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Richards to take over as Cullerton’s new chief

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Press release…

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton announced Tuesday that Kristin Richards will be his new chief of staff.

Richards, who had served as Cullerton’s Budget and Policy Director since he became Senate President in 2009, will assume the new duties beginning Feb. 1.

“There is no one in this operation whose insights I trust more than Kristin’s. She’s been invaluable to my office and to the Senate Democratic Caucus from day 1. She’ll provide the leadership we need going forward,” said Cullerton.

Richards, a Belleville native and graduate of Millikin University in Decatur, replaces Dave Gross, who announced his pending departure earlier this month.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead a dedicated group of professionals who work every day to address problems and improve the lives of the people of the great state of Illinois,” Richards said.

I can’t say enough good things about her. She’ll do well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


It’s all about trust, or lack thereof

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Doubek

A profound absence of trust is what led to dueling press statements and disagreement about possible pension legislation last week and what has underscored the many months of state budget impasse that continues to endanger Illinoisans.

That’s true. The governor got way out over his skis and described an agreement he never made with Senate President Cullerton, and because there was such a lack of trust, Cullerton thought Rauner had reneged on the deal.

* Pantagraph

It’s clear that Rauner bungled the announcement and spent a lot of time back-pedaling. There is little trust between the state’s leaders and missteps like this make the situation worse.

That’s exactly right.

* The Tribune editorial badly bungled the setup

But then the meltdown began. Rauner misspoke at the news conference announcing the deal — or shall we say, he said too much. Too many verbal grenades that angered organized labor. Too much anti-union rhetoric that gave Madigan reason to slam the governor as anti-middle class. Like clockwork, Cullerton immediately backed away. He got spooked. Madigan had pulled the leash. End of short-lived pension deal.

Total malarkey. Rauner described a deal that didn’t exist. He then tossed in the verbal grenades, which only made it worse.

But the Trib did get this part mostly right

The pension deal could be a bipartisan, trust-building exercise that leads to more agreement on the state budget and more resources for human services.

That’s true, no matter if the actual proposal is constitutional or not. So, save your comments on that topic. It’s not really that important. The courts will decide one way or another.

* The goal here is to get everybody pulling in the same direction. That hasn’t happened in a very long time. Rauner just about blew it, but he recovered.

We’ll see if the governor can continue this momentum during his State of the State Address tomorrow. Stay tuned.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* I saw this on the twitters and just couldn’t resist. Caption?…


- Posted by Rich Miller   123 Comments      


Because… Don Fanucci!

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* I watched part of the new Godfather epic (arranged in chronological order with previously unseen scenes) on the teevee the other day with a friend of mine who now works for Gov. Rauner. And since Abe Vigoda passed away today, I thought I’d share this story.

Remember that scene when the young Vito Corleone is stalking the mobster Don Fanucci during the big carnival just before he kills the old man? Here’s a photo of Fanucci to refresh your memory…

I had a sudden revelation.

“Hey, I get it now. Don Fanucci is Madigan to you guys!”

He flatly denied it, but if you listen to the governor talk about Madigan’s alleged corruption, and you read the Dan Proft/Brendan Reilly exchange, and then listen to him throw me under the bus by falsely claiming I once worked for MJM, and any random Chicago Tribune editorial, and we may be onto something here.

* From Wikipedia

Fanucci is a Black Hand extortionist in Little Italy. Fanucci demands protection money from neighborhood businesses. Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) witnesses Fanucci threatening to disfigure a young girl when her father refuses to pay him, and almost intervenes but is stopped by his friend, Genco Abbandando, who tells him who Fanucci really is. Vito also loses his job when Fanucci demands that Genco’s father provide employment for his nephew, Sandiago.

In the novel and in the chronological film version re-edited for TV (The Godfather Saga), Vito witnesses an attack on Fanucci by two youths of the neighborhood who are tired of Fanucci’s oppression over the neighborhood. Although Fanucci screams for help, nobody comes to his rescue and the attack ends only when the youths have robbed him, cut his throat, and run away. Vito knows from his own experiences that a real Don would probably be escorted by bodyguards, and that anybody who dared attack him would be dealt with severely and publicly. Vito begins to suspect that Fanucci’s power comes from the threat of force rather than force itself.

They’re the good guys, with a dark side.

OK, we already know they think of themselves this way. And we know that they despise Madigan. But check out the Tribune today

Madigan’s chronic refusal to compromise — his devotion to politics rather than governance — has led to tragic service cuts for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois announced it would cut 750 positions and slash programs because the state owes it $6 million.

If they could just get rid of this guy like Corleone did to Fanucci, then all would be right in the world.

