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This just in… Lane Evans to retire

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006

Things are gonna get interesting very fast.

WASHINGTON — Rep. Lane Evans, who has battled Parkinson’s disease for more than a decade, has told fellow Illinois Democrats here that he intends to announce his retirement from Congress.

Evans, who was hospitalized for a brief period in February, had not cast a vote in the House since Feb. 14 and had not reported to work in his Washington office for more than a month. He began informing members of the Illinois delegation today and plans to make a public announcement as soon as this afternoon. […]

A spokesman for Evans could not immediately be reached for comment. But three officials from the Illinois delegation confirmed that Evans, 54, had told party officials of his decision to retire.

Who do you think will be slated? Maybe this guy? Or maybe Ted?

UPDATE: Comments closed. Go here to continue the discussion.

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      


Late morning shorts - UPDATED x2

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006

I missed these earlier and rather than do yet another update, I figured I’d give the links their own posts.

· Charlie Johnston: “The hot rumor flying around Springfield and Chicago yesterday was that State Sen. James Meeks and Jim Oberweis were going to team up in a third-party run for governor and lite guv.”

· Cal Skinner: “The End of the (Political) World As We Know It?” Read the whole thing. Very good stuff.

· Tom Roeser: The idea, propounded by the minister-pol, that State Senator James Meeks would be attractive to social conservatives and thus could get votes beyond the African American community as the nominee of an “Honesty and Integrity” third party is ridiculous. Meeks is proposing an income tax hike to cover a $1 billion hike in educational spending and supports further gun-control. These don’t go hand-in-hand with social conservatism, a philosophy that needs a perfect four-pro-life, anti-special favoritism for gays, anti-gun control and no new taxes in order to be effective. But if his candidacy really got going, it would depress Blagojevich’s numbers, that’s for sure…

· How many aldermen met with James Meeks yesterday? Tribune says 9. Sun-Times says “about a dozen.” ABC7 says 14.

· NBC5 has posted an online poll asking whether Meeks should run for governor.

· New SurveyUSA numbers. Durbin, 48 percent job approval, 40 percent disapprove. Obama, 70 percent approval, 25 percent disapprove. Trendlines here and here.

· Hiram: Democratic unity in DuPage, part 1 and part 2.

· “An effort to stop radical anti-gay protesters from disrupting soldiers’ funerals is hung up in the Illinois Senate, as proponents wrestle with union concerns that the law could be used to curtail legitimate labor protests by cemetery workers.”

· The Ten Commandments for CTA riders

· 11th Hour disagrees with Leach on seatbelt stuff.

· Primary colors.

UPDATE:

· Huh?

Visitors to Illinois’ capital city last week might have been wondering if they’d taken a wrong turn somewhere in Iowa. Flying atop a state historic building under construction across the street from the busy Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum was a University of Iowa Hawkeyes flag.

The flag flapped in the spring breeze for at least a couple of days before state officials discovered it and had the banner removed over the weekend. “When we found out about it, we immediately contacted the contractor and had them take the flag down,” said David Blanchette, spokesman for the Illinois Capital Development Board. “Only U.S. and state flags should be flying on top of state buildings, whether under construction or otherwise.

UPDATE 2:The capital bill has been on the ropes since before the governor unveiled it, so this isn’t really a new revelation, but at least he’s on the record.

A key state lawmaker cast more doubt Monday on the future of a long-sought road and school construction program.

Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, put the chances that a $3.2 billion building program would win General Assembly approval this spring at “maybe 50 percent.”

That assessment is the latest sign that Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s plan likely will be postponed for another year as lawmakers head toward a mid-April, election year adjournment.

Blagojevich has been unable to convince Republicans to support the package, which must be approved by a three-fifths majority of lawmakers in both the House and Senate.

The program would earmark $2.3 billion for road and bridge construction projects, $425 million for mass transit and $500 million to help local school districts replace crumbling schools and add classrooms.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


Protected: Subscribers only - One more precinct counted… plus roundups

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006

Every now and then I run out of ideas for our question of the day. Today is one of them. On days like this, I usually ask what questions that people would like to see here. Let’s do that again.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Ryan trial is a freaking mess -UPDATED

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006

Oy.

