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Friday, Jul 31, 2009

* My pal Dusty Rhodes has left the Illinois Times and decided to go back to college. I’m gonna miss her work. Dusty, you’ll recall, wrote a light-hearted piece about me some time ago, but that isn’t why I wanted to say goodbye today. She’s a darned good reporter and we were lucky to have her here. I wish her nothing but the best.

Here’s a little Elvis Costello for Dusty, with some help from the Beastie Boys…


I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
I wanna bite that hand so badly
I want to make them wish they’d never seen me

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


This just in… Bond is out

Friday, Jul 31, 2009

* 2:52 pm - No surprise. From a press release…

BOND TO SEEK REELECTION TO ILLINOIS SENATE

Statement from Illinois Senator Michael Bond (D-31) announcing today that he will seek reelection instead of the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 10th District:

“After careful consideration, I have decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for Congress in the Tenth District, and will instead seek reelection to the Illinois Senate. While I am grateful for the encouragement I have received to run for Congress, I feel an obligation to continue working to address the enormous challenges our state is confronting.

“We need to tackle our budget crisis, renew our economy and continue cleaning up Illinois government. Now more than ever, the hardworking taxpayers I represent need an advocate in Springfield who will stand up for their interests, promote fiscal responsibility while opposing an income tax increase, and demand the kind of ethical government they deserve.

“It has been an honor to work on behalf of the families in the 31st Senate District, and at this crucial time in our state’s history I believe I have a responsibility to continue doing so.”

Word has been going around for several days that Bond wouldn’t run for the 10th District congressional slot. More to come.

* 3:58 pm - Bond’s GOP state Senate opponent responds via press release…

Lake County Board Chairman Suzi Schmidt responds to Senator Michael Bond’s decision to seek re-election

LAKE VILLA (July 31, 2009) – The following statement was released today by Suzi Schmidt, the Lake County Board Chairman and Republican candidate for State Senate in the 31st District, regarding State Senator Michael Bond’s decision to bow out of 10th District Congressional race and seek re-election to the State Senate.

“I welcome Senator Bond back to the 31st Senate District and look forward to a vigorous debate with him on the direction of Illinois and the best way to improve the quality of life in our communities.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Guv “details” budget cuts - 2,552 headcount reduction

Friday, Jul 31, 2009

* 2:37 pm - The governor’s “Action Plan Overview” is now online. Click here to see it.

The presser starts in a few minutes and we’ll be covering it here. Help out in comments if you can.

The live video link to the guv’s presser is here.

* Here is the overview of the cuts to be announced today…

• State Operations (includes layoffs,12 furlough days) $185 million
• Medicaid $140 million
• Grants $250 million
• Education $175 million
• Corrections $125 million
• Additional Reserves $100 million
• Other State offices, departments and agencies $25 million
Total: $1 billion

Not a lot of detail there, eh?

* Here’s the broad overview of how he’ll allocate that $1.2 billion in undesignated funds that the GA gave him…

• $1 billion for Healthcare and Family Services includes
o $300 million for Medicaid
o $700 million for group health

• $150 million for State Board of Education includes
o $85 million for early childhood education
o $11 million for bilingual programs

• $40 million for Department of Public Health includes
o $17 million for HIV/AIDS programs
o $9 million for breast/cervical cancer screening programs

• $13 million for Amtrak

* And here’s the overview of the remaining problems. They didn’t completely fund group health insurance, for instance…

Medicaid ($600 million)
Group health coverage for state employees, retirees and dependents ($600 million)

* 3:48 pm - Press conference is now over. That wasn’t so hard now, was it? However, he did take the easy way out by holding it in Chicago, where reporters are less aware of state government.
Pre K-12 education ($145 million)
College scholarships ($225 million)
Contingency reserve funds +$180 million

Unmet Needs $1.4 billion

* 2:56 pm - Click here for more budget cutting details.

* 3:02 pm - Dept. of Corrections cuts include ▪ a reduction of 18 Central Office positions and 413 other positions.

…Adding…
A different document claims that DoC headcount was cut 1,073. Thanks to a commenter. More headcount reductions are on that sheet. Here are a few…

* 303 - IL State Police
* 1,073 - DoC
* 866 - DHS
* 105 - Dept. Juvenile Justice

TOTAL: 2,552

* You can take a look at all agencies below…

  • Summary (includes headcount reductions)
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Central Management Services
  • Department of Children and Family Services
  • Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
  • Department of Corrections
  • Department of Healthcare and Family Services
  • Department of Human Services
  • Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Department of Natural Resources
  • Department of Public Health
  • Department of Revenue
  • Department of State Police
  • Illinois Department of Transportation
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Department on Aging
  • Illinois Board of Higher Education
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • Other State Agencies and Offices
  • * 3:24 pm - From AFSCME…

    Statement of Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31:

    “These cuts will hurt every Illinois resident.

    “If the cuts stand, thousands of working men and women will lose their jobs. Human services, health care, education and public safety will be harmed. Our communities, families, children and seniors and our environment will suffer.

    “By slashing thousands of jobs, these cuts contradict and undermine President Obama’s efforts to fight the recession, protect public services and keep Americans working.

    “The fault for these terrible cuts belongs to the governor and every legislator who supported an irresponsible budget. The responsibility lies with every Illinois elected official and opinion maker who has opposed raising the revenue needed to avoid them.

