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This just in…

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      


Question of the day

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* The Better Government Association took a look at some of the bills assigned to the House Agricultural Committee this year

* concealed possession of hand guns,
* waiting periods for firearm purchases,
* changes to the criminal code for minors when handguns are involved,
* rules requiring women to have ultrasounds before having an abortion,
* required reporting of child abuse, and
* gaming.

That “gaming” bill involves horse racing, which is in Ag’s natural domain.

* And then comes the editorializing

But when bills are placed in committees that have nothing to do with their subject matter, the entire legislative process risks being subverted.

Pam Sutherland, head of policy for Planned Parenthood of Illinois pointed out that placing a bill about women’s health into the Agriculture Committee is “like sending a hog-farming bill to the Public Health committee.”

House members were chosen to sit on the Agriculture Committee because of their expertise and interest in agriculture. They do not have the subject matter expertise that allows them to make informed decisions on legislation unrelated to that topic.

House Speaker Michael Madigan knows how to play the game and is aware that bills with little chance of passing in the correct committee can sail through another committee simply because lawmakers don’t know or care to ask the right questions.

Actually, a hog farming bill might very well have an impact on public health.

People aren’t necessarily chosen for committee assignments based on their “expertise.” If they were, the committee assignments would look a bit different than they do now. The sparsely populated Counties and Townships Committee would have a lot more members than it does, for instance.

* The truth is that the House Ag Committee has been the place to send more culturally conservative legislation for a while now so that the sponsors are assured that their legislation makes it to the floor. Madigan likes to make his members happy, and getting floor votes on bills is part of that process. This started with guns and went from there. Pro gun bills were sent to Ag. Gun control bills were sent to whatever committee had the most liberals on it.

The “child abuse” bill assigned to Ag requires people whose work encompasses “abortions, abortion counseling, abortion referrals, contraceptives, contraceptive counseling, sex education, or gynecological care and services” to report suspected child abuse. Hence, the assignment.

* Anyway, I’ve been thinking for a while that Ag’s name should be changed to reflect its far more influential role in the process. So…

* The Question: What should be the House Agricultural Committee’s more “appropriate” new name?

Snark is heavily encouraged, of course.

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Somebody notify DCFS

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* You gotta be kidding me. From a press release

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be the keynote speaker at a student political convention sponsored by the Junior State of America (JSA), the largest high school student-run organization in the country.

The two-day seminar in Chicago will host over 500 students from 13 states. JSA strives to invite speakers who have applied their interests in government, politics, and debate towards real-world success.

“As both a Chicagoland local and the most recognized politician of our generation, Mr. Blagojevich is ideal for this role,” says Tony Castagnoli from JSA. “Students are excited to hear the former governor speak and we believe this will be our best convention ever.”

“Real-world success?” Really? He succeeded at what? The guy is barred from running for state or local office for life. And the FBI surveillance tapes reveal a deeply cynical man who wanted to use his office to line his own pockets. Not to mention all the swear words. Yes, he’s a fantastic role model for kids.

Sheesh.

* From the group’s website

The Junior Statesmen mission is to strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society.

And Blagojevich can do that how, exactly? By showing them what they shouldn’t do?

The mind reels at this one.

*** UPDATE *** The AP reached the group and asked what the heck they were doing

JSA spokeswoman Lindsey Bowen says it’s up to Blagojevich to decide the focus of the speech. But she adds students are sure to ask tough questions about the accusations that led to his impeachment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Emanuel makes first post-election mistake

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* Apparently, Judy Erwin didn’t tell Team Emanuel that she’d just been busted for ethics violations and the Emanuel people didn’t check. Oops

A veteran politician Rahm Emanuel named to his mayoral transition team resigned her high-level state job last summer and paid a fine for conducting political business on state time, according to a newly filed ethics report.

Judy Erwin, a co-chair of Emanuel’s mayoral campaign, said late Friday night that she would resign her new post on his transition team after the Tribune contacted her and the campaign. She said she hadn’t informed Emanuel of the ethics violation.

Erwin, the former executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, admitted using her office e-mail and phone while working on a campaign committee for presidential candidate Barack Obama, using staff resources to plan her trip to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and engaging in campaign fundraising activity while on the job, the state’s Executive Ethics Commission ruled in a decision filed Feb. 16.

The ethics commission said she cooperated with the investigation by the executive inspector general, reimbursed the state, agreed to pay a $4,000 fine and promised to never work for the state again. She resigned Aug. 15.

More

In the filing, Erwin’s explanation was that she “was not careful enough in separating her political work from her state responsibilities . . . and also that she had become accustomed to using administrative assistants in the private sector in a way that is not permitted in the public sector.”

But the commission found it “particularly troubling” that Erwin had made a campaign contribution to a state representative who was chairman of a committee overseeing the Board of Higher Education’s budget.

“This suggests that she was responding to a real or imagined pay-to-play incentive within state government,” the commission wrote in its filing.

While there were clear violations in the ethics report, that campaign contribution amounted to just $125 to former Rep. David Miller. Not exactly a king’s ransom.

* Roundup…

* Rahm Emanuel stops by luncheon honoring Justice Anne Burke

* GOP could increase members on City Council

* An election ‘thank you,’ stamped with an alderman’s government letterhead

* Weis may be out as soon as Tuesday

* Weis would like to find a job in Chicago

* Rosenthal: My advice for Rahm Emanuel

* Emanuel Has a Tough Row to Hoe, but Far From an Impossible One

* Emanuel Spent $11M To Be Mayor

* Mitchell: How Rahm Emanuel won black voters

* Are stars aligning for Rahm’s long-term plans?

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


Today’s number: $122 million

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* From a Tribune editorial urging Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the death penalty abolition bill that’s sitting on his desk

Taxpayers have spent more than $122 million in 10 years to send 15 new prisoners to death row, but the moratorium remains in place because the system can’t be trusted. That’s why lawmakers passed the bill that awaits Quinn’s decision.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Legislative walkouts have a long - bipartisan - history in Indiana

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* It turns out that walkouts have been a relatively common occurrence in the Indiana House for the past 16 years by both parties..

– In 1995, Democrats staged a two-week walkout during the 1995 session until Republican leaders withdrew a surprise proposal to redraw legislative districts for the 1996 elections and reduce the 100-member House by one Democratic seat. Democrats won back the House majority in the 1996 election as Democrat Frank O’Bannon was elected governor.

– In 2001, outnumbered Republicans holed up for two days, refusing to take the floor in protest of new legislative districts drawn by Democrats. But Bosma and Democratic leaders agreed to some minor changes that were just enough to break the impasse. Democrats kept their slim majority in the 2002 election.

