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Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* Too many things going on this past week. Barely had time to breathe. Glad it’s over. Nap time.

* I love this tune, which comes to us from a fine Chicago band…

Siobhan is on the whiskey, Siobhan is on the gin,
Siobhan is drinking Red Bull and Vodka and won’t be home again.
I stay up late here every night, although it is no sin,
Siobhan is on the whiskey and she won’t be home again

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

We’re not as hostile as you might think

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* It turns out, we’re not so bad. At least according to a new report from Ball State University’s Miller College of Business…

The report lists Illinois’ overall attractiveness to manufacturers as 9th of the 50 states. The list is headed by Utah, followed by Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and Alabama.

One problem, of course, is that the much higher ranked Indiana and Missouri are right next door.

Michael Hicks, who headed the research team at Ball State, said that while surveys of overall business climate generally favor Southern and Western states, Illinois and the Midwest contain geographic and infrastructure advantages that are valuable to factory owners.

Thus, while Illinois got a “D” for tax climate, its lowest grade, it received an “A” for global position and a “B” for human capital, with an overall grade of “B-.”

In comparison, Texas, often considered a great state for business, received a grade of “F” on the quality of its work force.

Take that, you illiterate cowboys.

Illinois received a “C” rating in “logistics.” The grade for that category is partially based on “infrastructure spending as the per capita expenditure on highway construction.”

A capital bill would improve our ranking, not to mention create jobs and do a lot of good in the process.

* But how much good will the guv’s capital bill really do?

Greg Hinz shows how the guv’s infrastructure plan is not all it’s cracked up to be, and that mass transit is getting the short end of the stick

Mr. Quinn says his plan overall would spend $26 billion on roads, transit, schools, broadband and other infrastructure. But only $8.7 billion of that money is new — specifically bonds that would be financed in part by an income tax hike and by increases in vehicle-license fees. And only a fraction of that, $1.5 billion, would be available for transit, state officials confirm.


“The capital plan proposed in Springfield isn’t enough to even keep the current [mass transit] infrastructure in its current condition, much less make the investment needed to meet growing demand,” said Brian Imus, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group.

* Because holding down utility costs also helps manufacturing, let’s take a look at yet another Crain’s story. The governor appears set to appoint his policy director, Michelle Saddler, as ICC chair…

Sources caution that there’s a small chance someone else might emerge as Gov. Quinn’s choice. While Ms. Saddler is described as a “quick study,” she has no experience in the arcane, legalistic field of utility regulation. An announcement is expected within the next few weeks.

Considering that the current ICC Chairman is the former mayor of Rockford, that lack of experience shouldn’t be a huge problem. Still, what is it with the governor’s inexperienced appointments?

This is a very important appointment because of the current ICC makeup…

If she’s appointed, Ms. Saddler is expected to take the commission, which has been accused of being too cozy with utilities, in a new direction. Four of the five commissioners frequently split between consumer- and utility-friendly positions, leaving the chairman, Charles Box, to cast the deciding vote on requests to raise rates. Mr. Box, an appointee of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, often sided with the utilities

Blagojevich always talked a good game about utilities, but he packed the ICC with pro-utility hacks.

Let’s take a short trip down memory lane…

Officials at the state’s largest electric utility have been interviewed as part of a federal corruption investigation with ties to Gov. Rod Blagojevich. A spokeswoman for Commonwealth Edison, which serves 3.8 million customers in Northern Illinois, acknowledged the company’s involvement in the probe Thursday, which has targeted Christopher Kelly, a friend and former adviser to the governor. […]

Kelly’s company, BCI Roofing, began doing roofing work for ComEd in 2003, the same year Blagojevich took office as the first Democrat governor in 25 years.

Blagojevich made a ton of pro-utility moves in 2003, and it may not be hard to figure out why.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

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Friday, Mar 27, 2009

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Friday, Mar 27, 2009

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Question of the day

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* Is it too early to talk about baseball season? If not, then how well do you think the White Sox will do? Also, how badly do you think the Flubs will blow it… again?

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

Please, slow down

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* I’m not unalterably opposed to proposals like this

Proposals in both the House and Senate would allow governments in heavily populated counties to install camera-radar mechanisms on accident-prone thoroughfares.

“People are driving just too darned fast,” Rep. Joseph Lyons, a Chicago Democrat who’s sponsoring the proposal with Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, said Thursday.

The cameras would take photos of license plates on cars moving too fast. Violators would get a $100 ticket in the mail, but the infraction would not count against the number of moving violations necessary to suspend a driver’s license.

At a state Capitol news conference, Link and Lyons cited federal statistics showing 520 speed-related deaths in Illinois in 2007. They claimed cameras have reduced accidents in El Paso, Texas, by 80 percent; annual crashes in Dayton, Ohio, by 37 percent; and that cameras monitoring red-light runners in Chicago since 2003 have reduced that problem by 55 percent.

This looks like a good idea which will save lives.

My generic objection to all of these sorts of proposals - including the overuse of home confinement - is that we may be making it too cheap and easy for the government to penalize and incarcerate us.

