Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Anthony Porter case breaks wide open

Cross posted at Marathon Pundit.

I had a hunch that something was up with this case, as you'll read in these Marathon Pundit posts here and here. Not everything added up to me when I read the press reports of Anthony Porter's civil suit against the City of Chicago. Porter lost the case, as this AP story explains.

Here is the part of that story that caught my eye:

And an attorney for the city in the civil trial argued that police had the right man in Porter.

"The killer has been sitting in that room right there all day," Walter Jones said, pointing to the table where Porter sat.

Tonight CBS 2 Chicago's John Drummond, in an exclusive story, has dropped a bombshell on the Chicago media and the local media community.

This is what I'm wondering at this late hour. Will the rest of the local media pursue Simon's story as aggressively as it did other controversial high-profile cases, such as Roland Cruz/Alex Hernandez/Brian Dugan, or the 1999 version of the Anthony Porter case?

From CBS 2 Chicago:

The push is on to get a convicted killer a new trial. Attorneys for Alstory Simon believe their client was framed and plan to petition the courts Thursday.

John Drummond has the CBS 2 exclusive.

It was the Anthony Porter case that triggered then Gov. George Ryan's moratorium on the death penalty.

Porter was released in 1999 after a Milwaukee man, Alstory Simon, confessed to a private investigator retained by Northwestern University, that Simon, not Porter, killed two people in Washington Park back in 1982.

"I just pulled it up and started shooting," Simon said in his confession.

But now, two Chicago area attorneys, Jim Sotos and Terry Ekl, contend that Simon was coerced and pressured into that confession and that Simon was not the killer.

"People working on Anthony Porter's behalf framed Alstory Simon for a crime he did not commit, with fabricated, false, and flimsy evidence," Sotos said.

"I would not be involved with Alstory Simon unless I felt he was innocent and an injustice had occurred," Ekl said.

Sotos and Ekl say that veteran private investigator Paul Ciolino made several promises or money and leniency to Simon to persuade him to confess. Ciolino disagrees.

"The only promise I made to him was that I would try to make sure he didn't get the death penalty," Ciolino said.

Ciolino denies that he did anything improper.

"I don't have any rules. The Supreme Court says I can lie, cheat, and do anything I can to get him to say whatever I want him to say. The Chicago Police Department is a master at that. So is every other police department," Ciolino said.

Simon's estranged wife, Inez, told Northwestern's Project Innocence in 1999 that she witnessed her husband kill the two people in Washington Park in 1982. One year later she implicated him again.

But in a videotaped statement taped earlier this month by investigators working for Sotos and Ekl, Inez Simon, in failing health, says that she was offered money in 1999 to say that her husband was the killer. Now she recants that version and claims her husband was innocent all along.

Professor David Protess of the Northwestern University Project Innocence denied that neither he nor his staff made any promises of compensation to Inez Simon or her family. He said there is no question about Alstory Simon's guilt.

Lawyers Sotos and Ekl will request the court vacate the conviction of Simon, who's serving a 37-and-a-half-year sentence in Danville.

There is a video link on the CBS 2 Chicago web site.

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Former St. Rep. Monroe Flinn, R.I.P.

Just read that former State Representative Monroe Flinn of Granite City passed away.

Many who knew Monroe better than I will have fond memories, which I hope they will post below in the comment section.

Mine favorite is, "I move the previous question!"

Whenever the acting Speaker wanted to cut off debate, he would recognize Monroe. Monroe would arise from his seat in the back, more than willing to comply...especially if the session ran into the evening.

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Mickey Segal’s "Personal Favorites"

Ex-Near North Insurance mogul and now sentenced federal felon Mickey Segal made most of his campaign contributions through his corporate entities. $17,000, however, came from his personal checking account.

Let’s call them “Personal Favorites.”

All but one of them identified Segal to the State Board of Elections as “Michael.”

Gubernatorial candidate George Ryan reported his name as “Mike” for a thousand dollar donation received right before his 1998 election. Ryan got another $1,000 in 2001.

Both Republicans and Democrats got money. And, there were more Democrats than Republicans.

