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“Duplicative” Blagojevich charges dropped by feds

Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011

* From the Sun-Times

Prosecutors in the Rod Blagojevich corruption case said today they will move to throw out racketeering counts against the former governor because they’re “duplicative,” and to help streamline the case.

All the underlying conduct in those counts are charged in other counts, however.

They also moved to dismiss a fraud count.

The move came after jurors in Blagojevich’s first trial complained they were confused by the case. […]

“It doesn’t change much for us,” [Blagojevich] attorney Sheldon Sorosky said. “Every wrong is still there, nothing has changed.”

More from Fox Chicago

The charges in question are racketeering charges, specifically counts one, two and four of the indictment. Act one is conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery, act two involves attempted extortion and attempted bribery and act four includes conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud.

Prosecutors said they decided the counts were redundant and they only need to try Blagojevich on the remaining 20 counts.

Jurors at the first trial needed a super-complicated map to connect all those charges against Blagojevich. The whole case was needlessly confusing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011

* Todd Wathen of Mattoon and his male partner began planning a civil union ceremony shortly after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the civil unions bill into law. So, they contacted a couple of swanky Downstate bed and breakfasts. Both B&Bs turned them down

In an e-mail reply to Wathen, Jim A. Walder of the TimberCreek Bed & Breakfast wrote: “We will never host same-sex civil unions. We will never host same-sex weddings even if they become legal in Illinois.

“We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate,” Walder wrote.

When informed of the new law, Walder replied, “The Bible does not state opinions, but facts. It contains the highest laws pertinent to man. It trumps Illinois law, United States law, and global law should there ever be any.”

There are a couple of public accommodations exceptions in the Illinois Human Rights Act. Owner-occupied inns with 5 or fewer rooms to let don’t have to follow the racial, gender, religion, sexual orientation laws. Timber Creek has more than 5 rooms, so the business apparently must comply with the law of the land. From the statute

Civil Rights Violations: Public Accommodations. It is a civil rights violation for any person on the basis of unlawful discrimination to:

(A) Enjoyment of Facilities, Goods, and Services. Deny or refuse to another the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods, and services of any public place of accommodation;

(B) Written Communications. Directly or indirectly, as the operator of a place of public accommodation, publish, circulate, display or mail any written communication, except a private communication sent in response to a specific inquiry, which the operator knows is to the effect that any of the facilities of the place of public accommodation will be denied to any person or that any person is unwelcome, objectionable or unacceptable because of unlawful discrimination;

* The Question: What are you thoughts on this story?

Try to be civil in comments, please. I have lots of work to do today and don’t want to spend too much time policing y’all. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   123 Comments      


Numbers problems everywhere

Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011

* I called around yesterday to find out why a provision about possibly seeking federal backing of state pension debt was slipped into a bond offering last week and was told that it never should’ve been included and that it got by the folks who monitor such things. Whether that’s true or not, it’s proving to be an embarrassment

The No. 4 House Republican in Congress Tuesday shot down Gov. Quinn’s trial balloon of possibly seeking federal help to ease the state’s crushing $86 billion pension shortfall.

Quinn floated the idea in the fine print of his 2012 budget proposal last week, but U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) began laughing Tuesday when asked about the chances of a federal pension bailout for Illinois and other states with retirement systems that are financially underwater.

“There is no appetite in the House for a federal guarantee for a state pension obligation. None. It’s a non-starter,” said Roskam, the U.S. House’s chief deputy whip and highest-ranking Republican in Illinois’ congressional delegation. […]

“Notwithstanding any media reports to the contrary, the state of Illinois has no current plans to request a federal guarantee on any of its bonds or pension debt,” said Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for Quinn’s Office of Management and Budget.

“To date, we have not requested any guarantee,” she said in a prepared statement.

And they never will request it, unless DC does a complete 180. What a stupid move.

* I mentioned this numbers problem with Gov. Pat Quinn’s boasts last week on the Illinois Lawmakers TV program after the governor’s budget address

Gov. Pat Quinn often boasts that Illinois leads the Midwest in job growth. He made the claim at least twice last week and said in his budget address that Illinois is enjoying “an impressive recovery.”

What he doesn’t say is that by another measure, Illinois ranked eighth out of 12 Midwestern states for job growth last year.

The Democratic governor sticks to raw numbers when he discusses jobs. He says, correctly, that Illinois added 46,300 jobs in 2010, more than any other state in the region.

But Illinois also is the largest state, so it might be expected to see bigger job swings. Another way to measure is by looking at the number of jobs compared to the population.

Illinois ranked fourth in the nation for job growth last year. But factor in population, and it ranked 24th - the middle of the pack.

* One of the big problems with Gov. Quinn’s elimination of all non-Medicaid funding for substance abuse treatment programs is that defendants without serious criminal records can often avoid prison by entering a treatment program. Quite often, those people are young, male and poor. Those folks don’t qualify for Medicaid. So, they’ll end up behind bars and learn how to be better criminals. Great

According to The Illinois Alcohol and Drug Dependence Association, the measure means 80 percent of patients will lose substance-abuse services. It also will mean lost jobs.

An estimated 55,000 people will have their substance-abuse treatments ended, about 32,000 of them under age 21.

“It’s been one crisis after another the last three years,” Ron Howell, executive director of Recovery Resources, said. “We’ll just have to wait until the smoke clears.”

