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Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

* Shutting ‘er down a bit early today so I can get on with the weekend. Hope yours is as fun as mine’s gonna be.

* I agree with several commenters that this is probably the best song for today, but the original has that “bad” word in it, so I had to find an edited version. This ain’t bad at all, however…


I’m the innocent bystander

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Friday afternoon campaign roundup *** UPDATED x1 ***

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

*** UPDATE *** I didn’t even know he had an exploratory committee. I guess he thinks it went well, though. From an e-mail forwarded by a reader…

Statement by Robert L. Zadek, Republican Candidate for the United States Senate Illinois

Zadek Announces his candidacy for US Senate.

Rockford, IL (April 24, 2009) — “Several months ago, I began an informal exploration of a run for the United States Senate from Illinois. That informal exploration began with meetings with citizens and activists across the state. I attended many events across the state as well speaking to people and confirming the need and desires of the people for fundamental change in Illinois and our nation.”

Can’t you just feel the Z-mentum building?

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* This e-mail just arrived in inboxes throughout the state…

Breaking News!

This morning, Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Rich Miller, reported the findings of a scientific poll pitting Pat Quinn against Lisa Madigan in a hypothetical Democratic Gubernatorial Primary. The poll asked Chicagoans who they would vote for; and, across the board, Lisa is the clear favorite. […]

While Lisa continues to contemplate her future in public service, please show her your support. Send her a clear message right now with a contribution of $25, $50, or $100 and let Lisa know that you support her too!

Doesn’t sound like an attorney general candidate to me.

* Gov. Quinn is taking some heat on hiring

So far, Quinn has given most of the top jobs to white men.
Seven of his hires are women, racial minorities or both. They include Quinn’s general counsel and policy director, but most are in second-tier jobs such as deputy chief of staff or scheduler.

The Illinois Association of Minorities in Government calls it “a huge concern” that women and minorities haven’t been more prominent among Quinn’s appointments.

“Minorities across this state have a lot of experience, and we think that experience should be reflected in his administration,” said Jonathan Lackland, the association’s executive director. “Those are individuals who can come in and help him see things differently.”
Quinn sounded pained by the criticism.

“Well, I don’t know how they can say that if they take a look at the people I’ve brought in and intend to bring in,” he said.

* Patterson has a review of Rep. Jack Franks’ radio appearance this morning with Mancow Muller.

Muller asked Franks, who is an attorney, if Franks would represent him if Muller went on a parking meter vandalism spree in Chicago. Franks said yes. Muller blasted the city’s higher parking meter fees more than a dozen times during the show.

Franks did speak up to challenge show guest Gov. Pat Quinn to blow up the state budget in order to fix it. Rather than just continuing existing programs from year to year, Franks wants to start the entire budget at zero and rebuild it. Quinn was not persuaded.

But Franks was much quieter when Muller interviewed Kim Kardashian, who is mostly famous for being Kim Kardashian. She insisted that while she’s “a curvy girl,” she still wears a size 2.

Franks admitted he doesn’t know who Kardashian is.

Franks is floating his name for attorney general.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

* What music video would you like posted when comments are closed for the weekend later today?

I’ll make my decision based on the intensity of your nominations, not the number of nominations, so please explain fully.

- Posted by Rich Miller   94 Comments      


He’ll never understand until he’s behind bars - and maybe not even then

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

* This will be devastating

The former law school roommate, longtime friend and onetime chief of staff to Rod Blagojevich is now taking a new role against the former governor: federal witness.

While Lon Monk showed up in federal court Thursday to plead not guilty to a wire fraud charge, a federal prosecutor said a plea deal is due in short order.

Monk was one of Blagojevich’s closest confidants. You can put it on the board. Blagojevich is going away for a very long time.

* So, you think the Blagojevich show is a circus now? Just wait until these two gentlemen are fully on board with his legal defense team

Sam Adam Jr. and his father, veteran Chicago lawyer Sam Adam Sr., are in line to join attorney Sheldon Sorosky in the governor’s corner. The younger Adam aided Blagojevich during impeachment proceedings in Springfield, and the father and son advised him during his media blitz earlier this year.

“We’re assembling the team right now,” the younger Adam said Thursday. “I am honored to have been asked to represent the governor, and we’re going to fight.”

The younger Adam would bring the somewhat bombastic style he has become known for at Chicago’s Criminal Courts Building to the more mannered halls of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. He may be best known for his fiery work on the team that won the acquittal of R&B superstar R. Kelly on child pornography charges last year.

The story notes that the two will join the team if Blagojevich’s federal judge allows them to tap Blagojevich’s campaign fund for legal fees. Adam Jr., however, said at least once that he would represent Blagojevich for free.

* And speaking of circuses

NBC executives have asked Patti Blagojevich to act in her husband’s stead and become a contestant on the reality show “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!”

But a defense lawyer, who did not want to be named, said the couple will heed their attorneys’ warnings and not allow Patti to do the show. The attorney said the two were told: “They both should follow Judge [James] Zagel’s sage advice regarding Costa Rica.”

Actually, the judge’s advice was to take some time and think about his predicament. He’s obviously not listening

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich eagerly became a Hollywood high-flyer, but his hair paid the price.

During filming Thursday of a promotional spot for the NBC reality series “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” Blagojevich was strapped into a harness and hoisted in front of a blank “green screen” to simulate a parachute jump.

Wind machines mussed his famous mop of hair for the spot filmed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, standing in for the Costa Rican jungle.

Video of the moron…


* Related…

* Being gov and reality are similar, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich says

* Stephen Baldwin Joins ‘Celebrity,’ and Blago May Not Be Gone Yet

* I’m a taxpayer … please get me out of here

* Blagojevich Editorial Cartoons

* Blagojevich’s ex-chief of staff pleads not guilty

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Pay raises and tax hikes

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

* This story is missing a major component

Elected officials are on track to get a 3 percent raise next year, and lawmakers passed on an opportunity Wednesday to vote on skipping pay raises.

