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*** UPDATED w/ Additional Thoughts *** Speaker Madigan’s property tax practice examined

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* The Sun-Times waded through property tax cases in Cook County and identified “hundreds” of clients of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s law firm. So far though, there isn’t much to report

Over the past nine years, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s law firm has made $171,000 by seeking property tax breaks for developers who get state financing to build low-income housing, records show.

His firm’s payments came through the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the state agency that financed those projects.

Records also show the firm of Madigan & Getzendanner helped another state contractor save about $300,000 in property taxes on the Atrium Mall and food court it operates inside the James R. Thompson Center, the state’s main office building in Chicago.

The payments referenced in the article are processed through IHDA, but that’s because IHDA administers a developers’ escrow fund. That’s not state money. But you won’t find find that tidbit until you get to the end of the story.

The lawsuit mentioned in the piece involved a different law firm and came about after Rod Blagojevich refused to renew the company’s lease at the Thompson Center. Attorney General Madigan dropped out of the case after Blagojevich demanded a private attorney be used. The outside law firm lost the case at the trial and appellate level and is now appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Speaker Madigan has come under fire from Cook County Assessor James Houlihan for mixing his political power with his law firm, but the Sun-Times article shows that Houlihan has often agreed with Madigan’s firm.

One of the more interesting pieces of the story is the sidebar, which looks at some of Madigan’s clients…

* New Frontier Management, owned by indicted Republican Party power-broker William F. Cellini

* Harlem Irving Companies, owned by Michael Marchese, a friend of Mayor Daley’s and shopping-center magnate

* The Columbian, a city-subsidized condo building built by developer Allison S. Davis

* East Lake Management Corp.,owned by developer Elzie Higginbottom

* State Rep. Monique Davis

* Ali D. Ata, a former state official who has pleaded guilty to tax charges

Everybody who is anybody. Also, it’s interesting that Madigan also does work for members. Or, at least one member.

Madigan’s law firm has been looked at several times over the years by the feds. Nothing’s ever come of it. But you can easily see why Lisa Madigan would’ve had to deal with a lot of trouble if she had decided to run for governor. Articles like today’s would be popping up all the time.

…Adding… I would say, though, that Speaker Madigan is really playing with fire with this Joe Berrios for Cook County Assessor candidacy. Berrios is HDO’s godfather, and is a Statehouse lobbyist who helped convinced Madigan to enact the new video gaming law. He’s also a member of the Board of Review, which Madigan’s firm is in front of all the time.

Madigan is just asking for big trouble with this one. And he’ll probably get it.

* Related…

* Ask Blago: Blago is HILARIOUS! Listeners can call in and talk to him about anything that’s on their minds. The majority of the program is taken up with Blago’s rants about greedy politicians and how the government is corrupting society, etc. He tosses around the phrase “When I was governor” approximately once every 30 seconds, and he loves to point the finger at his enemies in Illinois politics and tell his callers why those people are to blame for absolutely everything that’s wrong with the world. Some people call in to discuss serious issues, like veterans benefits. Other people call to tell Rod how great he was during his recent performance at Second City, etc.

* Marin: Remorseless Fawell still not ready for reform : It was not unlike watching Gov. Quinn’s surreal news conference last week, when he vetoed the campaign finance reform bill he had previously hailed as “landmark legislation.” Making the event even crazier was the presence of Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who triumphantly passed that lousy, loophole-ridden legislation in hopes that the public wouldn’t see it for what it was. But the public did, forcing them all into retreat as they swore they’d do better next time.

* Kadner: You can’t get rid of Ruff: Under Illinois law, all township supervisors, trustees and clerks voted out of office in April must leave by the third Monday of the following month, which was May 18 this year. But township assessors and collectors get to remain in office until Jan. 1 of the following year. As far as I can tell, there are only five township collectors left in Illinois.

