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Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

* Radiation

Low levels of radiation from Japan have been discovered in test samples taken in unincorporated DuPage and Will counties, officials said Tuesday.

Warrenville-based Exelon Nuclear said small amounts of radioiodine 131, a type of radioactive isotope associated with the troubled Japanese plants, were discovered March 22 during testing at Dresden, its nuclear plant near Morris in Will County.

Also, Argonne National Laboratory, near Darien, found a small amount of the isotope in its regular air test samples last week.

“You wouldn’t find that kind of evidence in normal operations here,” said Marshall Murphy, a spokesman for Exelon Nuclear.

* Bed bugs

Bed bugs invaded campus over the weekend, but apparently kept their invasion to one room, and were immediately crushed by the defenses of the University of Illinois.

Just one dormitory room in Evans Hall was affected Sunday night, said Erin Ciciora, a resident communications coordinator in University Housing.

The student’s room was closed off and pesticide work began within an hour of the complaint, she said.

* Stink bugs

Stink bugs — long a scourge of the mid-Atlantic states — have made it to the Chicago area.

The aptly named pests have been spotted in recent months in Geneva and Western Springs. Homeowners reported an infestation in Geneva last fall and in a yard in Western Springs in January, according to Kelly Estes, state survey coordinator for the Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program. […]

The brown marmorated stink bug emits a foul stench when frightened, disturbed or squashed.

* Rats

Cutting the city’s rat baiting crews in half, as Laborers Local 1001 claims Streets and San is planning to do, won’t cause the rat population to explode to 6 million again. But it may increase the rat problem in poor neighborhoods, where overcrowded buildings generate more garbage than carts can hold.

* Giant eagle rays

Jennifer and David Hausch have quite a story to tell from their Florida vacation after a huge ray jumped into their tour boat, striking Jennifer.

The Crystal Lake couple was on an eco-tour boat ride Friday in Florida when a 200 pound spotted eagle ray struck her in the chest. She was not injured, according to wildlife officials.

* Mob actions at Chuck E. Cheese

On Saturday, the Chuck E. Cheese in Matteson was a place where several men had to be subdued with pepper spray after fighting and flipping over an arcade machine, police said.

Five men and a teenage boy were charged with mob action and disorderly conduct for their roles in the incident, police said.

* And the final sign of the coming apocalypse

Chicago’s premier craft brewery, Goose Island, is selling itself to distribution partner and minority owner Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V. for $38.8 million and replacing its brewmaster.

Doomed, I tell you. Doomed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

* Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) wants future Census-takers to count prison inmates as residents of their home towns, not where they are currently residing, as has been common practice in Illinois

For example, in 2010, when U.S. Census workers tallied the population of Randolph County in southwestern Illinois, they included in their total the 3,552 inmates locked up in Menard Correctional Center, the state’s largest maximum-security prison.

Though the men serving time there can’t vote, they account for more than 10 percent of the county’s population.

The higher head count makes counties such as Randolph eligible for a bigger share of the pie when state and federal money is distributed. The population count affects everything from funding for the sewer system that carries waste from Menard and the nearby town of Chester, to financing for the county courthouse, which handles disciplinary cases stemming from prison yard fights.

State Sen. John O. Jones, R-Mount Vernon, whose district encompasses Big Muddy and Centralia correctional centers and nearly 3,500 prisoners, is among lawmakers who say the local benefit is only fair because those counties are the ones dealing with the inmate issues. […]

On current legislative maps, prisoners who serve even a two-year prison sentence are recorded as residents of the correctional center for the next 10 years.

Rep. Ford’s bill is here.

* The Question: Should the Census count prisoners who are serving less than 10-year sentences in their home towns or in their prisons? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments…


- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Madigan: Quinn wanted another lump sum budget, borrowing plan not going well, no plans to pursue school consolidation bill

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

* Gov. Pat Quinn has complained repeatedly over the past several months about how the General Assembly punted by sending him lump sum budgets the past two years. But, today, House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters that Quinn asked him to pass yet another lump sum budget this year. Watch

Sheesh.

* Madigan also said that Quinn’s borrowing plan is “not being real well received by the Legislature,” which is kinda obvious. And Madigan said that he has “no plans to pursue” some of Quinn’s other ideas like school consolidation.