    “Every Illinoisan must demand that lawmakers and the governor renounce these damaging cuts, commit to raising new revenue, and return to the Capitol as soon as necessary to fix this broken budget.”

    - Posted by Rich Miller   96 Comments      


    Hamos makes mistake, Birkett may change mind and Kirk’s secret tour

    Friday, Jul 31, 2009

    * If you go to state Rep. Julie Hamos’ 10th Congressional District campaign page and click the “Contact Julie” button, you are directed to a page with this info…

    Contact Form

    Thank you for your interest.

    Julie’s state legislative office is at:

    820 Davis Street, Suite 103
    Evanston, Illinois 60201
    (847) 424-9898

    Listing a state legislative office as a contact for a congressional campaign?

    You gotta be kidding me.

    I thought the announcement video was the worst thing she’d done. This is just downright goofy, and possibly against federal campaign law.

    UPDATE: The Hamos campaign has now removed the contact info.

    * I’m never thrilled linking to a website with Bizarro World headlines like “Is there co-pay with forced abortion?,” but they did have a little story today which piqued my interest

    With high name recognition and a statewide network, Birkett could be one of the front-runners in the GOP Gubernatorial Primary. We’re told he’s weighing his options. A decision will have to come soon.

    I’m now hearing the same. Joe Birkett is now reportedly mulling a gubernatorial bid. That’s after he told a Daily Herald reporter this

    Birkett, meanwhile, said the attorney general position is his best fit, regardless of whom he faces on Election Day.

    So far, no one else has officially declared for the post. It’s Birkett’s third attempt at statewide office and his second for attorney general.

    “You have to be who you are,” the 54-year-old Wheaton man said. “I’m a prosecutor. I’ve come to the conclusion I should remain one. That’s where I belong. It’s my passion.”

    Apparently, Birkett may have a new passion.

    * And, what’s up with the Mark Kirk for Senate campaign? As I told you this morning, Kirk is apparently about to embark on a Downstate campaign swing. There’s nothing at his website (actually, there’s not much of anything at that website), there’s nothing on his campaign FaceBook page, and his Twitter page - well, maybe that’s a sore point.

    I asked a couple of reporters if they’d heard anything from the campaign and they said they hadn’t. I contacted the campaign an hour or so ago, but haven’t heard anything back yet.

    - Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


    *** UPDATED x1 *** Not a good sign

    Friday, Jul 31, 2009

    *** UPDATE *** The uproar got to them. From a press release…

    CHICAGO - Governor Pat Quinn and Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer will hold a press availability to outline the FY10 Budget Allocation Plan.

    The PowerPoint that accompanies this presentation can be found on Budget.Illinois.gov at 2:30 p.m.

    This press conference will stream live on satellite starting at 2:45 p.m. The coordinates are provided below.

    To listen live online, please visit Budget.Illinois.gov.

    The previously scheduled 2 p.m. reporter video conference and conference call has been canceled.

    WHO: Governor Quinn

    Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer

    TIME: 2:45 p.m.

    WHERE: 15th Floor Blue Room

    James R. Thompson Center

    100 W. Randolph

    Chicago

    [End of update]

    * An e-mail sent by the governor’s office about today’s announcement of $1 billion in state budget cuts is causing some controversy. First, the e-mail. All emphasis in the original…

    At 2pm today, the Governor’s Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer will present to the press the FY10 Budget Allocation Plan via video and phone conference.

    As a member of the Springfield media, you may designate one person from your outlet to be onsite in the Capitol Office 214 Conference Room to participate in the presentation via video conference. Other members of your outlet may participate via a conference call line.

    There can be no cameras, no taping, no streaming live audio and no tweeting.

    A PowerPoint outlining the FY10 Budget Allocation Plan will be distributed just prior to the start of the meeting, however that information is embargoed until the conclusion of the presentation.

    If you are interested in participating in this call, you must RSVP by NOON. If you do so, that means that you agree to accept the embargo and information will be provided to you at 1:45PM.

    * Ben Bradley at ABC7 is not amused

    No video. No audio. Not even a single “tweet” is permissible.

    Those are the rules reporters must agree to comply with if they are to be allowed to listen to a key briefing on Illinois’ troubled budget Friday. […]

    For a Governor who spent the better part of two decades making transparency a cornerstone of his career, the cloak of secrecy is surprising. A cynic might wonder if Quinn’s team is hoping to avoid there being any video or audio record of the announcement of drastic budget cuts that could possibly be used against him in a future campaign?

    While it is true former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s administration held background briefings for the press before publicly disclosing new budgets, those sessions proceeded by only an hour or two a public re-telling of the information by Blagojevich himself. Governor Quinn has a non-budget related press event scheduled for this morning, but no media availability after the budget bombshell is dropped. Quinn press secretary Bob Reed, a former reporter, was not immediately available to offer an explanation.

    * And here’s an e-mail from the president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents’ Association to all members…

    I protested having the budget briefing embargoed on the grounds that it is far different from a briefing on the overall budget.

    The embargo is an extraordinary action and is unacceptable in this matter. This is not like a budget address.

    Results of the conversation with Reed, Marlena and Ashley Cross:

    –The no taping was a mistake. So audio taping is allowed.

    –They meant no videotaping. So they have a plan for a videotaped Q and A with Stermer with a Chicago news outlet and maybe a separate with Decatur here. I’d advise all ILCA TV folks to call Ashley in the governor’s office. Gordon was in the press room and was advised of this verbally. These Q-and-As are supposed to be made available—sounds like by the bird. They don’t think that print and radio reporters will be able even to view that live.

