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Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

* Illinois has been downgraded by Fitch, but it’s not as bad as it could’ve been

Fitch Ratings downgraded the state of Illinois’ general obligation bond rating on Wednesday to A, down two notches from AA-minus. Analysts cited the failure of the state to enact a budget that addresses its spending needs and structural deficit.

More

The rating is removed from Rating Watch Negative, where it was placed April 9, 2009.

The Outlook is Stable.

The downgrade reflects the significant scope of the budgetary problem and the failure of the state to enact a budget that fully addresses its current spending needs and its large structural budget deficit. The enacted budget relies heavily on non-recurring revenues, particularly the use of debt to finance current operations, which will contribute to continued difficulty in structuring a balanced budget in the future. […]

The extent of the current fiscal problem has been clear for several months as revenue estimates were downsized; however, comprehensive solutions have been repeatedly delayed.

Thank goodness it wasn’t a California-like downgrade.

Also, the state’s Build Illinois bonds were reaffirmed at AA.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Trouble in paradise?

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

* Is Gov. Pat Quinn having trouble managing state agency directors? This little nugget was buried at the bottom of a story about a state stimulus seminar…

Kristi Lafleur, who works on economic development out of the Illinois governor’s office, said more than 20 state agencies are involved in spreading out the federal stimulus money.

She referred delicately to the political turmoil that has gripped her state. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was removed from office and replaced with Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn.

“Illinois has had a lot of challenges,” Lafleur said.

“We’re trying to get our state agencies to work together collaboratively.”

Sheesh.

* Speaking of the stimulus: We’re number one!

A new report concludes Illinois has the worst official stimulus Web site in the country.

More at the Good Jobs Now website. Click here for the Illinois data. The group gave Illinois zero points. Hilarious.

* In other news, WBEZ has the full text of that Wal-Mart poll reported by the Tribune…

“This is a one-question public opinion poll concerning your view on whether Mayor Daley and the City Council should allow a Walmart to be built at 83rd & Stewart. Advocates of the plan cite the 400+ jobs that will be created and the wider availability of fresh groceries and other goods. Opponents to building the Walmart say the jobs are not good enough.

We’d like to know how you feel.

If you think the Walmart SHOULD be built, press ONE on your phone.

If you think the Walmart SHOULD NOT be built, press TWO on your phone.

If you’re unsure, press THREE.”

That ain’t no poll. Not a reasonable one, anyway.

* And our political quote of the day goes to GOP gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard…

“I have a great love and affinity for western Illinois from Jacksonville westward,” he explained. “And my mother was from Kentucky, and I have lots of relatives and friends in southern Illinois. I know how all of the puzzle pieces fall together geographically in this state and there is no part of Illinois that I haven’t visited or worshiped in. … A governor needs to understand how to bring this tremendously diverse state together.”

* You’ve probably noticed that the automated news feeds are not working today. The company I’ve been dealing with is upgrading its system or something. Not sure exactly when they’ll be back up, but I am sick of dealing with these people and am actively looking for a new service.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

* The Champaign News-Gazette is once again live-Tweeting the commission hearing to investigate the U of I’s enrollment scandal.

Chicago Public Radio is live-Tweeting today’s redistricting committee hearing.

WTTW’s Rich Samuels Tweeted from today’s city council meeting.

And Jon Friedman at MarketWatch writes a column with the lede: A backlash against Twitter is building. MediaBistro flails Friedman via Twitter and the Twitterverse also responds.

* The Question: Do you use Twitter? If so, why? If not, why not?

…Adding… By “use” I mean “read,” not necessarily post your own Tweets.

* By the way, yesterday’s winner is vole for this little gem

PQ, pitching the perfect game in his mind, is lead to the dugout by the manager.

Please contact me. Thanks and congrats.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


A few Hamos strengths and weaknesses

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

* Democratic state Rep. Julie Hamos has a great story to tell during her upcoming 10th District congressional race. Her parents fled Communist Hungary when she was a child after they survived the unthinkable

“As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, I am passionate about Israel as the Jewish state that has a right to co-exist with safe and secure borders — and I am committed to supporting human rights and democracy throughout the world,” she said.

Some partisans commented here yesterday about Hamos’ alleged problems with Jewish voters. But she has a pretty strong hand, if you ask me.

