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Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* Freddie King will play us out. Turn it up

Have you ever loved a woman
So much you tremble in pain?

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Friday afternoon music blogging - Tom Irwin

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* Over 20 years ago, I walked into Bruce’s Tavern at 11th & S. Grand on a Sunday night to buy a gallon of beer. Back then, you could buy gallons of draught beer in Springfield for less than $3. A gallon is about ten and a half beers, and that worked out quite well for those of us who didn’t have much cashola.

While waiting for Rich Bruce the bartender/owner to fill the jug, I couldn’t help but notice that some guy was playing guitar and singing. I didn’t pay much attention because I was on a beer run and he didn’t have what you would call a sweet voice.

What I didn’t know at the time was the guitar player was Tom Irwin. I had left Springfield for a year or so and Tom had become quite the rage with some of my friends at a different bar. They reminded me that most singer/songwriters take just a little getting used to, but that if I gave him a chance I’d see that his songs were brilliant.

So, the next Sunday I was back at Bruce’s to check this guy out. His songs blew me away. A big crowd favorite back then was “Crystal Palace,” with its admonitions against destroying the environment we live in…

Don’t throw stones
In the crystal palace
Or you may find it all come crashing down

* Tom was our local protest songwriter. He railed against the “White Folks Mall,” bemoaned being “stuck out here in Pleasant Plains,” and penned one of the most ferocious songs I’ve ever heard about police brutality. A local African-American man was found dead in his county jail cell after he was allegedly beaten by the cops. The coroner astonishingly declared that he had died of “natural causes.” Many of us were outraged at the time, and Tom poured those emotions into his ode

From the moment I heard that song, I was Tom’s fan for life. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be his friend over the years.

* Just about everybody who is into music in Springfield knows Tom Irwin. He’s a legend. Besides his frontman duties, he’s also played bass for Mr. Opporknockity and Elvis Himselvis and more bands than I can remember.

Here’s another personal favorite of mine, “Haven’t felt this good in a long, long time.” The background noise kinda distracts from it, but it’s surely worth a listen

* Lots of folks also know Tom from his weekly music column for the Illinois Times. What most people don’t know is that the two of us were almost business partners.

About 11 years ago, I was approached by a fledgling statewide radio network to do a weekly talk show. I came up with the idea of combining Tom’s music with political interviews, crazy poetry and even a quiz segment. It actually turned out better than it may sound here. We put four shows in the can (Judy Baar Topinka and Dan Hynes were guests on two of them), but before we could launch the new program the network fell apart and I eventually left Springfield for Chicago.

The opening song for the show was “Hootenanny Love Train Express,” which Tom wrote as a tribute to the huge crowds that eventually flocked to Bruce’s on Sunday nights for the weekly happening we at first called the “Sunday Hootenanny” and then shortened to “The Hoot”…

All aboard
All aboard
Be sure to wear your Sunday best

We’d often cram 100 people into that little space. It was free to get in and the beer was cheap and it was one of the greatest times of my entire life. The “Bruce’s Tavernacle Choir” - a bunch of us in the audience - would often join Tom or his other open mic night players at the microphone. We eventually got our own mic.

Another crowd favorite at Bruce’s was Digging in the Dirt

Most of the videos I’ve used here are from the the Capital Area Career Center TV station. I haven’t talked to Tom about it, so I don’t know why they posted the vids, but I’ve been haranguing him for years to make some videos so I could do a Friday Music Blogging post about him. So, I’m grateful.

* Bruce’s eventually shut down, and Tom moved the Sunday night extravaganza to the Brewhaus. From a recent SJ-R article

Irwin and a long list of musicians have performed almost every Sunday at the Brewhaus since it opened in October 1994. The current lineup usually features the Tom Irwin Trio (Irwin and Raoul and Chris Warren), with frequent appearances by Danny Kerwin.

“It’s the steadiest job I’ve ever had, and I greatly appreciate the continued support of area music fans,” Irwin said in an e-mail.

The Brewhaus bought the bar and back-bar used at Bruce’s, so it’s almost like going home.

I don’t go out Sunday nights as often as I’d like because I gotta make the doughnuts on Monday mornings for y’all. But I’ll stop in every now and then and talk to Tom and Raoul and the half-dozen or so friends who have been following both men from the very beginning.