A federal judge announced Monday that she has dismissed two jurors from former Gov. George Ryan’s racketeering and fraud trial and added that she is still trying to determine whether the stalled jury deliberations can be restarted.

“I haven’t made any final decisions about whether we will be able to proceed,” U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer told reporters after dismissing the two jurors.

Pallmeyer said that if she decides to avoid a mistrial and push ahead, she plans to call the jurors back into the courtroom, give them a fresh set of instructions and start deliberations from scratch. The plan could add weeks to the trial, which is now in its sixth month.

And restarting the trial apparently would require replacing the two jurors with alternates - something Ryan’s attorneys oppose.

Pallmeyer said, however, that she wanted to go ahead with the trial if she felt that the jury would be able to deliberate fairly.

If we’re not heading for a mistrial, then the appeals of this decision could mean Ryan never serves a day in prison. Then again, federal defendants often have to serve time while awaiting appeal.

And the Tribune explains how it broke the story.

Reporters frequently interview jurors after a case ends and the jurors are dismissed from duty. In preparation for a verdict, Tribune reporter Ray Gibson was checking computer databases for information about the jurors. He was not looking for criminal histories but was interested in the jurors’ political affiliations.

On the first screen of links to records for one juror, Gibson came across a 1995 felony conviction for aggravated DUI. The charge indicated the man had prior DUIs as well.

Police reporter David Heinzmann then located court and criminal records for the man, and Gibson and federal courts reporter Matt O’Connor matched information from those records with the answers given by the juror on his jury questionnaire. By Wednesday night, it was clear to the reporters and their editors that the records indicated that it was the same man.

UPDATE: I don’t know how I missed this, but NBC5 reporter Phil Rogers is blogging the trial.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Meeks moves ahead - UPDATED

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006

Sen. James Meeks is moving further, faster than most people predicted.

A big show of support Monday for a Democratic state senator who is considering a bid for Illinois governor. James Meeks met with more than a dozen of Chicago’s African-American aldermen. The aldermen say they would support Meeks if he ran for governor as an independent.

The possibility of South Side pastor-politician James Meeks running for governor as an independent is now more than whisper. Meeks met with 14 of Chicago’s 19 black aldermen Monday morning, and the result of that meeting exposed what could become a huge crack in the Democratic party’s foundation.

“The African-American vote will not be taken for granted,” said Meeks.

Following their closed door meeting with the Reverend Senator Meeks, the aldermen and several state representatives expressed their dissatisfaction with Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich.

“We’re meeting now to see if we want to get rid of him or how we’re going to get rid of him or how soon,” said Ald. William Beavers, 7th Ward.

“He’s not delivered any goods to our community and we’re going to figure out a way to get rid of him or get a piece of the pie,” said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.

The Tribune has more complaints.

“There is a feeling amongst the group there is just not enough coming from [Gov. Blagojevich’s] office,” [Ald. Ike] Carothers said. “We’re talking about programs for job training, programs for ex-offenders, all kinds of social programs, summer jobs, that really are needed more in the African-American community than anywhere else.”

Brookins complained that after two African-American girls were killed by stray gunfire in Englewood recently, Blagojevich “showed up, made a TV cameo appearance, but there is no real commitment to helping fix that particular problem.”

“The guys who are running for these top offices can no longer discard our community,” said Ald. Ed Smith (28th). “They have to talk to us.”

And NBC-5 had a story yesterday about Meeks’ Sunday sermon. Check out the video here.

State Sen. James Meeks preached before his church congregation of thousands on Sunday that he might be considering a run for Illinois governor.

Meeks’ challenge to white voters could grow into a very big problem for Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“Come on with me white churches … Call me and tell me to run for governor,” Meeks said. “White people who believe in Jesus, call me and tell me to run for governor”

Meeks is an Illinois senator in the 15th District. He is counting on an anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage platform to appeal to conservative white Christians.

“If I do run and there are two people in the race who both are not standing for morality, if I don’t have every white Christian vote in the state of Illinois, I will stand on top of the Sears Tower and call every one of ya’ll racist,” Meeks said from his pulpit.

When asked whether he would run, Meeks said he would make the decision after the public got a chance to hear his challenge.