    –They did not agree to a hard time to end the embargo. They said they would announce at the end of the briefing when it is over. I argued a hard time is needed so that everyone is clear when it is.

    –They are supposed to send a clarification out.

    –I argued for making the briefing live, but they won’t.

    –They plan to put up a web site that will be given out at the briefing which supposedly will give answers.

    –I argued this is not like a regular budget briefing,

    –I said some of us might not go and then we’ll be asking questions afterward. They said the briefing is the time made available statewide for questions to be asked.

    I’ll update if there are any changes.

    CLTV’s Carlos Hernandez-Gomez just called to say that the governor has said video camers would be allowed, but only after Carlos pressed the issue with him during an unrelated press conference.

    Still, this ought to be a live broadcast. Lots of people all over the state are anxious about these budget cuts and they ought to be allowed to listen or watch.

    And this matter of just giving a couple TV stations access to a Q and A is ridiculous.

    What are Quinn’s people so afraid of?

    - Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


    Question of the day

    Friday, Jul 31, 2009

    * Ab Mikva is upset with US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. You’ll all remember Fitzgerald’s press conference after Blagojevich’s arrest…

    “The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” Fitzgerald said the day of the Dec. 9 arrest. He also said Blagojevich had gone on “a political corruption crime spree.” And Robert D. Grant, head of the FBI’s Chicago office, told the same news conference that if Illinois “is not the most corrupt state in the United States it’s certainly one hell of a competitor.”

    Mikva’s response yesterday…

    “I certainly don’t like the prosecutor coming out and trying his case [in the media] and possibly tainting the jury pool with a big press conference announcing he has indicted so-and-so, or, in Blagojevich’s case, has arrested so-and-so — he hadn’t even reached an indictment yet,” Mikva saids at the American Bar Association convention.

    “The argument is made by some prosecutors that this is a part of a public information factor of a prosecutor’s job, and they have to do it. That’s nonsense.” […]

    “I suppose prosecutors have first amendment rights, but … somehow there’s something wrong and inconsistent with a prosecutor who is supposed to try that case in court and is supposed to be the public persona [of justice] announcing to the world that you’ve got this guy dead-to-rights and he should go to jail for a long time,” Mikva said. […]

    Pressed on whether prosecutors such as Fitzgerald should make themselves available to answer questions from the press about newly-released indictments, Mikva conceded sometimes that was helpful and necessary with complicated cases, but he said the prosecutors should keep their answers unemotional.

    A federal judge agreed

    “I think that the indictment should be the news conference,” said Judge Paul L. Friedman of U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, suggesting that reporters should get their information about the case from the indictment and prosecutors should not add facts not contained in that document.

    * The Question: Did Fitzgerald go too far? And should US Attorney’s, the FBI and others in law enforcement avoid press conferences that stray from the cold facts of an arrest or indictment?

    Explain both answers, please. Thanks.

    - Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


    Newspaper hypocrisy

    Friday, Jul 31, 2009

    [Sigh. Nevermind. Somehow - probably because they look so much alike - I mistakenly thought a Rockford editorial was from the Peoria paper. Oops. I apologize to both papers for the mixup and have taken down the shot. Sheesh.]

    * On the other hand, the State Journal-Register editorializes today in favor of changing the campaign finance reform bill. One of the changes it supports is somewhat surprising

    * Change a provision that appears to ban special interest groups’ political action committees from making any independent expenditures on behalf of or against candidates.

    We’re no fan of many of these groups, but such a law could be an unconstitutional limitation on freedom of speech and expose the state to litigation. […]

    The General Assembly has not been given enough credit for the yeoman’s work it did sifting through and analyzing Blagojevich’s transgressions and addressing them.

    But the potential for corruption in the legislative branch still is great with the free flow of money allowed under the bill waiting for the governor’s signature. Legislators need to act to ensure their branch of government remains scandal free.

    Hopefully, the paper will serve as an example to other newspapers [cough!Tribune!cough!] which have opposed parts of the Quinn Commission report yet slammed legislators for doing the very same thing.

    …Adding… I forgot to mention that the News-Gazette has an editorial today which basically admits that it doesn’t know what to do about how U of I trustees should get their jobs…

    Clearly, a change in the board’s structure is necessary. But there is no magic bullet.

    That’s rare.

    * Related…

    * Chapman Misdiagnoses His “Problem Child”

    * Illinois Lottery To Test DoJ’s Anti-Internet Gambling Resolve

    * Quinn to Announce Budget Details Friday

    * Quinn hints he will blunt some budget cuts

    * Illinois Service Providers Waiting on Budget Details

    * How much worse can it get?

    * State budget woes make college aid scarce

    * Chicago Public Schools fear state cuts will cost it $84 million

    * Time to draw a map free of politics

    * Transparency (and maybe some blogging) needed on the 3rd Appellate Court

    * Southland legislators decline invite to talk about U of I admissions scandal

    * Panel Investigating University of Illinois Admissions To Hold Final Meeting Friday

    * UI admissions panel narrows in on recommendations

    * Mikva says all U. of I. trustees should resign

    * Mikva: U of I trustees should submit resignations

    - Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


    Dillard flip-flops on video poker, and other campaign news

    Friday, Jul 31, 2009

    * GOP gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kirk Dillard voted to tax and legalize video poker machines to pay for part of the capital bill in May. Now that he’s running for governor, he’s changed his mind

    Dillard said he was torn in his vote, but ultimately said he wanted to keep his word to labor unions and business groups to support a major public works package.