* It’ll also be tough to peg her as a Mike Madigan clone since she’s been on the outs with MJM for quite a while now. Here’s a recent and quite snarky Speaker Madigan quote about her…

“Well, she is very knowledgeable. I mean, we should all be as smart as Rep. Hamos. Have a great day.”

That little feud goes back to the Blagojevich days, which won’t be good for Hamos

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been urging House Speaker Michael Madigan to attend a meeting about the state’s budget. Now a member of Madigan’s own Democratic caucus is joining that call. […]

This is the kind of meeting Speaker Madigan has skipped recently, so the governor’s sending the invitation through the press. Today he got some help from Representative Julie Hamos, a Democrat from Evanston.

HAMOS: I do wish that Speaker Madigan was more engaged now, as one of our key leaders in the state of Illinois. You know, we have some big issues that we did not resolve his year, and if Speaker Madigan is not at the table, they’re really never going to get resolved.

More on that Blagojevich/MJM/Hamos feud from a column written by GOP Rep. Jim Sacia in June of 2008…

What a gutsy lady. Though I often disagree with Representative Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) on issues she brings before the House, she hit the nail on the head last Saturday evening at about 10:30.

Ms. Hamos expressed her anger and disgust on the House floor (and on the record) as she chastised Speaker Michael Madigan for refusing to allow our $31 billion capital jobs and infrastructure plan from moving forward. […]

Ms. Hamos stated for all to hear that Speaker Madigan didn’t want this Governor traveling the state for the next two years cutting ribbons and accepting accolades

She also voted for the income tax hike, which may not play well in that congressional district.

* Hamos’ biggest problem right now, however, is her campaign itself. Her announcement video, which I posted yesterday, is just flat-out horrible. No self-respecting campaign would ever release something so amateurish and thoroughly flawed. What the heck was she thinking?

* Meanwhile, another Republican tosses his hat into the US Senate race…

Robert Enriquez believes the Republican Party is in trouble.

A Republican since his teen years, the 53-year-old Auroran now sees a party leading itself into disaster, and closing itself off from the diversity that surrounds it. That’s why, he says, he’s decided to run for the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama in 2010. […]

“The party wants to go the easy route. They want things handed to them,” Enriquez said. “These individuals handed us where we are in Illinois today.”

These beliefs are strongly Republican, and Enriquez said he did not consider running as an independent. But, he said, the “Republican Party has abandoned me.” He said the two-party system has proved damaging, with elected officials more concerned about topping one another than creating good laws, and thinks the Republican Party has neglected the cultural diversity that could help it connect with voters.

* Related…

* Battle lines being drawn in DuPage County - 3 announce pursuit of County Board chairmanship; 4 others considering run

* Breen to Announce Bid for IL House 41: With Friday’s retirement announcement by State Rep. Bob Biggins (R-Elmhurst), Lombard conservative leader Peter Breen has declared his intention to seek the Republican nomination for the 41st District.

* Hamos: I’m running for Kirk seat

* Hamos says she’ll be an ally of Obama in 10th District

* Alexi Giannoulias Makes Campaign Stop in Peoria

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Politics and the budget

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

* House Republican Leader Tom Cross pretty much admitted to Steve Huntley this week that he kept votes off the income tax increase to bolster GOP campaign prospects…

“For the first time in this state, people are starting to see a clear distinction between Republicans and Democrats,” asserted House Minority Leader Tom Cross of Oswego in a recent interview.

The reason, Cross said, is the strategy the GOP adopted in Springfield early this year when the income tax proposal seemed to monopolize policy discussions in the capital. His House Republican Organization partnered with the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan free-market research group, to focus on the spending side of state government. Spending in the last decade has risen by 39 percent after accounting for inflation.

The GOP position was that discussion of a tax hike wasn’t even on the table, and they demanded much needed fixes such as controls on spending, a commission to find duplicated, wasteful and obsolete state programs, and reforms in paying for Medicaid and the under-funded state pensions. […]

Regardless of how that turns out, Cross believes the GOP’s new identity will play well in the 2010 elections…

Cross had at least eight members of his caucus who were ready to vote for a tax hike, but they were pressured into voting with the rest of the herd.

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. [Emphasis added because some people apparently can’t read, including Fran.]

Also not mentioned in Huntley’s upbeat column is that Cross’ House Republican Organization had just $82,739.07 cash on hand as of June 30th. Cross’ personal campaign committee banked just $221,510.