As for Raoul, well, we’ll save that for another day.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

A lesson about hype

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* Bills get out of committee all the time and they often then clear their original chambers with huge majorities. But don’t look too much into it because it can mean nothing. The other chamber is where bills often go to die. So keep that in mind when you see headlines and ledes like these…

* Free ride over for seniors?: Across the State of Illinois, the days of free bus and train rides could be coming to a halt. On Thursday, the Illinois House overwhelmingly approved a measure to withdraw the perk for better-off seniors.

* Illinois lawmakers rethink free-rides perk for seniors: The days of free bus and train rides for most Illinois seniors could be numbered.

* Free CTA Rides for Seniors Might End: The Chicago Transit Agency may soon end free rides for seniors.

* Free Rides En Route To Being Over For Most Seniors: Illinois’ cash-strapped public transportation system is one step closer to ending its free rides for senior citizens across the state.

* No More Free Rides For Affluent Seniors: The free ride’s over for some seniors.

The Senate killed the free rides ban last year and Gov. Quinn said back then that he was in favor of keeping the free rides for all seniors. And today, Quinn reiterated his position with a hedge…

Gov. Pat Quinn says he doesn’t think a move to rescind free transit rides for senior citizens will pass. […]

Quinn on Friday wouldn’t say if he would sign the measure to limit the benefit. He says he doesn’t think that will pass the Illinois Senate.

We see this a lot. A bill gets assigned to a committee and everyone goes nuts, or it passes a committee (like the aforementioned aldermanic petition bill) and people assume it’ll be law. That’s not the way things work at the Statehouse.

Anyway, here are some more bills that cleared one hurdle or another and received press coverage today…

* Legislature moving fast to move primary election back to March

* Editorial: Open mockery

* Tougher rules for cabbies nearing

* Legislative scholarships may end in Illinois

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Question of the day

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* OK, it’s Friday, I have a lot more to do today, but let’s have a little non-political fun for a change. This map is almost a couple of years old, but here’s the Illinois county break-out on what we call sodafied beverages…

The national map is here.

* The Question: Does your terminology match up with your county? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   80 Comments      

Double-talk and platitudes while the budget crashes

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* Our quote of the week goes to Sen. Bill Brady

“You can’t cut yourself out of the $10 to $13 billion [deficit] that they’ve accumulated in the Blagojevich/Quinn administration over the last eight years. So what we have to do is we have to reconcile ourselves into a budget that’s not just balanced but has a surplus so that we can begin paying down the backlog of unpaid bills that are referred to as the $13 billion deficit.”

That’s not a fake quote. I swear. Watch the video

So, we can’t cut our way out of the deficit, but we can’t raise taxes. Instead, we need a budget surplus so that we can pay down the overdue bills.

OK, if we can’t cut our way out of this, how do we go about creating that surplus?

“Well, you do it the way businesses and families have done it. Every business and every family has had to deconstruct and reconstruct and reconcile its spending within its means.”

So, what about that ten percent across the board cut Brady proposed during the primary? Is that now “repurposed” as “deconstruction and reconstruction”?

We need a lot more details here or this can all be dismissed as mere pablum. Who gets deconstructed? Who gets reconstructed? Apparently, schools are not exempt

The full Brady interview is here.

…Adding… The $13 billion deficit is not all “unpaid bills,” as Brady claims in that first quote. About half of it is unpaid bills, the other half is a structural problem. We’ve gone over this before with him, but he’s apparently not yet figured it out.

* Meanwhile, the Bloomington Pantagraph’s editorial board is becoming an expert at writing long-winded editorials demanding that the Statehouse do something about the budget without actually saying whether they’d prefer tax hikes, steep cuts or both

If the governor and Legislature really want to help the universities, then they should get serious about addressing the state’s financial problems and pay what’s owed. […]

The sooner the state quits acting like the person who thinks there’s still money in his account because there are checks in his checkbook, the better all of us will be.

I think I like Brady’s answer better.

* Meanwhile, the carnage ain’t pretty

[IL superintendent of education Chris Koch] said the state is still trying to reduce a large backlog of education-related payments from as far back as October.