Now, I don’t wear a tinfoil hat and I don’t believe we’re in immediate or even longterm danger of becoming one big prison, but the easier and cheaper it is to ding us or lock us up, then it is logical to assume that more of us will be dinged or involuntarily confined.

* The Tribune editorialized in favor of the bills today, but offered up a caveat

Municipalities should use these only in areas that are known to be hazardous, where speeding is a real problem. And they should rig them to catch only the worst scofflaws, not the driver who creeps up to 35 in a 30-m.p.h. zone. Just as the average cop allows drivers a margin over the posted speed limits depending on conditions, so too should these cameras. (In Arizona, cameras on highways are set to issue tickets at 11 m.p.h over the posted limit. Sounds fair.) The point here is to reduce recklessness, not dun every driver who happens to harmlessly drift a few miles over the posted limit.

Still, if not watched carefully, bureaucracies will always tend to take their mandates to a relative extreme.

Again, I’m in no way suggesting that we’re all gonna be imprisoned in a vast, statewide jail. I just wish that legislators would try to think about how they’re making punishment too cheap and easy when voting for bills like this.

I’m interested to hear what you think.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      

J-Kid slammed, Quinn defiant

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* ISPeeved, an anonymous blog for state police troopers, is a bit, um, peeved at the choice of Jonathon Monken as the new Illinois State Police Director. Monken has no police experience and is just 29 years old. He’s been nicknamed J-Kid by the blog administrator.

Dusty Rhodes has the inside scoop on how Monken was picked. Apparently, he’s buddies with the new (and also very young) director of the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs Dan Grant…

[Monken] was interested in something like deputy chief of staff for military relations, or a senior advisor post like the one his buddy Grant had just vacated.

She also has internal react, which mirrors many of the ISPeeved comments…

“We’re all mortified. This is a slap in the face,” one near-retirement-age officer told me. “Being a good soldier doesn’t mean that you’re a good cop. Knowledge would be nice too, especially when a cop-type thing comes up.”

“Who is this guy and where did he come from? No one knows. Everybody’s befuddled. I think everybody’s shocked,” another high-ranking officer told me.

* Monken faces stiff opposition in the Illinois Senate, which must confirm his nomination…

Monken is well-suited to many state government jobs, but his skills don’t match up to what is needed for a state police director, said state Sen. Willie Delgado, D-Chicago, a former parole agent.

“I find it very concerning that Governor Quinn is so adamant about this,” Delgado said.

“I have reservations about having to cast a vote and sleep at night, knowing how it may impact the rest of the team, the state troopers, for morale, discipline and wondering what will it take to get promoted.”


“If he’s never been in any of those agencies, doesn’t know what those agencies do, hasn’t even been a police officer, hasn’t even been to the police academy, it would be very difficult to make those very tough decisions,” said Sen. John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican who was once police chief in Elmhurst.


Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) cast further uncertainties about Monken’s chances of Senate confirmation and wants to meet with Quinn and Monken to “address concerns about his background,” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said.

* But the governor is promising a fight

“I think Jon Monken is a very good person for this, and so we are not going to yield at all,” Quinn said. “We’re going to go eyeball to eyeball with some of these senators and ask them to take a second look and examine their conscience.” […]

“I just think that’s very wrong, and we’re not going to let them get away with it,” Quinn said.

He can’t win this one.

* Related…

* Illinois State Police lab, and new director’s inexperience, under fire

* State Police Have Backlog Problem

* Audit: Backlog at state police forensic labs hurts criminal cases

* Growing DNA backlog hampering authorities

* Audit: Forensic backlog hurts criminal cases

* Madigan warns state police to comply with orders to expunge records

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

Budget shenanigans abound

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* Keep in mind when reading this story about Blagojevich lies and incompetence that Gov. Quinn still has the same budget folks on board who touted this supposedly money-saving idea last year…

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich said closing Pontiac Correctional Center would save taxpayers about $4 million.

But a review of the costs associated with his failed plan to shutter the maximum-security lock-up shows that taxpayers have shelled out at least $4.1 million to pay for something that never happened. […]

The $4.1 million price-tag is based mainly on what the state paid or is under contract to pay in order to prepare Thomson Correctional Center to accept inmates from Pontiac.

The estimate does not account for some of the transportation costs related to the transfer of inmates throughout the state’s sprawling prison system that was under way before Gov. Pat Quinn scuttled Blagojevich’s plan.

According to state purchasing documents and interviews with state officials, it has cost an estimated $2.6 million to hire and house 208 additional correctional officers, all of whom now apparently will be farmed out to other prisons.

* Meanwhile, the CTA wants to pull a Filan and skip a big pension payment…

The Chicago Transit Authority is floating a plan to close a $155-million budget hole without raising fares, cutting service or boosting the size of its public subsidy.

But the proposal faces a very tough sales job in Springfield, where lawmakers would have to agree to allow the CTA to at least temporarily reduce contributions to its employee pension plan.