* Meanwhile, Zorn may have missed the complete political significance of this press release…

Governor Pat Quinn today signed into law a bill compensating Illinois Veterans for their service during the Global War on Terrorism. Any Illinois Veteran who served on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001 is eligible to receive $100.

Wrote Eric…

I’m all for treating veterans well, particularly when it comes to health care, vocational services and so on. But this token payment strikes me as odd — more like pandering than addressing the real needs of veterans (though I’m sure they all appreciate the cash).

Sure, it’s pandering. Quinn gets to take partial credit for the payment.

But keep in mind that Comptroller Dan Hynes’ name will be all over the envelopes when he mails those state checks to veterans. Hynes is, of course, gearing up to run against Quinn in the primary.

* Related…

* Senate committee meets on redistricting

* Advocates press aldermen to stand up for mental health centers: Depending on how much money CDPH gets from the state for this fiscal year, as many as five centers could close.

* State: Anna vets home not closing

* Cash for veterans found in the state budget

* Wednesdays drag without Senior Center

* Illinois axes help for the poor

* States target prisons for cuts, raising worries

* Anita Bedell: Gambling expansion will harm our society

* Daley: Those opting out of video poker law shouldn’t see profits

* ‘Initiatives’ should come with oversight

- Posted by Rich Miller   65 Comments      


Polling secrets

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

* Yesterday, Laura Washington’s column focused on a poll commissioned by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce…

Question: “Should your alderman vote to approve the proposed Wal-Mart store on Chicago’s South Side?”

Seventy-three percent of voters polled said yes, 17 percent said no, and 10 percent had “no opinion.”

Question: “Has Chicago’s City Council succeeded or failed to bring job growth and economic development to Chicago?”

Sixty-six percent said “failed.”

Whatever you think about Wal-Mart, it’s tough to argue with the response to that second question.

But here’s a secret to reading any poll. Politicians and operatives pay the most attention to voter intensity. Will a certain issue mean anything come voting time? Responses above 70 percent are given a lot of attention by the players. If not, then they’re not much to worry about.

Here’s the intensity answer to the Wal-Mart question…

Question: “If your alderman voted against building a new Wal-Mart store in Chicago, would you vote to re-elect them to office if an election were held today?”

Thirty-nine percent said, “Re-election.” Thirty-eight percent said, “Not re-elected.”

So, voters care about the issue, but not enough to make any sort of difference at the ballot box. At least, not yet. We’d need more responses to other questions to see if the issue might eventually become important enough to make a difference. I don’t have the full poll, so I don’t know if those questions even exist.

* Keep all that in mind when reading stories like this today…

Wal-Mart representatives [last night] tried to increase the pressure on Chicago’s City Council ahead of a committee hearing Wednesday where the prospect of a new South Side store could come up for debate.

A spokesman for the company announced a polling firm made automated calls today to more than 75,000 Chicagoans with a one-question recording that touted the benefits of a new Wal-Mart, including more than 400 jobs and “a wider availability of fresh groceries and other goods.”

The company said the recording also said opponents “say the jobs are not good enough.”

Wal-Mart officials said the results show Chicagoans overwhelmingly favor a second store for Chicago, but it’s unclear whether their latest public relations push will win them converts among aldermen who have so far sided with organized labor groups that oppose the store.

The ward-by-ward results of that quickie survey can be downloaded by clicking here.

…Adding… The Tribune story appears to contain a an error. The automated calls were made to 1.2 million phone numbers – everybody in the white pages - according to Serafin & Associates.

* Related…

* Wal-Mart Fight Continues on Chicago’s South Side

* Poll shows Chicagoans in favor of 2nd Wal-Mart store

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Lessons that must be learned

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

* The Sun-Times looks back on the Brian Dugan case, including the indictment of innocent men

The original, flawed indictment in the case came just days before the 1984 GOP primary for DuPage County state’s attorney, a decision that underscores the perils of allowing politics to taint prosecutions.

From then on, the case got only worse, putting on display what can happen when police officers and prosecutors cannot admit mistakes, cannot confess that they arrested the wrong men.

Tribune

Dugan is serving two life sentences for “unrelated” rapes and homicides. Tuesday’s admission, however, ties these three particularly brutal cases tightly together: Brian Dugan, who murdered 27-year-old Donna Schnorr of Geneva in 1984 and 7-year-old Melissa Ackerman of Somonauk in 1985, now admits to a judge in Wheaton that he abducted and murdered Jeanine Nicarico in 1983.

