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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus Urges State to Fund New Construction to End School Overcrowding

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Education is an important tool for self-empowerment and future success, however overcrowding in many of Chicago’s Latino neighborhood schools leaves students in precarious situations. Overcrowding has been a long-standing problem for the city’s Latino community, and as a recent UNO study makes clear, it continues to disproportionately shortchange Latino students, limiting their full potential.

In overcrowded schools, closets and hallways become classrooms, students are denied one-on-one attention from school staff, and many educational opportunities are lost due to a lack of space. It becomes easier for students in these environments to lose interest and fall through the cracks.

We have to do better for the future of the City of Chicago and the future of its Latino communities. Doing nothing about overcrowding in Chicago Public Schools will continue to guarantee a high dropout rate and a low level workforce for a major segment of our city’s population.

We join UNO in calling on our state legislators to provide funding for new schools in overburdened Latino neighborhoods and we support its initiative for public/private partnerships to build new UNO schools.


Aldermen who signed this letter:

Edward M. Burke, 14th Ward

Richard Mell, 33rd Ward

Ray Suarez, 31st Ward

Daniel Solis, 25th Ward

George Cardenas, 12th Ward

Arial Reboyras, 30th Ward

Manuel Flores, 1st Ward

Walter Burnett, 27th Ward

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Afternoon video

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

* We tend to get caught up in our own goofy frenzies during the final week of session, but there’s a moving display at the Statehouse which reminds us how small our problems really are.

The display of Illinois’ fallen soldiers since the beginning of the Afghan and Iraq wars has attracted plenty of attention since it was erected this week. Our video camera ain’t great, so we apologize for the quality, but here are a few minutes of silent tribute…

Please, be civil in comments.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Poll shows support for a tax increase

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

A recent phone poll of 600 Illinois voters showed support for a tax increase to prevent drastic budget cuts and fund education.

Illinois voters do not believe that they are over-taxed. In fact, they are willing to accept a number of possible revenue increases as a way of dealing with the state’s budget crisis.

Fifty-five percent of Illinois voters feel taxes are about right or too low to support public services. And there is a clear understanding of the state’s income tax level: 65 percent of Illinois voters believe state income taxes are about right or too low. Clearly, Illinois citizens realize that the state’s current tax structure does not generate enough revenue to provide essential state services.

When Illinoisans consider the reasons that the state may need to consider raising taxes, they find many of them to be very persuasive. When asked about reasons to support a tax increase, 71 percent of voters said school funding was a strong reason. In addition, voters are determined to avoid cuts in both healthcare and home care services for seniors, and strongly support job-creating investments in infrastructure.

The poll was conducted March 25-29, 2009, by Hart Research Associates.

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Tax Calculator Updated

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


With Governor Quinn making some changes to his proposed tax plan to help close the budget deficit, we thought it would be a good idea to update our tax calculator so you can compare how this would affect you.

The biggest change was the reduction of the personal exemption to $3,000 per family member (down from $6,000 per family member), and replacing that with a much larger property tax credit (from a 5% credit back of your annual property tax to 10% of your annual property taxes, capped at $500) and doubling the EITC.

We have our own analysis of who does better in this scenario (hint: High property tax payers), but see for yourself how it will impact your family and others:

Adjusted Gross Income(?)
(income after federal adjustments)

Do not add symbols or commas

Family Size


Annual Property Taxes

(Again, For those of you who can’t play hypotheticals and object to the assumption that more revenue is needed, please make sure to visit the Budget Tool and share your link here which shows all your cuts).

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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Question of the day

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

* In your opinion, who was the greatest Illinois governor? Explain your answer as fully as possible.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      

2010 roundup - Cook Prez; US Senate; Census

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

* She ran an absolutely horrible race for mayor, so I’m not sure that this threat is credible. Then again, others have bounced back from terrible races to win their next one

Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown today criticized County Board President Todd Stroger’s leadership and said she is mulling a run for his office next year.

“We have certainly given it some thought, and we are considering all of our options in that regard,” she said, when asked at a meeting with the Chicago Tribune editorial board whether she was considering taking on Stroger. A decision, she added, will come “probably next month.”

If Brown does run, there would be at least three African-American candidates in the Democratic primary, including Stroger and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle. Forrest Claypool appears to be the only white guy interested in the primary to date, but that can always change.

I chatted a bit with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin yesterday about Paul Vallas. Nagin, who was in town on a speaking engagement, said he thought Vallas might run for governor, but then said Vallas will likely remain on the job as the city’s school superintendent for another year. That would rule out a gubernatorial bid because of the potential of a large GOP primary field. But he could still run for county board president if the field was effectively cleared for him.

Back to Ms. Brown

Brown today also declined to address whether the county should roll back the controversial penny-on-the-dollar sales tax approved last year, even though it’s the most prominent issue of Stroger’s tenure.

“I’m not getting inside that battle,” she said.

She’ll have no choice but to get “inside that battle” if she runs.

* Meanwhile, the absence of a decision by GOP Congressman Mark Kirk about whether to run for the US Senate seat is starting to create a vacuum that some candidates may try to fill

After 23 years of sitting on the bench, Donald Lowery is considering a new life on the Hill.

The retired judge from Golconda in southern Illinois said Tuesday he is considering a bid for U.S. Senate in 2010 as a Republican. He will make an official decision within 45 days.

