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Smoking gun? Part 2

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* ABC7’s Chuck Goudie has a new report

A five-page memo, marked confidential and obtained by the I-Team, reveals that Burr Oak’s chief executive, Slivy Cotton, feared in 2003 that there was a grave selling plot underway.

According to her memo, workers had “discovered bones” and “human remains” and claimed “former owners routinely buried over or cleared out old graves for new business. The memo states executives feared that “old remains were dumped” in a back lot.

There’s a whole lot more in that internal cemetery company memo besides what Goudie reported tonight. I have it as well, but was unable to confirm its authenticity this evening. Click here to read it. It’s mind-boggling.

* What the comptroller’s office didn’t know before or even after that earlier disclosed 2003 meeting with Burr Oak Cemetery CEO Slivy Cotton was that Ms. Cotton already figured the company had some very serious problems on its hands. According to the confidential memo, when cleaning up the back end of their property, the company made a startling discovery…

(W)e discovered the remnants of a corner of a very old casket and some bones that we believe to be human remains. It was believed that these remains had never been buried, however, it was not possible to tell. [emphasis added]

She also reported to the company that on “several occasions” they opened what were supposed to be empty, pre-sold graves “only to discover that there were wood and bone fragments in the graves.” They suspected that the fragments were over 50 years old.

So, they started asking the groundsmen, and one of them spilled the beans…

[The groundsman] had heard that the former owners believed that if a grave was more than 50 years old, they could reuse it. They would often dig up any leftover fragments and dump them in the back.

The bottom line, according to the internal memo, is that Perpetua apparently suspected in 2003 that a grave reselling scheme may have been in operation for years

We believe that the former owners routinely buried over or cleared out old graves for new business. We believe that they sold Pre-Need to families in sections they knew were full with the expectation that people would continue to be double buried in these old graves

Those former owners included John Johnson, the legendary African-American publishing magnate.

The cemetery company had an impending crisis on its hands, because the Illinois Department of Transportation was using Eminent Domain to claim a section of the property in the back, where some remains had allegedly been dumped…

I have held the Department of Transportation off for a while trying to negotiate a higher price for the property they want to claim, but they will want to proceed soon.

That section was apparently part of the property which the company’s CEO told the comptroller’s office a little bit about in 2003.

And the company had another big dilemma. Their outside attorney, Dick Phelan, was close to Hynes, both personally and politically…

Foley and Lardner has chosen to deai only with the facts. I think going any further will pose a Conflict of Interest for them. In addition to working on his Senatorial Campaign, [Dick] Phelan and the Comptroller are personal friends. I am not sure he wants to bring anything to the Comptroller that could be unpleasant.

They were also clearly worried that David Foley at the comptroller’s office would find out what was going on…

If any attorney is to advise us, then they should advise us on how to handle any follow-up questions from David Foley. If Foley doesn’t “dig” into the situation, I believe we still would have to tell him that we suspect that there are other remains in the back. I suppose we could just decide not to use the land in the back, but I think we are exposed if what we suspect is true. If the Department of Transportation doesn’t get our approval, they will sue us to use the land they have claimed.

In other words, this grave-switching scheme allegedly goes back decades, according to the memo. It’s apparently nothing new at all. And the story they gave to the comptroller’s office in 2003? Well, it appears, to me at least, to be an innocent-sounding cover story to avoid any further investigations.

* Back to Goudie, who caught up with Gov. Quinn at an event tonight

“The Burr Oaks Cemetery scandal is the worst scandal…in American history. Grave robbing going on and there was information about that in 2003. Why didn’t the comptroller know about it? He’s in charge of that office and they have a duty, he does, under law to make sure things are done right,” said Quinn.

Quinn says the lack of action by the comptroller’s office in this scandal is a question of competence.

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      


Skaiti for Haiti - And we’re staying open

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* I don’t usually promote stuff like this, particularly something so close to Ricketts Park, but it’s for a great cause and I hope you all can make it. Plus, I promised I’d do it before I found out where it was…

WHAT: Skate for Haiti

WHEN: Saturday, January 30, 2010
8:30am – 10:30am

WHERE: Corner of Clark and Addison Streets, Chicago

This Saturday, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) and the Rink at Wrigley will host a fundraiser to benefit victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The outdoor event is open to the public and sponsored by Congressman Quigley, who will match all donations to the American Red Cross. […]

OTHER INFO: Suggested donations: $20 for individuals / $40 for families

All proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross’ relief efforts in Haiti and will be matched by Quigley.