We could fill this page with the saga of the Nicarico case and all of its twists and turns through the criminal justice system. A case in which two men were wrongfully convicted and put on Death Row. A case that had a profound impact on this page’s decision in 2007 to abandon its support for capital punishment.

The Daily Herald has long been an open booster of the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s office, regularly assigning cheerleaders instead of reporters to cover the beat. The paper has been silent on its editorial page so far this week.

* During debates over the death penalty, many will insist that the ultimate punishment should be set aside for the worst offenders. Kidnapping, raping and murdering a little girl would undoubtedly fall into anyone’s category of the worst of the worst. What the Nicarico case showed Illinois, however, is that the system is human-operated and is therefore far from perfect. Sometimes, it can be brutally wrong.

* This case should also be a lesson for journalism. A Daily Herald timeline of the Dugan case fails to point out the impact made by the early, false, screaming headlines about the wrongly arrested men, for instance.

Prosecutors are too often treated by the media as though their every word comes from the mouth of God. Humans are humans. We make mistakes. Sometimes we refuse to admit mistakes. So, flawed humans cannot ever be given the complete benefit of the doubt.

* The same goes for the police. I’m a big supporter of society’s frontline protectors, and firmly believe that they should be given the benefit of the doubt in most situations. We need their service…

According to CPD, in 2005, there were 1,705 cases of aggravated battery with a gun, the vast majority being shootings.

By 2008, the number shot up to 2003, a 17.5 percent jump.

In the first 6 months of 2009, there has been a 6.3 percent increase over last year.

But they are humans, too. They’re not always in the right, and they are citizens like the rest of us. So, they should never escape accountability, as the DuPage establishment eventually learned the hard way.

To always treat prosecutors and police as infallible undermines the very fabric of a democratic society. If we learn nothing else from the Dugan case, it should be that.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009

* U.S. Pays $2.5 Trillion for Care Costing $912 Billion

“Health reform could not be more critical,” Mike Duke, president of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest private employer, said in a letter last month to Obama. “Reforming health care is necessary not just to improve the health of all Americans, but also to remove the burden that is crushing America’s businesses.”

* Glimmer of hope

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index report showed prices edged up 1.1 percent in the Chicago area from April, the index’s first month-over-month improvement since June 2008. Prices dropped 17.5 percent in May from a year earlier. But the May annual data was an improvement over April’s year-over-year report, which showed prices dropping 18.7 percent.

* Kids Count: Illinois seeing rise in child poverty

* AT&T skirting law that requires local cable-access stations

This is not just a local issue, but one playing out nationally wherever AT&T deploys its U-verse technology. While Illinois’ Cable and Video Competition law of 2007 requires companies with state video franchises to deliver PEG channels with equivalent signal quality and functionality to that of commercial channels, many communities feel AT&T is coming up short and are seeking legal remedies to gain compliance.

* Fairmount Park closing its season early; economy, lawsuit blamed

* Daley orders furloughs: ‘taxpayers are hurting’

Two thousand non-union employees at six government agencies under Mayor Daley’s control will be ordered to take furlough days and forfeit 2009 pay raises to save $18.8 million and keep their hands out of taxpayers’ pockets.

* Daley outlines unpaid days off for top schools, park district and CTA officials

* Daley: CPS admissions investigation shows change how public schools are perceived

After telling reporters that Ron Huberman was “on top of that,” Daley said he welcomed the need for an investigation. It shows there’s been a sea change in how parents perceive the public schools, he said.

“Thank God people want to get their kids into school. … Usually, they’re fleeing to the suburbs. … This is unbelievable,” Daley said.

* Debate over gay business contracts resurfaces

Six years after raising the issue only to drop it like a hot potato, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) brought it up again during a Budget Committee hearing called to extend until 2015 a construction set-aside ordinance for minorities and women.

* NYT Co.’s top lawyer doubts that aggregation is a copyright issue

* Vote expected on South Side solar plant

* CTA rider: Flaw in Chicago Card Plus unfare

“I have a Chicago Card Plus. My monthly fee is supposed to provide me with unlimited rides for the month. However, there is a major flaw in unlimited rides provision.

If I ride the same route twice within a 12-minute period, I am charged for another ride. This has happened several times.

* 3 Kennedy Expressway entrance ramps to close Saturday

The $9.3 million rehabilitation project involves permanently closing several ramps and redesigning others in the busy corridor between Hubbard’s Cave and the Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate Highway 290) Circle Interchange.

