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Rauner wants to skip pension payments

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* OK, well, that’s pretty much the only way to read Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s latest press release.

First, though, this is what Gov. Pat Quinn actually said yesterday

Illinois’ five pension systems are a combined $96.7 billion short of what’s needed to cover promised retirement benefits to current and former workers. Over the years, the state either shorted or skipped pension payments.

Quinn said that proposal should include a guarantee that Illinois will meet its annual required contribution.

“The state can never ever again not pay what it should pay every year to the pension account. That’s why we’re in this situation,” he told reporters in Chicago.

* Rauner’s press release…

Rauner Statement on Quinn “Pension Guarantee”

Chicago, IL – Yesterday, Governor Pat Quinn announced his support for a guarantee of pension payments to be added to the overall pension reform bills. Bruce Rauner released the following statement:

“After years of continued mismanagement, Governor Quinn continues to reveal his true colors: a lackey to the government union bosses.

“Governor Quinn’s giveaway to government unions will only make our pension crisis worse. Because of years of bad deals and poor decisions in Springfield, we have $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

“It’s clear that career politicians in Springfield don’t have the backbone to stand up to the union bosses they depend on for re-election and are willing to sacrifice Illinois taxpayers for their own political needs.”

Guaranteeing that the state make its required payments to the pension systems by allowing people to sue if the state doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain is a “giveaway to government unions”? Are you freaking kidding me? After decades of the state not paying into the systems, now Rauner thinks that it’s a bad idea to fulfill the state’s responsibilities? And skipping payments will somehow lower the unfunded liability? Is he stupid?

Did he maybe think Quinn was talking about guaranteed payments to retirees? And if he did, what does that say about him?

What is Rauner really up to here?


Question of the day

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My mom has been sending around childhood photos of me. In this one, my Uncle Denny is pulling me in a Kankakee Fire Department wagon, which I think may have been a Soap Box Derby entry….

* The Question: Caption?

Every snarky commenter should [but aren’t actually required to] also click here to donate to Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. I’m 51 today, so how about giving $51? Or $510 if you’re a big bucks type? Thanks!


Today’s memo

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Illinois State Rifle Association has instructed its members to crash yet another legislative forum, this one being held by Rep. Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines)




* The ISRA wants to make sure that Moylan gets “tough questions”

Don’t let him hide behind words like “reasonable,” or “common sense.”

Yes, because reason and common sense are such un-American concepts.


Morning Shorts and a ScribbleLive blog

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We used to do these back when I had an intern. Since I won’t be blogging much today, I thought you’d like a roundup…

* Lt. Gov. Simon keeps options open for 2014

* Quinn wants funding guarantee in pension bill: “The state can never ever again not pay what it should pay every year to the pension account. That’s why we’re in this situation,” he told reporters in Chicago.

* Chamber sees progress on Illinois pension crisis

* Tom Kacich: Pension reform OK’d, but not by downstate officials

* Can Legislature take next step on pensions?

* Editorial: We need ICC to keep a lid on utility bills

* Parents sue in attempt to keep Murray Center from closing

* Fracking: Put on the brakes

* Fairmount faces more issues than the snow

* Quinn pushes extensive road and bridge construction

* State unveils spring road work plans

* Medical marijuana legalization effort ‘one or two’ votes short in Illinois House

* Illinois: House Committee Approves Industrial Hemp Bill

* Redflex Warnings Go Back Years

* Rally for gay marriage: ‘Tired of being a second-class citizen’

* Durbin fired up over coal-fired ferry

* Hinz: What does the GOP really want to be?

* And a ScribbleLive blog. Blackberry users click here


Durbin goes after Quinn again

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sen. Dick Durbin said it again

Durbin repeated what he said in Washington last week: that fellow Democrat Quinn’s political future depends on whether or not the state’s fiscal crisis is resolved.

“I believe this governor, any governor is going to be judged based on performance and the likelihood of Governor Quinn being re-nominated and re-elected depends to a great extent on his success in Springfield,” Durbin said in Chicago Monday.

Check out the response

Later a spokeswoman for Quinn said, “No one has done more to achieve pension reform and shown more leadership than Governor Pat Quinn.”


* Bobby Rush wasn’t happy with Durbin

Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush chided those who would criticize Quinn’s performance.

“The pot can’t call the skillet ‘non-productive’ if it’s non-productive,” Rush said.

Good point.


*** UPDATED x1 - Second threat received, charges upgraded *** Rep. Ives receives threat

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A disorderly conduct charge has been filed against a Chicago man for a phone threat he made against a state legislator

Wheaton Police Chief Mark Field said 49-year-old Stephen Bona was charged Friday, hours after Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives reported getting a threatening voice mail at her district office.

“Your Tea Party brethren Sarah Palin put up a map that included the names, locations and faces of Democratic candidates and put them in the cross hairs of a gun,” a caller says on the voice mail, a recording of which Ives provided to the Daily Herald.

