a lot of money on things that nobody watches…


* Berkowitz has interviewed a few of the candidates, and I keep forgetting to link to them…

* John Fritchey
* Tom Geoghegan
* Charles Wheelan

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


Burris attempts to extricate himself

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* If Roland Burris agrees not to run in 2010, will the heat truly be off? At least his possible purely caretaker role will allow him to stop running his mouth in public, so we’ll see. Lynn Sweet floats a trial balloon about a meeting later today between Burris and Sen. Dick Durbin…

Burris understands that he needs to try to mollify Durbin and he will attempt to do that.

Scoop: Burris will also be sending, directly or indirectly (maybe this is it) two messages: he will not resign in the wake of the controversy surrounding his appointment by the ousted Gov. Blagojevich and he will not run for the seat in 2010. Burris has finally realized that not seeking election next year is the least price he will pay.

Sweet claims that the Senate Ethics Committe probe could take time. and the Sangamon County State’s Attorney investigation into alleged perjury won’t be finished soon. Maybe not. Durbin might be able to slow-walk the ethics committee, but that would be foolish. And the state’s attorney doesn’t exactly have a gigantic mound of evidence to sift through. It’s pretty straightforward stuff (although perjury is probably unlikely).

* This won’t help, however…

As U.S. Sen. Roland Burris prepared Monday to return to work in Washington, his attorneys continued to prepare a document they say will show he has not changed his story about how he secured the Senate seat from Gov. Rod Blagojevich. […]

“It will show he hasn’t changed his story,” [Burris attorney Tim Wright] said. “This will be a document that will be factually based, and I’m confident it will show that it’s been the media that’s changed their story, not the senator.”

Yeah, blame Burris’ prevarications on the media. That’ll allow the heat to die down.

* Related…

* Illinois Republicans Interested in Burris’ Seat

* Watchdog group joins chorus calling for Burris’ resignation

* Did Senate leaders blow it on Burris?

* Durbin Seeks Meeting as Burris Returns to Washington

* Burris to Head Back to D.C., Remain Silent

* Roland Burris returns to DC to face colleagues

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Madigan continues to fight even though war is over

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column takes a look at the ongoing nightmare in the Illinois House

The nasty and brutish Statehouse war is officially over for everyone but House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The House Republicans made a big stink last week. It was totally expected. They were upset with House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie’s explanation for why she did not immediately inform the House impeachment committee that U.S. Sen. Roland Burris had submitted a new and highly explosive sworn affidavit. The affidavit created a media feeding frenzy because it raised serious questions in reference to Burris’ truthfulness about his appointment to the Senate by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

What wasn’t expected is the way Madigan reacted to the minority Republicans. Madigan ordered his Rules Committee to pop a Rep. Jack Franks resolution onto the floor that asked for an investigation by the Sangamon County state’s attorney, who is already looking into whether Burris committed perjury during his impeachment committee testimony and via his affidavits.

The Franks resolution asked the state’s attorney to look into allegations made by Blagojevich on WLS-AM (890) several days ago. Blagojevich claimed a legislative leader asked him to find a state job for a legislator’s secretary after the legislator’s wife discovered the two were having an affair.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) immediately saw the move for exactly what it was: A blatant attempt to punish House Republicans for speaking out about an issue they believed to be important. Cross excoriated Madigan and the Democrats for bringing Franks’ resolution to the floor and threatened to retaliate, vowing to ask the state’s attorney to investigate everything that Blagojevich has ever said and ever will say about hanky panky by House Democrats.

Since Cross took the bait, pretty much everyone under the dome immediately assumed he was the legislative leader mentioned by Blagojevich, even though he later denied it.

But the Madigan trick worked. The emphasis was now off Currie and on a potential sex scandal involving a legislator. And because of that, the big issue on many minds last week was where Madigan’s move might eventually lead.

Legislators are human beings. They are therefore flawed. Attacking one member for an egregious personal mistake could open up the biggest can of worms imaginable. I mean, seriously, are they now going to start outing legislators, statewide officials and top staff who’ve succumbed to various human temptations? Can Madigan truly think he can sanctimoniously throw the first stone knowing what he does (and what others do) about his own people and what he has done to help them solve their little problems or extricate themselves from sticky situations? If he asks, I’d be happy to remind him.

Since the nuclear option could destroy so many lives, things will probably stop right where they are. Sinners can breathe easy.

The real problem here is Madigan doesn’t seem to realize the war is over. His former enemies Blagojevich and former Senate President Emil Jones are gone. The new Senate president is the godfather of Madigan’s only son. The new governor is so eager to avoid Blagojevich’s many mistakes that he appears to be more than willing to bow to Madigan’s power. Last year’s election resulted in Madigan controlling 71 seats, just one short of a super-majority, so the Republicans have been thoroughly defeated.

Yet Madigan continues to punish everyone he believes are his enemies. House Democrats who allied themselves with Blagojevich have been whacked but good. The onerous and oppressive House rules, originally put in place by the Republicans to keep Madigan from waging guerrilla warfare when he was in the minority party, have been left unchanged. And the pathetically powerless Republicans who dared defy Madigan last year by working with Blagojevich on the capital construction plan are being stomped at almost every turn.

Blagojevich’s horrid legacy is being purged in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans are attempting to work with each other for the first time in years. Senate President John Cullerton even set up a bipartisan dinner event for senators and their spouses. And he has loosened his office’s stranglehold on power.

