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Friday, May 29, 2009

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A little light reading

Friday, May 29, 2009

* As part of its “Clout goes to college” series, the Chicago Tribune sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the U of I asking for various information on how state legislators and other politicians backed student applicants. The university has now made those documents public.

Much of it is a bit muddled and difficult to get through, but these two in particular show notes and e-mails on specific politicians about applicants. I have only skimmed them, but perhaps you’d like to help with the research….

* Document 1
* Document 2

Background

Hardy said the list - dubbed “Category I” - contains more than 100 potential students each year whose applications legislators and trustees have been asked to check on by constituents, typically parents or other relatives of the applicants. This year, there are about 160 on the list, he said.

He said only some of those are admitted and noted that other universities keep similar lists.

The Tribune says 1,800 pages of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show 77 percent of the 800 students placed on list since 2005 for admittance to the Urbana-Champaign campus were accepted. Meanwhile, the acceptance rate among other applicants stood at 69 percent. […]

Students accepted from the list who were freshman in 2008 on average ranked in the 76th percentile of their high school class, the Tribune said. The same year, the average high school ranking among all freshman was in the 88th percentile.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - This just in…

Friday, May 29, 2009

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Ryg; Taxes; Budget; Payday; PACs; Olson; Harmon; Civil unions (use all caps in password)

Friday, May 29, 2009

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Question of the day

Friday, May 29, 2009

* It’s Friday, we’re all tired, and many of us will be working through the weekend. Let’s lighten it up.

Could you write us a song about the end of session? Set it to any tune you wish. Have fun.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Tax hike vote today?

Friday, May 29, 2009

* The House is expected to vote on an income tax hike today

A proposed 50 percent increase in the state income tax could be voted on in the Illinois House as early as Friday.

With the clock ticking down on the Legislature’s spring session, the vote will signal whether lawmakers are ready to raise taxes or cut massive amounts of spending.

* Subscribers already know this…

In the Senate, only five Democrats support the Quinn income tax hike, said a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. No Republicans support the plan, said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

And, while overly broad, I believe this is true

Between 30 and 40 House Democrats are solidly for the plan, according to sources, with another dozen “leaning” toward voting for it. It needs 60 votes to pass, meaning some Republicans will have to vote for it to pass. Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, said he doesn’t know of any Republicans who would vote for the plan now, including himse

The guv thinks he has close to 50 in the House, but that means Speaker Madigan will have to twist some arms if it’s gonna pass today. The big question is: Does Madigan even want it to pass? Nobody knows for sure yet. More soon.

* I also believe the Sun-Times’ sources are right

On another front, with Quinn’s push to raise the state income tax from 3 percent to 4.5 percent all but dead, his administration is considering a temporary income tax hike as a Plan B, legislative sources told the Sun-Times.

Publicly, however, Quinn showed no signs of backing off a permanent increase. “We’re hearing all sorts of propositions, but we are not for that plan,” Quinn spokesman Bob Reed said late Thursday when asked whether the administration supports a temporary income tax hike.

…Adding… Yep. The sources were right. From IRN reporter Dave Dahl’s Twitter page

Gov open to temporary tax increase if that’s what it takes.

* The Senate Democrats have demanded that the House act first. There are various reasons for this, but here are a couple

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton today said the fate of a state income tax increase lies across the Capitol in the House, where a significant number of Democrats in the majority are skittish about the political implications of voting to raise taxes.

“Most of the action, if not all of the action, is in the House,” Cullerton said after emerging from talks with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn. “Any effort on the income tax will be initiated in the House, and the Senate will respond.”

Cullerton is offering some political speak here. While Madigan, the powerful Southwest Side Democrat, holds considerable sway over his members and backs an income-tax increase, he also doesn’t want to put his Democrats at risk and knows that Republicans won’t be offering any votes on an income tax hike.

* The Tribune editorial page was in full swagger today….

Springfield, you’re asking for trouble with voters if you raise the income tax before you pass thorough and meaningful ethics and spending reforms. The results so far have been half-hearted. Put honest government first.

* And if the tax hike doesn’t pass? Well, here’s one option…

One option apparently still being discussed is to give state agencies lump sums of money and tell them they have to make it stretch, rather than lawmakers specifying how much should be spent on each item within an agency. “If you want to give the directors the ability to manage their budgets, they can probably get through to February or March of next year,” Mautino said.

