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This just in… Versace campaign shakeup *** CFL announces endorsements *** Guv raids wrong funds *** Daley gives thumbs up to “deal,” says gaming can wait ***

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* 10:25 am - From what I gather this morning, Versace didn’t have a replacement lined up when Pearson left, so this is a bit odd

Congressional candidate Dick Versace and his campaign manager parted ways Monday.

The decision was mutual and amicable, Versace said. His former campaign manager, Alex Pearson, said he’s worked on numerous campaigns on the local, state and federal level, but declined to officially elaborate on his reasons for the abrupt departure.

* 10:44 am - If I were you, I’d watch CBS 2 tonight tomorrow night (long weekend and Wednesday session start has messed up my time awareness). That is all.

*** UPDATE *** Here’s a teaser. Watch the full report Wednesday at 10 pm.

* 10:48 am - Wyoming is now backing Illinois’ FutureGen bid

Gov. Dave Freudenthal has endorsed Illinois’ bid for a project that aims to refine coal gasification and other “clean” technologies for coal.

Freudenthal indicated his support for Illinois on the FutureGen project because officials there have agreed to share research and other information regarding clean coal technologies.

The administration appears to be doing a pretty good job at lining up support from other states. Rare show of competence?

* 10:54 am - From a press release

Lawyers for Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, will appear before a three-Judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals this morning at 9 a.m. to urge that a lower court ruling that Illinois begin producing “Choose Life” specialty license plates be overturned. The argument will take place in the appellate courtroom on the 27th floor of the Dirksen Federal Building at 219 South Dearborn Street – the corner of Adams and Dearborn Streets – in downtown Chicago. Each side will argue for twenty minutes before three appellate Judges, whose identities are never disclosed until the morning of the oral argument.

* 11:55 am - The Chicago Federation of Labor released its endorsement list today. I didn’t include the judge list, but Anne Burke was endorsed for Supreme Court. Dean T. Maragos, Kathleen Therese Meany and Cynthia Santos (the wife of Rep. Rich Bradley) got the nod for MWRD. Joe Berrios and Larry Rogers, Jr. were endorsed for the Board of Review.

The CFL endorsed Tom Allen for State’s Attorney, “because of his long record of fighting on behalf of working families as a Public Defender, attorney in private practice, and member of the Chicago City Council where he has served since 1993.”

Here are the rest…

* Dorothy Brown - Clerk of the Circuit Court
* Eugene “Gene” Moore - Cook County Recorder of Deeds

* Bob Fioretti – 2nd Ward Committeeman
* Pat Dowell – 3rd Ward Committeeman
* Sandi Jackson – 7th Ward Committeeman
* Toni L. Foulkes – 15th Ward Committeeman
* JoAnn Thompson – 16th Ward Committeeman
* Willie B. Cochran – 20th Ward Committeeman
* Sharon Denise Dixon – 24th Ward Committeeman
* John A. Fritchey – 32nd Ward Committeeman
* John Corrigan – 42nd Ward Committeeman
* Patrick J. Levar – 45th Ward Committeeman

*** 1:37 pm *** I heard the AP folks were working on this yesterday. Apparently, the governor is taking money from at least two different bond series than he said he would…

State records show that Governor Rod Blagojevich propped up Chicago mass transit systems with money intended for other purposes.

The Chicago Transit Authority and its suburban counterpart were about to run out of money earlier this month when Blagojevich gave them $27 million while lawmakers try to reach a permanent solution.

Aides at the time said the grant was coming from money set aside for railroad and rapid transit systems. But Blagojevich took $22 million from money reserved for bricks-and-mortar construction, highways and energy projects.

The story goes on to say that the governor’s office won’t respond to inquiries about the apparently illegal skim. Huh. Imagine that.

What he’s done here is raided cash from bond funds that have nothing to do with public transportation. This won’t exactly help his cause with Downstate legislators who are already worried about the prospect of using GRF money for his proposed transit bailout.