– In 2004, Republicans blocked action for a week by staying off the floor because then-Speaker Bauer refused to let a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage even be debated. Republicans won a 52-48 majority in the 2004 election that also saw Daniels win the governor’s office.

– In 2005, Democrats staged a one-day walkout that temporarily derailed a voter ID bill and other Daniels initiatives that later became law, leading to the governor lashing out at Bauer. Democrats regained House control in the 2006 election. [Emphasis added.]

* At least 70,000 protested at the Wisconsin Statehouse on Saturday, some Chicagoans rallied as well

Union workers and supporters ignored wintry weather Saturday as they rallied downtown to protest efforts by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to strip most public employees in that state of their collective bargaining rights.

The rally came as one of the 14 runaway Wisconsin senators said in an appearance at Operation PUSH Headquarters on the South Side that she and the other Democratic legislators won’t return home until the GOP governor agrees to negotiate on his plan to end collective bargaining for public workers.

“His agenda is wrong for Wisconsin, and we’re standing our ground,” Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor said.

Organizers estimated about 2,000 people braved snow and cold winds to attend the rally outside the James R. Thompson Center. There were no arrests, police said.

Chicago police estimated the crowd at less than half that.

* ABC7


* US Sen. Dick Durbin spoke at Saturday’s Chicago rally. Watch

* There was a Springfield demonstration as well, but I didn’t see any SJ-R coverage on its website. The Quad City Times and the St. Louis Beacon did post stories, however

Several hundred demonstrators representing Illinois unions and political action groups gathered in front of the Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Saturday to show support for public workers in Wisconsin.

* The fleeing Indiana legislators are still in Urbana with no plans to go home. And that’s costing a local pizza franchise

For a second straight day, a Papa John’s pizza delivery man showed up with 20 pies that pranksters — not the Democrats — had ordered.

On Thursday, the Democrats each chipped in enough cash to buy the pizza anyway.

On Friday, Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, sent the delivery man away.

* Related…

* Quinn hits GOP union ‘crusade’: “I think some of the animus against the unions, the public employee unions, is motivated by their political activities in the past, and I don’t think that is right,” Quinn told me. “I have had strong disagreements on policy with AFSCME. They did not support our public pension reform at all, nor did the teachers unions, both IEA and IFT, but we were able to get that done and signed into law and we worked with them on a variety of other issues. But clearly some of the other Republican governors are on an ideological crusade.”

* Largest crowds since Vietnam War march in Wisconsin: A crowd estimated at more than 70,000 people on Saturday waved American flags, sang the national anthem and called for the defeat of a Wisconsin plan to curb public sector unions that has galvanized opposition from the American labor movement.

* 45 Tea Party protesters at IN Statehouse

* Photos of national protests

* VIDEO: Sen. Dick Durbin Addressing “Save The American Dream” Rally In Chicago

* VIDEO: Springfield labor rallies in support of WI public employees

* VIDEO: Roberta Lynch addresses protesters

* Springfield 2-26 American Dream rally news and pictures

* Union supporters rally in Carbondale

* Union battle in the Midwest a pull for political power: “It’s very simple. Wealthy individuals and corporations can still give six-, seven-, eight-figure checks to all the candidates, state parties and causes they want to,” said Michael Fraioli, a Democratic strategist who works closely with organized labor. “If you take away unions and their ability to organize … you cut at the heart of our financial support.”

* Daniels Blasts Indiana Democrats For Legislating From Hot Tubs

* Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rejects compromise on Meet the Press

* Wisconsin lawmakers’ life on the lam

* Bernard Schoenburg: AWOL Wisconsin senators include former area resident

* In Indiana, Clues to Future of Wisconsin Labor

* Attack on the middle class?

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Monday, Feb 28, 2011

* Cook County Board rolls back controversial sales tax increase

* Cook County Board marathon session on Preckwinkle budget

* Firm moving to take over Illinois Lottery despite court ruling

* FutureGen on the horizon once again: Four Illinois counties got the word in December that they made the cut for the FutureGen project.

* State budget shortfall hits Morton East day care center for students’ kids: During the last two years, the Children’s Center has cut 10 percent of its offerings, from bus service to snacks at holiday parties, administrators said. It expects to lose another $68,000 in state funding next school year and plans to eliminate weekly support groups, home visits and summer outings for teen parents, they said.

* Finke: In southern Illinois’ Franklin County, Mary Ann Adams worked for the regional office of education. She decided she wanted a raise. She went to the then-Franklin Williamson regional superintendent, Barry Kohl, who agreed to the raise with the stipulation that Adams kick back half of it to him each month. The raise came in two paychecks in addition to Adams’ regular paycheck. She’d cash one of the two pay raise checks and give the proceeds to Kohl. This went on for several years before she retired. Three years later, an auditor employed by the Teachers’ Retirement System uncovered the deal. TRS said money involved in an illegal kick-back scheme doesn’t count as salary for retirement benefits. Adams said she earned the money and should get a pension on it. She fought TRS’s ruling. She lost an administrative review, in circuit court and most recently in an appeals court. All said she can’t collect taxpayer-funded pension benefits for salary that was part of a kickback scheme. That will cost her $15,000 a year in pension benefits. She’ll still get about $50,000.

* Charter schools spark emotions, debate at School Board meeting

* Schools chief says Illinois needs to consolidate districts

* Lawmakers, Superintendents Talk Illinois State Funding for Education

* 3rd Chicago airport no worry for B-N officials

* Champaign cuts back: Fewer firefighters ahead

* New bike study measures where rubber meets road

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      


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Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* Here’s one from the vaults

Well, you bury your head in the things you said, that’s fine
But the days go by and you know it’s getting dark at nine

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


This just in… Emanuel has $2.1 million to spend

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* 4:43 pm - Chicago’s Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel has said he would likely be playing in some aldermanic runoffs now that he avoided one himself. His campaign just sent out this e-mail…

In response to a request from many of you, I wanted to provide an estimate of cash-on-hand remaining in the campaign fund. It’s only an estimate because we have subtracted what we know are the outstanding expenditures, but there could be something we are missing and the final report with all of the expenditures is not immediately due.

The estimate of cash-on-hand remaining is $2.1 million — and again I caution you that the final number could be slightly different when all is said and done.