State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, used a parliamentary maneuver to have the matter considered. Black said lawmakers should not be getting any raises on the heels of a probable income tax increase and at a time when the statewide unemployment rate is nearing 10 percent. […]

While Republicans in the House tried to get Black’s measure out of committee, all but three Democrats voted to keep it there. Unless the matter is revisited, the pay raise will take effect.

In reality, the bill was only just introduced Wednesday - weeks after the deadline to pass House bills over to the Senate. It was a purely political move. Had the HGOPs introduced the legislation earlier, it might’ve had a better chance. It was nothing more than a stunt, which is why you didn’t see much reporting on it.

* This is an understatement

Senate President John Cullerton said Thursday that Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal, which includes a tax increase, program cuts and budget maneuvers, does not have enough support in the Senate.

Patterson has more Cullerton quotes

“I think [legislators] would have to focus on what the alternatives would be. I think if they really see what wouldn’t get funded … it would help of course if the public knew what the state government does. We have a problem in Chicago particularly where the media doesn’t cover state government like the downstate media does. And as a result, not only are the constituents not as informed, but the legislators aren’t as informed. And so when I go to the editorial boards, I’ve been to Champaign, Carbondale, Peoria … the editorial boards are very well informed about the state government and so are the constituents and the legislators.

“But in the Chicago media market, which is 80 percent of the state, people don’t know who we are or what we do. They just say, ‘cut the waste and reform the ethics.’ That’s fine but there’s $22 billion that we spend on school districts and nursing homes and hospitals and dentists. And they don’t want us to cut that.

“They want us to cut apparently the $6 billion that would be for the operation of state government. We could save $1.5 billion by not funding the prison system. That’d be one way of doing it. But we’d have to let all the prisoners out. And so that’s probably not a good idea. That’s the thing. We have to go through and educate people on what the state government really does.”

* There’s also growing worry at the Statehouse that Speaker Madigan doesn’t really care about passing a capital construction bill, as the AP hints

House Speaker Michael Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he doesn’t know what kind of support Quinn has for an income tax increase in the House, but said it is going to take a lot of cooperation to iron out a budget that will help the deficit.

A construction bill could take a back seat to the state’s annual budget, which Quinn says needs an income tax increase to bail it out of a deepening financial hole.

* Related and semi-related…

* Lack of support for state tax hike

* Lawmaker: Construction projects should assist top unemployment areas

* Construction group: Pass state spending bill

* Illinois prisons seek medical cost savings

* A better way to watch our tax money

* Illinois Reform Commission aims to fix ‘corrupt’ system

* Chicago revitalization plan: Despite uncertainties, $15.5 billion proposal for downtown is moving forward

* Mayor Daley says aldermen irresponsible for suggesting tax cut as city revenues drop

* Daley Against Aldermen’s Stimulus Plan

* Mayor Daley: Ald. Howard Brookin’s quest for a Chatham Super Wal-Mart doesn’t stand a chance

* Daley: Wal-Mart has no chance in Chicago

* Alderman Supports Some Layoffs for City Workers

* The sheep are steamed

* Duncan’s successor at CPS faces on the job lessons

* End overcrowding in Latino schools

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Claypool leads in Chicago in three-way race

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

* More from those Chicago poll results

Some analysis from Progress Illinois…

The numbers here aren’t terribly surprising (though keep in mind that the poll was conducted before the Dunnings/Cole scandal). Preckwinkle and Stroger are splitting the African-American vote and lagging way behind Claypool among whites. The survey didn’t test second-choices, so it’s hard to guage how either Stroger or Preckwinkle would fare in a head-to-head match-up against Claypool.

Meanwhile, the Latino community has the highest number of undecideds. Among those Latinos who do favor a candidate, however, the breakdown is pretty interesting. Both Claypool and Preckwinkle are in the low- to middle-teens, while Stroger has nearly three times as much support.

I’d add more, but I already did this one for subscribers.

* Meanwhile, the aftermath of yesterday’s special county board meeting was more than a little chaotic

Stroger declined to answer reporters’ questions, which he typically does after board meetings, and security blocked access to commissioners’ offices routinely open to the news media.

When Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) told reporters that Stroger has created “a total lack of confidence in this government,” Stroger spokeswoman Chris Geovanis interrupted to accuse commissioners such as Suffredin of engaging in “a smear campaign for purely political reasons.”

* Related…

* Todd Stroger’s people knew. Did he?

* Cook County: Todd Stroger sticks by story about worker’s past

* Protecting Stroger

* Tony Cole’s Background Check at Center of County Hiring Controversy

* Demand For Answers In Stroger Hiring Scandal

* County CFO Resignation Causes Stir at Board Meeting

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Madigan stomping Quinn in Chicago

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

* First up, more results from that poll of Chicagoans we discussed yesterday. Attorney General Lisa Madigan has a big lead over Gov. Pat Quinn…

Those numbers include initially undecided voters who were then asked which way they were leaning.

* Mayor Daley, however, thinks quite highly of Gov. Quinn

“Pat Quinn has done a very good job so far,” Daley said. “I think he has the passion and the heart. He does. He has a soul.” […]

Asked if his effusive praise for Quinn amounted to an endorsement in 2010, Daley replied, “You just asked me how well he was doing, and I think he is working really hard.” […]

“You know, the thing I’ve always been impressed with — he’s gone to every funeral of every young man killed in Afghanistan in Iraq, no matter what part of the state,” said the mayor, whose son was in the military in Afghanistan. “He doesn’t do it for publicity. He is just thanking them. Very, very interesting.”

* But Quinn canceled a fundraising appearance in Rockford last night after over 100 protesters showed up…

Governor or not, they chanted outside the Radison hotel. With signs in hand, more then 100 educators protested against Governor Pat Quinn’s proposal for school funding.