“I’m watching where the economy is going and what they’re doing to help the economy, and I’m not happy with what the government is doing,” Lowery said.

Lowery, who retired two years ago, visited Bloomington last week to attend a breakfast hosted by Republicans. He also has toured southern Illinois since notifying party officials in March.

* And Illinois Issues takes a look at the upcoming census

The Land of Lincoln likely will lose a U.S. House seat after next year’s census, according to a December analysis by the Washington, D.C.,-area firm Election Data Services. But Illinois would have plenty of company in the Midwest. Also expected to lose a House seat are Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri. Ohio could lose two.

Other industrialized states in the Northeast — Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania — also likely will forfeit a seat.

Many of the states expected to make gains in the next census are the same ones hit hardest by the housing crisis that touched off the current recession. Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada far outpace the rest of the nation in foreclosure rates; all but California are expected to gain House seats. Arizona and Florida may be in line for two. Texas would by far be the biggest winner, with a projected gain of four seats. […]

Under [Kimball Brace’s] latest projections, Oregon would gain a sixth seat by just two people. California would lose a seat by 18 people.

The count is all important.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Falling for the game

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

* One of the only advantages to being in the minority is that you can play lots of political games with the majority. So, yesterday, the House GOP asked that a constitutional amendment and a bill be brought to the House floor. The Trib gives us some play-by-play

House Republicans attempted to score some political points on the reform front Tuesday, getting Democrats on the record as blocking up-or-down votes on giving citizens the right to recall elected officials and pushing the primary back to summer. […]

Democrats blocked both attempts but otherwise remained silent during debate. Later, House Democratic spokesman Steve Brown dismissed the Republican efforts as a “little media show.” He said House Democrats have not reached a consensus on moving the primary date and pointed out that the chamber voted a year ago on recall.

That constitutional amendment has been sitting idle since February. It was only just yesterday that pretty much the entire HGOP caucus signed on as co-sponsors. The same late surge of co-sponsors happened with the June primary bill.

* The game here is that the Republicans know fully well that their motions to discharge will be squashed, so they can safely harangue the majority about moving bills out of committee that many Republican members might not otherwise support. It’s quite fun.

As I’ve told you before, the House GOP has been doing this stuff all session. They’ll get behind some hot-button issue, make a motion to discharge it from committee, the Democrats will block it, the Republicans will force a floor vote on whether to sustain or override the chair, the Democrats win the partisan vote and then the Republicans’ campaign operation will blast thousands of negative robocalls into targeted Democratic districts.

* And while the Tribune’s reporters mostly saw yesterday’s GOP move for what it was, the Tribune’s editorial page - which has its tonality levels constantly set to “Outraged” - thundered against the Democrats

Remember last year when Democrats in the Illinois Senate robbed you of a chance to add a recall amendment to the state constitution? On Tuesday, 61 Democrats in the House did the same thing. Republicans tried to discharge a recall amendment from the Rules Committee, where Speaker Michael Madigan has buried it. They wanted to bring it to the House floor so every member could vote on the amendment, which would permit the recall of state executive officers and legislators. The vote to keep the amendment buried: 61-47.

Then they listed all 61 Democrats who voted on the procedural motion.

* The sausage-making process appears to drive newspaper editorial boards around the bend. Here’s the end of today’s Daily Herald editorial

The [reform] ideas are supposed to come up again Thursday, with four session days left. Click here to find suburban officials’ contact information. Are we going to let legislators run roughshod over corruption reform ideas without a fight? It’s time rank-and-file legislators rose up and demanded what’s right from their leaders. It’s time we raise our voices. It’s time we all rally. It’s time we take back our government.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

Overtime? Maybe

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

* So, are we heading for an overtime session? It’s being discussed at high levels. From the Tribune

Going past the legislature’s Sunday deadline would put Republicans in play because three-fifths — instead of a simple majority — would be required to approve legislation that immediately takes effect.

Some Democrats rationalized blowing through the deadline as a way to force Republicans to put up votes for an income tax increase, sharing the political blame for higher taxes. Failing that, they said privately that Republicans also would share with them increased pressure from social service advocates and labor unions to prevent deep cuts.

More of the rationale, from the Sun-Times

Gov. Quinn’s bid to raise the state income tax won’t pass this week without Republican votes, the top Senate Democrat warned Tuesday. […]

It’s also a sign of how Democrats, going into the 2010 election cycle, don’t want to be the only ones wearing the collar politically for the biggest state tax increase in nearly four decades.

* Quinn, as expected, has altered his income tax proposal

Quinn originally wanted to triple the current $2,000 personal tax exemption to $6,000, but now suggests a $1,000 increase in the exemption level. Quinn also offered two potential tax breaks: doubling the current income tax credit for property taxes from 5 percent to 10 percent, with a limit of $500, and doubling a tax credit for the working poor.

There’s more to it, but you’ll have to subscribe.

* Subscribers already know about this

House Democrats were giving a long list of spending items and the cost of each, then were asked to say which they wanted to fund and which they were willing to cut.

Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said lawmakers essentially were given the job of figuring out how to spend $3.8 billion of revenue on $11 billion worth of programs. Three items alone — prescription drug assistance, help for the developmentally disabled and state employee group health insurance — cost nearly $4 billion.

Yep. It’s a freaking mess.

