* Senator Durbin said yesterday that he is considering asking President Bush to commute the prison sentence of former Governor George Ryan:
“His family name has been damaged,” Durbin said. “He has, at an advanced moment of his life, been removed from his family. He has lost the economic security which most people count on at his age. And he is separate from his wife at a time when she is in frail health. To say that he has paid a price for his wrongdoing, he certainly has. And the question is whether continued imprisonment is appropriate at this point.”
Durbin said he was considering making a request for Ryan’s sentence to be commuted, which would end his incarceration but still leave the former governor with a prison record. Under a pardon, the conviction is wiped off the record.
“I told him [Durbin] how hard it was to have George away,” said Ryan’s wife, Lura Lynn, who claims she was surprised when Durbin decided to sit next to her at a Lincoln Bicentennial Commission meeting in Washington, D.C., months ago.
“He [Durbin] is such a kind man . . . and he wanted to know how I was holding up,” Lura Lynn Ryan said.
“George Ryan’s paid a pretty big price,” Edgar said at the time. “I don’t think people appreciate, if you’ve been an elected official, you’ve been governor, now you’ve been humiliated. You’ve been found guilty. You’ve been stripped of everything, and financially you’ve been stripped of your pension. I’m not sure a few more years (in prison) is all that much more punishment to him.”
The way Democrats lose [Obama’s US Senate] seat is if they pick a nominee who (i) has some heretofore-unknown scandal or, (2) just doesn’t have the political acumen to click at the statewide level, particularly on his or her first try and a high-profile position as US Senator.
The best way to prevent these things would be to appoint a placeholder like Jones and then let the younger candidates battle it out on a level playing field in the primaries
Emil Jones would prevent that, eh? I’d beg to differ.
The only placeholder I could possibly support is Bill.
* PI has posted an excerpt from David Axelrod’s interview on Fox Chicago Sunday…
Axelrod was asked whether Obama would be making endorsements in Illinois and Chicago politics….
“I haven’t had this discussion with him, so I don’t want to go too far, but I think his inclination’s gonna be to stick to the task he was sent to perform and not to try and be a kingmaker or boss here in Illinois.”
I suppose that rules out an endorsement of Bill for the US Senate. Still, I can’t help but wonder if this also applies to Alexi.
In addition, political powers are discussing another option that would allow Mr. Emanuel to have his cake and eat it too without forcing anyone to play seat warmer.
Under that scenario, a new district for Mr. Emanuel to run in would be carved out in district reapportionment after the 2010 elections. Democrats are likely to run remap in Illinois, and with Chicago suburbs increasingly turning Democratic blue, it could be fairly easy to throw GOP incubmbents Peter Roskam and Judy Biggert into one district while peeling off Democratic sections to use as the basis for a new district that would extend into Chicago. That would allow Mr. Emanuel to return to the House and get back in line to become speaker some day, without having to force whoever wins the 5th District job to step down.
* Confusion at DNR after park closure announcements…
IDNR employees are in a state of befuddlement. That and similar remarks came from multiple employees at state sites on Monday. Are they staying or going? Will there be layoffs? If so, how many? […]
The question is whether those closures will mean layoffs of IDNR employees.
“You would think somebody would make decision,'’ said a state employee facing a forced move to another site.
“We are still determining how many employees will now be affected given these changes,'’ IDNR spokesman Chris McCloud said.
What a great way to kick off the holiday season, eh?
The above story also references this study which purports to show that the site closings were based on partisan politics.
It’s not farfetched to think that virtually every extra cent of revenue coming to local governments in the next couple years will be used to pay increased pension obligations.
* The Peoria Journal-Star editorializes about the need for constitutional amendments on property taxes, the number of local governments, TIF districts, ethics reforms, the unfunded pension liability, etc., etc., etc. and then has this to say…
We fully expect good government groups to lead the charge in drafting and generating support for these amendments, to prove as some promised just how easy it is to amend Illinois’ Constitution without having to resort to something so radical as another Con-Con.