Either that, or they have to cut more than $7 billion. Despite what the Tribune claims, there’s no way to do that. Not even close.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      


A look at the meat

Friday, May 29, 2009

* Hopefully, we’ll soon get beyond the “He said, she said” reporting on the campaign reform bill that passed the Senate yesterday and into the meat of the bill. I told subscribers about this a couple of days ago

One politically intriguing provision in the proposal would ban the Illinois Democratic Party from endorsing candidates in its primary elections as well as giving money to primary candidates.

Such a move would mean that House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also is state Democratic chairman, could not engineer the slating of his daughter, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, as a candidate for governor against Quinn or use state Democratic Party resources against him.

That provision was apparently demanded of Madigan by Quinn. Heckuva move.

The language wouldn’t apply to the Illinois GOP because it organizes under a different part of the statute. But, there is a bill ready to go which would force the Republicans into the same organizational rules as the Democrats.

* More

The heated debate came after other reform groups criticized a Senate Democratic plan to limit how much money legislative leaders can distribute to rank-and-file legislators.

Senate Democrats want to limit such transfers to $90,000 per year. But that’s far from the $30,000 per election limit recommended by Quinn’s commission.

Those are just cash transfers. “In-kind” contributions - goods and services - would not be capped at all. Here’s the Sun-Times’ take

The other essential ingredient of real campaign finance reform would be caps on how much legislative leaders can transfer from their war chests to allies in tight legislative races.

It’s true that the reform proposal puts a $90,000 limit on those transfers. But — you guessed it — there’s a loophole. There will be no limit on how much legislative leaders can give in “in-kind contributions.”

That means they can spend as much as they want to send out mailers, set up phone banks and buy radio and television advertising to help out a friend in need.

And, remember, these are annual cash caps. A Senator with a four-year term could get $360,000 in annual $90,000 contributions from his or her leader. I explained more about those annual caps last night.

* This is a bizarre little addition

The measure also would permit the creation of “constituent service” committees to collect funds to help pay for operating lawmakers’ district offices.

Those committees appear ripe for potential abuse.

* The Tribune was its usual self, but made some valid points in its editorial today

We’ve never had much faith in the notion that setting limits on campaign contributions would stop the practice of trading cash for political favors. Attempts to do so at the federal level have only shown that resourceful politicians will always find a way to keep the money flowing. Democrats in the Illinois Senate drove home the point Thursday by pushing a “reform” measure so full of loopholes that one government watchdog called it “worse than nothing.”

“Any 2nd grader could figure out a way around it,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Morrison’s group strongly supports limits on contributions, as does the Illinois Reform Commission, whose recommendations looked like roadkill by the time the Senate Executive Committee took up the bill. Thus we were treated to the spectacle of Gov. Pat Quinn applauding a “landmark” bill opposed by his blue-ribbon reform panel.

The governor threw Pat Collins and the reform commission right under the bus yesterday. They appeared stunned at how fast things moved away from them.

* And even though the editorial boards will go nuts against this bill, Senate President Cullerton was probably right last night when he warned Republicans that voting against the legislation wouldn’t look too great during campaigns next year

Cullerton also told Republican senators it was “crazy dumb” to oppose the bill. “But have at it. I look forward to next year,” he said.

* Related…

* Clout goes to college - Rezko relative is among those admitted to U. of I. in shadow system influenced by trustees and other insiders: Since 2005, about 800 undergraduate students have landed on the clout list for the Urbana-Champaign campus. It’s unknown how many would qualify for entry on their own, but their acceptance rate is higher than average. For the 2008-09 school year, for example, about 77 percent were accepted, compared with 69 percent of all applicants. That’s in spite of the fact that patronage candidates, as a group, had lower average ACT scores and class ranks than all admitted students, records show.

* Firings, FOIA bills advance in legislature

* Ald. Isaac Carothers wore wire for a year

* Chicago alderman indicted: Carothers took money from developer to help get project launched, prosecutors say

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Newspapers: Resign

Friday, May 29, 2009

* The calls for US Sen. Roland Burris’ resignation are once again spiking at the editorial boards. He won’t resign, of course, but everybody wants their say and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Tribune

It’s remarkable that he continues to open his mouth thinking anyone will believe a word that comes out. He even boasts of his ruses, claiming Wednesday that he was only trying to “placate” gubernatorial brother Rob Blagojevich during their now notorious November phone call.