* More

One potential endgame would see top lawmakers negotiating on the budget next month. Another is for the General Assembly to simply adopt a budget for less than the full budget year. They then would return to Springfield to deal with the shortage after the candidacy filing period ends in the fall and incumbents know whether they face strong opponents next year.

It could go either way at this point.

More on that partial-year plan

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said lawmakers might craft a short-term budget that would cover state spending for only part of the year.

“It’s an option on the table,” Sullivan said. “Whether it’s prudent or not, I don’t know.”

* And while the clock ticks down to May 31st, the governor appears to dawdle

House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, wasn’t sure when the process will be complete. “It is pretty much up to the governor and when he wants to call it. I think that if you were talking to him he would say he is not ready today. Are we done by the end of the week? We hope so.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

“God knows number one, I, I wanna help Rod”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

* The tapes of Roland Burris talking to Rod Blagojevich’s brother Rob a month before Burris got the US Senate appointment aren’t exactly flattering. Here’s the Tribune’s coverage

Burris said he would make a personal donation but worried that both he and the governor could eventually “catch hell” for any campaign help Burris gave as he lobbied for Blagojevich to choose him.

“And if I do get appointed, that means I bought it,” Burris was recorded telling Robert Blagojevich, the governor’s brother and chief fundraiser, in a Nov. 13 call captured during the federal probe that led to Rod Blagojevich’s December arrest on corruption charges.

Burris even mentioned having his attorney make the donation — a notion that could have violated state election law against hiding donations. Burris’ attorney said he advised against such a move, and Burris never made such a donation and held no fundraisers for Rod Blagojevich. […]

“God knows number one, I, I wanna help Rod,” Burris said on the recording. “Number two, I also wanna, you know, hope I get a consideration to get that appointment.”


Burris ends the call saying: “I will personally do something OK? And it will come to you before the 15th of December.”

Rod Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on charges that included trying to sell President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Burris didn’t make the contribution (at least not directly and as far as we know), which is to his favor. But Burris never mentioned that conversation with Rob Blagojevich in any of his sworn statements or affidavits to the Illinois House Impeachment Committee, which works heavily against him.

Mark Brown

While Burris may have forgotten the details of their talk by the time he went before state legislators, it could hardly have slipped his mind that less than two months earlier he had been on the phone practically begging to be chosen to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate while promising to do what he could to get some money into the Blagojevich campaign coffers.

His omission only confirms what has been evident for some time now: With the crowning achievement of his political career within reach, Burris was willing to do whatever was necessary to reel in the big prize and deal with the consequences later.



But Burris didn’t want to close the door and take a chance on getting on the governor’s bad side.

Instead, as the discussion proceeded, Burris told Robert Blagojevich he would:

1) Be willing to help with a fund-raiser if it was being hosted by some other Blagojevich supporter with whom Burris had worked in the past, in effect, someone to give him cover.

Sneaky, eh?

* Take a look at the transcript and you’ll see Burris goes right into the Senate stuff at the very beginning…

BURRIS: I, I know you’re calling telling me that you’re gonna make me king of the world, and uh …


BURRIS: … and therefore I can go off to, you know, wherever and do all these great things […]

BURRIS: ‘Cause I’ve been, I’ve been trying to figure out what the heck, you know, I can do. Go ahead.

Blagojevich then mentions the need to raise campaign money by the end of December for the January filing period and Burris goes right back to the Senate seat…

BURRIS: Yeah. Right, right and, and now how do, answer me this question because I’m very much interested in, in trying to replace Obama, okay. Now I …

BLAGOJEVICH: So you, let me just tell you Roland, …


BLAGOJEVICH: … you and 1 million other people.

BURRIS: That’s right, that’s right so …

BLAGOJEVICH: Of every race, color, creed and faith, it’s amazing.

Again, from the transcript, it looks more like Burris is finding a way to reconcile the need for pay to play than just be an honest person…

BURRIS: If I don’t get appointed then my people who I’m trying to raise money from are gonna look at me, yeah, what, what’s that all about Roland. I mean, so, Rob, I’m in a, I’m in a, a dilemma right now wanting to help the governor.


BURRIS: I mean I, you know I, I have been with him on all of the, all the issues and I’m now trying to figure out what the hell the best thing to do.

And Burris was mighty persistent throughout the conversation. Here’s the end…

BLAGOJEVICH: Hey, you’re a good friend. I’ll pass on your message.

BURRIS: Please do and …


BURRIS: … tell Rod to keep me in mind for that seat, would ya? (chuckles)

BLAGOJEVICH: I’ll let him know.



BURRIS: Alright. Bye-bye.



- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

Morning shorts

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

* Ill. judge rules against opponents of museum move

A Cook County judge has found that Chicago officials acted properly when approving a plan to relocate the Chicago Children’s Museum to Grant Park.

Judge Martin Agran on Tuesday ruled against nearby residents of the proposed site who say they weren’t given proper legal notice of the move. But Jim Fabbrini, the residents’ lawyer, says the decision is a “minor setback.”

* Children’s Museum move opponents lose court round

“It’s a minor setback,” said Jim Fabbrini, lawyer for the residents. “This was a minor suit that dealt with the process and not whether it is illegal to build in Grant Park.”

* Mayor Daley defends taxing Chicago Bears ticket licenses - Mayor wants levy on secondhand seat licenses

“They’re flipping” the PSLs, Daley said, using the term for buying property and selling it quickly at a steep profit. “That’s all they’re doing. So we caught them.”

