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Hit with a stupid stick

Friday, Jan 8, 2010

* My Sun-Times column today takes the broad view while looking at this botched early release program…

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that our last few Illinois governors have been hit with a stupid stick.

I don’t know why this is happening, but it’s become a pattern and I’m seriously worried for this state.

One of the nice things about the democratic process is that politicians usually don’t do things that would cause them to lose their jobs. That attitude has its downsides, of course. If too many politicians become too overly cautious then nothing gets done — like what’s going on now in the U.S. Senate.

But here in Illinois we’ve seen some blatantly reckless stupidity that just boggles the mind. George Ryan’s crimes, Rod Blagojevich’s arrest, and now the Pat Quinn administration’s breathtakingly moronic early release program for violent prisoners.

For all his faults, I have always thought that George Ryan was a pretty darned good governor. He got things done. There was little to no gridlock on the big issues. But he stupidly believed that he could behave like politicians did 30 years ago and not suffer the consequences. He had no sense of self-preservation and he is now sitting in a federal prison cell. Ryan’s stupidity still infuriates me to this day.

Rod Blagojevich was a horrible governor. Gridlock didn’t just prevail, it thrived. Chaos became normality. I was happy when he finally got busted and ousted for his unbelievably stupid alleged schemes to shake down the president-elect over the choice of a U.S. senator and strong-arm the rest of the establishment for cash and personal favors. I was enraged, however, at the damage his arrest did to this state’s already poor reputation. Once again, we had an amazingly stupid politician who didn’t have the mental capacity to realize what he was doing to himself and to his state.

And now, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how Gov. Quinn could be so stupid about this botched early release program for violent inmates. As you certainly know by now, the Department of Corrections secretly let out hundreds of dangerously violent inmates — including notorious gang leader Michael Rodriguez, who had been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder — before their scheduled release dates.

This is not only a horrible policy, but also incredibly stupid politics. Releasing violent people from prison early for no good reason endangers lives and rewards people who don’t deserve any sort of reward.

Politically, well, it’s pretty obvious what sort of damage can be done with this issue in an election year.

Well, not quite.

It may be obvious to anyone with half a brain that this is a potentially fatal blunder, but it apparently wasn’t at all obvious to the Department of Corrections. Quinn says he was kept in the dark about the program, which is not what he said when the story first broke.

Let’s take the governor at his word — his second word, not his first — and believe that he didn’t know anything about the program. That still makes him a horribly inept manager. And Quinn’s shutting down the program and admitting it was a bad idea just won’t suffice. Heads must roll. When somebody makes a mistake this bad, a limp slap on the wrist and a halfhearted apology (all the while blaming the Legislature for forcing him to do what he didn’t have to do) is nowhere near good enough.

If Dan Hynes or the Republicans succeed in using this issue to defeat Gov. Quinn, I sincerely hope our next governor doesn’t catch the “stupid disease.” I just don’t think we can take much more of this bizarre behavior. I know I can’t.

* Jim Warren at the New York Times’ new Chicago thingy, didn’t pay very close attention to Hynes’ new TV ad

The only thing missing in the most notable television ad in the Illinois governor’s race is Englebert Humperdink singing, “Release Me.”

His verse, “Please release me, let me go” would be vividly apt for Dan Hynes, the mild-mannered Illinois comptroller. Mr. Hynes, the Democratic challenger, issued a broadside at Gov. Patrick J. Quinn that included photos of ominous-looking souls (all Caucasians, in a tidy example of Democratic Party political correctness) let go in an early release program that freed some violent offenders who soon returned to prison after alleged crimes and parole violations.

There are at least two black convicts pictured in that ad. It seems pretty clear to me.

* In another Democratic race, comptroller candidate Rep. David Miller is up with a new radio ad. Listen by clicking here.

I’ll have more for subscribers about this race on Monday, but Miller is going up on TV in the last 10 days of the campaign.

* Rep. Mike Boland takes a whack at a fellow lite guv candidate. From a press release

Representative Mike Boland, Democratic candidate for Illinois Lieutenant Governor , called on Terry Link to return donations from Midwest Generation, which has been a frequent target of community groups and EPA lawsuits. The company’s six aging coal-fired power plants, including the Waukegan Station in Link’s Senate district, are some of the worst contributors to air pollution in the Chicago area. Midwest Generation and its parent company are a top career donor to Link, giving his campaigns over $30,000.

