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Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Enter your password to view comments      


This just in…

Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

* 12:10 pm - AFSCME invokes contract mediation. Via press release, AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer…

“On Monday, thousands of state employees rallied at the capitol. They made clear that they can’t afford the drastic increases in health care costs the governor is trying to force on them.

“After the rally we were able to make some progress at the bargaining table. […]

“Even so, the differences between the parties are still very substantial. The governor’s representatives are still pushing proposals that would make health care unaffordable for many state employees and their families.

“As a result, AFSCME has invoked its right under labor law to request the participation of a mediator, and the parties have agreed to extend the current contract that was set to expire June 30. The existing contract will remain in place through the first mediation session.”

The next step is the union and the governor’s office have to agree on the specific mediator. A union spokesperson said he was confident that will be accomplished.

* 12:57 pm - Maybe Gov. Blagojevich and Jim Thompson could scheme to buy this for the state instead of that dilapidated old Tribune ballpark…

Tribune Tower is in play.

Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell told staff today the company is in discussions with “a number of real estate firms” to determine how to generate the most value from the neo-Gothic Michigan Avenue home of the flagship Chicago Tribune, an iconic bookend of the city’s Magnificent Mile.

Statehouse North?

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

* The setup

Bill Daley is apparently looking to scratch his life-long political itch. He’s sounding out Democrats and big-time fundraisers about the 2010 race, as first disclosed by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rich Miller in his “Capitol Fax” newsletter.

“It’s something he’s seriously considering,” said a source familiar with the discussions. Bill Daley bowed out in 2002 because, “His kids didn’t want him to do it. They’re more supportive now,” the source said.

The political landscape has changed a lot, too, since 2002. Federal investigators are swarming all over the Blagojevich administration; the governor’s former fund-raiser Tony Rezko is a convicted felon, and Mell now is estranged from his son-in-law.

Mayor Daley and Blagojevich have spent the last six years clashing over everything from education and CTA funding to casino gambling and business taxes.

I’ve talked to Daley twice in the past week, and I’m willing to take him at his word when he repeatedly insists that he has zero interest in the US Senate or any other position. This is, he says, the only job he’s looking at - a capstone to a long political and business career.

* The question: What do you think the odds are that Bill Daley actually runs for governor?

* Bonus question: Can he win?

Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   70 Comments      


Does he have the guts to make the cuts? *** UPDATED x1 ***

Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

*** UPDATE *** Right on cue, here come the “protesters“…

A state coalition of churches, community-based organizations, and social service groups marched outside the Thompson Center Wednesday morning in a protest over the state budget stalemate.

The group calling itself the Illinois Legislative Voter Coalition is urging lawmakers to pass a state budget.

According to the AP, the protest was organized by Reverend Walter Turner. The AP should use the Google. Turner delivered the Invocation at Gov. Blagojevich’s second inauguration.

In other words, this looks like a classic case of Astroturfing.

************************************

* Today’s Tribune editorial has an excellent roundup of the current budget mess

Blagojevich doesn’t want to cut $2 billion, of course. He wants the legislature to pass some Band-Aid revenue measures to pay for most of the $29.7 billion in spending they approved without fully funding. A $16 billion pension bond issue would shore up state retirement funds and let them divert $400 million to help balance the budget. A $33 billion public works bill would cut loose $600 million. He also wants to skim about $530 million from several restricted funds.

In other words, a lot more gimmickry to get through another year.

Blagojevich’s alternatives have loads of problems. He wants the legislature to pass a massive gambling bill—read: three more casinos—that he’s hardly made an effort to explain to voters. He wants to borrow billions for pensions—but won’t do anything to curb pension costs. […]

Blagojevich is betting Madigan will find those cuts unacceptable. We’re betting Madigan won’t. The best way to find out is to stop playing blame games and use the veto pen to cut the budget.

If it turns out lawmakers are serious about living within their means, so be it. If they don’t like the cuts, they can figure out how to restore them. But they can’t get started if everything’s on hold till July 9. No more news conferences, Governor. Do your job.

That last graf has the salient point. He hasn’t made the cuts yet. Right now, all we have is a press release and a bunch of threats. The House and Senate have not yet sent him the budget bills, but that will happen soon. Will he really pull the trigger on all those cuts? As I reminded my subscribers this morning, he didn’t cut 4-H this spring after threatening to decimate the program. He’s playing “chicken,” and it’s time to just get it over with.

* The Tribune’s article made this point

The governor, however, does not want to end up wearing the jacket for unpopular budget cuts. To that end, Blagojevich said he would “protect” school spending and suggested the cuts could be avoided if the House would “take an afternoon” to reconvene and approve a new balanced budget.

He’s “protecting” school spending because Senate President Emil Jones demanded it. He can’t lose Jones’ alliance. But that means a whole lot of other stuff will get cut to protect education’s $400 million increase.