* Roundup…

* Emanuel visits South Side charter school: The mayor-elect said he and his wife have not yet decided whether to send their children to Chicago Public Schools. “Amy and I are going to make this decision as parents,” said Emanuel, adding that they are considering both public and private schools. “If it comes with political price, I am willing to pay it…”

* Mayor-elect Emanuel teachers AP class; treated to student rap: Emanuel told reporters not to read too much into his decision to teach his first post-election class at a charter school. The mayor-elect called charters a “tool in the tool box,” but said he does not consider them the “end-all-and-be-all” of education.

* Miguel del Valle Says No to Rahm Emanuel: I had one brief conversation with him. He called me on Wednesday, and he asked me if I would consider being a co-chair of his transition team. I replied no because I’ll be working on a number of things.

* What the numbers mean for Emanuel, Braun and Chico: In the 18th ward, where African Americans make up nearly 68 percent of the population, Braun even came in third to Gery Chico

* How bad was it for Carol Moseley Braun?: In 174 of the city’s 2,570 precincts, mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun received zero votes. In approximately 1,000 precincts, she received 9 or fewer votes

* Suburban leaders, residents react to Emanuel election

* Rahm Gets a Lesson in Press Relations: Once reporters arrived at the school, they were told they couldn’t ask questions of the children, wouldn’t have access to Emanuel and would be limited to shooting a few moments of video of Emanuel teaching. To add isnsult to injury, members of the media were told about the limited access while being held in the principal’s office.

[Comments are off because I’m about to shut them down anyway.]

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Madigan watch

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* From Bernie Schoenburg’s column

Checking the comment section under stories about the mayor’s race at SJ-R.com, I have noticed that some people seem to think Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is on [Mike Coffey’s] side in the Springfield mayor’s race.

Madigan often eats at Saputo’s, the Coffey family restaurant. Although Coffey is a Republican, he made a point during the campaign of noting that Mike Thompson, a lobbyist and former Madigan staffer, was part of his campaign team. But there’s no indication that Madigan himself is on board.

“I have no idea if Mike Madigan’s for me,” Coffey said. “He eats in the restaurant, like many customers. Some are probably for me. Some are probably against me. I have no idea, and I don’t ask people. … All’s I care about is that they come into Saputo’s.”

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown, who happened to be in Saputo’s when I asked him about this, said Madigan wasn’t involved in either the Chicago or Springfield mayoral campaigns.

Working for Madigan usually means you always work for Madigan. But the top brass has gone far out of their way to insist that Thomson was on his own on this one. And Madigan seems to be eating elsewhere more often, lately.

* Speaking of Madigan guys

The Regional Transportation Authority has come up with an interesting solution of sorts to its continuing Springfield woes. It’s hired the son-in-law of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan for a $130,000-a-year job.

The RTA a little while ago announced that Jordan Matyas will begin work next week as its deputy executive director, overseeing the agency’s government affairs department. […]

The RTA’s spokeswoman says there is “no relationship” between the hiring and the fact that RTA Chairman John Gates has had a rocky relationship with Mr. Madigan, with continual talk that the speaker might even run a bill to abolish the agency.

“We wouldn’t call it a peace offering,” the spokeswoman said. “We’d call is the hiring of a person for a posted vacancy who we have determined is very highly qualified.”

Jordan used to lobby for the Humane Society, so he’s a do-gooder from way back. He started working for former state Rep. Judy Erwin when he was 15.

Matyas and I talked a few times about the “appearance” problems he was going to have after he married Madigan’s daughter. There’s just no avoiding it. Like his sister-in-law the attorney general, he’s just going to have to expect these questions about whether he accomplished something on his own or not. And he’ll never really know if he’s being offered stuff because of his experience (and he has plenty) or his super-powerful father-in-law.

I don’t think we’ve ever had this situation at the Statehouse before, so we’re in uncharted waters here. It would be easy to tell him to get outta the business, but that’s where his career is. So, it’s a tough one.

And, before you go weird in comments, Jordan and Tiffany are the real deal. Also, take if from me, you can’t help who you fall in love with. That’s just life. Sometimes, it causes problems, but it’s usually worth it.

* Meanwhile

Freshman State Representative Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) on Wednesday introduced a Constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on the Illinois General Assembly’s legislative leaders, a measure that force fellow Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) out of his post.

“The legislature is too tightly controlled by four individuals who are not accountable to most citizens,” Biss said. “This bill aims to make the legislative process more responsive by ensuring that we hear fresh ideas from new leaders, which is vitally important to how the legislative process takes shape.” […[

With a January 2014 effective date, House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 20 would prohibit a member from serving in a leadership position for longer than ten years.

In addition to ending Madigan’s tenure as Speaker, who has held the job since 1983, with two-year hiatus between 1995-1997, Biss’ measure would also end the reign of House GOP Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego). Cross won his leadership job in 2002.

Circular file fodder, but that’ll play well in his district.

*** UPDATE *** Interesting

Powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has joined as a sponsor of a House bi-partisan resolution calling for an audit of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation program “as it applies to state employees.”

The resolution, H.R. 131, filed Thursday, is co-sponsored by state Rep. Tom Holbrook, D-Belleville, and Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon. According to the official synopsis of the resolution, it seeks an audit that would include “the number of claims filed by state workers during the last four years, a review of the settlement contract process, an analysis of any fraud identification and control policies and procedures, an analysis of arbitrator caseloads over the four-year period, and a review of conflict of interest policies applicable to arbitrators and commissioners.” […]

“I’m pleased to work with Speaker Madigan in sponsoring legislation to audit the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission,” Kay said. “The legislature is now serious about auditing the (commission), and obtaining the support from Speaker Madigan is a big step in the right direction.

“Bipartisan support is necessary to move this legislation forward, and I’m optimistic an audit will be conducted quickly and thoroughly,” Kay said.

Kay is not one of the Speaker’s favorite people because he took a House seat away from the Democrats last year. Even if it was Jay Hoffman’s House seat.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Funny or not?

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

*** UPDATE *** Rockford was briefly used as a hideout by those fleeing Wisconsin Democratic legislators, so now the city’s convention and tourism bureau is trying to turn the notoriety to their advantage with a new PR campaign. “Hide-Away in Rockford” has its own Facebook site and a new promo video featuring Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, as well as other local types. Watch

Heh.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* At first glance I thought this was a funny little “inside” joke, but now I’m not so sure

Illinois young republicans today called for Governor Pat Quinn to take action against the 14 Democratic State Senators who are hiding out in Illinois. The demand came in the form of a video released by the Illinois Federation of Young Republicans. […]

The ad, showing the 14 Wisconsin Senators as fugitives on the run, asserts that the individuals are avoiding making tough decisions and evading their responsibilities as lawmakers. The ad goes on to state that, “These democratic legislators must be returned to their home state to face their voters and force them to do the job that they were elected to do and the job that they were paid to do.” The ad ends with an appeal to call Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to tell him to return the Senators to Wisconsin.