While they’re busy writing up amendments and getting the signatures necessary to put such citizen initiatives on the ballot - please, let’s not rely on the Legislature to do that for us - here’s one issue they should put at the top of their list.
Um, PJ Star? Those dreamy amendments of yours cannot make it onto the ballot without first clearing the General Assembly. Here’s a handy link for future reference.
The same paper recently endorsed Sen. James Clayborne for Senate President apparently without realizing that Clayborne was privately backed by Gov Blagojevich. Oops.
It’s noteworthy that the press seats at the news conference have been divided into a White Sox section - to the South - and a Cubs section - to the North of the ballroom.
But in a crime against nature, your pooler - a genuine White Sox fan, a man who attended his first twi-night double header at the Old Comiskey in 1963, who sat behind third base for the 50th anniversary All Star Game there in ‘83, who knew Bill Veeck and the wonders of Disco Demolition night, who saw the great Ozzie play before he managed - has been assigned a seat in the Cubs section.
They should just ban all Cub fans from the proceedings.
In theory, [online comment boards are] a great thing. We’re giving the people a voice! But the reality is that commenting either attracts loathsome people or somehow causes ordinary people to express themselves in a way that is loathsome…
The horribleness of commenters isn’t really a mystery: Internet anonymity is disinhibiting, and people are basically mean anyway. Nor is it a mystery why the people who run websites put up with commenters: the economic model for Internet content is based on advertising, which means it’s based on traffic volume, and comments mean traffic. They’re part of the things that make online publishing work….
It’s just hard to tell whether they’re ruining the Web faster than they can save it.
Please, spare me.
Newspapers and magazines are always picky about which letters to the editor they publish in their dead tree editions, but too many of them allow online commenters to go all nutso. For some reason, publishers are squeamish about flat-out deleting the morons and banning them from returning. The SJ-R had a big problem with that a while back, but they appear to have cracked down somewhat. Other area outlets, like The Reader, allow freakish mayhem to rule their comment sections to the point where I won’t even link to that site any longer.
In other words, it’s mostly the publishers’ fault, not just the great, unwashed commenters.
Readers of my comments areas have come to expect that I’ll not only keep out most of the filth via editing or deleting offensive posts , but that I’ll respond to every reasonable challenge that’s issued to me, no matter how small the audience might be for an answer.
I no longer want to try to meet those expectations. I’m finding, among other things, that it brings out the worst in me.
He has a point, and since Eric posts on national politics more than I ever would, he’s had to deal with far more weirdos than me. Every time I post something here about national stuff I find myself deleting, deleting, deleting the goofiness, or responding, which takes up far too much of my time.
* We tend to attract a higher level of commenters here, partly because of the subject matter and partly because I have no reservations about banning or deleting idiots. I’ve always believed that while this has become a community, it’s still my blog. I set the rules and I don’t feel the need to apologize for whatever decisions I make, unless I screw up.
Anyway, I just thought I’d reiterate the policy and give you a chance to have your say.
…Adding… I should’ve stressed that our commenters here are also a big reason that the keel stays mostly even. We have lots of responsible people who won’t put up with ridiculous distractions, except for Bill, but he’s a feature, not a bug.
* A “normal” governor would want to try and keep everyone together during this fiscal crisis and not needlessly go out of his or her way to cause trouble. We don’t have a normal governor, however…
Seven state parks will still close next weekend, even though Gov. Rod Blagojevich and state lawmakers have approved money to keep them open, the Blagojevich administration said today.
Blagojevich originally targeted 11 state parks to close Nov. 30. Lawmakers approved $230 million in new spending to prevent those park closings and a variety of other cuts, and the governor approved most of that spending yesterday.
But Blagojevich spokeswoman Katie Ridgway said Friday afternoon that only four of those 11 state parks will remain open: Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park in Sheffield, Channahon Parkway State Park in Channahon, Gebhard Woods State Park in Morris and Kickapoo State Park in Oakwood.
