* My pal Dusty Rhodes has left the Illinois Times and decided to go back to college. I’m gonna miss her work. Dusty, you’ll recall, wrote a light-hearted piece about me some time ago, but that isn’t why I wanted to say goodbye today. She’s a darned good reporter and we were lucky to have her here. I wish her nothing but the best.
Here’s a little Elvis Costello for Dusty, with some help from the Beastie Boys…
I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
I wanna bite that hand so badly
I want to make them wish they’d never seen me
Statement from Illinois Senator Michael Bond (D-31) announcing today that he will seek reelection instead of the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 10th District:
“After careful consideration, I have decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for Congress in the Tenth District, and will instead seek reelection to the Illinois Senate. While I am grateful for the encouragement I have received to run for Congress, I feel an obligation to continue working to address the enormous challenges our state is confronting.
“We need to tackle our budget crisis, renew our economy and continue cleaning up Illinois government. Now more than ever, the hardworking taxpayers I represent need an advocate in Springfield who will stand up for their interests, promote fiscal responsibility while opposing an income tax increase, and demand the kind of ethical government they deserve.
“It has been an honor to work on behalf of the families in the 31st Senate District, and at this crucial time in our state’s history I believe I have a responsibility to continue doing so.”
Word has been going around for several days that Bond wouldn’t run for the 10th District congressional slot. More to come.
* 3:58 pm - Bond’s GOP state Senate opponent responds via press release…
Lake County Board Chairman Suzi Schmidt responds to Senator Michael Bond’s decision to seek re-election
LAKE VILLA (July 31, 2009) – The following statement was released today by Suzi Schmidt, the Lake County Board Chairman and Republican candidate for State Senate in the 31st District, regarding State Senator Michael Bond’s decision to bow out of 10th District Congressional race and seek re-election to the State Senate.
“I welcome Senator Bond back to the 31st Senate District and look forward to a vigorous debate with him on the direction of Illinois and the best way to improve the quality of life in our communities.”
* Here is the overview of the cuts to be announced today…
• State Operations (includes layoffs,12 furlough days) $185 million
• Medicaid $140 million
• Grants $250 million
• Education $175 million
• Corrections $125 million
• Additional Reserves $100 million
• Other State offices, departments and agencies $25 million
Total: $1 billion
Not a lot of detail there, eh?
* Here’s the broad overview of how he’ll allocate that $1.2 billion in undesignated funds that the GA gave him…
• $1 billion for Healthcare and Family Services includes
o $300 million for Medicaid
o $700 million for group health
• $150 million for State Board of Education includes
o $85 million for early childhood education
o $11 million for bilingual programs
• $40 million for Department of Public Health includes
o $17 million for HIV/AIDS programs
o $9 million for breast/cervical cancer screening programs
• $13 million for Amtrak
* And here’s the overview of the remaining problems. They didn’t completely fund group health insurance, for instance…
Medicaid ($600 million)
Group health coverage for state employees, retirees and dependents ($600 million)
* 3:48 pm - Press conference is now over. That wasn’t so hard now, was it? However, he did take the easy way out by holding it in Chicago, where reporters are less aware of state government.
Pre K-12 education ($145 million)
College scholarships ($225 million)
Contingency reserve funds +$180 million
* 3:02 pm - Dept. of Corrections cuts include ▪ a reduction of 18 Central Office positions and 413 other positions.
…Adding… A different document claims that DoC headcount was cut 1,073. Thanks to a commenter. More headcount reductions are on that sheet. Here are a few…
* 303 - IL State Police
* 1,073 - DoC
* 866 - DHS
* 105 - Dept. Juvenile Justice
Statement of Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31:
“These cuts will hurt every Illinois resident.
“If the cuts stand, thousands of working men and women will lose their jobs. Human services, health care, education and public safety will be harmed. Our communities, families, children and seniors and our environment will suffer.
“By slashing thousands of jobs, these cuts contradict and undermine President Obama’s efforts to fight the recession, protect public services and keep Americans working.
“The fault for these terrible cuts belongs to the governor and every legislator who supported an irresponsible budget. The responsibility lies with every Illinois elected official and opinion maker who has opposed raising the revenue needed to avoid them.
“Every Illinoisan must demand that lawmakers and the governor renounce these damaging cuts, commit to raising new revenue, and return to the Capitol as soon as necessary to fix this broken budget.”
I thought the announcement video was the worst thing she’d done. This is just downright goofy, and possibly against federal campaign law.
UPDATE: The Hamos campaign has now removed the contact info.
* I’m never thrilled linking to a website with Bizarro World headlines like “Is there co-pay with forced abortion?,” but they did have a little story today which piqued my interest…
With high name recognition and a statewide network, Birkett could be one of the front-runners in the GOP Gubernatorial Primary. We’re told he’s weighing his options. A decision will have to come soon.