* Plan for the worst, New Orleans mayor advises

Whether the potential threat is pandemic flu, terrorism, a weather emergency or some other disaster, the mayor of New Orleans said Tuesday that Illinois officials should make sure to plan for the worst — just in case.

* Magazine, newspaper readership aging fast

The audiences at many titles, moreover, are getting older fast. The median reader age rose 3.7 years at the Sunday Chicago Tribune, for example, 3.9 years at Car and Driver, 4.1 years at U.S. News & World Report and 4.9 years at Penthouse, according to the research.

Some magazines and newspapers are even seeing their audiences age in real time — or faster. Readers’ median age has increased 6.6 years since spring 2004 at Motorcyclist magazine, 6.8 years at Street Rodder and 6.8 years at Motor Boating.

* Exonerated man charges Chicago police framed him

Dean Cage has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago, a police detective who investigated the rape, and other unnamed officers. The 42-year-old says he was framed so police could close the case.

* Sewage-cooking plant brews debate in Chicago suburbs - Agency staff members say project in Stickney is no longer needed; they are exploring ways to pull out of contract

* Percentage of older lawyers growing in Illinois

* Transit tickets by cell phone?

* Longtime TV reporter Shaw to head watchdog group

* After $18 uproar, talk of no entry charge

Could public anger about increased admission fees at the Art Institute soon turn to glee over free admission?

Art Institute Director James Cuno believes Chicago’s philanthropic community, fresh off its fund-raising coup in financing the new Modern Wing, could raise at least a $250 million endowment to give everyone free access to the Art Institute.

* Executive Mansion draws money for repairs

Tuesday’s event was one of only two fundraisers held to benefit the Executive Mansion, 410 E. Jackson St., during the past nine years, according to Curator David Bourland.

Government funding to repair the nation’s largest governor’s mansion is practically nonexistent, which Bourland attributes to the state’s lack of a capital improvement plan during the past decade.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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Drip, drip, drip…

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

* Burris has yet to get his story straight…

In a November conversation caught on an FBI wiretap, Roland Burris promised Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother that he’d write the governor a campaign check by mid-December, Burris’ lawyer said today.

That was about a month before Rod Blagojevich appointed Burris to the U.S. Senate. […]

But lawyer Timothy Wright told the Chicago Sun-Times today that his client never sent the check because he believed it wasn’t a good idea given Burris’ interest in the U.S. Senate seat appointment. Wright said Burris’ decision not to send the check had nothing to do with Blagojevich’s Dec. 9 arrest.

Burris did not mention a promise of a check in a Feb. 4 sworn affidavit that Burris submitted to an Illinois House panel investigating Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment. That affidavit sought to supplement Burris’ testimony before a House panel, where Burris only mentioned having contact with Lon Monk with regard to the appointment.

But Wright said the amount of the check was to be $1,500. The conversation with Robert Blagojevich happened when Burris was interested in the U.S. Senate. Wright said Burris’ answers to the House panel have been consistent, and he has made repeated efforts to be as complete as possible to the public.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

OK, what reforms do YOU support?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


We’ve heard what Patrick Collins, Governor Quinn, Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton, Leader Cross, Leader Radogno, Rich Miller, and Mike “Waah waah waah” Jacobs (D-East Moline) have had to say about this year’s reform movement. But what do YOU think?

Let’s put it to a poll question.

Governor Quinn’s Pat Collins-led Illinois Reform Commission has proposed a series of reforms for Illinois government and politics. Among those reforms are 9 reforms to campaign finance:

  • 1) Requiring year-round, real-time submission of campaign disclosure filings
  • 2) Requiring disclosure of campaign contribution “bundlers”
  • 3) Requiring greater disclosure of those making independent expenditures on behalf of a campaign
  • 4) Imposing limits on contributions to political campaigns from all sources
  • 5) Banning campaign contributions from lobbyists and trusts, and extending bans on contributions from state employees, entities seeking state contracts and entities engaged in regulated industries
  • 6) Holding primary elections in June
  • 7) Enacting a pilot project for public financing of judicial elections in 2010, with an eye toward expanding the program to elections of statewide legislative officials and Constitutional posts
  • 8) Enhancing powers of the Illinois State Board of Elections
  • 9) Creating more robust discovery and enforcement mechanisms

Please take the poll and see what your fellow Capitol Fax readers think.

- Posted by   17 Comments      


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

* Potential Democratic US Senate candidate Chris Kennedy just called and said it was “physically impossible” for him to make any announcement about his US Senate race this week. Apparently, others are jumping the gun here.

Also, a widespread rumor that Kennedy would announce tomorrow via online video is false, Kennedy claimed.

* Senate President John Cullerton was just asked about what happened in today’s leaders meeting with the governor. His answer? “We talked about Capitol Fax.” lol [Audio via Dave at IRN. Thanks much.]

* House Speaker Michael Madigan was also asked about progress at the meeting. “Nothing’s decided,” he said. Asked whether that was good or bad, Madigan said, “You tell me.” Video via Patterson

* The infamous Grover Norquist was at the Statehouse today to talk about the budget…

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the state’s shortfall results from politicians’ over-spending and financial mismanagement and isn’t taxpayers’ problem to solve - it’s lawmakers’ responsibility.