Nothing like going out of his way to enrage lawmakers over about a million dollars. Good one.
Once viewed as a cash cow that could fetch well over half a billion dollars and save the state budget, Illinois’ only available casino license is being pursued by three companies offering far less, and industry analysts say even those cut-rate numbers may not hold up in the sagging economy.
“It’s very bad timing for Illinois,” said Bill Eadington, director of a gambling institute at the University of Nevada-Reno. “We’re facing the biggest economic recession in 75 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if the companies that made bids a couple months ago could no longer justify them.”
The financial markets have taken a toll on Illinois’ pension programs. Lawrence Msall is the head of the Civic Federation.
MSALL: We’re hearing projections of losses in excess of 20 percent or more. And they were already dramatically underfunded to the tune of about 43 billion. So we believe that we’ll be passing the 50 billion mark.
Unless we see a turnaround soon, that will translate into more money from taxpayers.
A breakthrough will take compromise and sacrifice from both legislators and the governor. That message hasn’t truly hit home at the Capitol.
“We’re going to have make adjustments in the budget, just like a lot of people will, and they’re probably going to be painful,” Hannig said. “But we have to recognize the reality that we’re in a recession.”
I don’t want to even think about next year yet. It won’t be fun for anyone.
* I’m not sure what brings out the crazy in some people when it comes to US Sen. Dick Durbin. He sure does attract the tinfoil hatters.
For instance, a bizarre cottage industry has sprung up which believes that Durbin will refuse to support the reappointment of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s reappointment was never in doubt, and as you saw on Saturday if you surfed this way, Durbin has made that point crystal clear for the doubters…
“I think he has done an extraordinary job as U.S. attorney; I have the greatest confidence in him,” Durbin said. “I want to do what he wants to do, I want to support what he wants to do and I won’t presume what that is.”
By the way, whomever gets Obama’s Senate seat will have zero input into the reappointment. This is the perogative of the president, who also supports Fitzgerald, and the state’s senior Senator. So, spare us your conspiracy theories about the governor’s appointment, please.
* Meanwhile, a far larger group of online and talk radio denizens has been whacking the Senator for months after he made this 2007 comment to The Hill…
“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”
Google “Durbin” and “Fairness Doctrine” and you get 28,300 hits - most of them quite unkind.
Rauschenberger accuses U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) of wishing to restore the Fairness Doctrine to squelch right-wing talk radio, but Durbin’s office says the senator was merely giving a flip answer when he was asked about it by Roll Call last year. Durbin has no desire and no plan to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine, his office says.
A group of Chicago clergymen is urging the governor to appoint an African-American to the Obama seat. They’re not endorsing any candidate but say the person the governor picks should be electable and carry on a progressive agenda.
* There are at least two African-American congressmen vying for the seat - Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson, Jr. - so the ministers say they won’t choose between the two.
The historical significance of last week’s votes to elect a new Senate President and a new Senate Republican Leader is difficult to overstate.
For starters, replacing both chamber leaders at once is an extreme Springfield rarity. According to Kent Redfield, one of the state’s leading political scientists, the last time this happened was 34 years ago.
Also, Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) became the first woman in all of Illinois history to lead a legislative party caucus.
The historical novelties, however, pale in comparison to the historical imperatives.
The state’s political process has just plain stopped functioning. Illinois’ unemployment rate is soaring, yet no job-creating capital construction bill can be passed. The state’s budget deficit is eye-popping, yet nobody is seriously talking to each other about a real solution. Hundreds of important bills have died because of a fight over administrative rules. Gridlock is too kind a word. It’s as if the government has developed a terminal case of toxic shock syndrome.
As you probably know by now, the Senate Democrats unanimously selected Sen. John Cullerton as the new Senate President last week.
Cullerton vowed to do his best to end the gridlock. He has a long personal and political relationship with House Speaker Michael Madigan and he lives just two blocks away from Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
His campaign for the presidency was a work of art. For instance, he raised almost a million dollars between early September and early November, which impressed just about everybody.