I’m now hearing the same. Joe Birkett is now reportedly mulling a gubernatorial bid. That’s after he told a Daily Herald reporter this…
Birkett, meanwhile, said the attorney general position is his best fit, regardless of whom he faces on Election Day.
So far, no one else has officially declared for the post. It’s Birkett’s third attempt at statewide office and his second for attorney general.
“You have to be who you are,” the 54-year-old Wheaton man said. “I’m a prosecutor. I’ve come to the conclusion I should remain one. That’s where I belong. It’s my passion.”
Apparently, Birkett may have a new passion.
* And, what’s up with the Mark Kirk for Senate campaign? As I told you this morning, Kirk is apparently about to embark on a Downstate campaign swing. There’s nothing at his website (actually, there’s not much of anything at that website), there’s nothing on his campaign FaceBook page, and his Twitter page - well, maybe that’s a sore point.
I asked a couple of reporters if they’d heard anything from the campaign and they said they hadn’t. I contacted the campaign an hour or so ago, but haven’t heard anything back yet.
The previously scheduled 2 p.m. reporter video conference and conference call has been canceled.
WHO: Governor Quinn
Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer
TIME: 2:45 p.m.
WHERE: 15th Floor Blue Room
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph
[End of update]
* An e-mail sent by the governor’s office about today’s announcement of $1 billion in state budget cuts is causing some controversy. First, the e-mail. All emphasis in the original…
At 2pm today, the Governor’s Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer will present to the press the FY10 Budget Allocation Plan via video and phone conference.
As a member of the Springfield media, you may designate one person from your outlet to be onsite in the Capitol Office 214 Conference Room to participate in the presentation via video conference. Other members of your outlet may participate via a conference call line.
There can be no cameras, no taping, no streaming live audio and no tweeting.
A PowerPoint outlining the FY10 Budget Allocation Plan will be distributed just prior to the start of the meeting, however that information is embargoed until the conclusion of the presentation.
If you are interested in participating in this call, you must RSVP by NOON. If you do so, that means that you agree to accept the embargo and information will be provided to you at 1:45PM.
No video. No audio. Not even a single “tweet” is permissible.
Those are the rules reporters must agree to comply with if they are to be allowed to listen to a key briefing on Illinois’ troubled budget Friday. […]
For a Governor who spent the better part of two decades making transparency a cornerstone of his career, the cloak of secrecy is surprising. A cynic might wonder if Quinn’s team is hoping to avoid there being any video or audio record of the announcement of drastic budget cuts that could possibly be used against him in a future campaign?
While it is true former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s administration held background briefings for the press before publicly disclosing new budgets, those sessions proceeded by only an hour or two a public re-telling of the information by Blagojevich himself. Governor Quinn has a non-budget related press event scheduled for this morning, but no media availability after the budget bombshell is dropped. Quinn press secretary Bob Reed, a former reporter, was not immediately available to offer an explanation.
* And here’s an e-mail from the president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents’ Association to all members…
I protested having the budget briefing embargoed on the grounds that it is far different from a briefing on the overall budget.
The embargo is an extraordinary action and is unacceptable in this matter. This is not like a budget address.
Results of the conversation with Reed, Marlena and Ashley Cross:
–The no taping was a mistake. So audio taping is allowed.
–They meant no videotaping. So they have a plan for a videotaped Q and A with Stermer with a Chicago news outlet and maybe a separate with Decatur here. I’d advise all ILCA TV folks to call Ashley in the governor’s office. Gordon was in the press room and was advised of this verbally. These Q-and-As are supposed to be made available—sounds like by the bird. They don’t think that print and radio reporters will be able even to view that live.
–They did not agree to a hard time to end the embargo. They said they would announce at the end of the briefing when it is over. I argued a hard time is needed so that everyone is clear when it is.
–They are supposed to send a clarification out.
–I argued for making the briefing live, but they won’t.
–They plan to put up a web site that will be given out at the briefing which supposedly will give answers.
–I argued this is not like a regular budget briefing,
–I said some of us might not go and then we’ll be asking questions afterward. They said the briefing is the time made available statewide for questions to be asked.
I’ll update if there are any changes.
CLTV’s Carlos Hernandez-Gomez just called to say that the governor has said video camers would be allowed, but only after Carlos pressed the issue with him during an unrelated press conference.
Still, this ought to be a live broadcast. Lots of people all over the state are anxious about these budget cuts and they ought to be allowed to listen or watch.
And this matter of just giving a couple TV stations access to a Q and A is ridiculous.