* Ralph Martire looks at the new statutory spending caps and what they mean

Most items under the cap are hard costs, like debt service and pension contributions, over which neither the governor nor General Assembly have any discretion. Those hard costs increased by more than $1 billion from last year, meaning something had to give. The governor chose [to cut] social services, the circuit breaker and Medicaid reimbursement rates. If he didn’t, he would have had to cut education and public safety. In other words, no good choices were available.

* And the Rockford Register Star swings and misses

Compared with Illinois’ finances, Wisconsin is on easy street, but you wouldn’t know it from the approaches the governors of these states are taking.

Illinois’ money woes are the worst in the nation, according to a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Illinois is at least $13 billion in debt and can’t pay its bills in a timely manner. Add in the worst unfunded pension liability in the country and you get a truly bleak picture.

Wisconsin is not well off, but its hole is not nearly as deep. Yet, from the way Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn are acting, you’d expect the reverse to be true.

Walker is acting with a sense of urgency to fill a projected $3.6 billion budget hole. Wisconsin has a biennium budget process, which means the budget hole is a two-year one.

That NCSL study was conducted before the tax hike, so Illinois’ budget deficit is considerably smaller now. Also, the highly respected National Journal took a look at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal and found it needlessly focuses on the controversial stuff

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has sparked massive protests by proposing to curtail public-employee unions and give his administration the power to cut back health care and sell state public utilities through no-bid contracts.

But while Walker argues that his budget-repair legislation must be passed soon to avoid job cuts, the most controversial parts of his bill would have no immediate effect.

The state’s entire budget shortfall for this year — the reason that Walker has said he must push through immediate cuts — would be covered by the governor’s relatively uncontroversial proposal to restructure the state’s debt.

By contrast, the proposals that have kicked up a firestorm, especially his call to curtail the collective-bargaining rights of the state’s public-employees, wouldn’t save any money this year. [Emphasis added]

* Roundup…

* High yield may up demand for $3.7B Illinois bond: According to a term sheet, initial price talk for the longest maturity in the offering, dated 2019, is about 2.40 percentage points above comparable Treasurys, for a yield of about 5.85%. That is about 1.79 percentage point more than comparably rated nine-year debt from cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc., which traded at 0.61 percentage point above Treasurys on Tuesday. It is also 0.05 percentage point tighter than the initial price target on the deal for that maturity.

* Family shelter in dire straits

* Charter school says its exempt from IL labor law: A Chicago charter school that received millions of dollars in public money is now arguing it is a private institution that does not have to follow an Illinois law giving public school workers the right to unionize.

* Ameren asks ICC for electric, gas delivery charge hikes

* Regional school chiefs plot strategy to fight extinction

* School leaders worry about mergers, bus cuts

* Proposed cuts worries local districts

* Unit 5 considering more staff cuts

* Higher car insurance minimums rejected by House committee

* IL panel weighing high school concussion rules

* Evanston leaders prepare for Springfield trip

* More electric cars give consumers options

* Wisconsin gov. warns of layoffs

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Emanuel wants “forensics audit”

Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011

* One day after the election and Emanuel is already having Daleyesque pronunciation problems

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel told WGN AM 720s Greg Jarrett this morning, “I’m going to order, on day one, a forensics audit of all the departments and all of how the resources are spent.” (full interview mp3)

Either way, that pretty much puts the lie to the claims that the Daley folks backed Emanuel because he wouldn’t dare go so far as to order such a massive audit of city government.

* The win

Emanuel won 40 of the city’s 50 wards, getting more than 70 percent of the vote in the heavily populated lakefront wards. Emanuel also won with more than 50 percent of the vote in wards with large African-American populations, racking up margins of at least 2-to-1 over the major black candidate, Braun.

Chico won the remaining 10 city wards. They were primarily Latino-heavy wards on the Southwest Side, where he was raised, and the West Side. Chico, Daley’s former chief of staff, also won the 19th and 41st wards, both with large populations of police and firefighters, whose unions endorsed him. Still, Chico’s vote advantage over Emanuel in those wards was not significant.

Turnout was 41 percent, nearly 10 points lower than election officials predicted.

* The loss

Emanuel appeared to be the “consensus candidate” of the black community, garnering a larger share of the votes than former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who came in fourth behind City Clerk Miguel del Valle. Braun had just under 9 percent, del Valle just over 9 percent.

Braun’s collapse opened the door for Emanuel to claim the black vote and made a run-off impossible […]

In her concession speech at the Parkview Ballroom in Bronzeville, Braun said, “It is a very painful thing to lose an election, but I believe that hope springs eternal. We will continue to try to inspire people and get them engaged and involved in government.”

She thanked a supporter and mentioned how she told him minutes before the concession, “I’m really so sorry this didn’t come out better. I’m sorry if I did anything that messed it up.”

Braun also said last night that she hoped someday the city could elect its first female mayor - apparently forgetting that Chicago elected Jane Byrne.

* Mary Mitchell

The lessons black politicians can take away from Braun’s miserable loss is the same as it has always been: Black voters matter, and you’ve got to be able to raise money.

Black voters turned out in a mighty big way for Emanuel. They didn’t turn out for Braun.

After all the fuss, in the end, being the “consensus” candidate meant nothing.

I think the take-away for black leaders on this campaign should be: Quality black candidates matter to black voters. They have never just “voted black” for mayor because the candidate happened to be the same skin color. They vote for viable African-American candidates who can prove they can win. Braun was a disaster. And the leaders should’ve known that after watching her implode in the US Senate.

* Fran Spielman thinks Emanuel could be a one-termer

Rahm Emanuel’s Round One victory gives him a running start on confronting problems so severe, the painful solutions could seal his fate as a one-termer.