Read the other Illinois politicians who received personal checks from Segal by going to McHenry County Blog.

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Governor's top ten upcoming initiatives

10. Placing a $1 million dollar bounty on Ossama bin Laden's head.
9. Passing resolution stating, "Cold weather is not cool".
8. Proposing law requiring every professional sports team to have an Elvis night.
7. Initiating Illinois funny money with "In Rod We Trust" inscribed on it.
6. Running as a Republican so he can debate himself and still win.
5. Officially renaming Springfield "Do I really have to go thereville".
4. In an effort to boost foreign policy credentials, will activate the National Guard to invade Iowa
3. Outlawing Grandparents Day.
2. Rename Illinois, "Rezmar".
1. Indefinetly postpone the November 2006 General Election.

Please feel free to suggest others as I'm sure I've left many off.

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Claypool, Quigley and the "Tribune Primary"

Frequently in party politics, there is a primary within a primary -- a phenomenon that occurs when two or more candidates share the same ideological, geographic, or ethnic base. That's happening right now in the Illinois GOP, as a handful of conservatives try to out-flank each other on the right and emerge as the most credible conservative standard-bearer to take on Judy Baar Topinka. In the past, Chicago mayoral elections often had racial primaries within the Democratic primary, (Daley v. Byrne, Sawyer v. Evans, etc.)

Today in Cook County, a primary within the primary is being waged by Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley, as they fight to emerge as the most viable "reform" candidate to defeat John Stroger for county board president. But their battle right now isn't so much about who can win the hearts and minds of independent Democrats on Chicago's north lakefront -- though that's part of it. Their real battle is over who can win the hearts and minds of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

More than any other Chicago media outlet, the Tribune has taken a keen interest in the Cook County Board during the past four or five years. Their editorials regularly hammer Stroger and praise the board's anti-Stroger members. During the 2002 elections, they printed several editorials individually targeting pro-Stroger commissioners. When five incumbent board members lost re-election efforts that year, the Tribune editorial board gleefully and repeatedly declared victory -- even though only one of those contests (Claypool v. Ted Lechowicz,) was a true referendum on reform. The other four races were decided by local political rivalries, not the candidate's affiliation to John Stroger.

Expect more of the same from the Tribune over the next four months. The folks in the tower are determined to drive Stroger from office. They've been so far out on a limb in their criticism of him that another Stroger victory could almost be interpreted as a defeat of the Trib editorial board.

The folks at the Tribune know their prestige is on the line. And they can do the political math. They know Stroger can not lose as long as his opposition is divided. That is why some time soon, the Trib will begin beating the drum for either Quigley or Claypool to step aside and unite behind the other.

But who will they pick? Who will win the Tribune Primary? Quigley, the self proclaimed leader of the "revolution", who has been the editorial board's hero for years. Or Claypool, the relative newcomer with the more impressive resume. Odds are, the Tribune's candidate of choice will gain momentum, donations, and independent support and emerge as Stroger's main rival.

It seems the Trib's heart is with Quigley. He's quick with a pithy quote and has provided Trib reporters with plenty of juicy leaks. But the Tribsters know Quigley is abrasive and not well liked among his colleagues, and also not very good at raising money. So while their hearts might be with Quigley, their heads are probably with Claypool, who has more polish, more connections, and more money. Claypool's perceived electability might give him the edge in the "Tribune Primary."

Whether or not the Trib is successful in forcing one of the "reformers" out of the race will go a long way in determining whether Stroger wins. The betting here is both Claypool and Quigley will stay put and Stroger will get re-elected. In that case, the Trib will hope Claypool and Quigley can at least combine to deny Stroger a majority of the vote.

If that happens, the Trib can save face and brag that a majority of the voters see things their way. And best of all, they'll still have John Stroger to kick around.

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The Governor and Labor



Although Blagojevich is surely popular with union members in the state, some purely public sector workers and teachers are likely less happy with his performance, after several cuts, pension restructures, and more recently a quarrel with AFSCME over the splitting of the Department of Corrections. Coupled with the recent split in the AFL-CIO, leading to the creation of a new coalition called Change To Win, this mixed record with Illinois' most powerful labor unions could conceivably spell trouble in any primary fight.