* Editorial: A good day for democracy

* Statehouse Insider: A most unusual veto ceremony

* Keep pressure on politicians; scare them a bit

* PJ Star: Veto the first step, now give campaign bill some teeth

* We need honorable public servants

* SJ-R Opinion: Redistricting reform must be a priority

* Lawmakers want say on tollway watchdog

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Quinn uses AV powers on pay raises, sales tax

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* Gov. Quinn used his amendatory veto power again the other day. This time, it was on legislative pay raises…

Gov. Pat Quinn is taking aim at lawmakers’ annual cost of living raises as a way to help the state’s bottom line.

Legislators had forfeited their annual raise this year, but on Friday Quinn used his amendatory veto power to go even further and propose eliminating yearly pay raises for good.

Lawmakers automatically receive a yearly raise to reflect the rate of inflation unless they vote not to take it, as they did this year in a nod to the state’s budget woes.

“Help the state’s bottom line”? More like “Help Quinn’s reelection.” Very Blagojevichian.

From the governor’s AV

Section 35 prohibits officials from receiving a cost of living adjustment in fiscal year 2010. Given our current fiscal situation, that is an appropriate decision. I applaud the General Assembly for taking this difficult step. I propose that we go even further: eliminate the automatic cost of living adjustment for every year going forward.

More

[Quinn] said such salary adjustments should be done away with in all future years, not just the current budget. He suggested lawmakers change the legislation to garner his approval.

The potential problem is that lawmakers aren’t scheduled to take up the governor’s vetoes until October. So while the General Assembly voted to do away with raises, and Quinn said there shouldn’t be any - ever, the actual law putting a stop to the bigger paydays has now been rejected by Quinn.

It remained unclear Friday if Quinn’s action would trigger higher paychecks for state officials in the meantime.

Lawmakers could accept Quinn’s changes during the October session, or override the change and enact the original pay-raise prohibition. If they do nothing, the prohibition on the raises vanishes.

* And speaking of amendatory vetoes, Gov. Quinn finally acted on the so-called STAR Bonds bill, legislation which I’ve called “The worst bill ever”…

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday he would ask the Legislature to cut in half the sales tax benefits sought for [Metro East] University Town Center, a proposed $1 billion entertainment-retail development in Glen Carbon.

The original bill allowed the developer to use all state sales tax money to pay for the project. Quinn cut that in half

Quinn would limit the incentive to 50 percent of new sales tax revenue and only up to 50 percent of total project costs.

Quinn

“We didn’t want to be financing the entire project from state money,” Quinn said after a news conference unrelated to the bill. “We thought, ‘There’s room for the developer to put money in.’”

That’s far more reasonable than the original legislation. But the developer, of course, isn’t happy

“His amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1909 (SB 1909) unnecessarily jeopardizes 10,000 construction jobs and 3,100 full-time equivalent jobs at a time when they are desperately needed,” Holland added. “It is difficult to understand how it is possible to underestimate these tough economic times and the devastating impact of unemployment.”

More

“I hope they haven’t made a mistake that could end up costing us the biggest economic opportunity in our area in probably the last 15 years,” [state Rep. Tom Holbrook] added. “We compete with Missouri, a state that has more incentives. We have higher unemployment. We needed to do something to hook a major development to our area.”

I mostly agree with the Belleville News-Democrat’s take

It’s a change that better protects the interest of the taxpayers while still providing an incredibly sweet incentive to developers. Quinn points out, correctly, that as the bill was written, it was possible that the developer might gain more financially than the taxpayers. The state Department of Revenue estimates the state and local governments might lose $15 million a year in tax revenue, mainly by cannibalization of sales tax-producing businesses in nearby communities.

By scaling back the incentive, Quinn ensures that the state treasury will immediately share in the benefits of any development. We’re still not thrilled with the idea of putting so much public money into private business, but state leaders believe incentives are needed to spur development.

