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Question of the day

Friday, Jun 26, 2009

* Should the governor agree to Republican demands to extend the budget another month or two. Or, if the GA sends it to him, should he veto the entire budget and force an immediate overtime session until a resolution is found? Explain fully, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      

Jack Ryan’s return?

Friday, Jun 26, 2009

* He’s ba-ack! Drop-out Republican US Senate candidate Jack Ryan is one of the headliners at the Chicago Young Republicans’ annual membership event

This will be the largest GOP event Chicago has seen in some time. Hundreds of Republicans will be coming out of the woodwork the evening of June 29th in response to the month long Chicago Young Republican marketing program.

The event is FREE to everyone and will be the perfect chance to see the energy that has been building behind the GOP here in Chicago, President Obama’s very own backyard!

Popular 80’s cover band “Sixteen Candles” will rock the house and Congressman Aaron Schock will emcee!

Other guests include Jack Ryan, Harry Stein - author of I can’t believe I’m sitting next to a Republican and media young guns Guy Benson from WIND-AM and Mary Katherine Ham from Fox Nation, Weekly Standard and

* Quote of the day goes to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who was asked about what Attorney General Lisa Madigan and President Barack Obama discussed earlier this month during an Oval Office meeting

. Um, and uh, ya know, there was a discussion about, ya know, let me say this, let me do this: What happens in the oval stays in the oval. They had a conversation about the race.

* And Dorothy Brown is in

Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown plans to run for Cook County board president. The formal announcement is set for Friday.

Brown revealed her plans to ABC7 political reporter Charles Thomas

* Related…

* Sewage cleanup chief may go after Stroger’s job: Though Mr. O’Brien’s agency mostly has been out of the news in recent years — a good thing in scandal-plagued Chicago — he did return $39,000 in campaign donations from district employees last year after press reports that the gifts were illegal and had been reported to the Cook County state’s attorney. Mr. O’Brien said he and others at the district were unaware of the “obscure” law involved and had never intentionally solicited subordinates on his behalf.

* Democrat Harper taking another shot at Biggert’s seat

* Press release: Today, Scott Harper formally announced his candidacy for the United States Congress. Harper is entering the race to challenge Congresswoman Judy Biggert in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District which covers parts of DuPage, Cook, and Will Counties. As part of this announcement, Scott Harper has launched a web video that appears on his new campaign website at

* Is Politico Right About Mark Kirk?

* Sen. Matt Murphy makes argument for governor

* Proft campaign responds to Carol Marin: …Carol Marin has one set of standards for those who share her liberal Democrat views and another for conservatives likes Dan Proft. But you want to know the real reason she targets Dan? She knows he can win.

- Posted by Rich Miller   87 Comments      

More fun and games

Friday, Jun 26, 2009

* Governor Quinn said this morning that expects the General Assembly will stay in town past the June 30th fiscal year deadline. Speaking to the CARC Adult Developmental Training Center in Chicago , Quinn said he expects another vote Wednesday, July 1st on a tax hike. Oops. This appeared to be listed as an event today on the IIS site, but it was last week. Sorry about that, campers. I didn’t notice that IIS is closed this week. And I listened to the whole thing, too. Thought it sounded kinda familiar. lol

* Did the governor threaten to veto the so-called “50 percent” budget yesterday? Looks like it

“I’m not going to accept that budget,” he said. “I’m going to send it right back to the legislature, and we’re going to sit there and we’re going to get a full budget.”

Now, that’s a change in plans. He’s never really talked about a veto before in public, although his people told me a few days ago that he was considering it.

* Meanwhile, the Republicans are not impressed, at least publicly, with the governor’s unilateral changes to the corporate income tax hike…

Quinn said he would settle for raising the corporate income tax rate to 6 percent from 4.8 percent, instead of the 7.2 percent he originally proposed. He hasn’t budged on the personal tax rate, which he wants to move up to 4.5 percent from the current 3 percent.

Patti Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, was unmoved.

“We’ve been clear and consistent that there’s lots of things that need to be done in state government and a tax increase is not the first one,” Schuh said.

Quinn told reporters yesterday that he received no promise of votes before he proposed making that change.

* It’s been three months since Gov. Quinn picked Jonathon Monken to lead the Illinois State Police. But the Senate never even held a hearing. Heck, they haven’t even read the official appointment message into the record yet

But the Senate confirmation vote won’t necessarily take place soon.

First, Quinn’s formal message appointing Monken must be read into the Illinois Senate journal, said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton. That hasn’t happened, she said, though she didn’t say why.

Once the message has been read into the record, the state Constitution gives the Senate 60 session days to act, Phelon said. Session days are days when the Senate convenes.

* Back to the budget, the nursing homes are turning up the heat on one proposed reform

Illinois nursing home operators are fighting a proposal to move thousands of patients out of their facilities in a state cost-cutting move.

It’s among recommendations made this month by a panel appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn to pinpoint spending cuts to chip away at the state’s $9.2-billion budget deficit. The committee suggests moving patients out of nursing homes and state-run institutions and into less costly settings, like home-based care, which it estimates could save the state up to $635 million annually by 2014.

“We believe that a goal of reducing nursing home placements by 10% per year, over the next five years, is desirable and achievable,” the panel’s report says. The state pays for the majority of nursing home care through Medicaid, the health plan for the poor and disabled.

The move would divert revenue from nursing homes, which say profit margins are shrinking as costs rise and Medicaid reimbursement rates stay the same.

* Related…

* ADDED: Home health workers protest at Black’s office - A small group of home health care workers picketed outside state Rep. Bill Black’s Danville office Thursday morning to protest possible budget cuts of 50 percent or more in Illinois human services.

