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Friday, Nov 19, 2010

* Today is Barton Lorimor’s last day as my intern. Barton has served us all well, so I wanted to take this opportunity to thank him for all his hard work and long hours.

I’ve developed great relations with all my interns, and it’s tough to see them go. Barton will definitely be missed.

Barton requested a song for our traditional Friday post. Booker T. and the MGs will play us out

They may call you Doctor, or they may call you Chief

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Quinn asks for cabinet member resignations

Friday, Nov 19, 2010

* Back on November 6th, Gov. Pat Quinn talked about asking for resignations from his cabinet members

Quinn: “…it would be my view that each cabinet director after the election, as we just had, would as a pro forma exercise submit their resignation. I may accept some, but that is a process that I think would be helpful. The cabinet directors serve at the pleasure of the governor, and the governor is re-elected, then they submit their resignations and I determine who stays and who doesn’t.”

Tribune: Are you calling on that to happen?
Quinn: “Well for directors, yes. Major leaders.”

Tribune: Even ones you have appointed?
Quinn: “Everybody. That’s really not an unusual exercise at the federal or the state level. That every director as a matter of course submits their resignation. The governor will decide which to accept, which not to accept. But I do think that’s the proper accountability for all directors. Because the governor appoints them and there should be an opportunity for review.”

Tribune: Have you gotten any resignations?
Quinn: “I think we’re going to have a cabinet meeting discussion with all the directors and that will come up.”

* I’ve confirmed that those resignation requests have now been issued. David Ormsby has a bit more

In addition to handing in their resignations, each agency director has been asked for a two-page summary of their department’s function and assessment of its productivity. This document will be due in approximately two weeks.

Agency reorganization and possible department mergers are on the horizon.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Question of the day

Friday, Nov 19, 2010

* From an e-mail…

You should know that I actually put my Golden Horseshoe award on my resume! I’m sure it sealed the deal on my new gig!

Our annual Golden Horseshoe awards started out as just a bit of fun, but they’ve morphed into something much greater than that. Statehouse people really take this stuff seriously. We’ll start the nomination process sometime after veto session ends next month. But before we get to that, let’s tackle this…

* The Question: Now that we’ve gone all mainstream, should we rename our annual award? And, if so, what should the new name be?

* Bonus Question: Are there any new categories you’d like to see added this year?

…Adding… These were our categories last year…

* Best legislative staffer
* Best state legislative secretary/admin assistant
* Best political bar/restaurant in Springfield
* Best IL state agency director
* Best Illinois state legislator
* Best Illinois congresscritter
* Best IL statewide elected official
* Best Statehouse lobbyist
* Best press spokesperson
* Best non-press staffer for a constitutional officer
* Best “insider”

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Recent moments in Massive FAIL

Friday, Nov 19, 2010

* The Chicago Cubs owners have not had a great week. Their universally panned rollout of their taxpayer-financed stadium remodeling has been a massive failure so far. And they’ve now even managed to embarrass themselves during what ought to be a wildly favorable publicity stunt.

As you may know by now, Wrigley Field will play host to this weekend’s Illinois vs. Northwestern football game. The Ricketts family has ordered their park’s famous marquee painted “Wildcat Purple.” The outside of the stadium has been “swathed with Northwestern football pictures.” Everybody is just so excited.

Well, maybe not everybody. Because the field of play is so small, the teams will be able to use only one end-zone tomorrow

The east end zone is feet away from the right-field wall, and although there is padding, there was still concerns that injuries could take place. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald had said he would have different game plans for the different end zones to avoid the possibility of injury.

When a team is on offense Saturday, it will be positioned to head to the west end zone.

From the Big Ten…

* All offensive plays will head toward the west end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.

* All kickoffs will be kicked toward the east end zone.

* After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the west end zone.

* As a result of a coin toss held by the conference office Friday morning, Illinois will occupy the west team bench in the first half and Northwestern will occupy the west team bench in the second half and for all overtime periods.


*** UPDATE *** With a hat tip to a commenter, the endzone FAIL in question


[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Speaking of failures, remember William Kelly? He ran for state comptroller and failed. He was hired by an independent US Senate candidate to gather petitions and failed. He even failed when he tried to move a sign posted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in the Statehouse rotunda.

Michael Sneed’s lede this morning

Conservative radio ranter William Kelly and veteran TV reporter Jay Levine will get their day in court today following a Columbus Day quarrel when the two vied to interview mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel.

• Backshot: Kelly — who owns airtime on WIND-AM (560) radio and who unsuccessfully attempted to rattle Emanuel with a barrage of frenetic questions — filed a misdemeanor assault complaint against WBBM-Channel 2 chief correspondent Levine, who tried to end Kelly’s obnoxious rant by threatening to ‘’deck'’ him. (The videotaped ruckus can be seen on YouTube.)

• The upshot: The case will be heard in Cook County court at Belmont and Western.

You can relive the hilarity by clicking here.

* Alas, another fail. From Kelly’s Facebook page

Disregarding a textbook case of assault, a Chicago judge granted Levine a “not guilty” verdict. I was hoping for justice today…but justice was not to be found. The fight continues!

Maybe next he’ll follow through with his claims of “assault” against a young woman who works for Rahm Emanuel.


* And our failure quote of the day comes from failed Green Party gubernatorial nominee Rich Whitney on this month’s election results

The recent results across the board were “a pretty bitter pill,” Whitney says. “It was certainly disappointing, but in the Green Party we tend not to get too discouraged for too long.”

