Michael Randle, who was chosen by Gov. Pat Quinn in May to serve as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, was on the hot seat Wednesday as members of the Illinois Senate Executive Appointments committee considered whether to recommend Randle to the $150,000-per-year post overseeing one of Illinois’ largest agencies.
State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, asked Randle about the results of an investigative report that accused Randle of not disclosing his personal relationship with college friend Keith Key when Randle was working in Ohio’s prison system.
The Ohio report notes Randle did not benefit financially from Key’s arrangement, but the deal cost taxpayers there about $40,000 in added costs. […]
“I would characterize it as not going a step further and actually reporting a relationship that started 25 years ago in college,” Randle told the panel.
The Executive Appointments Committee unanimously approved his nomination and sent it to the floor.
State lawmakers today say they are negotiating a plan to cut back the blanket free ride privileges for seniors on Chicago area mass transit and replace it with a program that is restricted to people with lower incomes.
The proposal was outlined by Republican leaders following a morning meeting involving House and Senate leaders from both parties and Chicago transit officials. It has yet to be presented to rank and file lawmakers, but supports want to act on the plan this week during the remaining three days of the fall legislative session.
Under the proposal, the free ride program for all seniors would end March 1. After that, only seniors 65 and older who qualify for the state’s low-income Circuit Breaker program would be able to ride for free. For a single person, that translates to a maximum income of $22,218 a year.
The move is predicted to save the Regional Transit Authority an estimated $37 million, including $25 million for the Chicago Transit Authority, $10 million for Metra and $2 million for Pace. In addition, $8.5 million the Illinois Department of Transportation would have provided this year to offset the costs of the free rides would instead be used to help pay for paratransit, a door-to-door transit service for the disabled.
The House Executive Committee advanced the plan today, as well as this…
The House Executive Committee also approved a massive overhaul of state oversight of the cemetery industry. The 240-page bill was drafted in response to revelations that a Chicago-area cemetery dug up bodies and resold the grave sites.
The bill is drawing opposition from cemeteries owned by religious denominations, which said they will incur increased costs from the legislation while there is no evidence church-owned cemeteries have caused any problems.
Officials representing publicly owned cemeteries also expressed concerns about costs, including Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin.
* Most of us have known for many years now that Illinois is last or close to last in the number of state employees per capita. A new study by AFSCME shows we’re now just slightly behind Indiana…
What [AFSMCE] did is examine U.S. Census data on employment in the 50 states, and then compare it to the latest state population estimates. What he found is that Illinois, which has been reducing its employee headcount for several years and is threatening to do more cutting, actually ranks 49th in state employees per capita.
Yes, you read that right. Next to dead last, just above Indiana. In a country in which the average state employs 85 workers per 10,000 residents, Illinois has only 54, just a few tenths of a point ahead of cheapskate Indiana.
Moreover, according to the data, Illinois’ relative position has been dropping. The state ranked 47th in 2002, but since then has failed to replace a ton of workers who left in a 2002-03 early-retirement program.
* The Senate recessed to the call of the chair shortly after 1 o’clock. Both parties will caucus before committees meet. The House has delayed the scheduled noon session start until 2:30. Here are a couple of “Retweets” from my Twitter page…
@ILSenateGOP Sen. Righter will hold a press conference following the redistricting hearing this morning. [Presser] scheduled for 12:30
@melissahahn The Ill. Society of Civil Engineers was supposed to hold a news conf. here, but didn’t show up. Not very civil of them.
* Completely unrelated, but the Tribune is reporting that Chris Kelly died after injesting rat poison and a pain reliever.
* Compromise sought on STAR bonds: With a potential $200 million amusement park waiting in the wings, supporters of a major Metro East development now are banking on a compromise to get a key tax incentive plan through the Illinois Legislature. The issue is expected to come up in Springfield as early as today, the first day of the three-day veto session. Sources say parties are negotiating what is being dubbed the STAR Bonds Recapture Fund, a measure that would give Metro East communities a potential funding replacement for sales tax money lost with the implementation of a STAR bonds district.