* Republicans want a temporary budget soon

* Deadline, schmedline

* Few Options Remain in Illinois Budget Stalemate

* Protesters want higher taxes to avoid deep budget cuts

* People with disabilities caught in middle of budget fight

* Budget Threats Loom Over Disabled

* Cuts threaten RMTD Belvidere plans

* IPI outlines Illinois budget myths and facts

* Britt: No furlough days for corruption in Illinois

* Toll board director questions leadership

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

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Friday, Jun 26, 2009

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A Blagojevich problem or an historic problem?

Friday, Jun 26, 2009

* I think one of the most important question about this U of I “clout” story has never really been touched upon.

Did the school’s admissions process change when Gov. Rod Blagojevich was elected?

Legislators have helped parents with admissions for years. Most of that assistance was just basic constituent services. They help a lot of constituents, like editors of big, powerful landmark newspapers who want the best tee-times at public golf courses.

* Anyway, the chutzpah of the most news-worthy admissions requests makes it look like this was more of a Blagojevich problem than an historical, systemic crisis. Like today’s revelation

In one e-mail exchange, University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman forced the law school to admit an unqualified applicant backed by then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking a promise from the governor’s go-between that five law school graduates would get jobs. The applicant, a relative of deep-pocketed Blagojevich campaign donor Kerry Peck, appears to have been pushed by Trustee Lawrence Eppley, who often carried the governor’s admissions requests.

When Law School Dean Heidi Hurd balked on accepting the applicant in April 2006, Herman replied that the request came “Straight from the G. My apologies. Larry has promised to work on jobs (5). What counts?”

Hurd replied: “Only very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar.”

Hurd’s e-mail suggests that students getting the jobs are to be those in the “bottom of the class.” Law school rankings depend in part on the job placement rate of graduates.

Now, that’s pretty darned outrageous. But, so far at least, there’s been no other evidence presented to back up the Tribune’s lede: “What does it cost to get an unqualified student into the University of Illinois law school? Five jobs for graduating law students, suggest internal e-mails released Thursday.”

If that’s the standard cost for everyone, then the Trib is gonna need more than one instance from somebody besides the former governor to back up that very bold statement.

It would also help to know if Blagojevich’s appointments to the U of I trustee board have been much more involved than their predecessors with admissions.

The reason is obvious. If it was a Blagojevich problem, then the newspaper’s hysteria is somewhat unwarranted because the man is gone and his trustees can, and should be fumigated. If it’s a more generalized problem, then new laws are obviously needed.

* Related…

* Blagojevich Co-Defendents May Testify Against Him

* Trial date set for Blagojevich as former aides set to change pleas

* Judge sets Blagojevich trial date

* Patti Blagojevich: Time in jungle a ‘welcome break’

* U. of Ill. releases e-mails about clout admissions

* SJ-R: Madigan should push UIS to release records

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

My life’s preparation for covering the Statehouse

Friday, Jun 26, 2009

* My Sun-Times column

As we all do on Father’s Day, I was thinking a lot about my dad last Sunday. One thing I chuckled about were the little phrases Dad relied on in times of stress. When you have five sons, stress is a constant. So, we heard them often.

“Richard,” he would say to me with a dramatic, exasperated sigh, too exhausted to be angry, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

I never really understood what he meant until many years later.

And then Rod Blagojevich was elected governor.

And then re-elected.

And then arrested in a pre-dawn raid and ousted from office in a bloodless, constitutional coup d’etat, all the while grinning for the cameras and declaring it to be yet another “Up day.”

Most rejoiced when Pat Quinn was installed in Blagojevich’s place. Heck, people were so ecstatic to finally be rid of the Blagojemonster that the new governor could’ve been Dick Cheney, for all anybody cared.

Well, maybe not Dick Cheney.

There are limits.

But now we are a month into the third overtime legislative session in three years. Actually, the ruinous session that began the January after Blagojevich was re-elected in 2006 has never really ended.

The budget is in tatters, there is no resolution in sight, tempers are beginning to flare and disgust is the watchword.

The only comfort is cold. The same scenario is playing out all over the country right now. Illinois is just unlucky enough (of course) that the nationwide state revenue plunge happened right at the end of our long political civil war.

For instance, according to CNN, Arizona’s Republican governor is suing the Republican legislature for not sending her a budget bill. The legislature is holding onto the bill because the governor wants to veto it.

That has a familiar ring.

The Democratic-controlled Illinois Senate is refusing to send Democratic Gov. Quinn a crucial budget bill because Quinn won’t say whether he’ll sign it. State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Chicago) has put a hold on the capital projects bill for the same reason. The Senate also is refusing to pass a constitutional amendment for gubernatorial recall until Quinn says he’ll sign a controversial ethics bill that the governor publicly endorsed on numerous occasions.

In other words, Quinn won’t say he’ll sign these bills because the General Assembly won’t send them to him. And the General Assembly won’t send them until he agrees to sign them.

Oh, and did I mention that at this late date the Legislature and the governor are suddenly several billion dollars apart on defining what the state budget deficit really is?

I get that the problems are enormous. I understand that there are no easy ways out. I fully comprehend that solutions to gigantic problems can take time to sort through. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be in their position. It’s easy to criticize on my side of the fence.

But I’m way past sick and tired of being sick and tired. In fact, if the State of Illinois could talk, I’m pretty sure it would say the same thing.

Dad had another saying that we’d usually hear during long car trips when the five brothers couldn’t stop pestering each other. He’d turn around, wave his index finger at us and utter what he called his “Three S’s.”

“Sit down. Sit back. And shut up!”

As we got older, it became a joke. We’d all say it with him in mocking unison, while the car swerved this way and that because Dad had turned almost completely around in his seat.

Little did I know back then my chosen career would be to report on that very same behavior.