The caller goes on to suggest that “perhaps we should do the same for you. We know where you live.”

What Rep. Ives said the other day was absolutely ridiculous and she refuses to back off

Ives has drawn heat for telling a Catholic Conference of Illinois radio show last month that same-sex marriages are “disordered.” and couples are trying to “weasel their way into acceptability.” […]

Monday, Ives said she didn’t regret her comments, noting “I know I speak for my district when I speak on that issue.”

“I knew exactly what I was saying when I said it,” she said.

But, really, I don’t care what she said then or now. Rep. Ives does not deserve to be physically threatened. Totally and thoroughly disgusting.

Watch your mouths in comments, folks.

*** UPDATE *** From a press release…

Charges Upgraded/Bond Set at $150,000 for Chicago Man Charged With Threatening State Representative

WHEATON - DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin announced today that bond has been set at $150,000 with 10% to apply for a Chicago man charged with making threatening phone calls to Illinois State Representative Jeanne Ives. Yesterday afternoon, Judge Michael Wolfe issued a $150,000 arrest warrant for Stephen S. Bona, 49 (d.o.b. 11/08/1963) of 903 W. Roscoe, Chicago. Bona was taken into custody late yesterday afternoon by the Wheaton Police Department. A short time later he posted bond and was released from custody.

It is alleged that on Friday, March 22, at approximately 9:42 a.m., Bona called the office of Representative Ives and left a threatening message. An investigation into the matter led to Bona who was charged with misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct. On March 25, following a second alleged phone call, the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office upgraded the charges to Threatening a Public Official, a Class 3 Felony.

“My office takes any threat or perceived threat against a public employee or elected official very seriously,” Berlin said. “For our government to function properly, it is imperative that public servants be allowed to serve without having to worry about their personal safety. I would like to thank the Wheaton Police Department for their fine work on this case as well as Assistant State’s Attorney Tim Diamond for his efforts.”

While probationable, a Class 3 Felony is punishable by up to five years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Bona’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 29.

Members of the public are reminded that this complaint contains only charges and is not proof of the defendant’s guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which it is the government’s burden to prove his or her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Paul Darrah
Communications Manager
DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office

[Emphasis added.]



Blogging forecast: Very light - And a request to donate to LSSI

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Blogging will be very light today. It’s my birthday, but a breakneck session schedule the past two weeks has meant that I fell behind on lots of personal and business errands that I just have to deal with. Plus, my daughter is coming for a visit. I see a few stories online that I want to talk about, but unless something big breaks, don’t expect much by way of the blog today.

The only reason I mentioned my birthday is because I’d like to encourage you to donate to Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. We started this last year and I decided I want to help them again this year. No party this time around, though. Just a link. Click here to give, please. Dig as deep as you can and report back in comments. Thanks!

* Meanwhile, the National Journal’s Hotline made me a “Friday Feature” last week

Rich Miller runs the Capitol Fax newsletter, an IL politics newsletter/blog. He was born in Kankakee, IL and spent his early years on a farm in Iroquois Co. His mother was a Defense Dept. employee, which led the family to live in Utah and Germany. He later returned to IL, attended what was then Sangamon State University in Springfield (now the University of IL Springfield), worked construction, did telemarketing, sold knives and fire alarms. By 1990, Miller was working for Hannah Information Services, which gathered and disseminated legislative information for lobbyists in Springfield. He wrote a series for Hannah that year on the GOP’s inability to make a dent in state House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Dem majority. Miller wrote a series of pieces on GOP House Leader Lee Daniels. For Miller, the Daniels showdown convinced him there was a market for that kind of ground-level political reporting. In April 1993, he quit Hannah and started Capitol Fax. He initially charged $250 a year, grabbing customers through direct-mail marketing and sending the daily fax out himself. By October of that year, he had paid back the loan from his parents and bought a house. As the client base rose, he branched out with an Internet version of his newsletter. He moved to Chicago for a while, commuting to Springfield during legislative sessions. He pieced together a group of small newspapers to fund reporting trips to Kosovo (in 1999) and Baghdad (in 2003). Capitol Fax has subscribers throughout state gov’t including the General Assembly, large corporations media organizations and politicians. Today, he’s our Friday Feature!

Where’s your hometown?

    I was born in Kankakee, but we moved around a lot growing up (Department of Defense parents), so I don’t really have a home town.

What were you like in high school?

    A kinda/sorta bridge between the nerds and the jocks and the, um, partiers. I was eclectic and tried to have as many experiences as possible. Good grades, played in a rock band. Theater, wrestling. Party at the lake after lunch, college classes at night. Mime troupe, football. Also, I couldn’t wait to get outta there. I enjoyed high school, but I almost never look back with great fondness. Been to one reunion.

What’s your favorite story that you’ve had for Capitol Fax?

    Rod’s [Blagojevich] arrest. Finally, somebody listened.

What does downtime look like to you?

