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How things are done here

Monday, Jun 28, 2010

* Despite the quite troubling fact that a recent Tribune story was ginned up by a mayor who made some apparently horrible decisions, the piece is a good example of how things are done in Illinois.

The backstory from the Southtown Star

A report on Oak Lawn’s legal billing issues is hanging heavily over the village’s head as officials debate their next move - and the report’s value.

Prepared by special counsel Burt Odelson and released earlier this month, the report accuses the village’s former attorneys of chronic overbilling and legal strategy blunders that potentially cost the village hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) said that the village’s continued payment of too-high legal bills “constitutes misappropriation” and hinted that some laws may have even been broken. […]

The report recounts a pattern of sloppy billing, including multiple attorneys working on the same issue, bills with missing information and questionable expenses.

Mayor Dave Heilmann, who hired the old firm, completely disagrees. And he’s the only person in the Tribune piece who questions how House Speaker Michael Madigan stepped in and helped Oak Lawn clean up their act.

Anyway, some Oak Lawn leaders, including the above-mentioned village trustee Bob Streit, met with Madigan to pitch a big water project that the village couldn’t seem to get moving. Things did, indeed, start moving in the right direction soon afterwards. Then, something else started happening as well

As Madigan put his political force behind the project, firms and lawyers associated with him saw new business flow their way from the Oak Lawn Village Hall. All told, Madigan’s allies now stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

The speaker recommended the new village attorney, and he helped raise campaign money for the village trustee who recommended another connected law firm to work on the water project.

Trustee Streit, a conservative who was eventually the beneficiary of a Madigan fundraiser, flatly denies anything untoward happened. Past problems are now being fixed. But the new attorneys have close ties to Madigan and have contributed quite a lot to his campaign funds. One of those firms hired Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang not long after winning the contract, although Lang claims there was zero connection. Another firm is represented by the son of US Sen. Dick Durbin.

So, things get cleaned up, the taxpayers save money, but the Speaker’s friends and allies benefit. That’s pretty much how things go here.

* Meanwhile, the Speaker penned an op-ed for the Southtown Star over the weekend…

In discussing the causes of our fiscal difficulties in Illinois, it is critical to note that we are not alone - that in fact, a staggering 46 of 50 states have been forced into deficit budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. Is the state government in Illinois to blame for the national economic downturn? Of course not.

One of his more compelling arguments…

Worse yet, after hearing the GOP again trot out its claim that they could solve our fiscal problems solely through spending cuts, I called their bluff - and they blinked. I introduced legislation that would cut $4.5 billion from the budget, a figure chosen because it encompassed all the money needed to make the state pension payment. Not one Republican voted for cutting, just as they all voted against the means to meet our pension obligations. Then, I invited them to introduce amendments to my bill to cut whatever particular programs they wished - and not a single Republican identified a single cut!

Madigan’s staff has also posted a companion background briefing on the state party’s website. Click here to read it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

23 Comments
  1. - OneMan - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 12:51 pm:

    The problem is Mr. Speaker the state was already rather sick before the entire nation caught a cold. We were kicking this states financial issues down the road long before the economy went south.

    Also, it’s cute you ‘called their bluff’ but last time I checked the role of government isn’t to play gotchya but to in fact govern and stuff.

    If you think a tax increase is needed then pass one, if you can’t lead without Republican help, admit that and lets move on.

    If things work out they way I suspect you want them to, Quinn in the mansion and your majorities safe in both houses, it still going to be your problem to fix.

    No better time than the present.

    I think the bigger question you need to ask is why it is so hard for you to sell a tax increase to the people of Illinois, multiple Republican governors managed to do it.


  2. - Moving to Oklahoma - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 1:01 pm:

    I second one man’s motion.


  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 1:06 pm:

    Henry, you answered your own “bigger question.”


  4. - OneMan - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 1:18 pm:

    Yeah I know…

    I have enough frustration with both parties right now to choke a horse.

    When we were down for gifted day and the person from Quinn’s office was trying to sell the surcharge to the parents. They were not buying it at all. When you can’t convince advocates for gifted eduction in public schools that you need to increase taxes to pay for education. I large part it seemed because they were not buying the ‘it will only go to education’ idea you as a government have a much bigger problem.

    A problem at this point I don’t think you can solve until the state has it financial apocalypse.


  5. - Easy - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 1:19 pm:

    Madigan’s blame game is getting old. The guy has a near super majority in the house yet blames the Republicans of 1994 for our state’s economic woes. How completely out of touch has he become.

    which spending and borrowing bills has he voted against during the last 8 years?


  6. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 1:23 pm:

    ==financial apocalypse==
    What’s the over/under date on that? I’d say about July 7, 2011…


  7. - Pat collins - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 1:36 pm:

    Then, I invited them to introduce amendments

    Mind reading ON
    Which I would have killed if I didn’t like them, but would have used against them in their campaigns this fall. Sadly, they were not so silly to fall for this transparent trap.

    Mind reading OFF


  8. - Way Way Down Here - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 1:47 pm:

    I’d say you are about right Quimby. More social service agencies will be closing in the meantime since they will be borrowed out. Education will be next for the same reason.


  9. - OneMan - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 1:47 pm:

    Quimby — I will take the under


  10. - circularfiringsquad - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 2:00 pm:

    Way it is done? Madigan advice not taken other. Firms pushed by others..then bankrupt critic tries and fails to whip up smear
    Mweanwhile
    T
    No


  11. - Secret Square - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 3:51 pm:

    VQ, are you sure the “financial apocalypse” date is that far away? And what exactly qualifies as financial apocalypse… defaulting on loans or bonds? Payless payday? Complete government shutdown?