    “I had a gun to my head,” he said during an interview with the Daily Herald editorial board Thursday.

    Dillard said that if he is elected governor, he would reconsider the legalization of video gambling machines even though he voted for it in the state Senate. He did speak out against video gambling expansion as he voted for it.

    So, he was against it, but he voted for it because of a “gun” to his head, and if elected governor he would “reconsider” the whole thing.

    And how would Dillard replace that poker money? Magic ponies!

    Dillard said he would prefer to see the state use revenue from the sales tax on gasoline to cover the needed cash. Yet, he admits that would blow a $400 million hole in a state budget already billions of dollars in the red.

    To cover that, Dillard said he would “grow the economy,” hoping for new tax dollars from more jobs and sales.

    * CNN covers the Mark Kirk Twitter probe by the Department of Defense without a single hat tip here, but does have this…

    While the source did not think the congressman revealing his location was a huge deal (in this particular case), the official was less sure of the other questions the incident raised [about campaigning at the Pentagon].

    The source told CNN, “Given who the individual is and how people can perceive things, it is interesting. We are aware of it and we are looking into it.”

    * Not a great lede for Mark Kirk and probably not true, either…

    North suburban Congressman, and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk, says it’s time he sees the rest of the state.

    Kirk says he’ll begin a statewide tour Saturday.

    Oof.

    * Cullerton to back Giannoulias today…

    State Senate President John Cullerton will endorse State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias for U.S. Senate today.

    Cullerton becomes the highest-profile elected official to endorse Giannoulias so far, though Giannoulias has a long-running friendship with President Obama.

    You can read the endorsement press release by clicking here.

    * Zorn goes after DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett over the Brian Dugan saga…

    Ever since 1985 [when Dugan tried to confess to the Nicarico kidnap/murder], under a succession of elected state’s attorneys, DuPage has been trying various legal strategies first to discredit Dugan, then to prevent him from telling his full story in open court.

    The reason? They botched the initial case. They used shabby, dubious evidence to convict two innocent men and pack them off to Death Row.

    Then, when Dugan came forward with his powerfully corroborative admission, they refused to set things right and instead embarked on an infamous effort to defend their mistakes.

    Now, we see vestiges of this effort in the attempt to place strict limits on what the sentencing jury will hear. Birkett accused Greenberg on Thursday of wanting to “put the State of Illinois on trial” by placing Dugan’s story into the broad context of prosecutorial and investigative missteps, “that have nothing to do with this defendant’s character or record or actions in the murder of Jeanine Nicarico.”

    * Related…

    * Greg Blankenship: How Kirk introduces himself to downstate voters is key to his campaign

    * Quinn: Death penalty freeze should stay

    * Schillerstrom blasts Springfield for state’s lowered credit rating

    * New Trier school board president eyes 10th District race

    * Former Dist. 155 board member wants to be in Congress

    - Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


    Morning Shorts

    Friday, Jul 31, 2009

    * Supreme Court to Consider Chicago’s Drug Seizure Practices

    * Woman Gets Car Back From Police After 3 Years

    Tyhesha Brunston got her car back this week three years after Chicago Police took it and locked it up. While she finally has her car back, her case isn’t over. Her attorney is filing a brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the way Chicago impounds cars allegedly used in drug crimes.

    * Chicago official predicts even worse budget problems in 2010

    Mayor Richard Daley’s administration Thursday predicted a gaping hole in next year’s budget that will eclipse the current financial problems — even after the city exhausts its brand-new $320 million rainy day fund.

    The anticipated $6.2 billion budget for next year could be more than half a billion dollars in the red because of plummeting tax collections and rising wages that account for more than 80 percent of the city’s day-to-day spending, said Chief Financial Officer Gene Saffold. He announced the gloomy prediction as Daley aides began briefing aldermen in anticipation of public hearings next month.

    Although higher taxes are “a last resort . . . nothing is ruled out at this point,” Saffold said. “The mayor has instructed us not to look at property taxes as we move forward in 2010.”

    Daley has laid off city workers and pressured unions to take unpaid days off to save money this year, and aldermen and outside budget experts predicted that personnel cuts were likely next year. The biggest chunk of increased spending next year will come from $117 million in higher wages, benefits and pension fund payments, Saffold said.

    * City Faces “Enormous Challenge” in Balancing 2010 Budget

    The head of a local watchdog group says it’ll be an “enormous challenge” for the Chicago to close its half-billion dollar deficit. That’s the 2010 budget shortfall city officials are expecting.[…]

    He says it could take a combination of dramatic service cuts and a tax increase to make ends meet in 2010. For it’s part, the Daley administration is leaving both options open.

    * Courting stars X men . . .

    Hmmmm. The mayor is crying poor because he has discovered a $520 million hole in the 2010 city budget.

    • • Hmmmm: Isn’t the approximately $1 billion budget reserve — which is comprised of the Skyway and parking meters sales and the onetime payment of $200 million from the reneged Midway Airport deal — typically kept for economic crisis, rainy day funds and unforeseen circumstances?

    • • Conclusion: So how come, in the midst of this economic crisis, Mayor Daley is only dipping into the parking meter part of the rainy day fund? Does holding back the cash have anything to do with Daley’s hope to bring THE OLYMPICS to Chicago in 2016? Nawwww.