Parking and ice skate rental will be available on site for no charge.

The rink is also easily accessible by public transit.

* Comments will not be closed this weekend because of Tuesday’s election, so please try to behave. But let’s do a video anyway


It sure been a cold, cold winter
My feet been draggin’ ‘cross the ground
And the fields has all been brown and fallow
And the springtime take a long way around

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Smoking gun?

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* ABC7’s Chuck Goudie ran a story tonight about remains found during excavation work at Burr Oak Cemetery in 2003

Comptroller Dan Hynes’ office was informed in late 2003 about the essence of the problem and that Hynes’ top cemetery official even held a meeting about human remains being discovered at Burr Oak.

The evidence…

[Hynes’] cemetery assistant attended a meeting on November 19, 2003 concerning human remains that had been discovered at Burr Oak.

According to a follow up letter from Hynes’ office to cemetery owners the next February, his now director of cemetery care stated, “I am writing in response to our meeting with you in November regarding the discovery of human remains at Burr Oak Cemetery.” The letter written on official comptroller stationary and signed by Percy Lucina, Hynes’ top cemetery aide.

* Hynes’ initial reaction was not exactly full and complete…

“The conversation you’re talking about was the fact that the cemetery wanted to create a mausoleum and they wanted to know what to do if there was a disruption of remains or burial grounds and we said our office doesn’t regulate the burial grounds.”

But emails provided by the comptroller’s office late Friday afternoon confirm that they were told human remains had been found at Burr Oak, not that cemetery officials were simply concerned they might be unearthed during future construction.

* I talked to Hynes tonight about his comments and here’s what he said…

“I think I just misspoke. What I was trying to get across was, not the possibility of finding [the remains], but the inadvertent discovery of them…

“What I’ve learned throughout the week is that they came to us and they disclosed to us that they were building this mausoleum and when they started excavating they discovered these bones. And they said ‘What do we do about this?’… We started researching it, and were perplexed by it… It’s consistent with what I’ve said all along, we don’t regulate burial grounds…

“I think what’s being attempted here [by the Quinn campaign] is to turn this into something where [the cemetery owners] revealed to us that there was a major scandal going on, [instead of] that they had unmarked graves and they were trying to deal with it.

“This smoking gun that Chuck Goudie thought he had was, in my opinion, validating what I’ve been saying all along. That they came to us, and we said we don’t deal with burial grounds…

“We don’t have the benefit of hindsight. [At the time it appeared that this was] a one hundred year old cemetery and they came upon some remains…”

The Quinn campaign put out a news release earlier this evening about the ABC7 report…

“This is an outrage against every family who has ever watched as someone they loved was laid to rest in a cemetery,” said Quinn for Illinois Communications Director Elizabeth Austin. “Comptroller Hynes was happy to send out dozens of news releases boasting about cleaning up weeds at pioneer cemeteries in downstate communities. But when he had to confront a real problem affecting real families, he turned his back on his official duties – and on the families who were counting on him.” […]

So why, in testimony to Governor Quinn’s Cemetery Oversight Task Force Hearing on Sept. 10, 2009, did Hynes insist: “Not only did we do our job, but we took immediate action in the situation of Burr Oak. We immediately moved to revoke the license.”

Even after more than five years, 22 separate complaints, and 12 different staff visits by Hynes employees to the cemetery site, Comptroller Hynes claimed his office had no indication that there was any problem at Burr Oak Cemetery.

Ms. Austin said this tonight after seeing the comptroller’s comments…

“It is incorrect for Hynes to say that he had no oversight over cemeteries.

“Comptroller Hynes also has claimed the Governor’s Cemetery Oversight Task Force has cleared him of any responsibility for what happened at Burr Oak. On the contrary, the Task Force specifically said the Comptroller’s powers were ‘comprehensive’ with respect to cemetery oversight.”

She’s right about that last part. Check page 36.

* The letter referenced in the ABC7 story and all other documents, including the e-mails can be seen by clicking here.