The Greens need to start learning from their failures rather than just being hopelessly optimistic. This advice from Dan Proft to the Illinois Republicans could just as easily apply to them

After losing three gubernatorial elections in a row to the corrupt and the incompetent, it is tempting for Illinois Republicans to say, “What the heck is wrong with the voters of Illinois?” when they should be asking, “What the heck is wrong with the Illinois Republican Party?”

- Posted by Rich Miller   63 Comments      

It’s not a crime in Glenwood for a police dispatcher to tip off drug dealers

Friday, Nov 19, 2010

* In the “There oughtta be a law” category, we have this

It’s not necessarily a crime for a police dispatcher to warn drug dealers about law enforcement activity, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court overturned the conviction of Carmecita Williams, a dispatcher in the Chicago suburb of Glenwood, who was found guilty of official misconduct and sentenced to two years of probation. Prosecutors said she contacted the father of her son and alerted him to police activity that might have discovered his drug-dealing.

“So I’m not sure what agency, you know — if there’s FBI, DEA or ATF or whatever — but we just know there’s agents in the area,” Williams said in one of three calls that authorities recorded on July 12, 1998.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court called Williams’ actions “troublesome” but said they didn’t amount to official misconduct.

That’s because there was no specific law barring Williams from revealing what she knew about police activity, the court said. It clearly violated the police department’s rules, but that wasn’t enough.

* From the opinion

As a final matter, we emphasize that our holding should not be interpreted as an approval of defendant’s conduct. The conduct here is certainly troublesome and unjustifiable. We hold that defendant did not commit the offense of official misconduct only because the confidentiality rules at issue here cannot be construed as “laws” under the statute. At oral argument, defense counsel asserted defendant may have been properly charged with other criminal offenses. We do not express any opinion on that point. We only hold that the circumstances presented by this case do not establish the offense of official misconduct.

Apparently what happened is that the police chief claimed the employee violated a rule, but the alleged rule was never voted on by the village board of trustees. No vote equals no “law.” No law violation equals no crime.

I think maybe somebody should now make this a crime.

Glenwood might also want to start vetting its dispatchers a bit better.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

The Statehouse meat starts to cook

Friday, Nov 19, 2010

* The veto session kicked into a much higher gear yesterday

Illinois Senate leaders have charged a few select lawmakers with reforming the state’s Medicaid program and workers’ compensation system - by Jan. 3.

Subscribers already know what that could mean.

* More stuff

A slew of top state officials could be ousted under a proposal floated Thursday.

In what could turn out to be a fumigation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, introduced legislation to formally remove nearly 700 people from a variety of state posts because the terms of their positions have ended.

Among those affected are heads of major state agencies dating to Blagojevich’s tenure as chief executive. Members of the state Board of Elections, the gaming board and the Board of Higher Education also could be affected.

Cullerton said the proposal does not bar people from being reappointed to the jobs they currently hold. But, under his plan, they would not be able to continue working after 30 days if a new nomination is not sent to the Senate by Gov. Pat Quinn.

* More pension reform is also on the way

With 2010 winding to a close, however, it almost certainly will fall to the General Assembly — not the unions and local governments — to impose new benefit guidelines for future public-safety employees in Illinois. Cities and unions simply are too far apart on some issues to forge compromises.

We’re encouraged by some of the reforms detailed this week by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, a member of the House Police and Fire Pension Reform Committee. Also encouraging is the resolve that seems apparent to have significant reforms in effect for police and firefighters hired as of Jan. 1, 2011.

Under McCarthy’s plan, which is being drafted into a bill, police and firefighters will be eligible to receive their maximum pension benefit (75 percent of their salary) after 30 years, but the retirement age will rise from 50 to 57. Pensions would be calculated on the average of the employee’s four or eight highest salaried years with cost-of-living increases capped at 3 percent or tied to inflation, whichever is less (currently they are guaranteed at 3 percent). Pensions for surviving spouses would be 67 percent of the employee’s pension.

A whole lot more happened yesterday, but you have to subscribe to find out what it was.

* Meanwhile, Progress Illinois took a look at the numbers in the House on a tax hike plan in the wake of the election

* Dems whose district voted for a tax hike and party won re-election: 40
* Dems whose district voted “present” for a tax hike and party won re-election: 2
(Reps. W. Davis, Miller)
* Dems whose district voted for a tax hike and party lost re-election: 2
(Reps. Smith, Hannig)
* Dems whose district voted against a tax hike and party won re-election: 21
(Reps. Fritchey, O’Sullivan, Carberry, Froelich, McCarthy, Farhmam, Crespo, May, Lyons, Dugan, McAsey, J. Gordon, Holbrook, Reitz, D’Amico, Zalewski, Mell, Franks, Beisler, Bradley, Phelps)
* Dems whose district voted against a tax hike and party lost re-election: 5
(Reps. Boland, Hoffman, Flider, Walker, C. Gordon)

What’s this tell us? To secure 60 votes, Madigan would need to retain the support of all 44 Democrats whose districts voted yes or present and then pick up at least 16 more votes from the 26 districts that voted against SB 2252 last year. Of those 26, nine are leaving the legislature, either to pursue other opportunities or because they were upended by a Republican challenger last week. Presumably, voting for a tax increase is easier for those folks because they won’t have to fight to retain their seat in 2012.

It’s a big hill to climb, but that’s what tax reformers are working with.