*** UPDATE *** The AP has added to its original brief…

The $27 million technically is from a bond fund set up for mass transit and aviation projects. But only $4.6 million was in that account to start.

The day he announced the stopgap, Blagojevich transferred $10.2 million in bond money reserved for coal development and alternative energy projects, $7.4 million for highway construction and $4.8 million for general building projects.

*** 1:51 pm *** Daley’s endorsement of the transit “deal” means more pressure will now be exerted on Gov. Blagojevich to release his five House Democratic votes tomorrow, and on Senate President Emil Jones, who is facing stiff opposition in his caucus to doing any transit deal before a capital bill is finalized…

Following Madigan’s lead, [Mayor] Daley today endorsed a plan by Gov. Blagojevich and Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) to redirect at least $385 million a year in state sales taxes on fuel to mass transit. The mayor said he’s optimistic the plan will pass both legislative houses at Wednesday’s special session.

Hizzoner also appeared to back Speaker Madigan’s refusal to hurry up a deal on the gaming bill, which will provide cash for the capital plan…

But, the mayor said a casino deal that has eluded the General Assembly for more than a decade cannot be pulled together during a special session.

“It’s very complicated - especially when you go into the casino issue. It’s very, very complicated,” he said.

* 2:48 pm - Funny, touching tribute to the late John Drury [Another one is here]…

- Posted by Rich Miller   61 Comments      

Question of the day - Marriage

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* Stephanie Coontz, the author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage,” penned this interesting and eye-opening Op-Ed in the New York Times the other day….

Why do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married. […]

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely ruled that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage. By the later part of that century, however, the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and exert more control over who was allowed to marry.

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.

And her conclusion…

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship.

* Question: Do you agree with this reasoning? Explain. And try to stay civil. Thanks.

[Hat tip:]

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

Our broken national media

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* This item in a Boston Globe story tells us a lot about trusting the national media’s polls in Iowa…

In making [caucus turnout] projections, campaigns rely above all on their “hard count,” a tally of voters who have pledged to support them, and a list of previous caucusgoers made available for sale by the state party.

But no media organization is believed to have purchased such a list, so instead of knowing who has participated in past caucuses - considered the best indicator of turnout - pollsters are random-dialing households and asking voters whether they have voted before and how interested they are in the current race.

Iowa’s goofy process is drastically different than a traditional primary. You have to go to a neighbor’s house and openly declare your support for a candidate. So you’d think the media’s polling methods would be different. They’re not. Oops.

Thoughts on the race so far?

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

Transit roundup

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* I looked through today’s mass transit “deal” stories to find a different angle than we used yesterday, and figured this was as good a place to lead off our coverage as any…

As a high school choir sang “Winter Wonderland” at a tree-lighting ceremony at the Thompson Center Monday, a group of activists tried to drown them out, chanting “Tree lights out, bus lights on!”

The 10 ministers and wheelchair-bound CTA riders crashed the tree lighting, hosted by first lady Patti Blagojevich, to demand action in Springfield on the CTA funding shortfall. […]

“We’re here to tell elected officials enough is enough,” said Roosevelt Watkins, pastor at Bethlehem Star Church and a member of Pastors United for Change. “How can we sing Christmas carols when we know 2,400 people will lose their jobs?”

I don’t know much about that group, but it is a bit different. Rev. Watkins hosted a forum for Hillary Clinton in May, for instance, which allowed her to claim African-American support in Barack Obama’s home turf.

* Anyway, back to transit. Like I said, there’s not much “new” here if you were on the blog yesterday afternoon. Gatehouse

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan now supports a mass transit funding plan backed by House Republicans and Gov. Rod Blagojevich — but the Chicago Democrat’s change of heart still may not be enough to get the transit bailout put into law.

Downstate Senate Democrats reiterated Monday that they will not support any mass transit plan until the General Assembly also approves a public works construction bill.

