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Just a few things… *** Updated x2 ***

Monday, Apr 9, 2007

* Governor Blagojevich had heard during the statewide tour last week that y’all were giving me a bit of grief here about getting on the bus. So, at the beginning of an on the record interview he played a little practical joke on me for your benefit…

[audio:flip_off1.mp3]

[And, yes, I did flip him the bird.]

* My syndicated column this week is about the bus trip…

I was probably more surprised than anyone when I was invited to tag along on Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s road trip last week. The governor toured the state to push his universal health insurance plan and his gross receipts tax on business. I was on the bus with him for three days, and we talked for countless hours.

I had a cordial relationship with Blagojevich back when he was in the Illinois House, but that was a long time ago. Over the years, the governor granted interviews to almost every other news bureau in the Statehouse, but I was excluded. He has visited the editorial boards of every major, and quite a few minor, newspapers in the state — but I was kept away. During one press conference a few years ago, Blagojevich refused to answer any questions from me at all, so I whispered my questions to a couple of willing Chicago TV reporters who relayed them on my behalf, knowing he couldn’t ignore them.

That’s not unusual. I wasn’t given much access to George Ryan. One of Ryan’s top aides once threatened to put my political newsletter out of business. I was granted almost no access at all to Jim Edgar, and one of his former aides once helped draft a piece of legislation designed to put the company I wrote for back then out of business.

And also includes this bit…

He does seem to grasp the political dangers of the gross receipts tax. He admitted he knew that his proposed $7 billion tax hike could make him another Richard Ogilvie, the Illinois governor who was ousted in the 1972 election after imposing a brand new income tax. Blagojevich said he was willing to “wear the jacket” and take all the blame for his tax increase.

If Blagojevich’s approval rating was higher, that would be a much easier task. Legislators could simply hide behind his political skirts. But since his ratings are so low, particularly downstate, he can’t provide legislators much, if any, cover. He may be willing to lose his job over this tax hike, but most of them aren’t.

* And the Tribune’s John McCarron has a thumb-sucker today about how Pat Quinn ought to negotiate a tax hike compromise…

So who is going to step up and unravel this mess? Not any of the obvious candidates. The governor appears satisfied to star in his own road show, indifferent to whether anything actually gets accomplished. Speaker Madigan is a master poker player, but that doesn’t help when the other players are dealing their own games. President Jones, unlike Madigan, at least communicates with the governor, but his veto-proof Senate majority exists mainly on paper. When the heat gets turned up for a tax increase, his Senate soldiers from swing districts likely will run for cover.

That leaves Quinn, who as the “lite” governor, has no votes or vetoes, but whose populist credentials are unassailable. He just might relish the role of peacemaker as he burnishes his record for a possible run at the governorship in 2010. Like former President Richard Nixon going to China, Quinn might be able to convince business Republicans that they do, indeed, need to pay a bit more. Not the $7 billion sought by the governor’s mega-gross receipts tax plan, but maybe half that.

Quinn has no vote, no veto and, therefore, no seat at the table. The legislative leaders and the governor won’t let him into the back room. And it’s wishful thinking, to say the least, that the business groups will somehow try to work through him.

Knowing Madigan and Jones as I do, I seriously doubt they’ll listen to him. And after spending a few days with Blagojevich last week, I can tell you that he’s in no mood to bring Quinn in, either.

Anything can happen, of course, but Pat Quinn negotiating the final tax deal is probably not something you should bet your house on.

*** UPDATE *** Completely off-topic, but I’m trying to avoid work, so I’m putting it here. Ald. Joe Moore has a new TV ad that takes some big whacks at his opponent Don Gordon.


*** UPDATE 2 *** LOL!!! Rod-Zilla…


- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


READER COMMENTS CLOSED FOR A WHILE

Friday, Apr 6, 2007

I learned one thing about myself this week while on the governor’s bus tour. I could never, ever be a member of the traveling campaign press corps for any length of time. I love to travel, but weeks on-end hitting town after town every couple of hours or so, stuck in a candidate’s bubble and listening to the same speech over and over again is just not my cup of tea. I’m beat, man. Beat.

