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Late afternoon, I’m so tired I wanna nap, thoughts…

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

* First the Obama endorsement and now this

[Republican National Committee] spokesman Danny Diaz said he would not respond to questions from the Tribune, contending that the newspaper was biased against McCain.

Banished by the RNC?

Wow.

I’m starting to worry about a major Chicago-area earthquake caused by Colonel McCormick’s grave-spinning.

* More evidence that the world is coming to an end: Scott Kennedy is blogging.

* The DCCC is going all-in for Dan Seals

In IL-10, the DCCC just poured in an impressive $929,279, bringing its total investment in the district to more than $2 million.

That’s not a thought, but it’s connected to this…

* Blogger wars can be so much fun. Larry cracks an inside joke about a rival blogger in his post about the above story. And another site has a Halloween costume suggestion…

Left wing blogger. This is the easiest idea. Don’t bathe for a month, sit behind your computer and babble incoherently.

* Speaking of babbling, Todd Stroger spoke today at the City Club

“Contrary to popular belief, Cook County has not fallen into the lake.”

Not yet, anyway. When that McCormick quake hits, the whole town is gonna slide right into the drink.

“My father used to tell me that there would be good times and there will be bad times… But he never told me that there would be county commissioners who would make a career of using my name in every sentence, and as often as not tag my name to an outright misfact or misstatement.”

Misfact?

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


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Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

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Question of the day *** UPDATED x1 ***

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

* Speaking and staying at the Union League Club has its advantages. A press conference by some Illinois Repubicans was held at the club yesterday, so I went, and was interviewed by ABC 7 about the “Rod & Todd” impact on the upcoming election. WBBM Radio was at the Paul Green/Rich Miller panel discussion earlier in the morning and filed this report

A veteran observer of Illinois politics, Rich Miller, the editor and publisher of Capitol Fax, shared some of his thoughts on the upcoming election with members of the Union League Club of Chicago.

Miller believes the “Obama factor” will help Democrats in races throughout Illinois, but believes any bump from Obama could be weighed down by the “Rod Factor,” referring to Gov. Rod Blagojevich. […]

As for who Gov. Blagojevich would pick to replace Obama as Illinois U.S. Senator, if Obama becomes president, Miller won’t even venture a guess. He believes it will be whoever Blagojevich thinks can help him the most. But Miller says the governor is too unpredictable for him to know who that may be.

* The Question: Considering all factors, which replacement choice (assuming, of course, that Obama wins) would help Blagojevich the most? Explain.

Please, keep in mind that this is not about who the governor will or should pick. We’ve already discussed those points. Try to stay on topic. Thanks.

…Adding… The “help him the most line” was made by Paul Green, and I agreed with it. Credit where credit is due.

*** UPDATE *** Patterson asked Lucio Guerrero if the governor was having any discussions about the replacement. Guerrero responded via e-mail

“We have decided to make it an American Idol style competition. We are going to give the candidates a few days at the spot and then the voters will call-in to pick their favorites. Rich Miller will play the part of Simon, Catie Sheehan can be Paula Abdul and you can be Randy Jackson. Does that work?”

Works for me.

- Posted by Rich Miller   111 Comments      


Stuff that makes me sick to my stomach

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

* Oh, yeah, this’ll help a lot. I’m positive, even. From a press release…

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the creation of an inter-agency task force to ease the impact that the closure of Pontiac Correctional Center will have on the community, including businesses and local governments. The Task Force will pool all available and necessary state resources to preserve the economic well-being and quality of life for Pontiac and surrounding communities.

“I am creating this Task Force to develop real solutions and find ways to help the Pontiac community during this transition, and give them the help they need so people can support their families and pay the bills during these tough economic times,” said Governor Blagojevich. “By bringing together representatives from the state’s agencies and local leaders, we will be able to look at the issue in detail and utilize a wide array of resources to help the Pontiac community as it goes through this transition.”

Look, I’m not a big fan of using prisons for economic development, and the Pontiac prison is decades past its prime. But to knock the legs out from under a town by moving a prison that’s been there for over a hundred years and then making an empty gesture like this is truly insulting.

* Now, onto some even more troubling (and related) news.

Suspicion has been brewing for months that Gov. Blagojevich was sitting on dozens of pardon and commutation applications for fear that he might pardon the “wrong” person and that would come back to haunt him.