Whether Emanuel can avoid a one-and-done scenario — assuming he even wants to serve more than four years — will largely depend on how he tackles the biggest financial crisis in Chicago history.

The city is literally on the brink of bankruptcy with a structural deficit approaching $1 billion when under-funded employee pensions are factored in.

Mayor Daley borrowed to the hilt, sold off revenue-generating assets and spent most of the money to hold the line on taxes in his last two budgets. The city even borrowed $254 million to cover back pay raises long anticipated for police officers and firefighters.

The city is only “literally on the brink of bankruptcy” if it refuses to raise new revenues. Failing companies with lousy products can’t just sell more goods as they go down the drain. That’s what makes governments different from private business. They can, and do, raise new reveunes.

The problem with new revenues, of course, is that voters won’t like it. Chicagoans have been blessed with relatively low residential property taxes (even though they think they pay way too much). Those days may have to end unless Emanuel can find another way.

* Meanwhile, big changes are coming to the city council

Even Oprah Winfrey couldn’t have given Chicago’s City Council a more massive makeover than the one it got Tuesday.

At least 10 new people will fill the Council chambers, and there could be even more fresh faces as at least nine incumbent aldermen appeared headed toward runoffs on April 5.

That included the Council’s oldest member, Bernard Stone, in the 50th Ward.

The other aldermen heading to runoffs include Toni Foulkes (15th) and JoAnn Thompson (16th) on the Southwest Side. Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) will go one-on-one with hip-hop artist Che “Rhymefest” Smith on the South Side. In the 24th Ward, first-term incumbent Sharon Denise Dixon will go head-to-head again with former Ald. Michael Chandler, whom she previously defeated in a tight runoff. Roderick Sawyer, the son of former Chicago Mayor and Ald. Eugene Sawyer, appeared to have forced 6th Ward Ald. Freddrenna Lyle into a runoff as well.

* And Carol Marin says a new star has been born

A star is born out of this Chicago election. And, no, I’m not talking about Rahm Emanuel.

State Rep. Susana Mendoza’s victory Tuesday night over Water Reclamation District Commissioner Patricia Horton for the post of city clerk now lifts Mendoza onto a new path. One where the audience will be wider. And the political possibilities greater.

Mendoza, 38, a Mexican-American who represents Chicago’s Pilsen-Little Village neighborhoods, went to the Illinois General Assembly a decade ago as its youngest member. In her time in Springfield, Mendoza has been a reliable vote for the Democratic agenda, gone from proponent to opponent of the death penalty, and vigorously argued for the impeachment of Rod Blagojevich.

She is energetic, collegial, and more often than not, candid.

* Roundup…

* Mayor-elect greets commuters at South Side ‘L’ stop

* Brown: Time for me to stop underestimating Rahm

* Steinberg: Some Chicagoans unaware of mayor’s race

* Conflict in 45th aldermanic race: Sneed hears state Rep. Joseph Lyons, who backed 45th Ward aldermanic candidate Marina Faz-Huppert, reportedly got into a shouting match with a poll watcher — whom he allegedly chest-butted and chin-slapped, but no charges were filed.

* VIDEO: Emanuel victory speech

* State lawmaker takes city clerk’s office

* Tight City Council races: Veteran aldermen head for runoffs

* Election results summary

* Mayor results, ward-by-ward

* City clerk results, ward-by-ward

* Springfield mayor results

* Houston, Stocks-Smith, Coffey, Kunz advance to mayoral final four

…Adding… More…

* Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. leads all candidates in ESL primary election

* Jakobsson wins Urbana city council Ward 2 primary

* Dixon To Take On Ex-Ald. Chandler In 24th Ward runoff

* Cochran To Face Rapper Rhymefest In 20th Ward runoff

* Lake County coroner quits, pleads guilty in methadone clinic case

…Adding More… A must-read…

* City needs ‘the Carlos treatment’: As the snow fell Tuesday and Chicago residents came out to vote for a new mayor, I recalled my late friend, Carlos Hernandez Gomez, the former political reporter for CLTV.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


*** UPDATED x3 Bill withdrawn, but Hoosiers remain in IL *** Fleeing Hoosier Dems are holed up in Urbana - GOP Governor is OK with it

Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011

* Urbana isn’t far from Springfield, so maybe the Hoosiers could come over to the Statehouse today

Indiana House Democrats who fled to Illinois like their counterparts in the Wisconsin Senate say they’ll continue their boycott until Republicans assure them they won’t debate public education and anti-union measures the Democrats oppose.

The House Democrats won a small victory on Tuesday when their absence at least temporarily blocked a GOP-backed labor bill. Republicans, who control the House, planned to try again Wednesday morning to resume business.

In a statement Tuesday night, the Democratic caucus said members were in Urbana, Ill., “for the immediate future” to continue reviewing Republican proposals on public education changes and the right-to-work bill that would prohibit union representation fees from being a condition of employment at most private-sector companies.

“By staying here, we will be giving the people of Indiana a chance to find out more about this radical agenda and speak out against it,” the statement said. “We will remain here until we get assurances from the governor and House Speaker Brian Bosma that these bills will not be called down in the House at any time this session.”

* WCIA TV in Champaign caught up with them

“When your political life and the things you stand for are on the edge, you don’t have many options in the minority,” State Representative Dale Grubb said.

They said they needed to clear their heads.

“We needed a chance to get away and be able to think without interruption,” State Representative Pat Bauer said. […]

“We simply need the opportunity to sit down and negotiate on those things and talk about the areas of concern without it being rammed through and shoved down everybody’s throat,” Grubb said.

