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AFSCME layoff ruling expected Monday

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009

* 5:12 pm - From the union…

Hearing concludes in AFSCME suit to block layoff of hundreds of state employees
Judge’s ruling expected by Monday

A court hearing has concluded after a full day of testimony from multiple witnesses on both sides in Johnson County, where AFSCME Council 31 is seeking a preliminary injunction to block the implementation of hundreds of state-employee layoffs.

Presiding judge Todd Lambert is expected to rule on the union’s request for injunction by Monday, Sept. 28.

“As a matter of public policy, these layoffs are ill-advised,” Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said. “Vital services will be harmed, prisons will be less safe, overtime costs will go up and hundreds of working people will needlessly lose their jobs.

“As a matter of law, we believe we presented a strong case today, and we hope to secure an order blocking the layoffs,” Bayer said. “Our request is in the judge’s hands.”

So, not much real news to report except the judge refused Gov. Quinn’s request to move the matter to Sangamon County.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009

* Do you think Dan Hynes should stay in the Illinois governor’s race? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   91 Comments      

Today’s quotables

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009

* I’m in favor of redistricting reform. In fact, I’ve often said and written what Sen. Kirk Dillard was quoted as saying yesterday…

“The politicians should not be picking the people we represent. The people ought to pick us.”

But one of the problems with the Illinois Reform Commission’s proposal is that it turns the Supreme Court into a legislative body

If the General Assembly fails to approve a third redistricting plan, then the Illinois Supreme Court must evaluate the third redistricting plan on statutory and constitutional grounds. If the plan satisfies statutory and constitutional requirements, it will be adopted. To invalidate the third redistricting plan, a two-thirds majority of the Court would have to find it legally infirm.

That kinda rubs me the wrong way.

And two hand-picked experts who testified before the Senate Redistricting Committee also had doubts about the IRC’s proposal…

Dr. Michael McDonald, an associate professor at George Mason University, said the [reform commission’s] proposal does “not have political neutral consequences.” He also said taking political affiliations out of the equation isn’t the answer.

Dr. Bruce Cain, a professor at the University of California-Berkely and director of the University of California Washington Center, said the proposal is “woefully inadequate in transparency requirements” and recommended greater public involvement and transparency.

Former commission chairman Patrick Collins then undermined all those reformers and legislative Republicans who have loudly demanded that the commission’s proposal be approved intact

“What we propose here is not perfect. We had a very short time to put it together. It was a good faith effort. It has holes,” said Reform Commission Chairman Patrick Collins.

That’ll be our quote of the week. Oops.

* Meanwhile, I told you yesterday about a man who killed his mother-in-law soon after his parole from state prison. I told the story to point out how dangerous the governor’s new early release plan could be. Turns out, the alleged murdered wouldn’t have qualified for the new early release plan and the governor is not backing down. AFSCME, however, makes a good point…

“The Schmidt case clearly demonstrates the difficulty of predicting how any parolee will behave after they are released,” said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

True, but nobody can predict how almost anybody will behave.

* OK, I lied. I could’ve predicted this quote

Some lawmakers said Tuesday they support the MAP grants and are willing to look for alternative funding sources. State Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria, said he believes money for MAP grants eventually will be restored.

“I’m not sure how we’re going to come up with the money,” he said. “There’s going to be some head scratching. . . . I think the will is there to do it.”

Risinger is a conservative Republican, but he has Bradley University in his district. He’s gonna be on the hot seat if a tax hike is proposed to fill that MAP grant gap. A whole lot of conservative Republicans represent university towns, actually so it’ll be interesting to see if they come up with any plans other than general “cut waste” and “eliminate corruption” stuff.

* And, finally, kudos to Anita Alvarez for putting the kibosh on Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch last week. Welch. you already know, was way out of line in his first press conference announcing the investigation into Chris Kelly’s death…

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez dispatched Welch an irate letter Sept. 15 basically asking him to “respectfully” shut up because there is an ongoing probe of Kelly’s death.

Alvarez contended such statements “could jeopardize the integrity of any investigation [into Kelly’s death] and pose a violation of Illinois Supreme Court rules … pertaining to the making of extra-judicial statements by government/law enforcement.”