But the key to the plan is $40 million Ms. Brown would like to save by reducing mandatory CTA contributions to its pension fund.

Under a deal worked out last year in Springfield, the CTA restructured the plan, with workers agreeing to cut their benefits and the CTA agreeing to refinance it with a large bond issue.

The bonds were issued and proceeds turned over to the fund, which according to Ms. Brown now has a relatively healthy 84% ratio of assets to potential liabilities. But the agency still has to pay $132 million a year in debt service on the bonds and $58 million a year in annual pension contributions.

Ms. Brown says that’s not all needed, and wants to reduce the $58 million payment to about $18 million, at least for now.

Speaker Madigan apparently isn’t enthused, but this is exactly what Gov. Quinn wants to do with state pension plans, which have a far lower assets to liability ratio than the CTA’s pension fund does.

* The SJ-R thinks Quinn’s budget is too hard on state workers and says a Chicago casino is a better alternative…

Quinn told us Thursday that his budget’s critics must offer alternatives and not “chirp on the sidelines.” We continue to believe a downtown Chicago casino is a viable revenue-generating vehicle. While crafting a gambling bill is difficult because of the myriad interests that have to be satisfied, we’re not sure it’s any harder than coming to a deal on these changes with public employee unions.

The Springfield newspaper, which often bashes Chicago politics, is now willing to give the city a casino?

* And the Ag Director wants fee hikes

llinois’ budget mess has reached the point that the director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture said Thursday it can no longer rely on the state’s general-revenue checkbook to pay for farm programs.

Tom Jennings wants to eventually make the agency self-supporting, and he has proposed starting with fee increases expected to bring in $2.9 million annually. The proposal includes raising more than two dozen fees ranging from fuel-pump inspections to costlier state fair admissions and charges for previously free services.

OK, but what happens when the governor (whomever it might be) inevitably raids the department’s special funds?

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* Recession hits kids sports: Out-of-work parents pressed for big fees

* IIT kills basketball: Men’s and women’s programs are shut down

* All aboard: high speed rail coming to Chicago?

* Union, Boeing avoid strike

* Navistar cuts jobs at bus plant

* Buyers Market

* Fed grant to help with renovation of Cultural District

* Passenger Travel Down at Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria Int’l Airport

New numbers released on Peoria’s airport show passenger travel dropped more than 20–percent compared to last February.

* Grant to restore Ill. Confederate cemetery

A Confederate graveyard and memorial in the Mississippi River city of Alton will be getting a $250,000 upgrade, paid for by the federal economic stimulus measure Congress passed.

* Peotone airport: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget offers hope for backers of proposed Will County facility

* Quinn announces $30 million available for counties affected by storms and flooding last year

* Burst Of Energy Money

The Obama administration is giving more than 112 million dollars to the state of Illinois to improve energy efficiency.

* Chicago schools report: Group wants officials to improve communication with parents

* Aide to former Chicago alderman gets 3 years

A former aide to convicted Chicago Alderman Arenda Troutman has been sentenced to three years in prison for mail fraud.

* Daley kin lawyer up

Mayor Daley’s son and nephew have hired a criminal defense attorney to represent them in the ongoing investigation of their investment in a sewer-cleaning company that won millions of dollars in no-bid contract extensions from City Hall.

Charles Sklarsky, a former federal prosecutor now with the law firm of Jenner & Block, confirmed Thursday he is representing Patrick Daley and his cousin Robert Vanecko.

Hoffman recently issued subpoenas to three city pension funds for records involving DV Urban Realty. One of those funds, the Chicago police pension fund, is refusing to comply with Hoffman’s subpoena. Hoffman doesn’t have the authority to subpoena records from the pension fund, its attorney David Kugler said Thursday.

Vanecko and Davis are guaranteed $3 million in fees for managing the pension fund investments under a deal that runs through Dec. 31, 2014. Among the real estate deals in which they have invested so far, they have bought an apartment building at 1212 S. Michigan and loaned $1 million to help restaurateur Matthew O’Malley redevelop the former Chicago Defender building.

* Police Union to Protest When Olympic Committee Visits Chicago?

* Calls to 911 ’simply vanish’

Burned before by a faulty computer-aided dispatch system, the Chicago Fire Department waited a year to move into the 911 center and continued to dispatch emergency vehicles manually for months after they got there because of computer software problems.

“Any time you do any computer upgrades, you experience some issues,” Martinez said Thursday. “Considering this is the first major upgrade they’ve done in 10 years, they’ve been extremely pleased with the technology.”

* Weis picks Latino for Internal Affairs

Juan Rivera was promoted to chief of Internal Affairs after most recently serving as deputy chief of the Grand Central Area.

The announcement comes about a month after Hispanic clergy met with Weis about the lack of Latinos in high-ranking positions — noting that three of 25 districts were headed by Hispanics and that there were no Hispanics among the four deputy superintendents and seven chiefs.

