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READER COMMENTS CLOSED FOR THE WEEKEND

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

Enjoy this gorgeous weather and I’ll talk to you again Monday.

If you just can’t pull yourself from the computer, then make sure to visit Illinoize this weekend. Some really good stuff is being posted tbere.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Close race

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

JBT has been up and down and back up again in the Rasmussen poll.

Fresh from primary victories, neither the Democratic nominee nor the Republican nominee enjoys a clear advantage in the race for Governor of Illinois.

The latest Rasmussen Reports election poll shows Republican State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka leading Democratic Governor Rod R. Blagojevich 43% to 41%. That toss-up represents an apparent tightening of the race. In our late February poll, Blagojevich bested Topinka 42% to 36%. For him, that was an improvement over the January survey, when Topinka led 48% to 37%.

The rolling average of our last three polls confirms the close nature of the race and shows Topinka with a knife-edge 42% to 40% lead. Though the poll numbers seem to gyrate when looked at individually, it’s the challenger’s support that has varied most. The governor’s has ranged much more narrowly, between 37% to 42%—low and not too auspicious for an incumbent.

Both nominees have weathered charges of corruption from within their own parties en route to their nominations. Neither has solidified support within their own party at this time.

Blagojevich is viewed favorably by 44% of likely voters and unfavorably by 53%, with only 2% Not Sure how to view him. Topinka is viewed favorably by 50%, unfavorably by 44%.

Blagojevich wins approval for his job performance as governor from only 39% of Illinois voters. Fifty-nine percent (59%) disapprove.

Though 45% of Illinois voters believe abortion is morally wrong, just 34% favor a ban on abortion except when the life of the mother is at risk; 55% oppose it. (Such a ban is now being vetted in South Dakota, where it is expected to encounter judicial challenges.)

Sixty-five percent (65%) think most politicians would change their vote for the right contribution. Fifty-three percent (53%) guesstimate that the cost of influencing a governor or senator is $50,000 or less; 7% believe all that’s needed is $1,000.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

The full report can be found here. And here’s the Tribune’s take:

Four in 10 Americans believe that immigrants strengthen the U.S. with their hard work and talents, but an even bigger portion say immigration saps job and housing availability, a major new study has found.

As lawmakers battled over competing immigration reform bills on Capitol Hill, the Pew Research Center and Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C., released a survey Thursday that shows a country still deeply ambivalent about newcomers.

Chicago, the survey found, is even more divided.

Of the five metro areas highlighted in the Pew study, Chicago is among the most tolerant of immigrants, with more people embracing newcomers and fewer interested in penalizing illegal immigrants.

“Chicago has a proud legacy of being built by immigrants,” said Marissa Graciosa of the Illinois Coalition for Immigration Rights. “This is a city that does not have amnesia about where its roots come from.”

At the same time, however, Chicagoans were more pessimistic than most about the effect of immigrants on the economy, with 4 in 10 area residents saying their biggest concern about illegal immigration is that it hurts American jobs—higher than Las Vegas, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham and Washington, D.C., and higher than the rest of the country

Discuss, but be warned that any racist comments will be deleted and those making such comments will be banned from posting here forever. I mean it. Don’t even think about pushing the envelope.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


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Friday, Mar 31, 2006

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Edgar: JBT needs $10 mil

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

That’s a lot of money to raise in a very short time. But all you really need is enough to burn your message in. Beyond that and it’s often just white noise.

Former Governor Jim Edgar said today that fellow Republican Judy Baar Topinka needs to raise at least ten million dollars to take on incumbent Governor Rod Blagojevich in November.

Edgar said he doesn’t doubt Topinka can raise the cash, but Blagojevich can make it difficult for her. He said one problem would be if Blagojevich got an early bump and potential supporters concluded the race was over.

Redfield had more to say here.

Redfield estimates Topinka needs at least $8 million to finance her gubernatorial bid.

“I wouldn’t want to try to run statewide with much less than that,” he said.

And then there’s this from CBS2:

Redfield and two other University of Illinois colleagues, including former Gov. Jim Edgar, found a lesson in that for Gov. Rod Blagojevich — even $15 million in campaign cash cannot compensate for a lack of credibility.

“I think his commercials are good,” Edgar said, “but the problem is that he’s talking. A lot of folks just don’t have a lot of confidence in him.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Lane Evans replacement open thread

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

What do you hear? What do you know? What do you think will happen?

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Med students want reforms

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

Lawmakers can’t take gifts, so why should doctors?