…Adding… Some excerpts from that aforementioned CNN article

In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has filed a lawsuit against the Republican-controlled legislature seeking to compel lawmakers to send her the budget it passed on June 4. The lawmakers are holding back until an agreement is reached because she has said she would veto it.

Leaders are at odds over how to contend with a deficit that exceeds $3 billion. The governor has proposed raising taxes, including hiking the sales tax by a percentage point, while the legislators are cutting spending. […]

In some states, the leaders aren’t even talking. Pennsylvania’s governor and Senate Republicans, who have to close a $3.2 billion gap for the current year, are not negotiating on their budgets. […]

Pennsylvania’s Rendell has already said state workers would have to stay on the job without being paid if the budget isn’t approved. Services will start to be affected if the budget standoff continues beyond its typical week’s delay.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Friday, Jun 26, 2009

* Not making rent

Only once this year has Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education - headed by Supt. Charles Flowers - paid rent to Westchester Public School District 92 1 / 2 , according to documents received from the district through a Freedom of Information Act request.

From July 2008 to June 2009, Flowers’ office should have paid $41,150 for the space at 10110 Gladstone Street in Westchester, which is leased from the school district. It has only made good on $24,004. The regional office shares the building with MacNeal School, a private school affiliated with MacNeal Hospital that services special education students, which also rents from the district.

* Panel advances FBI expansion at O’Hare

The FBI has had a full-time presence at O¹Hare for more than 30 years, but the agency occupied so little space, it paid no rent. The office included only 400 square feet.

The new 10-year lease — with a five-year renewal option — calls for an expansion to 1,693 square feet at a rent of $90 per square foot. The rent would be adjusted upward at an annual rate of three percent.

* 2 FutureGen partners drop out of coal project

Just two weeks after the federal government revived plans to build the FutureGen power plant in eastern Illinois, two of the experimental coal plant’s financial backers said Thursday they are withdrawing.

The exit of American Electric Power Co. and Southern Co. leaves the nine power and coal companies that are still part of what’s known as the FutureGen Alliance searching for new partners to help cover building and startup costs they expect to reach roughly $2.4 billion.

* Greencorps Chicago job program gets $700K grant

Chicago’s green jobs initiative will receive a $700,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation.

The city’s Greencorps Chicago program was selected for the grant by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The program provides environmental jobs for between 40 and 50 people that last at least nine months. The jobs focus on eco-restoration, community gardens, plant distribution, landscaping, electronics and hazardous waste recycling and weatherizing projects.

* Court OKs Hartmarx Sale to British Firm

The roughly 3,500 employees of a Chicago-based menswear maker are breathing easier. A federal court has approved a sale of Hartmarx Corp. to owners who say they’ll keep most of the company intact.

* Joliet’s Empress Casino reopens 3 months after fire

* Thousands welcome Empress reopening

* Health care sole bright spot in area jobs figures

State figures showed health care and social assistance is the only industry that has added jobs in the Springfield area since May 2008. In fact, the 16,000 people who work in the health field in Springfield fall only 1,200 short of the number working for state government, still the largest local employer.

* Local layoffs add more pain to jobless picture

Aurora companies that have experienced layoffs include Fluid Air, Olsson Roofing Company, Luse-Stevenson Co. and Andy Frain Services, Cooper said.

Two Geneva companies have had layoffs — Catom Trucking and Burgess Norton Manufacturing.

A Plano company, National Tractor Parts, also laid off 80 people recently, according to Cooper’s office.

According to an Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act Report, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands in the DuPage County section of Aurora laid off 72 employees.

These layoffs come at a time when one of the area’s largest employers, Caterpillar, finished its planned 1,400 layoffs at the Oswego Township plant for this year.

* Chicago metro jobless rate hits 26-year high

Unemployment in metropolitan Chicago has reached a level not seen since August 1983.

The seasonally unadjusted jobless rate rose to 10.7% during May in the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet area, up from 9.9% the prior month, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

There were 185,900 fewer people employed in the metro area last month compared with the same month in 2008. That figure, the highest among the 12 Illinois metro areas reported, suggests that the recession continues to hamper the local labor market.

Chicago-Naperville-Joliet’s May jobless rate was the second-highest, behind Rockford’s 13.4%. Kankakee-Bradley was third-highest, at 10.6%.

* Unemployment rising again in Illinois metro areas

The Rockford metro area, which includes Winnebago County and part of Boone County, had the highest jobless rate, 13.4 percent, a 1.3 percentage point increase from April and just shy of the March high of 13.5 percent.

Boone County, where the Chrysler plant in Belvidere has been idled intermittently, had the highest single-county unemployment rate at 13.7 percent.

* Unemployment hits 10% in Peoria

* City Council aim to shield taxpayers from Olympic risks

The City Council is mapping plans to hire an independent insurance analyst at taxpayers’ expense to comb through the $1 billion in private insurance policies being lined up by Chicago 2016 to shield taxpayers from any risk beyond the $500 million the City Council has already pledged.

Chicago 2016 Chairman Pat Ryan said this week he needs 45 to 60 days before he’ll be ready to outline the carriers, costs and conditions of the insurance.

But after a closed-door briefing with Ryan Thursday, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) insisted that the information be delivered to aldermen in time to conduct an independent risk-assessment analysis prior to the International Olympic Committee’s Oct. 2 vote.

Aldermen also intend to hire their own experts to verify Chicago 2016’s construction budget and the Olympic committee’s representation of surpluses generated by past Olympics to make certain “they’re not cooking the books,” Moore said.

* Chicago aldermen demand Olympics money details after private meetings

* Community Group Wants Oversight on Chicago 2016 Olympic Spending

Communities for an Equitable Olympics, or CEO 2016, wants oversight on those public dollars.