Blagojevich's record with SEIU is excellent, to say the least; Executive Order 2005-1 granted collective bargaining rights to almost 50,000 home-based childcare providers, previously considered independent contractors who therefore had no standing under NLRA or state labor relations laws. This after an Executive Order in March of 2003 granting collective bargaining rights to 20,000 DHS/ORS home healthcare workers. Between these two orders, Blagojevich helped expand SEIU's membership rolls by 70,000 members. Needless to say, this took AFSCME by surprise.

The Teachers also have potential bones to pick, citing Blagojevich's pension restructures (See also this.) On the other hand, they sang the Governor's praises on his 2004 education reform initiatives, so go figure.

This isn't to say he's necessarily been playing favorites--his Picketing Bill of Rights earned an appearance by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney himself, and he signed the McKeon-Sandoval card-check bill, HB3396 (now Public Act 93-0444), which eliminated the NLRB-style process in union elections for public employees, allowing for simple card-check--if a union could get 50%+1 of a public sector unit on authorization cards or petitions, they would be the authorized representative of that unit. A pretty major piece of legislation, and one AFSCME appreciated.

Because of the AFL-CIO/Change To Win split, the sharing of political information not only becomes difficult, but possibly illegal. In an unopposed primary, this would hardly register--an organization like the Teachers would probably hold their nose and go through the motions, at the very worst, if not full-fledged support. With a viable contender in the primaries, who knows?

This is the very nightmare scenario many feared as the AFl-CIO split loomed. Unions versus unions in primaries is hardly something new, but rarely would it be so pronounced; there is the case of SEIU locals in New York endorsing Republican incumbent George Pataki, to the chagrin of many other in that AFL-CIO state body. You may also recall that much of the Illinois AFL-CIO endorsed Dan Hynes, while AFSCME and SEIU (and Teamsters Local 705) endorsed Barack Obama.

I don't foresee any union--AFL-CIO, Change to Win, whatever--endorsing anybody but Blagojevich. And I certainly can't see them helping Rauschenberg, Oberweis, or even Baar Topinka in the general election. But if unions help two Democratic candidates bloody each other in the primary, it may happen inadvertently.

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Paulie

No, not that Paulie. I'm happy about that Paulie.

The comparison isn't perfect, of course, but whenever I see stories like this...

Eight current and former city employees claimed Tuesday there was no way to get a promotion at City Hall without clout, [...]

The employees described being passed over for promotions and lucrative overtime by less qualified, less experienced employees with clout from their associations with: John Daley's 11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization; Ald. Edward Burke's 14th Ward organization and the Daley-created Hispanic Democratic Organization run by the mayor's former political enforcer Victor Reyes. [...]

Michael Sullivan, a 16-year veteran of Streets and Sanitation, says 11th Ward political powerhouses John Daley, Robert Sorich and Patrick Slattery call to request light duty for 11th Warders, while guys like Sullivan get harsher assignments. When given an assignment he didn't want, one 11th Warder allegedly told his supervisor, "F--- you! I don't work for you. I work for John Daley." [...]

Kenneth Ayers, a seasonal laborer in the Department of Streets and Sanitation, was told by a 29th Ward superintendent that he needed to become politically active to get a promotion. "If you don't have protection, you can get fired at any time. It can get really ugly for you," the complaint says.

A 24th Ward superintendent told Ayers, "You got to get a chinaman. The Shakman decree is dead. No one gets a job here unless he is connected with the organization," the suit says. [...]

Ann M. King, a Streets and Sanitation worker, was told by her supervisor to join the Hispanic Democratic Organization to advance her career. She did and had no problem getting days off to do political work to elect Ald. George Cardenas (12th), state Rep. Iris Martinez, Mayor Daley or Gov. Blagojevich, the suit states.

...I'm often reminded of this:
"Hundreds of guys depended on Paulie and he got a piece of everything they made. It was tribute, just like the old country, except they were doing it in America.