Here’s part of the first comptroller’s office e-mail, which was sent the day before the office met with Sllvy Cotton, the CEO of Perpetua Corp., which owned the cemetery. It’s from David Foley, who was a political hire in Hynes’ office…

I am uncertain if [Sllvy Cotton’s] request to meet with me concerns a consumer case I have been working on. Perpetua has not been specific as to why they want to meet with me.

And here’s the follow-up e-mail from the director of the comptroller’s cemetery care and burial trust division…

This is an update on our meeting with Sllvy Cotton, CEO, Perpetua Corp., who owns Burr Oak Cemetery and Cedar Park Cemetery. The reason for her meeting yesterday was simply for guidance/advice from our office re: construction plans for Burr Oak Cemetery. The main problem they are encountering is the discovery of human remains while they were in the process of cleaning/excavating a portion of land where the majority of their construction will occur. Before they proceed any further, they would like us to enlighten them on their ext step in the process.

Since this sounds complicated and may have some legal implications we mentioned to her that we would follow up with her after we discussed this issue with our legal staff. Please let me know if you need any further information and we can discuss this on Monday as I am out of the office tomorrow.

Thanks,
[Percy Lucina, director of the comptroller’s cemetery care and burial trust division]

And here’s the follow-up letter from Director Lucina to the cemetery company’s CEO…

Dear Ms. Cotton:

I am writing in response to our meeting with you in November regarding the discovery of human remains at Burr Oak Cemetery.

The Cemetery Care division of the Office of the Comptroller only handles the licensure and regulation of cemeteries and those businesses (usually cemeteries and funeral homes) selling pre-need merchandise and services throughout the state, however, we would like to provide you with additional resources for your request to excavate and/or build.

Since this cemetery is possibly over 100 years old, we suggest you contact the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. It is possible that this agency may grant you permission to proceed, this Office cannot do so. If not done so already, you should also contact the ICFHA [Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association] for further guidance. The following is contact information…

Sincerely,

Percy W. Lucina
Deputy Director, CCBT
Illinois Office of the Comptroller

The comptroller’s people say that the Historic Preservation Agency had the legal authority over this situation.

* Hynes has a point about hindsight. The Quinn campaign has a point about inaction. ABC7 was at an event tonight with the governor and asked for his response. Expect a full-court press over the next few days while the governor and his campaign attempt to force this into the media bloodstream. The story was reportedly shopped around this week and nobody else bit, so we’ll see what happens. When the governor says something, most reporters usually report it.

There may also be much more to this story. The bad practices at that cemetery are said to go back a very long way. And I’m not sure yet that the cemetery owners were being totally up front with the comptroller’s office back then. That meeting may have been a probe to see what the comptroller’s office would do about their discovery. But since the comptroller’s office did nothing, we didn’t find out about the problems at Burr Oak until Sheriff Tom Dart made his fateful discovery.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 *** Alexi’s stopper? Barack’s Dillard joke

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* Alexi Giannoulias’ campaign says it’s running a new TV ad whacking David Hoffman. I’m not sure how many points are behind this thing, but it’ll reportedly run over the weekend. Rate it


From his press release…

The ad features a Hoffman appearance in November on ABC-7’s News Views program where he voices support for taxing health plans of individuals making as little as $61,000. In responding to a question by ABC-7’s Alan Krashesky about health care, Hoffman said “It seems fair to be taxing plans that are very, very high-end lucrative plans that are being held by people with very high salaries.”

Krashesky correctly countered that many so-called Cadillac plans actually cover union workers who make modest incomes. Hoffman responded by only limiting taxing those plans of people making $60,000 or less, opening up many teachers, police officers, firefighters and other union workers to a tax on health care benefits.

“Someone who is making $50,000 or $60,000 a year that has a solid healthcare plan, that shouldn’t be taxed.” said Hoffman.

Giannoulias opposes taxing such employer-provided insurance plans because it would result in higher costs for moderate-income workers and encourage businesses to offer less comprehensive health care plans that would lead to higher deductibles and co-payments.

*** UPDATE 1 *** An impeccable source in a different statewide campaign says their Wednesday-Thursday tracker had Giannoulias ahead by 20. It was 37-17, with Jackson in third, I’m told. Take it for what it’s worth.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* President Obama answered questions at a gathering of congressional Republicans today. Rep. Peter Roskam asked more than a two-minute question partly about Obama’s lack of bipartisanship. The full question and Obama’s complete answer are here. I’ve clipped the most relevant part for us.

