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Thursday, May 25, 2006

In addition to the Stateline Illinois feed I told you about earlier today, I’ve added two more news feeds to the blog.

The CBS-2 feed is a combination of local news, video and political stories.

The Illinois Channel has a blog of sorts that posts press releases from government officials and campaigns.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Stroger sells his house

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This is really getting to be too much.

Cook County Board President John Stroger’s South Side Chicago home has been sold, real estate listings indicate.

The home on East 91st Street was put on the market April 20 at an asking price of $289,000, the records from the Multiple Listing Service indicate. Tuesday, the home was placed under contract, meaning that someone put in a bid and it was accepted. It was not known what the house sold for or when the closing will be.

Chicago Alderman Todd Stroger did not return calls for comment. After initially making his father’s doctors available for comment, Todd Stroger has declined to get specific about his father’s medical condition after his March stroke.

Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association, said the sale does not raise questions about Stroger’s residency status in regards to the presidency, but it does call into question his commissioner status, which requires him to live in his 4th District. The Chicago Tribune has reported John Stroger is now staying in a downtown condo, far outside the 4th District.

More here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Morning Shorts has always been a pain in the rear to do and then hardly anyone ever comments. So, I’m done with it. It’s over. Kaput. Finished.

Instead, after some initial difficulties getting it to work, I’m posting Stateline’s Illinois news feed on the right side of the page. They do a great job of finding all Illinois-related news items so I don’t have to.

The only way MS gets a reprieve is if you demand it in comments today. Otherwise, it’s history.

Use this Question of the Day to comment on the demise of Morning Shorts and suggest other things you’d like to see on the blog.

UPDATE: How about if I highlight the Stateline feed in a post of its own every day? Like this:

Stateline IL

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Back and forth

Thursday, May 25, 2006

So far, this story is just a he-said, she-said. It’s difficult to tell what’s really going on here, retaliation or individual corruption.

A state worker fired by the Blagojevich administration for allegedly rigging job applications complained about the number of outside contractors her agency was hiring, then weeks later found herself the subject of an investigation.

Dawn DeFraties, who was personnel director for the Department of Central Management Services, argued in a November 2004 e-mail that a review of her bureau duplicated work that was already under way by another consultant.

“Why do we have to do this again?” DeFraties asked in an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.

Her boss, Ed Wynn, responded that the work done by the other contractor - The Revere Group Ltd. - wasn’t what the department needed. He said he wanted a consultant he knew from a private-sector job to do it correctly.

But…

“Dawn didn’t want someone looking at her bureau,” DeJong said. “I don’t believe this is evidence of duplicative work; in fact, it’s not. This is evidence that Dawn had something to hide.”

Administration officials say Simmons’ work uncovered irregularities that prompted an investigation by Blagojevich’s inspector general, who found that DeFraties and Casey altered civil-service grades to favor some applicants and graded preferred applicants before others to get them hired more quickly.

Then again…

However, state documents are not clear about Simmons’ role.

Three main witnesses against DeFraties and Casey told investigators that they had either not talked to Simmons, did not discuss special treatment of some applicants with her, or took their concerns directly to Wynn.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Alderman wants $20K pay hike

Thursday, May 25, 2006

You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Aldermen would get a $20,000 pay increase spread over their next four-year term under an ordinance introduced Wednesday that is expected to start the debate over what constitutes appropriate compensation for Chicago’s City Council.

Mayor Richard Daley has not signed on to the proposal, nor have his colleagues, said Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), sponsor of the measure.

But Stone insisted that aldermen are worth the raise, which would increase salaries of council members by more than 20 percent, to about $118,000 a year in 2011.

“I think we deserve it,” asserted Stone, who was first elected in 1973. “At least I know I deserve it … I think my constituents think I am entitled to it.”

I have a feeling his constituents are thinking no such thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


You have to play to win

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Sun-Times runs a story that looks into whether the state can really get $10 billion for the lottery.

“No one will give them $10 billion,” said Kip Peterson, president of Transnational Market Development, a Georgia consulting firm that has helped start 16 lotteries worldwide.

Because the lottery only generates $500 to $600 million in profits annually, it would take nearly 20 years to earn back the initial investment, he said. “It just doesn’t make sense financially.” […]

“There seems to be a market,” said Ted Damutz, a vice president with the Chicago office of Moody’s Investor Service. “Lots of European companies are already in the market for privatizing lottery systems. But it’s hard to know about this $10 billion. They still have to work out a lot of details.”