* Ab Mikva is upset with US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. You’ll all remember Fitzgerald’s press conference after Blagojevich’s arrest…
“The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” Fitzgerald said the day of the Dec. 9 arrest. He also said Blagojevich had gone on “a political corruption crime spree.” And Robert D. Grant, head of the FBI’s Chicago office, told the same news conference that if Illinois “is not the most corrupt state in the United States it’s certainly one hell of a competitor.”
“I certainly don’t like the prosecutor coming out and trying his case [in the media] and possibly tainting the jury pool with a big press conference announcing he has indicted so-and-so, or, in Blagojevich’s case, has arrested so-and-so — he hadn’t even reached an indictment yet,” Mikva saids at the American Bar Association convention.
“The argument is made by some prosecutors that this is a part of a public information factor of a prosecutor’s job, and they have to do it. That’s nonsense.” […]
“I suppose prosecutors have first amendment rights, but … somehow there’s something wrong and inconsistent with a prosecutor who is supposed to try that case in court and is supposed to be the public persona [of justice] announcing to the world that you’ve got this guy dead-to-rights and he should go to jail for a long time,” Mikva said. […]
Pressed on whether prosecutors such as Fitzgerald should make themselves available to answer questions from the press about newly-released indictments, Mikva conceded sometimes that was helpful and necessary with complicated cases, but he said the prosecutors should keep their answers unemotional.
“I think that the indictment should be the news conference,” said Judge Paul L. Friedman of U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, suggesting that reporters should get their information about the case from the indictment and prosecutors should not add facts not contained in that document.
* The Question: Did Fitzgerald go too far? And should US Attorney’s, the FBI and others in law enforcement avoid press conferences that stray from the cold facts of an arrest or indictment?
[Sigh. Nevermind. Somehow - probably because they look so much alike - I mistakenly thought a Rockford editorial was from the Peoria paper. Oops. I apologize to both papers for the mixup and have taken down the shot. Sheesh.]
* On the other hand, the State Journal-Register editorializes today in favor of changing the campaign finance reform bill. One of the changes it supports is somewhat surprising…
* Change a provision that appears to ban special interest groups’ political action committees from making any independent expenditures on behalf of or against candidates.
We’re no fan of many of these groups, but such a law could be an unconstitutional limitation on freedom of speech and expose the state to litigation. […]
The General Assembly has not been given enough credit for the yeoman’s work it did sifting through and analyzing Blagojevich’s transgressions and addressing them.
But the potential for corruption in the legislative branch still is great with the free flow of money allowed under the bill waiting for the governor’s signature. Legislators need to act to ensure their branch of government remains scandal free.
Hopefully, the paper will serve as an example to other newspapers [cough!Tribune!cough!] which have opposed parts of the Quinn Commission report yet slammed legislators for doing the very same thing.
…Adding… I forgot to mention that the News-Gazette has an editorial today which basically admits that it doesn’t know what to do about how U of I trustees should get their jobs…
Clearly, a change in the board’s structure is necessary. But there is no magic bullet.
* GOP gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kirk Dillard voted to tax and legalize video poker machines to pay for part of the capital bill in May. Now that he’s running for governor, he’s changed his mind…
Dillard said he was torn in his vote, but ultimately said he wanted to keep his word to labor unions and business groups to support a major public works package.
“I had a gun to my head,” he said during an interview with the Daily Herald editorial board Thursday.
Dillard said that if he is elected governor, he would reconsider the legalization of video gambling machines even though he voted for it in the state Senate. He did speak out against video gambling expansion as he voted for it.
So, he was against it, but he voted for it because of a “gun” to his head, and if elected governor he would “reconsider” the whole thing.
And how would Dillard replace that poker money? Magic ponies!
Dillard said he would prefer to see the state use revenue from the sales tax on gasoline to cover the needed cash. Yet, he admits that would blow a $400 million hole in a state budget already billions of dollars in the red.
To cover that, Dillard said he would “grow the economy,” hoping for new tax dollars from more jobs and sales.
* CNN covers the Mark Kirk Twitter probe by the Department of Defense without a single hat tip here, but does have this…
While the source did not think the congressman revealing his location was a huge deal (in this particular case), the official was less sure of the other questions the incident raised [about campaigning at the Pentagon].
The source told CNN, “Given who the individual is and how people can perceive things, it is interesting. We are aware of it and we are looking into it.”
* Zorn goes after DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett over the Brian Dugan saga…
Ever since 1985 [when Dugan tried to confess to the Nicarico kidnap/murder], under a succession of elected state’s attorneys, DuPage has been trying various legal strategies first to discredit Dugan, then to prevent him from telling his full story in open court.
The reason? They botched the initial case. They used shabby, dubious evidence to convict two innocent men and pack them off to Death Row.