Except life isn’t a movie.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      


There ought to be a (revised) law

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Ugh

Civil forfeiture is basically a money grab by government.

Under these laws, cops can seize property that they say is being used to commit a crime or was purchased with money they say came from doing something illegal.

The problem: The person doesn’t even have to be convicted of a crime in order for the government to confiscate the property.

Instead of seizing the yachts of drug kingpins, too often cops are nabbing the cars from little old ladies.

Don’t think so? Ask Judy Wiese of Moline.

She is a 70-year-old woman who cleaned houses and lived on $730 a month.

As first reported by the The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, she lent her 2009 Jeep Compass to a grandson so he could drive to work.

The car was seized by police because the grandson’s driver’s license was revoked.

She told the newspaper that her grandson had told her otherwise.

Regardless, Judy hadn’t broken any laws. She was just a grandma helping out a grandson.

That was back in August. And this month she was still fighting to get the car back.

It seems that even though she did not commit a crime, she had to go to court and prove that her car was not connected to a crime nor was it the proceeds of crime.

She couldn’t afford a lawyer, struggled to write legal motions and was scolded by a judge for not having something notarized.

When her case ended up in the newspaper, a lawyer volunteered his services and her car was returned after being held for months.

You gotta be kidding me.

* But it’s all too real…

* Forfeiture law means woman paying for grandson’s crime

* Woman’s Jeep seized for grandson’s crime to be returned

* Editorial: Join chorus, demand due process in forfeiture laws

* Editorial: Let Wiese case spark reexamination of Illinois’ forfeiture laws: Equally importantly, we urge all who were moved by Ms. Wiese’s case to be energized and involved in demanding a reexamination of unfair forfeiture laws that allow governments to take the property of Illinois citizens without ever convicting them of a crime.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


Today’s quotable

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Mark Brown

On Monday, Cullerton clarified to reporters that he and Gov. Bruce Rauner really do have a verbal agreement on a pension reform proposal along the lines Cullerton has long advocated. He also said he is willing to negotiate changes to the state’s collective bargaining laws for public employees, just nothing as drastic as what Rauner has sought.

Some insist Cullerton is just there to do House Speaker Mike Madigan’s bidding, and it’s true that he can’t get too far out in front of his fellow Democrat without running the risk of getting the rug pulled out from under him.

But Cullerton thinks for himself, even if he doesn’t quite have Madigan’s power to impose his ideas.

I appreciate his efforts.

He does, indeed, get a bad rap from those who don’t pay much attention to the Statehouse or who already have their minds made up because… Madigan! But, agree with him or not, Cullerton usually acts like the only adult in the room.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Rauner “should have the sense of duty to govern”

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* From John Bouman, President of the Shriver Center and head of the Responsible Budget Coalition, with emphasis added

Like most hostage-takers, Governor Rauner knew that if his demands were not met, at some point the hostages would have to begin to die, literally or figuratively. And, sure enough, the dying is underway.

For months now, thousands of service-providers have been making layoffs and reducing services because of the state not paying them for services rendered. Last week the situation went to another level. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) announced late last week that, due solely to the state’s failure to pay over $6 million for services LSSI has rendered since last July, it is laying off 750 workers—43% of its workforce—and shutting down vital services for almost 5,000 people. The termination of these services—including residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health counseling, and help for homebound senior citizens—is not a consequence of a budget cut or a policy change; it is simply caused by the state’s failure to pay for services already rendered—one side keeping a contract, the other welching.

LSSI, by all accounts, is an exemplary, responsible, low-overhead, values-driven provider of essential services to people deeply in need. LSSI partners with the state to implement state policies. But LSSI’s “partner” turned it into a hostage and let LSSI and the people it serves be casualties of the hostage stand-off. […]

In our form of government, the executive branch, led by the Governor, has the duty to “execute” state laws and policies—to govern. The Governor has decided instead that those laws and policies and the people they are meant to serve should be hostages.

Governor Rauner has every right to pursue a policy agenda, which he can do without abdicating his constitutional duty to govern. He can push his agenda through the legislative process. If he is forced to compromise because of political realities, then he can work to win more elections for people who agree with him. Through it all, however, he should have the sense of duty to govern. It is time to end the hostage stand-off and return to responsible governance.

The Responsible Budget Coalition has been pretty diplomatic before now. And Bouman is not known for being a hothead - just the opposite. Apparently, the gloves are now off.

As Wordslinger has mentioned in comments a lot lately, what if Gov. Pat Quinn had refused to sign a budget until the minimum wage (his main campaign promise) was increased or a millionaire’s surtax was passed? The howls from the Tribune and others would’ve certainly been deafening, even if he’d stood firm and refused to sign a budget until issues the newspaper (and now Rauner) supports, like term limits and redistricting reform.