Also promoted Thursday were Roberto Zavala, from commander of the Ogden District to deputy chief of the Grand Central Area, and Berscott Ruiz, a lieutenant in the Ogden District, to commander of the district.

* Pedestrian danger zones: Kankakee County town posts highest per-capita traffic accident rate in greater suburban Chicago area

Hopkins Park, a small town in Kankakee County, had more traffic accidents involving pedestrians per capita during a recent three-year period than any other town in the greater suburban Chicago area, according to a study released Thursday.

* Failure to rein in drunks killed more than parade

* Drunken parade reveler: Don’t blame me for parade cancellation

* City worker happy St. Pat’s parade ended

* Illinois State Toll Highway Authority: Board offers temporary clemency to toll scofflaws

Facing public outrage and a legislative effort by lawmakers, the tollway board voted unanimously to immediately implement a “toll violation spring cleaning program,” effectively eliminating a $50 surcharge on each fine through June 30.

* Tollway proposes scofflaw system reforms

- Posted by Mike Murray   4 Comments      

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Friday, Mar 27, 2009

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Time for a rethink?

Friday, Mar 27, 2009

* My Sun-Times column looks at the governor’s tax increase from a somewhat different angle

Gov. Pat Quinn’s income tax increase plan may be good public policy, but it’s probably very bad politics.

The governor wants to shield low- and moderate-income working families by tripling the state income tax’s personal exemptions, from $2,000 to $6,000, while increasing the income tax rate by a point and a half.

Too many numbers can make the eyes glaze over, but try to stay with me a few more seconds.

Under Quinn’s plan, a family of four with an adjusted gross income of $30,000 would receive a $390 tax cut. A single person making $30,000 would be hit with a $240 tax increase. A family of four with a $56,000 annual income would pay no extra taxes. A single mother with one child who makes $56K would pay $420 more. Etc.



I can relate.

It’s complicated. And complicated tax proposals can scare the daylights out of your average, everyday state legislator.

Heck, even when things aren’t complicated, the voters can often draw the wrong conclusion.

For instance, Ohio has cut its income tax rates by 21 percent since 2005. Yet, a new statewide poll taken by Hart Research Associates discovered that a mere 8 percent of Ohioans knew their income taxes had been reduced. A third of Ohioans actually thought their taxes had increased. The rest either didn’t know or figured their tax rates were about the same.

Ohioans aren’t especially stupid or ignorant, and that poll result isn’t really all that surprising.

Lots of people believed their income taxes were raised by former President Bill Clinton, even though his first-term tax increases focused on the wealthy. People are (rightfully) cynical and just don’t pay very close attention to the news, or, apparently, their pay stubs. They see the words “tax increase,” and figure they’ve been dinged.

Meanwhile, much of the “person on the street” reporting since Quinn unveiled his tax idea has focused on angry, worried folks who were certain that their taxes would increase so high that they’d have to get another job or cut way back on essentials in order to stay even. Many probably have little or nothing to worry about. But you’d never know it by their reactions or the reporting.

And because our current income tax rate is just 3 percent, Quinn’s 1.5 percentage point increase turns out to be a whopping 50 percent increase. “Quinn proposes 50 percent tax increase” is an incredibly scary headline, regardless of the real-life impact on taxpayer pocketbooks.

So, if people will cynically believe that their tax burden will increase regardless of the facts, and the media misreports the tax proposal in the first place, and potential political opponents will undoubtedly take full advantage of all that cynicism, ignorance, anger and confusion, what incentive does the average state legislator have to vote for Quinn’s plan?

Quinn says he’s willing to lose the election in order to do what’s right. But how many legislators will follow him off that cliff?

Because Quinn’s tax increase includes the exemption “reform,” it doesn’t raise much money to patch the state’s gaping budget deficit. So, there’s a lot of talk in Springfield of cutting Quinn’s tax increase way back, forgetting about the exemption reform and raising about the same amount of cash.

Some are willing to phase in the exemption reform over a few years. Others have suggested borrowing money to close the deficit and paying it back with a possible tax increase down the road.

There are sound policy reasons to do what Quinn wants to do. But political reality in Chicago and Cook County — where voters are already super-hostile to any talk of tax increases — means the governor’s idea could use a major rethink.


- Posted by Rich Miller   65 Comments      

Unsolicited advice

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

* Dear Gov. Quinn,

Please, don’t say stuff like this

“God has, I guess, seen fit to see that I’m governor.”

Patrick Fitzgerald is a lot of things, but God he ain’t.

* Dear elected officials with Internet sites,

Please, read this Chicago Public Radio blog post

Almost every politician I stumbled across had a “news” or “recent news” section. That’s a great service for the constituent. But if you do have that category, please update! In a very informal survey, 9 out of 10 sites did not update. State Representative Tom Cross has a big picture of his family and a banner exclaiming “Happy Holidays”. It’s late March Mr. Cross.