* Related…

* Inquiry sought for prisoner releases

* Prison reformers sound off on early release rhetoric

* Some Unlikely Allies Push for More Cash for Department of Juvenile Justice: Watchdogs and department of juvenile justice administrators and union representatives all told legislators at a hearing yesterday that the department has been chronically under funded. Kurt Friedenauer runs DJJ. He told legislators that the buildings where the kids sleep at one prison are falling apart.

* Dem foes take aim at county sales tax hike

* Cutting costs the top issue at Cook County Board president debate

* Cook Co. president rivals polite in debate - if not after

* Know your judges

* Hare: Security agencies need to be better coordinated

* Halvorson backs open locks

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 9:58 am:

    Cmon Jim Warren, are you blind. I looked at the ad and was curious about the same thing but I saw two African Americans in the ad among the others. HELLLOOOO.

  2. - Jeff - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:02 am:

    That’s probably the best explanation I’ve heard about George Ryan. I have friends/family who know him and his family, and they all love him, think he was a great governor, etc. He just saw the world of politics in the “old school” way, and that cannot work on a statewide level. Even in Chicago, it doesn’t really work anymore - even if the mayor himself has stayed out of the Feds’ dragnet. Ryan’s situation hits close to home, as one of my relatives was a south suburban mayor who was also very popular, but also went to prison for old-fashioned political corruption.

  3. - My Kind of Town - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:13 am:

    ” … the Department of Corrections secretly let out hundreds of dangerously violent inmates … before their scheduled release dates.”

    I’m no Quinn fan and agree early release is political suicide, but isn’t the backlash against early release dependant on the assumption that, had they been detained an additional 30 or 60 days, the releasees somehow would be less likely to offend again? The DOC has a legal obligation to release even violent offenders once they have completed their sentences.

  4. - Anonymous - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:19 am:

    Wasn’t Mr. Friedenauer appointed by Blagojevich. If I recall correctly, he was hired for his expertise, not his politics. What has he accomplished in his tenure other than collect his nice salary and await a cash infusion from Illinois taxpayers. All innovation in the public interest doesn’t take huge infusions of cash. And by the way, has anybody scrubbed this agency’s contracts? It’s Illinois so you know somebody’s making money off the kids. And, if I recall correctly, one report mentioned the “intransigence” of the unionized employees at the facility.

    I’m sure more money would help the kids but what guarantee do we have that the Democratic hacks and lifers who are really running the facility will spend it on the kids. Not a strong guarantee, I’d say.

    It looks like Mr. Fridenauer,as well as Mr. Randle, both good men by all accounts, are pretty much useless now because they were defeated by their own “intransigent” bureaucracies. Kids get 0. Unions and state bureaucrats take all. And citizens pay for nothing.

  5. - Ray del Camino - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:20 am:

    Every pol needs to have somebody smart on his staff who constantly asks, “How would that look on the front page of the paper?” While we still have papers, that is.

  6. - Cassandra - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:22 am:

    Sorry, I’m Anon 10:19 am.

  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:28 am:

    MKoT, you missed a sentence…

    ===Releasing violent people from prison early for no good reason endangers lives and rewards people who don’t deserve any sort of reward.===

  8. - Big Policy Nerd - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:34 am:

    Agree that something has to be done about this. And something better be done come February. But this has been going on since the late 1970’s. I don’t know if Brady worked on rewriting the truth in sentencing laws in the mid 1990’s bit Dillard sure did. If these two are running around the state talking about how they have never heard of MGT, they need to be called out on it. MGT has been around for thirty years. The vast majority of prisoners for the last thirty years have been getting out with only doing half time. Read the 2009 Loyola University Law School report about it.

  9. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:36 am:

    This isn’t MGT. It’s MGT Push. That means they were released earlier than they would’ve under MGT.

  10. - Dan S, a voter and Cubs Fan - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:37 am:

    Rich you are 100% right on. What we need are new honest public servants. You can’t fix stupid.

  11. - Quinn T. Sential - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:40 am:

    nothing posted about the premium paid on the Pension Bonds issued by the State of Illinois yet?

    At least in this case (as far as we know) the premium will be paid to the risk taking bond-holders, rather than those pimping the deal (i.e. Individual K, Rezko, et al).

    This is not to say that the bond counsel and book runners were completely bereft of political tentacles. One look at the list will let you know the tradition of pin-stripe patronage did not go out the door with the last Republican Governor, but you would like to presume that those involved were not as criminally, clinically stupid as the Blago gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

    One can hope anyway.

  12. - Big Policy Nerd - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:48 am:

    Yep. I hear you on that. But people have been getting out serving half time or less for the last thirty years.