I have a funny little post planned for Monday, and I’ll post my Sun-Times column on Friday, but other than that my intern Paul and I are taking next week off - unless Paul decides to continue posting on his own. His choice.

The General Assembly’s not in session so I’m gonna work on my yard or something. Have a good one and I’ll see you on the other side.

Unless Paul steps in, Illinoize is in charge. The news feeds will still be up and running, of course, but if you want to comment, head over there

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Another possible “vote-buying” episode?

Friday, Apr 6, 2007

* A story about an alleged “vote-buying” scheme in the 43rd Ward has been picking up steam

Beers for votes — that’s the charge Ald. Vi Daley is leveling against challenger Michele Smith in the race for the tony 43rd Ward.

A flier circulated by Smith’s campaign for a party last Saturday at a West Armitage tavern advertised a $5 drink special for attendees holding early voting receipts.

That constitutes vote-buying, a felony, said Daley, who has filed a complaint with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Not so fast, said Smith, a former federal prosecutor. While she admits it was a screw-up on the part of a well-intentioned young staffer, she insists she caught the mistake before anything illegal happened. The party went on, but no one was asked to show their voting stubs to buy drinks, she said.

Not exactly the worst dirty trick ever, but whatever floats your campaign’s boat, I suppose.

* But now, Chicagoist has found a similar scheme in the 21st Ward…

But the most important business leader to help Howard Brookins so far is Phil Douglas, franchisee of two McDonald’s locations in the 21st Ward (even though his business offices are located 1951 Bernice Rd, in Lansing).

He is generously offering free hotcakes to people that bring in early voting receipts (along with a flier making the rounds in the 21st Ward).

According to the person who spoke with us at the campaign headquarters (who refused to give a name) this is a “campaign contribution” from a business leader in the community who supports Brookins. Calls to the business office went unreturned.

That might be problemmatic. Here’s the flier [click to see a larger image]…

pancakes_for_votes.jpg

* Meanwhile, Alderman Brookins has a new mailer claiming that “union bosses” are “trying to buy the 21st Ward aldermanic election.”

The Brookins mailer includes photos of the homes of Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon, and SEIU honcho Tom Balanoff. Click the pics…

brookins_attack1.jpg brookins_attack2.jpg brookins_attack3.jpg brookins_attack4.jpg

* I’ll bet the house owned by Brookins’ megabucks contributor is much nicer than either of those guys’ abodes. [Thanks to a commenter for making the connection.]

* Switching now to the 32nd Ward, Fox Chicago had a piece this week about the ever-increasing nastiness in that race…

There’s a new campaign controversy in Chicago’s 32nd Ward which features a run-off election between Alderman Ted Matlak and newcomer Scott Waguespack. The challenger is crying foul after Matlak’s campaign website got linked to his official aldermanic page on the City of Chicago website.

* A follow-up story is here.

* Ald. Matlak sent out a recent mailer slamming Waguespack for making it appear as if he is a lawyer when, according to the mailer Waguespack “failed the Illinois Bar exam”…

matlak_attack.jpg

* Waguespack responds…

waguespack_back1.jpg waguespack_back2.jpg

* More local stories…

* Meet the international investor behind council candidates [12th, 16th and 21st Wards]

* Schakowsky endorses Dolar over Stone [50th Ward]

* Bananas for Gordon [49th Ward]

* A true champion [49th Ward]

* Crosscurrents [49th Ward]

* And, finally, we have the Carbondale mayor’s race, where the Southern Illinoisan had a story today about Mayor Brad Cole complaining that Sheila Simon is being endorsed by major players like US Sen. Dick Durbin.

“When you’re a small-town mayor and you have the number two United States senator coming at you, it tells me there is either more at play here or some people are nervous,” Cole said. “And they are not talking about a record; they are talking about politics, partisan politics.”

Nowhere in the story, however, was any mention of Cole’s campaign contributions from major Illinois GOP players, including $6,000 from the Illinois Republican Party. Democratic blogger ArchPundit has that angle.

Simon is running a grassroots campaign against the leaders of the Illinois Republican Party–that Dick Durbin sent out a nice message for her for low dollar donations is hardly a big deal compared to what Cole is bringing in. That the Southern didn’t bother to point out this difference while giving Cole the time to make those charges is ludicrous.