We urge lawmakers to approve this change. If a developer isn’t willing to pay for half of the cost of a project, it probably shouldn’t be built.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Could a primary be good for Quinn?

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column looks at the Dan Hynes vs. Pat Quinn Democratic primary

There’s been quite a bit of private grumbling by Democratic county party chairmen and women and other party leaders about Comptroller Dan Hynes’ decision to run in the February primary against Gov. Pat Quinn.

They worry that Hynes will unnecessarily divide the party yet again and serve as a constant reminder to voters that Quinn was Rod Blagojevich’s mostly silent lieutenant governor for six years. Hynes’ bid, they worry, will only help the Republican Party.

That very well may be true. If Hynes loses the primary after spending millions of dollars tying Rod Blagojevich around Pat Quinn’s neck, then Quinn could be served up on a platter in the general election. The best thing the Republicans have going for them right now in this Democratic state is Rod Blagojevich’s ignominious legacy, so any help they can get from the Democratic Party would be eagerly welcomed.

But a tough primary race also could turn out to be a good thing for Quinn.

Quinn has never won a top-tier race. He lost a general election to George Ryan for secretary of state in 1994. Two years later, Quinn lost a Democratic primary to Dick Durbin for U.S. Senate.

History shows that Quinn’s campaign skills and instincts are questionable, at best. Nobody really knows if he has what it takes deep down inside to win the big one. A hot primary race will provide an opportunity to test Quinn’s ability to hold off the Republicans next fall. If he loses to Hynes in February, he probably wouldn’t have won in November, either. If he decisively defeats Hynes in February, he may settle some nervous Democratic stomachs.

Quinn is getting better at the game. He hired a top-notch fundraiser in David Rosen, who helped the campaign rake in more than $300,000 in June alone (trouble is, Quinn has yet to settle on the rest of his senior campaign team, even though the election now is kicking into a much higher gear).

Quinn always has railed against party slatemaking, particularly in Cook County. One of Quinn’s demands during negotiations over the campaign finance reform bill was a provision to prevent the Democratic Party of Illinois from slating and financing candidates. The governor demanded that particular “reform” back when Lisa Madigan, the daughter of the state party chairman, widely was believed to be gearing up to run against Quinn.

But, the other day Quinn refused to join Hynes’ request that the Cook County Democratic Central Committee avoid slating statewide candidates. After delivering a long, rambling response which didn’t even come close to answering the question, Quinn was pressed again on the issue and said, “What they do is up to them.” During the slating meeting, Quinn reportedly asked for the party’s endorsement.

So now that he’s in a position of power and has the advantage of incumbency, Quinn appears to be beginning to understand that he needs to use whatever leverage he can to achieve a win. At least he demonstrated it on this issue.

The Cook County thing may have been a cynical move, it may not have even been the “right” thing to do, but what some reformer candidates never will understand is that you can’t govern if you don’t win. Quinn has too often been one of “those” candidates. He could get clobbered in the 2010 general election with that sort of attitude.

So, yes, Hynes could definitely harm Quinn and the Democratic chances next year with the upcoming primary battle. Ominously, Hynes’ campaign press releases to date have often attempted to tie Quinn to Blagojevich.

As any loyal party member should do, Hynes ought to think long and hard about how far he can go before he damages his own side, no matter the outcome. The last two Republican gubernatorial primaries were so nasty and divisive that they contributed significantly to their party’s general election losses. And the last time an incumbent Democratic governor lost a primary, in 1976, the Republicans won the governor’s mansion and held on to power for 26 years.

On balance, though, I think Quinn probably needs this primary race. It’ll give us all a chance to see what he’s really made of.

Your thoughts?

* Meanwhile, John Kass has some kind words for 19th Warder Dan Hynes and is not all that kind ot Pat Quinn…

Quinn, also a nice fellow who portrays himself as a reformer, sold out his own reform legislation in a political deal. He negotiated a provision with the legislature that would have prevented the state Democrats from endorsing a gubernatorial candidate. In exchange, he let the legislators gut the work of his blue-ribbon reform commission.