  13. - T.J. - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:48 am:

    The only way to see George Ryan as a better governor than Rod Blagojevich is to sympathize more with his corruption. We’re debating which dung has the better flavor.

  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:51 am:

    T.J., that’s just silly. It is possible to look at Ryan’s work as governor beyond his criminality.

  15. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:53 am:

    Patience, please, QTS.

  16. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:55 am:

    Releasing violent people wasn’t the intention of the program-that was the problem with the program-and that is why Quinn stopped it.

    Releasing non violent offenders was the intention of the program and the very good reason to do that…the state is broke and can’t afford to warehouse them.

    I’ll grant you, it is as dumb a political move as I can remember and I remember State Senator Cullerton mailing out bullet casings to the Congressional district for which he was vying-which didn’t go over to well.

    Quinn’s a good guy who obviously is on an accelerated learning curve exacerbated by a state in a great deal of trouble and a legislature to squeamish to help fix it.

    He is still-by far-the best candidate for the office he holds if given the chance to enact the reforms the previous two crooks you compare him to were able to exploit.

  17. - One of the 35 - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:58 am:

    A governor must know how to control his agencies and insure that his primary objectives and plans are supported by everybody and everything that comes out of those executive agencies. This governor either does not understand this fundamental imperative, or he is unable to execute.In either case, Illinois is suffering the consequences which will increase exponentially in the near future.

  18. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 10:58 am:

    ===Releasing violent people wasn’t the intention of the program-that was the problem with the program-and that is why Quinn stopped it.===

    No. It was a separate, secret program.

  19. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 11:04 am:

    The Stages of Partisan Denial On a Miller Column

    1.) PFFFF!
    2.) BUT! Wait!
    3.) BUT! Let’s not forget…
    4.) BUT! Consider that, uh…
    5.) ‘Sigh’
    6.) You are right
    7.) :(

  20. - Ghost - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 11:10 am:

    === No. It was a separate, secret program. ===

    And there is the rub. Was Quinn inept and just has no idea about major policies being effectated at his agencies; or was the Governos office compltly apprised of this situation and had approval from either the Gov or his people. Thus making it a secret from the public, but not Quinns office.

  21. - My Kind of Town - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 11:12 am:

    I concede MGT Push early releasees don’t deserve any sort of reward. I disagree that under the MGT Push policy they were released “for no good reason.” I can think of about ten billion good reasons the State must cut corners. After the fat gets trimmed, cuts cannot be made without reducing services. This is the political reality of the first year of the new decade and not only here in Illinois. My assertion is simply that detaining crimimials an additional 30-60 days in no way decreases the liklihood that they will offend again.

  22. - casual observer - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 11:21 am:

    I just don’t see how ANYONE at this point in our state’s history can concentrate on righting this ship while at the same time run a campaign and raise funds for that campaign. It’s simply too distracting and takes tough options off the table. I believe that PQ probably told Randle that it’s ok to push MGT but he never got to say “but not for violent offenders” because he had to take a fundraising call. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing for this state right now is for PQ to drop out of the race, even though I think and hope he could win. By removing the campaign albatross from around his neck he would be free to make some otherwise politically risky decisions (clean out carry-over employees even though they have sponsors, for example). I think it would give him even more leverage during the budget session than if he had lost or even won the primary. If he does this and does it right he could go down as one of this state’s best or at least most courageous governors.

  23. - dupage dan - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 11:26 am:

    When I am in a worrying mood (frequently these days) I see PQuinn vs JRyan in the general. It makes me sick to my stomach. Doom approacheth nigh.

  24. - Anon - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 11:35 am:

    Is it true the Gov is doing a State of the State address next week?

  25. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 11:42 am:

    Yes, Anon. Try using the Google before asking simple questions like that here, please.

  26. - Will County Woman - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 12:00 pm:

    “I believe that PQ probably told Randle that it’s ok to push MGT but he never got to say “but not for violent offenders” because he had to take a fundraising call.” —casual observer


  27. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 12:14 pm:

    Rich, very interesting column. It’s all very bewildering.

    Blago is a unique sociopath, but the bumbling of Ryan was very strange, as was the Quinn with the early release stuff. All downside.

    I’ll add Rosty to list of inexplicable bumbling. The dude ruled the Ways and Means Committee. He was, quite literally, one of the most powerful people in the world, deciding who paid what.

    That he frittered it all away on nickel and dime stuff like stamps and office chairs is still unbelievable to me.

