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Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* 2:07 pm - As you know by now, ICC Chairman Manny Flores was having big trouble with his nomination. He had opposition in the Senate because of past political differences and because of utility company opposition. He wasn’t going to be confirmed.

So, as subscribers already know, Gov. Quinn decided to withdraw Flores’ nomination and move him over to another job while giving the ICC chairmanship to IEPA Director Doug Scott. From a press release

Today Governor Quinn named Doug Scott as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and Manuel “Manny” Flores as director of the Division of Banking of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Scott has served as director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) since 2005 and Flores has chaired the ICC since January 2010. Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state’s chief operating officer and Lisa Bonnett as interim director of IEPA.

Lisa Bonnett will be the IEPA’s interim director. She is currently the acting deputy director.

* Also today, Quinn filled chief of staff Jack Lavin’s old job of chief operating officer…

Today Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state’s chief operating officer. Ross, who for the last two years has served as a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office, will lead efforts to promote continued job growth in Illinois. He will manage efforts in the governor’s office and across state government to keep and attract new companies, encourage expansion of the green economy, and spur entrepreneurship and innovation across Illinois. In his previous position, Ross worked on an incentive package to keep Navistar and 3,000 jobs in Illinois, aided implementation of the state’s $31 billion capital program and helped overhaul the regulation of the Illinois cemetery industry following the tragedy at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip.

* Meanwhile, the Atlantic has uncovered Chicago’s best kept secret: The name behind the “fake” Mayor Emanuel Twitter account. It’s Dan Sinker, the founder of Punk Planet and a journalism teacher at Columbia College

As a professor, Sinker focuses on entrepreneurial journalism and independent media. A student in one of his classes described him as down-to-earth, knowledgeable, and interesting. She said he encouraged his students to build businesses around their work, helping underserved groups find places to congregate online. “He’s DIY,” she said and “big on building communities.” Most importantly, in a journalism world drenched in negativity, she said Sinker inspired students because he’s actually positive about the future of media. […]

“My wife has asked me,’Why did you actually start tweeting?’ And for the life of me I can’t remember,” Sinker said. “I remember I was at home. I think everyone had gone to bed. And I remembered, ‘Oh, I have that account. This might be kind of funny.’”

From the start, the account began to take off. After three tweets, Sinker himself retweeted a message and @MayorEmanuel had a few hundred followers in just a few hours. Within two days, it had 1,000 followers, largely on the quality of its industrial-strength swearing. “At the beginning, a lot of the mental amusement was putting two words together, one of them is profanity and maybe the other one is also profanity and it’s kind of weird,” he recalled.

But that started to change around Halloween, during a particularly excellent hallucination brought on my eating too much candy corn. “I started to think, I can really tell a story about this,” Sinker said. “And Halloween probably also marks the beginning of the end of creative profanity.”

The story about Fake Emanuel and Quaxelrod (the duck - you had to be there) floating on a Chicago River ice floe and bumping into Mayor Daley on his own ice floe is an all-time classic.

…Adding… From the Illinois GOP

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady [yesterday] called upon the Board of Directors of the Regional Transportation Authority to rescind the employment agreement of Speaker Mike Madigan’s son-in-law, Jordan Matyas. Matyas, who is married to Madigan’s daughter, was recently given a $130,000 per year lobbying position with the RTA.

“Whether the job offer was a peace-offering with the Speaker or an attempt to curry favor, it stinks and we need to stop running the State of Illinois like a banana republic,” said Brady. “How about hiring an experienced Government Relations professional with a deep understanding of regional transportation issues instead of an individual whose only qualifications are family dinners at the Madigans and an occasional ride on Metra?”

* But Pat Durante, who’s no Democratic lackey, disagrees with his GOP chairman

But the senior Republican on the RTA Board, Addison Township GOP Committeeman Pat Durante, said it’s Mr. Brady who needs to back off.

Mr. Durante noted that Mr. Matyas has worked as a Capitol lobbyist for several years, most recently with the Humane Society of the United States.

“His (Madigan) relationship shouldn’t be held against him,” said Mr. Durante, a longtime adviser to the late Congressman Henry Hyde. “I’ve been in politics a lot longer than Pat Brady. There are relatives who are qualified to hold a job, and this young man is one of them.”

…Adding More… From the Emanuel campaign…

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the Mayor-elect will keep his commitment to donate $5,000 to the charity of Prof. Sinker’s choice. Details to follow in the coming days.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Time to grow up?

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* My syndicated newspaper column looks at Speaker Madigan’s latest move

After decades of dominating every tiny aspect of life in his legislative chamber, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan now appears to want his members to grow up a little and do some things for themselves.

One of the first steps in that process to adulthood is handing more power to the House’s five appropriations committees and the House Revenue Committee.

The appropriations committees have been toothless kittens for decades. They listen to a parade of agency directors outline their upcoming budget requests and press them about jobs for various constituencies, minority and otherwise. Occasionally, an appropriations chairperson will briefly have a seat at the bargaining table when the governor and the leaders sit down to talk turkey.

But, for the most part, they’ve been cut out of the process. That’s especially been the case the past two years when the General Assembly has sent “lump sum” appropriations to the governor in order to avoid cuts.

But Illinois’ new “Budgeting for Results” law has given Madigan an opportunity to hand off a bit of power to see how his members deal with it. The law requires that the state first determine how much revenue is available to spend before deciding how to spend it. Then, agencies have to come up with realistic benchmarks to prove that their programs are performing up to par.

So, Madigan has introduced a House resolution to establish how much cash will be available to the state from every possible revenue source. Determining the actual anticipated revenues will be the job of the House Revenue Committee, which will begin holding hearings on the matter this week.

Once the resolution is passed, each of the five appropriations committees will be given a spending limit. They will then decide how the state cash is divvied up agency by agency. If they exceed the limit, or discover they don’t have enough money to go around, they’ll have to make cuts.

To be sure, Madigan’s staff will have a lot to do with this process. And dealing with how the Senate determines its own revenue and spending process hasn’t yet been figured out. The two chambers could hold a conference committee (which we haven’t seen in years), or the “budgeteers” (trusted appropriations lieutenants) could step in and negotiate, or Madigan and the other leaders could just take it from there.

But considering that more than half the chamber’s members sit on the various House appropriations committees, it will, at the very least, be a needed eye-opening experience for these people, who so often have been shielded from making any hard choices.

Madigan, by the way, also has informed standing committee chairmen that they need to learn to say “No” a lot more often. Usually, the committees will approve legislation as a courtesy, or send bills to the floor even though the measures still may need a lot of work.

But Madigan reportedly is concerned about the large number of bills introduced this year and wants the chairmen to start weeding them out. In the past, Madigan has imposed limits to the number of bills his members could advance. Now, though, he wants members to try to take more responsibility for themselves.

To an outsider, this story probably looks pretty silly. Of course legislators should be more responsible. But those of us who’ve watched the House over the years know how much they’ve been spoiled by a leader who has taken it upon himself to do everything for them.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, Illinois’ revenue streams crashed with the economy. The General Assembly was faced with the prospect of approving a budget with less money than the year before. Madigan told Republican Gov. George Ryan and Republican Senate President Pate Philip that his chamber was full of people who wanted to keep spending freely. So, they devised a scheme to pass a bloated budget and then Ryan would either reduce or delete spending items. The House would vote to override the cuts, then the Senate would vote to accept and everybody would be happy.

Now, though, Madigan may be thinking of what might happen when he’s not around to protect his members from reality. Nobody will ever again have the immense power and sway over the process that he’s had.

The question, however, is: After three decades of pampering his mushrooms, how long will it take to move his members into adulthood?

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


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