Only a few of those people who won reelection and voted against a tax hike last spring could be tapped to vote “Yes” this time around, however. The key here is to look at lame ducks in both parties. It’ll be close either way.

* Roundup…

* Ill. Senate president targets holdover appointees

* Confirmation hearing expected for state police director

* Daily Herald: Alter pensions for police, firefighters

* New program lends money to agencies owed by state

* Warden: Death penalty is a costly exercise in futility for state

* Zorn: Time to give same-sex couples the same right we give to criminals

* Elgin school district to get $15.5 million from veto override

* Lawmakers revive U46 funding fix

* State legislature succeeds in overriding veto of funding bill

* Attorney general: UI must release records in presidential search

* Lawmakers Chip Away at New FOIA Law

* Miller: Freedom of (some) Information Act

* Smoking issue: Should ban be lifted in casinos?

* Report: Illinois’ top officials paid well

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Friday, Nov 19, 2010

* Illinois jobless rate falls for 7th month in a row

* Jobless benefits to expire as Congress debates tax

* Report card has Illinois students beating national average

Months before graduation, 4 out of 10 Illinois high school seniors had the skills needed to read proficiently whether they stepped onto a college campus or reported for their first day of work, according to the results of a national exam released Thursday.

In math, about a quarter of the state’s public school 12th-graders who were tested were proficient in such key concepts as using probability to predict an outcome, understanding changes in scale or identifying bias in a data sample.

* Small number of City College students moving on

Only 16 percent of Chicago’s 120,000 City Colleges students transfer to four-year colleges. Fewer than five percent earn bachelor’s degrees. Half of all students seeking degrees leave the system before completing their first 15 credit hours.

* Illinois Ranks 35th in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

* $4.5 Million Federal Grant to Give 1500 Illinois Prisoners’ Kids Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentors

* U.S. Sen. Burris: ‘This is simply unacceptable’

There will be no African Americans in the U.S. Senate when he leaves office at the end of the month, a fact outgoing Sen. Roland Burris called “unacceptable” and “troubling” in his farewell speech Thursday.

* Burris says absence of blacks in next Senate is unacceptable

* Cook County ‘Clout List’ Details How Stroger Regime Rained Jobs on Friends

FOX Chicago News obtained a copy of a “clout list” showing who landed jobs funded by a federal disaster grant. The list details who in county government sponsored the employees and contains information about friends and family already working at Cook County.

The $10.3 million dollar grant was awarded to help residents whose property was damaged by flooding following heavy rains that swept through Cook County in the summer of 2008….

The list contains the names of 31 people who got jobs or contracts funded by the disaster grant. Written in hand beside many of the names are notations such as “father and uncle with county,” “Andrea’s brother,” or “uncle in highway.”

* Preckwinkle: All county leaders must share in 21% spending cuts

Slashing the remainder of that unpopular sales tax hike championed by outgoing Board President Todd Stroger — who was bested by Preckwinkle in the Democratic primary last February — will be on the back burner until 2012. And with a $3 billion government operation whose 24,000 employees make up 80 percent of the budget, layoffs are inevitable, observers say.

* Preckwinkle: County Faces $487M Shortfall

* Preckwinkle sounds alarm on county budget shortfall

* Preckwinkle orders 21% Cook County spending cuts

* Sun-Times: County spending cuts overdue

* Southtown: Property taxes: Little room for sunny outlook

* Kiki Yablon Leaving Reader

Yablon’s departure is not the other shoe falling. “Do an editor and publisher ever see eye to eye on everything?” she asked rhetorically, but she wants it understood her resignation has nothing to do with her relationship with publisher Alison Draper and assistant publisher Geoff Dougherty.

* RTA job search won’t end quickly

* Metra Task Force To Discuss Pollution

* The city that works at Christmas . . . sort of

* U.S. Senate OKs bill against Asian carp

* Kirk To Vote Again on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

* Navistar’s Sharp named to NCC board

* Lisle police chief announces retirement

* Elgin will keep at-large council system

* Citing family, work, Speer won’t run in February in Streamwood

* Buffalo Grove budget expected to drop in 2011

* Malay seeks to replace Richards on St. Charles council

* Boone County Board passes balanced budget for 2011

* Possible Earmark Ban Could Slow Down New I-74 Bridge Project

* Tazewell board OKs raise

* Pekin City Manager Announces Resignation

* Peoria County OKs balanced budget for 2011

* Journal-Star: May the mayor now appreciate the ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ of office

* ICC reduces its tax rate

* Eureka council tentatively OKs tax levy

* Candidates already launching campaigns for April’s local elections

* U. of Ill. faculty: Clout firewall appears to work

* Gary Minish picked as next SIUC provost

* PCCC chairman Coffey to run for mayor of Springfield

* News-Democrat: No veto; let people vote

It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that Fairview Heights Mayor Gail Mitchell plans to veto a resolution on term limits. Mitchell has been mayor for 15 years, so he’s going to argue against term limits, not for them.

Still, we urge him to respect the City Council’s decision as well as residents’ ability to choose wisely.

* Madison County to cut 25 jobs

* Jackson County seeks $3 million from bonds

* Walsh victory party Sunday in Lakemoor

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   11 Comments      

Caption contest!

Friday, Nov 19, 2010

* We haven’t done one of these in a while. And it’s Friday, so let’s have some fun…

- Posted by Rich Miller   70 Comments      

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Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

* I have a general rule of trying to avoid believing what John Kass says without double- and even triple-checking his alleged facts. I broke that rule today. My bad. Sorry.