Obama joked about how Sen. Kirk Dillard is being whacked in the GOP primary for “saying nice things about me… Poor guy.” Watch


Ironically enough, if the Illinois media picks up on this, Dillard is probably gonna be hurt badly right before the primary.

* In other developments, a group of black ministers endorsed Dan Hynes, Roger Ebert tweeted that he’s voting for Raja and Tony Peraica is tweeting about some weirdness that could - if anyone picks up on it - suck all the air out of the rest of the political world for the next few days. Oy.

*** UPDATE 2 *** One of my two interns, Barton Lorimor, asked US Sen. Dick Durbin today why he hadn’t endorsed Pat Quinn for governor. Here is Durbin’s response before he was hustled away by staff


- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


Quinn endorses Berrios, early voting doubles, and a big roundup

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* First, Pat Quinn sought and received the endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party, then his campaign borrowed $250,000 from Ald. Ed Burke, and now he’s endorsing Joe Berrios for Assessor. The transmogrification is complete. From a press release

Gov. Pat Quinn endorsed Joseph Berrios for Cook County Assessor in next Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.

“I am proud to have Gov. Quinn’s endorsement and thankful for his friendship over many years,” Berrios said today. “I look forward to making the Cook County Assessor’s office the most responsive it’s been to taxpayers.”

An A-1 filed by Quinn’s committee this week shows that Billy Marovitz catered a Quinn fundraiser. Who’s next? Dick Mell? Oh… wait.

…Adding… Oops. Forgot about this, with a hat tip to Progress Illinois

By day, Joseph Berrios is the longest-serving member of the three-man board that holds the power to cut the property tax bill for any parcel in Cook County. By night, Mr. Berrios is a master fund-raiser, bringing in about $3 million in political contributions over the last decade from the same lawyers who ask him and the board to give tax breaks to their clients.

* Speaking of Cook County, the talk for months has been about extremely low voter turnout because of the February primary, but suburban Cook’s early voting is way up from the 2006 campaign, according to the clerk’s office.

This year’s early voting totaled 34,839, more than double the 15,609 before the March, 2006 primary. It’s off from two years ago, of course, because that was a presidential year with Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket. 2006 was the first year for early voting, so it’s natural there would be an increase, particularly after so many people voted early in ‘08.

There also doesn’t appear to be any significant movement towards either party this year, apparently. From the clerk’s office…

During Early Voting, 68 percent of suburban Cook County voters selected Democratic ballots, 31 percent voted Republican and less than 1 percent voted Green Party or Non-partisan.

In the 2006 and 2002 gubernatorial primaries, 67 percent and 65 percent, respectively, voted Democratic (including early voters in 2006). […]

Voters age 65 and older represented about 44 percent of all early voters… More suburban women than men were early voters. About 54 percent of all early voters were women and 46 percent were men.

Early voting percentages by party are not available from the clerk’s office for 2006, I’m told.

More…

The busiest four sites — Orland Park Village Hall; Centennial Park in Wilmette; Northbrook Village Hall and Wheeling Township Hall in Arlington Heights — accounted for about 10,000 of the total votes cast during Early Voting. The downtown Chicago site, 69 W. Washington, was the fifth most popular location with more than 1,600 voters.

There’s that 10th CD primary up North, which is surely driving some of the turnout. Not sure what’s driving early voting in Orland Park, other than all the hot races on the ticket, including a legislative primary down there.

* Zorn has changed his mind about the early primary

Wasn’t a fan, at first. Thought it too tightly compressed the campaign season (which, really, for all practical purposes, didn’t start until after New Year’s Day when people started paying attention) and didn’t give enough time for citizens to get to know particularly unknown candidates.

Now I’m all for it. Have come to believe that a month is plenty of time for anyone who cares even a little bit about politics to get familiar with the candidates, weigh their positions and their ads and cast a sensible vote. And that, if anything, shorter campaigns help level the playing field by giving less of an advantage to those with enough cash to bombard the airwaves with messages for months.