* Hold the Mayor, City Council Accountable on Olympic Spending

* Costs get county called on carpet

Taxpayers are footing the bill for the new, brilliant blue carpeting in the lobby of the Cook County building. But officials don’t want them treading on a giant logo woven into it.

So blue velvet roping cordons off the single Cook County seal that faces the County Building’s entrance at 118 N. Clark.

A copy of the invoice shows the county paid $1,633.33 for logo work. Another $800 is on the invoice for variety of carpet colors, but it’s unclear whether those are for the logo.

* RTA OKs $67 million in spending cuts

The amount of public funding that Chicago-area transit agencies can expect to receive this year was slashed by $67 million Thursday.

The move by the Regional Transportation Authority board, in a 9-0 vote, was expected in order to bring transit budgets in line with declining tax revenue.

The CTA will need to reduce spending by $35 million for the rest of the year; Metra, $19 million; and Pace, $7 million. In addition, a $6 million cut was ordered for Pace’s paratransit program serving people with disabilities.

* A longer wait for your bus is better than no bus at all

The inevitable is here: CTA service cuts. The Regional Transportation Authority, the CTA’s parent, voted Thursday to reduce the CTA’s budget by $35 million. That’s on top of a $155 million hit the CTA already absorbed in April.

CTA President Richard Rodriguez says he’ll first look in-house to reduce costs but it’s doubtful that will be enough. That leaves only a few other options: route eliminations, reduced bus and train hours or longer wait times between buses and trains.

Thankfully, Rodriguez seems more interested in reducing service than eliminating it. On Wednesday, the new CTA chief mentioned the possibility of increasing the time between buses to 15 minutes from five to seven minutes on some routes.

* Pace could raise fares for disabled riders: chair

RTA Chair Jim Reilly suggested that Pace could raise fares for paratransit riders to $3 across the region to deal with funding problems.

Reilly’s comments came as the RTA board considered reserving $25 million in federal capital funds from CTA, Metra and Pace to pay for service for the disabled. The decision on reserving the money was deferred until next month.

Currently, riders pay $2.25 in the city, $3 in suburban Cook County, and $2.50 in the collar counties to ride on paratransit, which provides van pick-up for riders who cannot take regular transit services due to their disabilities. The real cost of the service, which is federally mandated, is about $40 a trip.

* RTA delays move on paratransit stopgap

* Metra invests in past and Kentucky

Metra could have spent millions of tax dollars in Illinois, but instead is spending the money in Kentucky.

The public transit agency has a contract to spend $87 million with Progress Rail of Mayfield, Ky., over the next three years to rebuild 40 of the diesel locomotives in its fleet of 144.

Back in May, I wrote about the National Railway Equipment Co. of Illinois, which has three plants in Illinois, including one in Dixmoor, and claims to be the largest distributor of remanufactured locomotives in the country. National Railway also has a plant in Kentucky.

That company has launched a new division, N-ViroMotive, to build new, environmentally friendly locomotives that would reduce pollution and noise, cut fuel costs and meet new U.S. EPA guidelines for emissions.

* City beefing up police presence for Taste of Chicago

The enhanced security measures, which include live surveillance feeds near the festival, were in part influenced by President Obama’s successful election night rally in Grant Park, said Weis, who was grilled by aldermen last year after four people were shot just as the crowd dispersed after the Taste’s July 3 fireworks.

The mayor also lambasted Weis for the violence in a one-on-one meeting.

“He was trying to say, ‘We did everything we could to control the problems.’ The response from Daley was, ‘Like hell,’ ” a source had told the Sun-Times at the time.

Weis said the department is learning from past “mistakes” and will keep a vigilant eye on “troublemakers.”

* Cops reveal ‘Taste’ security plans

* Even cops losing their jobs in recession

In Chicago, with a police force of about 13,000, the number of vacancies has climbed to more than 400 since January 2008 because the department is not hiring to keep up with the number of officers who leave. The city could be down 800 officers by the end of the year, said Mark Donahue, president of the police union.

The danger of one-person squad cars was seen last summer in Chicago when Officer Richard Francis, riding alone, responded to a disturbance involving a mentally ill woman. During a struggle, the woman allegedly grabbed Francis’ gun and killed the 27-year veteran.

* CPS to test teens for STDs

Approved by the Board of Education this week, the pilot education, testing and treatment program will be run by the city Department of Public Health in six high schools at no cost to CPS.

Participation by the schools and students — 11th- and 12th-graders are being targeted — will be voluntary, CPS officials said.

The program, in development for over a year, is based on the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, for 2007, which showed Cook County notched 12,338 reported gonorrhea cases, or 233 per 100,000 population. The county notched 30,881 chlamydia cases, or 583 per 100,000 population — second only to Los Angeles County.

* Chicago alderman has concerns about proposed downtown dorm

A proposed 37-story downtown dormitory is facing resistance from a key alderman, who fears that the privately financed venture would turn into apartment housing with no university control.

* Peoria County Battles Budget Shortfall

* Ardis: Revenue sources needed to patch budget

PEORIA —A combination of budget cuts and revenue increases is needed to patch a $10 million deficit next year, Mayor Jim Ardis told a group of business people on Thursday.

* The people, illnesses behind lawsuits against Crestwood and its use of a tainted well

* Highland Park, Elgin consider restrictions on pit bulls

* Attorney General sues Wheeling travel agency

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit Thursday against a Wheeling tour company, saying the firm canceled trips but didn’t refund its customers.

Madigan’s suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that Cosper & Cosper Group Tours and its owners, William and Gayle Cosper, have accepted nearly $24,000 from vacation planners for scheduling guided tours throughout the country. The suit claims the couple repeatedly failed to pay refunds to consumers when those tours were canceled.