* Dear Gov. Quinn (again),

Your embrace of your old pal and former Blagojevich budget czar John Filan is simply beyond comprehension. Want more proof that you need to distance yourself from this man? How about this new Auditor General’s report on the Illinois State Police’s Division of Forensic Services, which concluded that, as AnimalFarm says, “case backlogs are up while the number of forensic scientists and trainees is down and more than a million dollars in federal grant funding was allowed to lapse”…

While [Illinois State Police] has notifed the Governor’s Office of backlog and and staffing needs, the Governor’s Office has not allowed ISP to replace lost headcount. Failure to maintain necessary staffing levels results in cases remaining unsolved and serial criminals could remain free to commit additional crimes.

Filan’s a bean counter who too often just doesn’t understand the consequences of his bean counting.

* Dear 19th Warders,

Calling off the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade next year is probably a good idea to let the craziness cool out. But check out Kadner and Tridgell for some much-needed perspective before you put the permanent kibosh on the event.

* Your turn…

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Will they even know they got a tax cut?

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - IL 2.0; Big news roundup; Budget notes (use all caps in password)

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

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Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

* The setup

Video poker machines at taverns, restaurants and fraternal clubs throughout the state could pay out winnings legally under a measure pending in the Illinois House.

The legislation would allow every tavern and restaurants with a liquor license to have three machines that would be tied into a centralized system to track income. Fraternal organizations, such as the Elks and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, would be able to have five machines in their facilities.

State Rep. Frank Mautino said by taxing something that is currently being done under the table, the state could generate $300 million in revenue that would help fund construction of schools.

“They are there and turning your head doesn’t do any good for anyone,” said Mautino, D-Spring Valley, who is sponsoring the legislation. “We’ll take what comes in and use it for areas most in need.”

Anti-gambling groups call the proposal a massive expansion of gambling.

“It’s illegal, and if you legalize it then more people will participate,” said gambling opponent Anita Bedell of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems.

* The Question: Good idea or not? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      

Dems encouraging GOP circular firing squad

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

* As subscribers already know, the House Executive Committee attached hostile Democratic amendments yesterday to two GOP-sponsored open primary bills. The amendments are identical to SB 600, which is legislation backed by Republican insurgents to force a popular vote to elect GOP state central committee members. The state party, you will recall, is completely and unalterably opposed to the “reform” proposal, which is backed in the Senate by conservative state Sen. Chris Lauzen.

The amendments’ HDem sponsor explains his rationale, with tongue planted firmly in cheek

“I’m trying to give the Republican Party what it has insisted for the last six or eight weeks it wants: open and transparent elections,” said Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat who pushed for the change.

Lang, of course, was referring to GOP demands that a special election be held to force Blagojevich-appointed US Sen. Roland Burris out of office.

* The GOP reaction

Rep. Michael Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican, said political parties are private organizations that should have the right to self-governance, and it would be “very wrong” for one political party to dictate to another how to operate.

Rep. Skip Saviano, an Elmwood Park Republican who also is a Republican State Central Committee members, said the Democratic leadership flat out is trying to retaliate against Republicans for calling them out on inconsistencies over how to handle Burris’ controversial appointment. It also would kick the GOP when it’s already down, when they hold minorities in both chambers and don’t hold a single constitutional office. “This is an attempt to keep the Republican Party in disarray,” Saviano said to Lang during a House committee this morning.

Saviano said there’s been a longstanding agreement that each political party could conduct its own business. “Now, they’ve crossed the line.”

Then again, the numbers favor the Democrats, which have enough votes to send the bill to the Senate without a single Republican vote. “If they want it to be a done deal, Democrats could pass it and hijack the Republican Party,” Saviano said. “I mean, that’s what this is all about.”


- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

More trouble in paradise

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

* Apparently, there are some problems with approving Gov. Quinn’s nominee to run the Illinois State Police. Jonathon Monken is 29 and has no police experience, which isn’t going down too well

Gov. Pat Quinn faces his first fight with state senators over a Cabinet nominee because the Iraq war veteran he nominated to lead the Illinois State Police has no experience as a policeman in Illinois. […]

But state Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), who chairs the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, said Monken’s military leadership does not outweigh his lack of police experience.

Munoz, who is on leave from the Chicago Police Department, and other senators commended Monken’s military experience but maintained he did not now have enough support from senators to win committee approval.

* And as if the guv doesn’t already have enough problems with AFSCME, there’s this, which I told subscribers about last week…

The union that represents Illinois prison workers is vowing to fight Gov. Pat Quinn’s plans to cut prison spending by about $65 million by changing work hours for guards and ending several programs. […]

Quinn also wants to make security staff work 12-hour shifts for three or four days each week on an alternating schedule. Those employees now work five eight-hour shifts per week.

DOC estimates the new schedule would cut overtime costs from $61 million this year to $13.1 million next year. That would help the agency hire 183 additional workers and give employees already working 12-hour and 16-hour shifts more flexibility.

A spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 calls 12-hour shifts an accounting trick that merely “redefines what is currently considered overtime as straight time.”