* Dorothy Brown is suing Terry O’Brien

On Thursday, Dorothy Brown — claiming her reputation has been stained — filed a $1.25 million slander suit against opponent Terry O’Brien for a television ad declaring “ethically challenged Dorothy Brown forced employees to give her cash gifts.”

Brown, clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, has raised eyebrows after published stories about accepting cash birthday gifts from employees, something she has not denied.

But there has never been an allegation that employees have been coerced, said Brown’s attorney Adam Lasker. […]

Brown’s campaign has also sent a letter to television stations asking them to stop airing the commercial. O’Brien, head of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, sands by the ad.

Brown’s suit doesn’t ask the court to halt the ads.

* Roundup…

* Link battles for lieutenant governor spot in state

* Will County Mayors Endorse Cook for Lt. Governor

* Orland Park native hopes to add Lt. Gov to name

* Murphy discusses his bid for lieutenant governor

* Plummer writes open letter to the county GOP chairs

* Comptroller race: Dodge challenger fights back

* Comptroller’s race focuses on finances, Burr Oak

* Stroger’s tax returns show 2008 was better than 2007

* Stroger releases tax returns for the past two years

* Stroger’s County Board allies face challenges

* Recommendations for Cook County Board

* Veterinarian challenging Shimkus for Congress

* Four Republicans vying for 11th District nod

* Democrats take campaigns into neighborhoods across 18th District in bids to challenge incumbent Schock

* Left-wing groups attack Hultgren

* Law Enforcement backs Rodriguez in 8th CD

* State court says Hebda votes should count

* NRA confirms Sente is not a member

* State rep race shows Chicago politics in all its glory

* General Assembly elections lacking attention, not importance

* GOP candidates debate death penalty stances

* ‘Ghosts’ out to scare voters in 36th District?

* Two familiar faces vie for Democrat nomination for 114th district House seat from Illinois

* Jackson gets thousands from politicians, unions in race against Officer, McGaughey

* Rochester man challenges Brauer for GOP nomination

* 25th Senate candidates sticking to the truth

* Video gaffe slips past DuPage Co. board chair candidate

* Short-time incumbent Laesch faces challenger

* Commitment issue in Kane 5th District

* Kendall GOP newcomers say it’s time for change

* [McHenry Co.] District 6 hopefuls debate water, open space

* DuPage sheriff candidates debate finances

* Judge candidate admits license suspension

* Current sheriff, 2 others face off in Ford Co. sheriff primary

* Attorney’s candidacy worries county Democrats

* The Eagles, Magic and Train Cash - The Morning Trough

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Did the appellate court all but guarantee prison for Fast Eddie?

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* As you’ve probably seen in the news feeds by now, an appellate court has ruled that Eddie Vrdolyak must be re-sentenced

Former Chicago Ald. Ed Vrdolyak’s probation-only sentence for fraud has been overturned by an appellate panel, meaning he could face prison time when he is re-sentenced.

Vrdolyak had pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the $15 million sale of a Gold Coast building belonging to the former Chicago Medical School, now called the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

Vrdolyak schemed with school board member Stuart Levine to split a $1.5 million kickback from the sale of the building to Smithfield Properties Development.

U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur sentenced Vrdolyak to probation last year— leading to headlines of “Fast Eddie Walks” that played off the former alderman’s nickname.

The majority opinion is basically a long, blistering attack on the sentencing judge

A judge is not permitted to have his own rules of admissibility—to say for example that “[i]n my court no exceptions to the hearsay rule will be recognized.” As we shall be emphasizing throughout this opinion, our concern is not with the leniency of the defendant’s sentence as such but with procedural errors committed by the judge en route to the determination of the sentence.

The judge’s refusal to listen to the evidence of the potential buyers was an egregious error because the evidence was corroborated.

The court ordered that a new judge preside over Vrdolyak’s new sentencing hearing. Reading the opinion shows why. The majority claimed that the judge had gone into the sentencing hearing determined to cut Fast Eddie some major slack…

One cannot read the 168-page transcript of the sentencing hearing, and the two memoranda attempting to justify the sentence that the judge issued after he had announced the sentence at the conclusion of the hearing, without sensing that the judge had committed himself irrevocably to a noncustodial sentence for the defendant. He pretty much announced this at the outset of the hearing…

The judge’s errors in calculating the guidelines range are indicative of an idée fixe that the defendant was not to receive a custodial sentence, even (as the government urged in the alternative) home confinement.