* Unlike in Wisconsin, the Republican governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels is trying to calm things down

Speaking of the Democrats’ tactic of reportedly fleeing for one of Indiana’s borders to shut down the House, Daniels called it “a perfectly legitimate part of the process.” […]

“Even the smallest minority,” he added, “has every right to express the strength of its views — and I salute those who did.”

More

During an afternoon statement outside his office, Governor Mitch Daniels admonished Republicans almost as much as Democrats.

“I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised,” Daniels said, adding there were other items on his agenda more important to accomplish during this year’s legislative session.

The governor said he will not order Indiana State Police to seek out and return those missing lawmakers. Many are in Illinois and Kentucky anyways, where the state police cannot force them to return to work.

Democrats say they won’t come back to Indianapolis until the right-to-work bill is dead. Daniels held out hope that it would be sooner.

“I’m not going to divert a single trooper from their job protecting the Indiana public. I trust that the people’s consciences will bring them back to work. I choose to believe that our friends in the minority, having made their point, will come back and do their duty, the jobs that they are paid to do,” he said.

* And we have a new national poll

Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law. […]

The poll found people were divided on whether public employee unions were a good thing. A slight majority of 46% said unions were generally more harmful to states while 45% thought they were helpful. […]

Republicans supported limiting bargaining by a 54%-41% margin. However, only 18% of Democrats favored restrictions while 79% were opposed. Independents were against bargaining restrictions by a 31% to 62% margain.

More results. Notice that a majority is against cutting pay or benefits for public employees…

As usual, people are split on cuts, but nobody likes a tax hike.

* Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Dems
are still in Illinois. They had a caucus meeting in Harvard, near the border

Some of the 14 Wisconsin state senators who have been living outside of the state met Monday and Tuesday in Harvard.

The senators continue working while on the road to fight an anti-union bill proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“When he’s talking about ‘we need to do this,’ it’s a joke,” Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said. “I think the biggest thing right now is for Walker to take this bill, throw it out, let’s start from scratch, let’s figure out how to tackle this deficit without going after the workers, without going after the working class.”

The Democratic senators caucused and granted TV interviews in a rented conference room at the Heritage Inn and Suites in Harvard, 7 miles from the Wisconsin-Illinois border, although they did not stay in the hotel.

More

Four [Wisconsin] Democrats who were reached by The Associated Press said none of their daily expenses would be charged to taxpayers, and none will accept any per diem funds. Larson did say his hotel room Monday was paid for by the State Senate Democratic Campaign. He said the group might pay for more nights depending on how long he stays.

Others have donated food, he said, but he declined to name them.

“Let’s just say the senators have friends over here who’ve been more than generous in sharing with us,” Larson said.

Sen. Tim Cullen said he already planned to donate some of his pay to a food pantry in Janesville.

And one WisDem was on the Colbert Report.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got punked by someone pretending to be billionaire far-right causes financier David Koch. The fake Koch talked to Walker on the phone for twenty minutes yesterday

FAKE KOCH: What we were thinking about the crowds was, planting some troublemakers.

WALKER: We thought about that. My only gut reaction to that would be, right now, the lawmakers I talk to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this.The teachers union did some polling and focus groups…

It’s unclear what Walker means when he says he “thought” about planting some troublemakers, but it seems fair to ask him for clarification.

NSFW audio of the conversation is here and here. Walker went on and on about his plans. Oops.

*** UPDATE 2 *** The right to work billw as withdrawn in Indiana, but the Democratic Hoosiers still won’t leave Illinois

Republicans have killed a controversial labor bill that has sparked a Democrat work-stoppage and large union protests at the Statehouse. […]

Democrats, though, were meeting in an Urbana, Ill., hotel room behind closed doors discussing their next steps. Last night they issued a statement saying they had concerns about 11 bills, including other labor-related bills, education reforms and the proposed next state budget. They singled out two in particular: the right-to-work bill and one which lets state tax dollars pay for private school tuition for some families. […]

Brown, who left the private meeting for a short break, said Democrats were not returning to Indiana.

“We don’t value that,” suggesting the decision to move the matter to a study committee would not sway the Democrats because they have additional issues they want to be resolved.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Former GOP Rep. Cal Skinner caught up with the fleeing Cheeseheads yesterday and was quite impressed

I asked him why he and his colleagues had not been evoking Abraham Lincoln’s jumping out the Old State Capitol’s window to break a quorum in Springfield back in the mid-1800′s.

He replied that was one of the reasons they had come to Illinois. He was really quite elegant and I wished I had had a tape recorder so I could do justice to his rhetoric.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


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Election night open thread - Emanuel avoids runoff - Braun didn’t win any wards - Houston finishes first in Springfield

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011

* WGN live coverage

 

* The Tribune’s live blog is here

Barring a late surge of voters, election officials are estimating voter turnout in today’s mayoral election could be as low as 40 percent, well off the 50 percent predicted.

* Live Chicago results are here and here.

* I was told tonight that Rahm Emanuel’s poll last Thursday had him at 47 percent, which was way down from polls earlier in the week.

* 7:38 pm - 75 percent of the vote is in and Emanuel has 54.44 percent.

* 7:41 pm - with 75 percent of the vote in, Rep. Susana Mendoza has 60.5 percent of the vote in the city clerk’s race.

* 7:44 pm -
With 60 percent of the vote counted, Ald. Berny Stone has 37.66 percent to Deb Silverstein’s 34 percent. Looks like a runoff there.

* Total Chicago ballots cast: 31.73% of registered voters.