* SJ-R

We have listened to the recording and here is what we (and, we believe, almost anyone else) believe we heard: A desperate Roland Burris willing to do just about anything to become a senator, but not wanting to get caught doing just about anything to become a senator. He knows if he holds a fundraising event for the governor and gets the appointment, it’ll look like he bought it. And he knows if he doesn’t come up with money for the governor, he probably won’t get the appointment.

* Bloomington Pantagraph

He didn’t come across as trying to avoid wrongdoing. He came across as trying not to get caught.

He didn’t say there was anything wrong with having a fund raiser for the man who would decide whether to fulfill his wish to become senator. He talked about what the press might do and “so many negative connotations that Burris is trying to buy an appointment.”

* Peoria Journal Star

The more Burris talks, the deeper the hole he digs. He now acknowledges, for instance, that his sworn testimony in Springfield was incomplete because the “one thing you don’t do is to … volunteer information that wasn’t asked. … There was no obligation there.” Say what? “No obligation” for someone who wants to represent Illinois’ interests in the U.S. Senate to come clean under oath? Does he know what the meaning of the word “is” is?

Meanwhile, he insists with a straight face that “I’m not splitting hairs, I’m not walking a crooked line. … I’m as straightforward and honest as I can be.” If this is the best he can do, it’s not good enough.

* Paul Green has the best quote

Perjury cases are notoriously hard to prove, and the U.S. Senate is notoriously slow in dealing with corruption charges against fellow lawmakers. But it may be enough to kill off any lingering hopes on Burris’s part that he might get elected to the Senate seat.

“It’s a very heavy rock to put on an already wobbly canoe,” said Paul Green, director of Roosevelt University’s School of Policy Studies.

* Good point

The call may not show Burris making his fundraising support contingent on getting anything in return. But it definitely paints a portrait of a relationship between Burris and the governor’s camp that was a lot more intimate and involved than anyone had previously let on.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Morning shorts

Friday, May 29, 2009

* 12% behind on mortgages

Borrowers with good credit now make up the largest share of foreclosures as job losses and pay cuts exact their toll.

A record 12 percent of homeowners with a mortgage were behind on their payments in the first quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday. And the trend is predicted to continue until the end of next year, about six months after unemployment is expected to peak.

* Empress Casino in Joliet to reopen June 25, officials say - Fire closed casino in late March

* Ill. health insurance law takes effect June 1

Illinois parents will be able to continue using their health insurance to cover older dependent children beginning June 1.

State insurance officials say the new law will allow adding children up to age 26. It’ll also allow military veterans to be covered by parents up to age 30.

* Fiscal crisis shuts the doors on storied Driscoll Catholic

* Chicago parking: Mayor Richard Daley calls machine meltdown a ‘glitch’

Mayor Richard Daley on Thursday blamed a “computer glitch” for a downtown parking pay-box meltdown.

That’s more than the company that took over running the city’s paid street parking system would say about why some 250 new cash-or-credit payment boxes stopped working for much of Wednesday.

Avis LaVelle, a spokeswoman for Chicago Parking Meters, said company officials have “some suspicions” but don’t want to speculate on the cause of the problem. She said it might be a few days before they announce findings.

Daley said he has asked the company, which leased the city’s 36,000 paid street spots for 75 years in return for a $1.15 billion upfront payment, to perform better.

* Daley tells parking meter company to shape up

Ald. Tom Allen (38th), chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, agreed that the city has little choice but to work with the contractor.

“It was a massive undertaking that we did with very little public comment and two days of deliberation. Now, what are you gonna do? We’ve already cashed their check,” he said.

“Had we not taken their money, there would be a pretty good appetite to revisit this thing. It’s been a disaster.”

* 87% of arrested men on drugs

Nearly 90 percent of the men arrested in the Chicago area last year tested positive for illegal drug use at the time of their arrests, according to a federal report.

The area’s 87 percent rate led among 10 metropolitan areas studied in 2008.