Maybe not. From a recent study

• Spending growth: Elementary-secondary education and medical assistance are the only major program areas that have seen significant spending growth since FY 2000. Over the same period of time, funding for human services, higher education, and most other parts of the General Funds budget has not kept pace with inflation. […]

• Understanding the deficit: Almost 60 percent of the $12.3 billion budget gap reflects declining revenues caused by the recession. Most of the remainder is related to the structural deficit — increased payments for state retirement systems and the backlog of unpaid Medicaid bills.

* Thanks to a commenter, here are a couple of quotes we missed earlier today…

Patrick Collins, head of the reform commission, took umbrage when the senate committee rejected the commission”s proposals but unanimously approved of a reform measure sponsored by state Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge.

“I asked my commissioners to change their lives to engage in this process for 100 days. I am not going to participate in a process like the one that happened in there. If any of you think that”s a fair process, that”s wrong,” Collins said.

A committee killed some bills that a large number of people worked months or even years to pass because they believed the measures were vitally important to the state’s future. Happens every day. Literally.

Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) responded…

“All I can say is ‘Waah waah waah, I want my Mommy,’” Jacobs jokingly sobbed.

“For him to think that we should drop whatever we”re doing to make sure he gets whatever he wants is amazing. Patrick Collins ought to learn that this is a give-and-take process. You just don”t get whatever you want.”

Yowza, man. Everybody really needs to take a breath here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

RIP Jay Bennett

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

* I hope he has finally found peace…

Take the guitar player for a ride
He ain’t never been satisfied
He thinks he owes some kind of debt
Be years before he gets over it

More here.

…Adding… Our pal Anders Lindall (of AFSCME) had this spot-on assessment of Bennett’s influence in a long ago Chicago Reader article…

Then Tweedy took a crucial step in Wilco’s evolution: he hired Jay Bennett as the band’s permanent guitarist. Bennett’s prior work in the Champaign-based Titanic Love Affair didn’t presage the impact he would have on Wilco, but over time he has become Jiminy Cricket to Tweedy’s Pinocchio: as a constant advocate of the limitless possibilities of the studio and as an adventurous arranger, he seems to have given Tweedy the confidence to explore his own talent in the broader realm of rock ‘n’ roll. In Bennett’s absence, as in the roots-rock stuporgroup Golden Smog, Tweedy has been prone to the predictable (”Lost Love,” from the Smog’s 1998 disc Weird Tales) and the pedestrian (”Please Tell My Brother”).

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

* From Finke’s column

Lawmakers had to pass three bills to make the capital program go — one to issue bonds, one to raise revenue to pay off those bonds and one that detailed the projects to be built. The bill to raise revenue included authorizing video poker, extending the sales tax to things like candy that are not now taxed, hiking some vehicle fees and whatnot. Hey, you want new roads and school buildings, you’ve got to pay for it somehow.

Unless, of course, you are a member of the Hypocrites’ Caucus. They want to be on record as bringing the pork back to their districts, but not for raising the taxes and fees to pay for it. Membership in the caucus changes with issues.

For the capital plan, though, the group consists of 12 senators and 30 representatives. They are the Few, the Proud, the Two-faced. They voted against video poker and the other revenue increases, but all of them were right on board to support the list of building projects. No one in either the House or Senate voted against the spending bill.

It’s always fun when a majority of this caucus turn out to be Republicans, people who normally complain about government spending money it doesn’t have, but who apparently are willing to look the other way in this case.

* The Question: Should legislators who vote against the revenue streams to fund capital bills and then vote for the spending be somehow excluded or penalized on projects for their districts? Explain fully.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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Dangerous times ahead

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

* The governor is all over the place

Asked specifically about whether he had left members of his Illinois Reform Commission to find their own way with lawmakers reluctant to embrace their proposals, Quinn didn’t mention perhaps the most controversial recommendation from his panel—imposing first-ever campaign donation caps. Instead, he discussed a reform that his panel didn’t even embrace—a proposed state Constitutional amendment to allow voters to recall elected officials.

“One of the big issues this week…that I’ve been working night and day on in ethics is getting recall in Illinois, getting the power of recall,” Quinn said. “I think it’s promising. I’ve talked to the legislative leaders.”

But recall hasn’t been on the legislature’s agenda for the spring session, which is scheduled to end May 31. Voters would have to ratify a recall amendment and no state elections are scheduled until next year. Election years also are when lawmakers typically consider proposed changes to the constitution.

* And while the guv rambles about recall, the reformers are trying to hold the budget hostage to their agenda

“For the legislature to turn around and say, ‘We are going to raise your taxes, trust us,’ without doing anything to show they have cleaned up their own house is a very dangerous proposition,” said Cynthia Canary, director of the Illinois Coalition for Political Reform.

That’s a very dangerous game she wants to play. Putting the fate of millions of Illinoisans on the line to “win” a debate over something like campaign caps is audacious in the extreme.

* Speaking of dangerous games, Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang has put a parliamentary hold on the capital projects package because the governor has flip-flopped on his pledge not to link capital with the budget…

“The governor made public and private assurances that the capital bill and operating budget bill would not be linked, and he’d totally signed on to the capital bill and would sign it,” Lang said. “He is now indicating that is not his plan, that his plan is to hold the capital bill hostage. My view is he has backtracked on a commitment. If he doesn’t want the bill, he shouldn’t have it. When he’s ready to have it, he can have it.”