The drug industry spends big bucks every year lavishing doctors with free samples and other goodies. Does that influence how they prescribe drugs? Most physicians say no. But the American Medical Student Association argues that, at the very least, the freebies raise questions about how much influence the drug firms have. The group, meeting in Chicago this week, favors a ban on all industry marketing to doctors. […]

The group’s ban goes much further than the guidelines of the leading doctors’ group, the American Medical Association. The AMA believes doctors can accept “modest” meals and gifts related to their work that cost about $100. Doctors may also accept “reasonable” speakers’ fees. They may not accept cash, junkets and any gifts with strings attached.

The student group, which represents about two-thirds of the nation’s medical students, doesn’t think doctors should accept any promotional gifts or speakers’ fees. It believes hospitals should discontinue industry-funded lectures and lunches. It argues the huge marketing expenses drive up the cost of drugs. Finally, it thinks doctors should get information about drugs from independent sources and not rely on drug sales representatives. […]

According to an article in the April issue of Atlantic Monthly, doctors who insist that they are not influenced by goodies from drug reps are contradicted by studies that show just the opposite — that they are more likely to prescribe a gift-giver’s drug. And it cites one study that found that the more gifts a doctors gets, the more likely he or she will believe that gifts have no effect.

I knew some legislators like that. They’re gone now, thankfully. [emphasis added]

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


Smoking ban passes

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

Judging by previous comments, this bill should be pretty popular here.

All Illinois counties would be able to ban smoking in public places under legislation approved Thursday and sent to the governor.

The measure gives county officials the power to prohibit lighting up in restaurants, bars and other public gathering spots. It’s similar to legislation passed last year that lets cities decide whether to snuff out public puffing.

The new measure covers unincorporated areas, so cities still would have the final say within their borders.

The Illinois House approved the bill 89-24. It already had passed the Senate.

I’m for this bill, but for purely selfish reasons. I have tried and tried to quit smoking, but I always end up going back because my ability to “just say no” is weakened when I’m in a tavern. I figure I’ll just have one, and then before I know it I’m right back to smoking full-time. So Springfield’s ban and Chicago’s ban ought to be good for my health. And if I can’t slip out to an unincorporated area to drink and smoke, so much the better. Selfish, yes. Sound policy? I’ll leave that up to others to debate.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Martin squeaks by

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

Partisan rollcall saves Transportation Secretary.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday approved a second term for the secretary of transportation, despite Republicans’ concerns about mismanagement within the agency.

Tim Martin narrowly was confirmed to continue running the Transportation Department on a 31-18 vote, with eight senators voting “present.”

He needed 30 votes for approval. […]

Dillard, who voted “present” on Martin after supporting him in a Senate committee earlier in the day, said Martin told him he was making changes.

“I think you’ll see Secretary Martin watching what goes on in his agency much more deeply into the agency than he probably did his first couple of years,” Dillard said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Morning shorts

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

· Gotcha: When asked if Blagojevich would ride Amtrak if the extra trips between Chicago and Springfield were implemented, Vanover replied: “Is this a serious question?”

· YDD lays the smackdown.

· Tribune editorial: The Dan Ryan honey pot

· Free Ryan defense could get expensive

· Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen, in a memo written for RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, warns that if members of Congress try to drive a wedge between themselves and Pres. Bush, it’d be akin to adding weight to an anchor.

· Stroger’s son says it will be months before his father’s political future is determined.

· Ryan jurors dig in, ask for transcripts, details of tax count

· Free or low-cost Internet access should be a no-brainer. And, Illinois moves at dial-up speed in the Information Age

· Ex-Clinton aide to lead tollway

· Sex offenders missing from registered addresses

· Krol’s column. Good as always.

· Fighting Predatory Lending… Some Realtors Would Like To See Amendment To Bill

· Bolingbrook Workers Accused Of Fraud

· More weirdness in Kane County. Major growing pains there.

· Note to the DCCC: If you’re going to send me a link to a video, make sure it works. I won’t pass it along here if I can’t see it myself.

· People’s Weekly World (not the usual type of link): The wild card in the [Melissa Bean] race could be the independent campaign of Bill Scheurer, running as a pro-union, antiwar, anti-abortion candidate and supported by the Teamsters and UAW.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


Now playing…

Friday, Mar 31, 2006

Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain” live album.

I bought the record when I was 14 after seeing his concert TV special. I never knew who he was before that. The only Dylan I knew anything about was Marshal Dylan from “Gunsmoke.”

Mr. Stone, my math teacher, made us watch it. Mr. Stone was a Dylan freak. In retrospect, a large number of the faculty were hippies, even though we were in a very conservative area up in Northwest Illinois (Hanover). I was doing AV duty that semester and after Mr. Stone showed the Dylan show in class I watched it almost every day for the rest of the year.