"All they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. That's what it's all about. That's what the FBI can never understand - that what Paulie and the organization does is offer protection for people who can't go to the cops. They're like the police department for wiseguys."

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The Christmas boycott dilemma

This fight over keeping "Merry Christmas" in the shopping centers and department stores is getting a little ridiculous.
Don't get me wrong -- there is no other Person who has walked this Earth who deserves more to have a worldwide birthday party than Jesus Christ, the Son of God. After all, he is the Messiah, the Savior, the Mighty Counselor, the Prince of Peace. . .
But in my book, this boycott mania is playing right into the hands of the very darkness we curse.

More at www.illinoisreview.com, Illinois conservative community's crossroads

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Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church coming to Southern Ill. University to picket speech by Matthew Shepard's mother

Cross posted at Marathon Pundit.

Matthew Shepard was the unfortunate gay University of Wyoming college student who was brutally murdered by hateful hooligans in 1998.

Matthew's mother Judy is scheduled to speak at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale on December 6. And that vile cretin, Fred Phelps, plans to bring some of his Westboro Baptist Church followers to SIU to picket her appearance there.

Phelps, who is repeatedly denounced by the Southern Baptist Convention and other mainstream Christian groups, advocates the death penalty for gays, as you'll learn in this Phelps flier (which also contains a picketer claiming Matthew Shepard is in Hell).

Phelps first gained his ill-repute for showing up at the funerals of AIDS victims. Lately, he and his "church" have been picketing funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq; Phelps is under the belief that God in punishing America because of our toleration for gay rights here.

Thankfully, counterprotesters usually are there to confront the Westboro Church members, as they did earlier this month in Galesburg, IL.

Hopefully Phelps and his group will be greeted in a similar manner in Carbondale next week.

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Segal Gets Ten Years

Crains Just Posted this AP Report:

Segal sentenced to 10 years in prison
(AP) - A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced former insurance mogul Michael "Mickey" Segal to 10 years in prison for siphoning money for his brokerage firm, calling Segal "mean-spirited, immoral and unethical."
In court, Segal said he was remorseful but didn't believe he had done anything wrong.
"I am not a bad person, I have never stolen a dime in my life," Segal said.
A jury convicted the politically connected Segal in June 2004 of 26 counts of racketeering, fraud, embezzlement and other charges and ordered him to forfeit $30 million - the largest forfeiture verdict ever handed down by a federal jury in Chicago.

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Trivia: Judy's Cicero announcement in very cool Czech restaurant

I think the junkies on Illinoize would appreciate this tiny trivia:

Judy's announcement today in Cicero took place at Klas Restaurant on Cermak Road. Klas is the largest Czech restaurant in the nation and is one of the most ornate places I've seen in the western burbs.

As you can imagine, Al Capone frequented the place.

If you've never been, it's worth a visit. The website is here. And the mix of Mexican and Eastern European cultures is a nice American story as well.

(It's also an interesting contrast to Governor Blagojevich's announcement at A. Finkl Steel plant on the north side of Chicago where his father worked for years).

UPDATE: Actually, if anyone who was there can confirm it was at Klas, that would be good. Don't want to put out incorrect info....

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Is there enough collective will to reign in city spending in Peoria?

There will be votes next week on at least two of the items that failed on 5-5 votes at Tuesday’s Peoria City Council meeting. One vote will be on whether or not to reduce automatic longevity pay increases given to non-union (mostly management) employees.

The tie votes happened because At-large council member Eric Turner was absent (I understand that he had a work commitment). That makes him the swing vote next week. From what I’m hearing now, Turner is predicted to be in favor of limiting longevity increases, but not for raising the amusement tax.

Let’s look at these two issues:

Currently, these workers get a 2 percent pay bump for every five years they are employed by the city. That translates to an 8-percent increase over base pay for someone employed for 20 years. Council member Bob Manning (3rd District) proposed to lower that to a half percentage point per five years, so that a 20-year employee gets a 2 percent bump on top of base pay.

Did you know that there are four city employees who earn as much as $200,000? Did you know that a new hire in the city’s underworked Equal Employment Opportunity office earns about $41,000 despite having no special training or skills and no clearly defined responsibilities.