Ironically, at the same time, I’ve been hearing behind the scenes murmurs that the Department of Corrections’ parole office was deliberately refusing to revoke parole for offenders for fear of prison overcrowding (exacerbated by lack of staff) and jacking up the recidivism rate (which would create more press problems). These sources have insisted that a tragedy was imminent.

Well, we appear to have our tragedy, and it’s a doozy

Busted for what police said was a rock of cocaine on the driver’s seat of his car, William Balfour could have been spending the past few months behind bars for a parole violation.

The 27-year-old felon was instead allowed to remain free and is now considered a suspect in the deaths of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

On the day the victims were fatally shot and the young boy went missing, Balfour told his parole agent he had missed a meeting because he was baby-sitting, records show. […]

A parole supervisor declined to issue a warrant to revoke Balfour’s parole after the arrest, records show.

“Per supervisor … no warrant,” the report reads. “Agent to monitor offender, impose sanctions.”

Corrections Department spokesman Derek Schnapp said officials who reviewed the cocaine-possession case against Balfour determined “the evidence that was presented during that time wouldn’t have necessarily warranted a violation.” […]

However, a felony arrest usually is sufficient reason for corrections officials to revoke parole, said Thomas Peters, a Chicago criminal defense attorney who represents parolees.

This requires a full legislative investigation, with subpoena power. We need to know what’s really going on at the DoC. Now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      


Smoke and fire?

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

* Congressman Gutierrez’s self-professed love of quickie real estate deals has landed him back in the headlines

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez personally lobbied Mayor Richard Daley to back a controversial multimillion-dollar development for a campaign contributor who had just lent the congressman $200,000 in a real estate deal, a Tribune investigation has found.

Now the congressman’s unusual gesture of support is under federal scrutiny as authorities investigate how developers overcame city planners’ objections to convert the West Side industrial site into a more profitable residential and commercial development.

Authorities have obtained Gutierrez’s July 7, 2004, letter to Daley—written on U.S. House stationery—as part of their grand jury investigation into how zoning works inside City Hall, sources told the Tribune.

Gutierrez said there is no connection between the loan and his letter of support for the Galewood Yards project, which is not in his district. In a written statement, the congressman said his involvement was “extremely minimal” and “entirely appropriate.”

He said he has not been contacted by federal authorities.

The federal investigation comes as the Tribune’s “Neighborhoods for Sale” series documents an insiders’ game in which politicians rake in millions in campaign cash from developers and other real estate interests while often overriding concerns of homeowners and city planners. It is a system that has fundamentally reshaped the character of city neighborhoods.

Go read the whole thing. Fascinating.

* Gutierrez does provide a thorough response. Here is his reasoning for writing to Mayor Daley on behalf of the developer who had loaned him the cash….

“Any fair analysis of the Galewood Yards development would show that my involvement was extremely minimal. Though my involvement in Galewood Yards was extremely minimal, this was a positive development that was deserving of support. This development is adjacent to the 4th Congressional District, and my constituents would be directly affected by any plans or developments in this area.”

“Specifically, the Galewood Yards development included a Laborers International Union job training center that is currently under construction. It is specifically targeted to helping the community’s significant Latino and African American population. This was an important and virtually unprecedented development, as many jobs in the trade unions have often excluded minorities. Moreover, it is my understanding that half of the total land use of Galewood was dedicated for the purpose of job training, and that as a precondition for approval of the project by the City of Chicago, the developer was required to transfer the land for the training center without receiving any profit.”

“The development also included moderate income housing and a multiplex movie theatre that would bring needed jobs and economic development to the community. I supported a project that included affordable housing, job training and job creation for Latinos and African Americans on a parcel of land that had been unproductive for years.”

He also claimed the loan was at an above-market rate of 7 percent and that he lost money on the flip.

More background here.

* Always remember when reading stories like these that smoke doesn’t necessarily translate into fire. For instance, the Tribune ran this letter to the editor about a big story it ran in a recent Sunday edition…

I would like to help clarify the facts regarding “Real estate success is scrutinized” (News, Oct. 19), a story about Illinois first lady Patricia Blagojevich and her relationship with North Star Investment Management. While Ms. Blagojevich was sponsored by our firm to take her licensing test that would allow her to become an investment adviser, she never did any work for our firm. North Star does not manage money for state pension funds and we have never pursued that kind of work.

