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Quinn would commute death penalty cases

Monday, Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Barton Lorimor

Following up an article from last week regarding LaSalle County State’s Attorney Brian Towne’s promise to pursue the death penalty…

State’s Attorney Brian Towne says he has no plans to decertify the case of Keith Mackowiak.

Quinn this month signed a law abolishing capital punishment in Illinois, but the law does not take effect until July 1. However, Quinn says if this defendant is convicted and sentenced to death, he will commute the sentence to life in prison. “I signed a law that abolishes the death penalty in Illinois, and that’s the end of it,” Quinn said.

At the same time…

Imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan is known around the world for clearing Illinois’ Death Row in 2003 and imposing a moratorium on the death penalty.

But the governor who pardoned more than 200 people admitted in a recently released court deposition that he “didn’t understand” the difference between two major types of pardons and that he was declaring a Chicago inmate innocent by the way he pardoned him.

That surprising admission came in a March 2010 deposition that Ryan, now 77, gave at the Terre Haute, Ind., prison where he’s serving a 6œ-year term on a federal corruption conviction.

Comments got really heated today. I’m willing to leave them open, but will be in no mood to moderate posts that are below what CapFax commenters usually provide if it continues.

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   12 Comments      

So many problems, so many solutions; construction under construction

Monday, Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Barton Lorimor

The state’s problems are many. High tuition costs and overcrowded prisons were just a few mentioned over the weekend.

The fact that the Senate Republicans put together budget cut proposals has been well received despite concerns over what would be cut…

The plan is a bold one, but its political future is doubtful at best. Hopefully, it will serve as a starting point, however, for addressing the expense side of the state’s budget crisis.


The poll was conducted by We Ask America, a subsidiary of a company owned by the conservative Illinois Manufacturers Association.

The company polled 1,184 Illinois voting households in an automated phone poll on March 20. Respondents were asked, “In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Illinois governor Pat Quinn is doing?”

Of those polled, 31 percent approved, 61 percent disapproved and 9 percent had no opinion. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.85 percent. […]

Illinois Republicans plan on capitalizing on the governor’s low approval rating and frustration over the tax hike.

“I definitely think all of the legislators who voted for the tax increase are going to be held accountable,” Illinois Republican Party deputy executive director Jonathan Blessing said.

Not to brush aside the proposed Medicaid or education cuts, but this was an interesting proposal…

Among the cuts promoted by the GOP at a news conference was a reduction in the number of cellphones used by state employees.

“The state of Illinois has approximately 15,500 state-issued, taxpayer funded communications devices,” the report noted. “Reducing the number of devices by 50 percent would save $2.3 million.”

While $2.3 million in savings is nothing to scoff at, the Republicans might have this cellphone thing completely backward.

* Meanwhile, communities are starting to miss the capital construction projects held-up by litigation now before the Illinois Supreme Court…

The [“The Fix We’re In For: the State of Illinois’ Bridges”] report was released officially last week in Chicago and showed that statewide some 2,239 bridges out of 26,337 in Illinois, or about 8.5 percent, are considered structurally deficient.

Put another way, that means that one out of every 12 bridges a driver crosses in Illinois carries that “structurally deficient” tag.

At 8.5 percent, Illinois fares better than the country as a whole, which is at about 11.5 percent. Still, the report says Illinois ranks 35th nationally.


Without the great highway access from I-57, even the most creative and generous of business incentive plans would not have achieved what exists today or built hopes so high for the future. I-57 gives Marion and the eastern half of our region a tremendous competitive advantage over the communities further to the west - Carbondale, Murphysboro and Pinckneyville.

Those communities aren’t on the same playing field as Marion and the best plan to close the gap appears to be indefinitely stalled. We’re referring to the planned expansion of Illinois 13/127 to a four-lane roadway that will bypass both Vergennes and Pinckneyville. Without the improved link to Interstate 64 north of Nashville, the western portion of Southern Illinois will not easily reach its full potential for economic development and population growth.

As you know, there has been an effort to come up with some Plan Bs in case the Court tosses the projects package out, but the QC Times editorial board doesn’t want it to include gaming…

Illinois lawmakers should stop this gaming explosion now to protect the casino businesses that have a 20-year track record in the state. Lawmakers everywhere should avoid propping up one failing wagering business by diverting revenue from a successful one. Waning interest in horse racing suggests a marketing job for that industry, not an invitation for the horse tracks to horn in on an entirely different kind of wagering.