- Posted by Mike Murray   6 Comments      


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Friday, May 29, 2009

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Making a bad situation worse

Thursday, May 28, 2009

* I didn’t think it was possible to makecontribution caps even more harmful to challengers than they have proved to be in federal elections, but the Democratic agreement on campaign finance “reform” does just that. What a piece of work it is.

They’re capping contributions by year, instead of by election cycle. What that means is, if you’re the governor, you can take a $10,000 PAC check every year for all four years of your term. Your challenger, however, won’t usually be gearing up for four years. The challenger will get maybe two bites of the apple, to your four. In federal elections, which are based on primary and general election cycles, the challenger and the incumbent get equal numbers of bites at that apple.

The bill doesn’t cap in-kind contributions (goods, services, etc.) from caucus committees and state parties. Cash is capped at $90,000 a year, but in-kinds are not, so there really aren’t any caps at all. The House GOP does most of its spending via in-kinds already, for instance, so this will have zero impact on their standard operating procedure.

I have more, but I’m saving it for subscribers. There are good points, too. A few that will be despised by some powerful Statehouse interests. Take a look through it yourself.

…Adding… Reform commission chairman Pat Collins talks about the campaign caps bill…


…Additionally… President Cullerton responds to some of Collins’ criticisms of campaign caps bill…


* 9:00 pm - The Senate just passed HB 7 (Sen. Harmon’s campaign caps bill) 36-22-1

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - This just in…

Thursday, May 28, 2009

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Question of the day

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      


This just in… Alderman Carothers indicted on fraud and bribery charges

Thursday, May 28, 2009

*** Click here to read the indictment. Click here to read the press release. ***

* 10:53 am - From the Tribune

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago said it will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today to announce public corruption charges. Sources say it is expected to be an indictment of an elected official.

No speculation in comments of any kind, please. [Comments have been opened, but be very careful.] We’ll all know soon enough.

* From the US Attorney’s office…

Please be advised that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago plans to issue two press releases this afternoon regarding two separate criminal cases — one involving public corruption, and the other involving racketeering activity, including armed robberies, arson and illegal gambling — and will hold a press conference at 2:00 p.m. today, Thursday May 28, 2009, in the U.S. Attorney’s Press Conference room…

Copies of the criminal charges and the press releases will be distributed via email this afternoon before the press conference and hard copies will also be available in the press conference room, which will open to members of the media at 1:00 p.m.

There will be no court appearances today in connection with either of these matters.

* You might want to keep your eye on the Twitter accounts of the two newspaper reporters who cover the federal courts…

* Natasha Korecki (Sun-Times)
* Jeff Coen (Tribune)

* We’ll have live video coverage of the 2 o’clock press conference via CBS2. Click here at 2 o’clock

*** 11:24 am *** From Natasha Korecki’s Twitter page

charges to be announced against a chicago alderman later today

*** 11:27 am *** Sun-Times says it’s Ike Carothers…

Federal authorities later today plan to announce charges against Ald. Ike Carrothers (29th), the chairman of the City Council’s police and fire committee, sources said.

Background

In 2007 the office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed Carothers demanding documents including seven years worth of aldermanic expense records; 29th Ward zoning changes; ordinances introduced by Carothers, and correspondence between Carothers and the mayor’s office regarding zoning changes. The subpoena further demanded information on comments made and votes taken by Carothers since January 2001 before two City Council committees.

*** 11:37 am *** Word around the federal building is that Ald. Carothers allegedly took cash for a zoning change. We’ll know more at 2 o’clock.

*** 1:51 pm *** From the US Attorney’s office…

Chicago Ald. Isaac S. Carothers (29th Ward) and a real estate developer who sought to transform a 50-acre former rail yard and industrial site on the city’s west side into a residential and commercial neighborhood, were indicted today on federal fraud and bribery charges, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

The developer, Calvin Boender, allegedly paid for approximately $40,000 in home improvements to Carothers’ residence and provided him with meals and tickets to professional sporting events, which Carothers allegedly illegally accepted, in exchange for Carothers’ official acts supporting successful zoning changes for Galewood Yards, which was the largest undeveloped tract of land within the city limits.

Approximately $6 million more was made from the sale of 25 acres of the land than would have been realized without the zoning changes, and Boender allegedly personally profited half of that amount, or approximately $3 million, according to an 11-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury today.