* This story is more than a little behind the curve since the actual House resolution divvying up the cash to appropriations committees passed the chamber 117-0 way back on March 17th

Illinois House leaders are pushing forward with a budget plan that would ignore many of the governor’s spending proposals.

The top Democrat and top Republican in the House said Wednesday they have settled on the amount of money available for major categories of state government. Now, House committees will decide which services get a piece of that money and which don’t.

Education, for instance, would get about $6.8 billion — a cut of $200 million.

* The reason it’s “news” today is because Speaker Madigan and Leader Cross testified in committee about some approp bills. Watch

You can peruse the budgetary work sheet distributed to approp committee members by clicking here.

* I forgot to post Finke’s column yesterday. He has some interesting budget info from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability

One of the center’s conclusions was that despite all of the complaints about the state spending too much, it would be a good deal more if spending had kept up with inflation and population growth over the last decade. If you take those factors into account, the analysis determined, spending is less now than it was in 2000. Not a little less, but nearly 16 percent less. Overall. Higher education, it said, is down 35 percent, and the often vilified outgo for health care is down 13.4 percent.

It’s hard to argue that state government is somehow immune from inflation. But it’s also going to be hard convincing taxpayers - whose own paychecks probably haven’t kept up with inflation - that the state needs to spend more. […]

The analysis determined that about $5.45 billion of [the governor’s proposed $8.75 billion borrowing plan] is for old bills. Another $1 billion is to pay for current bills. That’s a no-no, in the same sense you don’t mortgage your home to buy this month’s groceries. The groceries will soon be gone, but the debt will last for years.

The center also said repaying the money over 14 years, as Quinn wants, is too long and the whole thing is backloaded, which is not a good idea.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Oberhelman: Headlines misleading *** Actual Caterpillar CEO letter paints far different picture than media coverage

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

*** UPDATE *** Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman spoke publicly for the first time today about that now infamous letter he sent to Gov. Pat Quinn

The chief executive of Caterpillar Inc. again criticized the business climate in the heavy equipment maker’s home state of Illinois on Wednesday, but downplayed reports that it might leave.

“Legislators in Illinois have created an environment that is unfriendly to business and investment. At Caterpillar we want to help and lead a change in that climate,” said Douglas Oberhelman at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event. […]

At the chamber event, Oberhelman said headlines suggesting Caterpillar might leave the state were misleading.

“That’s not really what I said,” he told the chamber. “I actually said I was looking forward to finding a way to invest more in Illinois and change the business climate. Illinois is our home.”

Notice that Oberhelman once again blames legislators, not the governor, for the problems. Also take note that he repeated his claim that he wants to find a way to invest more here, not less.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* I haven’t seen the now infamous letter from Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman to Gov. Pat Quinn actually posted in its entirety So, here it is. Pay close attention to the third paragraph, which has received the least amount of media coverage…

Dear Governor Quinn:

Caterpillar has been proud to call Illinois home for over 75 years. Personally I grew up in Woodstock, Illinois, and aside from a few years out of the country for my work at Caterpillar, I have lived here my whole life. Before, I never really considered living anywhere else, and certainly never considered the possibility of Caterpillar relocating. But I have to admit, the policymakers in Springfield seem to make it harder by the day.

I’ve included just three of the several letters from Governors across the country that I have been receiving. They are welcoming Caterpillar to their states with open arms, and they make compelling arguments. I have been called, “cornered” in meetings and “wined and dined” - the heat is on.

You’ve always been honest with me, and that’s why I want you to know about these letters. I’m not sending them to you as a threat that Caterpillar is leaving Illinois. I want to stay here. And as our business grows, I’d like to invest more here - Illinois has always been the heart of Caterpillar. But as the leader of this business, I have to do what’s right for Caterpillar when making decisions about where to invest. The direction that this state is headed in is not favorable to business, and I’d like to work with you to change that. Frankly, we need to re-structure this State’s business from top to bottom. I think you know that.

This is a firm letter, no doubt, but it’s also quite respectful and even complimentary of the governor. What it clearly isn’t is a dire threat to move the company out of state anytime soon, or a blatant diss of Gov. Quinn.

Oberhelman seems to genuinely want to work with Quinn to find solutions to the state’s problems. The Cat CEO has taken some heat from the Left for grubbing for money or whatever other advantage he could get here, but that doesn’t appear justified when reading the complete letter.