* O’Hare, on the other hand, apparently has a whole new set of problems…

The almost-completed first phase of O’Hare International Airport’s expansion had close calls that could have resulted in fatal airplane crashes, according to a Tribune investigation of incidents filed with the Federal Aviation Administration. […]

The potential for disaster has prompted the FAA to begin revising its daily alerts to pilots about airfield conditions and other procedures. Work to build a runway in the southern part of O’Hare will kick into high gear now that the city and the major airlines have agreed on the project after a legal battle. City officials say the work at the airport had met FAA safety standards but acknowledge that more can be done to improve safety.


* Illinois Senate President John Cullerton Hopes Cubs Proposal Will be Approved

* Tribune: Performance Counts

* No school has ever lost aid due to Title IX violation

* State says consider flood insurance ahead of time

* Chicago Bears license plates up for sale

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   36 Comments      

Caterpillar: Letter never meant for public

Monday, Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Barton Lorimor

A leaked letter from Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman to Gov. Pat Quinn about the manufacturing giant being courted to leave Illinois certainly made its way around over the weekend. But a CAT spokesperson told ABC 7 that was the last thing they wanted to happen…

The correspondence says at least four states have approached the company about moving since Illinois raised its income tax in January.

But nothing is written in stone and a spokesperson for Caterpillar says the letter, which they say they did not intend to be made public, was only an attempt to open a dialogue and certainly not a threat.

But in the very next paragraph of the story…

Caterpillar officials say if Illinois doesn’t shape up its business climate, the heavy equipment maker may have to ship out.

You got me.

* Also over the weekend….

llinois Gov. Pat Quinn and the premier of Manitoba, Canada, have signed an agreement to work together on trade and commerce opportunities. Quinn and Premier Greg Selinger signed the memorandum of understanding Saturday in Chicago.

The agreement means the two governments will work together to increase collaboration in industries including manufacturing, renewable energy and information technologies. They’ll also work together on trade and tourism opportunities.

Somewhat related…

* Sweeny: FatWallet goes north; charter schools attacked

* High-speed rail benefits have hollow ring

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   48 Comments      

Parents, population shift affects welfare benefits: Sun-Times

Monday, Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Barton Lorimor

Columnist Sue Ontiveros writes about a lobbying effort put together by the Latino Policy Forum meant to press legislators to vote against human services cuts…

It’s no wonder people in Latino communities are worried, and it’s why that group got on an early morning bus last week and took their concerns to legislators.

For a lot of them, it was their first time in Springfield and their first encounter with state legislators. Good for them.

Without quality child care, working parents have two awful options: leave their most precious possessions, their children, in substandard care or stop working. If they choose the latter, their families are impoverished, and at some point it’s a good bet that they’ll need to lean on their state government for some sort of assistance.

Choosing the latter could also mean an increase in deadbeat parents paying for child support, which has become quite the problem as this Sun-Times research project shows us…

Unemployment and underemployment is a key factor in the high level of back support owed, said [Executive director of the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice Malcom] Rich. Indeed, the Illinois Healthcare and Family Services Department’s Child Support Services Division said among its clients, 57 percent of non-custodial parents have no reported income, and 28 percent have reported income of less than $30,000 annually.

A study released in 2007 from the Urban Institute looking at back support owed in Illinois and eight other states found that 70 percent of the back support owed in 2003-04 was owed by parents who had no reported income or income of $10,000 a year or less. The report estimated that only 40 percent of the arrears owed at that time was likely to be collected over 10 years, and the backlog was projected to grow by 60 percent over that time.

“We have an expression in child support, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip,” said Ron Haskins, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at Brookings Institution. “Many of these fathers do not have jobs.” […]

The number of Illinois parents requesting court reviews to lower the child support they pay has nearly tripled in recent years — from 4,219 in 2006 to 12,629 last year. Even so, many parents don’t contact child support services or seek legal action to have the amount reduced, he said. […]

The median amount owed in back support in Illinois, according to the Urban Institute study, was $4,467 in 2003-04. The average was $11,365. Mirroring a national trend, most of the arrearages were owed by a minority of parents who owe sizable sums. In Illinois, 10 percent of those owing back support were $30,000 or more in arrears, yet they owed nearly half of all the overdue support. […]

The state also has focused on increasing the percentage of support collected as it’s due, said Lowry. A decade ago, Illinois was on the verge of being sanctioned when it was collecting only 36 percent of current support.

There has been improvement, with the collection rate reaching 58.03 percent in 2009, but it slipped to 57.85 percent last year. Lowry said the state would like to exceed the national average of 61.9 percent.

That is of course if communities, mainly suburbs, are prepared to handle the shift in population that relies on government assistance in the first place…

There’s no denying the national trend: More minorities are moving out to the suburbs of big cities and more immigrants are settling there as well, bypassing the city altogether.