* Durkin and Connelly move to overturn Quinn’s EO 09-15: Unless EO 09-15 is rescinded families who care for their seriously disabled family members in their own homes will be forced to ward off purple-t-shirted SEIU visitors and AFSCME phone calls every year. Despite the fact parents overwhelmingly voted against joining either union last Monday, Quinn’s EO 09-15 opens the way for a vote to be taken annually.
* The Immortal Managed Care Myth: The latest Republican official to predict gigantic cost savings without showing any support for the claim is State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Addison), who suggested Monday on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight that Illinois could save “over $1 billion dollars” by moving patients into a private managed care network.
* Funeral directors may soon double as traffic cops
McKenna, 52, of Chicago, vowed to not support a tax hike to repair the state’s money mess. But he refused to say whether seniors should continue to get free bus and train rides — a move Blagojevich initiated but that might be scaled back because of budget constraints.
That issue is a whole lot more volatile than many are willing to admit.
“Illinoisans have a track record, fortunately, of not letting people buy any major office, whether it’s a U.S. Senate seat or governorship,” said Senator Kirk Dillard, (R) Candidate for Governor. […]
“There’s no question that Andy McKenna is a Chicago politician. There’s also no question that his father’s wealth is the only reason he can get into this race,” said Senator Bill Brady, (R) Candidate for Governor.
Nevertheless, some are upset that last spring, when McKenna was party chairman, he may have had access to information about the others’ campaigns.
“If he is sitting there talking to us as the party chairman and in the back of his mind he’s looking at us as competition, I think that’s wrong,” said DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom, , (R) Candidate for Governor.
Schillerstrom says McKenna has an “epic” conflict of interest because he laid the groundwork for running while he chaired the Illinois Republican Party. The DuPage County Board chairman also says McKenna’s desire to be governor is just “a millionaire’s whimsy.”
* In other news, Republican US Senate candidate Patrick Hughes is apparently still struggling to get his nominating petitions signed. From an e-mail solicitation that I’ve redacted…
My name is xxx xxxx and I work for a company called Proud to be Republicn (http://www.facebook.com/l/03bf7;www.proudtoberepublican.com). We are assisting Pat Hughes in finishing up with his campaign signatures and need some help.
We are located in Oak Brook and have been acquiring signatures locally but would like the assistance of a college organization to help us with the younger population. Your group has acquired a large number of followers and seems to understand the problems that Illinois is going through. If you or any other members of your organization would be interested in helping us support Pat Hughes please contact me.
Feel free to call me at (800)xxx-xxx or via email at email@example.com. I will forward you all the information we have avaliable on Pat Hughes. He is also paying for signatures which is a nice incentive. Please remember the petitions are due on Monday so this is an urgent matter.
I called this person for comment, but haven’t heard back.
* The Alexi Giannoulias campaign blasted Democratic opponent David Hoffman for soliciting campaign contributions from current and former assistant US Attorneys…
“The last thing the Illinois culture of corruption needs is political candidates soliciting the lead agency responsible for investigating corruption,” Giannoulias campaign manager Tom Bowen said in a statement. “If we are going to be serious about reform, we have to act seriously. Hoffman should cancel the fundraiser, refuse money from current federal prosecutors and refuse to take contributions from employees of the U.S. Attorney’s office.”
“Alexi Giannoulias just retired the award for political hypocrisy,” spokesman Thom Karmik said. “For months, he’s been trumpeting the lie that he’s emulating Barack Obama’s ethical standards by not taking corporate PAC money. But Obama swore off all PAC money in his presidential campaign. By taking thousands of dollars in non-corporate PAC money, Alexi’s failed to meet Obama’s standard while trying to fool the voters.
“Among Alexi’s latest PAC contributions is one from the Community Bankers Association. That association is leading the fight in Washington against President Obama’s efforts to pass tougher financial regulations to protect consumers. Instead of throwing stones from his glass house, Alexi ought to return that contribution.