* Also, if you’ve been wondering how the letter became public, it was cc’d to several politicians, including Congressman Aaron Schock, Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno, House Republican Leader Tom Cross, Speaker Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and Quinn’s chief of staff Jack Lavin. I’d bet any money that one of them leaked it. Caterpillar’s spokesman has said the letter was meant to be private.

* Meanwhile, Quinn is sticking with the Leftie rhetoric

For governors cutting education and health care and going after public-sector employees to balance budgets, here’s a message from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn: You’re wrong. Not mistaken, not misinformed.

“Just plain wrong,” said Quinn, 62, during a March 22 interview in his Chicago office. “I don’t buy into all these radical cuts in government as a way to make life better for ordinary, everyday people.” […]

Quinn says he has made plenty of unpleasant decisions, including raising the retirement age for public employees, putting new hires into a 401(k) retirement plan and altering the Medicaid system.

“I’m not going to get our state out of the hole that it’s in in terms of the economy by just severe cuts in education,” Quinn said. “Lay off teachers? What’s that all about? Is that going to help us?

“No.”

* Related…

* Lawmakers defend tax hike, express concern for CAT

* Editorial: Cat not leaving today, tomorrow, hopefully not ever, but Illinois should take nothing for granted

* Roskam: High taxes have consequences

* Caterpillar’s Alarm Bell For Illinois

* Could Caterpillar end up in metro Sioux City?

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Pay to play? C’mon

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

* Gov. Pat Quinn has nominated Terry Cosgrove for a spot on the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Cosgrove runs Personal PAC, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure Quinn got elected last year. Indeed, one of Bill Brady’s top campaign operatives blamed Personal PAC’s efforts for his candidate’s narrow loss last November.

Brady’s spokesman responded to the appointment…

Brady spokesman Dan Egler said the governor “reached out to reward one of his big-time political supporters. The citizens of Illinois deserve fair and open-minded people on state’s boards and commissions—not pay-to-play political appointees.”

Pay-to-play?

Gimme a break.

* If anyone thinks that Terry Cosgrove supported Pat Quinn because he wanted a part-time state job, then you really need to get your head examined. Brady is 100 percent pro-life. Cosgrove despised the man and was very worried that Brady would be elected, so he went all out. “Pay-to-play” is by very definition a mercenary act. Say what you want about Cosgrove, but he ain’t no mercenary. He fully believes in what he does.

Rewarding political allies with sweet little plums is as old as government. Brady wouldn’t have given any of his pals state jobs? Please. Get real.

Also, Cosgrove is qualified for the post. He helped pass human rights ordinances in Champaign and Urbana back in the day and has long been a quiet force behind the scenes for gay rights. He’s probably not the most unbiased person on the planet, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a gay voice on the Human Rights Commission.

Brady lost. Not by much, but he lost. Time to move on and stop over-reaching for non-controversies like this one.

* But this may rankle the state Senator as well. I received an e-mail from Rebecca Sanchez this week…

Hey Rich,

I wanted to keep you in the loop and let you know that the gov appointed me as his senior advisor on Hispanic issues. I’ll also act as a liaison between the Hispanic Caucus and the governor.

Friday is my start date.

Sanchez is a reporter for the Spanish-language newspaper Extra. She’s the one who asked Brady during an ABC7 gubernatorial debate last year why he attended a fundraiser thrown by Rod Blagojevich cronies Juan Ochoa and Dean Martinez. Brady was tripped up by the question and then called the two men “good people,” which resulted in a firestorm.

That appointment ought to make Brady’s head explode again.

* In other personnel-related matters

Illinois’ top insurance regulator said Tuesday he’s committed to working with Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers on pressing state issues during his last two months on the job.

Insurance Department Director Michael McRaith is leaving in June to take a post in the President Barack Obama’s administration. Until then, McRaith said, he’s dedicated to working with Illinois lawmakers this session on reforms to workers compensation, health insurance and financial regulations.

“My first objective is to work hard every day and be a constructive leader on insurance-related issues,” McRaith said in an interview with The Associated Press.

McRaith is Quinn’s point man on workers’ comp reform. There’s real worry out there that he won’t be as focused as he should be while preparing for the DC gig. Let’s hope the worriers are wrong.