    Illinois never seems to stop, so I can’t ever completely shut down. I went to Miami a few years ago for a little winter R&R and Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to the US Senate. Totally harshed my South Beach buzz.

How’d Capitol Fax start?

    I was making almost no money doing something similar for somebody else, so I quit and went out on my own.

Favorite IL politician ever?

    George Ryan, who’s from my hometown. We had the weirdest relationship. He wanted to love me because we were from the same small city. George loved everybody from Kankakee who wound up in Springfield. But that meant I was supposed to be on the team. I wasn’t, and he’d always get so angry at me over what I wrote about him. We had a real throw-down in Cuba at the ambassador’s mansion during a trade mission. Whew, that was something. His wife (may she rest in peace) even joined in. He was one of the most effective governors of my lifetime, but then there was that crookedness. His downfall was an all-around tragedy. Such a waste of talent.

Who do you look up to as a journalist?

    Bob Novak. Yeah, he had his share of problems and whatnot. But he stomped on the terra, man, and helped set the DC agenda for years. He also had a private newsletter. He was my inspiration and a personal hero. One of my greatest regrets is that I never tried to meet him.

What’s something about IL that outsiders don’t get?

    We don’t want nobody that nobody sent. Period. End of story. Go away.

Best pizza?

    “Chicago style” pizza sucks. That being said, there are lots of great pie shops all over the state. My personal favorite these days is Gabatoni’s.

Most underreported story currently going on right now?

    Down-ballot maneuvering ahead of the 2014 primary.

What’s your guilty pleasure TV and last good movie you saw?

    White Sox baseball. Actually, there’s no guilt involved whatsoever with that. I don’t watch much TV other than sports and movies. And NO cable TV “news” - the bane of our existence as a democratic republic.

    “Caine Mutiny” - just watched it again on cable a couple of weeks ago.

If you weren’t running Capitol Fax, what would you be doing?

    I’d probably be unemployed and homeless. I discovered a long time ago that I really can’t do anything else. My dream job used to be war correspondent. But I’d likely be dead by now.

In one sentence, your best advice to young, fresh-out-of-college journalists?

    Go to law school, but if you absolutely insist upon a career in journalism, then work sales for a while because nothing trains you to get what you want from sources better than that.

Finish this sentence, today I …

    Today I wasted way too much time trying to think of the last good movie I saw. I blogged a lot and, despite making several calls, I don’t yet have a good story for tomorrow. So it’s 4:51 pm and now I have to go out and find something to write about at tonight’s legislative cocktail receptions or I’m screwed because I spent too much time on this stuff that nobody cares about.

And, yes, next month will mark 20 years of Capitol Fax. There won’t be a big party. I’m saving that for the 25th anniversary. But I may do some more charity fundraising here.


Fun with numbers

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Chicago Tribune editorial board commissioned a poll

Overall, 4 in 10 respondents give the [Chicago public] schools a barely passing grade of C. Another 2 in 10 grade the system a D. More award an F (8 percent) than an A (7.8 percent.)

That’s not a report card any child would want to take home.

* Well, not quite. Here are the parents’ answers

Suppose the schools in your neighborhood were graded A-F. as students are often graded. What grade would you give the school that your oldest child attends?

    A 33.8
    B 39.9
    C 17.7
    D 4.1
    F 3.4
    KNOW 1.0
    REFUSED 0.2

When asked about all schools, yeah, 40 percent give Chicago’s public schools a “C” and etc. But parents give their own kids’ schools pretty darned good marks.

* In other fun with numbers, I’m not gonna take any sides on Gov. Pat Quinn’s suggestion that automatic transfers ought to be looked at and possibly capped at this fiscal year’s level. But keep in mind that this is not a cut. It’s the elimination of an increase. So this reaction to capping the Local Government Distributive Fund at current payouts is absurd

Winnetka stands to lose about $140,000 in revenue, Bahan said, projection that’s on par with the Illinois Municipal League’s numbers. That would amount to a reduction of 1.5 full-time staff, he said, or a 1 percent increase in property taxes.

The Municipal League is predicting income tax revenue growth at 6 percent, while the governor’s budget office is predicting a 3.7 percent growth. Six percent seems like a lot, considering the state of the economy. But whichever side is right, this is not a cut of “X” dollars to Winnetka, it’s simply not giving them an extra “X” amount of dollars.

* And this is from a press release…

State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) will file a resolution next week calling on United States Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk to seek a commitment from the new United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois to aggressively pursue federal prosecution of firearms offenses within the Northern District. According to Brady, greater prosecution of violent gun crime will result in enhanced safety and security for all citizens in northeastern Illinois.

“In 2012 the City of Chicago experienced more than 500 homicides, the vast majority involving the use of firearms,” said Brady. “Recent news coverage has shown that those convicted of firearms offenses in Chicago and Cook County receive minimal and inconsistent punishment. Stringent enforcement of these laws will have a positive effect in our neighborhoods and will increase safety by reducing gun violence.”