  12. - OneMan - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:02 pm:

    All of those could be “financial apocalypse”

    I think however it is going to come when either

    – The states debt rating gets reduced to junk
    – The state can either not sell all of a debt issue and/or is paying north of 9.5% on debt.

    Other signs of the “financial apocalypse” will include
    – A school district shuts down because they can’t pay their teachers
    – major vendor disruption (phones shut off, power turned off, state gets evicted from a large facility)
    – Major overall state services issue
    – Hospital shutdown due to state’s delay in payment.


  13. - Pat collins - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:05 pm:

    You know, I am not being snarky when I say this:

    What if the state had actually done a swap for school funding? Property tax for income tax? Wouldn’t the school districts be in much worse shape now?


  14. - The Mad Hatter - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:06 pm:

    Mr. Speaker, I hate to tell you this, but YOUR party has total control of state government in Illinois. You have overwhelming majorities in both houses, and every officer in the Executive branch is a Democrat. And it’s been this way for the better part of this decade.

    For you to blame the state’s budget problems on the Republicans is simply ridiculous. If you REALLY believe they’re at fault, it’s time for you to step down because you clearly are insane.


  15. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:13 pm:

    The Mad Hatter,

    Has not Obama shown that blaming others (Bush) is a strategy that works with the uniformed? At least until they become informed, that is…


  16. - MrJM - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:16 pm:

    Quimby,

    That date will have to be determined retrospectively.

    I’m taking Feb 10, 2010.

    – MrJM


  17. - MrJM - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:18 pm:

    Cincinnatus,

    I would have thought that someone so well informed would know that Rich frowns upon the gratuitous “Federalizing” or “Obamaizing” of his comment threads.

    – MrJM


  18. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:37 pm:

    In discussing the causes of our fiscal difficulties in Illinois, it is critical to note that we are not alone - that in fact, a staggering 46 of 50 states have been forced into deficit budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.

    I thought you were going to tell us something about the causes of our fiscal difficulties, not the fact that other states are experiencing them. The fact that other states are experiencing them does not tell us what is causing our fiscal difficulties, does it?

    Would this make sense? “In discussing the causes of our problems in Illinois, it is critical to note that we are not alone - that in fact, a staggering 46 of 50 states also have problems.”

    Of course not.

    Is the state government in Illinois to blame for the national economic downturn? Of course not.

    Uh-hem! Is the state government in Illinois to blame for the economic downturn experienced here before 2008? The soaring budget debts? The inability to meet any budget deadlines? While Illinois is hampered by the global economy, our problems predate their appearance.

    Worse yet, after hearing the GOP again trot out its claim that they could solve our fiscal problems solely through spending cuts, I called their bluff - and they blinked. I introduced legislation that would cut $4.5 billion from the budget, a figure chosen because it encompassed all the money needed to make the state pension payment. Not one Republican voted for cutting, just as they all voted against the means to meet our pension obligations. Then, I invited them to introduce amendments to my bill to cut whatever particular programs they wished - and not a single Republican identified a single cut!

    Called their bluff? So, you can’t pass needed changes to our budget without GOP support? You had to prove to us that their views were disingenuous? Why? What part of your majority in the General Assembly needs to be shown this? You have more than enough votes within your own party. You are the party leader. You are the Speaker. How about trying to call out your own people’s “bluff”, you know, the ones not supporting you?

    In both cases made here, Speaker Madigan is disinterested in discussing where he has fallen short in managing Illinois’ fiscal situations. Instead, he gives us poor excuses. Our fiscal problem isn’t helped by our national problem, but the national problem didn’t create our fiscal problem. We did that a decade earlier. The Speaker’s excuse regarding his inability to persuade his own soldiers in passing legislation, isn’t because of the GOP.

    Mr. Speaker, you are the leader of a political party that has given us a man now facing trial as our governor, (twice!), a state debt forcing Moody’s to lower our bond rating and challenges Portugal’s debt within the world market as worse, a political party that was forced to hold up post Blagojevich ethics reforms due to your counterpart’s desire to become Obama’s replacement, (according to court testimony), and a political party given a free reign legislatively, every single statewide political office, and the governorship - and these are your excuses?

    Ever think about retirement?


  19. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:46 pm:

    MrMJM–Point well taken! I picked my date for the first payroll the state won’t make, but it’s obvious we’re not heading AWAY from the cliff. I keep thinking of the “Doomsday Clock” the Atomic Engineers had….showing how close we were to annihilation. If Illinois had one, we would no earlier than 11:59.

    As an aside, in Saturday’s mail I was floored to receive my 2009 Illinois state income tax refund check! We paper filed on 4/15 and didn’t really think we would see it before Christmas…


  20. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 4:55 pm:

    MrMJM,

    Not federalizing the thread at all. Just giving an example that the tactic of blaming others will work until the electorate is fully informed. Certainly, you agree.


  21. - Double D - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 5:37 pm:

    It is utterly amazing how stupid the Speaker takes us all to be (for that matter the GOP too) because the only thing that either party can agree on is that it is the other party’s fault…when in fact BOTH are to blame. The Dems added costs to Medicare with the KidsCare program that was not funded, the GOP pension catch up never ratcheted up payments on an actuarial basis, never mind that both parties have given us ineptitude and corruption in the Governor’s mansion. My sincere hope is that every single incumbent is voted out of office.


  22. - just sayin' - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 5:57 pm:

    If it’s Madigan vs. Tom Cross & Illinois GOP, Madigan is always going to win. It’s a seasoned pro against Keystone Kops.


  23. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 28, 10 @ 6:31 pm:

    VMan, you ever think about retirement. It would save the state a few bucks and I doubt there would be a dropoff in productivity.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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