* Latest numbers have Carol Moseley Braun at 8.7% and in 4th place. Oof.

* 7:50 pm - The uncounted mayoral ballots appear to be pretty evenly spread out over all the wards. Barring a miracle, this thing is likely over. With 81 percent of the votes counted, Emanuel has 55 percent.

* 7:51 pm - CNN is projecting Emanuel the winner without a runoff. Makes sense.

* 7:53 pm - I’m really getting tired of watching WGN. Anybody find an alternative yet? Sheesh, that panel is awful.

* 7:56 pm - The upset of the night looks to be the 47th Ward, where the anointed Tom O’Donnell is in second place behind Ameya Pawar, who has just over 50 percent with 83 percent counted.

* 8:01 pm - Huge news in Springfield, where former mayor Mike Houston is in first place with 28 percent. Sheila Stocks Smith is in second with about 20 percent. Mike Coffey and Frank Kunz are basically tied for third at 17 percent. The top four advance to the runoff in Springfield. Over 40 percent of the vote has been counted.

* 8:06 pm - Coffey has moved into a solid third now with 17.5 percent. 59 percent counted.

* 8:08 pm - WGN has belatedly declared Emanuel the winner.

* 8:08 pm - Former state Rep. Deb Graham has just above 50 percent with 80 percent counted.

* 8:10 pm - Rep. Harry Osterman has over 80 percent of the vote in the 48th Ward.

* Take a look at the black wards. Emanuel cleaned up.

* Chico won South Side organization wards 11 (Daley), 13 (Madigan), 19 (Irish) and 23 (old Lipinski).

* 8:19 pm - Carol Moseley Braun did not win a single ward. Not one. Chico won 10 wards.

* Braun’s best showing was in the 6th Ward, where she won 23.8% of the vote. Emanuel won that ward with 58 percent. Stunning.

* The results show that African-American voters played as much of a role in Emanuel’s win as white voters.

* From US Sen. Mark Kirk…

“I congratulate Mayor-elect Emanuel and look forward to working together for the people of Chicago, especially on O’Hare.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   91 Comments      


Big Chicago ward changes - Plus, what’s going on in your precinct today?

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011

* I told subscribers about this major demographic change in this morning’s Capitol Fax. The stuff about Madigan moving his ward Northward into some of the 23rd Ward was told to subscribers months ago

Meanwhile, with both the 13th and 14th Wards now overwhelmingly Hispanic, the question is how long both can continue to hold on. Unlike Mr. Burke, Mr. Madigan is not an alderman. But I’m already picking up talk that Mr. Madigan would like his ward to shift into still non-Hispanic white territory in the 23rd Ward.

Whatever happens, the new mayor will have huge influence over the new map. That will give him or her a nice card to keep Messrs. Burke and Madigan in line until the new map is approved.

Good point on the map.

You can see an interactive ward map detailing the population changes by clicking here. Latinos now outnumber whites by about 3-1 in Speaker Madigan’s 13th Ward.

More

(T)he central core of the city – around the Loop and out toward the Near Northwest Side – are population-heavy. That area could get a new ward. […]

Three of the four largest wards in town now are in or near downtown, the location for dramatic growth in the past decade. Those would be Alderman Brendan Reilly’s Near North Side/Loop 42nd Ward, with 78,742 residents, according to the Census; Alderman Bob Fioretti’s 2nd Ward to the south and west of the 42nd, with 69.367 residents, and Alderman Scott Waguespack’s greater Bucktown 32nd Ward, with 63,701.

As Greg says, that’s about a new Downtown ward right there with just those three numbers.

* More census spin

The best news Rahm Emanuel got last week didn’t come from his pollster. It came from the United States Census Bureau, when it released the population figures for Chicago.

The city’s population declined by 200,000 — but those were mostly people who wouldn’t have voted for Emanuel. Englewood lost a quarter of its population. The black population that Carol Moseley Braun has been trying to rally accounted for nearly all of Chicago’s population loss.

“The trend is a result for the plan for transformation of the Chicago Housing Authority, and the displacement of 110,000 people,” mayoral candidate William “Dock” Walls told Ward Room. “Some of ’em have left Chicago. They’ve gone to the suburbs, or Indiana.”

On the other hand, the Loop’s population increased 76 percent. The Loop is Rahm Country. Emanuel is getting his best numbers from high-income whites who live along the Lakefront.

What’s going on in your precinct today?

* Related…

* Keys to watching today’s Chicago election

* In Chicago, Mayoral Vote Fails to Draw Big Crowds

* Voters relish having a choice

* Mayoral candidates shake plenty of hands as campaign winds down

* Braun, Chico have same Election Day breakfast spot

* Slow Going In the 50th Ward

* Will election end fake @MayorEmanuel Twitter account? He hints end is near

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


This just in… More Democratic refugees - This time from Indiana

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011

* 11:45 am - Give us your tired, your outnumbered huddled Democrats yearning to support unions

House Democrats are leaving the state rather than vote on anti-union legislation, The Indianapolis Star has learned.

A source said Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky. They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.

The House came into session this morning, with only two of the 40 Democrats present. Those two were needed to make a motion, and a seconding motion, for any procedural steps Democrats would want to take to ensure Republicans don’t do anything official without quorum. […]

Today’s fight was triggered by Republicans pushing a bill that would bar unions and companies from negotiating a contract that requires non-union members to kick-in fees for representation. It’s become the latest in what is becoming a national fight over Republican attempts to eliminate or limit collective bargaining.

Amazing.

…Adding… Y’know, if this keeps up, we may have to build a fence.