Brady pointed to other cities that had moved toward collaborative zero-tolerance enforcement and education efforts, emphasizing the positive effects observed in those communities as proof that it could work in Chicago. “Communities such as Richmond, Virginia have seen significant reductions in gun violence when local and federal law enforcement agencies work cooperatively to prosecute these violent crimes.”

Among all federal judicial districts, Chicago ranks lowest in prosecuting gun-related violence despite a recent surge in violent crimes involving weapons. In 2011 the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago prosecuted, according to some accounts, just 25 gun-related murders.

* I can’t help but wonder if his “according to some accounts” line is from the NRA

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, was on Meet The Press on Sunday in a debate session opposite New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. During an exchange with host David Gregory, LaPierre took to task the Obama administration for what he defined as a poor record enforcing federal gun laws in dealing with gangs in Chicago:

    WAYNE LAPIERRE: I mean, let me give you the real sad thing though. Let me hold up a mirror right now to the whole national news media and the White House. I just got the TRAC data from Syracuse University of enforcement of federal gun laws. Last time I was here, I brought it from 2011; it just came out from 2012.

    Do you know where Chicago ranks in terms of enforcement of the federal gun laws? Out of 90 jurisdictions in the country, they ranked 90th. Why doesn’t NBC News start with, “Shocking news on Chicago. Of all the jurisdictions in the country, Chicago’s dead last on enforcement of the federal gun laws?” Why doesn’t the national press corps, when they’re sitting down there with Jay Carney and the president and the vice president, why don’t they say, “Why is Chicago dead last in enforcement of the gun laws against gangs with guns, felons with guns, drug dealers with guns?


Question of the day

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Should Illinois county sheriffs and police chiefs have the right to deny individual concealed carry permits, or should this be a “shall issue” state? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

surveys & polls


Our sorry state

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Last year around this time, I celebrated my 50th birthday by throwing a fundraiser for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. We raised about $60K for the group, but I wish I could’ve raised $60 million

Chicago social worker Frank Harris and his staff have felt the pain of turning away even more people seeking treatment for their drug addictions as Lutheran Social Services of Illinois has taken steps to deal with funding cuts and chronic payment delays from state government.

“Who wants to be known as the state that can’t help those who need help the most?” he asked.

As the Kenmore Center treatment facility Harris supervises was forced to lay off 20 percent of its staff over the past few years, Lutheran Social Services reduced the number of substance abusers it was able to treat in the Chicago area by almost 1,200 a year.

The 5,630 people served in fiscal 2008 dropped to 4,464 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012.

It’s likely that many people turned away by Kenmore haven’t been able to find timely treatment elsewhere.


…Adding… To donate to LSSI, click here.

* In other news, the Wall Street Journal ran a story recently about how vendors facing mountains of past-due bills can get most of their money up front via a new company. The article is behind a subscriber firewall, but Illinois Review sums up some points

Vendor Assistance is funded by a small investor group and has secured a revolving credit facility totaling $320 million, with Citigroup Inc. as the lead lender, WSJ reports. The company currently has 12 employees. […]

Vendor Assistance pays vendors 100% of what the state owes them—90% initially, and then the vendor is paid the remainder in two installments. Vendor Assistance makes its money from the late fees, which in Illinois are 1% a month on the balance owed after a 90-day grace period. Last year, Illinois paid a total of more than $85 million in late fees.

As IR notes, the worse off the state becomes, the more this politically connected company is paid. But at least something is being done.


That’s nice, but probably meaningless

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy penned an op-ed for the Belleville News-Democrat

I was raised in Belleville and still happily reside in Illinois. Over the last few decades, I’ve had the good fortune as a member of the band Wilco to play music in every state in the union and in countless other countries. In my travels, I’ve witnessed firsthand that gay and lesbian couples want to marry for the same reasons all of us do — to share a lifetime of commitment. I feel very strongly that everyone should be able to marry the person he or she loves and enjoy the dignity and respect that comes with that commitment.

By excluding same-sex couples from marriage, our state saddles them, their children and itself with second-class status. That is wrong, and it hurts Illinois families and businesses.

Nine other states have already extended the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. I work and have friends in all those states, and I can say assuredly that it’s time for Illinois to join them. Waiting and sending the signal that we’re not open to and supportive of that community is a big mistake. The time is now.

I hope you’ll join me in calling on the Illinois General Assembly to give same-sex couples the freedom to marry by supporting SB 10.

Jeff Tweedy


* From Rolling Stone

Tweedy grew up in Belleville, an exurb of St. Louis in southwestern Illinois, where his first band Uncle Tupelo was based. The singer has spoken in favor of same-sex marraige before, teaming with Bob Mould and Minor Threat/Fugazi leader Ian MacKaye last year to oppose a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage in North Carolina. The ban eventually passed.