*** Click here to read the indictment. Click here to read the press release. ***

* From the indictment

It was further part of the scheme that in order to disguise and conceal the extent of Grand Central Center’s campaign contributions to defendant CAROTHERS, defendant BOENDER directed an employee of Grand Central Center to make a $1,500 donation to the New 29th Ward Democratic Organization and reimbursed that employee for that contribution.

It was further part of the scheme that when defendant CAROTHERS asked defendant BOENDER for his financial support of Candidate A’s campaign, BOENDER, in order to curry favor with defendant CAROTHERS, made campaign contributions to Candidate A in excess of the maximum allowed under federal election law. In order to disguise and conceal the fact that he was making campaign contributions to Candidate A in excess of the maximum allowed under federal election allow, BOENDER directed at least two individuals to make $2,000 donations to Candidate A and reimbursed those individuals for those donations.

But passing a campaign finance reform law will solve all our problems, right?

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Medical marijuana bill clears Senate

Thursday, May 28, 2009

* The medical marijuana bill passed the Senate yesterday with the minimum majority of 30 votes. There was quite a debate.

Of all the reasons to oppose medical marijuana, I’m not sure this one is the best

“There’s no attention to quality control. There’s no attention to dosage amount,” [Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon)] said, reading off the manufacturer, expiration date, and lot number from a bottle of aspirin to emphasize his point. “It has a lot of information on this tiny little bottle. This is not something you will get by growing marijuana at home”

Right. Because you can’t possibly monitor a plant’s quality when you’re growing it yourself.

* This is also odd..

“The bill would allow people to grow and possess cannabis. Those folks are not subject to a background check,” Righter said. “This bill does not require law enforcement to be involved in the administration program at all, and I think that’s a fatal flaw.”

The medical marijuana bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Bill Haine, is a former state’s attorney. Here’s his response to Righter…

Haine said every dispensary would be required to go through a background check, but the patients are the ones responsible for the caretaker. “It’s a bit offensive to demand everyone go through a background check,” Haine said. “If the patient is not qualified, the doctor will not sign the recommendation. We delineate the diseases [that qualify] and demand extensive corroboration from the doctor.” He added that if the privilege were abused, the prescribing doctor’s license would be on the line, too.

Agreed.

* And while this is an oft-heard refrain, it opens the door to a whole lot of other possibilities…

“God grows these seeds,” said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who voted for the legislation.

Yep. And God also grows magic mushrooms, poppies, coca plants, etc.

* As we say in the bidness, the bill’s future is uncertain

The plan’s immediate future is uncertain. Given how long it’s taken to build support in the Senate, Haine told reporters Wednesday that it’s unlikely to get a vote this spring in the Illinois House. Lawmakers are trying to wrap up business and adjourn before May 31.

There’s always next year.

* And kudos to two Senators who reminded the chamber yesterday that what they were talking about was the fate of real people

Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat with multiple sclerosis, said passing this bill was the right action to take. “We are talking about people here that are not looking to abuse a drug,” she said. “To sit here and say that this drug has the potential to be abused, therefore, we should not be voting in favor of this bill … well, then go home and empty out your medicine cabinet because all your pain medications and all your sleep medications have the potential to be abused.”

Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, moved the room to silence as he spoke about a recent visit with his mother. Raoul said she suffers from a variety of ailments and, as a result, her doctors have prescribed her multiple drugs to treat one issue while prescribing others to offset side effects. “This is a bill about compassion for those who are suffering,” Raoul said. Having recently lost his father, Raoul noted, “pharmaceuticals had no answer for the pain he had to go through. So we can make this a political issue, but this is about compassion.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Burris’ meltdown continues unabated

Thursday, May 28, 2009

* You really need to listen to the FBI wiretap of Roland Burris talking to Rob Blagojevich to get the full flavor of the conversation. If you do nothing else today, do that.

* Burris’ explanation about why he failed to inform the House impeachment committee about his conversation with Blagojevich is priceless

Asked Wednesday why he did not tell an Illinois House impeachment committee about the conversation, Burris replied: “You’re being asked questions and one thing you don’t do is to try to volunteer information that wasn’t asked. There was no obligation there.”

“No obligation.” Great. A former state attorney general sets a fine example for everyone.

More

Burris angrily rejected questions that his account contradicted his sworn affidavit.