    Further conclusion: Sneed hears the City Council will ask the mayor to dip into the budget reserve — rather than raise taxes!

    * Dear Mr. Mayor: thanks but no thanks on set-asides for gay businesses

    * The replacement

    Maldonado is one of the committeemen who’ll choose his own replacement. He told us Thursday that he’ll work to make sure the committeemen select someone who will vote as he would have.

    That said, Maldonado and the others will be lobbied to do Stroger a fat favor and install a flunky who’ll do whatever machine Democrats tell him or her to do. Other powerful committeemen with a vote on this — their respective clout is weighted by prior Democratic turnout in their wards — include Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) and Ald. Rey Colon (35th).

    * Washington Park declares bankruptcy

    Facing mounting debts owed to trash collectors, retirement funds and even one of its topless nightclubs, Washington Park has filed for bankruptcy protection for a second time this decade.[…]

    The community of about 5,450 people along Interstate 64 at the eastern edge of East St. Louis filed papers showing assets of less than $50,000 and debt of more than $1 million.

    * Washington Park’s largest creditors: $448,793 — Illinois Department of Employment Security $300,000 — Johnny “Chico” Matt, former public safety director$174,363 — Police Pension Fund$91,04 — Hinshaw and Culbertson, lawyers $80,000 — Fish Inc., nightclub $73,821 — St. Clair County auditor $55,000 — Fraternal Order of Police $53,449 — Aetna Insurance

    * Final tally: City [Bloomington] cut $4 million in salaries, 71 jobs

    * Palatine implements 50% discount for delinquent tickets

    Palatine will attempt to collect on as many of its nearly 24,000 delinquent citations as possible with an amnesty program launched this month that would allow people to pay half their original fine.

    Many of the citations have $100-plus price tags and go back as far as 2000, officials said. The value of the collections could be as much as $1.5 million, officials said.

    * Union: Caterpillar cutting jobs, idling foundry

    PEORIA, Ill. — A union official says Caterpillar is laying off 75 employees at a central Illinois foundry and may close the plant for two months late this year if demand for its engines doesn’t improve.[…]

    Doty says the company also has tentative plans to close the foundry and idle its 525 remaining workers in November and December.

    * Horace Mann sees 70 percent profit jump

    The Springfield insurance and financial services company reported its profits increased more than 70 percent to $32 million for the first six months of this year compared to 2008, primarily as a result of improvement in financial markets.

    * Press release: Gov’s Friday schedule

    CHICAGO - Governor Pat Quinn will sign a bill to combat mortgage fraud and protect consumers seeking residential mortgages.

    * Hartmarx CEO Patel to retire Friday

    * CBOE’s Q2 profit up 11%

    The Chicago Board Options Exchange said on Thursday second-quarter net income rose 11 percent as increased trading helped offset higher costs.

    The largest U.S. options exchange, which has been operating as a for-profit model since January 2006, said quarterly revenue was up 12 percent to $109.4 million from $97.6 million a year ago as trading volume rose 8 percent.

    * Tougher crackdown over dangerous dogs?

    Owners of dogs designated as dangerous could be forever prohibited from owning dogs in Chicago if they thumb their noses at city safeguards, under a crackdown proposed by an influential alderman.

    * Disagreement brewing over possible new Oak Lawn attorney

    Oak Lawn’s mayor and village manager are clashing over who could become the next village attorney.

    * Veterans decry disrespect of military graves in Burr Oak

    * Charges possible in funeral fund case

    If state Comptroller Dan Hynes is right, Illinois Funeral Directors Association officials committed crimes in overseeing a pre-need funeral trust fund that hemorrhaged tens of millions of dollars, a former trust administrator said in a sworn deposition.[…]

    The comptroller’s office has demanded that IFDA repay nearly $10 million in administrative fees to the trust. Carol Knowles, Hynes’ spokeswoman, said Thursday that criminal charges haven’t been ruled out.

    * Producers extend Blago spoof

    * Happy Mark Buehrle Day!

    - Posted by Mike Murray   5 Comments      


    All sorts of weirdness

    Thursday, Jul 30, 2009

    * The very weird circumstances surrounding Rep. Paul Froehlich’s alleged use of helping people with property tax appeals in exchange for campaign assistance have gotten even weirder

    Tina decided to do it herself. It’s a simple process. Fill out and sign this form and the Board of Review will decide whether or not you get your taxes lowered. But what happened in Tina’s case is now at the center of an internal investigation at the board.

    And here’s the mystery. Tina filled out her tax appeals form as she’s supposed to right up here. But after she handed it in, somebody filled out the bottom of the form claiming to be her attorney. When shown the form, Price said she was surprised, adding: “I’m very concerned, and I have no idea how this came about.”

    The attorney who signed Tina’s form is R. Tamara de Silva. On one day in June, she filed a bundle of appeals on behalf of property owners. But here’s the catch, many say they’ve never heard of her.

    De Silva did some “work” for Froehlich, according to the story, but it’s not clear if this woman was one of them. From what I’ve heard, de Silva just all of a sudden started showing up at the Board of Review and nobody really knew who she was.

    She’s also connected to political operator Victor Santana, who also apparently did work for Froehlich and is tied closely to Board of Review Commissioner Joe Berrios

    [Berrios] declined to talk about his former employee, political operative Victor Santana, whose name came up repeatedly when property owners were asked about who they worked with to file appeals, according to hearing transcripts and board staff.