SB10 was successfully passed through the Illinois State Senate last month, though the State House of Representatives hasn’t held its final vote on the measure. The Chicago Tribune notes the legislation recently gained approval in a House committee, but Speaker Michael Madigan estimates that the bill is around a dozen votes short of the necessary 60 to pass. If SB 10 successfully passes through the House, governor Pat Quinn has said he will sign the bill.

I asked the Speaker about this and Madigan’s count of 12 short includes only Democrats whom he believes are solidly in support. So, that 12 number isn’t completely accurate.

And as much as I love Wilco, I really doubt Tweedy’s support is gonna make much of a difference. Pretty much everybody with a significant hipster population is already on board, except some conservative Republicans with university towns, but they’re not switching anyway.

* Meanwhile, from American Family News

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) annual “Day of Silence” aims to “create safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” Public schools students who participate in the national event remain silent throughout the school day “to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.”

But the Illinois Family Institute cites a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union on the topic that reads, “You DO have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at a public school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak.” […]

“The means by which [GLSEN seeks] to end bullying is to eradicate conservative moral beliefs about homosexuality or to make it socially impossible to express them,” [Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute] contends. “That’s what people need to understand. This isn’t centrally about bullying.”

I’m not sure what she’s talking about. From the other two ACLU points

Your school is NOT required to “sponsor” Day of Silence. But Day of Silence is rarely a school-sponsored activity to begin with — it’s almost always an activity led by students. So don’t be confused - just because your school isn’t officially sponsoring or participating in Day of Silence doesn’t mean that you can’t participate.

Students who oppose Day of Silence DO have the right to express their views, too. Like you, they must do so in a civil, peaceful way and they only have a right to do so during noninstructional time. For example, they don’t have a right to skip school on Day of Silence without any consequences, just as you don’t have a right to skip school just because you don’t like what they think or say.

* Anyway, the IFI wants a walkout

“The reason we’re asking this is every student absence costs schools money; for every student that’s absence, schools lose money,” the conservative [Higgins] explains. “And since administrations will not listen to reason on this topic, we have to hit them in the pocketbook.”

But, if the ACLU is correct, the Day of Silence thing is almost always a student-sponsored event. Why hurt the schools?


Weirdest withdrawal ever

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a press release…

Cites Personal Conflict with Presidential Candidate as Reason

RIVER FOREST, ILL, March 20, 2013—River Forest Village Board trustee candidate Kevin Hanley announced tonight he is withdrawing his name for consideration for the April 9 village election citing a personal conflict with presidential candidate Cathy Adduci. Before a packed house at Tom and Marty Dwyer’s residence, Hanley outlined the reason for his withdraw.

“Last week Cathy Adduci told a lie and it almost cost me a close, personal friendship in the village,” says Hanley. “It truly upset my wife and the possibility of working with Adduci and taking time away from my family and knowing I could never trust her is not right thing for the residents.

“This has shaken me to the core and I have been wrestling with this decision since I learned of her actions. I cannot associate myself with her when I don’t know when she would be telling the truth or when she wouldn’t be.

“I absolutely support Mike Gibbs, Lissa Druss Chirstman and Tom Dwyer, Jr. They are the right candidates for the future of our village.”

* Follow up in the Forest Leaves

He declined to elaborate on what the alleged lie was about, saying “it involved other relationships” that he would not bring into the controversy.

“It’s personal. I’m sorry for being vague. I don’t want to get into the details.”

Adduci said she was “shocked” by Hanley’s withdrawal and his comments, which she called “almost defamatory.”

“I’m mystified, and I am disturbed,” she said Thursday morning. “I don’t know what the lie is, I don’t know what the issues are. I have no idea of what Kevin’s talking about.”

Adduci called Wednesday night’s development “bizarre.”

“I’ve been on the (village) board six years. Even in the most tumultuous times, I’ve never seen this.”

* And another article in the Wednesday Journal

Hanley is running on the Pride in River Forest slate, which includes presidential candidate Mike Gibbs and trustees Lissa Druss Christman and Tom Dwyer Jr. He told Gibbs Tuesday and decided Wednesday to resign.

“I don’t want to be elected then need to resign because of a lack of trust. It’s just not fair to River Forest residents,” he said. “My skin is not thick enough. I feel like I’m letting my team down. I believe (the slate candidates) would be the best choices.”

Hanley said he tried to remove his name from the ballot but the date for that has passed. This means he has the potential to still be elected. If elected, Hanley said he’ll resign, regardless of which candidate wins.

I’m trying to do what’s right for residents,” he said, saying he hopes voters will vote for those who still want to run. “I’m hoping I’m not (elected),” he said.

* Anything to report from your local races?


Stop the games, please

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Problem: Too many Cook County prosecutors aren’t pressing for enough jail time for dangerous gun-toting criminals, and too many judges are letting these offenders off too easily.

* The Result: Too many dangerous criminals are back out onto the street committing more crimes.