“Please check the affidavit,” Burris told a reporter. “That’s all I’m asking you all. Read Affidavit One. Have you read it? Have you read it?”

The affidavit

Prior to the December 26, 2008 telephone call from Mr. [Sam] Adams Jr., there was not any contact between myself or any of my representatives with Gov. Blagojevich or any of his representatives regarding my appointment to the United States Senate.

More

“Did Roland Burris lie? I didn’t.”

Yes, you did.

* Burris also claimed that the wiretap didn’t pick up everything…

“My statement was, ‘I’ll send you my check by December 15th,’ ” Burris said. “Then, when I hung up the phone, I said, ‘I can’t even do that.’ “

Hilarious.

What he meant to say was…

A full transcript of the conversation released by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office also showed that Burris offered to donate to Blagojevich’s fund “in the name of” his lawyer, Timothy Wright, which is illegal.

Burris called that a slip of the tongue, insisting he should have said that he would be willing to encourage Wright to contribute.

“That was a slip,” he said. “I said, ‘in the name of.’ It should have been, ‘by Tim Wright.’ “

I’m sure.

* He also revealed a lot during a conversation with the AP…

“If (Blagojevich) had not been arrested, I would not have even been appointed,” Burris said. “They reached out to somebody who was clean … He was looking for somebody who would give him some cover.”

So, he admits that he was used as a tool by Rod Blagojevich. Nice to know he isn’t totally in denial.

* Madigan catches heat

Roland Burris’ secretly recorded offer to donate to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich before being appointed to the U.S. Senate now has House Speaker Michael Madigan on the hot seat.

While Madigan is not accused of wrongdoing, members of both political parties want to know why the powerful speaker won’t give the House a chance to publicly reprimand Burris or call for his ouster.

The resolutions mean nothing, but they would be hugely symbolic and undoubtedly receive international coverage. They also could anger a few African-American legislators in the run up to the end of session.

* Danny Davis says he’s glad he didn’t take the appointment when Blagojevich offered it…

“I’m more than glad. As a matter of fact, I thank God every day,” laughed the baritone-voiced Davis.

* And Burris is pitching a book deal

“It is temporarily being called The Empty Seat,” said Jassin, referring to Burris’ Senate seat, which was once occupied by President Obama. It has become a focus of the feds’ “pay to play” probe.

“Empty Seat”? I could think of a much better title than that. I’ll bet you could, too.

Fire away, campers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus Urges State to Fund New Construction to End School Overcrowding

Thursday, May 28, 2009

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Education is an important tool for self-empowerment and future success, however overcrowding in many of Chicago’s Latino neighborhood schools leaves students in precarious situations. Overcrowding has been a long-standing problem for the city’s Latino community, and as a recent UNO study makes clear, it continues to disproportionately shortchange Latino students, limiting their full potential.

In overcrowded schools, closets and hallways become classrooms, students are denied one-on-one attention from school staff, and many educational opportunities are lost due to a lack of space. It becomes easier for students in these environments to lose interest and fall through the cracks.

We have to do better for the future of the City of Chicago and the future of its Latino communities. Doing nothing about overcrowding in Chicago Public Schools will continue to guarantee a high dropout rate and a low level workforce for a major segment of our city’s population.

We join UNO in calling on our state legislators to provide funding for new schools in overburdened Latino neighborhoods and we support its initiative for public/private partnerships to build new UNO schools.

Visit www.endschoolovercrowding.org.

Aldermen who signed this letter:

Edward M. Burke, 14th Ward

Richard Mell, 33rd Ward

Ray Suarez, 31st Ward

Daniel Solis, 25th Ward

George Cardenas, 12th Ward

Arial Reboyras, 30th Ward

Manuel Flores, 1st Ward

Walter Burnett, 27th Ward


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Hunger strike adds to Statehouse drama

Thursday, May 28, 2009

* We’ll have more on this later today…

In the latest indication of just how fervent Illinois’ budget-cutting battle this year has become, a group a Chicago-area activists has announced they’re staging a Statehouse hunger strike to protest proposed human-services cuts.

* Meanwhile, the budget deficit could grow

On Wednesday, the House also voted 102-0, with 14 “present” votes, to send a message that members want to fully fund state employee pension payments. One budget option that has been under consideration would reduce or skip paying an estimated $2 billion into the pension funds in order to use that money for general state operations.

