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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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* Open thread and another LSSI reminder
* In defense of Mary Todd Lincoln on her 200th birthday
* Caption contest!
* Rauner says he'll file end of term report, clear clemency backlog
* Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards
* Pritzker roundup
* Cook County Public Guardian sues DCFS: "Abject moral and human rights failure"
* Mendoza signature clearance rate is high during first round
* Your holiday season moment of Zen
* Pritzker criticized over lack of Active Transportation Alliance members on his transition committee
* Color me skeptical
* Pritzker heading to White House today
* Sen. Schimpf wants Satanic sculpture removed from rotunda as Rep. Bryant introduces condemnation resolution
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* Yesterday's stories

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