…Adding… I had them ready to go, but then forgot about a few other quotables. Here’s the goofiest of the bunch

Wasting no time in seizing on the apparent suicide of Christopher Kelly, who died Sept. 12, Sam Adam Jr. told reporters that Kelly’s refusal to plead guilty in Blagojevich’s case proves that the ex-governor did no wrong.

At next June’s trial: “Chris Kelly’s voice will speak louder from the grave,” Adam said. Kelly pleaded guilty to two criminal cases involving income tax fraud and fraud at O’Hare Airport. Kelly’s refusal to plead guilty in Blagojevich’s case shows Blagojevich was not involved in wrongdoing with Kelly, Adam argued.

This story about Sam Zell’s apparent use of the Cub sale to avoid taxes hits home

By my estimate Tribune would have about a $720 million gain — the $740 million, less 95% of the $21 million Tribune paid for the Cubs in 1981. At a 40% federal-state combined rate, the gain would generate around $290 million in taxes. Instead, that money will go to Tribune’s creditors.

That would fund a lot of college scholarships.

And the last word goes to Alexi Giannoulias, who was responding to a report that Mark Kirk was Tweeting about a new website design around the same time he missed a floor vote on extending unemployment insurance…

“Congressman Mark Kirk can’t decide whether tens of thousands looking for work here in Illinois should be able to keep their benefits. Wherever you were tweeting from in Washington, Congressman, you should know there is a recession back here in Illinois and people are hurting. After all, it was your votes that helped put thousands of Illinoisans out of work to begin with,” said Giannoulias.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Quinn and Daley vs. Hynes

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009

* Gov. Pat Quinn brought out the biggest gun of all yesterday…

Mayor Richard Daley stood with Quinn to talk up tourism’s importance to Chicago after Comptroller Dan Hynes last week said that he was suspending payments on more than $40 million in state and lottery tourism advertising contracts.

You’ll recall that last week Hynes refused to process about $50+ million of state bills, including $16 million for tourism. Mayor Daley expressed his displeasure

“You just can’t sit back and say, ‘They’re gonna come to the city of Chicago.’ It doesn’t work that way. Gov. Quinn has realized that — that you have to do more marketing outside of Illinois. You have to do more marketing outside the United States. Then, you have to really work to get the conventions here because other cities are working trying to get conventions to their cities.”

More Daley

Asked how he felt about Hynes’ threat to cut off the financial spigot, Daley said, “If you start cutting money off — say if we had a major, major layoff in that industry — you’re talking about a couple hundred thousand people. Where are they gonna go to work?”

Warning that Chicago’s unemployment rate would double without conventions and tourism, the mayor said, “From the Greyhound to the railroads to the airport to the cabs to the buses, rental cars, limousines, all these restaurants — that’s an enormous amount of money. You just can’t cut it off.”

* Hynes wants Quinn to resubmit his funding request

“Does [Quinn] want to spend $53 million on consultant and marketing contracts, or does he want to spend it on education and health care? If the governor believes that tourism contracts are a priority, then he should resubmit them and they will be paid” [Hynes spokeswoman Carol Knowles said in a statement].

Quinn says nyet

“My view is follow the law, follow the constitution, do your job,” Quinn said. “He doesn’t need direction from anyone other than his conscience to do his job.”

The Tribune’s print edition barely covered the ruckus. TV also mostly ignored it.

Your thoughts?

* Related…

* Top 2 CTA board officers to step down: “I’m not being as effective anymore.”

* Press release and video: Tourism Generates Big Economic Impact for Illinois, Chicago - Retains More Than 303,500 Statewide Jobs

* Raw audio

* Chicago 2016: Mayor Daley trumpets upsides of Olympics

* Quinn to Travel to Denmark for Olympics Announcement
* Chicago lured 45M tourists who dropped $11.8B last year

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

White out

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009

* The Blagojevich era claims yet another “victim”

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says the president of the University of Illinois, who has been at the center of an admissions scandal, plans to resign.

Quinn said Wednesday that President B. Joseph White let him know his resignation is imminent.