“Of course the State Board (of Education) issues the vouchers, the money is just not there.”

“We have over 18,000 outstanding vouchers and…almost $700 million in vouchers that are outstanding,” he said.


Here’s a roundup of school budget woe stories. It’s just too depressing to excerpt them all…

* Central Illinois school superintendents expect more cuts ahead

* South Pekin to cut music, art teachers

* Prospect of more cuts looms for struggling schools

* Teachers turn out for school district budget forum

* Chicago schools warn of $900-million shortfall

* More CPS job cuts as $975 million deficit looms

* CPS Announces Job Cuts, Paints Dire Budget Outlook

* No way around CPS teacher pay freeze

* Chicago Public Schools’ Chief Looks to Unions to Save Money

* For kindergartners’ full day, parents will pay

And it’s not just the schools

While revenue projections for Peoria County are flat for 2010, the larger concern rests with payments from the state of Illinois, where all sources of funding are suspect, said a Peoria County financial officer.

* Related…

* Tell Quinn how Illinois’ budget can be balanced

* Illinois Seeks to Boost Taxes, Cut Spending

* State revenues down everywhere

- Posted by Rich Miller   82 Comments      

Reform and Renewal

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* The Senate Dems kinda-sorta unveiled their redistricting plan yesterday. What I mean is, they held a press conference, but didn’t introduce an actual bill

Under [the SDem] plan the legislature would draw the new map. If they chose to de-nest the districts, not have the same districts for the Senate and the House, then each chamber would draw its own map and pass it with a three-fifths vote. If they decided to stick to the current nested system, then the General Assembly would create one map that would pass as a bill and require the governor’s signature.

If the legislature cannot agree on a map, or maps, by June 30, 2011, a commission, appointed by the legislative leaders would get the job. The leaders would each appoint seven members to the 14-member commission to create a map for approval by the General Assembly. If that doesn’t work, the Democrat’s plan mirrors the Republican one in the creation of a special master to draw the map. That master would be chosen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court and a justice of the other party.

The major difference between the parties’ plans is who draws the first map. In the Democrat’s plan the legislature does it, while in the Republican plan it is a commission appointed by the leaders. This is the point on which it seems neither side is willing to compromise.

Sen. Raoul was pretty up-front about the GOP/reformer demands that legislators be entirely removed from the mapmaking process

…Trying to take politics out of the process is a non-starter, [Raoul] said.

“I think we should be honest about that. The redistricting process is inherently political,” Raoul said.

That’s a fundamental difference.

Here’s some video from yesterday’s presser

The Republicans were not kind in their criticism

“The Democrat plan allows the General Assembly to pick its voters in every district,” said State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

Sen. Righter also claimed that the new SDem idea was actually worse than the current redistricting apparatus. Watch

* In other reform news, I’m always a bit torn when it comes to minimum signature requirements. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that would-be candidates have to knock on lots of doors in the rain and snow to get on the ballot. Putting together a decent petition drive can be a great tune-up for the upcoming campaign.

On its face, a bill requiring aldermanic candidates to gather 500 signatures doesn’t sound too horrific. That ain’t a lot. So, at first, this Progress Illinois piece seemed a bit off

We recently stumbled across a bill (HB6000) introduced by State Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago) that would make it a whole lot harder for new candidates to get on ballots in 2011. Lyons is attempting to bump up the number of required signatures on nominating petitions in Chicago elections to 500. Compared the current requirement — a mere 2 percent of the votes cast in the ward during the preceding election year — enacting the measure would raise the threshold in every ward. In some, the increase would be dramatic; last election cycle, for example, a 22nd Ward candidate only needed 87 names.

87 names? Sheesh. That seems way too low.

But, PI goes on to make a good point…

There’s another catch too. Lyons’ measure — which passed out of committee this week and is headed to the House floor for a vote — seeks to codify a state statue that ensures each voter can only ink one candidate’s petition. That’s currently the lay of the state election law, Jim Allen from the Chicago Board of Elections points out, but it has been routinely challenged because of a gray area in another state statute known as the Revised Cities and Villages Act of 1941. That, of course, would be eliminated by writing the rule into the amended statue.