    Gray testified in a June review board hearing that Santana’s fee was $1,000 apiece for his work on appeals for 2006 and 2007. But only property owners or attorneys can legally file appeals, board staff says.

    That second graf may or may not connect the dots as to why an actual attorney was brought in to deal with these cases. We’ll see. This is all under investigation right now.

    Meanwhile

    The Cook County Board of Review reversed itself Wednesday and took back controversial tax breaks awarded last year to four Schaumburg properties.

    In a move officials say is rare, the board increased the assessed value of the properties, which have a connection to either state Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg) or Victor Santana, a political operative with ties to both Froehlich and Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios.

    Commissioners have been investigating whether Froehlich used influence through Santana or anyone else to get tax breaks for businesses in Froehlich’s legislative district. Two of the four property owners donated more than $36,000 to Froehlich’s campaign fund.

    Walking back the dog?

    Very, very weird.

    * Our next item is a different sort of weird. GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Proft has sent out a press release slamming the Democratic General Assembly for failing miserably on the budget, resulting in a downgrading of the state’s bond rating by Fitch. So far, so good. But then

    “Rather than advancing system change ideas, if the Springfield political class believes increasing Illinois’ bond debt is sound fiscal policy, then I propose that state legislators be compensated in state bonds.

    “Instead of flourishing while Illinois taxpayers are fleeced, it’s time the Springfield politicians feel directly the financial impact of their bad policies, bad choices and general political cowardice.”

    Um, huh?

    I don’t see how paying legislators with state bonds would hurt them, unless the bonds are impossible to sell. And they won’t be. Here’s the least incendiary aspect of David Ormsby’s response…

    …the bonds would be a boon to their income – due to the higher interest rate. Anyone who holds Illinois bonds would earn more money tomorrow than yesterday.

    I told Proft yesterday it would be more appropriate to pay legislators as if they were state vendors. That way, their checks would be six months late.

    * And then there was this and this tiny bit of breathless weirdness. No comment except a slight smirk and a gentle reminder that I criticized Speaker Madigan within that piece in question

    Leader Cross wasn’t the only one putting his party over his state. The House Democratic Speaker refused to push the income tax without significant GOP support because he was so worried that an all-Dem tax hike could cost his party seats in 2010 - even though the Democrats have ten seats to spare.

    * This is definitely not weird, but I might get a little weird at the event, depending on how much wine there is. Forewarned is forearmed.

    * Heard any other weird things lately?

    …Adding… The Washington Post has taken notice of our attempt at helping Amazon’s customers…

    Amazon customers are letting their opinions of [Rod Blagojevich] be known by attaching tags to the book to help direct others to the title. You can search books on Amazon by tags, words you type into a tag search box, which take you to books that have been similarly designated.

    For instance, the three books appearing under the tag “moron” are: “Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream” by Samuel J. Wurzelbacher and Thomas N. Tabback, “Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Political Establishment Upside Down” by Kaylene Johnson, and Blagojevich’s “The Governor.”

    Customers have hit “The Governor” with 78 derisive tags, among them: “delusional,” “crook,” “fraud,” “twit” and “weasel.”

    Heh.

    - Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


    Question of the day

    Thursday, Jul 30, 2009

    * That image at the right represents just some of the grocery stores near the proposed Wal-Mart at 83rd and Stewart in Chicago. The rest are here.

    I’m not sure you can call that area a “food desert,” even though it’s been referred to as such time and time again.

    Still, as one commenter noted here yesterday…

    If the Food4Less & jewel were getting the job done, then why did walmart sell 4 days worth of produce from a typical supercenter in 3 hours?

    Ald. Burke makes this point…

    “They can build 14 stores here. All they have to do is make a commitment to the rights of working men and women in Chicago to organize,” Burke said.

    Sun-Times

    Chatham area residents deserve the jobs and fresh food the store would bring.

    * The Question: Do you think Wal-Mart should be allowed to open more stores in Chicago? Explain fully, please.

    - Posted by Rich Miller   70 Comments      


    Fun with graphs

    Thursday, Jul 30, 2009

    * Recommended by a pal at Google, here’s a comparison of web search volume between Capitol Fax and the Chicago Sun-Times. I’m in blue and the Sun-Times is in red…

    Looks like a bit of a jump by us at the end.

    * And here’s the search volume comparison between some of the Republican candidates for governor Dillard is in blue, Proft is in red, Brady is in orange and Murphy is in green…


    Dillard appears to be skyrocketing, but check out Proft’s numbers. Not bad.

    * Mark Kirk, Alexi Giannoulias and Lisa Madigan search comparisons can be found here.

    Thoughts?

    - Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


    *** UPDATED x1 *** Should campaign have posted while candidate was on duty?

    Thursday, Jul 30, 2009

    * The other day I was surfing around as usual and a couple of tweets on Mark Kirk’s US Senate campaign Twitter page jumped out at me…

    Being the son of two (now retired) Department of Defense civilian employees, I’ve long been aware of and sensitive to the military’s campaign restrictions

    It is DoD policy that a member of the Armed Forces (hereafter referred to as “member”) is encouraged to carry out the obligations of a citizen. While on AD [Active Duty], however, members are prohibited from engaging in certain political activities. Subject to the guidelines in enclosure 3, the following DoD policy shall apply:

    1. General

    a. A member on AD may:

    (1) Register, vote, and express his or her personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces.