Illinois Young Republican Chairman Dennis Cook said, “Governor Quinn should not allow Illinois to become a safe haven for legislators on the run. They were elected by the people of Wisconsin to do a job and they should own up to their responsibility. If our legislators fled to their state, we would want them to do the same thing.”

What’s Quinn supposed to do, send out the coppers to arrest the fleeing lawmakers for crossing state lines without a visa? I don’t get it. But, I’ve made plenty of jokes about rounding up the intruders and deporting them back to their inferior home states, so I kinda chuckled.

* I still thought it was a joke even after I watched their very scary web ad

“Tell [Quinn] to return the fugitives to Wisconsin, where they belong.”

Ha!

…Adding… I put this in comments, but I figured I’d share it on the front page…

Maybe the CIA can do a “rendition.”

Can you imagine? Black helicopters descend predawn on a sleepy McHenry County town. The fugitives are immediately hooded and shackled and flown to Madison, where they are all promptly waterboarded and then forced to watch Barney episodes for days on end until they agree to vote “Yes” on Walker’s entire legislative agenda.

Perfection.

Also, those are some pretty slick production values for the Federation of Illinois Young Republicans. The Republican Governors Association has become involved with the Wisconsin protests, so money is flowing.

* But then I went to their website, Illinois Fugitive Watch, which has a “fugitive” page complete with mug shots

And this message…

Let Governor Quinn know that you are OUTRAGED by his recent actions “welcoming” the Wisconsin State Senators into our state. We are NOT a safe haven for these fugitives. Send him a message TODAY!

Strange.

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* Rep. Adam Brown (R-Decatur) has introduced a constitutional amendment to abolish the lt. governor’s office

“It’s purely a cost-saving measure that a number of candidates ran on during the campaign season,” Brown said. “I think the opportunity to abolish that office is overdue. It’s largely a figurehead position.”

Even though such an idea could only take effect after her term ends in 2014, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said Thursday that she’s opposed.

“I think we need a lieutenant governor,” Simon said. “Of course, you have to understand I’m kind of biased about that.”

* The Question: Abolish the lt. governor’s office, yes or no? Take the poll, and then don’t forget to explain your answer in comments…


- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Crime and punishment

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* The overreaction by Gov. Pat Quinn to stories about how the Department of Corrections released violent prisoners against his direct orders has caused some serious problems

Without MGT, and Randle’s ramped-up version, tagged MGT-Push, the state effectively put a lid on its often overcrowded prisons. The result is the number of inmates in Illinois prisons has exploded to an all-time high of 48,760 as of Feb. 14.

“We shot ourselves in the foot by ending MGT,” DOC senior policy analyst Cory Foster told an audience at Northwestern School of Law in December.

During its brief, three-month tenure, MGT-Push allowed the early release of 1,754 inmates. Another 24,172 prisoners in 2009 were eligible for good-time credits under MGT. Keeping them behind bars (the numbers represent about half of the state’s total prison population) for lengthier stays increases the likelihood of violence against other inmates and for prison staff, said John Maki, executive director of The John Howard Association of Illinois, a nonprofit group that monitors Illinois prisons.

“Overcrowding undermines the cost effectiveness of our prison system and threatens the safety of correctional officers and inmates. It decreases the chances that inmates will have access to rehabilitative services, which increases the likelihood that they’ll re-offend once they are released,” said Maki.

MGT-Push was the problem. It was carried out against the governor’s direct orders. MGT has been around for years and was not necessarily the problem. But, as is typical when the media kicks up a ruckus, the administration overreacted and stopped everything. And now the prisons are filled to the rafters.

* The Belleville police have new operating rules

Belleville police are making more traffic stops because of a new rule that they make two self-initiated contacts per 12-hour shift. Those can include any combination of traffic tickets, traffic warnings and field interview reports.

In January 2010, before the requirement was in place for those assigned to patrol, officers wrote nine speeding tickets and 13 warning tickets. Last month, the first full month of the new rule, officers wrote 45 speeding tickets and 165 warning tickets.

Also, for all of 2010, police made 2,259 traffic stops. In January, the first full month of the two-contacts-per-day standard, police made 1,603 stops — 70 percent of last year’s total, all in one month.

Police Chief William Clay said it’s not just busy work, and it’s not about money from tickets. It’s his initiative to get officers more proactively engaged with the public. He thinks that’s the best way to address crime. In other words, the more contact officers have with the public, the more likely the officers are to find people with drugs, guns or arrest warrants.

Looks like the policy is “working,” but it really comes close to a quota system. Actually, it is a quota system, but it isn’t technically a ticket quota system.

* US District Judge James Zagel says he may hand out “No Trespassing” signs to jurors in Rod Blagojevich’s upcoming trial

Zagel said he was troubled by juror accounts after the first trial that they had been hounded by reporters in the hours and days following their verdict. A helicopter hovered over one juror’s home, and another juror complained that the same reporter rang the doorbell every half an hour, according to the judge. […]

The judge referred to the news media as “rapacious” at one point in the hearing and expressed concern that the dogged pursuit of jurors after a verdict will deter people from wanting to serve.

“We have clear evidence that some members of the media will disregard the ordinary rights of citizens … to get the story,” Zagel said.

Rapacious

1. Taking by force; plundering.
2. Greedy; ravenous. See Synonyms at voracious.
3. Subsisting on live prey.

Yikes.

* And an undaunted Sen. Dan Duffy continues his fight against red light cameras

Early this year Duffy introduced SB0026, a bill that would make it illegal for red-light cameras to be used to ticket drivers who turn right during a red light.

Duffy himself has received a ticket for a red-light violation after failing to come to a complete stop when he made a right turn during a red light. He said this infraction produces about 90 percent of all red-light tickets.

“Put a ‘No Turn On Red’ sign there, don’t bait the hook by putting a camera there that picks people out if they don’t stop on the white line,” Duffy said.

Actually, Sen. Duffy has received two red light camera tickets. Here’s the video from his second citation

The problem isn’t that there was no “No Turn On Red” sign at the intersection. You are allowed to turn on red at that light. But you’re supposed to stop first.