  28. - CircularFiringSquad - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 12:21 pm:

    Is anybody else still wondering why Warren is no longer at the Trib? The next question is how long the NYT suffer with this nonsense? How long will Winston-Strawn give the free office space?

  29. - Will County Woman - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 12:33 pm:

    I just read Greg Hinz’s blog. In it he writes that Quinn is planning to delay his 2011 budget propsal unttil sometime in mid-March. Did the GA approve this? I know he asked for more time during the fall veto session, but if memory serves he request was denied as a result of republican objections, but the door was open to possibly granting him more time at a later time.

  30. - casual observer - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 12:42 pm:

    WCW - not literally.

  31. - Will County Woman - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 12:44 pm:

    what your quote? of course not. I didn’t think you were being literal.

  32. - dupage dan - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 12:45 pm:

    Casual Observer,

    I certainly wish PQ had stepped into the gov seat and declared that he would not run for the office at the end of his term - announce immediately that he would clean house and proceed to do same. While he would miss out on being elected as the gov I think he would be beloved by all and could attain other elected offices befitting his increased stature. That would have been a selfless act that would endear him to the electorate. Too bad he listened to his vanity rather than his better side. Not worthy of the office.

  33. - Will County Woman - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 1:01 pm:

    I agree totally. greed is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. I have no sympathy for Quinn over the whole MGT Push blowup that he is encountering. Last year all he needed to do was stabilize the budget, and then just let go–hang it up. His name is in history books as governor.

    There is no rule that says that just because you become an interim governor you are obligated to run for your own full term.

    When August rolled around, fresh off his stopgap budget, and he couldn’t be honest about his problems/shortcomings and instead said that he thought he was doing a good job, he really did himself no favor in the credibility department.

  34. - Quinn T. Sential - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 1:32 pm:


    Thanks for the pension bond story section.

    Now, one comment about your column:

    (I was enraged, however, at the damage his arrest did to this state’s already poor reputation. Once again, we had an amazingly stupid politician who didn’t have the mental capacity to realize what he was doing to himself and to his state.)

    I think some additional commentary would have been appropriate as to how this chronic mental capacity deficiency seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. The ongoing media circus surrounding this sociopath is only gathering more national perverted prurient interest in the escapades in the life and times of RRB; such that far more will pay attention to the unfolding trial coast to coast, than otherwise might have had he simply disappeared in disgrace to huddle and plot strategy with his defense team.

    For similar reasons; but on a different plaine, once the incarcerration period begins, RRB is a prime candidate for treatment simultaneous to the punishment phase. Otherwise, if left un treated, at his age and otherwise good health, this celebrity psychosis will only come back to haunt us once again when he is released.

    Right now; once he is released, chances are far better than 50/50 that he will end up with his own TV or Radio program again, more book deals, his own Blago/Blog, and more. The cumulative effect of which will cause the far more rational minded people not just to wonder about him, but just as importantly to continue to wonder about us, for putting someone like this in a position of power that is the highest elected office in the state.

    I have a feeling that your rage is going to grow on you over time, and may be with us for awhile.

  35. - Small Town Liberal - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 1:47 pm:

    - Last year all he needed to do was stabilize the budget -

    All he needed to do? As in, that was some easy task he just decided he didn’t want to do? Have you seen the numbers related to our state budget? Criticism over the early release debacle is definitely warranted, but acting as though Quinn could have easily fixed our state’s budget problems is completely asinine.

  36. - Will County Woman - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 2:01 pm:

    I’m no fan of pursing tax increases during a recession. But recession or no recession it’s inevitable that a tax increase will have to happen.

    But, Quinn could have gotten his tax increase, even in a recession. He didn’t because he didn’t go about it the right way. If he had done things the right way he would have stabilized the budget because the needed revenue stream would be in place to help. Things would be in considerably much better shape, which we can’t say today.

    For him it was/is Divine Right of King, he wants the job and feels he should be allowed to keep it. so, being a candidate for governor is more of priority than actually being governor.

  37. - Bill - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 2:07 pm:

    Just think of how much rage you’ll feel when Rod gets cut loose.

  38. - Leave a Light on George - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 2:28 pm:

    Hang on to your dream Bill. It’s what I admire about you the most.

  39. - Anon - Friday, Jan 8, 10 @ 3:12 pm:

    ==Just think of how much rage you’ll feel when Rod gets cut loose.==

    Cut loose? I thought they gently untied the noose and lowered the body into the coffin these days.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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