The money this would save wouldn’t be all that significant in the short run. But it would have several effects. First, there are a handful of senior employees who would quit almost immediately. Many of these people are not well-loved by council members because they are evasive when asked even the most simple of questions and because the council members believe they have the best interests of all Peoria neighbors at heart, nor are they particularly concerned about saving taxpayer’s money. I won’t mention names, but I have a speaking suspicion these people know who they are.

Here’s my suggestion: If the are council members who think specific employees shouldn’t be employees anymore, then hold an executive session and fire them. Don’t play games. Wait until the next time someone replies to a specific question with a vague, deceptive or self-serving answer, then immediately go into executive session and take a vote on whether to fire that person’s sorry ass. You would be surprised at how this will improve the quality of the work performed from that point on.

From a taxpayer’s standpoint, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for highly-paid employees to leave so they can be replaced with newer people with fresh ideas who will earn less because they haven’t been around as long.

I’m not completely opposed to longevity pay. I simply thing more money should be available for merit-based increases. But I do think that an employee who simply meets his performance goals—but isn’t a spectacular employee—should get some bump in pay beyond cost of living. Judging by the almost complete lack of turnover, longevity pay is too high now. But it certainly shouldn’t be eliminated completely.

Second: This sends a message to union employees that longevity pay is going to be an issue in future negotiations. Police and firefighter salaries are often set during interest arbitration. That means some arbitrator will look at what is done at 40-year-old list of nine “comparable” cities. The city might just win that battle. Non public safety employees would have to strike to retain that level of longevity pay if the city council is firm about lowering or even reducing it.

One option I keep hearing is that the city might want to do away with it for new employees, thereby creating a two tier pay system.

A question left unanswered is what affect longevity pay has on the city’s required contribution to pensions. Does the city’s pension contribution increase 8 percent for employees getting the 8 percent bump? It would seem council members who like to complain about the high cost of pension contributions might want to look at this.

Speaking of employee bennies, I don’t think it’s out of line for city employees to have to pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs. Show of hands, folks: How many public sector employees pay less than 20 percent? I didn’t think so …

Now, regarding taxes …

Second-district council member Barbara Van Auken’s motion to raise the tax on amusements (movie and Peoria Civic Center tickets, DVD and video rentals, etc) by an additional 2 percentage points failed. It wasn’t stated at the time, but this would be expected to generate enough money to fully staff Fire Station 11, which isn’t capable of fighting fires because of budget cuts made in the 2004 budget.

A source has told me that if the city were able to identify a reliable source of roughly $700,000 in annual new revenue, there might be as many as nine votes out of 11 to re-open Station 11 to fire fighting duties. The trouble is that there aren’t enough votes to get to that point.

For example: There’s one council member who claims to support Fire Station 11 and is willing to raise taxes to do it, but adamantly opposes any spending reductions that might lower employees’ paychecks (i.e. longevity increases). A different council member also claims to support re-staffing Fire Station 11 and is willing to consider cuts in automatic longevity increases, but won’t even consider a tax increase.

And then there are people like John Morris (who I like as a person, I’d like to say) who just doesn’t see the danger in keeping the station closed, and begrudges every dime spent on firefighter salaries because it isn’t going to his pet issues like the Civic Center.

Council member Chuck Grayeb was supposed to make the motion for the amusement tax, but he was in a snit over efforts to cut salaries.

Where does all this leave the hated $6 per month garbage tax? It’s chances of repeal are slim, I suspect. There is simply no collective will on the council to raise property taxes to replace the millions being generated by the garbage tax.

And judging by what I saw Tuesday, there’s also little collective will to cut non-essential spending.

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Posted at Peoria Pundit

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Pro-Choice Republican Topinka

Today, Judy Baar Topinka officially begins her run for governor. She has the support of Jim Edgar, who will be serving as her campaign chairman. This will instantly make her the Republican frontrunner to replace Governor Rod Blagojevich.

However, her announcement does not come without problems. Pro-choice groups are demanding she clarify her position on abortion. Although Republicans in Illinois tend to be slightly more moderate compared with there national counterparts, I think Topinka will only lose votes if she brings up this topic.