* And my Sun-Times column today takes Quinn to task

There’s a program for doctors and hospitals called “Sorry Works.” The idea is to apologize to patients after medical mistakes are made and offer reasonable compensation. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it often helps avoid expensive malpractice lawsuits.

The Chicago Sun-Times editorialized in favor of the program in 2005 after the paper published an article showing the concept had seemed to cut legal actions in half against the University of Michigan Health System.

Anyway, this column isn’t about doctors. It’s about Gov. Pat Quinn.

Earlier this week, the governor was asked if he thought he should apologize for defending and even praising the now-indicted Rod Blagojevich, particularly during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign. At the time, he was running with Blagojevich as his lieutenant governor.

“No, I don’t think apologies are necessary,” Quinn said, adding that voters “do not want to look backwards.”

“They want to look forward, and that’s what I’ve tried to do in the last 12 weeks, find every way we can to open up our government and to have reform in every place in our government,” Quinn said.

In a way, he’s right. It most certainly is time to fix the many horrific problems Blagojevich created. We shouldn’t be overly fixated on the past.

But, we cannot turn a blind eye to the terrible mistakes that many of us made. If we don’t own up to our mistakes, how can we expect others to believe that we won’t avoid similar errors in the future?

I for one, was at times taken in by Rod Blagojevich. Usually, I was pretty circumspect, but I believed some of his stories about the trouble he was in and occasionally fell for his considerable charms.

So, just let me say right here and now, I sincerely apologize and I’ll try never to let that happen again.

I feel better now. You might want to try it, especially if you voted for Blagojevich, or believed his lying campaign ads, fell for his spin doctors’ lines or ever defended him during a conversation.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. Just say it out loud. “I’m sorry.”

See? Don’t you feel better?

And if doctors can avoid lawsuits by apologizing, Quinn might want to start thinking about how voters will react to his refusal to say, “I’m sorry.”

A new poll conducted by the widely used Democratic firm of Bennett, Petts & Normington shows Attorney General Lisa Madigan is already thumping Quinn 2-1 in a Democratic primary.

Five hundred Chicagoans were surveyed March 23-25 and the margin of error is 4.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted on behalf of the Service Employees International Union.

According to the poll, Madigan has 44 percent to 22 percent for Quinn. Add in those who are leaning toward one candidate or the other, and Madigan is ahead 48-24. About 28 percent were undecided. She’s way up in the African-American community as well, 51-23.

Madigan had $3.5 million in her campaign account at the end of last year and has since been on a fund-raising tear. That’s a whole lot of money to bash Quinn for trying to raise taxes and stubbornly refusing to apologize for praising Blagojevich.

Quinn had just $85,000 on hand last year and is about to hold his first major fund-raiser since being elevated to the governor’s office.

A recent poll taken by Rasmussen Reports had Quinn with a 61 percent job approval rating. But most — 44 percent — only “somewhat” approved. His numbers are soft and he’s vulnerable.

Sorry works, governor.

* Related…

* Gov: State will ‘overcome challenges’

* Watch replay of Quinn’s visit

* Health panel quackery

* Quinn won’t apologize for Blagojevich connections

* Quinn opens historic sites, says they’ll stay open

* Crowd helps Quinn reopen Dana-Thomas House

* Quinn touts aid for home updates during visit

* Gov. Quinn in Rockford for Earth Day

* Wind power: Homeowners, small businesses install turbines to cut long-term energy costs

* Even in the wild blue yonder, it’s up to us to go green

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Bill Daley out of Senate race

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

* No surprise at all

Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley is opting off a political fast track.

• • To wit: Daley, the brother of Mayor Daley, told Sneed in February he planned to enter the U.S. Senate sweepstakes for the seat once held by President Obama, now held by the embattled Roland Burris.

• • It’s over: “I was gung-ho, and hired pollsters and talked to fund-raisers and planned to make an announcement in mid-April,” Daley told Sneed yesterday. “But I’m getting remarried in June and decided I want to take a new tack in my life. I just don’t want to live a commuter life back and forth from Washington.”

• • The China connection: Sneed also tipped March 25 that Daley may be getting his chopsticks ready — becoming the next U.S. ambassador to China, but has nixed that idea. “It’s true, there were serious discussions about China, but I recently decided, ‘No.’”

* Meanwhile, the Post-Dispatch looks at the Bright Start loss which might possibly haunt Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias’ race for US Senate…

Imagine your shock when, on opening your statement, you learn that your conservative, state-sponsored fund lost 38 percent of its value last year. If you’re astute enough to dig deeper, you learn the fund was using derivatives to increase its exposure to mortgage-backed securities.

Yes, even as the housing market was tanking, someone thought it was a good idea to make a risky, leveraged bet on mortgage bonds. And they did it with your kid’s college fund. […]

Illinois was the first state to react to the problems. On Dec. 4, it began directing new money into other investments instead of Oppenheimer Core Bond.

However, Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announced that existing balances would remain in the Oppenheimer fund “to avoid locking in past performance declines.” That looks like a mistake: Core Bond has lost 3.2 percent since early December, compared with a positive return of 4.7 percent for a Bloomberg bond-fund index.

The piece concludes with a generally positive view of the Bright Start program, however.

* Incumbent US Sen. Roland Burris was recently endorsed by, um, this guy

Scott Baier, a 28-year-old former Mercer County [New Jersey] Republican Committeeman who was a Socialist Party candidate for State Assembly in 2005. His platform includes putting George W. Bush, Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld on trial for war crimes, abolishing the U.S. Department of Defense, the nationalization of the media, legalization of all drugs, a constitutional amendment banning all guns, and a “total ban” on pornography.