As for making Madigan wear the jacket, Madigan has encouraged the guv to cut away, so that makes the job easier. Still, Blagojevich is the governor. The governor always wears the jacket, regardless of who else may be at fault.

Seriously, we have a five-month session which produces a claimed $2 billion deficit and the governor wants to put all the blame on someone else? Ever hear of leadership?

* The Sun-Times had this editorial today

Madigan should reconsider at least one of those [revenue generating] bills, the so-called fund sweeps bill. This is a relatively noncontroversial bill, which could generate as much as $530 million toward ending that $2 billion deficit. Madigan should let this bill move forward — to help reduce the deficit and to show he can do more than just cast stones.

It may be noncontroversial to the Sn-Times, but it doesn’t have 71 House votes.

* And I don’t buy this at all

The stage has been set for another long, hot summer in Springfield.

The only way the General Assembly returns for a “long, hot summer” is if Blagojevich crosses Senate President Jones. And if that happens the Statehouse summer session won’t be long, but it will be hot.

In fact, what yesterday’s press conference may signal is the end of the spring session, rather than the beginning of a summer session.

* Related…

* Blagojevich moves talk away from impeachment, toward taxes

* Governor Blagojevich says Madigan has secret tax plan

* Amtrak trains to Carbondale threatened with cutbacks

* Veterans still second class to this governor

* Tennis, anyone?

* Budget tough talk

* Blagojevich balks at budget

* Blagojevich announces $1.5 billion in budget cuts

* Blagojevich Rushing To Beat New Fundraising Rules?

* Governor continues fundraising efforts

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


A tale of two Republicans

Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

* DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett is apparently using the Barack Obama campaign to build his network in advance of a possible 2010 gubernatorial bid. Obama was in Las Vegas on Monday, and Birkett was featured in a GOP conference call..

Birkett, a former Republican candidate for governor in Illinois, raised doubts about Obama’s judgment based on a 2005 real estate deal with the wife of Tony Rezko, a Chicago-based political fundraiser and real estate developer who was convicted earlier this month of sixteen federal counts of bribery, fraud and money laundering.

Birkett said it was “more than bone-headed” for Obama to purchase a house in Chicago the same day Rezko’s wife purchased an adjoining lot, and that Americans should question “whether or not [Obama] has the kind of judgment to be the president of the United States.” […]

“Obviously, one of the things I do not do is speculate about criminal activity,” said Birkett. “However, I can tell you this, that oftentimes we have seen during the course of the last several years in Illinois where public officials are having things done for them privately that do in fact turn out to be related to some deal, some quid pro quo.”

Birkett quickly added that he was “not aware of any quid pro quo and certainly would not accuse Sen. Obama of that.”

Some of that is just obvious crud, but I’m more interested with how Birkett is using Obama to bolster his own party cred.

* Republican US Sen. Gordon Smith has a far different approach to Obama, which may be adopted here by some of the more vulnerable incumbent Republicans…


Partial transcript

“Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment? Barack Obama! He joined with Gordon and broke through a 20-year deadlock to pass new laws which increase gas mileage for automobiles.”

Four years ago, Republican Illinois state Rep. Beth Coulson had Obama all over her literature, and you can expect quite a bit of that again.

I don’t know whether I have a point here, but it is interesting to see how Obama is impacting GOP races. Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Durbin’s party building

Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

* There’s little doubt that House Speaker Michael Madigan’s control of the Democratic Party of Illinois has been more about power and saving money on postage for his House candidates. During the last cycle, there were lots of grumbled complaints that no coordinated campaign was in place to help congressional candidates. And Madigan is the only state party chairman in the country to refuse Democratic National Committee field staff.

So, US Sen. Dick Durbin is ever so gently trying to build an organization parallel to Madigan’s

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a figurehead among Illinois Democrats, is working to build his own Illinois voter database — a “voter file” distinct from the party’s central voter file, which is controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political organizations — as well as a new layer of the party’s grass-roots operation. […]

“Under Speaker Madigan, (the Illinois Democratic Party) really has focused on the House, particularly,” Durbin said.

* Durbin is working with the Democratic County Chairmen’s Association, which is beyond Madigan’s direct control. The chairman of the association, Alan Pirtle, is allied with Rep. Jay Hoffman, Gov. Blagojevich’s House floor leader.

As mentioned above, one of the initial tasks is creating a new “voter file”…

The state party’s own voter database, known as the “voter file,” has been developed and maintained by Madigan’s personal campaign committee, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, since the early 1980s, Brown said. The database contains layers of information including voting history and demographics to help candidates identify potential voters. […]

[Brown] said candidates can gain access to [the voter file] for a fee, and who can gain access to the file is made on a “case-by-case basis.”