But it was his persistence, patience, evenhandedness and hard work which seemed to pay off the most. A Republican friend of Cullerton’s said he spoke with Cullerton on the phone the Sunday evening before the vote. Cullerton couldn’t talk long because he had just pulled up to Democratic Sen. Ira Silverstein’s house for a private meeting. That’s just one example of many to illustrate how much effort Cullerton put into this contest.
There were no threats of retribution from Cullerton, even when things got nasty.
Last Wednesday, one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s most favored black Chicago activists held a press conference with a few Champaign-area ministers to pressure Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign) to vote for Sen. James Clayborne for Senate President. But the specter of a Chicago-based Blagojevich ally traveling to Champaign to urge a local legislator to vote for an East St. Louis Senator who was privately backed by the horribly unpopular governor didn’t go over too well at the Statehouse.
“If that’s how Clayborne is campaigning for Senate President, how would he govern?” several Senate Democrats wondered.
Also last week, voters in the districts of four Cullerton supporters - Sens. Michael Frerichs, AJ Wilhelmi, Susan Garrett and Linda Holmes - were hit with robocalls. The negative robocalls, paid for by a downstate Teamsters local on Sen. Clayborne’s behalf, were made in direct retaliation for their support of Sen. Cullerton.
Sen. James Clayborne’s people claimed that all four had pledged to back Clayborne and had broken their word. That’s not how the four Democrats saw it, and tempers flared in the hours leading up to the president vote. Several Democrats demanded some sort of retribution against Clayborne, including withdrawing Cullerton’s offer of Senate Majority Leader. But Cullerton calmed the waters and made the offer anyway. Clayborne accepted.
The calm under pressure, the disavowal of the political retribution of the recent past and the willingness to bring opponents into the circle are all extremely positive signs. Cullerton said last week that his first priority is to unstick the capital construction bill and then move on to education funding. Both of those issues have taken a back seat to the politics of vindictiveness that have plagued the Statehouse for years.
The road will not be easy, of course. Cullerton remembers well how Speaker Madigan undercut Senate President Phil Rock back in the day, because Cullerton was in Madigan’s war room at the time.
Madigan prefers junior partners, as does the governor, but Cullerton’s mandate is to remake the Senate into an independent yet cooperative body. That means Cullerton must be an equal partner at the table. And the admirable skills which got him this new job will have to be stretched to the limit if he hopes to succeed.
But it’s hard to see how a new Senate president can fundamentally change the picture in Springfield.
First, the governor is still the governor. […]
Second, the speaker is still the speaker. […]
Finally, the facts are still the facts.
This year’s budget is out of balance by $2 billion or more.
All true. But one thing he misses is that we will no longer get dragged into months-long overtime sessions for no good reason other than the fact that the Senate President wants to help the governor whack the House Speaker.
The governor might try to force meaningless and mean-spirited overtime sessions, but he won’t have any real support.
And here’s something else worth pondering: The Illinois constitution does not spell out who convenes a post-impeachment Senate trial. The Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court presides, but the governor’s people have long claimed that they could prevent an actual convening as long as Emil Jones was running the Senate. That’s no longer true, of course. It’s still doubtful that an impeachment proceeding will begin soon, but that card is now certainly on the table.
Incoming Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said Sunday the Democrats who control state government should be embarrassed by the constant fighting between the legislature and Gov. Rod Blagojevich that has led to a Springfield stalemate.
“We have been embarrassed. We have embarrassed ourselves with all the fighting between the governor and the legislature and the speaker and the president of the Senate. That’s going to end,” […]
Cullerton was joined at the church by his chief rival for the post, Sen. James Clayborne of Belleville. Clayborne was appointed by Cullerton to the chief deputy post of Senate majority leader.
“We’re going to work together to get Illinois back to working. We’re going to provide the social services we need. We’re going to work on the educational funding. And most of all, we’re going to make sure we take care of the most vulnerable in our society in our seniors and our children,” Clayborne said.