“And while he’s at it, he can reveal for the first time how many millions of dollars in dividends he took out of his family bank while its loans were failing and the FDIC put it on its “watch list.” Perhaps that’s why he’s refusing David’s challenge to release his tax returns for the past five years - another standard Barack Obama set that Alexi’s refused to honor.”
A growing concern among some Democrats is that this will turn into another 1992 US Senate primary. Back then, a wealthy attorney spent a fortune attacking the frontrunner (Democratic US Sen. Alan Dixon) and that helped a relatively unknown African-American female candidate (Carol Moseley-Braun) win. The difference now, of course is that the relatively unknown black Democratic female, Cheryle Jackson, carries a whole lot of baggage because she was Rod Blagojevich’s press secretary. And Jackson would be up against a very formidable Republican opponent in Mark Kirk, unlike CM-B’s opponent, the sorely lacking Rich Williamson. The national GOP bailed on that ‘92 race. Barring catastrophe, they won’t bail this time.
* Muslim journalist on trial as Israeli spy to speak at Rutgers: In 2003, as he was about to board a plane to Tel-Aviv, he was arrested and accused by Bangladeshi authorities of being a spy for Israel. Choudhury says he was tortured. He is now on trial for espionage, sedition, treason and blasphemy. The penalty for a conviction is death. The campaign to get the government of Bangladesh to drop all charges against Choudhury is being led by Dr. Richard Benkin of Illinois, who got the U.S. Congress — led by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) — involved in the case.
* Senate candidate Giannoulias begins to unveil economic plan
* A Time To Rally The Base: When not recanting their previous positions, Republican candidates are showing themselves willing to endanger their general election prospects later to appeal to the base now.
* Republican Candidate Forum in Rockford: The Concerned Citizens of America held a candidate forum Monday night at the Stockholm Inn. Residents were able to hear from the republican candidates for U.S Senate. The group says it’s important to hold these forum’s before the primary. “This is the most important time,” said Chris Johnson Board Member for Concerned citizens for America. “Yes in the general election people break off as Democrats, Republicans, Independents, but we want our constituents to know who are the conservatives who will stand up for the needs of the American family.”
The Illinois Republican Party is inviting the public to submit questions for an upcoming debate of the GOP candidates running for governor. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
GOP officials are asking that submitters include name and hometown.
* The Question: What are your questions for the Republican gubernatorial candidates?
Try to keep the snark to a minimum. Thanks.
…Adding… I’ve asked all the GOP gubernatorial campaigns (plus the top two Democrats) to look at this post and choose a question or two and then provide a detailed answer. I’ll run those answers here tomorrow.
Workers enrolled in a state-funded program to provide job training tell Fox Chicago News they instead spent their time gathering signatures on petitions for political candidates.
A Fox Chicago News investigation found several Earnfare workers who said they were told to pass petitions for Cook County Board President candidate Dorothy Brown, among other candidates. […]
The workers said they were assigned to do clerical work and maintenance for the Mother’s House social service organization at 49th and Ashland on Chicago’s south side. When Fox Chicago News visited the agency on Tuesday, we found stacks of blank political petitions on a table in the office.
We also found Hassan Muhammad, a political field director for Brown’s campaign. He denied the Earnfare workers were being used for political work, and then pushed a Fox Chicago cameraman out of the office.
“We have to look at all the laws as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as well. You have to comply with the fundamental law of our country. It’s an endeavor you have to work with a lot of different people, groups, individuals, both in and out of the legislature. The bottom line is to have reform.”
“Any proposal not fully endorsed by Change Illinois will not have my support,” says House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, drawing a line in the sand on an issue that hits at the core of how politics is played in Illinois.
The Daily Herald polled suburban legislators on the issue…
Of the 20 suburban House Republicans who responded to a survey by the Daily Herald, 13 said they will not vote for legislation if it lacks party limits. Only two said they might not withhold their support. Five declined to say directly either way, holding out to see a final measure.
On the other side of the aisle, just one out of eight suburban House Democrats said they would withhold support. Four said they will vote for legislation without party limits, and three declined to give a firm “yes” or “no.”
The split is a bit less dramatic in the Senate where two of five suburban Senate Democrats said they will not vote for legislation that lacks party limits. Three of nine Republicans said the same.