* Another Quinn appointee has to step aside on a contentious issue. Hiram Grau has been nominated to run the Illinois State Police. He used to work for the Cook County State’s Attorney, who has refused to file any charges in the death of David Koschman. Koschman died after allegedly being punched or shoved several years ago by Mayor Daley’s nephew

Responding to the Sun-Times’ reports, Alvarez called Thursday on the State Police to examine the handling of the Koschman investigation, saying an outside, “independent” police agency needed to step in.

The next day, the State Police agreed to do that, even as Gov. Quinn announced he was appointing Alvarez’s chief investigator, Hiram Grau, to head the State Police. At the time of Koschman’s death, Grau was a deputy police superintendent with the Chicago Police Department, overseeing the department’s detectives. According to the State Police, Grau had no role in investigating the Koschman case but, “out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Grau will be recusing himself from the State Police’s review of the matter.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Ricketts plan, luxury tax suffer deadly fate

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

* On Sunday, Senate President John Cullerton dusted off his plan to use Chicago’s amusement tax growth to help finance upgrades outside Wrigley Field

The multi-million dollar proposal would upgrade Wrigley’s creaky creature comforts for both fans and players. The Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs, said they would not alter the fundamental appearance of the historic ballpark.

The idea fell flat in Springfield this past winter. The Ricketts family and their lobbyists tried to push it through in the same lame duck session that approved a 67 percent increase in the Illinois income tax.

In a Fox Chicago Sunday taping, Cullerton said that he thinks the measure has better prospects in the current spring session. He hopes the General Assembly would vote to approve it by Memorial Day.

“There should be some conditions,” Cullerton said. “First of all, Mr. Ricketts has to come up with half the money himself. He should make sure that he comes up with that first. If there’s money to be spent inside the park, that’s where he should spend his money.”

* But Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is a no-go

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he wants to find a way to save 97-year-old Wrigley Field, but the taxpayer-financed plan being floated anew by Cubs’ chairman Tom Ricketts is a “non-starter.” […]

After striking out with Mayor Daley and Gov. Quinn, Ricketts had hoped for a different outcome with Emanuel.

But during a post-election meeting with Ricketts, Emanuel said he reiterated the “healthy skepticism” he expressed during the campaign about using taxpayer dollars to renovate Wrigley.

In other words, it’s back to the drawing board for Ricketts.

“They know my position from the past. It was an informational meeting. It was a short meeting. … And I let them know that, if all we did was re-package old ideas, that was a non-starter,” he said.

* Meanwhile, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stated the obvious yesterday. Rahm Emanuel’s “luxury tax” is dead in the water

With Emanuel at her side, Preckwinkle said she likes the concept, but believes the Illinois General Assembly is unlikely to act.

“My understanding from my conversations with the people in Springfield is that the legislature there is sort of done on the tax issue,” Preckwinkle said. “And having raised taxes on individuals and businesses at the beginning of this year, that’s all that anyone can expect coming out of Springfield.”

* Related…

* Looking for the best primer on Chicago politics? Try ‘The Lawyers Who Reformed Chicago

* City Hall on edge as Emanuel moves in - Bureaucrats, lobbyists wonder about their futures under the next mayor

* To merge or not to merge services? Emanuel and Preckwinkle ask a committee.

* Chicago And Cook County’s “Gang Of Six” Joint Committee Announced

* Weisberg Dethroned: Chicago’s Cultural Ambassador’s Departure And What It Means For the Future Of Events In Chicago

* Corporate Titans Fund Emanuel’s Political Group

* Chicago nonprofits fund Emanuel team’s transition - Leading foundations agree to cover $200,000 in costs

* Emanuel said to be making own list for top cop - Mayor-elect says he won’t just sit and wait for search panel’s report

* Alexi Giannoulias being considered for two top education posts?: Word is Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has spoken with Giannoulias about chairmanship of the Chicago City Colleges board and Gov. Quinn has chatted with Giannoulias about heading the Illinois Community College board.

* Chicago’s Pending Rat Problem

* Preckwinkle ‘appalled’ at alleged drinking, sex, theft at Cook County pool

* Dueling Ads in Northwest Side Runoff

* Danny Solis: The Establishment Candidate, but Campaigning like a Rookie

* 38th Ward: The Inspector vs. The Inspected

* Shiller, Tunney grill Cappleman, Phelan in 46th Ward forum

* 36th Ward race: Condos, clubby atmosphere, experience all campaign fodder

* 6th Ward: Lyle vs. Sawyer a choice of political style

* Influence Pedaling in Uptown

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition and a big Statehouse roundup

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

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