William Cosper, reached at his office on Thursday, denied Madigan’s claims.

* Illinois Attorney General sues tour guide company

* Taste is the place for perfect pairings of food and music

* Energy Festival this weekend in Carbondale

* Peterson trial witness list: 805 people

Saying Drew Peterson’s attorneys were attempting to simplify disclosure evidence into “CliffsNotes,” prosecutors thwarted the bid Thursday but will have to pare an 805-witness list down to the 50 most likely to testify.

* Kids expect to set LEGO world record

* John Callaway memorial service on Sunday

A memorial service for John Callaway, the veteran Chicago radio and television newsman, is set for 3 p.m. Sunday in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.

* Services are Saturday for soldier killed in Afghanistan

* East Peoria soldier promoted posthumously

- Posted by Mike Murray   6 Comments      

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Friday, Jun 26, 2009

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Afternoon Oy

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

* Quinn wants big layoffs in addition to 12 unpaid furlough days…

Gov. Pat Quinn says 2,200 state employees could be laid off as he attempts to cut an additional $1 billion from the Illinois budget. […]

Quinn says he’d settle for raising the corporate income tax rate to 6 percent, instead of the 7.2 percent he originally proposed. The corporate rate is now 4.8 percent.

* Rahm Emanuel had this to say about Attorney General Lisa Madigan today…

“She’s the most popular political figure in Illinois,” he said, referring to Madigan as “the 800-pound gorilla in Illinois politics.”

* More money woes for mass transit…

The CTA will need to reduce spending by $35 million for the rest of the year; Metra, $19 million; and Pace, $7 million. In addition, a $6 million cut was ordered for Pace’s paratransit program serving people with disabilities.

The bad news did not end there. The board was told by RTA staff that it was necessary to shift $25 million in 2010 capital-improvement funds to keep Pace’s paratransit services going past October, when it would run out of money.

But the RTA board, deeply split over the diversion of scarce capital funds for other uses, deferred the matter until next month.

* From a press release

Patti Blagojevich is scheduled to return to Chicago late tonight at O’Hare International. She will make a brief statement to the media at the airport.

We ask any media waiting at the Blagojevich home to respect the family’s privacy as there will be no media availability at the family’s home either tonight or in the near future.

More details regarding her arrival late tonight will be released this evening.

Visit Patti Blagojevich’s Web site:

* That’s quite the over the top apology

“I have been recently notified by the International Baseball Federation that I tested positive for marijuana during the 2009 World Baseball Classic during which I proudly represented Puerto Rico,” reads Soto’s statement. “I am embarrassed by my lapse in judgment.

“While I fully acknowledge my inappropriate behavior, I want to assure my fans and my family that this was an isolated incident. I do not say this to minimize or deflect from my conduct and I fully understand the ramifications of my actions. I have and will accept any and all consequences. […]

The Cubs issued their own statement […]

“Geovany assured the organization this was an isolated incident and a misstep in judgment that will not be repeated. Though surprised and disappointed, the club supports Geovany as he takes responsibility for his actions and accepts the consequences.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

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Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

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Quote of the week

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

* Gov. Quinn. Master of the obvious…

* Runner-up goes to the Sam Adam, Jr., who talked to reporters after U.S. District Judge James Zagel set Rod Blagojevich’s trial date for June 3rd of next year…

Asked how the case is shaping up, including the expected addition of former Blagojevich chiefs of staff John Harris and Lon Monk as witnesses, defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. said it changes little.

“(Blagojevich) was not guilty then, and he’s not guilty now,” Adam. said, calling it inevitable that such witnesses would line up against the former governor. “You can bring in Lon Monk, you can bring in anyone you want, his position is the same.”

Sounds a lot like “Bring it on,” to me.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

* The setup, from NY Times columnist Gail Collins

On behalf of the people of Illinois and New York, I’d like to thank South Carolina for giving us Mark (“I’ve been unfaithful to my wife”) Sanford. Finally, a governor who’s weirder than Rod Blagojevich and less responsible than Eliot Spitzer.

Really, we’re extremely relieved.

* The Question: Which of those three guys would you rather have as governor? Explain. But whatever you decide, keep it clean. Don’t risk banishment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      


Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

[Bumped up from last night for visibility.]

* YouTube is allowing members to upgrade their sites, so I did. Go check it out. Pretty cool.

Even cooler, though, is this notification which appeared [last night] about 10 o’clock on my YouTube page

That videos viewed ranking put this site just behind YouTube’s wildly popular CitizenTube, which has been spotlighting amateur videos from the Iranian protests, and ahead of the channels for ABC News and Fox News. The national channels, not the local channels.


* Thanks to all of you for watching our videos, and lots of thanks to my intern Mike Murray, who has shot and edited all of the vids this year and taught himself everything. I gave him the ball and he really ran with it.

I think our little experiment has been a success, don’t you?

* I suppose it’s time to upgrade the video equipment from our cheap little video cams. I also have a new business idea or two. Stay tuned, campers.

…Adding… On a mostly unrelated note, I’ve redesigned the Twitter automated feed, which appears on the lower right side of this page. Twitter posts should now appear much quicker. I’ve also added several new “Tweeters” to the list.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Sometimes, it’s what you don’t print that matters

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

* Roy Hofer, the president of the Chicago Bar Association from 1988 to 1989, rips into Senate President John Cullerton’s recent Tribune op-ed with his own Tribune op-ed. I’m excerpting this part for a reason…

With respect to the investigation and enforcement of public corruption, the General Assembly refused to adopt the crux of the comprehensive changes proposed by the commission: adding significant additional corruption offenses to the books and providing additional tools to law enforcement officials to uncover and prosecute wrongdoers.