With abortion being predominately a federal issue, will this have any effect on her candidacy?


Posted at IllinoisPundit

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I Owe, I owe...

Cross posted from the ICPR Blog, The Race is On:

Lest anyone think ICPR has been picking on Rep. Calvin Giles, know that there are several sitting legislators and potential candidates who owe fines to the State Board of Elections and who might face ballot forfeiture if they don’t pay those fines by January 19th, when the State Board of Elections is due to certify the ballot for the primary election. It's not that Giles is alone, it's just that Giles owes more than all others combined.

Rep. Giles owes $144,000 in outstanding fines. But others are on the list, or could be by certification. Rep. Patricia Bailey owes $6,200 in fines. Rep. Mary Flowers owes $100 in fines. Three others -- Rep. Jack Franks, Rep. Robin Kelly, and Sen. Don Harmon -- have matters before the Board and may owe fines come January, but they still have pending appeals that might get them out of trouble. (Rep. Deborah Graham, who was on the list as of the last meeting of the Board, paid her fines the day of the meeting). (Rep. Bailey may have other problems)

One assumes that incumbents who face re-election next year will file to run, but the law applies to all candidates, incumbents and challengers alike. Nobody knows who will file next month, but two candidates who lost in 2004 are on the list: Derrick Prince, who took 25% of the Primary vote against Rep. Marlow Colvin, owes $3,250, and Thomas Morris, who garnered 23% in the General against Rep. Lou Lang, owes $1,800.

State law forbids the Board to certify to the ballot the name of any candidate who owes fines. Time will tell who files and is left on the list in January.

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Illinois Political Stench Wafts North to Wisconsin – Is Illinois-Style Political Corruption Taking Root in Wisconsin?

With all the Illinois politicians having summer homes in Wisconsin, it should be little wonder that they should get involved with Wisconsin politics.

Do the names Stuart Levine, Nicholas Hurtgen, Joe Cari and John Glennon have a bi-partisan ring to them?

They should.

Each has been indicted by Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for alleged illegal activities in Illinois. Two have pleaded guilty.

All have made contributions to current candidates for governor in Wisconsin.

While the four mentioned above have contributed to Republicans, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has listed what it calls “shady” contributions to incumbent Democratic Party Governor Jim Doyle, as well. Not all of contributors would make my “shady” contributor list, but they can be found on a link to McHenry County Blog as the Democracy Campaign listed them.

If you are a real glutton for detail, you can see all Illinoisians--probably some you know--who are dipping into the politics of Wisconsin's gubernatorial campaign from another link on McHenry County Blog. (Can you find the former statewide Republican office holder who contributed $1,000 to the current Wisconsin Democratic Party governor?)

"It's a bipartisan scandal," Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel yesterday. "It's one piece of evidence of how political corruption is taking root in this state."

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As JBT's campaign manager ...

Admittedly, I know nothing about managing a political campaign.

But I believe the simple things (things that even a guy like me can figure out) will be important and will make a difference in the March primary and the November general election.

We were promised by candidate Blagojevich that following the corruption of the Ryan administration there would be 'no more business as usual.' That's a promise that has not been kept. I think Topinka has to hammer at that beginning today.

I also believe there are some big endorsements up for grabs that could bolster Topinka's chances. One of those is AFSCME, so I think courting that union would be a plus. Ask any correctional officer if they remember candidate Blagojevich standing at Vienna Correctional Center and uttering those famous words, 'I will never balance the budget on the backs of working class people.' Then one of the first things that Gov. Blagojevich did was threaten to shut down Vandalia Correctional Center to help balance the budget.

AFSCME has not forgotten that and neither should Topinka.

I recently posed a question to listeners on my radio show asking somebody to call in and defend the governor and tell me why he should be re-elected. I had eight calls in quick succession and seven of the calls came from people who had voted for Blago last election but will not vote for him this time. One guy who owns a small trucking company stood out. He said he has three trucks and the fee increases implemented under Blagojevich costs him $18,000 ($6,000 per truck) per year.