I have said for years that we need to be more pro-business in this state, but we don’t have to do this by thrashing labor unions. He needs to find another way.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Today’s “State of the State” infographic

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Not as bad as you might think

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* WalletHub

In light of back-to-school season, WalletHub compared the quality of education in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia by analyzing 13 key metrics that range from student-teacher ratios to standardized-test scores to dropout rates. By shining the spotlight on top-performing school systems, we aim to encourage parents to help their children realize their maximum potential and to call the attention of lawmakers on the work that remains to be done to improve America’s schools.

Illinois’ overall ranking was 10 out of 51, with a “School-System Quality” ranking of 8th in the nation.

This despite the fact that Illinois is at or near the bottom of every state funding ranking I’ve ever seen, and despite the inherent inequities in the system, as Senate President John Cullerton talked about yesterday.

* And speaking of those inequities

Cullerton said he would find a sponsor to introduce school funding legislation this year, and noted that while changing the funding formula would mean some districts — affluent ones — would lose out on some state funding, districts from Springfield to Cairo would stand to gain extra cash. Illinois ranks last among the 50 states in “funding equity” for public schools, leaving districts in poor areas with less money for special education and other programs that impoverished students are more likely to need, Cullerton said.

Cullerton, a Lincoln Park Democrat, noted that the current funding formula sends relatively less money to Chicago schools for student funding and pension funds, echoing recent statements by CPS chief Forrest Claypool.

Still, similar school funding legislation has failed to gain traction in the past two years when faced with opposition from suburban districts that faced the loss of millions in state funding. Monday afternoon, the top Republican in Cullerton’s chamber, Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), issued a statement that slammed the suggestion of changing the funding formula as a “special deal” to benefit Chicago.

“Senate President Cullerton’s remarks today will strike fear in the hearts of families and schools across the state. He’s threatening the opening of schools next fall,” Radogno said.

“The Democrat majority controlled state government for more than ten years and ignored school funding reform – other than to create special deals for Chicago Public Schools. The most recent proposal again advantaged Chicago — at the expense of suburban school districts.

“We are willing to tackle school funding reform – but it’s not the only place in Illinois ripe for reform.”

* They will obviously have to come up with a way to hold suburban schools harmless, but that’s going to require more money, and more money likely means a tax hike…

“If the majority party in the General Assembly thought that just raising taxes to fund those services, they could do it. They haven’t moved a finger to go do that,” Rauner said. “They are very comfortable not having a budget and letting those services go away. To me, that’s an outrage.”

Cullerton said Democrats won’t try to raise taxes on their own.

“There are not enough Democrats willing to do that,” Cullerton said. “We’re not going to have any tax increase unless Bruce Rauner agrees to it. And if he agrees to it, the amount of the increase is going to be up to him. So that requires compromise.”

For his part, Rauner has said he would be open to raising taxes, but only if his changes are adopted first.

So, the gauntlet has been thrown. Cullerton will demand that Rauner wear the jacket for any tax hike by personally choosing the increased taxation levels.

Could be a while.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Do red light cameras work?

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Interesting

The saving grace for getting a $100 ticket from a red-light camera is the belief that the expensive fine could reduce crashes and even save lives.

But that’s not always what happens, a Daily Herald analysis of 55 intersections across 29 suburbs shows. Instead of declining, crashes — and especially more serious collisions — increased or stayed the same at some intersections after cameras were installed.

For example, crashes involving injuries went up or stayed the same at nearly half the intersections where that data was reported.

And crashes considered hazardous by transportation experts remained constant or increased at one-quarter of intersections where that data was reported.

* And then there’s this little twist

Red-light cameras began proliferating at suburban intersections in 2009 with the justification that they would prevent crashes.

The same year, the Illinois Department of Transportation raised the dollar threshold necessary to report property damage crashes from $500 to $1,500.

In one fell swoop, reported crashes shrank statewide by 30 percent — from an average of 413,235 a year to an average of 287,718, IDOT officials said. […]

At first glance, the data shows crashes decreased at 85.5 percent of suburban intersections after red-light cameras were installed.

But a closer look at cameras installed after 2009 at 14 suburban intersections shows their success rate is much lower. In the majority of cases, crashes dropped before the cameras were put up, coinciding with the 2009 IDOT change, and then rose after the cameras were installed.

You can’t help but wonder whether the red light cam bill and the IDOT recalibration were connected. So far, the Daily Herald hasn’t connected those dots. We’ll see.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Unclear on the concept

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Tribune

Cullerton’s election-year focus on education funding comes as Rauner has been taking credit for the recent increase in state spending on K-12 schools after Rauner signed an education portion of the Democrats’ spending plan while vetoing the rest of the budget.