Voters will be the big losers if the measure is adopted, David Morrison from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform tells us. “It really puts a terrible burden on petition signers,” he says. “And in small wards, [candidates] could rack up 2,000 or 3,000 signatures and there would be no one left to sign.”

Well, not quite “no one,” but point well taken. The bill removes the cap on the maximum number of signatures that can be submitted at once, so the proposal could encourage vacuuming up as many sigs as humanly possible.

Therefore, I actually have to agree with the Tribune editorial board today

Could they at least lay off the crass attempts to protect the members of the City Council? Come on. Stuff the Lyons bill. It’s an insult to your constituents.

* Today’s other Tribune editorial, however, is a bit silly. The Mother Ship is just beside Herself with rage at the lack of progress on ethics reforms

Instead we’ll just point out that it’s February — late February — and lawmakers have shown little interest in finishing what they barely started last year.

Yeah. It’s February. The House’s 3rd Reading deadline for House bills is March 26th - a month away.

The Tribune also claimed that not much reform was passed last year. FOIA reform, contracting reform and campaign contribution caps - no matter how leaky - were all enacted last year.

And as far as the caps are concerned, how did they work out for the Tribune’s favorite US Senate candidate David Hoffman? The white knight reformer had to mostly self fund because he found out the hard way that outsiders have a real problem raising lots of money under the capped federal system. Heck, the Tribune opposes caps anyway on principle, except for last year, when the editorial board raged about how the state reformers’ cap plan was being blocked, even though the Tribune didn’t like the idea in the first place.


And what about this year? I doubt any of the reformers thought they could reopen the campaign finance reform stuff this session. Their focus right now is redistricting reform. They’ll most likely get back to the finance reform after there’s actually been an election under the changes enacted last year.

* Ever the “me too” little brother, the Daily Herald edit board also raged and rambled about an allegedly stalled campaign finance reform bill today.

Somebody apparently did a great job yesterday of ginning up these two papers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Learn history’s lessons - or face the consequences

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* My Sun-Times column today takes a look back while looking ahead

I ran into Glenn Poshard the other day.

As I walked away from our pleasant little chitchat, I told my intern that Illinois would be a far different place today if Poshard had been elected governor in 1998 when he ran against George Ryan.

Federal prosecutors might not have had much interest in going after somebody who’d been voted out of public life. Even if they did, and Ryan still wound up in prison, he’d be an ex-secretary of state, not an ex-governor.

If the Democrat Poshard had prevailed, his fellow Dem Rod Blagojevich most likely wouldn’t have been elected governor four years later. Considering who he is, Blagojevich might’ve wound up in trouble with the law anyway, but not as our governor.

One big reason Poshard didn’t win was he was considered too far to the right for the Chicago area. Glenn Poshard was pro-gun, pro-life and anti-gay rights. Ryan had a reputation for being a conservative, but he ran to the left of Poshard on social issues and won.

Poshard won heavily Democratic Cook County by only 128,000 votes. To put that into perspective, Rod Blagojevich won Cook by over 500,000 votes in 2006. If Poshard had won Cook by just half that amount, he would’ve defeated George Ryan.

Sen. Bill Brady, the likely Republican gubernatorial nominee this year, has pretty much the same stances on social issues as Poshard.

Understandably, the Democrats will do all they can to scare people about Brady, and he isn’t doing himself any favors by reintroducing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Brady also caught some heat this week for recently introducing a bill to re-legalize the currently banned use of gas chambers to “euthanize” large numbers of dogs and cats at once. Illinois is home to almost twice as many Illinois pet owners as expected voters this November. Oops.

When Ryan defeated Poshard in 1998, the economy was humming along wonderfully, the state budget had a billion-dollar surplus and the last governor to go to prison for acts committed while he was in office was 30 years earlier.

I’m not saying that abortion rights, or gay rights or gun rights or even pet rights are unimportant here. They are to a whole lot of people. That pet gassing bill might actually say more about who Brady is than anything else. All of it deserves coverage and plenty of debate.

But Illinois’ unemployment is now over 11 percent. The projected state budget deficit is almost half of its operating budget. We’ve got one former governor in prison and another one on deck.