* Related…

* Dangerous doctors slipping through the cracks - It took the discovery of guns and grenades to suspend the license of a psychiatrist who some say should have come under scrutiny years earlier

* Illinois Blue Cross and Blue Shield to pay $25 million fraud settlement - Plan reportedly denied coverage to sick children in need of nursing care by “fraudulently” shifting their claims to Illinois’ Medicaid program

* Attorney General Madigan Announces Bill to Strengthen Illinois Prevailing Wage Act

* Environmental groups say agribusiness lobbying to blame for weak pollution regulations

* Foreman Stole $270K from O’Hare Project: Cops

* Quinn says Bishop Tutu, ‘Dead Man Walking’ nun lobbying him to sign death penalty ban

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Today’s dissent

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* From Tom Roeser

Gee whiz, moans Capital Fax, which has an abiding tolerance for Leftist demagogues…in contradistinction to the Right which it despises…the Illinois Senate “won’t be the same without Rickey Hendon.” No-no, the publication sees no connection between the West Side flash-in-the-pan’s instant resignation and the federal probe underway for state grants he authorized—of course not; it would be mean-spirited and racist, that’s what. Also that’s the courtesy the publication gives to all its liberal friends (no connection, see, because he seems so calm—just suffering from hypertension).

The same salute “won’t be the same without Rickey Hendon” could have been said years earlier by some indiscriminate drinking buddies about the departure of Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo. Like Bilbo Hendon had an acid tongue which he used unsparingly after which he would slink over to his victim and apologize. For no particular purpose other than Bill Brady is a conservative did Hendon assault him before the cameras as “the most racist, idiotic, sexist, homophobic” person he ever knew. Then he tried to apologize to Brady who deserved none of those epithets….tried to apologize as he featured himself as a character who could say whatever he wanted and be forgiven later.

It may be good old Hollywood Rickey to Capital Fax because he practiced the bigotry and character assassination lefty hypocrites secretly enjoy as they snuffle their laughter behind cupped hands—language they would faint over near-dead about if it were conveyed to any of their friends who, like Hendon, practiced the art of racial racketeering and slander. We’ll see how much of that hypertension is caused by hidden concern that the Feds may be on to something. No-no-no, not our Rickey.

Your thoughts?

* Related…

* Hendon abruptly quits state Senate

* Rickey Hendon Retires from State Senate - Calls mayoral election ‘black political disaster’

* State Sen. Rickey ‘Hollywood’ Hendon steps down after 18 years

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


One goofy bill can distort a career

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* Some commenters gave Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) a lot of heat yesterday for announcing that he’d introduce legislation to require those fleeing Wisconsin and Indiana Democratic state lawmakers to pay income taxes to Illinois while they’re here.

The announcement was, in my opinion, basically an attention-grabbing stunt and mostly a joke. But, overall, Tryon is one of the more thoughtful House members. He has several good bills in the hopper to make government run better. For instance

Creates the Long-Term Accounting Act of 2011. Provides that the purpose of the Act is to improve transparency and accountability during the State budget process

And

Amends the Legislative Information System Act. Requires, for the 98th General Assembly and thereafter, the Legislative Information System to make available on the General Assembly’s website each vote taken on a bill in any committee of the General Assembly showing, in searchable form, each committee member’s vote, Representative or Legislative District, and political party.

He’s also a co-sponsor of a bipartisan resolution calling on the governor to rescind his zeroing out of substance abuse treatment programs.

But all that will be ignored while the media includes Tryon’s new bill in its national feeding frenzy

Tryon said he opposed a 2007 bill that extended the 5% Illinois tax to temporary workers — including professional athletes and movie stars. But if it’s on the books, the Wisconsin senators should pay, Tryon said.

“We believe they are working because they are on TV saying they are working,” he said.

Sun-Times

Tryon’s maneuver, essentially, is all for political show since there is virtually no chance Illinois’ Democratic-led House will allow the measure to move, particularly given how the state budget meltdown is first and foremost on the legislative agenda.

“We’re dealing with a huge budget problem in our state,” said Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), whose legislative district has hosted the Wisconsin legislative delegation. “I know we can have some fun with this … but we have to be very focused on what we’re doing. We have plenty of problems in Illinois, more than most states do.”

When Jack Franks whacks you for showboating on a tax issue, you know you’ve gone too far. [/Snark]

Tryon’s bill has been filed, but yesterday was the filing deadline, so LIS is behind. I’ll link to it later today, but here’s the text…

(v) Compensation paid to nonresident state legislators.

The Illinois source income of a nonresident individual who is a member of a state legislature other than Illinois includes the portion of the individual’s total compensation for services performed as a legislator when: (a) the legislator is physically located in Illinois; and (b) the legislator is in Illinois for the purpose of denying a quorum to the legislative body of which the legislator is a member.

Illinois source income shall not count as income any segment of a legislator’s total compensation for services covering time periods when the legislator is in Illinois for reasons of legitimate legislative business, other than denial of a quorum, or for the purpose of receiving required health care or assisting a member of the legislator’s family to receive required health care.

* Meanwhile, it’s turning into somewhat of a circus in Urbana, where several Indiana Democratic legislators are holed up

Anyone looking for a quiet getaway with no distractions at the Urbana Comfort Suites this week may be out of luck.

And for a group of Indiana Democrats seeking asylum from voting on what they call a radical bill, the cat’s out of the bag.

A group of Tea Partiers today are rallying outside the hotel on North Lincoln Avenue – they are telling the Indiana state legislators to go home. Across the parking lot driveway, another group – mostly University of Illinois students – has gathered to counter the Tea Party rally and to tell the legislators and passing cars that they are happy to give shelter to the out-of-state representatives.

The Democrats have left Indianapolis to block a vote on a Republican-supported “right-to-work” bill that prohibits union membership from being a condition of employment.

The paper has even compiled a tongue in cheek list of things to do while the Indiana Democrats are in town

1. Meet the mayor: You have a lot in common with Laurel Prussing, Urbana’s two-term mayor. She’s a Democrat and she was an Illinois House member in the 1990s.

* The Indiana House adjourned yesterday with no end in sight to the stalemate

Indiana House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said Thursday he’s not sure whether boycotting Democrats will return to the Statehouse on Monday because so far “nothing’s changed” as House Republicans refuse to negotiate or drop contentious labor and education bills from their agenda.

Most Democrats have fled to Illinois in an effort to derail legislation they consider an assault on the working class. Republicans who control the House adjourned until Monday after Democrats said they won’t be back this week.

Bauer, D-South Bend, said Democrats won’t return from Urbana, Ill., where they fled Tuesday, until House Republicans are willing to negotiate their agenda. He said he would like to meet with Wisconsin Senate Democrats who also have fled to Illinois to block GOP-backed legislation that would strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. Bauer said such a meeting would be like a pair of crime victims meeting to talk about their attacker.