* “Bored Now,” a regular commenter here, explains

What Durbin has done is to make Votebuilder (also known as The Van) available in Illinois. Durbin correctly points out that Votebuilder is available “across the count[r]y.” elsewhere, the state parties have partnered with the DNC to bring it to their states. The Van was also the basis for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s databases. It had been previously available in Illinois through resolute consulting and was used in 2006 by Congressional candidates like Dan Seals. others may remember van through efforts in 2004 on behalf of John Kerry through act and the America votes coalition. it was one of several attempts by Democrats to duplicate the success Republicans have had with the voter vault.

The Van is also the basis for the DNC’s neighborhood volunteer program. What is interesting about this effort is that the national party is giving people access to their database at a local level for voter contact. The information gathered by these efforts gets folded back into the database for future use by democrats running at all levels.

* Durbin has played a role in several local and congressional elections over the past few years. He has been heavily involved in helping turn Will County from “red to blue,” for instance.

Durbin is not a particularly threatening figure in the Democratic Party, so there’s never been much of a push-back from Madigan when he’s done local party building efforts. But controlling that voter file is a big thing for Madigan. Information is power, even if the system he’s using is out of date

If you’ve ever worked with Madigan’s database, you know that it is fairly ancient is both design and user-friendliness, and the backend is limited, at best, to simple variables limited to (primarily) public data. But it has been the only game in town, and its success was largely due to the fact that it had no competition.

* But Durbin will need all of his political skills when encroaching on MJM’s turf

Durbin said he has reached out to other Illinois Democrats, including Comptroller Dan Hynes, about his joint effort with the county chairmen’s group, but no one has signed on yet.

“I’m not trying to side with any faction in the party,” he said.

He’s about the only one who could do this.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


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Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

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Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Jun 25, 2008

* Ill. educators get spas on taxpayers’ dime

* Audit findings reignite debate over facilities.

Some regional education staff for Adams and Pike counties got day spa treatments worth around $150 each as “performance incentives.” Others got $1,500 “mileage bonuses” that had nothing to do with mileage.

* States drop abstinence programs

* Closure looms for public TV station

“Anything is possible,” said Jerold Gruebel, president and CEO of West Central Illinois Educational Telecommunications Corp., which operates three public television stations, including WSEC-TV in Springfield. “We have a cash-flow crisis. It’s a real test of fortitude.”

* Bush declares Illinois a disaster area

* President Bush declares Illinois ‘major disaster’ area; Adams, Hancock, Pike counties to get federal aid

* Illinois: Flood aid not enough

* Red Cross, volunteers provide food, water

* FEMA stalls truckers carrying flood relief

* Filmmaker returns favor to Quincy flood victims

“When I saw how hard people were working to protect their towns and farms, I made a promise to myself that if it ever happened again, I was going to go back and help them,” she said.

* High water could delay start of home cleanups until July

* Waterlogged levee under pressure from Mississippi River

* More West Nile found

* Pontiac prison appears to be spared in new plan

* State, union talks impact 35,000 state workers

* Our View: DNR needs stable revenue

In this challenging economy, absolutely it’s important for Illinois to watch the bottom line. But the governor must be careful not to nickel-and-dime DNR patrons to the point that the public no longer wishes to use its public parks. That would defeat the purpose of having them. We trust that’s not the intent.

* Illinois Works Capitol Bill

* SIU president, Forby take effort on the road

* State’s suit to target mortgage lender for unfair practices

“Countrywide’s conduct has contributed to the high number of foreclosures in Illinois and caused significant harm to the public, the market, and scores of Illinois borrowers and homeowners,” according to a draft of the lawsuit provided by Madigan’s office Tuesday.

* Illinois Plans to Sue Countrywide, CEO

* Striking out near Wrigley?

The alderman said he’s concerned about precedent. A mid-rise building could become an excuse for taller projects. “We’ve got to be careful that 25 years from now the charm of Wrigley Field still includes a neighborhood,” Tunney said.

* Weis announces surge of police patrols

* Commissioners advance benefits proposal for gay married couples who work for Cook County

* Cook County budget, finances leave some scratching their heads

The process is always confusing, but this year, several commissioners said it was nearly impossible because President Todd H. Stroger’s budget department has yet to release the final 2008 budget, more than six months into the budget year.

* Elizabeth holds first ever Green Fair this weekend

* Global warming expert warns local gathering of impending climate change

Johnathan Goldman, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, said spending less money on fuel would create jobs by putting more money into people’s pockets and that individual measures, such as recycling, using compact fluorescent bulbs and driving a fuel-efficient car are not enough.

* “Roll Call” Examines Dan Seals and Other Carpetbaggers

* Political tough guy wants you to meet his inner wonk

Emanuel says his policy pursuits have one unifying theme: “globalization and its impact on the standard of living of the American people, and how do you put together a set of policies that make it better?”

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   18 Comments      


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