* More campaign stuff…

* Democrats getting ready for 10th District run

* Dems looking at alternatives to Sen. Burris

* Burris Grills Hearing on Funds for Minority Businesses

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Morning shorts

Friday, Apr 24, 2009

* Elk Grove Village drops legal challenge of O’Hare expansion

* Elk Grove Throws In The Towel

* Minnesota rips Illinois tollway about drivers it says were unfairly ticketed

* Minnesota Attorney General Asks Illinois Tollway to Hold Off on Tickets

* Minn. To Ill.: Stop Sending Tickets To Our Drivers

* Metro Chicago unemployment up to 9.3%

* City to use federal cash to buy, fix, sell foreclosed home

* Marketers, corporations offer to soften blow for unemployed

* Jewel to slash prices on groceries

* Which way are state, local economies likely to go?

* Empress’s icons come tumbling down

* Burned Joliet casino pavilion demolished

* PJSTAR: May shared gains follow the pain when Cat recovers

* Ford posts $1.4 billion 1Q loss, burns less cash

* Robberies on CTA trains, buses and L platforms rise sharply in 2009

* A Story About Potholes and What Can Be Done About Them

* Making the tough call to Fran Spielman, Sun-Times City Hall reporter who’s receving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Headline Club

* Chicago Marathon registration hits 45,000

* Blagojevich critic gets his turn at WLS mic

That will be an advantage, said a nervous state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, who follows in the footsteps of impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich this morning by co-hosting a radio show on WLS-AM.

“I would not even be close on that one,” Franks said of a contest between Blagojevich’s famous do and Franks’ sometimes less than perfectly coifed silver mane.

Franks fills in from 9 to 11 a.m. for the vacationing Pat Cassidy on the “Mancow and Cassidy” show. While Franks has been on the radio many times during his decade as state representative, this morning he’ll be on the air with Erich “Mancow” Muller.

* Thousands of pigs killed in farm fire

* Bean calls for investigation into pharmaceuticals in drinking water

* Liberal group aims at Biggert

* Class-action lawsuit filed over water

* Crestwood no place for environmentalists

* Daley praises Maggie’s resolve in battle with cancer

- Posted by Mike Murray   4 Comments      


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Friday, Apr 24, 2009

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Blagojevich back on TV *** UPDATED WITH VIDEO & Press Release ***

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

[Updated and bumped up]

* In case you care

Rod Blagojevich will appear on NBC’s ‘Today’ show Thursday morning, according to the PR firm that represents the former Illinois governor.

This is his first interview since a federal judge denied Blagojevich’s request to travel to Costa Rica for the upcoming NBC reality show ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here’ that begins in June, says Glenn Selig, the former governor’s spokesman and founder of The Publicity Agency.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Video…

*** UPDATE 2 *** He just can’t let it go. From a press release

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich delivered a suprise during an appearance this morning on NBC’s ‘Today’ show by announcing he would be heading to L.A. to promote the upcoming reality program ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.’

Earlier this week, a federal judge in Chicago said he would not alter the former governor’s bond allowing him to travel to Costa Rica to participate in the show.

“He’s mindful and respectful of the court’s ruling that he can’t leave the country but we’re still exploring ways for him to be part of the show,” says Glenn Selig, Blagojevich’s publicist and founder of the PR firm, The Publicity Agency. “He wants to be supportive of the program.”

Selig declined to elaborate on the options being explored.

The former governor will attend a press event for NBC this Friday, April 24.

Blagojevich had hoped to earn a salary for appearing on the program that airs in June, in addition to raising money for his favorite charity.

Charity?

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


Lost in the mail?

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

* I told subscribers about this early today…

A criminal background check at the heart of a growing controversy surrounding Cook County Board President Todd Stroger was completed long before Stroger has suggested, according to the Illinois State Police.

In interviews this week, Stroger said he fired troubled steakhouse busboy-turned-patronage-worker Tony Cole earlier this month for not disclosing a felony conviction on his job application. Stroger also said Cole’s criminal background check took several months to complete.

Today, State Police Lt. Scott Compton said the agency mailed background check results on Cole to Cook County on Dec. 20—nearly four months before Stroger fired Cole. (The Tribune called a different state police spokesman Monday but did not get a return call until today.)

Anyway, Stroger’s people never called me back, but they did call the Tribune today

Stroger spokesman James Ramos said today that the state police report was not received in December and suggested it could have been lost in the mail. Ramos said another request was made to state police and the agency faxed it to the county Feb. 11. Then on Apr. 2, the county inspector general issued a report on the matter. Within days, Cole was fired, he said.

So, now it’s the inspector general’s fault for the delay. Stroger’s Tony Cole story has been changed more times than a baby’s diaper. It’s just ridiculous how they can’t seem to get anything straight over there.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

* The setup

While the Chicago Tribune laid off more than 10 percent of its news staff Wednesday, the paper’s corporate overlords sought bankruptcy court approval of a plan to pay $13 million in bonuses to top managers.

Tribune Co., operating under Chapter 11, said in court documents that the bonuses are essential for executives who provided “extraordinary contributions during an exceptionally difficult year” in 2008. They would be shared by 700 managers throughout the company, excluding its 10 top officers. […]

Relying on findings from compensation consultant Mercer (U.S.) Inc., Tribune said that even with the awards, the executives would be paid 41 percent less than their market competitors. […]

Meanwhile, newsroom employees at the media giant’s flagship had their own morale issues as managers conducted the biggest one-day purge since real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell took over the company. The layoffs are a response to declines in advertising revenue, a fate shared by media companies across the country.

A partial list of the doomed

Business reporters Joshua Boak, Eric Benderoff and Susan Diesenhouse, and assistant editor Suzanne Cosgrove;

Breaking news reporter James P. Miller;

Photographers Candice C. Cusic, and David Trotman-Wilkins;

Assistant features editor and writer of the Tribune’s “Recession Diaries” blog Lou Carlozo; deputy editor Lilah Lohr, and reporter Robert K. Elder;

Schaumburg deputy bureau chief William Grady;

House and homes editor Elaine Matsushita;

Writer Elizabeth Botts;

Sports reporters John Mullin, Bob Sakamoto and Terry Bannon;

Sunday magazine editor Brenda Butler and reporters Jessica Reaves and Tom Hundley.