We also want to apologize to her and to your readers for comments made by our chief compliance officer, Peter Contos. He misspoke when he suggested Ms. Blagojevich proposed bringing state pension fund business into our firm. She never proposed doing that or using any connection with the State of Illinois to benefit our company in any way.

—Peter Gottlieb, president, North Star

Investment Management, Chicago0

I’m not sure whom to believe, but the original story is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Barack, Rod and Todd

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

* As I attempted to explain to ABC 7 yesterday, Barack Obama’s presence at the top of the ticket isn’t guaranteeing success for all down-ballot Democrats. The reason? Rod Blagojevich

Illinois Republicans are hoping that by reminding voters that Rod and Todd, as in Governor Rod Blagojevich and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, are two of the state’s most unpopular Democrats. Those voters may be less likely to vote straight Democratic next Tuesday, even if they support the very popular Democrats at the top of the ticket, Obama and Sen. Dick Durbin. […]

“If you talk to anybody out there, they cannot predict with any kind of certainty what will happen in a huge Democratic year because of Rod Blagojevich,” said Rich Miller, Capitol Fax.

* Republican congressional candidate Marty Ozinga has been slammed hard by his Democratic opponent Debbie Halvorson for contributing to Blagojevich’s campaign fund. Ozinga has a new broadcast TV ad that fights back, quoting a recent Tribune editorial to make the case that Halvorson is the Blagojevich ally, not him…


* Republican Congresscritter Peter Roskam has already tied his Democratic opponent to Gov. Blagojevich (she was the guv’s homeland security chief), and he’s now wrapping himself around Barack Obama. Call it a twofer. From Lynn Sweet

-I’ve heard that all the Illinois Republican House candidates in competitive districts are nervous because Democrat Barack Obama is pulling big leads throughout Illinois, even in GOP turf. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) created “Obama Voters for Roskam” in order to lure ticket spliters. He is in a race with Democrat Jill Morgenthaler in the west suburban 6th District.

Check out the site’s header…

That’ll go over well in some circles, I’m sure.

* Anyway, the reason I was interviewed by Channel 7 is because I was at a press conference yesterday where the House and Senate Republicans unveiled a new radio ad to remind voters of Rod Blagojevich and Todd Stroger before they vote. Listen to the ad by clicking here. And here’s the ad’s script…

Woman: You know, I wish Rod Blagojevich and Todd Stroger were on the ballot in next week’s election.

Man: You’re going to vote for them?

Woman: Vote for them?!? Look at the mess they’ve caused: Higher taxes and wasteful spending.

Man: Well, they haven’t done it alone. They’ve had a lot of help from Democrats in the state House and Senate.

Announcer: The state budget has skyrocketed under Blagojevich’s watch and he’s spending money we don’t have. Now these same Democrats are supporting a $3 billion income tax hike and even side with Todd Stroger’s sales tax. Blagojevich and the Democrats failed economic policies have driven 60,000 manufacturing jobs out of Illinois and unemployment is among the highest in the nation.

Woman: So why would we send another Democrat to Springfield”

Man: We can’t! Not if we want change.

Announcer: If you want to make real change in Springfield, vote Republican for state representative and state senator.

Woman: Paid for by Citizens to Change Illinois

* Coverage

The ad strikes to the core of the Republican conundrum this election season: a potential tidal wave of voters turning out for Barack Obama who may be inclined to vote Democratic down ticket.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale said Obama is expected to win some of the suburban areas where the GOP has highly contested races.

But he said voters need to know that Democratic votes down ballot “is giving a rubber stamp and is giving more power to the Chicago Democratic machine.”

* The governor can’t catch a break no matter what happens. The head of the Lincoln Library was just fired for alleged petty criminality, for crying out loud…

Less than a week after the disclosure of his arrests for shoplifting, Rick Beard was fired Tuesday as head of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich decided to dismiss Beard and sent him a letter of termination, said David Blanchette, spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. IHPA director Jan Grimes called Beard to tell him the news.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Morning shorts

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

* Economic crisis hits IMRF, tax increases might be needed

Illinois taxpayers may soon be called on to bail out what is arguably the best-funded public pension plan in the state thanks to $3.6 billion in fund losses caused by the spiraling economy.