But the suburbs weren’t prepared for the infusion, and many are having a hard time dealing with an increased demand for social services. […]

As people reach out for help, they’re finding that nonprofit service organizations are stretched to the limit and can’t provide the assistance they once could. The agencies have to get by with less state money.


* Sun-Times: Why are so many Chicagoans leaving town? It’s not so bad

* Page: New benchmarks of social change

* Documents Reveal Pressure to Comply With Program to Deport Immigrants

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   29 Comments      

Party leaders go down swinging and a political round-up

Monday, Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Barton Lorimor

The Sun-Times credited the State Journal-Register, but it was the Alton Telegraph that got it first…

The chairman of the Macoupin County Democratic Party resigned his post — as well as his seat on the local school board — just two days after an undisclosed St. Patrick’s Day incident that’s being investigated by city police.

How much the resignations and incident are connected, though, is a matter of speculation, because most people familiar with the investigation are mum on the details.

Carlinville Police Chief Dave Haley confirmed Monday that he turned over an incident report to the Illinois State Police involving Ken Snider, who also is a State Police officer. […]

“We are cooperating with the Illinois State Police in this investigation and do not want to jeopardize their investigation,” Haley said Tuesday.

Haley said he referred the report to Illinois State Police Zone 6 in Collinsville. Zone 6 interim commander Lt. James Morrisey said Monday that he was not aware of such an investigation, noting that it most likely was turned over to Internal Affairs.

State Police media spokesman Scott Compton confirmed the probe on Tuesday.

Now what the Telegraph didn’t have was this little tid-bit…

Snider had been employed by the state since 1984 and was elevated last December as supervisor of Quinn’s south security detail, a job that put him in charge of overseeing executive protection officers, scheduling, routes and movements, Vega said in a prepared statement late Friday.

That assignment lasted until Jan. 19, when he began to use benefit time until his resignation on March 18, he said.


More background information…

Carlinville police were called to the Anchor Inn at 1 a.m. March 18. Snider was the person who called police, said Chief David Haley of the Carlinville Police Department, who later turned the investigation over to state police.

The incident apparently involved students at Blackburn College, where state police have interviewed students, according to Jeff Aper, college provost.

No one was arrested, and neither Haley nor state police would provide details, although Haley said he has been getting calls from reporters throughout the state.

In the Springfield incident, Snider was allowed to go free after allegedly breaking the windshield of a woman’s car on Jan. 27, 2010.

Springfield police would not immediately release a report, but Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher provided details of the incident, which he said began when Snider appeared to be frolicking near the Hilton Hotel.

“He was running and sliding on his belly on the snow in the sidewalk,” Buscher said.

I’ll bet Rich might have more on this one.

(On a similar ISPD investigation note, the department will review the CPD’s handling of its 2004 David Koschman homicide investigation. Koschman reportedly died after he was struck by Richard Vanecko, one of Mayor Daley’s and W.H. Chief of Staff William Daley’s nephews.)


The president of the 47th Ward Democratic Organization was arrested and charged Saturday with misdemeanor battery for allegedly striking a man in a bar on election night in February.

William Helm, 47, of the 4700 block of North Lincoln, was arrested after a meeting at the ward’s Democratic headquarters Saturday morning.

The victim told police that Helm allegedly struck him on the left side of the face with a closed fist about midnight after the Feb. 22 election at the Celtic Crown Public House, 4301 N. Western. Two others also allegedly punched and kicked the victim, police said.

Reached late Saturday, Helm said he was “amazed and shocked’’ by his arrest more than a month after the alleged incident.

* Bill Cellini’s name has been absent from a lot of the Blagojevich trial coverage until now. Once a player always a players, as Bernie points out this week…

BILL CELLINI has not been convicted of anything and strenuously proclaims his innocence, but the fact that he remains indicted and is scheduled to go to trial this summer on federal corruption charges still might indicate — at least from a public perception standpoint — that he shouldn’t be seen as a force in the Sangamon County Republican world.

But there is a direct link between Cellini and money that’s been paid and offered as part of Springfield’s mayoral campaign.

That’s because when Sangamon County GOP Chairman TONY LIBRI helped engineer payments totaling more than $9,900 for campaign expenses of Sangamon County Auditor PAUL PALAZZOLO — who kept his word and dropped out of the mayor’s race when he didn’t get the party’s backing — the money came from the Sangamon County Republican Foundation.

That foundation, according to state records, is chaired by Sangamon County Board Chairman ANDY VAN METER. The treasurer is Cellini. The only other officer listed with the State Board of Elections is ROBIN ELLISON, administrative assistant, who works for the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, where Cellini is still executive director.

JANIS CELLINI, sister of Bill, is executive director of the foundation.