Find Cole’s full financial disclosure reports here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


GRT roundup *** Updated x4 ***

Friday, Apr 6, 2007

* This press release was issued yesterday by Rev. Jesse Jackson…

Rev. Jackson, black and Latino business leaders respond to Gov. Blagojevich’s gross receipts tax plan

WHO: Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, members of the Rainbow PUSH International Trade Bureau, as well as members of the Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs (ABLE)

WHAT: Press conference

WHERE: Rainbow PUSH Coalition Headquarters
930 East 50th Street
Chicago, IL 60615

WHEN: 12 noon on Friday, April 6, 2007

WHY: Rev. Jackson and business leaders will respond to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s gross receipts tax plan which will create a hardship for small business owners, of particular concern since many of the state’s small business owners are minorities.

Blagojevich and Jackson had a bit of a dustup earlier this week. Jackson privately pledged his support for the GRT and then flip-flopped (according to the governor), leading Gov. Blagojevich to claim that Jackson was listening to his “contributors.”

I’ll update this later if I get a report from the presser.

* The business groups opposed to the GRT have a new radio ad. Click to listen…

[audio:grosstax.mp3]

* And this makes no sense at all…

Champaign County Chamber of Commerce President Laura Weis heard Gov. Rod Blagojevich was in town Thursday, but she didn’t get a chance to challenge him in person about his gross receipts tax plan that is so reviled by Illinois businesses.

“I wasn’t invited,” Weis said after Blagojevich sandwiched an unplanned visit to Christie Clinic in Champaign late Thursday afternoon between planned bus tour stops in Decatur and Danville.

Weis said the governor’s office had attempted to line up Champaign County businesses to meet with him when the bus tour was being planned, but there weren’t any takers.

If Weis knew that Blagojevich was trying to line up a meeting, why didn’t she take him up on it? And then she whines that she didn’t get a chance to challenge him in person? I don’t get it.

[Hat tip: IlliniPundit]

* The Illinois Press Association continues its crusade against the GRT. Earlier this week, the IPA set up a teleconference for reporters throughout the state that featured the Illinois Chamber’s Doug Whitley and Tom Johnson of the Taxpayers’ Federation…

“Make no mistake about it, it’s a huge tax increase, and it’s all about increasing state spending by a magnitude we’ve never seen,” Whitley said.

Whitley and Johnson argued that the tax will have a pyramid effect, will be unfair toward companies with smaller profit margins and will represent an unconstitutional tax on the press.

“All employers will feel the effect of a gross receipts tax,” Whitley said.

Not a single counter-argument was included in the article.

* The Southern Illinoisan also reported on the IPA teleconference, without ever mentioning that the Illinois Press Association sponsored the program.

The story also included a critical sidebar that was lifted directly from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, but the paper never mentioned that the CTBA is proposing an alternative tax hike and is on record opposing the GRT.

* And the owner of the Hancock-Henderson Quill included this comment from an IPA official this week about the publisher group’s opposition to the gross receipts tax…

“We are making this our top priority.”

* One of the best speakers during the governor’s bus tour this week was Rockford small business owner Duntai Mathews. The tour stopped at his small manufacturing plant. Nobody expected him to do as well as he did, but, like I said he was one of the main highlights of the entire trip…

[audio:rockfordSPEAKER.mp3]

*** UPDATE *** According to a friend who was there, Jackson said Blagojevich budget chief John Filan agreed to consider some things that Jackson wanted, including possibly launching a campaign to change the Constitution to allow a graduated income tax.

Jackson reportedly ripped into criticized (but not as harshly as expected) the GRT, claiming it would put black companies like WVON radio out of business. He stayed away from any personal jabs at the guv, however.

*** UPDATE 2 *** From the AP

Reverend Jesse Jackson says Governor Rod Blagojevich’s proposed new business tax will put small companies out of business.

Jackson said at a news conference with business leaders today that he wants to work with the Blagojevich administration to devise a better way to come up with money to fund the governor’s education and health care programs and offer property tax relief.