I was mesmerized by this angry poet with that giant, truly rocking band. There must’ve been 15 members of the Rolling Thunder Revue, with one guy just wandering around onstage playing the tambourine. (Stone said that was the job he wanted.) Hard Rain was one of the best commercial live albums ever made, only surpassed by some of Dylan’s “bootleg” series releases in the past decade. It’s a must-have.

After ordering Hard Rain from the local Ben Franklin (it was the only way to buy music in those parts), I bought a greatest hits collection and I was hooked forever. But when I was replacing my albums with CDs I never bought Hard Rain. I have no idea why.

Anyway, I downloaded Hard Rain from I-Tunes the other day (the difference in the modes of purchase - ordering at a local store in 1976 and waiting two weeks to a month for delivery, compared to downloading it immediately from a home computer in 2006 - are kinda stunning) The album is bringing back a rush of memories. But most of those are private and I need to get back to work, so that’s it for now.

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out quick,
but when they will I can only guess.
They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy,
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me.
I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


This just in… Evans endorses Hare

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

The QC Times has the scoop.

U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., is endorsing his district representative, Phil Hare, to replace him on the Democratic ticket in the 17th Congressional District this fall.

Jerry Lack, an Evans aide and a suitor for the job himself, said Evans informed him of his decision Thursday. As a result, Lack said, he is backing out of the race and will help Hare. “I was planning on running and now I’m not,” he said. “It was a difficult decision for Lane, but I respect it and I’ll be working to help Phil out.”

Evans announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election this fall because of the need to focus on his health. He has been battling Parkinson’s disease for more than a decade. He will serve the rest of his term to the end of the year.

Evans spokesman Steve Vetzner confirmed the endorsement. “Phil has been with him since day one. He’s been his right-hand man and he’s the best person to build on Lane’s legacy,” Vetzner said.

[Hat tip to a sharp-eyed commenter]

Rumor has it that Rahm Emanuel has his own candidate. You’d think he’d learned his lesson about this stuff. If the Rahminator was such a big issue in DuPage, imagine what the reaction would be downstate.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Senate cancels Friday… and some afternoon shorts

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

Senate President Emil Jones just announced that the Senate will reconvene on Tuesday.

Here are some more updates, since session is just about finished for the day and I have some time while I’m waiting on some return calls.

· Chutzpah award, from Bernie’s column today:

[Alexi] Giannoulias told me he thought his financial background was the key to his win. I said some people thought his TV ads featuring U.S. Sen. BARACK OBAMA, D-Ill., had a lot of effect.

“That’s for the political people, the insiders,” Giannoulias said. “I mean, it didn’t hurt, I’ll say that much. And he helped me get my message out. But I think at the end of the day, the message was, let’s get someone with financial experience for a financial position.”

· Ryan jury seeks transcripts

· Sweeny slams Rep. Winters. Greg strongly disagrees.

· A ten-million-dollar plan to reduce public school class sizes in Illinois won House approval today and goes to the governor for his signature. But even supporters question whether there’s money to fund the plan and whether the money wouldn’t be better spent in other education areas.

· Gov. Blagojevich’s “Less Red Tape” bill wins House approval, heads to Governor’s desk for his signature

· State employees would help fund new Amtrak routes, supporters say

· Rep. Reitz joins Century Club

· Roskam interview

· Precinct committeemen — don’t give away your vote in 17

· Homeschooling Freedom– Is it ebbing away in Illinois?

· Cheap Trick will name their new album ‘Rockford’ after their home town of Rockford, Illinois.

· Who will be the Kingmaker?

· State may add 2 daily train trips to Chicago

· Lawmakers close to letting prostitutes sue pimps

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

This question was suggested by blogger Carl Nyberg.

If Illinois had its own money, who would be depicted on the coins and bills?

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


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Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

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Lane Evans retirement open thread

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

What are you hearing about replacements?

By the way, here’s a map of that crazy 17th District. (pdf file)

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Rhetoric heats up

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

I had a little about this in this morning’s Capitol Fax, but here is a much longer story.

For the second time in as many days, a white south suburban mayor has called on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to lease 4,200 acres of land to build the long-discussed third airport in the region.

Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld said in a written statement that Blagojevich’s backing of the airport is “the single most important act the governor can do to support the Southland.”

“The South Suburbs have been the stepchild of Illinois for too long,” Hofeld said. “As a region, we are told to be patient, that our time will come. Well, we’re tired of waiting.”