* The Proposed Solution: Increase penalties for Unlawful Use of a Weapon.

* A Downside: The costs are huge

the Department of Corrections estimates that the impact of the law in the next decade translates to $965 million extra [spending].

The price tag includes $260 million in construction to make room for 3,860 more prisoners. The numbers come from the agency that currently houses 49,000 inmates in space designed for 33,000 but which is nonetheless closing five facilities, including two major prisons, because of a budget crisis.

* Another Downside: The proposal is drafted in a way that focuses too much on non-dangerous types

Gun-rights supporters such as Sacia are perplexed by what they see as Chicago’s insistence on lumping law-flaunting gang members in with those who follow the rules.

Zalewski amended his legislation to make exceptions for a person who usually has a valid Firearm Owners Identification card, but whose card had expired by fewer than 90 days when he was found with a gun. Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said those provisions don’t go far enough to protect law-abiding go owners. And he said once concealed-carry becomes law, permit violations of the sort would be regulatory offenses, not crimes. Nonetheless, he said, a permit infraction, for example, could still lead to a serious charge such as aggravated unlawful use of weapon.

“If they step outside the line just a little bit,” Vandermyde said, “they’re going to be slapped with an aggravated UUW and face mandatory three years in jail.”

* My two cents: First and foremost, the state’s attorney needs to do her job and focus like a laser on demanding more prison time for violent offenders.

Second, stop messing around and focus this bill on those who are the biggest danger, not paperwork violators.

Third, the NRA needs to participate more in this process. Chicago has an awful problem right now, and a little honest help with keeping bad guys off the street would be appreciated.

The games on both sides need to end.


This is how it’s done

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Daily Herald tried to bait Congressman Peter Roskam into commenting on the State Republican Party melee. “What message does the handling of this situation send to the rest of the nation regarding the Illinois GOP?” he was asked. Roskam wouldn’t bite

“Illinois has a higher than average unemployment rate. It’s got a majority in the General Assembly that has squandered the confidence of the public. It is on the verge of a debt crisis and has completely underperformed based on bad leadership in Springfield. That’s what we should be talking about morning, noon and night every single day because that has the big impact on the daily lives of most Illinoisans. So I think to the extent that all these other things become distractions, the fact is Mike Madigan, John Cullerton and Pat Quinn have driven the state into the ground, from a financial point of view and Republicans are poised to have good alternatives and I think that’s front and center where most people want to be focused.”

More Republicans ought to follow Roskam’s lead. These endless fights over an essentially powerless and meaningless party chairmanship, particularly when a hot-button issue like gay marriage is tossed into the mix, are nothing but counterproductive.

Too many Republicans believe that their real enemies are within their own party. Keep it up and y’all will be fighting over absolutely nothing.


23 chairmen are on the payroll

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* When I told my subscribers about how 52 county Democratic Party chairmen had signed a letter in strong support of Gov. Pat Quinn, I knew there were several state workers on that list. Bernie did the full count, though, and came up with this astounding figure

Of the 52 Democratic county chairmen listed as issuing that letter, at least 22 have state jobs, and another is on a state board. Combined annual salary for the 18 who work for agencies under the governor tops $1.1 million, comptroller’s records show.

* At least two of those chairmen didn’t want to be included

“I would not endorse him,” said [Mason County Chairman Jay Briney] of Quinn, adding that he doesn’t get involved in endorsements much anyway, and he thinks it’s too early to talk about the 2014 race. A Havana resident, he said one example of unhappiness with Quinn in his area is the governor’s moves for gun control. […]

And Karen Boensel of Oakford, who leads Menard County Democrats, said someone with the governor’s staff discussed the letter in advance with her, but she did not give permission to use her name and was surprised when it appeared. She said any endorsements are up to her precinct committeemen.

* And Sangamon Chairwoman Doris Turner wasn’t the only one quoted in Bernie’s piece as saying this

“There was a conversation that started there among a number of county chairmen with some staff from the governor’s office,”

Here’s hoping that no state resources were used in that letter or there will be heck to pay.

* Either way, the fact that staff was involved means that Gov. Quinn’s fingerprints are all over this thing

Fellow Democrats,

We write today to express our full support for Pat Quinn in his bid for another term as our Governor. A costly, bitter 2014 primary fight between fellow Democrats is exactly what Illinois Republicans want: a chance to divide and weaken our party and recapture the executive branch of state government.

Pat Quinn took the reins of state government in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression - and in the aftermath of a massive, embarrassing scandal. As Governor, he has restored honor and integrity to Illinois. To clean up the mess he inherited, he’s had to make unpopular decisions, including some that have angered our allies. But in hard times more than ever, we need a truth-telling leader, unafraid of ruffling feathers and making tough decisions.

As we press forward through unprecedented challenges, it’s tempting and often convenient to criticize those leading the charge for painful but necessary reforms. Over and over, we’ve witnessed the same Republicans who led us into the national recession fight tooth and nail against Senator Durbin and President Obama’s efforts to pull us out of it.