    (2) Make monetary contributions to a political organization-

    (3) Attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings or rallies as a spectator when not in uniform.

    b. A member on AD shall not:

    (1) Use his or her official authority or influence for interfering with an election; affecting the course or outcome of an election; soliciting votes for a particular candidate or issue; or requiring or soliciting political contributions from others.

    (2) Be a candidate for, or hold, civil office except as authorized in subsections D.2. and D.3., below.

    (3) Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions.

    (4) Make campaign contributions to another r of the Armed Forces or an employee of the Federal Government.

    Kirk is a Naval Reservist, and he appeared to be on duty when those posts were made, and his Twitter site is clearly a campaign site…

    Be sure to check out our Senate campaign splash page at www.kirkforsenate.com
    11:36 AM Jul 23rd

    * So, I called the Pentagon. The first person I talked to wondered aloud whether Kirk had violated any rules by disclosing his location while on duty.

    That wouldn’t be a good thing.

    But the other question I had was whether this violated some sort of anti-campaigning rule.

    I had asked the Kirk campaign for comment around the same time, and eventually received this e-mail, which I then forwarded to the Pentagon…

    “Congressman Kirk did not post while on duty. In situations when he is unable to use Twitter, (i.e. while on reserve duty) a staff member posts a preapproved tweet.”

    * Meanwhile, the Navy expects to issue a statement by the beginning of next week. In the interim, they offered me this…

    “We’re aware of the tweets by Congressman Kirk during a recent drill weekend here at the Pentagon and we’re going to be looking into the matter.”

    Whether or not Kirk or a staffer posted those tweets, I’m still not sure he should’ve done it, so I’m wondering what you think.

    Have at it.

    *** UPDATE *** Actually, those regs posted above are a bit dated. Here is a more recent military directive

    4.3.3. Any member on active duty who is permitted to be, or otherwise not prohibited from being, a nominee or candidate for office as described in subparagraph 4.2.1. may NOT participate in any campaign activities. This includes open and active campaigning and all behind-the-scene activities. For example, such members described in this paragraph who are candidates or nominees may not:

    4.3.3.1. Direct, control, manage, or otherwise participate in their campaign, including behind-the-scene activities.

    4.3.3.3. Publish or allow to be published partisan political articles, literature, or documents that they have signed, written, or approved that solicit votes for or against a partisan political party, candidate, issue, or cause.

    4.3.4. Those members included in subparagraph 4.3.3. who are nominees or candidates for office must:

    4.3.4.1. Take affirmative, documented efforts to inform those who work for them and those whom they control that they (the nominees or candidates) may not direct, control, manage, or otherwise participate in campaign activities on their own behalf.

    4.3.4.2. Take all reasonable efforts to prevent current or anticipated advertisements that they (the nominees or candidates) control from being publicly displayed or running in any media. This includes Web sites devoted to the nomination or candidacy. Web sites created before entry on active duty may not be updated or revised and may be ordered shut down as the Secretary concerned may direct.

    - Posted by Rich Miller   105 Comments      


    Oy

    Thursday, Jul 30, 2009

    * The clueless Daily Herald editorial board continues its clueless ways

    The [Cook] county board voted to give sheriff’s police the option of writing a $200 ticket for possession of small amounts of marijuana. This departs from state law, which requires suspects to be booked, jailed and slapped with a criminal record.

    Um, no. State law allows local governments to hand out the tickets. If memory serves, that goes all the way back to Jim Thompson’s era.

    * By the by, Glenview apparently has the ticket option. This is from a recent police blotter

    Joseph Gizzi, 18, of 2413 Saranac Lane, Glenview, was charged with possession of between 2.5 and 10 grams of marijuana late Friday after police stopped the vehicle in which he was a passenger on the 1500 block of Milwaukee Avenue. Bond was set at $1,000 pending an Sept. 3 court date.

    Jesus Rodriquez, 21, of 103 Main St., Northfield, was issued tickets for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia July 17 after police stopped him around 10:30 p.m. at 9th Street and South Branch.

    Flavia Stavri, 19, of 7827 Beckwith Road, Morton Grove, was issued a ticket for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana July 22 after an officer stopped him around 7 p.m. at Rugen Park, 2941 Harrison St.

    After officers stopped a vehicle around 11 p.m. July 22 on the 9700 block of Milwaukee Avenue, Tomasz Dmyterko, 19, of 50 Stacy Court, Glenview, was issued tickets for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana and minor in possession of alcohol and Alan Koszyk, 19, of 8440 W. Ciara St., Niles, was issued a ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia.

    James Westhoff, 18, of 630 Locust St., Winnetka, was issued tickets for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana and possession of a fictitious identification card after officers stopped him Friday evening outside Chestnut Wines, 1762 Waukegan Road.

    Last I checked, Glenview was not in chaos.

    - Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


    Morning Shorts

    Thursday, Jul 30, 2009

    * Exelon gets OK to build solar plant on South Side

    Development of the $60 million, 10-megawatt photovoltaic array is contingent on getting federal loan guarantees from the U.S. Energy Department. Chicago-based Exelon has said it wants to finance 80 percent of the project with help of a loan guarantee.

    Exelon would pay $110,000 a year to lease the land, and agreed to help clean the site of remains from its former industrial use, said Brian Granahan, a spokesman for Environment Illinois, an advocacy group supporting the project.