And Gov. Daniels is turning up the heat

Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law Thursday a plan aimed at fixing Indiana’s debt-ridden unemployment fund that labor unions had opposed because it will reduce jobless benefits for some people while softening business tax increases.

* The national fight over labor rights has moved to another neighboring state. Iowa

Despite 15 hours of debate and delay by Democrats, Republicans in the House Labor Committee were finally able to pass a bill Friday morning that would weaken collective bargaining rights for Iowa’s public employees.

Democrats offered 48 amendments, starting at noon Thursday and culminating in a 9 to 5 party-line vote around 6 a.m. Friday morning. The bill – House Study Bill 117 — was left unchanged and will now go to the full House.

The legislation makes numerous changes to collective bargaining laws, ranging from allowing the legislature or governor to veto decisions made by an arbitrator to denying unions the ability to negotiate their health insurance or retirement plans. Restrictions or limitations on outsourcing would be lifted, and unions would no longer have any say regarding layoffs. The bill also allows employees to become “free agents,” who can negotiate their terms of employment directly with employers even if they are in a union shop.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) said Thursday: “Make no mistake, it repeals collective bargaining rights, plain and simple. And that’s all it seeks to do.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told the paper that his Democratic members wouldn’t be fleeing, however, so we can breathe at least a small sigh of relief.

* But the problems persist in Wisconsin

Democratic state Sen. Robert Jauch, a longtime Wisconsin lawmaker, said Thursday that despite rumors that some of his colleagues had returned to the state, “everybody is outside of Wisconsin . . . all of us.”

Jauch criticized what he called the “police state mentality” of Republicans in the Capitol and took issue with Walker’s assertions that Democrats who had fled the state were abandoning their duties.

“I’m doing more from the Land of Lincoln to communicate with citizens in my district than he is,” Jauch said, adding that the Senate Democrats talk regularly and are “trying to reach out through back channels to see what the solution could be. This governor has dug himself in - that’s very clear.”

* And Wisconsin Democrats have changed tactics on their meeting places to avoid protests like the ones in Urbana

A week after leaving their home state, at least five Wisconsin state senators met Thursday in a private residence in Woodstock. […]

Several senators had met Monday and Tuesday in a Harvard hotel conference room, but said the have not returned to that hotel since a group of local tea party protesters showed up at the hotel. It is unknown when the group began meeting at the Woodstock residence, but neighbors said they had seen large groups of cars with Wisconsin license plates showing up to the home for three days.

* Also, a rally has been called for tomorrow at noon in Chicago. From a press release…

Across the country, tens of thousands of people are gathering on Saturday to show their solidarity with Wisconsin and Indiana public employees. Hundreds of people will gather in Chicago to demand an end to the assault on organized labor. In Chicago and across the country, union and non union residents have come together to stand up to the corporate greed and conservative ideology that is trying to strip away protections for all workers in America.

The Thompson Center rally is sponsored by Moveon.org, Citizen Action/Illinois and AFSCME Council 31.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


A bloody mess

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* A new Auditor General’s report found that the state uses 263 different financial reporting systems

Thursday’s audit says many of the systems are “archaic.”

More than half aren’t compatible with each, which requires data to be entered manually when information from one system is going to be used in another. That increases the chance of mistakes.

It takes Illinois more than a year to compile a final spending report after each budget ends. Auditor William Holland says that could cost the state money lowering Illinois’ bond rating.

* You can read the audit by clicking here. There’s much more

• Negative Factor Affecting Bond Ratings. The audited financial statements contained in the CAFR [Comprehensive Annual Financial Report] are one of the primary documents used by the bond rating agencies when assessing the State’s financial condition. The bond rating agencies view negatively the late release of the audited financial statements. Illinois’ untimely financial reports have been highlighted as negative factors in two recent reports issued by Moody’s. […]

• Negative Impact on Federal Funding. Each year, the State of Illinois depends heavily on funding received from the federal government. In fiscal year 2009, Illinois expended $23.7 billion in federal awards. Officials from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which is the federal oversight agency for Illinois, noted that, although it was unlikely that a State would lose its federal funding, untimely financial reporting could have an effect on the amount of discretionary funding received. In May 2010, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the single audit. The letter stated that if the audit was not submitted within 15 days, it would be classified as missing. The letter further stated that the Secretary of Education may “…suspend the payment of account maintenance fees, default fees, and claims to an entity that does not submit its audit within the required time period.”

In other words, this is really hurting us.

* Another reason why these reports are so important…

• State Financial Management/Oversight Adversely Affected. Legislative and oversight bodies are one of the primary users of financial reports. When financial reports are not available, legislative and oversight officials are forced to use outdated information or unaudited numbers.

* More details…

In addition to the lack of a centralized GAAP compliant financial reporting system, other factors have an adverse impact on the timeliness and accuracy of financial reporting:

• The Comptroller’s Office is responsible for financial reporting but does not have authority over the agencies from which it collects information. Furthermore, there is no penalty if the agencies do not cooperate with the Comptroller. The Comptroller’s Office and the Governor’s Office should work together to establish financial reporting target completion dates and ensure that such dates are met.

• The State of Illinois has a complex fund structure that utilized an estimated 900 funds in fiscal year 2009. A complex fund structure increases the level of effort necessary to account for and report transactions and increases the risk of errors and omissions.

• Many State agencies have a lack of competent trained staff in the area of financial reporting and reported that the personnel system impedes their ability to hire qualified staff.

* And…

• Agencies reported that only 16 percent of the systems are compliant with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

• Half of the financial reporting systems in use at State agencies are more than 10 years old.

• Fifty-three percent of the financial reporting systems are not interrelated which consequently requires manual intervention to convert data from one system so it can be used in another.

• The total estimated cost of maintaining the systems in fiscal year 2010 was not determinable. Agencies provided cost estimates totaling $24 million which covered only 56 percent of the systems.

I’ve been reading Auditor General reports like this since I started doing this job, back in 1990. It’s simply amazing to me that Illinois can’t get its act together. Or, maybe I shouldn’t be so amazed. How about disgusted? Yeah, that’s better.

What a mess.

…Adding… And speaking of screwed up numbers, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office recently released a list of past-due bills it owes to vendors, universities, schools, etc. Turns out, the list has lots of mistakes. Here are a few in the Southland

According to the list, the state owes Trinity Services $17.70. But [Rep. Renee Kosel] said the nonprofit agency, which helps the disabled, may be owed more than $1 million.