- Posted by Rich Miller   111 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011

* As you probably know by now, Wisconsin’s new Republican governor wants to strip collective bargaining rights from most public employee unions for everything but wages. Wages, however, would be capped at the Consumer Price Index (raises beyond that would have to approved by a public referendum) and unions would face annual retention elections.

* The Question: Should public employee unions in Illinois be stripped of their collective bargaining rights for benefits like health care and pensions? Explain.

Try to stick to the question, please.

* Related…

* Wisconsin senators living day-to-day south of border - Escape to Illinois to avoid vote on budget leaves lawmakers short on essentials

* In Illinois, Wisconsin Senate Democrats vow unity

* What’s At Stake In Wisconsin: A Primer On The Debate

* Are Wisconsin’s state and local workers overpaid?

* Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says state employees could pay twice as much for health care premiums and still be paying half the national average

* Neither side budging in Wisconsin union fight

* Labor Pains In Wisconsin: Teachers Union Calls For Return To Work

* Wisconsin budget woes at a glance

* Labor poll finds voters in select GOP Senate districts want compromise

* Rasmussen Poll on Wisconsin Dispute May Be Biased

* N.J. unions to rally at Statehouse in support of Wisconsin public workers

- Posted by Rich Miller   118 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** A new one on me

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011

* I’ve heard of throwing rocks through a campaign headquarters’ window before an election, but a volunteer? That’s a new one on me

A volunteer working for 19th Ward aldermanic candidate Anne Schaible’s campaign was injured Monday night when he was thrown through a campaign office window, her campaign manager Tom Mannix said.

Mannix said the volunteer appeared to be scuffling with a man outside the office, 10319 Kedzie Ave., at about 5:30 p.m. Mannix said he turned his back to call 911, and the volunteer was thrown through the window, with pieces of glass hitting Mannix in the back.

The volunteer suffered facial cuts and was taken to a local hospital, but didn’t appear seriously injured, Mannix said.

The unknown assailant got into a red two-door coupe that had been parked on Kedzie Avenue and fled, Mannix said. He said police arrived and took statements from witnesses.

The Southtown-Star reports that as of two hours after the incident there was no police report on file. Wouldn’t that be something if it was just a stunt? Throwing your own volunteer through your own campaign window would be the craziest twist yet on Chicago politics.

Seriously, though, I hope nobody was hurt too badly.

*** UPDATE *** With thanks to a commenter for the link, it appears to be some domestic battery nastiness

A 44-year-old Chicago man faces two misdemeanor charges after police say he confronted his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend and threw the man through a plate glass window at the campaign office of 19th Ward aldermanic candidate Anne Schaible.

Mark Smith, 44, of the 9700 block of South Union Avenue, faces a count of domestic battery and another of simply battery in the altercation, Chicago police officer Mike Sullivan said. The fight took place about 5:30 p.m. at Schaible’s office at 10319 Kedzie Ave. on Monday.

Campaign staffers were organizing an Election day training event when the men crashed through the window, according to Tom Mannix, Schaible’s campaign manager.

Ugliness.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Heh

Mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel’s campaign was surprised when high profile backers of rival Carol Moseley Braun–Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) showed up a the South Side restaurant where his campaign planned a photo op of him dining with supporters in an African American neighborhood.

Emanuel was dining with a campaign co-chair, Zipporah Hightower and her son, Jack at the Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffle at 3747 S. Martin Luther King Dr., not far from Jackson’s Operation PUSH headquarters at 930 E. 50th St.

Jackson was already seated when Emanuel came in and Rush followed a little later. Things got a little raucous. “Everybody for Carol, up on your feet,” Rush called out, with Jackson and chunk of the room standing up as Emanuel munched on his lunch.

“This is a favorite eating place on the South Side,” said Jackson. “He comes as a tourist, we come as residents” (An Emanuel spokesman said he has been to the Chicken and Waffle two or three times.)

* What else would you expect?…

It’s Election Day — and Sneed has learned Mayor Daley, who voted early for the first time in his life, is outta the country!

† Translation: Hizzoner is taking the entire election week off!

† To wit: Sneed is told Mayor Daley grabbed his passport last Saturday and headed to the British Virgin Islands.

* Meanwhile, Mark Brown is, as usual, absolutely right about the mayor’s race

Don’t come complaining to me afterward about how the media did this and the media did that, because I’ve been doing this long enough to know the media can’t elect a candidate on its own. You can ask Joe Berrios and Forrest Claypool about that, just to mention a recent example.

And don’t blame it all on the money, because even though money makes a difference, history is replete with the names of political candidates who had lots more money than their opponents and couldn’t get elected because voters weren’t buying what they were selling.

Certain pundits may say otherwise, but Brown is spot on here, especially with the Claypool reference. The Chicago media went all-in for that guy and he got creamed. Their preference for Rahm Emanuel was mostly confined to that ill-advised challenge to his residency. Through it all, the other candidates have done their best to hurt themselves. Carol Moseley Braun and her friends led the pack in that regard, and they continued to do so over the weekend. For instance, check out this new radio ad featuring Congressman Danny Davis

Script…

VO: Every community has its interest. Congressman Danny K. Davis speaks on why you should vote on February 22nd to protect yours.

Danny Davis: I remember two principles of liberation and self-determination that my parents taught. My mother often told us that it is a poor dog that will not wag its own tail. My father would tell us that the Bible says any man who will not support his own house is worse than any infidel. In honor of my parents during Black History Month, I am voting for Carol Moseley Braun for mayor, and ask that you vote for the best candidate. Punch 3 for Carol Moseley Braun for mayor. This is Congressman Danny Davis.