UPDATE: NBC5 has a new story online. No text yet, but the video is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Crossing the line, Part 9,284

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006

Once again, the governor brazenly uses taxpayer dollars to promote his re-election campaign.

Each of the state’s roughly 2,700 pharmacies would be required to post a sign with Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s name on it that details what options customers have in buying contraceptives under a proposal the governor announced Monday.

Blagojevich’s plan comes during an election year in which he is pushing health-care issues, and it follows a controversial order he put into place last year requiring pharmacies that sell contraceptives–including the morning-after pill–to dispense them without delay.

Blagojevich said this newest order, which would take effect around Labor Day, is aimed at pharmacists who have lied when telling women that contraceptives are not in stock. On Monday, the state agency that regulates pharmacies filed a formal complaint against one Downstate pharmacist, alleging that she tried to skirt the rule in January by telling a customer that the morning-after pill was not available when it was. […]

At a Monday news conference, Blagojevich presented a prototype of a sign that the state would like to see pharmacies post, which included the governor’s name at the bottom.

A spokesman for Republican Judy Baar Topinka, who will face Blagojevich in the November election, said Topinka agrees with Blagojevich’s concept. But spokesman David Loveday noted that the governor might be violating the spirit of ethics legislation intended to crack down on the use of taxpayer dollars for political purposes. “A sign with a number on it to call is one thing, but like everything he’s done, if the signs go up around Labor Day, that close to the election, that will raise a question about what the real purpose is,” Loveday said.

And before you say anything, yes, everybody does it, but this is the same guy who led the charge against using state funds to advertise incumbents.

UPDATE: And then there’s this.

State auditors are questioning nearly $500,000 paid to advertising agencies retained by the state to inform motorists about the Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction project that starts Friday, according to documents obtained by the Tribune.

The audit documents, obtained through sources at the Illinois Department of Transportation, say little or no documentation backs up thousands of dollars in taxpayer money paid by IDOT to politically connected ad firms to sponsor events such as the Bud Billiken Day Parade and Today’s Black Women Expo. The auditors questioned how those events helped educate drivers on how to steer clear of the massive $600 million highway project.

Taxpayers also paid $25,000 as reimbursement for sweat suits, polo shirts, T-shirts, pens, bracelets and key chains with no documentation that the items were ever purchased, the audit documents said.

Another $150 covered the costs for an ad agency official to attend a dinner honoring Robin Black, who had been IDOT’s chief of staff. Black, who resigned in December, signed off on many of the payments in question, auditors noted.

The public also paid former state Rep. Charles Morrow (D-Chicago) $23,566 in questionable reimbursements for insurance premiums and alleged overbillings for work at an advertising agency, auditors said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Morning shorts - UPDATED

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006

· I’m not saying that Sen. Hendon’s remarks were appropriate. They were clearly out of line and inappropriate for the state Senate. He should apologize. But I can’t help but wonder whether at least a little bit of the uproar has to do with the fact that he’s a black man and Sen. Axley is a white woman.

· Quote of the month: (Gov. Rod Blagojevich) ran the most cynical campaign I’ve ever seen and turned off more people than I’ve ever seen turned off. Here’s a guy who says there’s no campaign; he’s too busy governing to campaign. But he’s not too busy to cut 15 commercials and spend a million and a half dollars on ads. Mr. Testicular Virility could not get it up for one debate or one forum with Mr. Eisendrath. Now he’s challenging Judy Baar Topinka to 10 debates. Maybe he had his political Viagra this week. (Andy Shaw on “Chicago Tonight, the Week in Review.”)

· Blagojevich emerges from hiatus

· Trib asks, “Will the pols ground Peotone?”

· “Nearly a week after voters went to the polls, Cook County election officials Monday afternoon were poised to declare 100 percent of precincts reporting.”

· GOP officials ready to go ‘full throttle’ against Bean

· Gov wants tax credits to help vets find jobs

· FEMA still hasn’t gotten back to Springfield on what–if any–federal assistance it should expect for tornado recovery.

UPDATES:

· Proving once again that he has no sense of humor, Edwin Eisendrath didn’t like my Sun-Times column. (Scroll down.)

· Animal Farm cranks out the copy today. Good stuff.

· Leach is completely unimpressed with Topinka’s response to the seat belt thing. Make sure to read this today.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


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