Dr. Susan Rife, an Orland Park physician on the list for $55, believes that figure is much too low. Her office bills the state for Medicaid patients, and the state is at least six months behind in paying, she said.

“It’s why doctors are refusing patients on public aid,” Rife said. “My office does not take any new patients who are on public aid. Now, if circumstances change with my current patients, we make accommodations.”

Rife said she would be in favor of the state borrowing to pay its vendors but only if it wasn’t from the federal government.

Some 640 Southland creditors were owed $500 or less from the state. About 290 of those are owed $100 or less, but 25 towns and school districts each still await $1 million or more in state payments, according to the SouthtownStar’s analysis.

Oy.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


The Old Guard has got to go

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

* We’ve talked about most of this already, but I thought I’d include it in my Sun-Times column

Carol Moseley Braun’s loss on Tuesday was “the embarrassment of a lifetime for black people,” said Rickey Hendon moments after he resigned from the Illinois Senate on Thursday.

Hendon was just being Hendon. Rhetorical flourishes are his specialty.

The fault lies not with “black people,” but with folks who worked to make Braun the “consensus” candidate. They figured that a woman in an all-male field would be a tremendous advantage. Add that to her proven vote-getting history in the black community and she was a mighty contender on paper.

But anybody who knew anything about her U.S. Senate career understood that Braun would be a disaster. She’s simply unmanageable. Her supporters were left disappointed and dejected within months of her departure for Washington, D.C. And in the end, her election proved to be a fluke that she could not repeat.

The worst mistake by the consensus crew, however, was looking backward for a standard bearer instead of promoting someone with fresh, new ideas. That’s probably because most of the people doing the choosing cut their political teeth decades ago and have been in power so long that they’ve lost touch with today.

And it’s not like they haven’t had any recent experience to guide them. Barack Obama’s sudden ascendancy to the U.S. Senate caught the Old Guard completely by surprise. His rise to the presidency did the same for entrenched African-American leaders in other states, who mostly backed Hillary Clinton.

Toni Preckwinkle was another prominent example. There she was in a Democratic primary race with two other African-American candidates and just one white candidate and she won the Cook County Board presidency with a truly extraordinary 50 percent of the vote because of the force of her ideas and the content of her character.

Instead, the consensus crowd chose a stale, 20th century rerun in a 21st century contest. I saw a factoid that blew my mind. Braun won just one precinct in all of Chicago. One. This election wasn’t about black people rejecting the concept of black political power. It was about black voters deciding that a candidate who happened to have their same skin color was wholly unqualified to be their mayor. And the blame for that one falls squarely on the consensus crew.

It didn’t help matters much, of course, that Obama more than subtly weighed in on Rahm Emanuel’s behalf. But if a stronger, more vital candidate had been fielded, Obama might have been forced to stay away. Instead, Obama and Emanuel saw their opportunities and they took ’em.

Slowly, but surely, young African Americans are moving up the political ladder. I’ve watched several grow into maturity through service in the Illinois General Assembly. But I’ve also seen their frustration at the unwillingness of the Old Guard to relinquish their grip on power.

There have been setbacks for this new generation. Former state Representatives David Miller and Robin Kelly won Democratic primaries for statewide office last year, then lost their general election contests. Miller made an unfortunate choice of running against the very well-known Judy Baar Topinka, and Kelly just never put together much of a campaign. But just as Obama learned from his loss to Bobby Rush, the new generation can learn from Miller and Kelly. Choose your contest wisely and then go absolutely all out to win.

I do not believe Braun’s loss is the end of black political power in Chicago. I think the proper lesson to learn here is that this could be and should be the last gasp of the Old Guard. They blew it as much as she did. It’s time for something new.

* Roundup…

* Unfiltered: Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s press conference

* AP: Chicago election shows racial politics changing

* Battle brewing between Ald. Burke and Emanuel?

* No Council Wars for Ald. Ed Burke and Mayor-Elect Emanuel: “Some things are said in the heat of battle,” Burke told us. He indicated that he would fight to retain his chairmanship, declaring. “Twenty six aldermen will decide whether I do or not.” In campaign disclosure reports filed last month, Burke revealed a multi-million dollar political war chest second only to Emanuel’s.

* Zorn: Mayor-elect’s first f-bomb a dud

* CS-T Editorial: Emanuel reaches out to real Chicagoans

* Schmich: Why Chicago’s election played well in the suburbs

* Some voted, some didn’t; some worried about it, some didn’t

* Brown: 47th Ward voters buck establishment

* Loop transforms into more residential area over last decade \

* Union leader: Snow OT not doled out fairly

* Sneed: South Side man arrested for threatening to kill Burke

* Daley security officer now protecting Rahm Emanuel

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Illinois’ Future Requires a Modern Grid

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

The electric grid underpins our entire economy and data-driven way of life. Designed a century ago, the Illinois grid has served us well. But it’s an analog system struggling to serve a digital age. The grid works well for the purposes of yesterday; but is simply incapable of meeting the demands of tomorrow.

The Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (HB 14-1) will build the electric grid that the 21st century demands. ComEd’s $2.6 billion investment will mean:

    • Fewer outages and faster restoration times.
    • Enhanced ability to manage utility costs.
    • Reduced carbon emissions.
    • A smart meter in every home to allow customers to manage energy use and save money.
    • 2,000 direct Illinois jobs; additional business growth and expansion.
    • $100M in Illinois tax revenues.
    • Enhanced competitiveness in attracting businesses to our state.

But to modernize, regulatory reform is needed. Today’s regulatory framework forces short-term thinking when a long-term view is needed. We need ratemaking that protects consumers, encourages investment and holds utilities accountable.

The Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act is a program whose time is now. Digitizing the grid is an economic imperative to help restore Illinois’ competitiveness.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x3 *** I’m starting to get whiplash

Friday, Feb 25, 2011

[Bumped up for visibility.]

* First, the Department of Human Services was ordered to cut childcare services in this fiscal year by $100 million. Then, DHS pulled back after a ferocious public response. Then, DHS ordered $208 million in immediate cuts to programs like substance abuse. And, now, DHS has pulled back again, reducing that target to $100 million, apparently on orders from the governor...

If there was any good news coming out of the hearing today, it was that the human services budget needed only to find $100 million in savings for the current year — a number down from the $208 million previously assumed; Saddler said aides to Gov. Pat Quinn gave her the new number only this morning in fact.

But the Quinn administration’s budgeting maneuvers were blasted by some of the General Assembly members who attending today’s hearing; there is deep frustration with the shifting reductions target, repeatedly leaning on human services for cuts and savings, and spending priorities.

State Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago) was among the most vocal. Delgado accused the governor’s office of failing to share information, describing talk of $100 million in reductions as “another movement to keep everybody pacified.”

He called the governor a “ferocious bear” and posed stark questions about whether cuts in addiction services and other programs would result in a larger prison population; the Department of Corrections (DOC) is getting more money, he said today.

The trouble is, it’s not clear what will be cut. So, we’re going to do this all over again. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on this fiscal year. Every cut they make is magnified because there are so few days left.

Pick a lane, already.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Video of Director Saddler

Courtesy of BlueRoomStream.com.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Gov. Quinn was asked about the change in plans today. He dodged most of the questions, but at the end said he hoped to “ameliorate” some of the cuts. Listen

Audio courtesy of IIS.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Tribune

Facing a torrent of protest, Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday cut in half plans to impose more than $200 million in drastic reductions next month on the Department of Human Services, including a cutoff of state funding for drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs that threatened to shutter several providers of addiction services.
Quinn’s budget office and the human services officials recently informed social service providers of planned cuts totaling $208 million. But on Thursday, the size of the cuts was reduced to about $100 million. Quinn said he had concerns about the fairness of how programs were targeted for cutbacks, including drug and alcohol treatment for individuals who did not qualify under federally reimbursed Medicaid coverage for the poor.

“I don’t want to have such a severe situation that it causes great harm, so part of my job in balancing (the social service needs) is to step in,” the governor told reporters after speaking to the City Club of Chicago. “My ultimate responsibility is to find the right balance and sometimes to step in and say, ‘OK, this is enough and that will be the way it goes.’ ”

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


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* *** UPDATED x1 - Frerichs response *** Former Democratic state treasurer endorses Cross - Cites bipartisanship, Israel bonds as reasons (COMMENTS OPENED)
* Prison reform group responds to new Rauner ad (COMMENTS OPENED)
* Quinn hit on botched early prisoner release program (COMMENTS OPENED)
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        * Suspect in Joliet double murder waives jury trial
        * Chicago museum only US site for Bowie exhibit
        * Slain girl's mother speaks at Watson memorial
        * U of I Foundation receives increase in donations
        * Illinois city marks birthday with mega bratwurst
        * Libertarian could help tip Illinois governor race
        * 2 people killed, 1 hurt in collision near Elmwood
        * Illinois man died of hypothermia in South Dakota
        * 4 men held without bond in Chicago boy's death
        * Chicago Latinos optimistic about new archbishop

        * Don’t bet on gaming expansion — yet
        * GOP's Rauner gets another $1M from hedge fund CEO
        * Former Illinois prisoners get help reintegrating
        * Court: Lincoln inmate must use $20K settlement to pay incarceration costs
        * Deadline ahead for Illinois marijuana businesses
        * Gov. Quinn picks up Sierra Club endorsement
        * Statehouse Insider: Rauner hit with double whammy
        * More than $59M collected from state retirees; refunds coming eventually
        * Lawmaker wants pumpkin to be official Illinois pie
        * Quinn: No pension ‘Plan B’ before court ruling

        * Ex-Im Bank's D-Day spurs lobbying campaign to save it
        * Five reasons to brave crowds for the David Bowie blockbuster
        * Rauner learns politics is rougher than private equity
        * Indiana Toll Road operator files Chapter 11
        * Aging locks and dams threaten Chicago shippers


        * Defendant in Joliet double-murder waives right to jury trial
        * Seminars, fairs aimed to help with ‘confusing’ CPS enrollment process
        * Hispanic families embrace Cupich
        * Area Catholics optimistic about Cupich
        * Nation needs to address end-of-life care
        * Joshua Miner to go on trial in gruesome Jan. 2013 double homicide
        * Four held without bond in shooting death of 9-year-old


        * Seminary student charged with child solicitation: police
        * Wait continues for mobile ticketing on Metra
        * Cops: Burglars break into Old Town store, steal $100K worth of purses
        * Divvy does hockey
        * Man charged in Joliet double murder bypasses jury trial
        * Crestwood strip club proposal withdrawn, officials say
        * Little Village shooting closes violent weekend: 3 killed, 30 wounded
        * Colin Kaepernick used racial slur during Bears game: report
        * Racist graffiti sprayed on cars, garages, home in Morgan Park
        * 4 dead dogs, others sick and emaciated, found at Dolton animal hospital


        * Cupich to be next Chicago archbishop
        * Listen to State Week - September 19, 2014
        * Quinn Defends Public Education, Though He's A Product of Private Schools
        * Chris Mooney: More Evidence-Based Policymaking Needed
        * African Drumming At Southwind Park On Saturday
        * Investors gather in Chicago seeking cannabis businesses
        * Climate, Space Create Challenges For Local Food
        * Can A Governor Really Create Jobs?
        * How do you find high school dropouts?
        * Governor's Race Has A Third Contender; Judge Keeps Libertarians On Ballot


        * Don’t bet on gaming expansion — yet
        * Thomas Schneider and Jay Scott: Building strong families to curb child abuse, neglect
        * GOP's Rauner gets another $1M from hedge fund CEO
        * Former Illinois prisoners get help reintegrating
        * Court: Lincoln inmate must use $20K settlement to pay incarceration costs
        * Deadline ahead for Illinois marijuana businesses
        * Gov. Quinn picks up Sierra Club endorsement
        * Our Opinion: Springfield needs Magro project
        * Angie Muhs: Open government is worth fighting for
        * Statehouse Insider: Rauner hit with double whammy


        * Area girls' swimming and diving leaders, Sept. 23
        * Herrin H.S. Drama Club to host Cartoberfest
        * Edwardsville man dies in Saturday crash
        * Motorcyclist dies in Madison County crash
        * 09-22-14 Monday Morning Quarterbacks
        * Tuesday rally opposes St. Elizabeth's move
        * Man found dead at Lake Jacksonville
        * Man dies suspiciously during city's 200th anniversary weekend
        * Swansea man dies suspiciously during city's 200th anniversary weekend
        * Libertarian could help tip Illinois governor race


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        * AEI's Election countdown: The mood, measurements, and mechanics
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        * The Economic Empowerment Forum Endorses Rauner for Governor
        * State Director on Aging Says September Observances Stress the Importance of Healthy Aging - September is Healthy Aging Month; September 23 is Falls Prevention Day
        * Governor Quinn Breaks Ground on First Veterans Home in Chicago - New Facility Will Care for 200 of the Nation’s Heroes
        * Quinn still refusing to fire 20 political cronies
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