This is from Kass’ column yesterday

According to Odelson’s documents, election officials twice sent notices to Emanuel’s house on Hermitage Avenue.

Both times, the notices were returned to sender. Each was stamped with Emanuel’s forwarding address in Washington. Election officials do not allow such notices to be forwarded to a new address. The election board purged Emanuel from the voting lists for the first time in October 2009, ruling him an “inactive” voter.

But Emanuel’s voter status switched to “active” just before the Feb. 2 primary. He voted using an absentee ballot listing the Hermitage address even though the Halpin family lived there and they also voted from that address. Voters purged from the rolls usually present a driver’s license, a lease, a copy of a mortgage or other such documentation to be reinstated.

“By some magical means, which I think will come out after objections are filed, Emanuel was reinstated,” Odelson told me.

* OK, first of all, Emanuel was never “purged” from the voting rolls. Chicago doesn’t use that term, according to city board of elections spokesman Jim Allen. They have two classifications: “Inactive” and “Canceled.”

“Canceled” means you’ve registered to vote in some other county, state or address or are in prison for a felony. “Inactive” means there was a problem with the card the board mails out.

* Secondly, Burt Odelson’s comment about “By some magical means… Emanuel was reinstated,” is bogus, according to Allen and another election law attorney I’ve consulted.

Here’s why: When you request an absentee ballot, the city mails that back to you with an affidavit that you must sign saying you reside at such-and-such address and are lawfully entitled to vote. And that’s it. Your vote counts even if you’re on the inactive list. There was no need for magic, or conspiracies, or inside help. He just needed an absentee ballot, which Rahm Emanuel indeed requested before the February primary earlier this year.

* Back to Kass’ column

In May, Emanuel was again rendered inactive. Just last month, he reregistered, using a new address on Milwaukee Avenue in order to vote.

That’s legit as well. Emanuel early voted on October 5th using his new address. No big deal, no conspiracy, no nothing.

* Today’s Kass column

Another mayoral candidate, former School Board President Gery Chico, said Emanuel owes it to the voters to explain it all in person.

“Especially the mysterious reactivation of his voter status before the February primary,” Chico said.

“The main question is: How did he get that absentee ballot after he’d been purged? How was he reinstated?” Chico asked.

There was no “mysterious reactivation of his voter status” because Emanuel wasn’t “purged,” and he simply requested an absentee ballot, signed the affidavit and voted like anyone can in a similar situation.

No conspiracy here. Move along.

* Now, there are other issues involved. But the inactive status conspiracy is really not worth discussing any longer.

Again, sorry.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

It’s still Cook and Cohen

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

* Greg Hinz touches today on the fight between the Republican Governors Association and the Bill Brady campaign. Subscribers know some of this already, but let’s have a look

One dispute, according to at least six sources, centered on what ads Mr. Brady and/or the RGA should run in the critical final week of the campaign.

RGA wanted Mr. Brady to stay negative, attacking Mr. Quinn’s record on the economy, taxes and other matters. The Brady camp wanted to go more positive, consistent with a prevailing political philosophy that voters respond best at the end to a warm message.

The two sides ended up compromising, using both sets of spots, according to a source who would know. But most of them were negative.

Other sources tell me there was another, longer dispute over whether ads should stress Mr. Quinn’s connection to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, with whom Mr. Quinn ran twice as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

The RGA, some sources tell me, balked at that, perhaps not quite understanding Illinois’ political culture. While a few Quinn/Blago ads did air, none of them was up for long — much to the amazement of some political observers, who figured that “corruption” still was Brady’s best issue.

The Blagojevich attacks didn’t work at all during late summer focus grouping. But the Brady campaign claimed the issue spiked up toward the end of the race, so they decided to try it because the race was getting too close for comfort. The RGA was adamantly opposed and wanted to stick with the tax hike and economy stuff.

Remember the Thursday before the election when TV stations throughout the state pulled Brady’s ads off the air for non-payment? That was because the RGA decided at the last minute not to hand over $750K in what the Brady campaign believed were promised contributions and used that money instead on its own ads. Because of that, Brady’s campaign went dark and wasn’t fully back up again until late the next day after some very frantic fundraising to replace the RGA cash. By the time Brady went back up, he’d dropped his Blagojevich ad.

The RGA never had any love for Brady’s campaign manager. They forced the campaign to hire a staffer before they would agree to spend money on the race. Communications between the two camps was never really good.

The campaign “CEO” Ron Gidwitz was supposed to be handling the money, but even he was blindsided by the RGA decision. Gidwitz also spent a lot of time bad-mouthing the campaign manager behind the scenes, but Giddy isn’t exactly the greatest campaign mind of all time. He spent over $10 million to get 10 percent of the vote in the 2006 gubernatorial primary. His job was mainly the money. And the RGA money was therefore within his domain.

The campaign completely miscalculated in its late dealings with the RGA. They made a personal plea to Haley Barbour to overrule RGA staff and go along with Brady’s positive ads. Barbour thought it over for a day and concluded his RGA staff was right, but Brady’s campaign went ahead anyway. And all along, Brady’s people figured they’d still get that RGA money and placed their final buy accordingly. When the cash didn’t show up, they were put into a huge bind and had to make up for a gigantic shortfall.

It’s more than just conceivable that when Brady’s campaign went dark he lost votes. But the RGA’s ad was up and running, so a message was still getting out there, and it was a fairly decent message.