Then, when Dugan came forward with his powerfully corroborative admission, they refused to set things right and instead embarked on an infamous effort to defend their mistakes.
Now, we see vestiges of this effort in the attempt to place strict limits on what the sentencing jury will hear. Birkett accused Greenberg on Thursday of wanting to “put the State of Illinois on trial” by placing Dugan’s story into the broad context of prosecutorial and investigative missteps, “that have nothing to do with this defendant’s character or record or actions in the murder of Jeanine Nicarico.”
* Greg Blankenship: How Kirk introduces himself to downstate voters is key to his campaign
Tyhesha Brunston got her car back this week three years after Chicago Police took it and locked it up. While she finally has her car back, her case isn’t over. Her attorney is filing a brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the way Chicago impounds cars allegedly used in drug crimes.
Mayor Richard Daley’s administration Thursday predicted a gaping hole in next year’s budget that will eclipse the current financial problems — even after the city exhausts its brand-new $320 million rainy day fund.
The anticipated $6.2 billion budget for next year could be more than half a billion dollars in the red because of plummeting tax collections and rising wages that account for more than 80 percent of the city’s day-to-day spending, said Chief Financial Officer Gene Saffold. He announced the gloomy prediction as Daley aides began briefing aldermen in anticipation of public hearings next month.
Although higher taxes are “a last resort . . . nothing is ruled out at this point,” Saffold said. “The mayor has instructed us not to look at property taxes as we move forward in 2010.”
Daley has laid off city workers and pressured unions to take unpaid days off to save money this year, and aldermen and outside budget experts predicted that personnel cuts were likely next year. The biggest chunk of increased spending next year will come from $117 million in higher wages, benefits and pension fund payments, Saffold said.
Hmmmm. The mayor is crying poor because he has discovered a $520 million hole in the 2010 city budget.
• • Hmmmm: Isn’t the approximately $1 billion budget reserve — which is comprised of the Skyway and parking meters sales and the onetime payment of $200 million from the reneged Midway Airport deal — typically kept for economic crisis, rainy day funds and unforeseen circumstances?
• • Conclusion: So how come, in the midst of this economic crisis, Mayor Daley is only dipping into the parking meter part of the rainy day fund? Does holding back the cash have anything to do with Daley’s hope to bring THE OLYMPICS to Chicago in 2016? Nawwww.
Further conclusion: Sneed hears the City Council will ask the mayor to dip into the budget reserve — rather than raise taxes!
Maldonado is one of the committeemen who’ll choose his own replacement. He told us Thursday that he’ll work to make sure the committeemen select someone who will vote as he would have.
That said, Maldonado and the others will be lobbied to do Stroger a fat favor and install a flunky who’ll do whatever machine Democrats tell him or her to do. Other powerful committeemen with a vote on this — their respective clout is weighted by prior Democratic turnout in their wards — include Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) and Ald. Rey Colon (35th).
Facing mounting debts owed to trash collectors, retirement funds and even one of its topless nightclubs, Washington Park has filed for bankruptcy protection for a second time this decade.[…]
The community of about 5,450 people along Interstate 64 at the eastern edge of East St. Louis filed papers showing assets of less than $50,000 and debt of more than $1 million.
* Washington Park’s largest creditors: $448,793 — Illinois Department of Employment Security $300,000 — Johnny “Chico” Matt, former public safety director$174,363 — Police Pension Fund$91,04 — Hinshaw and Culbertson, lawyers $80,000 — Fish Inc., nightclub $73,821 — St. Clair County auditor $55,000 — Fraternal Order of Police $53,449 — Aetna Insurance
PEORIA, Ill. — A union official says Caterpillar is laying off 75 employees at a central Illinois foundry and may close the plant for two months late this year if demand for its engines doesn’t improve.[…]
Doty says the company also has tentative plans to close the foundry and idle its 525 remaining workers in November and December.
The Springfield insurance and financial services company reported its profits increased more than 70 percent to $32 million for the first six months of this year compared to 2008, primarily as a result of improvement in financial markets.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange said on Thursday second-quarter net income rose 11 percent as increased trading helped offset higher costs.
The largest U.S. options exchange, which has been operating as a for-profit model since January 2006, said quarterly revenue was up 12 percent to $109.4 million from $97.6 million a year ago as trading volume rose 8 percent.
If state Comptroller Dan Hynes is right, Illinois Funeral Directors Association officials committed crimes in overseeing a pre-need funeral trust fund that hemorrhaged tens of millions of dollars, a former trust administrator said in a sworn deposition.[…]
The comptroller’s office has demanded that IFDA repay nearly $10 million in administrative fees to the trust. Carol Knowles, Hynes’ spokeswoman, said Thursday that criminal charges haven’t been ruled out.