“That was his ‘landmark’ legislation which he testified for,” Hynes said, “and that was the product of a deal he cut to try to eliminate the party’s endorsement of [state Atty. Gen.] Lisa Madigan. That’s basically what he did. Then it turns out that Lisa doesn’t run for governor, so he didn’t need the ‘landmark’ legislation anymore.”

That’s a pretty good analysis by Hynes.

* And the Tribune looks at the flip-flop effect in the primary

The governor has been a frequent target for Comptroller Dan Hynes, Quinn’s Feb. 2 Democratic primary challenger, who contends the governor’s flip-flops represent a failure to lead.

If such criticism resonates with voters, Quinn’s meandering ways could become a thorny issue, said Charles Wheeler, a former statehouse reporter who teaches at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

“It’s kind of inside baseball,” Wheeler said, “but it becomes a liability when it allows people to present you as an ineffective leader.”

* Related…

* Kirk Dillard Press Release: Quinn’s Lack of Leadership on Jobs and Economic Recovery Hurts Illinois’ Workers & Job Creators

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Monday, Aug 31, 2009

Rich may do more with this later -but if you want to get ahead of the curve- you can check out the details of the IL’s new taxes from the Capital Bill in these articles…

* Expect to pay more for candy, shampoo (Best Breakdown of new taxes)

* Here is a nice visual breakdown of the new taxes and fees

* Bellwood, East Dundee sales-tax rates top Chicago’s 10.25%

The 10.25 percent sales tax applied to general merchandise purchases in Chicago is one of the highest in the state, but it’s not the highest.

That distinction belongs to the sales-tax levies in west suburban Bellwood, where 11.5 percent is added to sales in two specially designated business development districts and 10.5 percent is added in the rest of the town.

* Support lacking in Springfield for video poker ban

* State retirees angry about dental insurance hikes

Retired state workers are angry, but Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration still plans to impose modest monthly premiums for retiree dental insurance beginning Oct. 1

The plan will save the state $12 million a year, officials say.[…]

Alka Nayyar, spokeswoman for Quinn’s Department of Central Management Services, said imposing dental premiums on retirees is “one of the many tough decisions the governor has had to make to help cut costs and get the state’s financial situation back on track.”

Until now, state retirees didn’t have to pay premiums for dental coverage. The new premiums — $11 monthly for members, $17 for a member and one dependent, and $19.50 for members plus two or more dependents — are the same amounts paid by active employees.

* New County Commissioner could be Named Today

After months of dealmaking , Cook County Commissioners are scheduled to meet tomorrow to overturn a veto of sales tax cut. But some political shuffling may leave them without the necessary votes.[…]

That’s because Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, who was one of the 14 votes to cut the sales tax, left the board for a seat on Chicago’s City Council.

Published reports say Democratic committeemen, led by the powerful Alderman Richard Mell, have plans to meet today behind closed doors to appoint Maldonado’s replacement. Just in time for tomorrow’s deadline to take on the veto.

* CPS Hit with Claims of Grade Inflation

* 1 in 5 Chicago Public High School teachers say they felt pressure to change grades last school year

Nearly a third of Chicago public high school teachers say they were pressured to change grades this past school year.

One in five report they actually raised a grade under such prodding.

And dozens of teachers — elementary and high school alike — say they believe someone changed their grades last year without their approval.

Those are the results of an unprecedented survey of more than 1,200 Chicago Teachers Union members conducted by the CTU and the Chicago Sun-Times in June and July.

* Union chief: Changing grades unfair to students, teachers

* CPS buses to be safer, greener

New technology makes it easier to track vehicles, tell where kids let off […]

Along with a $1 million federal program that will retrofit all older buses in CPS’ 1,600-bus fleet with clean-running technology in the next several months, the changes place the nation’s third-largest school system on the cutting edge of safety and green technology.