* O’Hare named 2nd worst in U.S. for delays

* Money budgeted for Peotone airport changes equation

They don’t agree on much, but proponents and opponents of the controversial proposal for an airport in Peotone say the $100 million set aside for the project in the state’s just-signed capital bill is “huge.”

For airport supporters, the money signals that Gov. Pat Quinn is serious about acquiring the remaining 2,000 acres needed in southern Will County to build a third major airport for the Chicago region. No sooner had the governor signed the $31 billion capital spending bill than state officials began fielding calls from landowners near Peotone seeking to cash in, said Susan Shea, director of aeronautics for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

* Comprehensive rail plan good start

* Capitol Q&A: Seat belt usage continues to climb

A statewide survey released last week shows that seat-belt usage has increased to 91.7 percent, a record. That’s more than 15 percentage points better than in 2003, when seat-belt usage was 76.2 percent.

Fatal crashes also are on the decline this year, dropping by about 10 percent during the first half of 2009, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety, which conducted the survey.

* Cook County patronage worker’s phone records released

Documents show up to 18 calls a day between phones of Tony Cole and Donna Dunnings, Todd Stroger’s cousin

* Quincy fights move of postal jobs to Springfield

But a postal service spokesman in Chicago said Tuesday the agency has “clarified” the study goal to calm concerns in Quincy that the entire operation, including about 70 jobs, might be leaving town.

* County offering cheap rabies shots, pet microchips

* Get Your Free Lolla iPhone App

* Buehrle Breaks ‘Perfect’ Record

Coming off the 18th perfect game in major league history, Chicago White Sox Mark Buehrle retired the first 17 batters on Tuesday night to set a record with 45 outs in a row before the Minnesota Twins rallied for a 5-3 victory over the White Sox.

- Posted by Mike Murray   19 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009

* This has to be one of the most interesting photos of Gov. Pat Quinn that I’ve ever seen…

Keeping in mind my “you’ll be banned for life and possibly reported to the coppers” rules about violent imagery, what caption would you give this photo?

Best comment wins a ticket to the August 17th Chicago White Sox game vs. the Kansas City Royals.

* Yesterday’s winner was actually the very first comment. I decided right away to give it to hmmm…

12:00 PM - Governor Quinn, at a press conference in Chicago, announces he will hold his breath until the legislature passes a final budget that does not hurt families.

12:03 PM - Governor Quinn flip flops and takes a breath.

Please contact me to make arrangements.

- Posted by Rich Miller   132 Comments      


Campaign 2010 roundup

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009

* Put this into the “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’” file. The Illinois Republican Party whacks Democratic US Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias for talking out of both sides of his mouth…

Alexi: So I’m also proud to be the first candidate running for the U.S. Senate in the history of the state of Illinois not to take money from lobbyists or from corporate PACs…

Roma: In that spirit of swearing off corporate PACs and lobbyist contributions, what about all special interest money, from unions, from trial lawyers, from, zero PAC money, is that something that you think politicians should all do?

Alexi: I personally do.

But according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, Giannoulias already accepted union and special interest PAC contributions to his Senate exploratory committee.

Apparently, when Giannouolias said “I personally do,” he was referring to the question of “should politicians reject” all special interest money - and wasn’t trying to say that he actually does it.

Hokay.

The Giannoulias campaign attempts to explain…

“Mark Kirk has taken millions of dollars of special interest money and voted their way in Washington for almost a decade. Alexi Giannoulias is the first US Senate candidate in Illinois history to refuse money from federal lobbyists and corporate PACs because he believes that we will never change the way we do business in Washington until we change the way we elect people to represent us in Washington.”

* Comptroller Dan Hynes’ campaign has been whacking Gov. Pat Quinn for the past few days, but Hynes’ campaign Twitter page has lately focused on sports…

Upset that Charles Tillman is out for a while. Hope he gets better soon - Bears need his secondary help.
about 1 hour ago

Looking forward to seeing Mark Buehrle read David Letterman’s Top Ten List tonight.
about 22 hours ago

Lotsa red meat there, Dan. Way to get all controversial on us.

* Republican William Kelly has a bit of fun with his state comptroller campaign kickoff video…


Kelly’s background from a press release…

A Second City-trained humorist, Kelly is he host and executive producer of the TV series, “Sportsaholic” and the Emmy award-winning “Upscale TV,” which just completed a successful three-year run on FOX.