* Meanwhile, the Daily Herald today says Congressman Peter Roskam is experiencing a growth in popularity…

Roskam, who grew up in Glen Ellyn, is poised to go places, perhaps even to one day become the U.S. House Speaker, following in Yorkville Republican Dennis Hastert’s footsteps. […]

“Roskam’s savvy. Right away, you knew he was on the fast track,” said Drew Cannon, a soft-spoken Oregon native who, for the past eight years, has watched Roskam and the other congressmen from his perch manning the third floor press gallery, which provides a bird’s-eye view of the lower chamber.

* Senate Democrats today will host their first public input hearings on this year’s redistricting - an issue Kurt Erickson devoted his weekly column to…

GOP leaders last week sent letters to Gov. Pat Quinn and Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon calling on them to urge state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, to hold more meetings in order to allow citizens to have input into the map-making process.
In particular, Simon was singled out because she was a member of the governor’s Reform Commission, which recommended at least five hearings around the state on the proposed new map, rather than hearings before the new map is completed. Those recommendations weren’t adopted into law. […]

Forby’s district in southern Illinois, for example, needs to pick up 8,000 additional residents. That means the boundaries of the 59th Senate District would have to expand north or west into territory currently represented by Republicans.

“It’s going to be a lot different,” Forby said.

State Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, is in a district that could grow by as many as 14,000 residents, meaning he, too, will have to squeeze territory now held by Republicans.

* And in other political news…

* Alderman Ed Bus responds to Emanuel’s idea to cut City Council in half

* 16th Ward incumbent runs on record, which foe attacks

* 2 wards can vote down party lines

* Cost of tax increases listed on ballots is misleading, says assessor

* Wauconda Village Administrator Quick to step down

* Five vying for 3 seats on Hampshire Village Board

* Council candidates respond to Herald-News challenge

* Forum for Galesburg City Council candidates set for Thursday

* Rural elections largely uncontested

* Journal-Star: Morton District 709 referendum: Vote ‘Yes’

* Word on the Street: Surprise! Election probably won’t be

* News-Gazette: Jerry Schweighart for Champaign mayor

* Ballots, information for area counties

* Houston’s mayoral stint included budget cuts, other battles

* City clerk candidate denies 2001 domestic violence allegation

* Swansea trustee candidates will take your questions

* Choices abound in Belleville elections

* Elmore: Please be informed and cast your vote

* Three vying to be West Frankfort mayor

* Marion mayoral candidate talk school, city stress

* Police, fire pensions trouble Marion mayoral candidates

* Sun-Times: Kirk should back greenhouse gas regulation

* Kadner: Two insurance companies ‘have no duty’ to Crestwood

* Sun: School board members need to honor confidential matters

* Roskam says family first

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   10 Comments      

Question of the Day

Monday, Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Barton Lorimor

One thing I miss about living in Springfield is the local scene. Maybe growing up outside of a small farming village in McLean County lowers the expectations, but the ‘field is one of my favorites to regularly visit. (Rich’s posts about the city’s great musicians and local joints makes me feel a bit better about my expectations.)

Perhaps some of the regular Hilton occupants out there are aware, but for the rest of us…

Come autumn, a restaurant will once again operate on the 30th floor of the Hilton Springfield.

The unnamed upscale steakhouse will occupy the spot formerly occupied by the bar JAZZ CENTRAL STATION, said Michael Fear, the hotel’s general manager. It will have 60 seats, including a private dining room for 12.

The last restaurant in the window-rimmed top floor, CAPISCSE?, closed in early 2008. That space now is occupied by the PINNACLE CLUB, which is available for private parties of up to 250. When the steakhouse opens, the adjacent Pinnacle Club will operate as a lounge, offering patrons pre- and post-dinner cocktails.

Question: What, if anything, is Springfield missing from its social scene?

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   32 Comments      

A few things for today

Monday, Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Barton Lorimor

Rich is traveling home today, so you are stuck with me for one more day.

For those of you who didn’t join us last week, I do not have access to the Capitol Fax email account ( If you need to contact me I can be reached at:


SUBSCRIBERS: If you need to access previous Subscribers Only material, the password has not changed since last week.

- Posted by Barton Lorimor   2 Comments      

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Tribune asked 16 mayoral candidates to release tax returns, 6 complied
* A rough idea of what they're looking at
* Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards
* Rauner was wrong about "record levels" of unionization
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Stava-Murray updates
* Pritzker's inauguration ball tix will benefit Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic and Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation
* Rauner claims he's been too busy to reflect on his term
* Pritzker's day in DC
* *** UPDATED x3 - Morrison wants emergency meeting of ILGOP - McConnaughay explains - Schneider responds *** Rauner says he tried to drop out of race after primary
* Feds re-raid Ald. Burke's office
* Yesterday's stories

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