It’s also clear that Brady’s positive ads weren’t all that good. He looked kinda creepy with that forced smile. The Blagojevich ad may or may not have been a mistake, but pulling it after running it for only a couple of days meant that the money spent was wasted.

And there is no doubt that while Pat Quinn was having a focused, strong, well-financed closing week, Brady’s campaign was distracted by its changed messaging, severe infighting and extreme money problems.

* But all of those problems pale in comparison to the fatal mistake made by both the Brady campaign and the RGA of failing to realize that they needed a much better suburban Cook County message to women and that they had to somehow kneecap Scott Lee Cohen.

In other words, dark, schmark, infighting, schminfighting. The message wasn’t good enough by either the Brady campaign or the RGA.

As I’ve already told you, the Brady campaign long believed they needed at least 43 percent of the suburban Cook County vote. They got 40. That was their real problem. That’s where they lost the race. We can enmesh ourselves in the intricacies of this thing for years, but it was still suburban Cook County that did him in. They failed to meet their must-get target and they lost. Period.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

* From an SJ-R editorial about the Ricketts family’s request for government help to rebuild Wrigley Field

To us, however, this issue is far more newsworthy for the delicious political irony it represents than for its substance.

The patriarch of the Ricketts family, Joe Ricketts (founder of Ameritrade), has been an outspoken critic of government spending and debt. So outspoken, in fact, that he founded a group called Taxpayers Against Earmarks, which has a website at

The site says earmarks should be opposed because they allocate “money or a tax benefit for a specific project, program, or organization, circumventing a merit-based or competitive allocation process.” The site goes on to elaborate: “Earmarks provide federal funding for projects benefiting only a state or local interest, or a private company, university or non-profit. In other words, most earmark-funded projects do not benefit the nation as a whole — though the ‘giving’ of an earmark by a Member of Congress certainly benefits that Member.”

They may not be asking for a handout, but change a word here and there and you’d have a pretty good description of what the Ricketts family is requesting in its Wrigley proposal. Daley’s opposition is rooted in the deal’s potential effect on the “competitive allocation process.” If the amusement tax generates an extra $5 million, Daley reasons, that money should go where it is most needed — not to make payments that benefit the Ricketts family.

* The Question: Should legislators factor Joe Ricketts’ anti-government activism into their deliberations over whether to provide Ricketts’ family with taxpayer-funded assistance? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

One “meh” and one “wow”

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

* Frankly, I’m not all that fired up about the House’s vote to override the governor’s amendatory veto of a FOIA bill. The General Assembly approved legislation last spring that exempted state employee personnel evaluations from Freedom of Information Act requests. The governor AV’d the bill limiting the exemptions to police.

The State Journal-Register editorialized against any override

“Having been around this kind of litigation for many years, I would think that just about anything about an employee will be argued to be part of an evaluation,” says Don Craven, attorney for the Illinois Press Association. “The lack of definition of what is precluded from being given out to the public is troublesome.”

Even under the previous Freedom of Information Act, standard evaluations were considered public documents through ample legal precedent. Yet only after Illinois passed its new FOIA did we see a push for an exemption.

“AFSCME just earned themselves a two-year, no-layoff agreement from the state of Illinois, which is fairly unprecedented in a $15 billion deficit year,” says Josh Sharp, the IPA’s director of government relations. “If you’re going to give these employees a two-year guarantee of employment, we don’t think it’s too much for the public to ask that we have a certain idea of how they are performing as employees.”

The paper also published an op-ed by the BGA

Arguments to conceal performance evaluations hinge on fears that making those evaluations public will discourage managers from giving honest evaluations, or that the evaluation process will be used as a method of public humiliation to retaliate against unwanted employees. But these reasons only highlight the dysfunction of our personnel system, and do not speak to the legitimacy of the people’s right to access information about their government.

My own opinion is that allowing these evaluations to be made public would, indeed, be used to undercut unwanted employees. But I really don’t care one way or another. Uphold it or not. No biggie to me.

* This, however, is quite troublesome to me

Aside from the risks inherent in private equity and real estate investments, some pension experts have raised concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding these bets.

Under a 2005 rewrite of Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act, public pension funds are not required to provide basic information about what assets are being purchased, the fine print of contracts or, most importantly, how assets are valued.

The Tribune was able to identify some assets underlying these investments only by reviewing thousands of pages of pension fund documents and scouring industry newsletters and Web sites.

That’s pretty darned scary. Leaving everything to the experts and locking up trillions of dollars in black box financial gadgets got this nation into a huge mess. The pension funds ought to made to open the books.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Another way of looking at the casino smoking ban

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

* There’s been a lot of talk about how the state’s smoking ban has hurt Illinois’ casinos. Surrounding states haven’t experienced the sharp downturn in casino revenues that Illinois has, and that’s blamed on the ban. It’s pretty well-known that gamblers like to smoke.

But opponents of lifting the smoking ban at Illinois casinos have a fascinating new graph that compares the Jumer’s Casino Rock Island to the casino in Davenport Iowa. Click the pic for a better view…

There doesn’t appear to be a direct correlation between the smoking ban and any major downturn. But how do you explain that major upward trend starting in December of 2008 for the Illinois boat? Well, as the graph shows, that’s when they moved and opened a new, improved casino.

What this may show is that Illinois casino owners just aren’t putting enough money back into their operations. When they do, things get better. Revenue grows. St. Louis has a beautiful new casino with great restaurants, clubs and a swank hotel. It’s no wonder the somewhat dingy Illinois casinos are seeing revenue problems.