Infidels, eh? And you thought we should be worried about Egypt. Silly rabbits.

* Mary Mitchell

If Carol Moseley Braun doesn’t end up with double digits or a runoff spot in the mayoral race, the loss will confirm something most African Americans in Chicago already know.

African-American leadership in this city is impotent.

A black consensus candidate should have had the support of the influential black movers and shakers in the religious, business, civic, activist, and political arena — not because of black unity, but because of self-interest.

The lackluster support of a candidate that was pushed forward by a coalition of African Americans purporting to represent the black community is shameful because blacks have lost a lot of ground since the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, died in office.

Braun was only a “consensus” candidate until she made herself unelectable - which was pretty much right away. As I’ve often written, black voters will vote for black candidates if they see those candidates as viable. Braun proved she wasn’t. That’s not to say she won’t do better than the polls currently have her. I’ve had enough experience to not trust Chicago polls at all. Things happen when the precinct workers kick into gear. Then again, Emanuel could do better than the polling shows. I have no idea.

Anyway, the problem with this consensus candidate process is the same basic dilemma Barack Obama faced in the presidential primaries. The Old School African-American leadership was behind the choice of Braun. Nationally, three years ago, the Old School mostly went with Clinton. The local and national leadership has held power for so long that they no longer fully understand what’s going on at the precinct level. I mean, Carol Moseley Braun? Really? Many of those who remember her don’t care for her. She threw away what should’ve been a long, glorious career in the US Senate, then humiliated herself with a presidential bid of zero consequence. And the young folks don’t even know who she is, and probably don’t care.

Chicago’s black “A” bench is a problem as well. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is horrifically damaged goods. Sen. James Meeks has fundamental problems communicating outside his district and can’t pull the trigger. Pat Horton, running for city clerk, is underwhelming.

There are some up-and-comers, but they have yet to prove themselves outside their wards or districts and the folks at the top are so well-known and entrenched that they have no desire to step aside (Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, to name just two).

A generational change is absolutely needed. Airing reruns of the greatest hits from the 80s and early 90s just doesn’t work.

* Related…

* Washington: I cast my vote for . . . a runoff

* I-Team Report: The 50 percent factor

* Mayor’s race now in voters‘ hands

* Suburbanites still care about Chicago politics

* Mayoral race predictions

* Politicians go for ride with Ed Bus on mayoral campaign bandwagon

* Goose Island to temporarily outsource Honker’s, India Pale Ale: The outsourcing should only last until Goose Island finds a way to expand capacity in Chicago, Hall said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


This is what passes for “debate”

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011

* Illinois’ Gross State Product is about $630 billion. That means the $8.7 billion Gov. Pat Quinn wants to borrow on the bond markets to pay off old bills is about 1.4 percent of GSP. Injecting that kind of cash into the economy provides a definite boost. It’s not new money, of course, so the boost isn’t as big. But it is money that’s long-owed to vendors, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, human service providers etc. And those past-due bills are a drag on the state’s overall economy. No doubt about it. Just think of all the little local banks that could be lending money for jobs-producing business ventures that instead have been using precious (and still very tight) capital to keep state vendors afloat.

So, I really don’t get why David Merriman, a “state budget specialist” at the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs, would turn his nose up on eliminating that economic drag

Merriman agreed that Illinois might cut procurement costs by paying its bills and attracting more bidders. He snickered at the idea of payment boosting the economy.

“It strikes me as a very weak argument,” Merriman said.

1.4 percent of GSP is not a “very weak argument” no matter how you slice it. And, more specifically, try telling all the businesses and other vendors who are owed money that the state’s past-due debts to them don’t matter, or haven’t caused hardship. It’s a very real thing to them and to their employees and to their own vendors. These overdue bills have a rippling effect throughout our economy.

The borrowing proposal can surely be scaled back. And I believe it will. But if “state budget specialists” like Merriman and others think the government ought to make cuts to pay off the old bills without going to the bond markets, then they ought to detail how they’d pay for it. Simple as that.

And while I’d personally prefer, as some have suggested, a gradual payoff of the old bills of, say, five years, in combination with a lower bond offer, I understand that a lot more cuts will have to be made before the state is able to do that. Perhaps the state budget experts can show us the way. And I also fully understand that a gradual pay-down will mean stringing out the state’s vendors for another half-decade, which is not going to be a pleasant thing to do.

I’ve always held Merriman in pretty high regard. I don’t understand why he completely brushed off the impact of this proposal, however.

* And this is a misrepresentation

“While I am all for paying our providers in a timely manner, $8.75 billion is an excessive amount of money to borrow and it will cost taxpayers another $3 billion in interest to repay,” [GOP state Rep. Mike Bost] explained. “Limited borrowing may make sense, but his plan simply backloads the debt. The bulk of the money will be due just as the Democrats’ tax increase is set to expire. This is their way of ensuring that the tax increase will become permanent.”

Bost is right that the repayments are backloaded. There’s a ramp. It starts at $100 million, and then rises to $765 million by Fiscal Year 2016. But, half a point of the income tax hike is dedicated to the bond repayment, and that won’t expire until the bond is paid off. That half a point is more than enough to make the payments.

* And, no offense, but I’d like to see his alternative

“I came away from the Governor’s speech thinking there had to be more to the budget proposal. The Governor’s plan is based on an additional $9 billion in borrowing,” [GOP state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld] said. “I know we have severe problems in the state, but the Governor needs to be serious about cutting our state’s budget. These are tough times, but a tax increase alone will not get the job done.”