* Meanwhile, the SJ-R comes out in support of something I’ve been pushing for at least a year…

Quinn and legislators could craft a more gradual, realistic [pension] payment schedule beyond 2045, which would reduce the annual payments. If they do, the plan should be more akin to a fixed-rate mortgage, avoiding severe spikes in payments.

The 2045 goal of reaching full funding for the state’s pension systems is not something handed down from God. It’s just a goal, created by humans. Move the goalposts back ten or twenty years (or more, for all I care) and we can lower the state’s annual payments.

* Related…

* Quinn wants to do away with cost-of-living increases for top officials

* Gov. investigating ‘midnight’ pay raises

* Gov. Quinn To Reopen Historic Sites

* Business leaders urge Quinn not to hurt job creation

* Quinn’s budget a starting point; work to be done

* Committee To Reduce Comes Up With Nothing

* Deficit panel wrap-up: 4 weeks, no proposals

* Panel can’t find state budget solutions

* Starting points, but no consensus, yet

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      

Indictment watch begins today *** UPDATED x1 ***

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

*** UPDATE *** Natasha Korecki says the indictment won’t happen today

It’s no secret a federal grand jury is expected to return a formal indictment against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But it won’t be today.

With an April 7 deadline looming, that leaves next week — likely Thursday — the day the grand jury considering evidence against Blagojevich and others meets.

Prosecutors could ask for an extension — but I’m told that won’t happen.
Sources say that prosecutors are calling witnesses back for the third and fourth time tying up small, final details.

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* I told subscribers about this possibility the other day…

Sneed hears a federal grand jury may be asked to indict Blagojevich, his wife, Patti, and his brother Robert today.

• • Translation: “The indictment is expected either today or when the grand jury meets again next Thursday,” said a Sneed source.

• • The big question: Will the feds ask for an extension?

• • Response: “I don’t know whether it’s legal help Blagojevich needs . . . or Lourdes,” said a top eagle.

• • Postscript: In case you didn’t know, Lourdes is a Catholic grotto in France known for miracles.

Could be today, could be next Thursday. We’ll all know soon enough. It’s just too bad the indictment wasn’t handed down yesterday during Blagojevich’s loathesome appearance on WLS Radio…

WLS Program Director Bob Shomper said listener response he received was “lopsided” along the lines of Blagojevich’s approval ratings, but that “you’ve got to take a few risks in life - and in business too,” adding, “The opportunity outweighed the risks big time.”

Whatever. I can’t imagine that many advertisers want to be associated with that clown. WLS ought to be ashamed of itself. This goes beyond a publicity stunt. Quite a few people believe Blagojevich is attempting to use his public appearances to “taint” the region’s jury pool, so WLS could be seen as aiding and abetting any such scheme.

* Related…

* Governor a conspirator? Not this one

* Rod Blagojevich, media star: 2-hour stint on WLS used to attack Quinn

* Dueling governors: Rod Blagojevich, Pat Quinn snipe at each other on the radio

* Blagojevich: ‘I was hijacked from office’

* Quinn: Blagojevich’s Radio Debut Full of Fairy Tales

* Radio Rod: Ex-governor hosts local talk show

* A guide to Blago-cabulary

* Schoenburg: Blagojevich’s need for attention trumps good sense

* Attorney Terence Gillespie joins Blagojevich team

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

VanillaMan surfaces

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

* I’ve often pondered the identity of regular commenter VanillaMan, he of conservative wit and bizarro-good songwriting abilities. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I had figured it out.

I was pretty proud of myself until yesterday, when the “real” VanillaMan showed up to the Illinois 2.0 forum which I helped host. He wasn’t the person I thought he was…

Sorry for the poor pic quality, but we still need to keep his identity a secret. He’s way cuter than his arch-nemesis “Bill,” by the way.

Anyway, VanillaMan is a good guy and we had a very enjoyable conversation. He also got to meet a few other regulars from the blog, so I think he had a lot of fun as well.

* Thanks to all for showing up yesterday. We had a great crowd and the audience participation made the program far more interesting and informative - kinda like the comments here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

* Pension funds may not cooperate on subpoena

Trustees for at least two city pension funds are considering stonewalling Chicago’s inspector general over a subpoena for records involving their investments with a company co-owned by one of Mayor Daley’s nephews.

The funds invested millions of dollars in DV Urban Realty Partners, founded by Daley nephew Robert Vanecko and Allison Davis, a mayoral supporter whose law firm once employed Barack Obama.

The police fund has committed $15 million to DV Urban Realty, which has drawn $5 million of that so far. The investment has dwindled as the economy has tanked.

Many officers and detectives are outraged by the investment, which they view as a political favor to Daley’s family. Officer Mike Shields was recently elected as a trustee on a platform criticizing the deal.

* Ill. officials OK $69M rate hike for Nicor

The Illinois Commerce Commission has approved a $69 million rate hike for Nicor Inc., which distributes natural gas to more than 2 million northern Illinois customers.

An ICC spokeswoman says it means about a $2 to $3 monthly increase for residential customers.