[Madigan spokesman Steve Brown] added: “The governor flip-flopped, spoke out of both sides of his mouth. He promised . . . he wouldn’t link the issues and did something different. That’s got to be troubling to everybody who has tried to deal with the integrity crisis as fully as possible.”

In other words, Quinn’s political honeymoon now appears over.

But the governor’s move may have been more about high speed rail than the budget or the ethics bills…

“Right now, we do not have in our capital bill money for high-speed rail,” Quinn said. “I think that was an oversight, and I made that crystal clear to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House that high-speed rail must be included.”

Quinn wants that capital bill reopened. He didn’t attend the meetings when the bill was drafted, and there’s an old saying in politics, “If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re the supper.” He got eated.

* Reform commission chairman Pat Collins was upset last week with the Senate for refusing to take action on some of the commission’s pet ideas…

Lawmakers spoke strongly against a proposal allowing state’s attorneys to wiretap suspects in official corruption cases, but also for crimes as minor as music piracy. State Sen. Bill Haine, a former state’s attorney, said he was worried elected prosecutors would use these powers against political opponents. […]

But reform commission head Patrick Collins said he used wiretapping extensively as a federal prosecutor and state’s attorneys need the same powers. “In the right case, having the ability to do a wiretap will be the difference between ensnaring a corrupt official versus not charging that official,” Collins said.


Patrick Collins, the head of a panel Gov. Pat Quinn created to clean up state government, was remarkably angry and visibly shaking at a news conference following the committee hearing. Collins hinted that lawmakers were trying to pass token reforms rather than address large-scale anti-corruption measures.

“Maybe this happens every day in Springfield,” Collins said. “I’m not used to that.'’

Welcome to our world.

But a call by Sen. Bill Brady for an attorney general’s investigation of Gov. Quinn’s fundraising during the end of session shows the real problems with the reform commission’s plan…

Beyond the political opportunism behind Brady’s bashing, his call for an investigation does pose an interesting issue, however. Lisa Madigan, the daughter of powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, is interested in challenging Quinn in next year’s Democratic primary for governor. In her current post, any investigation of allegations of wrongdoing involving Quinn could be attacked by critics as purely politically motivated.

Indeed, that’s one problem that lawmakers have acknowledged in dealing with the current spate of ethics reform proposals in Springfield. Legislators have trashed efforts to give local prosecutors and the attorney general’s office more tools to investigate corruption—out of concern that those investigations could be conducted against political opponents.

Indeed. Some of the reform commission’s ideas are quite good. Others, like that one, defy reality.

From my column on this session fundraising topic

Several association executives with Springfield lobbying interests said last week that they’ve recently received calls from Quinn’s campaign. Some have big-ticket items that could be chopped out of the budget during the deficit crisis. All have significant issues pending in the General Assembly, pro and con.

“We turned them down,” said one high-level exec about the campaign calls.

The executive explained that his group does not contribute or discuss contributions during the legislative session.

Ironically enough, several associations - which have been targeted for campaign contribution limits by the governor’s reform commission - do not contribute during the end of session.

Also on the ironic side, $15,000 is far above the campaign contribution limits sought by Quinn and his reform commission, although these appear to be requests for “bundled”contributions from several different people at once.

And that $15,000 asking price clearly demonstrates how politicians - even self-professed reformers like Quinn - intend to get around any new contribution caps.

Any reformer who tells you their plan would get money out of politics by imposing caps on contributions doesn’t live in the real world.

* Related…

* Bar owners buy into video poker plan

* Quinn, Southland lawmakers should not support video poker

* Harper would be big winner in state spending plan

* Construction program not yet a done deal

* Gov. Quinn wants 400 million for high speed rail…or else

* Quinn wants high-speed rail for Illinois

* Quinn wants more for rail

* Lack of action on capital bill angers lawmaker

* ‘Blame Blagojevich’ excuse about to expire

* Sure, stick it to Blago, but pass reform first

* Quinn looks to future, remembers past: Asked whether he has the skill to seal deals with legislators, Quinn said, “Everybody has a different style. I don’t believe in ’smashmouth’ politics. It didn’t work for my predecessor.”

* Lawmakers get back to work

* Remember their words …

* “I’m A Reformer…Get Me Out of Here!”

* SJ-R: Campaign finance reform bill falls short

* Panel wants to end House’s bill-blocking rule

* Lobbyists not required to report state lobbying income

* Andy Shaw: Back on the case, ready to root out corruption

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 - Judge to release tape *** Roland Burris’ tenuous relationship with reality

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

*** UPDATE - 11:23 am *** Fine, but the tapes should also be released to the general public….

A federal judge today authorized the release of audio tapes of secret recordings of coversations between U.S. Sen. Roland Burris and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother to a Senate ethics committee. […]

Before the hearing, [Burris’ criminal lawyer, Timothy Wright] said, “the truth will finally come out,’’ in an apparent reference to recordings that took place last November and involve discussions between Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund chair Robert Blagojevich and Burris regarding fund-raising for the ex-governor.


Timothy Wright, a lawyer for Burris, said he also did not object to the release and said he believed the tape would show Burris did nothing wrong. “We think it is what it is,” Wright said. “The truth is coming out. We think it helps to vindicate the senator.”