On the other hand…

Blagojevich staffers says they’ve considered those variables and stand by their $10 billion figure, saying it’s based on the value of current earnings. The $1.8 billion Skyway lease is 60 times the value of its annual earnings. They only expect to bring in 15 times the value of the lottery’s earnings.

“We have complete confidence in our numbers,” said Becky Carroll, Blagojevich’s budget spokeswoman.

That’s a good point about the Skyway.

Meanwhile, the Sun-Times editorial page doesn’t like the idea.

This latest idea from the desk of Gov. Blagojevich is long on merit but short on a real solution for long-term funding. […]

But this funding plan would last only until 2024, and then what? Luckily for the governor, he doesn’t have to worry about that because he won’t be in office then. […]

We have to wonder, along with state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin), that if this were such a splendid program, why was it not introduced while the General Assembly was in session. “To do this now seems so overtly political and self-serving,” Rauschenberger says. “There is a lot of cynicism out there already.” Cynics are most apt to believe that after four years Blagojevich will be long gone but the lawmakers in Springfield will still be scratching their heads about how to invest in our schools, and the real losers will be our grandchildren.

And a Tribune story today begins the nit-picking that the plan will surely be bombarded with over the next few months (if it even survives that long).

Virtually every aspect of the agenda–from state takeover of failing schools to merit pay for teachers to mandated after-school tutoring–has its skeptics and detractors.

And Krol makes a point so well that I’ve had to rework my Sun-Times column.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is no stranger to calling for radical changes to education in Illinois - but he’s also frequently backed away from his plans.

In the past three years, the freshman governor has advocated doubling the number of gaming positions to generate money for schools, legalizing Keno to pay for building schools, giving parents of college students $1,000 tax credits, and getting rid of the State Board of Education. None of those proposals became reality, with Blagojevich eventually backing down on each of them.

So, it’s understandable that a day after proposing the sale of the Illinois Lottery to get $10 billion up front to give more money to schools, one question that loomed large was whether Blagojevich is serious this time.

Bernie makes the same sort of argument.

But it’s possible that the Blagojevich plan could actually work to Topinka’s advantage. If the governor’s proposal is seen by the larger electorate as merely a ploy to sidetrack Meeks and give the governor another issue on which he might not deliver, there could be a backfire factor.

After all, in 2002, Blagojevich talked a lot about a new venture capital fund to create jobs. He advertised its benefits. But he never got it through the legislature. Even this spring, the governor advertised that he was fighting for his “jobs” plan, using a dubious figure for the number of jobs he wanted to create. The legislature didn’t pass that either.

UPDATE: YDD makes some interesting points. Read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


The Stroger beat

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This seems like a reasonable demand.

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica on Wednesday demanded a photograph or tape recording to prove that County Board President John Stroger is “alive and well enough to function” after the stroke that has sidelined him for 2-1/2 months.

“With 165 days to go before the election, with the county budget looming on the horizon, with over 40 union contracts to be negotiated, numerous executive appointments to be made, we can’t wait until the end of October when Clerk David Orr has set the deadline to decide whether or not he’s going to be the candidate,” said Peraica, Stroger’s Republican challenger.

But Mayor Daley doesn’t think so.

“Everybody has illnesses in their family. Let’s not already dig their graves. I know you want to dig people’s graves. But I hope you would never do that to your own family.”

And neither does Ald. Beavers.

“There’s always a double standard when it comes to black folks and white folks. Old man [Richard J.] Daley had a stroke and was off for a year. Nobody said one word. They were even afraid to whisper that he was sick around here,” Beavers said.

That’s a good point, but that was then and this is now. There ought to be some sort of deadline on this leave of absence. And we really ought to know who is actually running Cook County in Stroger’s absence.

Meanwhile, African-American politicians are pretty divided over who should replace Stroger.

Rep. Danny Davis continues to lobby ward bosses behind the scenes in the event that Stroger decides to retire. Davis is supported by Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) and possible mayoral challengers Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez. They are determined to stop Stroger’s son, Ald. Todd Stroger (8th), from replacing his father.

And Sneed has this:

Sneed hears the Rev. James Meeks, who successfully flexed his considerable muscle recently against Gov. Blagojevich, would back Cook County Board Commissioner Bobbie Steele for board president over . . . U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.).

“I would [support Steele] if she put herself out there,” Meeks told Sneed. “I’m hoping she and Congressman Davis can work something out.”

*Hold the phone, again: Sneed hears the Rev. Jesse Jackson would also be in Steele’s corner.

“I am a great admirer of Bobbie Steele,” said Jackson. “She would make a fine board president.”

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


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