* DuPage Democrats may be on the hook for health care forum costs: A report from Auditor Bob Grogan suggested the $5,142.13 sought for a variety of security and support services provided at the Sept. 15 forum at the county administration building “did not appear to be formally sanctioned by the county board or a (board) committee.”
In trying to shift as much money as possible to its biggest scholarship program, the state this year stopped reimbursing universities for giving veterans free tuition.
This summer, with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission facing a major cut in funding, the commission decided to shift almost all of its scholarship money to the need-based Monetary Award Program. But that meant programs like the Illinois Veterans Grant were shorted.
Veterans in Illinois still get free tuition at state schools. But the state won’t be reimbursing the universities for providing veterans a free education like they have in the past.
Lawmakers might put the borrowed money into a special pot that would be used to pay state health-care costs, generating potentially another $400 million in matching federal funds. That also would free up money elsewhere to pay for the scholarships in Illinois’ Monetary Award Program.
The state comptroller and treasurer must approve a deal. A spokeswoman said Comptroller Dan Hynes had not heard about the plan. Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said through a spokesman that funding higher education and paying backlogged bills will likely outweigh concern about continued borrowing.
Quinn said he expected no opposition to the December loan, including from Hynes, his opponent for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in February.
Despite the attack, Daley didn’t make clear how the assessor could have acted legally to alter the trajectory of the latest round of bills. The mayor also did not mention that new bills to Chicago residents reflect a $65 million City Hall property tax increase passed two years ago but that’s only showing up now. Houlihan spokesman Eric Herman blamed big hikes largely on the General Assembly’s decision to phase out a program designed to soften the effect on taxes of soaring property values earlier this decade. “This idea somehow that we’re going around jacking up everybody’s assessments is just fiction,” Herman said.
* Council may reject any large pay hikes for cops: aldermen
If an independent arbitrator awards double-digit pay hikes to Chicago Police officers, there’s a good chance the City Council will reject it, some aldermen said Tuesday.
During closed-door briefings on the status of police negotiations, aldermen vented their anger about the fact that public safety employees who account for 70 percent of city spending have been exempt from furlough days and other cost-cutting concessions.
Some aldermen also served notice that City Council ratification can no longer be taken for granted.
A racially charged comment from former Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele had U.S. Senate hopeful Cheryle Jackson explaining the sentiments of her supporter Monday.
At a Sunday endorsement event for Democratic candidate Jackson, Steele asked, “Do we need another rich white man?”
“Cheryle believes anyone has a right to run for the Senate and she respects that right,” Jackson’s spokeswoman, Susan Chandler, said. “But the makeup of the Senate suggests that the glass ceiling exists and more needs to be done so that not only wealthy candidates can finance winning campaigns. We believe what Bobbie Steele meant to say was that Cheryl was the only candidate in this race who is not self-funded.”
I seriously doubt that Bobbie Steele meant to say that Jackson is the only self-funded candidate.
Weak, weak response by Jackson.
…Adding… Timing is everything. From an e-mail…
New primary media contact for Cheryle Jackson campaign
This is to introduce Susan Chandler, a former Chicago Tribune reporter who has joined the campaign as our in-house communications director. Susan will be your primary contact for the campaign moving forward.
* This is probably no big deal, but it’s what always results when a reformer tries to place himself above the fray and above reproach…
A former federal prosecutor running for U.S. Senate is holding a fundraiser next week where he’s asking current prosecutors for a “suggested minimum” political donation of $150.
The fundraiser for Democrat David Hoffman is scheduled for Nov. 3 at The Berghoff, the traditional spot of going-away parties for prosecutors that’s around the corner from their Dearborn Street offices.
Campaign spokesman Thom Karmik said Hoffman was reaching out to as many people as possible for support. He said the mailing was not sent to current assistant U.S. attorneys, but the campaign expects that former prosecutors and others will make them aware of the event.