Some viewed the vote as a way to pressure lawmakers into voting for an income tax increase in order to avoid drastic cuts to state programs.

Quinn wanted to skip more than just next year’s pension payment. This blows a huge hole in the budget plan.

* And that revised Quinn income tax increase proposal? Not popular

“This is not a popular thing to do to suggest that we increase taxes. But he’s been willing to do this and I think the public is giving him credit for that. They may not necessarily like what they’re hearing, but they really believe that he is doing what he truly believes needs to be done,” [Sen. Michael Noland] said.

But Noland also said he’s not ready to support higher taxes.

* The latest GOP idea? Borrowing

Republican Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine… suggested short-term borrowing as a way to fully fund pensions and avoid an income tax increase.

And we pay off that loan with…. What?

* Related…

* Proposed tax, fee increases in Illinois ‘keep adding up’

* Dems lack votes on tax hike

* Don’t expect GOP support

* Preschoolers need Quinn’s tax hike

* Make budget cuts based on needs, not political clout

* Opposition grows to video gambling deal

* Video poker law is big-time boost for gambling

* Revenue wins when law gets in gambling’s way

* The risks of video poker

* Increase pension payment; make tax hike temporary

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Crunch time for reform

Thursday, May 28, 2009

* The quote of the day goes to Sen. Susan Garrett, who said this during a press conference…

“We weren’t sent to jail. The governor was sent to jail. It is ironic that the focus is on [the] legislature when the wrongdoing was occurring at a much higher level.”

* Reform commission chairman Patrick Collins, who will be in Springfield again today, has another op-ed

Will this session be the one where we charted a definitive new course and returned to our proud roots as the Land of Lincoln - or did we squander the opportunity and thereby remain fodder for Saturday Night Live’s next popular skit?

SNL often spoofs appointed US Sen. Roland Burris, but the reform commission never recommended taking away the governor’s power to appoint Senate replacements. In fact, the commission’s final report only mentioned special elections in passing

The costs of maintaining the status quo, with its concurrent
public corruption trials, special elections and inflated procurement costs…

We had a governor who thoroughly abused almost all of his powers and was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on his home. Yet, while proposing many laudable reforms, the reform commission left this one blank.

* The reform commission also didn’t get behind the recall idea, but a proposal is advancing in the House…

The legislature continues to advance measures that would try to prevent the alleged wrongdoing by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich from going on long enough for a federal indictment to intervene.

Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat and longtime Blagojevich critic, revived his effort to change the state Constitution so voters could “recall” elected officials. The effort failed last year. This time, however, he’s calling for a constitutional amendment that would only focus on allowing voters to recall the governor, not other statewide officeholders or legislators.

That proposal is part of a broader deal on reforms cut by the Democratic leaders and the governor…

A public TV program called Illinois Lawmakers reported that Madigan said he and Senate President John Cullerton have come to an agreement on capping the amount of money political parties can transfer to candidates’ campaign committees. Both leaders have withheld their support of the idea in the past.

“We are moving in the right direction.” Madigan said. “There should be caps on contributions. There should be caps on transfers between committees.”

Those transfer caps have been a major sticking point, but the caps aren’t real. Subscribe to find out why, or just wait.

* Meanwhile, a FOIA deal was reached with the attorney general and the Illinois Press Association. Here’s a roundup…

* State ethics efforts continue with public records push

* Illinois open-records bill passed by House: The attorney general’s office and a newspaper trade group said they grudgingly went along with a provision that would exempt state lawmakers from most of the enforcement provisions.

* State House passes revamped Freedom of Information Act

* House favors new rewrite of open government law

* Almost there

* Opinion…

* Three days left…and still no real reform: Since then, the governor has spent more time talking about recall as a reform proposal — something his own commission didn’t endorse — than he has spent talking about campaign contribution limits in Illinois.

* Why isn’t Quinn fighting as ethics reforms die?: Call us cynics, but it looks like no matter what the commission recommends, it gets the bum’s rush.