And here is why Vrdolyak may finally wind up behind bars…

The zero loss found by the district judge created a guidelines sentencing range of zero to six months in prison; the correct loss figure of $1.5 million (which incidentally was within the range that the defendant agreed in the plea agreement was the intended loss attributable to his crime) ups the sentencing range to 33 to 41 months. [emphasis added]

If Eddie wants to stay out of prison, he’d better start talking… Fast.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Alexi makes a bad situation worse

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* Alexi Giannoulias has apparently never heard the phrase “Go to ground.” Granted, the Democratic US Senate candidate did the right thing by holding a press conference yesterday to discuss his family bank’s troubles, but he wasn’t prepared for at least one line of questioning and the AP got him but good

Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias refused to provide details Thursday about whether his decisions contributed to his family bank’s financial problems, saying five days before the election that those questions can wait for another time.

“If I’m fortunate enough to make it out of the primary, we can have that conversation,” the Chicago Democrat told reporters.

His campaign tried some damage control after the fact

After the news conference, a spokeswoman clarified that Giannoulias doesn’t know which loans may have contributed to the bank’s problems because he hasn’t been involved in the bank’s day-to-day operations since he left.

He could’ve said that during the event. Why he didn’t is anyone’s guess.

David Hoffman is doing his best to tie the news into his campaign theme….

“The reason that this Broadway Bank story and revelation is of such significance now is because it goes to the heart of matters of job performance and character,” Senate candidate David Hoffman said at a news conference.

Actually, tying it to his theme isn’t hard at all. The big question about Hoffman is whether he is spending enough money to get himself over the top. Right now, I’m not so sure.

And while certainly true, this line of reasoning at the Chicago Sun-Times was more than a little silly

“If you go to a large bank like the Bank of America or the Northern Trust, you will find not hundreds but thousands of people with felonies or misdemeanors in their past but who make their loan payments on time,” Giannoulias earlier told the Sun-Times editorial board. Those banks also gave loans to convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, he said.

Giannoulias also wouldn’t say whether his family would put money back into the bank to help recapitalize the institution. Sheesh.

* Meanwhile, the Tribune editorial board restates its endorsement of David Hoffman

Partial headlines are superimposed over images of one of Giannoulias’ opponents as a narrator clucks about negative campaigning. The Tribune masthead flashes once, then again, and again and again. That’s fair game. The campaign is citing Tribune news stories.

But just in case you saw the ad and thought it meant the Tribune editorial board was in love with this guy and frowning on his opponent, let’s be clear: The Tribune has endorsed David Hoffman in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Clock ticks as Quinn and Hynes duke it out

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* Gov. Quinn is stepping up his ribbon-cutting as primary day looms

As the Feb. 2 primary nears, Gov. Pat Quinn is embracing the power of incumbency, cutting a swath of ribbons and announcing millions worth of construction projects all in the name of the office he ascended to a year ago.

So far this week, he’s opened a children’s center and announced $10.3 million for Northern Illinois University building renovations, including more than $8 million for Cole Hall where the 2008 student shootings took place.

The governor, in the heat of a primary race, also recently announced state funding for Loop road improvements, remodeling a veterans’ home and a grant for a Chicago-based charter school to purchase an additional building. […]

“I wouldn’t say it’s an abuse. It’s an illusion. He’s cutting ribbons for buildings that don’t exist,” Hynes said.

Not everyone is happy about these events. From a Northwest Herald editorial about the NIU Cole Hall ceremony

At the news conference Wednesday, Quinn read the names of those killed in the shooting, including Dundee-Crown High School graduate Ryanne Mace. The reminder of those who lost their lives cast a solemn shadow over an announcement that might otherwise have been laughable for its timing.

This news conference was seven months in the making, its substance a predetermined largesse, a déja vu declaration of a $31 billion capital projects measure Quinn signed into law last July.

So why all the fanfare for the announcement’s sequel? Surely we’re not so cynical as to suggest it has anything to do with a primary election that’s days away, are we?