The civil rights leader says he can’t support the governor’s “gross receipts tax” plan in its current form.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Check out this graphic at the very top of the Illinois Press Association’s home page. Talk about going all-out. Click to see actual size…

ipa_grt.jpg

*** UPDATE 4 *** From Crain’s

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Friday renewed his attack on Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s proposed $7.6 billion tax on corporate gross receipts and said the governor has agreed to consider changes in the plan.

But the governor’s office immediately shot down any hint of a compromise, promising only to “continue to listen to everyone’s ideas and concerns.”

Mr. Jackson’s comments came at a midday press conference at which the civil-rights leader charged that numerous emerging small businesses, many of them owned by African-Americans, would go bankrupt if lawmakers approve the governor’s proposal for a flat tax of 0.85% on manufacturers and 1.95% on service providers.

“With a flat tax, small business will be flattened,” Mr. Jackson declared to nods from about a dozen black business leaders who also attended the pres conferences. “What looks even is not even. The flat tax eliminates a significant body of small businesses.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Question of the Day

Friday, Apr 6, 2007

The setup

A 19-foot cedar cross commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ will stand in the heart of the city’s downtown starting on Good Friday, just months after city officials said they didn’t want to offend non-Christians at a holiday fair held in the same location.

City officials approved a permit Wednesday for the cross, which will remain in Daley Plaza for a sunrise prayer service on Easter Sunday.

One side of the issue:

“The idea we want to get across is that Daley Plaza is a public forum where people can express ideas, and if they can do that for political ideas, they should be able to do it for religion, too,” Brejcha said. “People are free to speak and express their faith.”

The other side:

“We separate church and state in this country for good reason, and to me this crosses the line,” said Emily Soloff, executive director of the American Jewish Committee’s Chicago chapter.

Question: What should the city’s stance be on this and similar delicate issues?

Please, Please, Please try to keep the comments civil and logic-based. The discussion is worthless if both sides devolve into passion-filled rants without substance.

Besides, there is no reason to get angry, it’s Friday.

- Posted by Paul Richardson   49 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Friday, Apr 6, 2007

* Blagojevich ends road trip, assails those who don’t back business tax

* Governor makes his rounds in Southern Illinois

* Blago appeals for healthcare in Decatur

* Senate should eject ‘certificate’ for illegal drivers

* Governor responds to Ameren questions

* Opinion: We need answers on electric rates

* Judge: Casino contributions to horse racing unconstitutional; more here

* Kadner: Law aims to end monopoly of cable TV companies

Well, what’s at stake is municipal control over the cable market, the cable industry’s monopoly and millions of dollars in new revenue for telecommunications giants such as AT&T and Verizon.

* Ax falls on anti-bullying funds

* Sun-Times Editorial: Past time to get transit funding rolling

* County ending long term care services at Oak Forest Hospital

* Editorial: Madigan ‘very interested’ in I-57/294 interchange; lets get it done

* Sex offender was election judge at elementary schools; 9 others found

* City official caught in bribe then helps FBI with probe

* Dick Simpson Citizens need to get involved in transformation of Chicago

We deserve a just, livable, democratic city. Instead we have an autocratic city without an accepted plan for metropolitan regional development, an antiquated county government, too many unincorporated areas, unchecked police brutality, a public transportation system in shambles, a school system with too many drop-outs, destruction of public housing with too little affordable housing, and a rubber stamp city council.

* County Board has to clean up their own garbage

* Sun-Times Editorial: County clout survives as workers lose jobs

* Chicago Clerk: Watch for fraud, absentee voters

* Mayor hopefuls give forum some spark in West Chicago

* YouTube attack as takes aim at 32nd ward alderman

* 3rd ward boasts rich African American history

* Alcohol-fueled debate in 16th ward

* WBBM audio clip on the emerging ‘vote buying’ accusations in the 43rd ward

[audio:bbm2.mp3]

* Friday Beer Blogging: Animal Edition

- Posted by Paul Richardson   18 Comments      


Off the bus

Thursday, Apr 5, 2007

I elected to stay with my brother last night instead of continuing with the Blagojevich bus tour. Three days in Vegas? Time to go. Three days in New Orleans? Time to go. Three days on a bus with Gov. Blagojevich? Gotta run.