Those type of stories should be told and re-told by Topinka.

In 2004 the Illinois General Assembly, with a Democrat-controlled Senate and House and a Democrat governor, had a 54-day overtime session. The inability to get along with his own party doesn't spell leadership or the ability to govern in many people's minds. I think people are tired of politics as usual and the public be damned and would like to see a governor unify and work with a bi-partisan approach.

Also, while it might seem trivial to some, Topinka could enamor herself with many people (including me) by simply being on time -- or even being close to being on time. The last two events I covered involving Blagojevich he was 90-plus minutes late both times. I understand that it is hard to stay on schedule when traveling statewide, but three years of being woefully tardy shows a lack of respect.

Finally, when Topinka visits Southern Illinois I would encourage her to NOT wear blue jeans. The first two years that Gov. Blagojevich traveled to Southern Illinois he felt compelled to wear blue jeans and a western-looking shirt, I suppose to fit in with the rednecks and hicks in 'these here parts.'

I think it will also be important for Topinka to understand a few facts that Blagojevich's people didn't figure out until year three of his four-year term. It would be to JBT's benefit to know that most of us here in Southern Illinois have at least a couple pair of non-blue jean-type pants, some of us wear shoes (although I'm bare-foot as I write this) and most houses have running water and indoor bathroom facilities.

Let the insanity and the mud-slinging begin.

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Topinka Announces -- Now What?

Today, Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka announces her long-awaited candidacy for Governor.

Let's lend her campaign a hand. Imagine you were her campaign manager:

What should the campaign say about Topinka, her accomplishments, and her vision for the future in the Primary?

What, if anything, should it say about her opponents?

What do you anticipate her opponents will say about her?

And, given that she's considered the frontrunner for the primary, which challenger represents the greatest threat to her, and why?

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bobby Rush faces mortgage foreclosure

Cross posted on Marathon Pundit.

Congressman Bobby Rush, D-Chicago, may be looking for a new home. Not voluntarily, however.

From NBC 5.com:

Chicago congressman Bobby Rush is the target of a mortgage foreclosure lawsuit.

The suit alleges Rush has failed to make payments on his South Calumet Avenue home since July.

The three-story 3,400-square-foot home is valued at $215,000.

Rush and his wife run the Englewood Community Development Corp. and the congressman has used political campaign funds to support the church where he is a pastor, NBC5 reported.

Rush calls the foreclosure action "a challenge that has been rectified."

Interesting. Chicagoans send this guy to Congress to manage taxpayers' money, but he can't seem to manage his own funds. About about that church of where he's a pastor: Wouldn't its acceptance of political funds violate--assuming it has it--its tax exempt status?

The South Side congressman does know the value of money: Rush is a big proponent of slavery reparations, as you'll read here and here.

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It's a Job, Not a Choice

In Tuesday's Illinoize, Jill Stanek lament's the recent decision by Walgreen's to discipline four pharmacists for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception, a job they were being paid quite handsomely to do.

Walgreen's recognized the state's authority to compel health care workers to provide emergency care, even if these four pharmacists and Stanek do not.

Stanek believes that pharmacists have a right of conscience. That is true. But the pharmacists aren't complaining about their lack of religious freedom. They want to to exercise that freedom and still get paid. It would be like a conscientious objector joining the military, refusing to fight, but still wanting combat pay.

More importantly, as Stanek, the pharmacists, and nearly everyone else has ignored, while Illinois' Health Care Right of Conscience Act may apply to pharmacists, it doesn't apply to emergency care:

(745 ILCS 70/6) (from Ch. 111 1/2, par. 5306)
Sec. 6. Duty of physicians and other health care personnel. Nothing in this Act shall relieve a physician from any duty, which may exist under any laws concerning current standards, of normal medical practices and procedures, to inform his or her patient of the patient's condition, prognosis and risks, provided, however, that such physician shall be under no duty to perform, assist, counsel, suggest, recommend, refer or participate in any way in any form of medical practice or health care service that is contrary to his or her conscience.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to relieve a physician or other health care personnel from obligations under the law of providing emergency medical care.