But Blagojevich’s ghost reigns supreme in the House. It’s like he never left. He can still control events from afar, as was amply demonstrated last week.

Any commenter who speculates on who the legislator in question is will be banned for life. Period. No exceptions.

- Posted by Rich Miller   74 Comments      


Quinn says he’s running in 2010

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* Gov. Quinn confirms the obvious

“I have no reason not to run,” Quinn told me when I asked him about the 2010 election.

“I think I am doing a good job today. I anticipate I will continue to do that. Stabilizing the ship of Illinois is vitally necessary. I think even in the first three-and-a-half weeks we’ve done a decent job of turning a page in an unhappy chapter in the state’s history,” Quinn said.

* His charm is still his personal thriftiness, and he’ll be pushing that angle with reporters as long as he can…

He sipped a cup of tea while we chatted at a hotel restaurant and insisted on handing me $3 for it, turning down my offer to pay. Blagojevich rarely attended NGA meetings, and when he did, he arrived on a state plane. Quinn flew United, coach. He refuses to get new business cards; he just scratches out the word “lieutenant” on his old cards.

That thriftiness will help counter what will likely be claimed is his love for more taxes and bigger government.

* But he’ll have to be careful how he spends money on this never-ending state tour…

[Quinn wants to] Travel around Illinois, visiting different cities and suburbs each week.

* Among his plans for his first 100 days in office…

Consider creating a separate department to regulate the insurance industry.

That should send some ripples through the Statehouse, where the insurance committees are usually populated with friendly (to the insurance industry) faces.

…Adding… Quinn has long favored a Citizens Utility Board style consumer group for the insurance industry. Haven’t heard that explicitly mentioned lately, but could that be part of what he’s talking about here?

Go read the whole thing.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

* Court rejects appeal by ex-aides to Daley

Over a strong dissent from Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal Monday from a former top aide to Mayor Richard Daley who was convicted of scheming to steer city jobs to campaign workers.

Lawyers for Robert Sorich and two co-defendants questioned whether the scheme to reward Daley’s political supporters with city jobs amounted to a federal crime. The three were prosecuted for “honest services fraud,” and they argued in their appeal that this was hazy and an ill-defined crime.

Only Scalia voiced a dissent, however. “This expansive phrase invites abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors. … Carried to its logical conclusion,” he wrote, it “would seemingly cover a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ballgame.”

* Court rejects appeal from former Daley aides

* No, fraud isn’t ‘just politics’

* New report expected to show more gloom on economy

* Editorial — Waste to ethanol

* Census shows number of farms up, size down

The number of farms in Illinois is growing, but average size is down, a trend also reflected in Sangamon and several surrounding counties in a just-released federal census of agriculture.

In fact, the more than 1,100 farms in Sangamon County in 2007 was up nearly 19 percent from 2002.

* Canadian National Railway challenges federal regulators over train overpasses in Chicago area

The Canadian National Railway challenged the authority of federal regulators to make the railroad pay an estimated $70 million for two overpasses, in Aurora and in Lynwood.

* Lawsuit targets predatory tow truck firms

C ook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez on Monday filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against four Chicago-area towing companies, two near Blue Island, for preying on accident victims by charging fees ranging from $1,995 to $6,500.

* Primary elections today in some suburbs

Primary elections for various municipal offices are being held today in Cicero, Berwyn, Calumet City, Dolton and Aurora, among other communities.

The race for Cicero town president is a three-way contest among incumbent Larry Dominick, police officer Roberto Garcia and Morton College trustee Edward Ledvina.

* Suburban voters head to polls

* Today is election day

* Low turnout expected for today’s primary election

* Charter school admits its flaws

* New Board President is the Old Board President

* Michael Scott reappointed to school board

* Huberman saves 6 schools

Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman said today that community input helped convince him to take six schools off a proposed closing list expected to be voted on by the board this week.

* Six Chicago Schools Spared Closure

* Too much power to principals?

* Murder of three teens must spur CPS reform

* Rent car in suburbs, pay Chicago?

How would you like to rent a car in Waukegan or St. Charles, only to be slapped with the 8 percent “transaction tax” that applies to Chicago car rentals?

Brace yourself. With a burgeoning $50.5 million budget gap, Chicago is reaching into suburban pockets. And Enterprise Rent-a-Car has filed a lawsuit challenging the Daley administration’s effort to collect the tax from drivers who rent cars in the suburbs.

* Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan files suit against Caterpillar over oil-waste spill

* State, Will sue Caterpillar over oil spill

* Caterpillar sued over Joliet-area oil spill

* Everything is ‘wunnerful’ on Daley’s YouTube

* Watch rant-free Mayor Richard Daley on YouTube

“I guess it promotes me,” he added later when asked about the political edge the site might provide. “Yes, I’m the mayor of the City of Chicago, and it promotes Chicago.”

* Daley’s Own YouTube Channel

* Illinois: Horseradish capital of America

* Arts center adds extra ‘Blagojevich’ shows

* Ex-inmates win suit over strip searches

* Kane County decides GPS for stalkers may be good thing after all

- Posted by Mike Murray   11 Comments      


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Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

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* Another anti-Dunkin mailer hits, but criticized as "political lynching"
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* *** UPDATED x2 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: 130-page oppo dump on Rep. Ken Dunkin's past
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* IDJJ: Kewanee facility slated for closure; and .....
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