The Hoffman campaign is seeking contributions of $250 from “friends” and up to $2,400 from “sponsors”—the maximum amount an individual can give a candidate in a federal primary, according to campaign literature for the event. You can read the invitation by clicking here: Download Hoffmanfundraiser
Assistant U.S. attorneys are allowed to make political contributions, so there’s nothing inherently wrong here.
And, frankly, when you run for office you ask the people you know for contributions. That’s the way it works. Hoffman knows those people at the US Attorney’s office. Why wouldn’t he ask them for money?
Still, when all money is deemed dirty, we get non-stories like this.
A political fundraiser featuring Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig has been abruptly cancelled amid apparent concerns that it violated at least the spirit of new state ethics laws.
Mr. Hannig Tuesday morning pulled out of the event for state Sen. Michael Bond, D-Grayslake, after higher ups in Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration expressed concerns about the event. The cancellation came after I phoned both officials Monday evening with questions about the event.
A spokeswoman for both the governor and Mr. Hannig declined to go into details, but confirmed that the decision was “a combination” of views of both Mr. Hannig and the administration.
The invitation to the event highlighted the attendance of Mr. Hannig, whose department controls billions of dollars in highway contracts, and Michael Sturino, president of the Illinois Road & Transportation Builders Assn., whose members compete to get those contracts.
There is absolutely no excuse for this. A fundraiser co-sponsored by the road builders? Sheesh. Didn’t he learn anything from Rod Blagojevich? Wait. Never mind. Apparently, he did. The wrong thing.
To be clear here, I have no issue with the road builders doing a funder for Bond. They have interests like everybody else. And I seriously doubt that the law pointed to in the Crain’s story was even close to being violated. That’s more of a political charge from Bond’s GOP opponent than anything else. Hannig, however, should’ve seen the inherent conflict there. Sen. Bond should’ve seen this as well. No excuses. Period.
My other concern is that Hannig’s behavior is becoming a pattern. Secretary Hannig has been involved in more than just the Michael Bond campaign of late. He was deeply involved with getting his wife appointed to his House seat and numerous local sources say his fingerprints are all over the developing disaster for Democrats in that district. Hannig pushed retired county coroner Charles Landers into the race over the objections of local Dems and has now imperiled Democratic control of the seat.
Landers is not exactly an ideal candidate. For instance, he quit in the middle of his term last summer partly so he could spend more time out of state…
Another reason Landers is retiring is so he and his wife, Kay, can visit their son, Craig, who is attending graduate school in California, more often.
There’s much more to this story, as I’ve been telling subscribers for the past several weeks. But take it from me that it’s a freaking mess down in Macoupin. And much of the blame falls squarely on Secretary Hannig.
Again, I think he’s done a good job at IDOT. But Hannig really needs to come to terms with the fact that he’s now a statewide official.
As a public service to save the next fed-up Bears fan from picking up the phone or clicking “Send,” please remember that Lovie Smith has two years and about $11 million left on his contract after this season.
So unless Virginia McCaskey adopts Daniel Snyder into the family, the Bears aren’t likely to pay Smith a fortune to go away and open the vault for a $6 million-a-year replacement such as Bill Cowher or either of the two Mikes, Holmgren or Shanahan.
That means, like Bono and U2, you can expect Smith back at Soldier Field in 2010, barring a Bears implosion that seems implausible. Only six games into a season that has gone terribly wrong, that doesn’t seem like a radical idea for the NFC’s second-winningest head coach since 2005. Not even after a 45-10 loss to the Bengals.
I know this is mostly a state politics/baseball blog, but let’s try something a little different today…
* The Question: Should Lovie Smith be fired? Explain fully, please.
“I’m prepared to take the responsibility with the partisan division on the committee to make sure that we move legislation that truly does reform state government. I’ll take on that responsibility. And I’ll take the credit or I’ll take the blame.”
That was House Speaker Michael Madigan back in early February promising to take the blame if he didn’t move legislation that “truly” reforms state government.
One wonders whether he’s still ready to take all the blame if everything crashes and burns this week.
* McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski, who announced his campaign yesterday against Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica…
“For too long residents have had to put up with an unresponsive government and an angry commissioner on the Cook County Board.”