Let’s face it, there’s not much political hay to be made in mid-July, when the capital bill was passed. Besides, there was no money available then. Now that money’s available because of a bond sale, and now that ballot booths are being dusted off, the incumbent can come to the rescue with promised money. […]

But only about $2.3 million is being released for renovation of NIU’s Stevens Building, far less than the $22.5 million highlighted for that purpose in the capital bill. Then again, the November general election is only nine months away.

* Meanwhile, the Sun-Times puts yesterday’s WVON debate in context

Hynes stared down a political buzzsaw by agreeing to appear on “The Cliff Kelley Show” as Quinn and the former alderman-turned-talk-show-host took turns pummeling the three-term comptroller. Kelley, part of Washington’s City Council coalition, interrupted Hynes repeatedly in springing to Quinn’s defense.

The comptroller wanted to appear with Quinn on the station, which has a significant following among black voters, with some other host than Kelley, but WVON rejected that bid, representatives from both campaigns said.

Hynes relented instead of boycotting Kelley’s 38th-ranked afternoon drive-time show, which an industry source estimated has about 10,000 listeners. Not appearing could have been portrayed as a snub to an audience of voters Hynes covets on Tuesday.

That’s true. Not many people listen to Kelley’s show, but not going would’ve been much worse. Hynes did perform poorly, of course. This was the most cringe-inducing moment for me

Cliff Kelley: You were in the commercial. Your father’s commercial.

Dan Hynes: Right, like I said, I support my father.

Cliff Kelley: Right. Right. But, you were in the commercials where he was attacking Mayor Washington.

Dan Hynes: Right, I was 18 years old and I love my father and I loved him then and I support him…

So far, the Quinn campaign has only been able to come up with footage of the younger Hynes in a positive TV ad with his father, not in the negative ones. Admitting he was in a negative ad was not a good move.

For his part, Quinn heaped praise on several of Rod Blagojevich’s African-American appointments, yet that got no coverage. But he did get out the best line of the day

“I’d rather lose the race for governor than divide the people of Illinois along race,” Quinn said. “That’s what my opponent is doing.”

WBEZ has partial copies of Quinn-sponsored robocalls to African-American voters

I’ve received three robocalls on my home answering machine this week from Gov. Pat Quinn supporters. Each message excoriates Comptroller Dan Hynes for invoking Washington’s image in a campaign ad. […]

Message one from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. “Dan Hynes has no shame.” Message two from U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush. “As a preacher, I believe in resurrection, but this ain’t no resurrection.” Message three from Jackie Grimshaw, a former Washington operative. “Legacy hijacked.”

You can hear anger in all of their voices. .

Progress Illinois has posted a couple of long excerpts from the debate on YouTube…

* Quinn and Hynes discuss Washington ad on WVON

* Quinn and Hynes compare tax plans on WVON

* CBS2 looked at union campaign cash in the race, but got it horribly wrong

Quinn, who has received $416,000 in campaign contributions from organized labor, also got [AFSCME] to cut and delay a scheduled pay raise. But he had to promise not to lay off any more workers until the middle of next year.

Dan Hynes, Quinn’s Democratic opponent in the Feb. 2 gubernatorial primary, was invited to speak at a small get-together in North Lawndale Thursday. He has his own tight relationship with organized labor. He has received $350,000 from organized labor and released a new TV ad trumpeting his endorsements.

What? Gov. Quinn has received about $1.6 million from SEIU alone. Hynes has reported at least $375,000 from unions this week.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


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Friday, Jan 29, 2010

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* Not feeling well this morning, but trying to soldier through. So, while I get my act together, let’s do a question based on the fact that today is the one-year anniversary of Rod Blagojevich being removed from office…

* The Question: Outside of his arrest, removal and possible conviction - and all the hooplah surrounding it - what will Blagojevich’s legacy be in Illinois?

…Adding… No snark, please. Try to take this seriously.

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* Chicago jobless rate climbs to 10.6%

* Unemployment rate locally hits 10.6 percent

* Springfield unemployment at 8.4 percent in December

* Jobless rate still climbing in [Metro-east]; at 10.3% at end of year

* Decatur area ends 2009 at 12.9 percent unemployment, but recent hire backs offer hope

* Unemployment rates jump in the Peoria area

* Quincy unemployment rates dips slightly, but news continues to be bad for area counties

* Rep. Monique Davis will return Chicago State statue

She said that her boyfriend took the artwork with permission from a CSU administrator after learning it was being warehoused, and that she kept it in her office because she believed she could protect it.