* Things are not so touchy feely on the other side of the aisle. Paul Caprio, the Family PAC director who actively opposed Sen. Radogno’s campaign, had this to say last week…
Last night, the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus formally filed a divorce petition from millions of Illinois pro-life and pro-family voters and their own political base.
It will be a messy divorce.
By electing Christine Radogno, a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual rights Senator as their leader, Illinois Senate Republicans have placed themselves under the authority of someone who has been indentured to two of the most radical anti-family groups in Illinois: Personal-Pac, an abortion on demand organization and Equality Illinois, which promotes same sex marriage. Radogno has done the political bidding of these anti-family extremists throughout her political career.
* SJ-R: Cullerton is person to limit state dysfunction
A Livingston County judge issued a temporary injunction tonight in a lawsuit brought by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees over the state’s plan to close the Pontiac Correctional Center.
Union Executive Director Henry Bayer says the judge’s decision lends credence to the union belief that the state and Gov. Rod Blagojevich rushed into their plan to close the prison.
Cesar Delgado has been working at his family’s booth at the Maxwell Street Market selling tools and hardware since he was 8. He’s seen one big change after another come to the legendary market. But the latest one caught him by surprise.
The City Council last week sharply raised the fees paid by Maxwell Street Market vendors to cover the cost of “moonwalks,” or “jumping jacks” — those inflatable playgrounds that the city has long provided for free to neighborhood block parties. Daily fees will double, from $40 to $80, with the yearly license fee rising to $75 from $25.
“That’s a drastic change, especially on the daily fees,” Delgado said Sunday. “It sounds like something that could finish the market off. Some vendors will find it very hard to make the money back.”
Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley said Sunday he plans to file papers today to start collecting campaign funds to run for the congressional seat of Rahm Emanuel, who is leaving to become President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
The only other candidate who has started a committee to raise money for the race is state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz.
Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th), Mayor Daley’s unofficial City Council floor leader, has told the Sun-Times he will seek the seat if he gets the mayor’s backing.
Daley’s support could trump any financial advantage that any other candidate might have in the early stages of a campaign.
Nine months after a sales-tax increase that was expected to bring in nearly $400 million a year passed, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is warning that thousands of workers will be laid off if commissioners don’t approve borrowing $740 million.
Treasurer Maria Pappas was told that 85 of her 135 employees would have to go. Sheriff Tom Dart was told that 1,500 of his 5,900 would get the ax.
In 2006, Pace had 13 people making more than $100,000 a year. The number this year: 20. In all, the agency has 1,547 employees.
Salaries for several top staffers have gone up by 10 percent or more since 2006 — including a 35 percent pay hike for Rocco Donahue, who now has the title of deputy executive director for external relations.
The city has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for nearly $200 million in passenger ticket taxes to get going on Phase Two of the O’Hare expansion. The money would pay for design and engineering work for a new southern runway, reconfiguration of existing runways and a terminal at the west end of the airfield.
United and American Airlines, O’Hare’s dominant carriers, asked the FAA in June not to approve those funds. The city and the airlines are negotiating the timing and financing of O’Hare’s future.
Prosecutors from St. Clair and Madison counties and Illinois State Police were scheduled to meet this week in a probe of $300,000 in prepaid burial funds that are missing from two area cemeteries.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida says the group will organize the investigation of Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville and Valley View Cemetery in Edwardsville.
In October, the office of Illinois Comptroller Daniel W. Hynes discovered that the money was missing from more than 450 prepaid accounts at the two cemeteries.
Alan Henry, a spokesman for Hynes’ office, says the money disappeared from May of 2005 to July of this year from the cemeteries’ trust funds, which are set up to maintain money people have paid for prearranged burials.
One group that never forgets, that represents our city at its very best, is the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which gives millions of pounds of food each year to some 500,000 poor and hungry men, women and children in Cook County. This is the time of year — the giving season — when the Food Depository’s needs are greatest and our spirit of generosity is at its greatest, and we cannot forget them.