No stranger to Illinois politics, Kelly was previously the Executive Director of the National Taxpayers Union of Illinois. He is a former GOP candidate for Congress and currently oversees a non-profit reform organization, RebuildIllinois.com. He has a long-standing history of anti-tax and government waste activism, which was the subject of the National Review article, “Rebel with a Cause.”

* Sen. Durbin apparently doesn’t know anything more than we do about Chris Kennedy…

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Monday he was in the dark about any potential statewide bid of Merchandise Mart boss Chris Kennedy, the nephew of his Senate colleague Ted Kennedy. […]

Lately, media reports have said he is eying a run for governor after backing off a senate bid. That would put him in competition with Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes.

Asked about Chris Kennedy Monday, Durbin said flatly, “I have heard so many rumors.”

“I don’t know where he is whether it is governor or senator or something else,” Durbin said.

* Democratic State Rep. Julie Hamos claims $200,000 in contribution pledges for her 10th Congressional District run…

“We’ve already received pledges of over $200,000 in just the one week that I’ve been making phone calls. I think that’s a great start and I think it shows again the strength of my support.”

Here’s her campaign video announcement…


Carlos Hernandez-Gomez ponders Hamos on Twitter…

.She’s bright, charasmatic w/ a great story, but how will her transit tax & Quinn tax vote play?

* State Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago) talks to Fox Chicago News about running for Congress…


* Memo to newspapers: Get your own houses in order before complaining about blogs. Case in point, the Naperville Sun gave GOP Congresscritter Judy Biggert sponsorship credit for a major local project

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that would allocate $1 million for improvement of the EJ&E railroad crossing at Ogden Avenue in Aurora.

The bill, H.R. 3288, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-13th), provides fiscal year 2010 appropriations for the Department of Transportation, included a total of $1.5 million requested by Biggert for a Metra Station in Tinley Park and freight-related traffic relief along Ogden Avenue. The bill passed the House on Thursday evening and now heads to the Senate.

Um, no

But the paper forgot one tiny detail — along with the rest of Illinois’ Republican delegation, Biggert voted against the bill. The Sun staff report also falsely asserted that she “sponsored” the measure (in fact, she did no such thing).

The newspaper story appears to be a clumsy rewrite of an official press release. Oops.

* Related…

* Dirty Money Watch: Rep. Danny Davis

* Al Hofeld, Jr., may seek state Senate seat: A Chicago lawyer whose father changed the face of Illinois politics says he’s getting ready for a possible race for the state Senate.

* GOP Businessman Dick Green Close to Announcing Bid for IL-10

* Giannoulias Kicks Off Senate Campaign In Marion

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Will Quinn “save” pre-school program?

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009

* Gov. Pat Quinn appears to be already promising money from that $1.2 billion in magical cash reserves…

…Quinn said Monday he’s now hoping to reverse a recommendation by the State Board of Education to cut pre-school for 30,000 youngsters.

“Well the State Board of Education made that recommendation, but I have the final say. So we’re going to be reviewing everything,” Quinn said.

He didn’t exactly say he would “reverse” the decision, but whatever.

While good news for early education advocates and participants, that’s less money which can be spent elsewhere or used to keep next year’s horrific $10B+ deficit in check.

For instance, a new study reportedly shows

The percentage of children in Illinois living in poverty increased 13 percent between 2000 and 2007, from 15 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2007. During the same time period, Data Book indicators show that the percentage of children living in families without secure parental employment rose from 29 percent to 31 percent. While both measures are lower than 2007 national averages, the Illinois indicators increased at a faster rate than in the United States.

* Meanwhile, there’s been a minor uproar lately from the religious and non-religious about the projects in the state’s new capital bill which benefit religious institutions. Eric Zorn reveals today that not all those projects may make the final cut, however…

A spokesman for Gov. Quinn said Monday that individual state agencies will rule “on a case-by-case basis” which projects are constitutional as these agencies negotiate the specifics of each grant.

Great. The lawmakers pander to their constituents, state agencies get the blame and the rest of us get to pay for more litigation

That’s usually how it goes.