This comes as no surprise, as our lawmakers have been reluctant to adopt legislation that makes them accountable for their unethical conduct. Instead, they passed legislation that imposes additional penalties on those who are caught. That’s a good idea, but why not also make it easier to catch the crooks?

Former reform commission chairman Patrick Collins also criticized Cullerton on this very same topic in his recent Tribune op-ed

Why do we have a wiretap law that covers many serious crimes, but not corruption by public officials? Most states have a law similar to what the commission proposed. Why are we carving out the politicians’ crimes — sparing them from full investigations?

* Here is what the Tribune printed of Cullerton’s opinion piece…

Yes, we did reject the commission’s enforcement ideas for state prosecutors. We believe that authorizing “warrantless wiretaps” is a bad idea, ripe for abuse and wholly inconsistent with the Illinois Constitution. Instead, we passed two real game-changing laws. One forces politicians convicted of bribery, taking kickbacks or extortion to forfeit all campaign contributions and any proceeds they got from their criminal activity. The other bars politicians convicted of official misconduct or a similar federal crime from deriving a financial benefit from their misconduct.

But Cullerton told me the other day that the Tribune had omitted a key sentence from his original draft. I asked for a copy. The deleted part is highlighted…

Yes, we did reject the commission’s enforcement ideas for state prosecutors. We believe that authorizing “warrantless wiretaps” is a bad idea, ripe for abuse and wholly inconsistent with the Illinois Constitution. Former prosecutors, sitting judges, and the Illinois State Bar Association shared that view and strongly opposed even the Commission’s own watered-down enforcement ideas as unnecessary and duplicative.

That disappeared sentence sure appears to buttress Cullerton’s case, and more completely addresses both Hofer’s and Collins’ questions. Too bad it was deleted.

The complete, unedited Cullerton op-ed can be read by clicking here.

And, by the way, when I published an op-ed by Collins, I only made a couple of minor changes after consulting him.

* Related…

* Pantagraph: Veto HB 7; Illinois needs real reforms

* Sen. Roland Burris failed to reveal he has options to buy stock in a company where he was a board member, records show: Burris can buy the stock at prices ranging from $9 a share to about $20 a share, according to Inland’s federal securities filings. The senator is unlikely to exercise those options any time soon — Inland stock closed at $6.72 on Wednesday, below Burris’ $9 option.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

Schillerstrom jumps into increasingly crowded race

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

* No surprise. Schillerstrom is jumping in

Spokesman Brad Hahn says Bob Schillerstrom will announce his run on Sunday at a rally in suburban Naperville. The Republican formed a committee to explore the option in May.

Schillerstrom is 57 and has led the DuPage board since 1998. He’s the latest among several Republicans to see a chance to reclaim the governor’s mansion.

And it’s gonna be crowded in there…

.In DuPage County alone - long the power base for Republicans in the state - Schillerstrom, Dillard and State’s Attorney Joe Birkett have all been mentioned as potential candidates. State Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine entered the race this week along with conservative pundit Dan Proft of Wheaton.

Bloomington state Sen. Bill Brady has been campaigning since he came in third in the 2006 GOP primary. Other candidates include Hinsdale resident Adam Andrzejewski

* Schillerstrom has a pretty decent looking website, although its left-hand border is so large on my browser that it screws up the viewing.

Here’s the obligatory “Welcome to my website” video…

* Decent spin

“Bob has experience as an executive leader running a county that is larger than six states,” said campaign spokesman Brad Hahn.

* More on the announcement

Following the [Sunday] rally in his hometown of Naperville, Schillerstrom will travel Monday and Tuesday to Rockford, the Quad Cities, Peoria, St. Louis metro area, Springfield and Champaign. The announcement rally will be streamed live online at


- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Now what?

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

* A meme emerged yesterday….

Gov. Pat Quinn, after weeks of warning about severe service cuts if there’s no tax hike, toned down his rhetoric Wednesday.

“I’m not going to be cutting the heart and soul out of Illinois human services. I never support that and never will. So we will not allow that to take place,” said Quinn, a day after he told 5,000 protesters at the Capitol that they could lose their jobs if no tax hike is approved.


Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn waffled on whether he will proceed with severe cuts to human service programs if lawmakers don’t approve an income tax hike before the start of the state’s new budget year July 1. […]

After meeting with the four legislative caucuses over the last two days, Quinn sent a series of mixed messages on his budget plans. He reiterated that he does not support a budget that includes huge spending shortfalls for social service programs, but he would not say whether he would make the spending cuts he’s threatened if lawmakers don’t approve a tax hike.


After spending the past three weeks saying he would cut programs serving Illinois’ neediest citizens on July 1, Gov. Pat Quinn appeared to blink Wednesday.

Etc., etc.

* What’s going on? Well, Quinn is under enormous pressure to put off the doomsday cuts. The push-back from the social service groups has been absolutely fierce, and the media heat has been beyond intense. He’s finding out that even though he didn’t support the budget passed by the General Assembly, he’s the one taking the blame. All governors hate wearing the jacket, but that’s the way it works when you’re on top. And now the fiscal year deadline is approaching and he’s staring off into the abyss wondering what to do.

* And rather than help reach a satisfactory conclusion, the pension note plan appears to be taking the pressure off, particularly in the House…

A solution could come in the form of a House plan anchored by borrowing $2.2 billion to fund the state’s 2010 pension obligations. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said the plan would fund the budget to almost 93 percent of what Quinn wanted.

The governor’s office vehemently disagrees with that 93 percent number, by the way. But House Democrats see the pension note plan and other maneuvers as a get out of jail free card

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said the plan, expected to generate about $2.2 billion, could help avoid the massive cuts Quinn has threatened.