* Meanwhile, it’s understandable that Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe doesn’t want to do more work. Who does? But Jaffe’s job is to regulate gaming. Offering up opinions on gaming bills outside of their regulatory aspects is really not his job, but he apparently thinks it is. The Daily Herald talked to Chairman Jaffe this week about the gaming bill which is currently sitting in the Senate

As lawmakers talk about big plans to expand gambling, the man charged with regulating the industry in Illinois called the proposal “overloaded” Wednesday. […]

Jaffe criticized the legislation as having “everything for everyone” because it calls for casinos in Park City, Ford Heights, Chicago, Rockford and Danville, along with 1,200 slot machines at Arlington Park. It also would allow existing casinos, such as Elgin, and one that’s being built in Des Plaines, to add 800 gaming spots for a total of 2,000 each.

He’s not the moral arbiter here. He’s the regulator. He should stick to that. And even on that topic he can’t stop himself from complaining…

Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said that regulating horse tracks with slot machines and five new casinos would be a huge undertaking. And expansion plans come as regulators already are trying to handle greenlighting video gambling machines in bars across the state. […]

“Quite truthfully, we’re understaffed at the present time to do the things that we have to do,” said Jaffe, a former judge and state lawmaker who now lives in Evanston.

If he needs more staff, then he should make the case for more staff. But adding more slots at current casinos wouldn’t be all that hard because the casinos are already vetted. And people already gamble at the tracks, there would just be additional ways to gamble if they got slot machines. Adding five new casinos would be a big task, but the state has done this before. Nevada doesn’t seem to have any problems and they have tons more casinos than we do.

Jaffe does make some valid points, but video gaming has taken way too long to implement and his complaining about the expansion bill all adds up to essentially upholding the interests of the current casino owners. The boat owners didn’t care for video gaming, and they really don’t like this new expansion plan because it would eat into their profits. Whether he knows it or not, he’s become a policy tool of the owners.

* Related…

* Illinois lawmakers eye gambling expansion — again

* Herald & Review: Adding venues won’t mean added revenues

* State officials explain rejection of lottery bidder

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

Don’t expect a quick fix

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

* Kristen McQueary wants immediate action on the big stuff

So far during the first week of the fall veto session, members of the Illinois House and Senate have debated appointments to various state boards and commissions, discussed the regulation of wind farms and passed resolutions mourning the deaths of at least two former lawmakers, including one of my favorites, Mary Lou Cowlishaw, who died in June.

State Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) is sponsoring a resolution commending Tinley Park Fire Marshal Robert Bettenhausen for 57 years of service.

State Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi (D-Joliet) advanced a bill allowing farmers convicted of drunken driving to operate their tractors without breath-test devices, under certain circumstances.

And more than 100 other miscellaneous pieces of legislation are expected to move through the queue before lawmakers adjourn, again, for the holidays.

But serious action to improve the state’s fiscal situation? Nowhere - not even a bone tossed to make it appear so. Not even the shadow of an itty bitty bone fit for Paris Hilton’s chihuahua. Not a crumb.

No movement toward an income tax increase. No pronounced spending cuts. No combining of state agencies or constitutional offices. No legislator pay cuts. No additional furlough days. No across-the-board spending reductions. No caucus meetings to get serious about solutions. No pension borrowing plans. No plans. None.

Solving these things ain’t easy. If it was so simple, we’d have already seen action by now. The election put off any attempts to get at solutions. Now, they have to figure out where to go next.

This also takes some leadership. The governor,, for instance, has yet to issue a single policy proposal since the election except to demand that his income tax hike be passed before the General Assembly does anything else. But many in the GA want to look at cuts and other reforms before they get into the tax hike thing. The Senate just formed two bipartisan committees to come up with reforms for workers comp and Medicaid, so things are moving. But that will take time.

* The Sun-Times also wants immediate action

But to suggest that Madigan can’t influence many of them — particularly if he offers up a budget plan that does more than raise taxes — is hogwash.

Madigan just came off a supremely successful election. He held on to his majority in the House because of shrewd planning, discipline and, yes, the tight control he exerts over Illinois Democrats.

But — and forgive our naivete here — what’s the point of holding power if you do nothing with it?

There is no issue of greater importance to Illinois government than setting the state on a path toward fiscal health.

Madigan does not hold all the cards, we’ll give him that.

But he sure holds a lot of them.

Yes, he does, and he’s not gonna play those cards until he’s ready. And nobody knows when that will be. The voters spoke this month, and nothing really changed. Get used to it, is all i can say.

Also, while the legislative leaders have enormous power, they’re still essentially herding cats. Politics is an art, and it’s an art of the possible. At the moment, they’re still figuring out what’s possible.

* As Illinois News Service notes, the first week of veto session is usually pretty quiet

Looking for more excitement in your veto session? Come back for the second act.

This year’s annual two-week legislative veto session has, so far, failed to live up to its hype. Issues such as civil unions, abolition of the death penalty and medical marijuana have yet to surface. And a committee vote on a massive gaming expansion was postponed after advocates, opponents and residents overflowed the hearing room to testify. […]

Recovering from an expensive, often bitter campaign season, lawmakers are easing back into a legislative pace. But a public lack of activity doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

“This week is probably more of a week of getting things in place, and when we come back after Thanksgiving, that’s when I expect most of the substantial action on legislation will take place,” said state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Pekin.