* Sun-Times

While Madigan now appears more in lockstep with Blagojevich and other legislative leaders about transit funding, his letter was silent about how to backfill the $385 million budget hole that redirecting gas-tax dollars to the RTA would leave. That’s among a host of issues that could derail the transit-bailout train in Springfield.

Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, said the speaker intends to work with Blagojevich to fill the gas-tax hole by ending corporate tax breaks.

Other lawmakers have suggested that new forms of gambling — including a Chicago casino, additional casinos outside Chicago and slot machines at horse tracks — could plug that gap and also fund a multibillion-dollar state construction program for roads, schools and other projects.

David Dring, a top Cross aide, was cautiously optimistic about Madigan’s new stance but stressed the construction program still has to be part of the overall transit-funding equation.

* Bethany Jaeger adds to this…

As far as plugging the hole in the state’s general fund, Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, mentioned the governor’s proposal to end some corporate tax breaks. “The speaker has been supportive of closing corporate loopholes in the past,” Brown said. “I suspect it’ll be something that will be addressed down the road. I don’t envision that being addressed this week.” He said the state Constitution limits the legislature to discussing a specific topic designated by the special session.

* Tribune

RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman said it was too soon to tell if Madigan’s move is a breakthrough.

* Mark Brown had an interesting take today

If the House can approve the transit funding proposal Wednesday, when Blagojevich has called the Legislature into special session, that will put the onus on the Senate, where leaders of both parties have indicated a transit measure will go nowhere without the accompanying construction program.

If all they’re worried about is who should take the blame, that’s easy.

Blame Mayor Daley. It really is mostly his fault that it’s come to this point, which probably hasn’t been emphasized enough.

He’s the one who continued to milk the agency for its political patronage benefits while failing to grasp the depth of its problems or at least to treat them with the proper urgency until the system came to the brink of collapse. It’s his crisis more than theirs.

Blame Daley and move on.

Daley has effectively skirted blame in this mess, so Brown is right that some fingers ought to start pointing at hizzoner.

* Sen. Dale Righter puts his own spin on the situation…

What is the solution? First, the service reductions and fare increases that transit officials have warned us about should be implemented — they would be far from the catastrophe that the “doomsday” rhetoric has led some to believe. In fact, they consist of entirely reasonable and necessary fare increases of approximately 10%, and elimination of duplicative routes. After that is achieved, the systems’ compensation and oversight structures must change — they have become bloated and ineffective, as demonstrated by last year’s fire and the resulting NTBS findings. Then, and only after then, should there be a serious discussion of additional funding.

* But the CTA Tattler counters some of that logic…

[GOP Rep. Sandy Cole of Grayslake] makes this spurious argument in favor of a fare increase:

“”Between 2001 and 2006, the price of gasoline has increased 68 percent, but CTA cash fares have only increased 15 percent. It is fair to expect riders to pay for increased fares, just like motorists have to pay more for gasoline.”

Carfree Chicago has a good retort to that argument in comments on a post about the subject at Illinois Transportation Issues:

“Why should transit riders be punished for using an efficient form of transportation not affected as much by the shifts in the price of gasoline? Trains don’t run on gasoline. It justs sounds like pure whining — we have to pay more so you should too!”

I’d like the Republicans to fully show their cards on what that fare increase should look like.


- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

Morning shorts

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

* Change of Subject: Song parody contest calls for entries. Plus, review of entries so far

* Daily Herald’s in-depth look at Illinois education:


* Lawsuit stirs debate over program that some say leads to ‘academic bankruptcy’

But legislatures are starting to get involved — at least at the public school level — because of financial issues, Nassirian said. The more times a student can withdraw from a class or get grades forgiven, it “may induce existing students to sort of hang around” as perpetual students, he said.

That means the state is paying more for a frequent-repeater student’s education than someone who goes straight through. Meanwhile, eligible students trying to enroll can’t get in because the seats are full.

“So it becomes a kind of subsidy issue,” Nassirian said.