* Chicago Rep. Monique Davis: I’ll give back university’s missing statue

* Davis ‘Defiance’ whodunit solved

* State rep. to return statue to Chicago university

* Illinois Tollway fines contractor after $300K in unapproved costs

* Attorney general backs bill protecting consumers in debt

The legislation would cap fees at 5 percent of the savings resulting from settling a debt, rather than a percentage of debt enrolled. It also would allow cancellation of a debt-settlement contract at any time and require prompt refund of fees; prohibit companies from advising consumers to stop payments to creditors; ban deceptive marketing practices and require companies to be licensed through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Marlow H. Colvin (D-Chicago).

* State siphons tobacco-settlement funds

* Quinn to join other governors at White House ‘carp summit’

* Asian carp summit to be Feb. 8 at White House

* Invasion of The CARP coming soon in 3D

* Congressmen seek Asian carp funds

* Funds OK’d for Galesburg overpass

* Rod Blagojevich’s BIO for Celebrity Apprentice

* Cook County vital records bureau to close Tuesday

* [Chicago] owed $1.58M for Obama security

* No progress in CTA union talks

* Daley wants to raid Pacific Northwest talent

Daley said Thursday he’s coming after businesses in the Pacific Northwest, emboldened by what he considers Oregon’s head-scratching decision to approve higher taxes on big corporations and big wage-earners.

“What happened in Oregon is not good news for Oregon. They believe that anybody who makes $125,000 or more [annually] or businesses or anyone who makes $250,000 — they’re gonna start taxing them. They call them ‘rich people,’ ” the mayor said.

* Mayor Daley: Money ’secondary’ reason behind fireworks cancellation

* Daley says he’d thought about canceling July 3 fireworks for a decade

* July 3rd cuts sad, but sensible

* Daley taps Richardson-Lowry for Chicago school board chief

Daley called the appointment “bittersweet” because she will replace Michael Scott, a close friend of the mayor who committed suicide in November.

Richardson-Lowry is Daley’s former building commissioner and assistant corporation counsel and is an attorney with Mayer Brown.

* Daley Appoints New Board of Education Member Likely to Replace Michael Scott

* Mayor Daley appoints new School Board president

* Daley nominates attorney for top education post

* Daley’s dilemma: Clash over control of hiring

* Daley likes Obama’s focus on economy in State of the Union speech

* Aurora police union agrees to concessions

* Des Plaines casino plan advances

The City Council could now vote as soon as Feb. 16 on the proposal by Midwest Gaming and Entertainment LLC to build the betting palace on 21 acres at the northwest corner of Devon Avenue and Des Plaines River Road.

* Will County Board to clear the way to fill seat

* Vote approves back pay for new [Winnebago Co.] board member

“I’m casting my ‘yes’ vote under protest,” said Fred Wescott, a Republican from District 9. His was one of 25 yes votes that effectively cut a $6,870 check for Gardner.

* District 94 won’t cut teachers

A check for $170,000 in impact fees from Winfield arrived just in the nick of time for West Chicago Community High School District 94.

* Plainfield school board delays vote on most proposed cuts

* Shawnee Community College enrollment reaches all-time high

* No escape from recession’s pain at UI and elsewhere

* Urbana facing $1.43 million deficit

* [Decatur] presents ‘Five Year Plan’ for funds to tackle social issues

* Compensation or perk? Depleted funds lead to school board debate about health insurance

* Officials hope to receive funds for local transportation center through TIGER

There’s no money for the planned uptown transportation center in Illinois’ $1.2 billion share of federal high-speed rail funds announced Thursday, but officials still are hopeful other federal money will come through for the project.

“We never looked at the $8 billion high-speed rail initiative to include the train station,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos.

* New Rockford public housing leases to require service

Rockford Housing Authority residents will be required to perform community service if they’re not working or in a job-training, life-skills or education program, and to make sure their kids get to school as part of new lease agreements.

* Biden will speak in Peoria at Partners in Peace event

* Palin tickets still available for $2,500

A portion of the $2,500 ticket price can be used as a tax deduction because it will be donated to the not-for-profit Washington Area Community Center Inc., one of five entities that operate Five Points.

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   22 Comments      


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