“Getting things in place” means getting votes. No lawmaker wants to roll out something controversial until it’s assured of passage, according to one political observer.

When Speaker Madigan added several January session days, he pretty much assured that legislators would put off action until then. Legislators are like most human beings. They respond best to deadline pressures. The goal line was moved back a month, so they’ll probably wait.

* If the train ever does start moving, things could happen pretty quickly. But that may be a while

“Revenue, the budget and redistricting will all get linked together,” Redfield said. “I think it’s more likely that it’s going to happen in May rather than January.”

* It might happen sooner than that, but we’ll see. Those two bipartisan committees mentioned above are quite interesting

Extending an olive branch to Republicans, the top Senate Democrat agreed Wednesday to study and possibly vote on workers compensation and Medicaid reforms in a move that could dislodge a stalled $3.7 billion borrowing plan favored by Gov. Quinn.

Senate President John Cull- erton (D-Chicago) announced the formation of committees to study both topics, which were key talking points for Republicans in the fall campaigns. The panels would advance legislation for a possible Senate vote in January.

Cullerton’s move comes amid efforts to persuade Republicans to back Quinn’s borrowing push to cover this year’s multibillion-dollar payment to state pension funds, though he insisted the move was not linked to the borrowing proposal.

The borrowing bill passed the House but is hung up in the Senate, where two Democrats have blocked it, necessitating GOP votes.

“If it takes away an argument from somebody who’s holding off, that would be a side benefit. You may recall, Republicans did pass the pension-borrowing in the House. Two voted for it. She voted for it in the past year,” Cullerton said, referring to Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont). “Yeah, if it helps her come around for it, it’s a bonus.”


- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Has Kass found the coffin nail?

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

* John Kass’ column yesterday was the talk of the town. It’s been pretty much ignored by the rest of the media, but Kass was fed some info that casts serious doubt on whether Rahm Emanuel was legally restored to the voter registration rolls after being purged twice. Kass sums up the gist of yesterday’s piece in today’s column. What follows is from a late October exchange between city elections chairman Langdon Neal and Ald. Ed Burke

Without once mentioning Emanuel by name, Neal admitted to Burke that it would be a violation of procedure to reactivate a hypothetical purged voter unless that hypothetical fellow came in and presented two pieces of identification to election officials.

“Unless there was some other reason that we restored that voter internally,” Neal said in the transcript, which did not record whether Burke smiled like the Cheshire cat.

Internally? So I called Neal to ask him about this “internally” business.

“John,” Neal sighed, “the one thing that’s real clear is that I’ve answered one too many hypothetical questions. And I think I should stop answering any hypothetical questions and wait for the case to be filed.”

Here’s the full exchange between Neal and Burke about what happens after a voter is purged

Burke: What evidence do I have to produce to show I am indeed registered at that address?

Neal: Two pieces of ID.


Burke: I don’t have two pieces of evidence, I call you and I say, I want to be restored, Is that possible under your procedures?

Neal: No. No. You have to —

Burke: So whoever has been rendered inactive must come in with two pieces of identification. To whom do those identification pieces go?

Neal: The judges of election at the polling place.

Burke: What about the Board of Election Commissioners?

Neal: Certainly. They can come to us at any time.


Burke: If it was restored without producing two pieces of identification, is that a violation of your rules; is it a violation of the law; is it a violation of procedure?

Neal: It would be a violation of procedure, unless we — unless there is some other reason that we restored that voter internally —

Burke: Well, you just told me they have to have two pieces of identification.

Neal: That’s the procedure, correct. That’s the procedure.

Burke: So if it was done without the voter producing two pieces of identification, it would be a violation of procedure?

Neal: Yes, it would be a violation.

* The reason this is so important is any irregularities in Emanuel’s voter registration could very well undermine his qualifications to run for office. From the state’s municipal code

(65 ILCS 5/3.1‑10‑5) (from Ch. 24, par. 3.1‑10‑5)
Sec. 3.1‑10‑5. Qualifications; elective office.
(a) A person is not eligible for an elective municipal office unless that person is a qualified elector of the municipality and has resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election or appointment

If he’s not properly registered to vote, he can’t run for office.

* More Emanuel problems from the Sun-Times

“The issue is not that he left town — it’s that he rented out the house,” said Adam Lasker, who chairs the Chicago Bar Association’s Election Law Committee and has no clients running for mayor.

“I have yet to have anyone cite to me any kind of case or law that would have support for Rahm,” Lasker said. “He’s not supposed to be on the voter rolls if he doesn’t have residency. You can come back to your home in Chicago that you can live in, but if you can’t come back and live in the house, then you can’t vote.” […]

What makes Emanuel’s case unique and possibly a “case of first impression” in Illinois law is his squabble with his tenant who would not allow him to break the lease and move back in to run for mayor. Odelson, Jim Nally and some other attorneys argue that Emanuel must have access to the house for it to qualify as his residence.

Mike Kreloff, the election lawyer provided by Emanuel’s campaign, said the Illinois Election Code makes clear that people who leave for government service do not forfeit their voting rights.

“I think the challenge is bogus,” election lawyer Michael Dorf agreed.

But election lawyer Andrew Raucci argues, “I don’t think it’s a frivolous issue.”

The legal issue may come down to whether the stricter language of the state’s municipal code trumps the state’s election code.

As with everything else in Chicago, the outcome will probably depend on the judge he draws.