Let’s be clear: Every dollar spent in a primary battle is a dollar not spent in our inevitable war against the Republican money machine in 2014. The last thing we need is a right wing, anti-worker Republican driving us back into recession.

Governor Quinn has earned our support for putting people to work with the largest ($31 billion) capital construction program in Illinois history. His effort is laying the foundation for a stronger, better educated and more prosperous state.

Thanks to Governor Quinn’s total commitment to public works, Illinois is rebuilding roads, bridges, schools and water systems statewide. These projects are creating thousands of jobs and restoring confidence in many discouraged communities.

But even as we repair our infrastructure, we know there is no easy fix to the economic problems facing our state. We understand that real recovery and reform takes time and courage. Here in Illinois, we’re lucky to have a Governor with an unmatched record of fighting for the public interest and the common good.

Please join us in standing united behind Governor Quinn.

In Solidarity…

Keep in mind that 52 signatures out of 102 counties is a failing grade for a sitting governor, especially considering that almost half of those supportive chairmen are on the payroll, and some of the others have relatives working for the state. That’s the best he can do?

And I’m so sure that this letter will discourage any primary opponents. Yep, it’ll frighten them right down to their snow boots. Undoubtedly so.



Disastrous fiddling while Rome burns

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

A recent meeting between Metro East legislators and Gov. Pat Quinn’s staff turned heated at times, and as a result nothing was accomplished in the standoff over Quinn’s appointments to the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

The governor’s three appointments to SIU’s board were unanimously rejected by the Senate in late February — the first time anybody I’ve talked to can ever remember that happening. But the governor has doubled down instead of compromising.

Quinn replaced three members with close ties to the university’s Edwardsville campus, which is near St. Louis. For years, governors have followed a “gentleman’s agreement” regarding the university board, giving the Edwardsville campus three of its seven members. The governor appoints all seven with the Senate’s approval.

That agreement has coincided with explosive growth at the formerly backwater campus, so locals are loathe to go back to the old days of being treated as the redheaded stepchild of SIU’s Carbondale campus. Just one of Quinn’s appointments had connections to Metro East, a complete unknown who applied for the trustee post on the Internet.

The Metro East legislators want Quinn to back off his choices, and they want to make sure that Roger Herrin is not reinstated as board chairman.

Quinn engineered Herrin’s election as chairman a couple years back, but he was later ousted in a coup orchestrated by SIU President Glenn Poshard and replaced with famed Metro East trial lawyer John Simmons. Simmons was, in turn, ousted by Quinn last month.

The area’s legislators want to make Edwardsville School Supt. Ed Hightower the new SIU board chairman. Hightower, who is black, was also removed from the board by Quinn, a move that has been sharply attacked by the local NAACP and area black ministers.

But the governor is flatly refusing to back down, which led to some heated moments in that recent meeting, with at least two Democratic legislators raising their voices and denouncing the governor’s tactics.

And Quinn told reporters last week that he appointed “three good people, excellent people” and believes the Senate “needs to take another look at these excellent appointees.”

“I don’t think they treated the taxpayers of Illinois and the people who believe in education very well,” Quinn said of the Senate’s action. “The governor appoints people, and I appointed three people who I thought were good, so I’ll keep working on that.”

The Illinois Constitution prohibits Quinn from reappointing the three rejected trustees. A resolution from the Senate “requesting” that Quinn renominate them would be required before they could be appointed to the university board. That appears unlikely at best.

The SIU controversy has spawned payback legislation and spread to other universities as well.

Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) has introduced legislation requiring that at least three members of the SIU board be from the Metro East, with another three from the Carbondale area and the seventh from Sangamon County. SIU has a medical school in Springfield. The bill appears to be picking up steam.

University of Illinois boosters have grumbled for the past few years that Quinn has gone way outside the university’s environs for his trustee picks.

So Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Urbana) moved a bill out of committee last week that would allow the U of I Alumni Association to pick five of the university’s nine trustees. State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) is supporting the bill, as is the powerful alumni association.

And senators are awaiting word on what Quinn plans to do about the growing controversy at Chicago State University. Some Quinn-appointed trustees have pushed to oust CSU President Wayne Watson, and some of those are up for reappointment. They are surely facing a tough confirmation fight as well.

Watson has irked many at the university with an aggressive management style that, while showing some significant results for the school, has ruffled some powerful local feathers. But he has backing in the Senate, so another fight is almost guaranteed unless Quinn heeds the warning signs.

Yes, the governor “appoints people,” as Quinn says. But he does so in these cases only with the advice and consent of the Senate.

You’d think in an era where Quinn needs as much help as possible solving the pension funding crisis and the state’s busted budget, he would try to avoid openly antagonizing legislators and wasting valuable energy and time over stupid stuff like university board appointments.

Instead, he’s angering and alienating the very people he needs to help resolve Illinois’ serious financial crisis.