* The Question: Should Tribune Co. withdraw that bonus request? Explain fully, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


Poll: Daley in the dumper

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

* A new citywide poll conducted on behalf of SEIU by the Democratic polling firm of Bennett, Petts, & Normington has some pretty awful results for Mayor Daley

The survey found that 41 percent of respondents give Daley an “excellent” or “good” job rating, while 58 percent give him “only fair” or “poor” marks. Here are the crosstabs, which show African-Americans and Latinos are particularly dissatisfied:

The poll also found that only a plurality - 47 percent - believe that Daley has “the best interests of Chicago at heart.” Yikes, man. PI has now run a correction…

This post originally stated that 47 percent of responds believe Daley has “the best interests of Chicago at heart.” In fact, that figure was 58 percent.

OK. Nevermind then.

* Chicago right track, wrong track

City council approval

Progress Illinois analysis

What’s fascinating is that, despite holding the collected aldermen in such low regard, 71 percent of respondents agreed that the “City Council should have a bigger role in how to spend the rainy day funds in Chicago,” referring to the estimated $2.1 billion in unobligated funds identified by SEIU’s researchers. The poll also found that 76 percent of respondents would like both the mayor and the City Council to “be in charge of how these funds are spent,” rather than just one or the other. This goes back to the strong agreement among 90 percent of the respondents that “Mayor Daley should be questioned because he is not always right.”

The take-away seems to be this: The public is giving the City Council a bad grade not because of what it’s doing, but because of what it’s failing to do (i.e. provide a counter-balance to the mayor).

Another striking finding: 91 percent of respondents agreed that it is “important to have a progressive voice at the table when important issues are being discussed in Chicago,” with 75 percent strongly agreeing. This suggests that the “progressive” brand is one worth embracing at the municipal level.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


Campaign updates

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

* Bond ramps up

State Sen. Michael Bond (D) is gearing up to run for Rep. Mark Kirk’s (R) seat, according to sources familiar with the situation. Kirk is pondering a bid for Senate in 2010, and his departure would make his north Chicagoland seat a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats.

Bond has tapped John Lapp to do his media campaign, Bennett, Petts & Normington to his polling and Ed Peavy to do direct mail for the race, according to one source familiar with the arrangement. The source also said a former aide to Rep. Melissa Bean (D), Brian Herman, will manage his campaign.

* I don’t know this guy, so maybe some of you can help fill me in…

As a deputy state treasurer, Peoria native Raja Krishnamoorthi was involved in administering billions of dollars in funds and tough ethics rules.

Now, he wants to maintain the state’s central fiscal accounts as comptroller.

Krishnamoorthi, 35, now of the Chicago suburbs, is exploring a run for state comptroller - assuming Democrat incumbent Dan Hynes does not seek re-election.

“My perspective is shaped in important ways by my time growing up in central Illinois and Peoria,” Krishnamoorthi said. “At the same time, having lived and worked in Chicago and now the suburbs, I feel like I have a broader perspective on some of the issues that confront the state, so I can view the different issues from different perspectives and angles, and that will help me in the decision-making process going forward.”

* Gentle push-back on Denny Hastert’s son

Ethan Hastert, a lawyer and son of former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives J. Dennis Hastert, has confirmed that he is considering a run for Congress. […]

However, Kenyon and Wiggins both said they wondered whether an entrance by Ethan into congressional politics at this time might be a little soon.

Both men questioned what impact his father’s political history might have on the younger Hastert’s aspirations. […]

“I want to win,” Kenyon said. “That’s the important thing to me. So I want the time to be right.”

* And CQPolitics rates Illinois’ 2010 Senate race “No clear favorite“…

Should he run, Burris faces a virtual certainty of serious Democratic primary competition. Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias plans to run. William Daley, who was Commerce secretary to President Bill Clinton and is a member of the prominent Chicago Democratic family, is weighing a campaign, as are several other Democrats.

Republicans have suffered a string of election defeats in now-strongly Democratic Illinois, including losses in nine of the past 10 Senate races. But the GOP has a shot at winning the seat, particularly if voters blame Democrats for the state’s political mess. Among the Republicans weighing the race is Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, a GOP moderate who is serving his fifth term in a pro-Obama district north of Chicago.

* Speaking of Burris

Sneed hears embattled U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, who’s been unpopular with his peers since accepting the job from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is apparently having a hard time finding help.

• • To wit: Sneed is told Burris has placed job postings for interns with colleges throughout the state, including Loyola University Chicago and John Marshall Law School.

Sheesh.

* Another Shimkus frenzy

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, is no friend of climate change legislation and he showed it [yesterday].

On the second day of a House hearing on the Waxman-Markey bill, which among other things would initiate a cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon emissions, Shimkus used his turn of questioning to rip the bill as downright destructive.

“I think this is the greatest assault on democracy and freedom that I’ve ever seen in Congress,” Shimkus said, adding that he’s presided over two wars and a terrorist attack. “I fear this more than all of the above activities that have happened.”

I doubt he’ll have much of an opponent next year, but he’s sure acting like it.

* Related…

* IL-10: Bond Gearing Up to Run

* State Senator Michael Bond the Latest Contender for Mark Kirk’s Not-Yet-Vacated Congressional Seat?

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Tax hikes pushed, tax cuts demanded, guv picketed

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

* Turnabout is fair play

Just a week after hundreds protested taxes at the Capitol, a larger group, including some suburban residents, turned out Wednesday to support higher taxes that’d prevent deep cuts to state programs.

The crowd, which organizers pegged at 1,500, was welcomed by Gov. Pat Quinn, who vowed to help working families and defended his plan to raise income taxes to help eliminate a deficit that’s grown to nearly $12.4 billion over three years.