*** UPDATE - 11:59 am *** The tape may be released to the public after all. From the US Attorney’s office..

When a formal order is issued regarding today’s proceedings and any materials are publicly docketed, the Government will make available any of its filings and materials that are ordered unsealed. There is no estimate available of when this will occur.

[ *** End of Updates *** ]

* Is Roland Burris beginning to see reality? Maybe, maybe not

Burris wants to jump in the 2010 election, despite longshot odds. Durbin will not support him. The Senate Democratic political operation is trying to recruit Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to run. On the day we talked — May 19 — Burris met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to discuss his political future. Earlier, he conferred with Sen. Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And the day before — May 18 — Burris called on William Daley.

“My impression is he is going to be a candidate,” Daley told me. […]

I asked Burris about his timetable for deciding if he will run.

“Lynn . . . if you don’t have money, whether or not you say you are going to run is not relevant. . . . You take away your option.”

That last quote was probably the most sense I’ve heard from Burris since he was appointed by Rod Blagojevich. Then again, it might’ve just been a momentary lapse into reason.

* Speaking of momentary lapses, is Steve Preston really a viable alternative to Mark Kirk?…

The NRSC chairman also mentioned Chicago-area Rep. Mark Kirk, a social issues moderate, as a strong candidate against Burris (who faces a stiff primary challenge from businessman Christopher Kennedy, son of the late Robert Kennedy).

“But if Mark doesn’t run, there are other possible strong candidates,” he said. (Although Cornyn gave no name, sources in the Illinois GOP suggested to me he was referring to Steve Preston, Housing and Urban Development secretary under George W. Bush).

* Related…

* Roland Burris In St. Louis Area Talking About The Stimulus Package

* Attorney Gen. Madigan objects to Chrysler sale: Ms. Madigan filed her objection on behalf of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Illinois Self-Insurers Advisory Board. She opposes the sale to Fiat SpA if it fails to set aside monetary provisions for injured Chrysler workers in Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

We’re not alone

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

* Things are tough all over

* The Ohio Senate is considering a $54 billion two-year budget passed by the House that was balanced by cutting education spending by $244 million, depleting the state’s reserves of $1 billion and incorporating $2.2 billion of federal stimulus money. Even then, the plan includes projected deficits of at least $2.5 billion in each of the next two years.

* The Indiana State Budget Committee last week requested a new, more accurate revenue forecast for lawmakers to use in a pending special session after April tax revenue fell $255 million short of what had been forecast just one month earlier. […]

* Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire last week signed a two-year budget that closed a $9 billion shortfall by cutting 40 percent in state payments for low-income health coverage, raising state employees’ health care benefits by less than half the rate of inflation and reducing per-student education allocations. […]

* In Oregon, where the projected shortfall of $3.8 billion is equal to nearly a third of the overall budget, Democratic lawmakers proposed a 2009-11 budget that would eliminate 1,700 state pensions, cut spending on community colleges and higher education and seek $800 million in new taxes.

And then there’s California. Go read the whole thing.

* Art Laffer isn’t quite clear on the concept in the Wall Street Journal…

New Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn wants a 50% increase in the income tax rate on the wealthy because this is the “fair” way to close his state’s gaping deficit.

Laffer used Quinn to help make a point about increasing taxes on upper income folks, but he got his facts wrong. Low income people with no dependents would also see higher taxes under Quinn’s original plan. Moderate income folks would also be hit. I suppose if $60,000 a year is considered “wealthy,” then, yes, they and everyone above would have to pay more. Par for the course on the WS-J op-ed page, I suppose.

* Related…

* SJ-R: Why cuts won’t balance state budget

* PJStar: Springfield should lower its sights, cut taxpayers some slack

* Sausage the real way, minus the bull

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Morning shorts

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

* Former Illinois Commerce Commission chief killed by bomb in Iraq

Terry Barnich, a former Illinois Commerce Commission chairman and chief counsel to former Gov. Jim Thompson, was killed by a bomb Monday while traveling in a convoy in Iraq, friends and family said.

Barnich, 56, was serving as deputy director for the Iraq Transition Assistance Office for the State Department, said his friend Philip O’Connor, a former Commerce Commission chairman who served with him in Iraq. Barnich began work there in January 2007, he said.

A State Department spokeswoman could not confirm the death late Monday. His loved ones said they were notified earlier in the day.

* Bubble Cities

* Vacant homes blight neighborhoods

An Associated Press analysis found vacancy rates of 20 percent or more in nearly 40 Illinois census tracts, from Chicago to Rockford to Danville to East St. Louis. The analysis used data from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, which received it from the U.S. Postal Service.

* Real talk, real results

By 2004, murders dropped below 500. They’ve now bounced back up, and while still below 600, Chicago still has more murders than New York and Los Angeles.

According to academic research, talking to felons for just one hour can be pretty effective. They are 30 percent less likely to go back to prison than those who don’t attend the Project Safe Neighborhoods forum.