* The rest of the political commentariat was much impressed with the explanation from Emanuel’s attorney about why he is qualified to run for mayor. Here’s Greg Hinz

State election law clearly allows someone to temporarily relocate for “business with the United States” without losing their local residency, Mr. Kreloff said. Beyond that, the candidate kept “personal possessions” in the Ravenswood house he rented out while in D.C., regularly has voted absentee from the Ravenswood address, and kept his driver’s license registered to that address, Mr. Kreloff said.

The whole flap, in his view: “Political games.”

All in all, a pretty strong argument, I thought. But we’ll see what the lawyers say.

* Mark Brown

The Emanuel campaign argues that renting out the house did nothing to change his residency, citing a provision in Illinois law that specifically holds no voter “shall be deemed to have lost his or her residence in any precinct or election district in this State by reason of his or her absence on business of the United States, or of this State.”

While my own sense of fair play suggests Emanuel deserves to run and my experience with residency cases leads me to think he has a strong case, I certainly would enjoy seeing the arguments aired out in court — if a challenge is indeed filed by the Nov. 30 deadline.

Brown’s column focused mainly on Emanuel’s new “residence,” which is a plain Jane condo at Milwaukee and Ogden. Not addressed, however, is whether Emanuel’s family actually lives there. Check out the end…

Through his spokesman, Emanuel declined my generous offer to drop by with a six-pack — and a photographer — for a quick tour of the new residence.

“He doesn’t spend much time there,” LaBolt said.

Surprisingly, there were no questions about where Emanuel’s family is currently living.

* Related…

* Mayoral campaigns battle over Rahm Emanuel’s eligibility to run

* Rahm puts a brick on selling Midway Airport

* Emanuel, Meeks vow to stop Midway deal if elected next mayor

* Gery Chico makes his case for mayor: experience

- Posted by Rich Miller   89 Comments      

Morning Shorts

Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

* Feds probe 2007 Tribune employee stock plan: Federal authorities are taking a closer look at the stock transfer at the heart of billionaire Sam Zell’s disastrous leveraged buyout of Tribune Co., after a U.S. District Court last week determined a portion of the 2007 deal was a “prohibited transaction” under federal law.

* Report blames Giannoulias bank failure on poor business strategies

* Chicago street gang members arrested in raids

* No House Ethics hearing for Jesse Jackson Jr.

* Area experts expect more growth in stocks than jobs

* Foreclosure class actions pile up against banks

* Administration unexpectedly expands bonus payments for Medicare Advantage plans

* AAA: Thanksgiving travel will be up 11 percent

* Newly elected Palatine Republican to forgo pension

* NU journalism students’ recordings probed

* NU’s project to clear wrongfully convicted inmates faces ethics probe

* New Data: All CPS Principals Make Six Figures

* Daley’s final budget sails through the City Council

* Mayor Daley’s final budget passes

* City Council OKs Daley’s no-tax hike budget

* Pension bets not paying off

* How Chicago goes, so go the suburbs, local mayors say

* Ald. Tunney wants ‘rigorous’ analysis of Wrigley plan

* Del Valle says city canceled contract with sticker maker

* Chicago cancels city sticker contract

* Aldermen propose $1 taxi-ride surcharge to help budget

* Chicago aldermen seek dollar surcharge on cab rides

* Taxi customers take issue with $1 fare hike proposal

* Suburban homeowners bear brunt of Cook tax increases

* Kadner: Property tax Facts And more confusion

* Southtown: Stroger’s crony protection program over, yet he’s oblivious

* Tinley ups hotel tax

* Elgin planning on less income from the casino

* Oversight group rips Lake County Fair

* Walsh ‘eager’ to get to work for 8th District

* Quincy School Board tentatively adopts $32 million tax levy

* More cuts in store for Springfield, mayor says

* New Madison County state’s attorney comes from long line of lawyers

* More Chicago aldermen not seeking re-election

* Council veteran Ed Smith won’t run in 2011

* Mitchell: Pols could take lesson in service from Ald. Ed Smith

* Losing Lake Co. Democrat misses recount deadline

* Peter M. Rosenthal, longtime Rosemont village attorney, 1950-2010

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   10 Comments      

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Thursday, Nov 18, 2010

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

* More shenanigans!
* Saturday campaign money report
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Shenanigans!
* Tribune drops bombshell on Biss running mate
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Rauner: "Madigan has rigged the Democratic primary for Pritzker"
* New Ives radio ad claims Democrats are trying to help Rauner, while Brady does Rauner robocall
* *** UPDATED x1 - DGA responds *** Elections board says DGA should file disclosure for Ives ad
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Jones; IEA/IFT; Reis; Mitchell; Edgar
* ISRA, Drury both try to claim Raoul inserted "poison pill" into gun bill
* Pro-life group launches GOTV effort for Lipinski
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner opens new online track against Ives
* Erika Harold still can't remember comments, but says "I was wrong"
* Rauner calls Madigan "a unified force of bad, of evil"
* Sen. Duckworth gets involved in another state central committee race
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Has Pritzker gone to ground?
* Illinois House Bill HB 4900 Wastes Government Resources
* McCann, barred from SGOP caucus meeting, claims Rauner threatened to "destroy you and your family"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Caption contest!
* Obama mailer kerfuffle in Lipinski district
* Rauner attended Quincy campaign event after Quincy veterans' home presser
* After spending millions in Dem primary, Rauner accuses "Washington liberals" of "hijacking" the GOP primary
* Yesterday's stories

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