White has been under fire since this summer over reports that the university admitted politically connected students over more qualified applicants.

I put quotes around “victim” because White was a willing victim, of course. But it’s hard for me to describe him as corrupt. Seems to me he did what he did to try and get what he needed for his university. Blagojevich still stiffed him, like he did with all the other universities in this state. That could’ve been a motivating factor for White, but whatever, he’s gone now.

* More

Quinn told WGN-720 AM’s Greg Jarrett this morning that he’s ready to appoint an interim president while a nationwide search is launched. Listen to the interview here.

Last week, U. of I. faculty and student leaders urged that White and Chancellor Richard Herman be replaced in the wake of a far-reaching admissions scandal.

Sen. Michael Frerichs expects an interim appointment as early as next week.

* And Quinn says he didn’t privately urge the resignation

Quinn told reporters in Chicago that the resignation was voluntary on White’s part, and said there was no pressure from the him, his office or staff for White to quit.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

OK, I’ve held my tongue but somebody’s gotta say it

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009

* I haven’t said anything much about the Springfield controversy about running several high-speed trains through the city every day because, frankly, I have a quiet little life in this town and I just want to be left alone. I don’t think I’ve even met my alderman.

But this comment from Springfield Ald. Kris Theilen caught my eye

[Theilen] referred to the Third Street vs. 10th Street debate as a choice between bisecting downtown on Third Street or creating a “true east/west boundary at 10th Street” and urged them to go around Springfield instead.

I think Theilen is probably right that the heart of the debate so far has been about either disrupting downtown or cutting off the East Side even more. For those of you who don’t know much about the town, the East Side is where the poor folk live. Mostly black. This is from a different SJ-R article…

Civic leaders prefer consolidating local rail traffic along 10th Street. They say the Third Street alignment would permanently scar and divide the city.

They prefer “permanently dividing” the East Side from everyplace else, apparently.

But going around Springfield? Is that alderman nuts? Aren’t the high-speed trains supposed to stop here? They’ll be a huge boon to the local economy. Not to mention that the nine overpasses which’ll have to be built will create quite a few jobs and probably be useful.

- Posted by Rich Miller   77 Comments      

Brady calls for reforms

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009

* Sen. Bill Brady announced some significant government reforms yesterday. As usual with these things, most are unrealistic. Still, it’s good to see a major party candidate pushing cumulative voting. From his press release

Returning to multi-member House districts with no more than two being from the same political party and slightly reducing the size of the Illinois General Assembly. Three representatives would be elected from each of 41 Senate districts, trimming the size of the legislature to 164 members from the current 177.

Here’s his quote in the Sun-Times…

“There are Republicans here in the city of Chicago who feel left out because they don’t have Republican representation,” Brady said. “Under cumulative voting, they would go back to having a voice in Springfield through their representative. There are Democrats in [downstate] McLean County who feel they don’t have a voice in state government because their legislators are Republican.” […]

Brady’s proposal for changing the state legislature would not add any additional lawmakers. It would reduce the number of senators in Illinois to 41 and increase from two to three the number of state representatives in each district.

He’s exactly right about that. I barely knew who Pat Quinn was when the Cutback Amendment passed, but I grew to despise that thing.

* Lots of people claim that if the Cutback Amendment allowed Mike Madigan to increase his power. I don’t deny that, but I also don’t think that the return to those days would do much to clip his wings.

So, Brady wants to term limit legislators

“We have reached a point where too few people control too much and the power is too concentrated,” Brady said. “There’s no question that the speaker of the House, representing little over 100,000 people, has had absolute control over the state of Illinois. He’s been able to do that for nearly three decades and it’s time for that to end.”

Again, no doubt that Madigan’s power is super-concentrated. I’m not sure that making Mike Madigan an issue will do much for Brady, but it’s still a free country. This is a pretty good line, though

“Government in Illinois has become all about the politicians and not about the people,” Brady said.

And this is the sort of rhetoric that is not going down too well with Chicago-area business execs who are lining up behind Andy McKenna and others…

Brady repeated his claim to be the chosen candidate of downstate conservatives, who he says have had enough of Chicago-area politicians, Republicans as well as Democrats.