But some of those people apparently haven’t gotten the message. Asking for a tax hike this year for a new program or increased spending other than capital projects is almost assuredly dead on arrival

More than 200 dentists came to Springfield to convince lawmakers a tax increase on drinks high in sugar would greatly increase funding for state-sponsored dental programs across the state. The dentists say an added 5 percent tax on such drinks would generate $94 million.

You can debate the merits of that tax hike if you’d like. I just don’t see it happening.

* In Chicago, a few aldermen are talking about tax and fee cuts

Specifically, ten City Council members led by Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Tom Tunney (44th) want to:

* Waive the $3-per-car city parking tax on Saturdays and Sundays in the Central Business District.

* Phase out the $4-a-month employee head tax by lopping $1 off the hated tax in each of the next four years.

* Declare a moratorium on parking meter rate hikes tied to the 75-year lease of Chicago’s 36,000 parking meters until “pay-and-display” boxes are installed. Pay-and-display boxes take credit cards and are relatively free from the mechanical problems that have plagued the transition to a private contractor.

They also included “roll back the Cook County sales tax hike” in their plan, which they have zero control over, so one wonders about the “realness” of this as well.

* And Gov. Quinn will be picketed tonight by a teachers union…

More than 100 educators plan to protest education funding during Governor Pat Quinn’s stop in Rockford. […]

The protest is being organized by the Illinois Education Association. They’re upset because they say Quinn’s state budget proposal doesn’t do enough to balance education opportunities at all Illinois schools.

Discuss.

* Related…

* Rally Wants Better State Budget

* Tea Parties more like bad Republican infomercial

* A protest in need of a sane image

* Dentists seeking tax hike on soda, energy drinks

* Aldermen push own biz-friendly stimulus plan

* Chicago aldermen propose tax repeals

* National agency to state schools: Make college more affordable

* SIU officials trek to Springfield today

* $10.6 million in state budget for Triton

* More than just a welcome mat

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Caps in the real world

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

* Journalism

Imagine a rerun of Blagojevich’s 2006 re-election campaign, but this time under the tight donation caps [$2,400 individuals, $5,000 PACs] now being pushed by a blue-ribbon commission named by Gov. Pat Quinn. Even under that scenario, the analysis found, the Democratic incumbent would have enjoyed a nearly 3-1 fundraising edge over Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka.

Blagojevich oversaw a fundraising juggernaut that raked in a state record $60 million in just eight years, including 454 separate gifts of at least $25,000. Plug in the commission’s proposed limits, and Blagojevich’s jackpot would shrink nearly in half, according to the analysis. But that’s still an impressive $34 million.

That’s just $6 million shy of the amount George Ryan raised throughout his entire political career.

Then again…

[Michael] Madigan’s state party has raised $25.5 million over the last eight years, but caps would have rolled that back by 69 percent to just under $8 million, the analysis showed. Since 2001, Madigan has used the state party to funnel $1.2 million to the coffers of his daughter, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan. Caps would have trimmed that back to $100,000.

However, Madigan isn’t accused of doing anything illegal by any prosecutors.

* And, yes, bad guys do contribute campaign money

A large suburban management-consulting firm whose founder has been a major political donor was hit Tuesday with a wide-ranging deceptive business practices lawsuit from the Illinois Attorney General’s office. […]

[Attorney General Lisa Madigan], a potential 2010 contender for governor, accepted $22,700 in Burgess-linked campaign cash and in-kind services before becoming attorney general in 2003. She has not taken Burgess-related money since then and will not in the future, aides said. […]

Between 1999 and 2009, Burgess and entities tied to him contributed $679,933 to more than two dozen state campaign committees but saw $278,942 of that total returned as IPA’s legal problems deepened. Besides deceptive business practice allegations, IPA is fighting an EEOC class-action sexual-harassment lawsuit filed in 2001.

State campaign records show ex-Gov. Blagojevich was the largest recipient of Burgess-related cash, taking in $200,200 and another $15,000 through an affiliated campaign committee called Democratic Victory Fund. But all of those funds were returned.

The company’s contributions to Republican Rep. Sid Mathias became an issue in his campaign last year. Mathias won big.

* Related…

* State Pension Board Reforms Good First Step

* State panel approves pension boost for Blagojevich appointee

* Time to keep a scorecard on reform ideas: When the Quinn commission brought forth ideas on changes in government procurement, or how the state goes about securing goods and services, attorneys for the House and Senate Democratic leadership “closely questioned the reform commission about its procurement proposals, and an array of officials from state agencies testified that the commission’s ideas could cost the state time and money.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Morning shorts

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

Quinn & IL Goes Green

* Walking the Walk – Gov. Pat Quinn Leads by Example

* Quinn won’t apologize for Blagojevich connections

* Health panel quackery

Sometime in the coming months, the scandal-plagued, corruption-scarred, worse-than-useless Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board likely will cease to exist.

You can stop applauding. It’s not what you think: The board, which regulates hospital construction, isn’t being abolished, as this page has urged.

It’s just getting a new name — the Health Facilities and Services Review Board — if a proposal in the legislature passes and is signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. The board would add four more members (for a total of nine). And the board members, who have been unpaid, would get paid. (One good thing: That would be a government salary, not the pay-to-play shakedown schemes that tainted the board in the Rod Blagojevich era.)

This is progress? Not in our book.

* Illinois historic sites: 11 closed sites to reopen

Quinn, who replaced Blagojevich after he was thrown out of office in January, was more direct on April 15 when he ordered the sites reopened. He called Blagojevich’s decision to shut them a “huge blunder” that cost the state thousands of dollars in tourism.

Quinn, who is expected to preside over the sites’ grand reopenings from the Dana-Thomas House on Thursday, authorized half of $1.6 million in public works funding to pay for their openings and management through June 2010, Blanchette said.