* Poshard was in town last week

SIU President Glenn Poshard told state lawmakers Thursday he supports legislation designed to block Gov. Pat Quinn from stacking the university’s board of trustees.

In the Capitol for the first time since Quinn tried to remake the board in late February, Poshard said a proposal requiring an equal number of trustees to have ties to the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses would relieve some of the problems facing the institution.

“It is our hope the situation will be corrected in a way that’s equitable to both universities,” Poshard told members of a House budget committee. […]

Despite testifying in a committee hearing room across the Rotunda from the governor’s office in the Capitol, Poshard said he has had no contact with the chief executive or his top aides since the latest controversy began.

“I’d love to have a meeting,” Poshard said. “We’re still in limbo.”



To break or not to break

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I was actually surprised to see some Republicans quoted as saying that the spring break is no big deal. Usually, whenever the GA goes on break we see a hue and cry from the minority party about how the majority is shirking its duty

When Illinois lawmakers walked out of the Capitol Friday for their last full weeks away before the end of their annual session, they left behind a building momentum on the effort to try to fix the state’s biggest financial problems.

But after months of furious debate, a cooling-off period might not hurt.

“We’ve been through a lot of work this month,” said state Rep. Darlene Senger, a Naperville Republican. “In order to recharge the batteries, I’m glad to have that break.” […]

“It won’t hurt momentum. The pressure the pension problem poses isn’t going away, it’s building,” said state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican. “Maybe (the break) will let people back out of their entrenched positions and see another way.

A couple of freshman Democratic Senators (Melinda Bush and Tom Cullerton) were quoted in the story saying they’d have much rather stayed in Springfield. And then there was this press release from a Senate GOP freshman

“It’s irresponsible for the Senate to take a vacation while the pension debt compounds by millions of dollars every day,” said Senator Barickman. “If President Cullerton and other leaders in Illinois government were serious about actually fixing the problem, we would be in Springfield, working together to find a comprehensive solution.”

Senator Barickman says a pension bill passed by the Senate Wednesday, which specifically targets new and existing teachers, does not adequately address the financial distress faced by the state’s five pension systems.

“The bill President Cullerton passed this week was nothing more than a piecemeal approach to the problem,” said Senator Barickman. “We need comprehensive reform that is fair and constitutional.”

Freshman Sens. Bush and Cullerton both voted for one of the two pension bills last week. Sen. Barickman voted “No” on both measures, including the “comprehensive” Biss/Nekritz/Cross plan. Barickman lives in Champaign Bloomington, which has tons of university workers. That may explain more than he might be letting on here.

The first half of this session was mainly a tuneup. A trial run, if you will. Both chambers tested out some ideas, some passed, some didn’t. The real deadline is May 31st. If they don’t come to an agreement by then, they should be thoroughly excoriated. But I, for one, think they should be given a bit of time to reflect on what they’ve done and think about what they’re going to do in the coming weeks.


* Related…

* Illinois hits a sorry milestone: Sometime this month, Illinois probably exceeded $100 billion in pension debt, a sorry milestone in the state’s long slog to fiscal hell.

* Can Assembly agree on pensions?: The Illinois Constitution says that public sector pension benefits cannot be diminished or impaired, and Tryon pointed out that judges in Arizona and Colorado have recently tossed out their states’ attempts to lower COLAs for existing employees. “The major component piece, the COLAs, has already lost in two other states within the last six months,” Tryon said. “I’m really worried that this would pass, we take a budget credit, spend that money, and then lose in court.”

* Can Legislature take next step on pensions?

* Editorial: The House creates some hope

* Editorial: Demand leaders lead

* Editorial: Wanted: Legislators who can read Constitution … and do the math


Snowmageddon open thread

Monday, Mar 25, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* With spring break upon us, I’d been planning to take a couple days off from the blog. But then I realized that a lot of you might be homebound today because of the big snow storm

* 17 inches in Springfield, reported at 6 a.m. Monday at Capital Airport
* 14.5 inches in Jerome at 3:15 a.m.
* 12.5 inches in Chatham at 10:30 p.m.
* 13 inches in Berlin at 9:45 p.m.
* 13.7 inches in Taylorville at 9 p.m.
* 15.5 inches in Riverton at 1:15 a.m.
* 12.5 inches in Sherman at 8:15 p.m.

* Even though no state facility closures have yet been reported, I figure some of you are probably still at home. The rest may have stories to tell. So, I’m gonna do a few posts today to give those who are stuck inside something to do.

* By the way, here’s my front yard…

I’m a bit worried about those low-hanging wires. I believe that one of them is for my telephone, which I disconnected months ago when I went totally mobile. Not sure what the other one is.

* Part of the back yard…

* What does it look like by you?


* More confusion on Bring Chicago Home
* It’s just a bill
* Should AG Raoul try to yank this guy's pension?
* ‘Nothing can be passed without our members’
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
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