“I’m proud to have collected signatures from every single county in this state.”
…Adding… Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich used his WLS program recently to call out Pat Quinn on the current governor’s pace at approving pardons and commutations…
“Hey Pat, ya big wimp. Call the show. Tell me I’m wrong. Am I wrong? Call me and tell me that. Don’t be afraid of me, Pat, Write me, tell me I’m wrong. But you know what? You won’t do it for two reasons. One, you are afraid of me. And number two, I’m right. That’s why you won’t call up.”
I’m so sure that Quinn is afraid of Blagojevich. Sheesh.
And, as Zorn has pointed out before, Blagojevich’s record on pardons and commutations was absolutely horrific.
Until Quinn assumed the post — which occurred after Rod Blagojevich was charged with corruption and booted from office — there had not been a Catholic in the job in recent memory, Green said.
Indeed, a review of historical records found there had not been a Catholic governor since the early 20th Century. It appears Edward F. Dunne — who served as the state’s top elected figure from 1913 to 1917 — was the last Catholic governor in Illinois before Quinn.
As Catholic as this state is (about 40 percent, according to the article), and as many Catholics as we have at the top of the state’s power grid (Daley, Durbin, Stroger, Madigan, Cullerton, etc.), you’d think there would’ve been more Catholic governors.
But there’s a fairly good chance that the next governor will be a Catholic…
Of the 11 likely candidates in the Democratic and Republican primaries, a whopping nine are Roman Catholic, according to a survey by ChicagoCatholicNews.
There is just one non-Catholic on the Republican side — former state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who is Methodist — and one on the Democratic side — William “Dock” Walls, a Baptist.
Dillard isn’t a Catholic, but he attended DePaul University’s law school.
*** UPDATE 1 *** The theme continues with McKenna’s announcement…
“Pat Quinn said he would be different than Rod Blagojevich, but, when it comes to taxes, he’s Rod Blagojevich with just a little bit less hair. He’s more of the same,” McKenna said.
*** UPDATE 2 *** I’ll be curious to see if this makes the final cut in tomorrow’s dead tree edition…
McKenna vilified the influence of special interests on public policy as he billed himself as an outsider. But he did not address how as chairman of the state GOP, he also relied upon Republican-oriented special interests for campaign donations to assist candidates.
*** UPDATE 3 *** Some of you have asked who made the video. From NBC5…
The ad… was made for McKenna by the same team that made McCain’s Anti-Obama ad featuring Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
Thirty-one percent of firms responding to the October survey said they planned to cut jobs, down from 44 percent in January and 36 percent in July. And the percentage of firms adding jobs doubled from an all-time low of 6 percent in July to 12 percent this month. But that was down from 14 percent in January.
Most Cook County residents are in for another round of sticker shock when new property tax bills arrive in the mail in a few days, with the median increase in many suburbs topping 10 percent and, in a handful, 20 percent.
Median increases in many city neighborhoods will also hit double digits, with some lower income areas hardest hit. The median rise in the West Garfield Park neighborhood will top 46 percent, according to figures provided to the Tribune by Cook County Assessor James Houlihan.
In all, four out of five homeowners in the city and northern suburbs will get higher bills than last year, In the south suburbs, 64 percent of homeowners will see bigger bills, yet the median tax bills in several south Cook communities will actually decline year over year.
Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation commissioner is cracking the whip to reduce absenteeism that sidelines nearly one-third of all laborers every day.
With laborers working a shortened week to cut costs, Tom Byrne has told union leaders he no longer can afford to tolerate chronic absenteeism and still provide the housekeeping services Chicago taxpayers demand.
From now on, laborers will be required to call a central telephone number at least one hour before their scheduled reporting time to declare their intention to be absent that day. Those who don’t will be considered “absent without leave” and could face disciplinary action.
The skirmish over control of the Cook County health system is heating up. County board president Todd Stroger yesterday rallied union members in front of Stroger Hospital. They’re taking aim at the independent board installed last year to take politics out of the hospitals and clinics. Stroger accuses board members of running the public health system like a for-profit business.