* Illinois’ closed historic sites to reopen

* Four Southern Illinois historic sites reopen today

* Quinn calls for greener Illinois

* Earth Day: Quinn aims for greener governor’s mansion, tough standards

* Quinn orders agencies to cut waste, pollution

Gov. Pat Quinn marked Earth Day by ordering state agencies to cut waste and making the Governor’s Mansion more environmentally friendly, but he gave a cold shoulder to fighting pollution through Illinois taxes and regulations.

After signing an executive order Wednesday requiring state agencies to conserve energy and reduce pollution, Quinn said he remains opposed to raising gasoline taxes, even if that would encourage the use of more fuel-efficient cars.

* Gov expected to bring fund news

Mayor Larry Morrissey plans to fly back to Rockford Thursday with Gov. Pat Quinn after lobbying for state capital money for various infrastructure projects and federal stimulus funding for passenger rail service and green-technology development.

Quinn is expected to hold an afternoon news conference here Thursday to announce Rockford is receiving up to $7 million in weatherization grants over two years. The money, administered by the city’s Human Services Department, will make homes of low-income families more energy-efficient with new furnaces, windows and improved insulation.

“The governor understands that Rockford is pushing to be on the cutting edge of economic development opportunities and on the cutting edge of industrial and manufacturing opportunities,” Morrissey said. “We will talk about going green and going global.”

* Governor Dedicates Gob Nob Wind Turbine

* Blowing Green in Tazewell and Logan Counties

* Wind power convention shifts to Chicago

About 80 Illinois firms will be exhibiting at this year’s show, Ms. Bode said. The typical wind turbine has 8,000 components, such as gears and fasteners, and “Illinois is right in the middle of the manufacturing boom because they have this expertise.”

Illinois currently ranks eighth in the nation in wind energy production, she added, with about 915 megawatts of capacity, or enough to power more than 200,000 homes.

* Exelon to build largest U.S. urban solar power plant on Chicago’s South Side

ComEd parent Exelon Corp. plans to build the nation’s largest urban solar power plant on the city’s South Side by year’s end.

The $60 million project is expected to create about 200 temporary construction jobs and 10 to 15 permanent positions at the plant. The project is contingent upon Exelon getting a federal loan guarantee for up to 80 percent of its cost under the federal stimulus package that is doling out money for green jobs and emissions reductions.

The plant’s 32,800 solar panels would convert the sun’s rays into enough electricity to meet the annual energy requirements of 1,200 to 1,500 homes. It would eliminate about 31.2 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions a year, the equivalent of taking more than 2,500 cars off the road or planting more than 3,200 acres of forest, Exelon said.

* Illinois’ first hybrid school bus debuts to cheers

* Illinois producing less trash, recycling more


Blagojevich Round-UP

* Blagojevich on ‘Today’ this morning

* Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich still considering appearances on reality TV shows

* Bernard Schoenburg: Cellini doesn’t seem to have Blagojevich’s money woes


Constitutional Officers

* Fairmount Park’s future is in U.S. Supreme Court’s hands

The case of Empress Casino Joliet Corporation v. Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois State Treasurer is a case the Illinois Supreme Court ruled on last June that said the four largest casinos in the state must pay all Illinois race tracks money that had been held in an escrow account for two years. At the time, Fairmount was set to receive about 10 percent or about $7 million of a reported $70 million.

Half of that $7 million would be used to increase purses for the horsemen at Fairmount, while the other half would be spent by management for operations and capital improvements of the facility.

But lawyers for the casinos appealed the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling last December to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the federal high court agrees to review the case, it could be a year or more before a ruling is issued, and a delay that long could doom the Collinsville facility.


Congress

* Englewood pride: Congressman Bobby Rush salutes Bulls’ Derrick Rose


GA

* State lawmakers getting raises despite move to block

* House Democrats block GOP bid to prevent lawmaker raises

* Illinois poised to expand gambling and entice losers

* Franks 
to co-host 
radio show

* Dan Brady asks public to attend town hall meeting on state budget


Capital Bill & Budget Stuff

* Springfield hears push for ‘human capital’

Despite the state’s financial crisis, State Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-7th Dist.) contends state legislators understand the need for a capital bill.

“I don’t think you can find one person in Springfield that doesn’t want to pass a capital bill,” she said. “They know it is necessary.”

* Q-C business leaders push for projects in western Illinois

“Our message is really about the need for a capital bill,” said Rick Baker, president of the Illinois Quad-City Chamber of Commerce.

This trip was more pleasant than in years past because lawmakers are more willing to work with Quinn than ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Baker said.

“That lack of trust that existed between legislators and the governors office is gone, which gives us a lot of optimism for a capital budget,” he said.

* State owes Sandwich schools $1 million

* Ill. Obama license plate sales break record


Economy

* GM to shut most plants during summer months

* GM employees may get shutdown details this week

* Diageo Invests $20.2 Million to Expand Capacity at Illinois Plant as Ready-to-Serve Cocktails Grow

* Local governments expect to receive $14 million in stimulus funds

* We can make the South Side a model for health-care reform

Reese’s fate gives a sense of the vast health-care challenges in underserved areas like the South Side. Tight financial resources here can make it difficult to sustain advanced-care centers such as Reese and the University of Chicago Medical Center, where I work.

No single hospital will solve the South Side’s health disparities by working within its own four walls. And no center here can thrive without strong affiliations — that’s one lesson of Reese’s demise. But if we learn to trust one another and work together, we can help our patients and prevent more hospital lights from flickering out.

* Sun-Times Media Group names new advertising VP

* $200K helps keep StreetWise on streets

Donations totaling nearly $200,000 have given StreetWise and its magazine vendors something to shout about.

Bruce Crane, StreetWise’s executive director, said $195,000 raised in the past week is more than enough to keep the doors open for the rest of the year.