* Daley’s Mental Health Blunder (Video)

As regular readers may remember, the Chicago Department of Public Health’s new, high-tech billing system failed to submit bills to the state for six months last year. The resulting drop in reimbursements led the state to cut 2009 funding levels by $1.2 million. In turn, the city announced plans to shutter four of their 12 clinics. But when the origin of the funding shortfall came to light — thanks in large part to the reporting of the Chi-Town Daily News’s Alex Parker — the Daley administration suddenly redirected some stimulus cash to keep the clinics running.

Now, the city may once again be considering closing several clinics due to a $3 million drop in state funding. And as Parker reports today, Illinois Department of Human Services officials attribute the shortfall to the same billing problems.

* New inspector general pick a test for Daley

* Insurance protects taxpayers: Olympic organizers

Chicago’s bid team said it negotiated to move a $500 million “catastrophe” insurance policy to the front of the line of guarantees to be tapped. If that policy is exhausted, an additional $500 million in “umbrella” insurance will become available.

After that, planners could tap Game revenues to date or take out a line of credit based on $450 million projected revenues from the Games.

Only after that would organizers have to crack open city and state guarantees totaling $750 million, officials said. In addition, cancellation insurance is part of the complex plan.[…]

Also Friday, Chicago 2016 released data showing that the non-profit group has received $76.9 million, mostly from pledges and cash contributions from 1,500 individuals and organizations.

* Chicago’s Mt. Greenwood neighborhood to get TIF district

* Weis wants city to fight more suits against cops

* Illinois governor to unveil soldier portraits

* U.S., Illinois sue company for failing to install proper pollution controls

Edison International is based in Rosemead, California. Its Midwest Generation unit, based in Chicago, has been working with state officials to resolve pollution control issues for more than two years, Douglas McFarlan, a company spokesman, said.

After discussions with the state’s environmental protection agency, the company had already installed state-of-the-art mercury controls at its Joliet facility, according to a company press release issued last week.

Still, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan yesterday said the company was illegally emitting “massive amounts” of pollutants including sulfur dioxide.

Clean Air Act violations are punishable by fines of as much as $37,500 a day, depending on when they occur, according to the complaint.

* Towns fight back against Illinois American Water

* U of I Global Campus staff notified of layoffs

The University of Illinois has notified the staff of its online Global Campus program that they will be laid off.

Of the program’s 32 staffers, 20 will be laid off in six months and 12 will be laid off in one year. The employees were notified about three weeks ago. University spokesman Tom Hardy says the layoffs will be final after the September meeting of the board of trustees.

* Illinois bell tower rings again

* Insurers may reap $375 mil in ‘Cash for Clunkers’

* Argonne’s new center really computes

* Many local women bank on at-home businesses

* Free hunter safety courses available

* Jackson calls for investigation in Rockford death

* Study: More than half of children will engage in sexual behavior before 13

- Posted by Mike Murray   10 Comments      


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Monday, Aug 31, 2009

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« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Good morning!
* Final thoughts before calling it a night
* *** UPDATED x3 - Script *** Quinn airs radio ad of Rauner joking about being "scared" of four African-Americans
* Karen Lewis endorses Chuy Garcia for mayor
* Friday night TV ad rating
* Yesterday's blog posts

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        * Durbin and Oberweis close campaign on WTTW's Chicago Tonight


        * Editorial: Governors, raining taxpayer $ on Illinois
        * Governor Quinn and Mayor Emanuel Thank New Safe Passage Workers - Nearly 700 Additional Workers Hired This Year to Serve 133 Schools, 69,000 Students Across the City
        * Editorial: Rauner best choice as governor to begin to reverse Illinois’ fortunes
        * Quinn to celebrate Rauner’s UI Labs accomplishment
        * Another Democrat Runs Away From Pat Quinn




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