* I worked with Sun-Times editorial writer Tom Frisbie back when I wrote columns for the paper. He’s a good guy and a smart guy and I’m really enjoying his posts at the paper’s website. Let’s look at a few.
For starters, DNR really needs to get its act together…
Last year, Illinois patted itself on the back for enacting legislation to govern hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has what Gov. Pat Quinn called the best environmental protections in the nation.
Now, some of those involved in the negotiations are fretting that the deal could become the legislative equivalent of a dry well. […]
(T)he rulemaking process under the original legislation is moving slowly. An original draft of proposed rules was released earlier this year, and both environmentalists and industry made suggestions for improvements. Environmentalists believed the rules were weaker than the legislation envisioned, and the drilling industry had its own concerns. Both sides are now awaiting a revised draft that will go to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources hasn’t missed its deadline yet, but all signs are the department has fallen far behind in processing the thousands of comments it received. Energy companies that have invested leases expiring in Southern Illinois are getting antsy because they’re not sure what is happening in Springfield.
“It’s kind of come to a grinding halt,” says Mark Denzler, vice president and chief operating officer of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
* Unintended consequences…
In its law allowing video gaming, the Illinois Legislature included truck stops as places where people could gamble. The thinking was that the pool of potential players was pretty much limited to truck drivers, and a lot of them are from out of state, which means video gaming would bring money into Illinois’ economy.
But it turns out owners of some ordinary gasoline stations have decided to redefine themselves as truck stops so that they can get a piece of the action.
“Right now there are gas stations trying to redefine themselves as truck stops,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. “They put up a diesel pump and purchase some land so they get can get three acres [the minimum for being designated a truck stop].”
Flower shops also are getting into the act by obtaining liquor “pouring licenses” and then qualifying as a bar, where video gaming is permitted, he said.
Syverson has a bill that has a much better definition of what a truck stop is. The problem with the bill, though, is that Syverson also wants to double the number of video gaming machines that truck stops could have. Legislators worry that if they give more to truck stops, taverns will want the same treatment. So, the bill stalled.
* And here’s something you almost never see in a Chicago newspaper: A nuanced look at the patronage system. Frisbie writes about a visit to the paper’s editorial board by former anti-machine Ald. Marty Oberman, the new Metra chairman, who has pledged to root out patronage at the commuter agency. Oberman put patronage into the perspective of his city hall service…
Back when he was elected to the City Council as an idealistic 29-year-old, Oberman said, he learned that “people, even if they got hired through patronage, most people want to come to work and do their jobs. They would much rather be rewarded for doing their jobs than having to turn in the votes on Election Day. … Now, some didn’t mind doing both.”
“What I learned in the City Council is that a lot of the people [who were called] patronage hacks, they were good people,” Oberman said. “Their way to get a job was to get a letter from their committeeman. …. I went in and I railed against all these awful people that are working for the city. [But] one of the things that happens when you are alderman is you get to know these people individually. The guy who is on the garbage truck, you’ve got to talk to him. Most of these people, they were really decent people.
“[But]… they didn’t get rewarded for doing their jobs. They got rewarded for bringing the votes in on Election Day.”