“I don’t know if we need a tax increase right now,” said Phelps, who was among those voting against an income tax hike May 31.

That cash will take some pressure off the cuts, particularly the social service grants, and that, in turn, will lessen the urgency for a tax hike. They’ll still be billions in the hole - anywhere from $3.7 billion to about $6 billion, depending on whom you believe

“If we get $2 billion to help close the deficit, that’s a good thing,” Quinn said after finishing a series of meetings with all four legislative caucuses. “We’re making progress, but we still have $7 billion to go.”

It’s less than $7 billion and Quinn knows it (subscribe to find out why). But it’s higher than some want to think.

* Quinn will be forced to make some very tough decisions about what he does next. He may agree to Republican demands for a month-to-month budget, or he could be pushed by the House Dems into backing off doing anything else. Or he could go other directions. I don’t think he really knows yet.

And if he doesn’t follow through and instead moves on to the next doomsday threats, nobody will take him seriously

Governor Quinn says no matter the budget outcome.. there will be shared sacrifice. He talked about state employee layoffs, and asking government workers to take up to 12 furlough days in the coming year.

His indecisiveness will spawn a whole lot more biting commentary like this

If Quinn were serious, he should have locked the Legislative leaders in a room and said they weren’t coming out until they had solved the problem.

Maybe the problem was never that serious.

Maybe it was all a political game.

Maybe things really are that bad and our lawmakers just don’t give a damn.

It doesn’t matter.

Every time I think the politicians of Illinois have reached a new low, they find a way to dig a little deeper.

Instead of going to work, they’ve gone home, leaving millions of poor, scared, helpless people behind.

And mocking like this

Legislators met for two days this week to consider technical issues related to a public works program and to address the budget.

They didn’t complete either chore. The Senate did, however, pass a resolution reaffirming Illinois’ sister-state relationship with Taiwan.

* And, then, of course, there’s the ongoing fight over the capital bill

Quinn said he will not sign the construction program without an operating budget in place. Democratic Sens. Martin Sandoval of Chicago and John Sullivan of Rushville said the capital plan and the operating budget have nothing to do with one another. In a Statehouse news conference, they joined organized labor groups to say Quinn has fallen through on his promise to immediately put people to work. “People are falling off the edge, losing their homes, having a very difficult time making ends meet, and he’s decided to hold the jobs bill as a political football until he gets his tax hike,” Sandoval said, citing the state’s 10.1 percent unemployment rate.


- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

Morning shorts *** UPDATED ***

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

* Rep. Davis eyes run for County Board chief

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis is forming an exploratory committee to consider running for Cook County Board president, said his spokeswoman Tumia Romero.

Davis commissioned a poll which showed “very favorable” numbers for his run, Romero said, including placing him 7 points ahead of County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, the presumptive front-runner who pulled out of the race last week.

* Brown in race?

IAM PREDICTING that Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown will announce on Friday that she will be running for the Cook County Board president seat now occupied by Todd Stroger. Others who might run include Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th).

* Plinko, Preckwinkle and my soup tax

The entire Democratic Party is waiting for Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision on whether she will run for U.S. Senate, governor or re-election to her current office. Her Plinko chip is positioned at the top of the board, moving at a glacial pace toward its final slot.

The effect of her decision trickles down to the Cook County Board president’s race - quite possibly the most important election for Cook County residents on the 2010 ticket. It’s not just about the sales tax, although I took notice, again, of the tax Wednesday on my lunch receipt. Sixty-one cents for soup and salad.

The sales tax is only a small part of Cook County’s problem. Streamlining government. Finding competent managers. Eliminating the fat, yes, but also steering the Titanic on the complex issues of health care delivery and public safety. That’s where our tax money goes. We need someone at the wheel impervious to political pressure, thoughtful in decision-making and stern. Absent of softness. Lacking in sentimentality. A real jerk.

Chicago Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, of Hyde Park, might be that person.

* Indicted builder aided Burkes

A developer now at the center of a City Hall bribery scandal hosted a political fundraiser for Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke in his home, just months before receiving crucial support for his real estate project from her husband, Ald. Edward Burke, a Tribune investigation has found.

Both Burkes got campaign donations from developer Calvin Boender while Boender was pushing to build a $35 million condo and restaurant project on a blighted stretch of Cicero Avenue near Midway Airport.

Several months after the March 2007 fundraiser for his wife and weeks after receiving his $1,500 campaign donation, Edward Burke (14th) gave his all-important backing for Boender’s project in his Southwest Side ward.

For years, Boender has quietly forged ties with politicians as he pursued real estate deals around Chicago, but he was indicted in May on charges he bribed a West Side alderman to win backing for another project.

* Lease with Daley nephew sparks aldermanic crackdown

But, City Hall’s decision to make it a month-to-month lease — and continue that temporary arrangement since November, 2007 — denied Suarez’ committee and the full City Council the right to approve the deal.

Last week, Suarez demanded to know why the city has paid nearly $500,000 to lease the space co-owned by mayoral nephew Robert Vanecko and his partners, developer Allison Davis and Davis’ son Jared, under an arrangement that was supposed to be temporary.

Today, he went a step further.

Suarez said he plans to introduce an ordinance at next week’s City Council meeting that would rein in month-to-month leases.

* Aldermen lower the boom on Olympic planners after pledge backlash

That kind of hide-the-ball strategy has “poisoned the well” with the City Council, according to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), whose ward includes the proposed Olympic Village.

With a City Council vote at least a month away, Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s floor leader, refused to rate the chances that aldermen would derail Chicago’s Olympic bid.

He would only say that aldermen are feeling the heat.