The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund covers about 177,000 active employees of local governments and about 85,000 retirees. The good news for them is their retirement benefits are guaranteed no matter what the economy does.

* If Pontiac prison closes, what happens to state’s death row?

Illinois’ most notorious criminals will soon have a new home if state prison officials carry out their plan to close Pontiac Correctional Center.

Fifteen inmates on Illinois’ death row will be shipped west to the state’s mostly unused prison in Thomson in January, marking the first time the state’s condemned unit has not been in Pontiac in decades.

The prison in Thomson, which was built in 2002 but never fully opened because of budget constraints, is ready to accept the prisoners, said Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Januari Smith.

* Prison to become max security facility

In a surprise move, the small Lawrence County town of Sumner is poised to become home to the state’s newest maximum-security prison.

* Students: U of I brass should freeze pay

* Budget Watchdog: CTA Fare Hike ‘Necessary and Appropriate’

A budget watchdog group has come out in support of the Chicago Transit Authority’s proposed fare hike. The Civic Federation says the 25-50-cent increases are necessary to offset fuel costs, and to pay for free rides mandated by the state.

* TIF districts ripped as ‘government gone wild’

Nearly $900 million in property tax money was siphoned off into Cook County tax increment finance districts in 2007 — 11.5 percent more revenue than the previous year, according to a report produced by Cook County Clerk David Orr.

If TIF funds were collected as a separate taxing district, it would take in the second largest amount of property tax revenue in the county after the Chicago Public Schools, which gets $1.9 billion a year.

* Study says special taxing districts costing Chicago coffers $555 million

Chicago property tax revenue diverted from schools, parks, day-to-day city expenses and other local government operations to city development projects increased by about $55 million in 2007 to $555 million, an 11 percent jump from the previous year, according to a report released today by Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Some critics of tax increment finance districts, known as TIFs, say they are partly responsible for the city’s current budget shortfall, pegged at $469 million. To address the gap, Mayor Richard Daley has proposed layoffs and increased fees and taxes for 2009.

* Hump daze: Speed bumps ripped out after 4 months for repaving

Pat Burke said he feels like his tax dollars are being “flushed down the toilet.”

How else to explain the city’s decision to install speed humps in June on a two-block stretch of North Paulina, only to tear them out this month, now that the street is being resurfaced?

* Motorola to switch to Google’s Android system, as layoffs loom

Motorola is reportedly preparing a new round of layoffs and changing its cell-phone software platform to Google Inc.’s Android operating system for its mid-tier and multimedia phones, according to unnamed sources in Wednesday’s editions of the Wall Street Journal.

The Schaumburg-based cell-phone giant has laid off 10,000 since early 2007.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   7 Comments      


Leading newspapers urge you to Vote No on the constitutional convention

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Leading newspapers across the state are urging a no vote on the constitutional convention question on November 4th. They recognize a constitutional convention would be expensive and not solve the state’s problems, only serving to put a strong document at-risk and turn power over to the very people who’ve created the state’s problems.

Dysfunctional state needs leadership, not a convention - Rockford Register-Star, October 26

“The Illinois Constitution is a good machine that has been driven off the road by incompetent politicians.”

Leaders need changing, not the constitution - Southern Illinoisan, October 26

“The troubles with our state government have less to do with the constitution, created in 1970 and often cited as a model for other states, than with the faulty leadership of our state.”

Politics, not constitution, state’s problem, vote no - Moline Dispatch – Rock Island Argus, October 26

“We fear that those who will win the power to clean up the system are the ones who made the mess in the first place: politicians, political leaders and special interests.”

Don’t vote for a new constitutional convention - Chicago Sun-Times, October 9

Vote “no” on constitutional convention - Daily Herald, October 20

Vote no on con-con question - Pioneer Press, September 27

- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      


“What is this?” open thread

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

Everything is late today because, frankly, I overslept. I was apparently way tired from my several-day tour of suburban legislative districts.

Anyway, I was finally finished writing and about to get everything sent when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but thinking it was a subscriber complaining that s/he hadn’t yet received the Capitol Fax, I answered.

Caller: “Is this NewsChannel 20?”

Me: “No, ma’am, it’s not.”

Caller: “What is this?”

Me: [Click]

Morning Shorts and everything else will be posted soon.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


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Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

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