* Speaking of the capital bill, the Daily Herald demands that local governments in its territory opt out of the new video gaming law…

So far, there has been precious little discussion of the issue at area municipal board meetings and almost no hearings to understand what constituents think or to delve into the deeper implications. A DuPage County Board member did speak out last week when he said he would ask the board to ban the machines in unincorporated areas. We need more of that kind of discussion. As Anita Bedell, director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, said, “Once this is in your community, you can’t stop it.”

To our mayors and village presidents, to our city councils and village boards, we have four words: End the silence now.

The locals certainly have that right. They’ll miss out on the gaming revenues, of course. But I also wonder whether you think capital projects should be moved down the priority list if the local governments refuse to help pay for it via this new gaming tax of legalized video poker.

* Related…

* Downtown Partnership tightens budget belt

* SJ-R: Re-examine how state imprisons criminals

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Unsolicited advice

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009

* Dear readers,

You might want to click here and head over to Amazon to help the site’s customers by “tagging” Rod Blagojevich’s new book.

When you click the link, just scroll down a bit until you see: “Tags Customers Associate with This Product.” Then click the tags that you agree with, and/or create your own.

For instance, I created a tag called “Moron.” Clicking the Moron tag shows that Rod Blagojevich’s new book is already the second most prevalent product with that tag at Amazon’s entire site. It does have a way to go to overtake the first place contestant, however, but Blagojevich is, in my opinion, far more deserving.

This is not a call to dishonestly tag the new Blagojevich book. As Illinois political observers, we’re simply the most qualified of anyone to create tags for this particular author. So, please be as honest as you possibly can. I don’t think we should hurt anyone. The idea is to illuminate the process.

Also, after you’ve tagged the item, you might also want to create a search tag, which is just below. If you’re not an Amazon customer, you can easily create an account.

Please, report back to us what you’ve done. Thanks.

* Dear Gov. Quinn,

Today would probably be an appropriate day to sign this bill

Creates the Elected Officials Misconduct Forfeiture Act. Provides that the Attorney General may file an action in circuit court on behalf of the people of Illinois against an elected official who has, by his or her violation of the Official Misconduct Article of the Criminal Code of 1961 or violation of a similar federal offense, injured the people of Illinois. Provides that the purpose of such suit is to recover all proceeds traceable to the elected official’s offense and by so doing, prevent, restrain or remedy violations of the Official Misconduct Article of the Criminal Code of 1961 or similar federal offenses. Effective immediately.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Mikva wants all trustees to resign

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009

* The hearings aren’t over yet, but Ab Mikva appears to have made up his mind

The chairman of the state panel investigating admissions abuses at the University of Illinois stepped up his war of words on the school’s trustees this morning, saying they all should submit their resignations. […]

Mikva also linked the trustees to the “pay-for-play” mentality in Springfield, saying some trustees had contributed as much as $100,000 to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. He wondered aloud what they thought they were buying.

It probably hasn’t occurred to Mikva that his own defense of Rod Blagojevich against corruption allegations in the 2006 campaign was worth far more than any cash contribution could’ve bought. Mikva allowed Blagojevich to use his good name to be reelected. That was priceless.

Still, after watching this thing unfold, Mikva is probably right about the trustees. They seemed to be of a class that bowed to gubernatorial and legislative authority far too easily.

* Meanwhile, White appears to have learned a lesson as a whole

University of Illinois President B. Joseph White on Monday told a commission investigating the effect of politics on school admissions that he found an environment in which who you know and what you can offer matter to a shocking degree when he took over at the university in 2005.

And he said the university’s reputation has suffered such a blow because of the role of political clout on campus that he and other university leaders have little choice but to insulate decisions about who gets into school from anyone but admissions officials — barring graduates, donors and anyone else from the process. [emphasis added]

It wasn’t just Rod Blagojevich and legislators representing antsy constituents who twisted arms. The pervasive influence of big donors and prominent alumni probably had more weight for a longer period of time anyway.

* This reform, however, is probably not a good idea

[Former U of I president James Stukel] said he would support a board that includes only three governor-appointed trustees plus additional trustees selected by the university’s alumni association. Currently, the UI board is made up of nine governor-appointed trustees, plus three students elected from each of the campuses.

The alumni association? You mean the group that White wants to rein in? The group which thought the biggest issue for years was saving that dancing white kid at sports games? Please.

Should we go back to elected trustees?

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009

* Ill. spent less than U.S. average per pupil in ‘07

U.S. Census Bureau figures released Monday ranked Illinois 21st in the country in per-pupil spending. On average, each state spent $9,666 per pupil in 2007, the most recent year for which data are available.