“What I hear throughout Illinois, including Chicago, including the Chicago metropolitan areas, people are tired of the centerrf point of influence in the Chicago metropolitan area,” said Brady.

He also tried to make some hay over the new McKenna-Murphy “ticket”

Brady also said he had no favorite for a lieutenant governor running mate among a field of several lesser-known candidates. He criticized former GOP state chairman Andy McKenna of Chicago, a new entry in the governor’s race, for “deal making” in running with state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine. Murphy dropped his bid for governor to run with McKenna as lieutenant governor.

* Strange

“This is my office,” Brady told reporters, pointing to the large room that had nothing inside of it except for a large conference table and floor-to-ceiling windows looking toward Lake Michigan.

“What do you do — just sit here and look out the window?” Brady was asked.

“I’m a delegator,” Brady smiled. “I don’t like to have anything. In my Bloomington office, all I have is a conference table.”


- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

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Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009

* Milton Bradley. What the heck?

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009

* My goodness, but Illinois political news is boring this morning.

The only campaign press release I received so far was from Springfield attorney Don Tracy, who is announcing for lieutenant governor today. He was at the State Fair, so I don’t think the Post-Dispatch has to readjust its ongoing lite guv candidate count (15 as of yesterday)

I was so bored, I actually downloaded the press release (docx, so I had to wait while it was converted by my computer) just to see if he was still a Republican. Yep. Tracy ran for the state Senate as a Democrat back in 2002. The contact e-mail was from, but that website isn’t working yet.

* At least I’m not as bored as the SJ-R, which ran a story today about how Dan Hynes wants a graduated income tax. No new ground broken at all, except the paper failed to explain that the proposed hike is only on income above $200,000, not on people who earn more than $200,000.

* The Tribune’s “Daywatch” roundup was just e-mailed, and one of the headlines was “Kirk out of business.” I got all tingly. Oops. False alarm. That’s a suburban developer, not a suburban politician.

* Meanwhile, Mark Brown has a column about dogs and cats, Sneed’s lede is about a crazy series of lawsuits by a wacky convicted felon, today’s big corruption story is about a clouty company that didn’t get a permit to use some water, Chicago Public Radio informs us that many candidates will not actually run, Illinois Review is railing against SEIU’s “sordid” campaign contributions to Democrats by renaming the group ACORN/SEIU, IlliniPundit is complaining about soybean aphids, and Progress Illinois is complaining again about the Sun-Times’ flawed pension series, a series which the governor praised in today’s Sun-Times.

* The Illinois Senate’s Redistricting Committee is holding a hearing in Peoria today, but that issue will not be decided by a mere committee, so there will likely be no real news there.

It’s cloudy and rainy outside, so I think I may take a nap.

Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys are due in court today, so maybe we’ll eventually get some news. We can always count on that clown for something.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

Fraught with political peril, but not a bad idea

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009

* The AP buried this important fact near the bottom of its article today. But it’s something to keep in mind when you watch politicians and the media freak out about this new early release plan for the Department of Corrections…

[Dept. of Corrections Director Michael Randle] stressed that these are nonviolent offenders who were sentenced to less than one year in prison.

Also, instead of releasing 8-10,000 prisoners, as Gov. Quinn originally envisioned, DoC is only releasing a tiny fraction of that…

Randle said Corrections Department officials whittled the release program down to just 1,000 by excluding anyone who could be considered a safety risk — anyone with a sex offense, parole violations, a domestic abuse conviction and more.

They’ll have parole officers and electronic monitoring.

If that electronic monitoring sounds like overkill for nonviolent offenders who were getting out of prison soon anyway, you wouldn’t know it by listening to the politicians

The [early release] announcement came on the same day when authorities nabbed fugitive and accused bank robber Robert Maday in West Chicago. While his record of violent crimes would make him ineligible for early release under Quinn’s program, Maday’s violent escape put suburbia on edge and could cast an unfavorable light on the governor’s plan.

A spokesman for Quinn’s primary rival, Comptroller Dan Hynes, said Maday’s arrest is likely why the administration announced the early-inmate-release initiative with such limited fanfare.