They’re somewhere around Danville right now, I’m heading home soon.

Perspective is all-important with any sort of analysis, so learning some of the governor’s private perspective on people, events, etc. will only be helpful in the days, months and years to come as I write about the Statehouse scene. I’ve spent a lot of private time with other leaders - legislative and otherwise - but governors usually build a wall around themselves. I gotta hand it to the guv for taking the chance of allowing me into that circle.

A couple of funny stories…

* After the raucus event in Quincy, I decided I needed some alone time, so I went to the hotel desk and asked directions to a tavern that, legend has it, was an Al Capone hangout during Prohibition (the locals say Capone had a house in Quincy back when it was a wide-open town).

While the clerk was helping me out, a guy came up and said he had seen the tour bus outside and wondered whether the governor was staying at the hotel. Because of the earlier trouble at the event, the clerk only hesitantly admitted that the guv was, indeed, at the hotel.

“Can you get a letter to him for me?” the man asked.

The clerk said she’d try, but couldn’t guarantee anything. So I told the man I’d deliver it for him.

The man looked me up and down and asked, “Are you the bus driver?”

I really need a haircut.

* Last night, the governor’s staff knew that my brother was meeting us at 17th Street BBQ for dinner. After we arrived at the famous restaurant, I was sitting at the bar with my brother and a couple of staff members. I introduced my brother to some, but not all, of the staffers.

In walked a rather strange-looking man carrying a stuffed skunk. He proceeded to introduce himself to the governor and I turned back to my beer.

A bit later, the governor said, “Hey, Rich, come here. This guy supports the GRT!”

As we left the bar to go order dinner, one of the staff members who had been sitting with us asked, “Rich, was that guy with the skunk your brother?”

I should probably get my beard trimmed as well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Question of the Day

Thursday, Apr 5, 2007

Tensions seem to have been running a bit high this week. Most people are unhappy about one thing or another, perhaps for good reason.

But unlimited pessimism is never the best route.

No matter what, there has to be something that we are fortunate to have here in the Land of Lincoln. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still be here.

So how about a little mid-year Thanksgiving dinner table discussion…

Question: As a resident of the state of Illinois, what are you most thankful for?

- Posted by Paul Richardson   80 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Thursday, Apr 5, 2007

* Governor’s business tax defended as a way to cope with state debt:

In a conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, John Filan said debt is the second highest in the country, and the governor’s proposed gross receipts tax would bring in $7 billion a year in new tax revenue.

* Roskam blasts governor’s tax plan

* Ameren customers to Governor: Where’s the relief?

“My opinion of the governor’s leadership is that he has just ignored the massive hue and cry, particularly from southern Illinois, about this crisis,” Landon said in advance of the Democratic governor’s scheduled visit here Wednesday to stump for $8.6 billion in proposed business taxes.

* Blagojevich gets heat about electric rates

* Quinn pushes electric rate action

* Editorial: Camera van good tool to catch work-zone speeders

* Lt. Governor says Blagojevich should focus on electric rates

* Editorial: $2 toll on I-355 extension is too steep

The toll authority was considering a toll as high as $5, according to state Rep. Brent Hassert (R-Romeoville), but settled for $2. Gee, thanks. The fact is, the per-mile rate on I-355 is twice as much as it is on the Tri-State Tollway.

* Editorial: Thumbs up to licensing illegals

* Sun-Times Editorial: Student loan savings plan should yield interest

* Court: Gaming board had right to revoke Emerald Casino license

* More govs boost stem cell research

* State repays cash in sales tax goof

* Daley: CTA’s plight not on state’s radar screen

Daley said the Legislature “needs to reform the 1983 RTA Act to address present day realities.” But he’s not optimistic with the governor’s health care plan and gross receipts tax on the agenda.

* Lynn Sweet: Union leader, mayor could benefit from joining forces

* Sun-Times Editorial: Limit union contributions in elections

* Wal-Mart helping aldermen

* 32nd ward race all about change

* Dispute over big election signs

* Duo square off for Pekin mayor

- Posted by Paul Richardson   16 Comments      


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