* Midwest governors form high-speed rail group

Hoping to pool their clout to land billions of federal tax dollars, eight Midwestern governors and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley agreed Monday to work together to build a vast network of high-speed rail lines.

The agreement envisions a web of high-speed lines radiating out from Chicago to the Twin Cities, Green Bay, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Iowa City, among other Midwestern cities. The signers, including Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn, hope the agreement will bring the region a large chunk of at least $8 billion set aside for high-speed rail in President Barack Obama’s stimulus package.

* Chicago, 8 states form high-speed rail group

* Midwest Governors Pool High-Speed Rail Efforts

* Second, faster high-speed rail line suggested for Springfield

* Agriculture grants available for Illinois farmers

* Disaster loans available for residents

* South Side Ford plant could grow

An analyst says Ford’s South Side assembly plant could grow to two or three shifts after the Explorer SUV moves production here next year.

* Applause for Oak Lawn

It concluded the village needed to adopt a merit-based pay raise system for nonunion employees and tweak pay grades for both lower level and mid-level jobs, among other recommendations. The village is considering privatization of several village departments, refinancing bond payments, cutting travel expenses, laying off 11 firefighters and, possibly, requiring retired employees to pay a portion of their health care premiums, which the village now covers at 100 percent-a rare perk indeed.

* Buyouts, furloughs won’t be enough to balance city of Aurora budget

* US House panel says cemetery oversight needed

* Ex-Berwyn alderman sues over incident at Wal-Mart

One-time Berwyn alderman Michael Phelan filed a battery and malicious prosecution suit Monday against Wal-Mart and its security staff at the Forest Park store in connection with a year-old incident.

* Obesity carries heavy cost

Extra weight linked to $1,400 a year more in medical expenses

* Tweet about apartment mold draws lawsuit

It was a not-so-sweet Tweet about a Chicago apartment.

So Horizon Group Management LLC filed a libel lawsuit Monday against former tenant Amanda Bonnen, claiming one of her alleged Twitter posts “maliciously and wrongfully” slammed her apartment at 4242 N. Sheridan and the company managing it.

* Mayor Richard Daley appoints Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado to replace Ald. Billy Ocasio

Daley took issue with reporters who asked him if he had snubbed Ocasio by not picking his wife.

“Why did I pick Roberto Maldonado? That is the question,” Daley said. “And I picked him because of experience, his commitment, his working with people, his private-sector as well public-sector [experience].”

* Daley appoints Maldonado as 26th Ward alderman

Pointing to Maldonado’s role in founding the first Hispanic-owned mortgage brokerage firm in the Midwest, Daley said, “In the Puerto Rican community, we forget there’s many, many entrepreneurs, professional people. There are all types of small businesses. … There’s a large entrepreneurship in that community that people don’t realize.”

Although Todd Stroger and Bill Beavers moved from the City Council to the County Board in recent years, Maldonado said he relishes the move in the other direction, which comes with a $25,556 pay raise.

* Cook Co. commissioner leaves, jeopardizing sales tax cut

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley appointed Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, a Democrat from Chicago, alderman of the 26th Ward, and the city council is expected to approve the appointment Wednesday. That means Maldonado won’t be around for the county board’s next meeting, Sept. 1, when it must consider overriding Stroger’s veto of a half-percentage-point sales tax cut.

* New Alderman Vows to Fight for Equality

* Durbin: Senate Committee Close to Health Care Bill

* Southlanders: We need more health care services

* Sculpture to mark 1908 riot to be unveiled

SPRINGFIELD — A sculpture that resembles two ends of a burned-out home will be unveiled next month to commemorate the 1908 Springfield race riot.

* Buehrle presents the ‘Top Ten’ on the ‘Late Show’ tonight

- Posted by Mike Murray   11 Comments      


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* Prison reform group responds to new Rauner ad
* Quinn hit on botched early prisoner release program
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* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's cable TV buys
* *** UPDATED x1 - Griffin gives another million *** Rauner giving more cash to state GOP
* Question of the day
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* #QsforQuinn
* Frerichs wants Cross to call off the state party dogs
* Rauner Internet ad pairs Quinn with Blagojevich
* Bost claims poll shows him up by 4
* More than just unclear on the concept
* Quinn: "Everybody in? I'm driving"
* The sleep gap
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* Yesterday's blog posts

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