“There’s a lot of anger out there looking for a focal point and the Olympics allow a focal point. The parking meters are one more thing they’re angry about. But, the parking meter deal is done. The Olympics is something they can impact,” he said.

* Chicago 2016 Chairman Patrick Ryan meets with aldermen in private on Olympics funding issues

But the decision to hold private briefings with aldermen Wednesday and Thursday came “as we’re going through this in real time and hearing things and responding to them,” said Chicago 2016 spokeswoman Mica Matsoff.

The bid team is meeting with no more than 13 aldermen at a time — the maximum number who can gather in private without violating open meetings laws.

Daley spokeswoman Jacquelyn Heard defended the meetings, saying it’s a common City Hall practice to hold briefings in small groups, excluding the public.

“Nothing is out of the ordinary here,” Heard said. “Aldermen are routinely briefed by mayoral staff and others, and those briefings are never public. … The mayor did say he would bring it before council. The briefings don’t cancel that out.”

* Olympic planners meet with aldermen to discuss taxpayer contributions

* Funding crunch puts paratransit service in jeopardy

The latest funding crisis facing the CTA, Metra and Pace is also jeopardizing paratransit service for up to 40,000 people with disabilities, officials are warning.

Unless a $30.5 million budget shortfall can be remedied, paratransit funding will run out this fall and service will be suspended, according to Pace, which provides transportation for the handicapped in the six-county region as well as suburban bus and vanpool service.

* CTA president says specifics on cuts unknown

The RTA board is expected to vote Thursday to reduce transit budgets by $61 million, including $35 million at the CTA, $19 million at Metra and $7 million at Pace.

* School cuts will cause ‘chaos,’ teachers say

Teachers Wednesday predicted classroom “chaos” in September if officials go through with about 100 teacher cuts at 12 Chicago public schools where lower enrollment is projected.

Karen Lewis, co-chair of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, contended CPS was exaggerating some projections of enrollment declines. The resulting job cuts will lead to bulging classes, she said.

“They are absolutely lowballing their estimates,'’ Lewis said before Wednesday’s monthly School Board meeting. As a result, “Unfortunately, for many schools, the first day of school is a day of chaos.'’

The teachers blasted a CPS practice of waiting until mid-October’s final enrollment count to determine how many teachers are needed.

* Teachers Accuse District of Understaffing Schools

* Peoria County plans to ask unions to help trim costs

* Lofty ‘green’ renovation for Sears Tower

Sears Tower is “going green” while keeping its attire of basic black. The tower’s owners are planning a rooftop-to-plaza renovation to conserve energy and power up its financial performance.

The makeover detailed Wednesday calls for giving the tower a new neighbor, a 50-story hotel that the Sears owners said would feature “net zero” use of energy. They said changes to the tower itself will cut its appetite for electricity by 80 percent.

The work on the 110 -story tower should cost about $350 million, said John Huston, principal with American Landmark Properties Ltd. The Skokie-based firm is part of the tower’s ownership group.

Huston estimated the hotel, for which outside investors will be sought, could cost $225 million. He said the dual projects could be completed within five years.

* Cab stand relocation puts drivers, passengers up the creek on Canal

Chicago cabdrivers are fuming about a street reconfiguration that’s costing them sorely needed business: the relocation of a Canal Street cab stand serving Union Station.

The cab stand used to be located right outside the door of Union Station. Now, it’s on the other side of the street, but there’s no pedestrian cross walk in the middle of the block.

A dedicated CTA bus lane that ran against the flow of traffic was eliminated, with all traffic now moving northbound. The east side of the street where the cab stand used to be is now reserved for buses, pick-ups and drop-offs and has a space for disabled drop-offs, he said.

“We made that move to try to safely balance all of the traffic that uses that block,” Steele said.

* Cop charged in murder plot wants city to pay legal bills

Jerome Finnigan and other members of the now-disbanded Special Operations Section have been accused of falsely arresting and robbing people. He and other SOS officers face lawsuits alleging they abused citizens’ civil rights.

Finnigan originally was represented in the lawsuits by the city’s Law Department. But he eventually retained a private law firm, Ungaretti & Harris, because he thought there was a conflict with the city also participating in the criminal investigation into his alleged misdeeds.

Finnigan alleges the city owes him about $620,000 in fees and expenses incurred by his private lawyers in defending him in 12 lawsuits.

Finnigan is charged in federal court with plotting to kill a fellow officer, Keith Herrera, whom he believed was cooperating with the corruption investigation. He and four other officers face separate corruption charges in state court.

* Stiffer penalty could teach brutes a lesson

What we will second-guess is Fleming’s bizarre view that a stiffer penalty for Abbate would have done nothing to discourage future brutes from beating up women — in a bar, on the street or right at home.

* Police from Democratic National Convention protests to hold reunion

Chicago Copwatch, an activist organization that tries to document police misconduct, swiftly organized a counter-rally at Ashland Avenue and Lake Street at 6 p.m. Friday, the same night as the reunion. They plan to a march to the Fraternal Order of Police lodge, where the reunion is being held.

* State police looking out for construction workers’ safety

* Vans with cameras back in work zones to catch speeders

* University of Illinois hikes tuition by 2.6%

Incoming freshmen to pay $9,484 in base tuition

* Chicago school to march in Pride Parade

* Remembering Callaway, a supreme storyteller

* John Callaway enriched us

* Callaway’s genuine interest in people set him apart

* Bruno coverup at O’Hare exposed

* Superdawg vs. Superdog

Superdawg, the venerable Northwest Side hot dog purveyor, this week sued Superdog, an upstart frankfurter stand in New York City, claiming trademark infringement and unfair and deceptive business practices.

- Posted by Mike Murray   13 Comments      

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Thursday, Jun 25, 2009

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

* 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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