“I fought hard and we won an increase in state support for all schools,” Rauner said.

Cullerton on Monday noted that it was Democrats who passed that bill — not a single Republican voted for it.

Cullerton is right. And not mentioned is that Rauner pushed House and Senate Republicans to vote against the bill he eventually signed into law.

So, I’m not sure who Rauner “fought,” except for members of his own party, many of whom wanted to vote for the K-12 approp bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


Mautino says expenditures “standard, reasonable”

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Press release from Auditor General Frank Mautino’s non-governmental spokesman…

Frank Mautino served his north-central district with distinction in the Illinois House for 24 years, where he held a number of leadership positions, provided exemplary service to his communities and built a record of a number of legislative accomplishments.

During his legislative career, Frank ran for re-election every two years. His campaign committee, Committee for Frank J. Mautino, fully disclosed and reported all spending by the campaign in compliance with Illinois campaign finance and disclosure laws. His reports fully detail campaign expenditures that were made to help defray the standard, reasonable expenses incurred while Frank performed the governmental and public service duties of serving as state representative of his large, mostly rural district.

Upon his nomination as Auditor General, Frank’s career in elected office ended and he closed out his campaign committee at the end of December 2015.

* As we discussed yesterday, his main problem is explaining $213,338.31 in gas and auto repair bills between March of 2005 and December of 2015.

I searched the State Board of Elections’ expenditure category for the word “repair” - not car repair, or auto repair, but just the word repair, which could be anything - for all campaign committees during the entire online era. I came up with $1,507,091.40 in expenditures since October of 1999. Mautino actually has the first disclosure of “repair” on the searched list.

Now, do the same “repair” search for all of Mautino’s expenditures and you end up with $262,067.52 since 1999.

That means Mautino’s share of all repair expenditures for all candidates and committees over more than 16 years is a whopping 17.4 percent.

I don’t know if his repair bills were “reasonable,” but they clearly weren’t “standard.”

* Also, this

In the weeks leading up to the general election of 2010, Mautino spent $8,000 on poll watchers, plus $2,750 for precinct walkers plus an additional $2,050 for precinct workers. Quite a chunk of change, considering that Mautino was unopposed at the ballot box that fall.

It wasn’t the first time that Mautino shelled out thousands for poll watchers and precinct workers while running unopposed. In the general election of 2008, he spent $10,000 on poll watchers, even though he didn’t have an opponent, according to his campaign finance reports.

The money, all paid out in round figures, was received by Spring Valley City Bank, according to Mautino’s campaign reports. It’s not clear why the bank reportedly got money for work unrelated to banking. A source at the Illinois State Board of Elections said that campaigns must accurately identify the recipient of campaign funds in the event a recipient receives more than $150. If a recipient receives less in a reporting period, the expense need not be itemized.

A woman at the bank said that there was no one available to discuss the institution’s relationship with Mautino, which dates back more than a decade, with Mautino receiving both loans and campaign contributions, according to records at the state elections board. Mautino could not be reached for comment. He did not return a phone call last week to answer questions surrounding his campaign spending (“Questionable Campaign Spending,” Jan. 22, 2016).

Mautino’s campaign routinely reported giving money to the bank for expenses unrelated to banking, and the money often came in round figures. Since 2012, Mautino’s campaign reported giving more than $56,600 to the bank in dozens of expenditures. At least 41 of those disbursements were in round figures, according to campaign reports.

The campaign reported giving the bank money for travel expenses, parking and meeting expenses. Consider a stretch in 2014, when the campaign reported giving $750 in five round-figure expenditures to Spring Valley City Bank between May 5 and June 28 for expenses that had nothing to do with banking. According to campaign reports, the money was used for “Chicago meeting traveling expenses,” “traveling expenses,” “Chicago meeting parking expenses” and “Springfield meeting.” The records don’t indicate who attended meetings or what, specifically, was included in travel expenses.

Mautino had one major campaign this century, in 2014. He is a major Democratic player in that area, though, so he could’ve been subsidizing other campaigns.

Either way, he needs to clear this up. Right now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


The governor pens a snarky note

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

* Heh…

Rich

I guess one can’t believe everything that’s on the Internet. I now know you didn’t become a spokesman for Speaker Madigan until AFTER you were a page. But, seriously, come on over to the mansion after the State of the State, let’s have a beer and have one of our classic battles about the future of Illinois. If there’s one thing that you and I have in common it’s that we care deeply about the future of our state. See you Wednesday.

Governor Rauner

How cute.

Mrs. Rauner will also be there, but I told the governor’s guys that she might not want to be in the room for the first 20 minutes or so.

Background is here and here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   215 Comments      


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Tuesday, Jan 26, 2016

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