No, they announced the early release with such “limited fanfare” because this is a very touchy subject, no matter what the day’s news happened to be. There are some real political dangers here.

For instance, a Piatt County man was recently released from Taylorville Correctional Center for relatively minor offenses and is now charged with killing his mother-in-law. If he had been let out by Quinn’s early release plan, all hell could’ve broken loose.

* Related…

* A small move in right direction: Nearly half of offenders released from Illinois prisons every year were in for short sentences - many for six months to a year.

* Quinn’s plan could lead to prison reform: In saving 5 million dollars, the corrections facilities will get 2 million to divert offenders from state prisons. Those funds will be allocated to drug treatment and other community-based alternatives that serve as rehabilitative programs, which will be a big step in the right direction of prison reform.

* Opinions Mixed On Quinn Plan To Spring Prisoners: “People in politics want to play politics all the time. I’m not one of them,” Quinn said. “I have to do what is necessary for the common good.”

* State neglects prisoners’ kids, group says - Losing parent tough enough, but rules stifle visits, affect children

* Law enforcement goes after DNA samples from released felons - Attorney general sees huge potential for clearing unsolved crimes

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009

* Third Week of School, Kids Still Lack Teachers

This is the third week of school in Chicago. But thousands of high school students still haven’t met their teachers. It’s a longstanding problem that we reported on the first day of school. It happens when more students show up at a given school than the district projects. Kids get assigned to overcrowded classes, or see a revolving door of substitutes until permanent teachers are put in place. The district promised that kids would not have to wait as long for teachers this year. WBEZ’s Linda Lutton checks in to see how things are going.

* Chicago school violence: District rushes to put anti-violence plan in place as gunfire claims new victims

Corey McClaurin, a senior at Simeon Career Academy High School, and Corey Harris, a basketball player at Dyett High School, were both claimed by gun violence, and seven other students have been shot in September.

* Nurse who was handcuffed sues Chicago

Hofstra said she told the officer the suspect had to be admitted before she could draw blood, and explained that to his lieutenant. But she says that once the lieutenant left, the officer handcuffed her, put her in the squad car and kept her there for 45 minutes.

* Moody’s downgrades CTA bonds tied to taxes

* A fair slice of the tax pie

* Daley ‘getting more confident’ Chicago will win Olympics

“Our competition comes in Rio de Janeiro…I’m getting more confident because they’re getting the 2014 (World Cup),” the mayor told reporters at the opening of a new school on the South Side.

* Insuring the 2016 Summer Olympics

Chicago’s bid team is confident it has every contingency covered to limit the risk to taxpayers

* Olympic delegation adds security to trip

* Obama team off to Denmark, just in case

* African IOC Members Could Play a Factor in Host City Selection

* Illinois gets $350,000 nutrition grant

Illinois will get a $350,000 federal grant to fight childhood obesity and pitch an active lifestyle to schoolchildren.

* CTA buses will get less idle time while out of service

The transit agency is getting $1.5 million in economic stimulus money to build electric hook-ups that will deliver power to about 80 buses parked overnight outside the CTA’s North Park Garage, 3112 W. Foster Ave.

* CTA sets vendor workshops for minority- and female-owned businesses

* Red-light camera firm’s ties to lawyer for Berwyn is questioned

* Burr Oak Owners Head Back to Court

* Bartlett family awarded millions in malpractice settlement

* Chicago plague-related death: Federal health officials probe University of Chicago geneticist’s lab site

* Rough year for grads

Jobs harder to find — and they’re paying less

* Trouble Could Be in Forecast for Illinois Farmers

This week’s expected rainfall could bring setbacks to Illinois’ two major crops: corn and soy beans. That’s according to some state agriculture experts.

* County farmers could receive government aid

* Guard members cope with returning home

- Posted by Mike Murray   6 Comments      

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Early voting roundup
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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
* IEMA Encourages People to Prepare for Earthquakes

* Japan reveals a ‘Supreme’ version of its bullet train
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* Sox outclassed, 14-0, in howlingly bad effort at A’s
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* Spring Stats Glance
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* Cool with No. 2? Avi paces Sox 5-2 win
* Lefty Ross making case for bullpen spot

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