Hofeld’s announcement comes on the heels of a fiery statement by Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch, who blasted Blagojevich for playing “racial politics” over the airport

And here’s another one.

Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson said supporters of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Peotone airport plan must be getting desperate.

Halvorson, D-Crete, was reacting Wednesday to news stories on Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch’s statement that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was using “racial politics” in the proposed Peotone airport debate.

Blagojevich is refusing to partner with predominantly black southern Cook County towns that back Jackson, D-Chicago, and he’s trying to appease the mostly white Will County communities, Welch said in published reports.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with race,” Halvorson said from Springfield. “It never has. What a shame they have decided to play the race card. I’m offended by that.”

Halvorson said she is continuing to try to get a development district bill passed in the Legislature that would protect the communities closest to the airport site, which is completely located in eastern Will County.

The Senate has already passed the bill and it’s waiting for a vote in the House. Halvorson said the Legislature’s session could be extended past the current April 7 adjournment date, which would make a vote on the bill more likely.

Read the whole thing. Pretty intense. You can see Mayor Welch’s full press release here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Backlash against dereg

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

It doesn’t look like the General Assembly will take up this issue before the end of spring session.

The electric deregulation juggernaut that swept the nation in the late 1990s has been replaced by a consumer backlash against energy price increases that threatens to reverse free-market reforms.

Lawmakers from Maryland to Montana worry that the deregulation movement they once embraced has failed to deliver the benefits they promised to constituents.

About a third of the 23 states that passed restructuring laws have revisited or delayed those plans, and some - including New Mexico, Arkansas and Nevada - have passed legislation repealing deregulation laws. Some, like Michigan, deregulated in a way that resulted in smaller rate increases, while others are operating under rate caps put in place years ago and haven’t felt the effects of unfettered markets.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Madigan wants different budget

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

Capitol Fax had pretty much this same story yesterday.

He co-chairs the governor’s re-election campaign, but House Speaker Michael Madigan isn’t sold on the governor’s budget proposal.

Rather than work with Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s spending blueprint, the speaker has suggested that negotiators start with the existing budget and only add new spending equal to what the state will receive in new revenue.

“It was a suggestion and time will go on,” said Steve Brown, a spokesman for the Chicago Democrat.

The development came as the General Assembly heads toward an early, election-year adjournment, which is scheduled for April 7, but could be extended to April 12.

Republicans said Madigan’s suggestion was another sign that Democrats are troubled by their own party’s governor.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Latinos don’t like guv’s idea

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

I had this in yesterday’s Capitol Fax, and the Daily Herald picked it up today.

Latino lawmakers are asking Gov. Rod Blagojevich to abandon his call to give tax breaks to the parents of college students with good grades, saying it would help “higher-income” families while others struggle.

In a letter delivered to Blagojevich’s office, the lawmakers say the state should put more money into existing student aid programs based on need rather than “tax breaks for the parents of well-off children who happen to earn good grades their freshman and sophomore years.”

The letter was signed by state Sens. Miguel del Valle, Tony Munoz, Martin Sandoval and Iris Martinez, all Chicago Democrats.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Tristano roundup

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

· Today’s Tribune story. CBS2’s story. Daily Herald’s story.

· Here’s the original Crain’s story that started it all.

· I did a follow-up in the Capitol Fax a couple of days later. (pdf file). Here’s a shorter version that I did for my syndicated newspaper column. This is a story that explained the Crain’s piece to my readers. (pdf file)

· The original Tristano indictment and a story about it.

· First indication that Tristano was cutting a deal.

· And if you didn’t look at it yesterday, here’s the final plea agreement. (pdf file)

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


Morning shorts

Thursday, Mar 30, 2006

· What he said.

· The head of a Chicago public relations firm highlighted in a scathing state audit called the report “a blatant lie” that grossly inflated undocumented billings by her firm to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

· Sun-Times hits IDOT on audit.

· Pantagraph raps Blagojevich for pharmacy signs.

· Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago): “I don’t think [Gov. Blagojevich] is going to sail to victory. I think it is going to be a very tight election. It depends on what happens in the next couple of months, if the Feds do any type of investigation of his administration.”

· “Chicago police officers were on hand as a huge street fight spilled into City Hall Wednesday afternoon.” Didn’t look like much of a fight to me.

· Yet another breathless lede.

· Son says Stroger is talking, exercising

· What the heck is going on in Kane County?

· Businesses called on to lobby for train line

· Lawmakers may rename beach to honor Geo-Karis

· Calumet City: “Tear down this wall!”

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


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