* Chicago’s StreetWise saved

* O’Hare radar: New radar activated for future runways, backup for primary system failure

* Express bus? Only if Sandra Bullock is driving

RTA’s own financial disposition fact sheet explains the transit system faced a $400 million structural deficit prior to the General Assembly’s sales tax hike. While the legislation also included a real estate transfer tax to sustain the RTA and its agencies, that revenue has been lower than anticipated.

RTA receives a total of $410.5 million annually. The money, however, is less than half of what is needed for one year just to maintain the current system and its maintenance needs, according to RTA.

The RTA estimates it needs $10 billion during the next five years to address crumbling infrastructure on trains and buses. It spends more than $50 million annually to operate outdated equipment. It is one of the oldest transit systems in the country.

And yet, express coach buses are under consideration? How about fixing the machines and improving the routes it currently operates?

* Use found for invasive Asian carp


City Hall and Stroger Round-Up

* Unions Asked to Ease Chicago Budget Trouble

When you stop and think about it, organized labor cannot give the city $350 million worth of concessions, because they’re not there. There (aren’t) enough adjustments that we can do to ease their budgetary woes.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, union leaders have been warned that 1,600 workers could lose their jobs if a new agreement isn’t reached. That’s on top of the 420 union employees the city has already laid off.

* City Council to rule again on Wal-Mart in Chicago

As promised, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) introduced an amended redevelopment agreement at Wednesday’s Council meeting that would allow Wal-Mart to build its second Chicago store - and first “supercenter'’ that sells groceries - at a former Chatham industrial site at 83rd and Stewart.

Brookins’ decision puts the City Council back on the hot seat with labor unions, which opposed allowing Wal-Mart to open in the city. But Brookins sloughed off the suggestion that he’s putting his colleagues between a rock and a hard place.

“This economy has put us between a rock and a hard place….People really need jobs….The only people who appear to have money in this economy are Wal-Mart and McDonald’s. They’re the only stores that are expanding,” the alderman said.

He added, “Midway [Airport] didn’t get sold. The city’s facing a significant deficit. We need all the revenue we can find so we can avoid laying off workers.”

* Chicago parking meters: City Council belatedly questions deal that privatized parking meters

Less than five months after the Chicago City Council quickly and overwhelmingly approved the deal, aldermen buffeted by public complaints pushed a slew of ordinances Wednesday targeting the $1.2 billion lease of Chicago’s parking meters to a private company.

One measure calls for hearings to examine the deal, which ushered in dramatic rate hikes at 36,000 meters across the city. Another would halt rate increases until all meters are uprooted and replaced with “pay and display” equipment allowing motorists to pay with credit cards and place tickets on their dashboards. Yet a third would require a 30-day waiting period before aldermen could approve any plan to privatize city assets.

* Aldermen Demand Review Of Large City Asset Sales

* Chicago Schools CEO Wants Classes Year-Round

* Teachers Union Hesitant to Support Year-Round Classes

* Number of year-round schools expected to double

The number of Chicago Public Schools operating on a year-round schedule is expected to more than double following a vote today by the Board of Education.

Schools CEO Ron Huberman said the 132 schools that will start the 2009-10 school year on the so-called “Track E” — which replaces the traditional 10-week summer break with shorter breaks interspersed throughout the calendar year — are designed to prevent students from losing information over an extended summer break.

* 1 in 4 grade schools going year-round

* Maggie Daley, wife of Mayor Richard M. Daley, awaits results of bone biopsy

* Maggie Daley: Mayor’s wife undergoes biopsy

* At City Hall, this reporter can’t be beat

Just last year, Fran produced more than 600 bylined stories from City Hall, and I can tell you her great frustration was that — in an era of shrinking newspapers — there wasn’t room for hundreds more she wanted to write.

On a typical day, Fran will propose six stories, settle with the editors on three or four for which there is space, then write four or five anyway. Nowadays, the stories that previously wound up on the cutting-room floor are published on the Web site, suntimes.com, which only partly placates her.

Nobody fences with Mayor Daley more than Fran Spielman — nobody.

* Stroger unfit to govern

* Cook County Republicans join growing chorus for Todd Stroger to Resign

* Stroger hires Magee for Forest Preserve

* Cook County political scandal: Judge increases bail for fired worker hired by Todd Stroger

* Fired county employee Tony Cole cursed out probation officers

“Basically, he was cursing us out and [saying] to leave him the “f - - - alone,” Ponder said. “He also said ‘I’m not coming down the f - - - - - - stairs.’ ”

Cole’s attorney Peter Bormes questioned why his client was checked on 76 times over 64 days.

Cook County Circuit Judge James P. Murphy said it appeared to be 66 times and that on eight occasions Cole couldn’t be found.

According to the county’s adult probation office, officers made 45 home visits and phoned Cole 29 times between Jan. 30 and his mid-April arrest, acting Chief Probation Officer Jesus Reyes said. His records show Cole couldn’t be found on four occasions.

* Ex-Cook county employee to remain in jail


Other Interesting Tid Bits

* College of DuPage: Lame-duck board votes to extend president’s contract

College of DuPage President Robert Breuder said he won’t reject a three-year contract extension approved by trustees last week amid a torrent of controversy and protests in a packed-to-capacity meeting.

“Your contract was for 42 months, giving you plenty of time to show that you are worth the big bucks,” Debbie Fulks, of the community-based group DuPage United, said to Breuder. “Extending your contract is a dirty trick by a lame-duck board that the voters have kicked out of office. Do we really need to bring shenanigans worthy of [former Gov. Rod] Blagojevich to DuPage?”

* Bad water, bad officials in Crestwood

* DuPage board member’s fundraiser raises some eyebrows

* Free lunch? Not on taxpayer’s dime, please

* Zounds, let thee speaketh like … Elmer Fudd?

* Eberts donate $1 million to U of I

* Witness in Chicago hiring fraud trial takes leave after DUI arrest

* Guard who abused inmate in Sweden got job at Illinois prison, authorities say

* Duckworth confirmed to federal post

- Posted by Mike Murray   7 Comments      


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