* CUB to Appeal Nicor Rate Hike

* Economy dips at slightly faster 6.3 percent pace

* More than 5.5 million are getting jobless benefits

* Chicago parking meters: City rushes to fix meters and bill the company that leased them

* Amtrak has stimulus funds heading to Chicago

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $1.3 billion for Amtrak projects nationwide. The money will go toward hundreds of initiatives, including modernizing train-repair shops, improving security at Amtrak stations and spending almost $91 million to rehabilitate damaged locomotives and train coaches and return them to service, officials said.

Some of the restored trains would be put into service in Illinois, where double-digit ridership gains have been recorded on many routes recently and seats often sell out.

Almost $50 million will be used to improve Amtrak’s Chicago maintenance facilities and terminal near Union Station, officials said

* Amtrak in Ill. to get $80 million

* Mortgage fraud probe snares Southland residents

* 30% of contracts may go to women, minorities

Minorities and women would be guaranteed a combined 30 percent of Olympic construction contracts — and at least 20 percent of Olympic Village units would be made affordable — under a community benefits agreement hammered out Wednesday.

The deal includes no guarantee of Olympic jobs for community residents.

* Police union may picket City Hall during Olympic visit

The FOP is thinking about conducting informational picketing April 2 to protest the Daley administration’s recent decision to pull an offered raise of 16.1 percent over five years. The union also is upset Mayor Daley came to Police Supt. Jody Weis’ defense after the FOP gave him a no-confidence vote last week.

* Olympic committee visit: Chicago police union may picket during IOC visit

* 2016 Olympics: Chicago faces controversy before big pitch

The extent to which the rancor may damage Chicago’s bid remains to be seen, with much depending on how the dispute plays out, said Robert Livingstone, producer of, which this week ranked Chicago last of the four bids.

But, he said, “there will be negative repercussions, there has to be.”

* Chicago Olympic team practices for big game

* Mayor shouldn’t duck tough questions

* Where in the world is Mayor Daley?

* Atty. Gen. Madigan takes on Dish Network

* Scott Reeder — Books and guns, and politicians’ last wishes

* 2 inches of snow possible Saturday

* Peoria could be forced to raise taxes

- Posted by Mike Murray   20 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

* The updated legislative retirement list
* Question of the day
* Today's quotable
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Campaign news; Supplement to today's edition; More candidate announcements
* Poll: 66 percent of Chicagoans think the city is on the wrong track
* Our new and unbalanced budget
* Proft calls HB40 "integrity test" for Rauner
* There will be no kid glove treatment for Drury now
* Madigan denies "reports" that Rauner has asked him for budget meetings
* Catholic group warns Rauner against signing "electoral suicide note"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Nekritz out, Raoul backed by Cullerton as unknowns ask "Why not me?"
* We need a capital bill, but don't hold your breath
* Biss starting to get questions about his voting history
* SEIU derides "3 strikes" rule, Rauner admin defends
* Preckwinkle tries again to defend pop tax
* *** UPDATED x4 - DGA, Pritzker, Pawar, Biss respond *** Rauner speaks out on NFL protests
* *** UPDATED x6 *** Harmon will lift the hold on HB40
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax
* Personal PAC planning newspaper ad claiming Gov. Rauner and First Lady "lied"
* Yesterday's stories

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* Indiana governor seeks federal funding for railroad project
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* 5 ex-managers of Bloomington arena indicted on 111 counts
* Violence in US rises for second straight year
* Patients in Illinois get legal help for non-medical issues
* FBI reveals sketch of person of interest in post office bomb
* Suburban Chicago man charged with killing ex-girlfriend, son
* Ex-congressman Mel Reynolds' tax trial to start Monday

* Rauner says anthem protests disrespectful
* Abortion rights bill sent to Rauner
* Abortion rights bill on way to Rauner
* Ex-congressman Mel Reynolds' tax trial to start Monday
* Public invited to vote on Main Street preservation projects
* Scramble begins in Illinois attorney general race
* Abortion bill is hot potato for Gov. Rauner
* New Illinois law will let adults earn high school diplomas
* Raoul enters AG race, apologizes for 'Miss America' comment
* AG candidate Raoul apologizes for 'bad characterization' of opponent

* Trust in health insurers sinks to an all-time low
* O'Hare is the nation's best for connections
* Target is smart to raise its minimum wage
* Steeler who stood for anthem now has best-selling NFL jersey
* WTTW/WFMT announce $65 million fundraising campaign

* 3 robberies reported last week on South, Southwest sides
* ‘Pretty Woman’ the musical, headed for Chicago debut before Broadway
* Man, 30, shot in West Pullman
* Police: Person found shot to death in Woodlawn
* Feds rush aid to Puerto Rico, while Trump tweets about debt
* Niles North varsity football suspended amid hazing investigation
* Jon Lester nacho problem for Cubs on night of good news, better vibe
* Matt Davidson proud of what he’s done but ‘I’m capable of more’
* 59-year-old man dies after falling into Crystal Lake beach
* WATCH: Addison Russell dumps fan’s nachos, then delivers new plate