    “Chicago is far behind other major cities with solar energy and this would give us five times what we now have,” Granahan said in a phone interview from Chicago’s City Hall. “This has gotten a lot of support to both get rid of an eyesore and expand renewable energy.”

    * South Side Solar Plant Closer to Reality

    AUSTIN: It’s ten more jobs than what we had before. But it also will help create training for these type of jobs. So these things are what we would be left with, moreso than just the ten jobs.

    * Illinois coal plants are being threatened with lawsuit

    Environmental and health advocates figure they’ve waited long enough for Midwest Generation LLC to stop pollution from its six coal plants in Illinois.

    So five different groups have banded together and announced their intent to file a Clean Air Act citizen lawsuit in 60 days. They say the power plants were built decades ago and have not brought their pollution control efforts up to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. While the groups singled out the two generating stations in Chicago, the Powerton plant in Pekin is flagged as a violator, as well.

    * Rep. Phil Hare: Clean energy act would create U.S. jobs, oil independence

    * Gov expected to double charter limit

    ROCKFORD — Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign a bill Thursday that would double the state’s charter school limit, from 60 to 120.

    * Suburban schools to benefit from cafeteria grant program

    Several suburban school districts and social-service groups are among those that will share $3.6 million in federal stimulus funds earmarked for cafeteria improvements, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office announced Wednesday.

    A total of 84 districts will receive the competitive grants, which will be used to improve the quality of the meals served at the schools, increase energy efficiency inside cafeterias and increase participation in school meal programs.

    * Chicago area sees upswing in home foreclosures

    The number of Chicago metropolitan area homes hit with a foreclosure filing spiked 30 percent in the first six months of the year compared to the same period a year earlier, according to a RealtyTrac report that signals rising unemployment is driving up foreclosures here and in other markets.

    The Chicago area ranked 39th among metropolitan areas with 63,573 properties receiving a foreclosure filing, or one in every 59 homes, the data released today showed. That was a 22 percent increase over the July 2008 to December 2008 period. The report said much of the new foreclosure activity across the country may be more related to unemployment rather than fallout from subprime and adjustable rate loans.

    * Towns see rise in renovations

    A number of factors may be behind the upswing in remodeling, local building experts said, but the anemic housing market surely has played a major role. Though the Chicago area reported its fifth consecutive month-over-month improvement in sales of existing homes in June, sales are down 8.5 percent compared with this time last year, the Illinois Association of Realtors said. Prices rose slightly from May to June this year, but the median price was 18 percent lower than a year ago.

    Meanwhile, new construction has nearly ground to a halt — in Bolingbrook alone permits for new home construction plummeted from 111 in 2006 to 45 in 2008 and only nine so far in 2009. So many homeowners who had hoped to trade in their existing house for a newly built one a few years ago are staying put and sprucing up for when the housing market recovers.

    * Affordable housing: reality vs. illusion

    Since 1995, 47 percent of the TIF money spent on affordable housing has gone to developments that typically serve the higher end of the affordability scale — the young teacher, for example, rather than the poor, single mom, according to an analysis by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

    Only 27 percent of the units created with TIF funds went to the poorest Chicagoans, those earning less than $20,000, arguably the neediest group.

    The report also found that just a fraction of the total amount generated by the city’s 158 TIFs — $2.9 billion between 1995 and 2007 — went to build affordable housing.

    * Homes not priced to sell to low-income

    Instead, half of those homes — about 3,200 — are being sold or rented to people who earn more than the city’s median income. In some cases, those higher-income people are buying those properties using city subsidies that were a focus of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation.[…]

    But the coalition says the city is sitting on as much as $520 million from its 158 TIF districts that could be spent on affordable housing right now. During a press conference today, its members plan to call for a city ordinance that would require 20 percent of the TIF money that the city collects each year to be invested in affordable homes.

    * Roberto Maldonado steps in as 26th Ward alderman

    * Car dealer getting tax break from Matteson helped mayor’s campaign

    * Oak Lawn issues layoff notices

    Nearly 40 Oak Lawn employees could lose their jobs after a sweeping plan to close the multi-million dollar gap in Oak Lawn’s budget was secretly approved by Oak Lawn’s village board. […]

    Officials had hoped Oak Lawn’s six employee unions would agree to a number of concessions, including an increase in employees contributions toward their health insurance premiums.

    But the unions rejected that offer and several other stipulations - which some officials point to as the reason for the layoffs.

    * Pregnant women should be first in line for swine flu vaccine: panel

    * Study: Tanning beds definitely cause cancer

    * Rod Blagojevich’s book: Ousted governor’s work, due in September, available on Amazon.com

    * Judge: FBI’s Blago tapes won’t be made public

    * Web site helps Burr Oak graves search

    * Sheriff launches Burr Oak headstone database

    * Cemetery database online but incomplete

    * Texting while driving? Stop before you kill

    When “drivers of heavy trucks texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting,” reports the AP.

    * Not everyone comes home

    Since last fall, more than 2,900 “citizen soldiers” from Illinois — nurses, police officers and chemical engineers — have performed the ground-level work to help Afghanistan’s beleaguered government fend off an extremist Islamic insurgency.[…]

    In all, 17 Illinois Guard troops have died during the deployment, and the losses weigh heavily as the troops head home and their families and friends prepare to welcome them with hugs and homemade signs.

    * Governor to proclaim Buehrle Day to honor Sox pitcher

    - Posted by Mike Murray   10 Comments      


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