* Call, write, vote: But, above all, finish the job

* SJ-R: Quinn has no margin for error on ethics

* Illinois lawmakers must put up or shut up

* The Illinois Reform Commission heads to Springfield on Thursday to face lawmakers. They need to hear from you. Here are their local offices and Springfield phone numbers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Morning shorts

Thursday, May 28, 2009

* Allstate joins others in raising Insurance rates

Allstate said rates will rise an average of 17 percent and range from an increase of 8.5 percent to 27.5 percent beginning June 20.

Meanwhile, American Family Insurance hiked rates 8.4 percent in Illinois last November and Country Financial recently raised rates 6 percent.

The increases here exceed the average rate hike forecast nationally by the Insurance Information Institute. The group forecast the average homeowner’s policy would rise 3 percent to $841.

The state’s biggest insurer, State Farm Insurance Cos., which has a 29.2 market share here, hasn’t raised rates here this year, but for anti-trust reasons would not say whether it plans to do so. It did, however, raise rates 16.7 percent in Indiana, 11.6 percent in Minnesota and 10.9 percent in Wisconsin.

* Chicago parking meltdown: Malfunctioning machines send drivers, ticket writers and lease firm officials scrambling

Daley defended the parking privatization as recently as last week, saying company officials were “correcting many of the things that they found out.” He said there should have been a longer “transition” period after the city relinquished control. When pressed by reporters to say whose fault the meter mess was, Daley replied, “I’ll take the responsibility.”

City Hall continued to praise the new parking company Wednesday. Revenue Department spokesman Ed Walshsaid city officials were “pleased they responded quickly once the problem was identified.”

* City: No tickets for broken meters in Loop

“This just continues to raise more questions about the technology they’re using and the system they have in place,” said Ald. Manny Flores (1st), who voted for the parking meter deal, only to become one of the contractor’s harshest critics.

* Residents fighting Children’s Museum construction vow to press on

* AGs say they oppose Chrysler bankruptcy

* State Attorneys General File Objections to Sale of Chrysler Assets

* Mokena TIF district approved to lure businesses

* Wal-Mart Not Giving Up on South Side

Chicago got its first Wal-Mart store, on the city’s West Side, just three years ago. Unions and grassroots activists fought the controversial big box coming within city limits. That fight culminated in the mayor vetoing a “living wage” ordinance passed by aldermen. Now many South Side aldermen are openly lobbying for a Wal-Mart and are treating it less like a political liability. And, in turn, activists say they are ready for another fight.

* Car dealers get Libertyville lift

“I think there is no question the local municipalities see the impact the auto dealers have in their community,” Sander said. “On average, Illinois dealers contribute about 20 percent of all retail sales tax collected for the state of Illinois.”

* Village offers incentive to buy from its car dealers

Under the Shop Libertyville Gift Certificate Program, anyone who buys a new car from a Libertyville auto dealer between June 15 and Sept. 7 will receive a voucher for a $100 gift certificate to spend at one of several participating businesses in Libertyville.

Each of the village’s 13 dealerships will receive 50 vouchers, a potential cost to the Village of $65,000 in gift certificates.

Glenn Bockwinkel, general manager and co-owner of Acura of Libertyville, spoke on behalf of the car dealers, saying, “The dealership I represent has contributed $300,000 in tax revenue to the village over the last three, four years.”

* Foster upbeat on Cat’s future
* Aurora, union clash over concessions

* Illinois foodbanks to receive donated chickens

Tyson Foods will donate about 1.7 million pounds of chicken worth $2.3 million to food banks throughout Illinois as part of a settlement of a class action lawsuit in Madison County.

* School counselors face big workload in Illinois

Of the 10 states with the largest school populations, Illinois’s ratio was second only to California, which had 966 students per counselor in 2006-07. The ratios are calculated by dividing a state’s prekindergarten-to-Grade 12 enrollment by the number of guidance counselors reported to the federal government.

* Swine fallout: ER ‘just been slammed’ at Children’s Memorial

* Illinois swine flu deaths: Suburban woman is state’s 2nd death

* Wheeling board refuses to weigh in on OTB in Buffalo Grove

* Ex-Chicago Bear, now mayor, Jim Schwantz looks to call the right plays for Palatine

* Michael Jordan TV ads to back Chicago’s Olympics bid

* Michael Jordan to appear in 2016 Olympics PSAs

* Police Supt. Jody Weis helps bag suspect in convenience-store robbery

- Posted by Mike Murray   2 Comments      


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