In Texas, the legislature recently voted to limit students to six withdrawals during a student’s career, Nassirian said.

* Kadner: A primary election on Christmas Day?

The oddity was first noticed by my SouthtownStar colleague, John Hector, who was glancing at the State of Illinois Candidates Guide for 2008 when a date jumped out at him.

Under a category labeled “Annual Municipal Election,” there was a subsection marked “Municipal Primary (if required) … Dec. 25, 2007.

“As far as I know, no one else in the state has noticed that,” said an official at the state elections board. “And I mean every candidate in Illinois looks at that thing. How the heck did you spot it?”

* Deadline changed for write-in filing in Will Co.

* New Politics Institute: Social networking as 2007 campaign tool

By leveraging “friend” connections and using virtual “word-of-mouth” marketing, these social sites offer an opportunity to break through the media cacophony. On sites like Facebook, trusted people spread political messages in a way only dreamed of in the age of mass media.

Social technology assists politicos and advocacy organizations in five key areas – branding, voter registration, fundraising, volunteering, and voter turnout.

* Bridget in the 6th: Even Tony Peraica gets it

I’m not a big fan of Tony Peraica, but I have to say that I am impressed that he had the cajones to do his own damn petition challenge against the other Republican running for Cook County States Attorney.

* Tribune Editorial: Getting through to the Stroger 9

First, this is the holiday season, when local governments often get away with unpopular outrages because some citizens are too busy to protest loudly.

Second, Stroger knows that — unless pressure from voters changes one or two minds — soon — he probably can pass big tax increases. Nine of the 17 County Board members have told the Tribune in recent weeks that they think Stroger’s government needs more revenue from taxes.

* Lack of support may postpone vote on Stroger’s $888 million tax plan

* Clout Street: Vote on Stroger tax hike plan may be delayed

* Editorial: State auditor should dig out duplication

Auditor General William Holland found out there is no master list of programs operated by state agencies.

Holland sought such a list at the request of the Legislative Audit Commission, which wanted to see whether services were being duplicated by more than one agency or program. But before Holland could get to that stage, he had to ask each agency for a list of their programs; there was no master list.

His request turned up about 1,750 programs - and Holland suspects the list is incomplete.

* Lawmakers in Illinois hear about nursing home buyout; more here

A panel of Illinois lawmakers on Monday was urged to scrutinize closely the pending sale of 31 Illinois nursing homes to a private-equity firm.

The hearing of the state’s House Committee on Aging centered on Washington, D.C.-based Carlyle Group’s $6.3-billion leveraged buyout of Toledo, Ohio-based Manor Care Inc. Manor Care operates more than 500 nursing homes and other facilities nationally, including 31 Illinois facilities that care for a total of 3,500 residents.

* Hastert resignation now official- gives Gov just enough time to schedule primary on Feb. 5th; more here and here

* GOP leaders, contenders laud Hastert’s hard work

* Wurfwhile: 14-CD candidate burns TV ad seems stiff, won’t get job done

* PrairieStateBlue: Roundup of Congressional race in IL-03

* Open Minds blog: Green party congressional candidate posts youtube videos

* Jackson says ‘unscrupulous lenders targeting minorities’

* Black Sox archives suddenly surfaces- another reminder why we all should support the North Siders :-)

- Posted by Paul Richardson   14 Comments      

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Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007

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* How Jason Van Dyke's projected 96-year sentence wound up being 81 months
* Pritzker campaign official pushes back hard against latest lawsuit
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Question of the day
* Pritzker orders "comprehensive review" of problems, opportunities at state veterans' homes
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - This just in...
* It's just a bill
* "Trooper's trooper" laid to rest
* RNUG: Vallas' plan "appears to make Chicago's pension problem manageable"
* Because... Chicago!
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Update to this morning's edition
* What's up with this lawsuit threat?
* It's Time To Put Our Progressive Values Into Action
* Money isn't yet flowing toward Burke's challengers
* Lock up your guns and vaccinate your kids!
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