So far, Gov. Quinn hasn’t really come up with many great ideas to solve most of these problems. His budget plans have been unworkable and have therefore been tossed aside; his economic plan is mostly confined to public works projects; his reforms, while significant, have fallen somewhat short.

Brady’s budget plan is to slash programs and cut taxes, so we need to know far more about how, exactly, those ideas would truly impact Illinois. His economic program is somewhat vague, and while some of his reform ideas are pretty good, it’s unclear whether he can make them happen.

So, by all means, let’s pay attention to the hot buttons and the character issues, but this year we all need to give at least equal weight to how these two guys intend to repair the wreckage created after Glenn Poshard lost to George Ryan. The times absolutely demand it.

* Meanwhile, Brady’s gas chamber bill has Michael Sneed and Gov. Pat Quinn in an uproar and Quinn is vowing to keep the story alive

Gov. Quinn, the devoted owner of the state’s first dog, Bailey, is on the war path over a dangerous dog path.

• Translation: Quinn is aghast over legislation that was pushed by Quinn’s likely opponent, state Sen. Bill Brady, which could have allowed the mass killing of frightened, fighting and gasping shelter animals in a box of 10!

• Upshot: Quinn, who has a yelping 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier, is so incensed, he channeled up a dog legend Thursday. “If that bill had ever gotten out of the Legislature, I’d veto it faster than you can say Rin Tin Tin!” Quinn told Sneed.

• Tipshot: Watch for Quinn to show up Saturday at the dog rescue section of the 2010 Chicago Dog Show at McCormick Place to show his displeasure over the legislation, which wound up being gutted by Brady on Wednesday after being condemned as cruel by the Humane Society of the United States.

(The heinous legislation was first tipped in Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax newsletter, Springfield’s political must-read.)

• Dogshot: Sneed is told Quinn has invited Uno, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show award-winning Illinois beagle, to visit the mansion anytime.

- Posted by Rich Miller   74 Comments      

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Friday, Feb 26, 2010

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Jason Plummer discovers that live TV ain’t easy

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* Take it from me, doing live TV is a whole lot harder than it looks. One little screwup and you look like a freaking moron.

Republican lt. governor nominee Jason Plummer had one of those moments on Chicago Tonight last night. Less than two minutes into his interview with host Phil Ponce, he lost his train of thought and completely froze up. Phil mercifully bailed him out. Have a look

Almost the same thing happened to me last night during a speech to Model Illinois Government. I was able to make a funny joke about it, though, and move along. That comes from experience. Plummer doesn’t have much of that yet.

What I always try to do is watch the tapes of my live appearances. It’s a painful exercise, but it’s the only way to learn. Plus, I’ve learned a few tricks about how to attract attention at crucial moments during panel discussions or undermine somebody else’s arguments - and that’s crucial if another person on the program is, um, dissembling.

Watching and learning is essential. Back during the impeachment brouhaha, I was on Chicago Tonight and I thought the camera was shooting Carol Marin and I from the shoulders up. Nope. Most of our bodies were in the shot while I was unconsciously twiddling my thumbs. Oops. But because I watched the replay, you won’t ever see me do that stupid thing again.

* Anyway, Plummer’s performance during the rest of the interview wasn’t exactly stellar, either. Ponce is an expert at calmly and dispassionately taking apart his guests, and this interview was no exception…

“So, in terms of what you got out of those internships that would help you be governor, what would you say?”


Plummer’s answer to why the Madison County Republican Party rented an office from his family and paid $13,000 in rent and fees while he was chairman wasn’t the greatest…

“That was the best retail location. It was the only one available at that time for that function.”

The only retail location in all of Madison County? Really? Luckily for Plummer, Ponce let that one go by.

Go have a look.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      

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* Advocates Meet With Rauner's Office, Call For Acceptance Of Syrian Refugees
* Contested races setting up in several subcircuit races

* Emergency Management Officials, National Weather Service Encourage Winter Preparedness - November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois
* Keep Your Family Safe This Winter - November through February are leading months for carbon monoxide related incidents
* Governor Takes Bill Action
* Illinois Department of Labor Director Hugo Chaviano Awards Governor’s Award for Contributions in Health and Safety to the Illinois Refining Division of Marathon Petroleum Company LP
* State Regulator Elected Treasurer of Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

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