He’s absolutely correct that a tax hike alone won’t get the job done. And as I wrote elsewhere today, I think Quinn made a big mistake with his budget proposal. But is Sen Luechtefeld ready to cut SIU-Carbondale’s budget to help out?

* This press release by Democratic Sen. Gary Forby deserves the same treatment

The bottom line is that we must continue to look at responsible places to cut spending and pay our bills before we can spend any more.

OK, great. Start listing stuff in your district that you’d be willing to give up, Senator.

* Related…

* Decline in bond market has states nervous: All told, more than $178 billion of the bonds were sold, according to Bloomberg. The states and local governments in four states — California, Illinois, New York and Texas — accounted for nearly half of the bond sales. But as states and localities rushed to sell them before the December 2010 deadline, there was a glut in the bond market, depressing demand for traditional types of municipal bonds.

The extension of the Bush-era tax cuts last year may also have played a role in the declining popularity of municipal debt. With less income subject to taxation, the tax-free aspect of government bonds holds less allure.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


What’s behind the governor’s budget proposals

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column was written before Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration announced more cuts to human services late Friday afternoon….

Child care advocates thought they had avoided $400 million in threatened cuts to the state’s child care services budget after speaking with top officials in Gov. Pat Quinn’s office earlier this month. And the governor’s budget office then told a Senate appropriations committee that no such cuts were being planned.

But when Quinn unveiled his budget for next fiscal year last week, he listed a $350 million net cut in child care spending, according to House Democrats’ analysis of the proposal.

The child care folks aren’t the only ones who may be feeling double-crossed by Quinn’s new budget plan. Aid to the aged, blind and disabled is decreased by $15 million; mental health centers will see a $33 million reduction. The auditor general will take a $471,000 hit by reducing headcount and by cutting back the number of audits his office will perform.

Legislators also are not happy for many reasons, not the least being that Quinn waited until after his speech to sign legislation that would have made his spending plan illegal had he signed it before his budget address.

The bipartisan legislation requires the governor to use only revenues that are legally available to him at the time he introduces his budget. Since he didn’t sign it earlier, he wasn’t bound by it.

However, House Democrats say they expected Quinn to abide by it anyway, whether he signed the bill or not.

And according to House Democrats, Quinn’s budget uses about $730 million in revenues that would have been prohibited by their bill. Quinn unilaterally lowered the percentage of tax dollars earmarked for the corporate tax refund fund and decoupled the state from a federal tax depreciation law. Neither of those things have been approved by the Legislature.

There appears to be another $700 million or so in unapproved revenues in the budget, according to Senate President John Cullerton and the Senate Republicans. That cash appears to be coming from the governor’s proposed $8.9 billion borrowing plan, which also has not yet been approved by the General Assembly.

So, while Quinn says he made cuts of $1 billion and his total spending is $1.4 billion beneath the new annual spending caps that were put into the tax hike bill, his budget still is around $1.45 billion out of whack, unless and until the General Assembly approves those new revenue streams.

Cullerton canceled his traditional, post-budget-address media availability last week, claiming he had too many unanswered questions about the governor’s proposal to talk to reporters. Cullerton then urged the governor to provide more details.

And House Speaker Michael Madigan seemed determined last week to force the governor to abide by the new fiscal responsibility agenda that Madigan has been touting. Madigan said any new revenues ought to be used to pay down old bills, rather than fund new initiatives.

In other words, we probably can expect more cuts. Budget addresses are the starting point in the game of “Statehouse Give and Take.”

But here’s the problem: What the heck do many of Quinn’s allies have to gain from working to pass this thing? If Quinn had introduced a more honest budget that didn’t include the borrowing plan and the other phantom revenues, he could have gone to all the unhappy groups and said, “You need to help me pass those new revenue streams and then I can try to restore your budgets.”

Instead, human service groups and their legislative allies are furious at the outsized cuts aimed at them. Hospitals and nursing homes are up in arms over Quinn’s Medicaid reimbursement rate slashes. School districts are freaking out about a huge cut to their transportation budgets. So, why would they help convince the General Assembly to approve all that new money if they already knew the governor wants to cut them no matter what?

You’d think that would be an odd way of doing business.

Then again, public employee unions weren’t touched. Money for the state’s school fund actually will increase, even though transportation and other items were cut. Quinn also wants to add 950 new state employees. The unions representing those workers have been under fire in Springfield, even by Democrats, but they backed Quinn to the hilt last year, and he’s now protecting them.

That appears to be the bottom line.

* Here’s a roundup of some of what happened late Friday to this fiscal year’s budget. Subscribers know more. There was more to it than substance abuse cuts, but those groups were the best at getting the word out…

* Dramatic Cuts for Drug and Alcohol Treatment: The Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association predicted that out of 69,000 drug and alcohol treatment clients, 55,000 will be released; more than 5,000 people are expected to be laid off.

* Quinn speeds up social service budget cuts: Sara Howe, who heads the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, said she spoke with Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle Saddler this morning and confirmed with another official this afternoon that the cuts are “for real.” “We’ve seen it pretty bad. There were times we didn’t think it could get much worse. But today we’ve hit rock bottom,” said Howe. Many of the 50 private groups in her association stopped taking more patients Friday, she said.

* Substance abuse treatment groups brace for state cut news: “In our system, most of the clients — up to 80 percent — don’t qualify for Medicaid,” Moscato Howe said. “So when they say the system becomes Medicaid-only, it kills the system.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


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Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011

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