* FCC: Chicago still has questions about digital TV

* Illinois sees its first H1N1 flu death

* Ill. inspectors keep carnival rides safe

* New signs urge Ill. drivers to pay tolls

* Demand city end political hiring

* Burke gets zoning break, special parking

* More meter rage

* Cell-phone transit: RTA looks into potential of riders using cell phones instead of tickets or transit cards

* Ill. governor declares Missing Children’s Day

- Posted by Mike Murray   15 Comments      

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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* Even more shenanigans!
* More shenanigans!
* Saturday campaign money report
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Shenanigans!
* Tribune drops bombshell on Biss running mate
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Rauner: "Madigan has rigged the Democratic primary for Pritzker"
* New Ives radio ad claims Democrats are trying to help Rauner, while Brady does Rauner robocall
* *** UPDATED x1 - DGA responds *** Elections board says DGA should file disclosure for Ives ad
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Jones; IEA/IFT; Reis; Mitchell; Edgar
* ISRA, Drury both try to claim Raoul inserted "poison pill" into gun bill
* Pro-life group launches GOTV effort for Lipinski
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner opens new online track against Ives
* Erika Harold still can't remember comments, but says "I was wrong"
* Rauner calls Madigan "a unified force of bad, of evil"
* Sen. Duckworth gets involved in another state central committee race
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Has Pritzker gone to ground?
* Illinois House Bill HB 4900 Wastes Government Resources
* McCann, barred from SGOP caucus meeting, claims Rauner threatened to "destroy you and your family"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Caption contest!
* Obama mailer kerfuffle in Lipinski district
* Rauner attended Quincy campaign event after Quincy veterans' home presser
* After spending millions in Dem primary, Rauner accuses "Washington liberals" of "hijacking" the GOP primary
* Yesterday's stories

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* As primaries loom, downstate Democrats look for a way back
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* McCann says Rauner threatened to 'destroy' him in 2015 over vote
* Rauner looking into state buying vacant nursing home in Quincy
* Luciano: What if Downstate dumped Chicago and formed new state?
* AP review: Push for gun laws faces resistance in most states

* Crain's tells the stories of women in business
* Like our roundup? Share it around.
* Amazon search team in Chicago next week
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* Pension mess? You'd hardly know it from 2018's gubernatorial candidates.

* Garage fire leaves Palatine house uninhabitable
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* Running tab for DOJ investigation of CPD: $7.4 million and counting
* Mock Draft 4.0: Predicting 32 picks – a Bears surprise – after trades, signings
* Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, influential pediatrician, advice columnist, dead at 99
* Here are the questions for Tuesday — the answers are up to you
* Sean Bean on his many deaths and ‘Game of Thrones’ legacy
* Man shot in Gage Park
* Sun-Times/WBBM Religion Roundup: Anti-Semitic incidents in Illinois up sharply
* 2 wounded in shooting on Dan Ryan

* Turtle racing's had a long, slow burn in Chicago
* Tyrek's take: Cooper says North Chicago played 'for pride' in placing fourth in the state
* U.S. and British lawmakers demand answers from Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg
* Controversy-free spring was just what the White Sox needed
* Turkey forces capture Syrian Kurdish town of Afrin
* Russia votes but outcome is clear: 6 more years of Putin
* Trump rails against Mueller investigation, dismisses McCabe's notes as 'Fake Memos'
* Illinois recruit Ayo Dosunmu leads Morgan Park to second straight Class 3A state title
* NFC North gets a makeover during frenzied start to free agency
* 7 shot overnight, 1 fatally, including 2 cousins

» A Feisty Debate, Offshore Accounts — And Some Side-Eye
» WBEZ’s Chicago and Illinois News Roundup: March 16, 2018
» The Week in Review: Pritzker Slammed Over Offshore Holdings
» Web Extra, The Week in Review: American Airlines Changes Stance
» How Parking Ticket Debt Punishes Black Drivers In Chicago; The Best Illinois Movies
» State Week: Rauner's Gun Veto; Dem's Mean Debate
» #642 Songs About the Music Industry & Antibalas
» March 15, 2018 - Full Show
» Illinois Has Issues: Gov Candidates Talk Marijuana
» Rauner: Replace Legionnaires’-Stricken VA Home With New ‘Ultra-Modern’ Facility

* As primaries loom, downstate Democrats look for a way back
* Pritzker defends putting $69.5 million of his fortune into campaign
* Statehouse Insider: Sadly, the primary campaign is coming to an end
* Bernard Schoenburg: My predictions for Tuesday's primary election
* Our View: A recap of The State Journal-Register’s endorsements
* Bernard Schoenburg: Guessing who will be celebrating Tuesday night
* Madeleine Doubek: Time to end gerrymandering in Illinois
* United Way: Reporting results that matter
* Illinois governor race more fierce, costly as primary nears
* Madigan backs Dem central committee incumbent in 13th

* Photos: St. Patrick's Day in the Quad-Cities
* Illinois 200 | The Daley family legacy runs deep in Illinois, Chicago
* PFOP: Local minister became well-known newspaper columnist
* SIUC faculty will present research 'lightning' talks next week
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* Alexander County enters utility deal with SmartWatt that could save the county
* The primary election is Tuesday. Here's what you need to know before you vote.
* Authorities still trying to identify man killed by MetroLink train in East St. Louis
* Good cause, fellowship, food draws thousands to Mennonite Relief Sale
* Significant Structures: Burnham Athenaeum

* UK lawmaker: Facebook misled Parliament over data leak risk
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* February Flooding Information
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* Governor issues state disaster proclamation for flooding in Iroquois, Kankakee, Vermilion Counties
* Winter Storm Warnings for Areas Along and North of I-80
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* Twitter is reportedly planning to ban cryptocurrency ads
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