* Cubs fun includes eliminating Cardinals, winning over Nacho Man
* Cubs one step from NL Central title, eliminate Cardinals from division race
* Chicago gets pre-Broadway tryout for ‘Pretty Woman’ musical
* Tennessee church shooting suspect had previous run-ins with police
* James Shields, Nicky Delmonico drive White Sox to 4-2 win over Angels
* Feds rush aid to Puerto Rico, while Trump tweets about island's Wall Street debt
* Megyn Kelly gives Chicago nun house, funds for South Side work
* Blackhawks fall to Bruins 4-2 in preseason
* Trump, Bannon on opposing sides in tight Alabama senate race
* Jason Heyward believes Cubs, Indians share second-half similarities

» Violence In US Rises For Second Straight Year
» In Major Reversal, Cook County Prosecutors Agree To Reduce Sentence Of Addolfo Davis
» Abortion Legislation Puts Gov. Rauner On Election Bind
» Abortion Legislation Puts Gov. Rauner In Political Bind
» State Week: IL Attorney General Candidates, The Soda Tax, and Courting Amazon
» State Week: IL Attorney General Candidates, The Soda Tax and Courting Amazon
» Governor Running Out Of Time On Location Tracking Regulation
» In Cook County, 3 Prosecutors Are Handling Hundreds Of Wrongful Conviction Claims
» An Accounting For Meteorological Violence Among Insurers
» Illinois Supreme Court Upholds Murder Conviction Of Drew Peterson

* Marc Thiessen: Trump's UN speech promoted classic conservative ideas
* Rauner says anthem protests disrespectful
* Abortion rights bill sent to Rauner
* Abortion rights bill on way to Rauner
* Ex-congressman Mel Reynolds' tax trial to start Monday
* Public invited to vote on Main Street preservation projects
* George Will: America's engine is being slowed by complacency
* Scramble begins in Illinois attorney general race
* Statehouse Insider: Illinois finances not the worst? Believe it or not.
* Angie Muhs: New content coming to Sunday SJ-R

* Business owners, religious leaders, officials criticize police response to protesters
* County passes 2018 tax levy, but abatements are planned for spring
* Some lawmakers, clergy are calling weekend arrests in St. Louis a ‘police riot’
* North Scott High School auditorium to receive $3.5 million renovation
* City considering Alton Square TIF district, budgeting for emergency vehicles
* After fire, Moline on the hunt for substitute Franklin school
* Manker explores attorney general campaign
* Music industry names share wisdom with Millikin students
* HS Boys Soccer: SJ-O vs. Judah Christian
* Foster: 'Big Ten is a different monster'

* Girls tennis scoreboard: Monday, Sept. 25, results
* Girls volleyball scoreboard: Monday, Sept. 25, results
* Girls golf scoreboard: Monday, Sept. 25, results
* Boys soccer scoreboard: Monday, Sept. 25. results
* Boys golf scoreboard: Monday, Sept. 25, results

* Montgomery mayor hosts health care forum a...
* Naperville's Lauren Underwood to run for R...
* What suburban members of Congress say abou...
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* Marking the purchase of a new iPhone
* EXTRA: Whole world was watching
* 9th ward meeting with Ald. Beale on Tuesday
* “The Driver’s Side” – News From The Motorist’s Perspective
* Concerned Bloomington citizen files FOIAs on city-owned stadium, results led to 111 indictments
* The [Thursday] Papers
* How flood insurance works, and how it ought to work
* Appeals court requires Texas cities co-op with immigration officials; Illinois bans same
* The premiere of The Opposition With Jordan Klepper, and more of the best things to do in Chicago this week
* August brings higher Illinois home prices, lower sales amid tight inventory

* Illinois Awarded Funds to Offer Advanced Training on Detecting Impaired Driving
* Illinois EPA Announces Upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events
* IEMA Highlights Emergency Preparedness for People with Access and Functional Needs in May - Ready Illinois website offers preparedness tips for people, caregivers
* First Lady Launches Illinois Family Connects
* Governor and Lt. Governor Unveil 2016 Journal of Local Government Shared Service Best Practices

* iOS and macOS Spotlight web search preferences move from Bing to Google
* HP Elite x3 to remain on sale “through 2019”
* Sprint hires lobbying firm with strong support for Trump as T-Mobile deal nears
* iPhone 8 Supports Enhanced Voice Services Codec for Better Quality Audio on Some Carriers
* Snapchat Gains Augmented Reality 'Sky Filters' for Adding Virtual Weather Effects to Photos
* How to Use New Pinning and Tables Features in Notes in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra
* Verizon confirms its Wear24 Android Wear watch is gone after 4 months

* Shields K's 8 as White Sox play spoiler role
* Shields fires gem as White Sox play spoiler role
* Fulmer's start pushed back to Saturday
* LIVE Color Feed: Angels vs. White Sox
* White Sox, Shields open final homestand of '17
* Episode 154: The 2nd Wave
* Sox Century: Sept. 24, 2017

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