Clearly, emergency contraception is emergency care, by definition, and Stanek and other pro-lifers do not have a legal leg to stand on.

Now, if they want to draft a bill that would protect health care workers who want to risk a patient's life because their religious beliefs tell them it's the right thing to do, and refuse not only to treat the patient but refer them to someone who will, I encourage them to try.

But imagine for a moment a doctor who learns that patient, a four-month pregnant woman, has cancer and needs chemotherapy, which of course would require an abortion first. In Stanek's world, the doctor could not only refuse to perform the abortion, he could refuse to suggest an abortion, refer her to another doctor who might perform or suggest an abortion, perhaps even refuse to tell her she had cancer because in his mind, it might lead to an abortion. Not a pretty world.

More importantly, Stanek's right of conscience completely ignores the right of conscience of the patient.

So, now that I've laid out all the ways Jill and I disagree, I'd like to lay out some of the things I believe pro-choice and pro-life folks should agree on:

- School children should be provided with medically accurate, scientifically backed information that reduces teen pregnancies;
- We can't force parents to protect their teenagers by keeping them from having sex, but society should protect teenagers by telling them how they can reduce the risk of pregnancy and ensuring they have the means at their disposal;
- Illinois law should be more adoption friendly, ensuring for example that employer benefits for maternity leave also apply to adoptions;
- We need to crack down on older men who prey on teenage women and are guilty of statutory rape;
- The world would be a much better place if teenagers didn't have sex, sexual predators didn't get women and young girls pregnant, and condoms and other birth control didn't fail; unfortunately, we don't live in that world;
- God didn't intend pregnancy or parenthood as "punishment".

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Eenie, meenie, minie, moe . . .

To whom it may concern:
(Particularly GOP conservative gubernatorial candidates Bill Brady, Jim Oberweis, Steve Rauschenberger. . . on the day before State Treasurer Judy Baar-Topinka announces she's running, too)
Eenie, meenie, minie, moe . . .
Rock, paper, scissors . . .
Short straw. . .
Pick one, guys, and just do it. Do it this week.
When the ILGOP Wise Guys gather to read the tea leaves and pick who the candidate should be this Friday, beat them to the punch. Go in there and tell THEM who you have decided is running for governor, LT and treasurer.
Save us conservatives the heartache and heartburn, the sleepless nights reliving the Keyes nightmare, the national embarrassment.
Save yourselves millions of dollars, nasty rubber chicken dinners, kissin' snotty-nosed babies and huggin' little old ladies.
Eenie, meenie, minie, moe . . .
Draggin' us poor, helpless church-going, right-winged sheep down the crooked path to irrelevancy and destruction will condemn all of you to eternal political hellfire and damnation -- which will commence the day after the March 2006 primary when none of the three of you win.
And we all lose.
Get on with it, boys. Pick one. We don't care which one of you it is -- just pick one! Then work your fannies off doing unto others what you would have them do unto you. Help us all by helping each other.
It's very simple. It's called humility. It's called class. It's eventually called winning.
Now get in line.
Eenie, meenie, minie . . .

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Blagojevich Polling Analysis

(Cross-posted from IlliniPundit.com.)

The latest Survey USA polling for Illinois with approval/disapproval results for Governor Rod Blagojevich is out, and overall he's at 38 percent approval and 57 percent disapproval, which ain't good.

More significant, to me, is his 41 percent disapproval rating amongst Democrats, even after enacting a give-away-the-store health insurance program for every kid in the state, and refusing to cut any spending whatsoever over the past three years. Such a high disapproval rating among Democrats means that any Democratic Primary challenger will appear, in initial polling, to be a weak candidate, due to miniscule name recognition. But as the opposition becomes better known, their numbers will rise meteorically. The most obvious way for Blagojevich to stop them is to spend lots of money early to attack the opponent, before anyone takes them seriously. But doing so will also raise the opponents name recognition, which will in turn increase their numbers and their credibility. And such a strategy will also deplete Blagojevich's campaign account and negate his strongest advantage against the eventual GOP nominee. Strategically, if Eisendrath actually runs and secures some funding, Blagojevich is in a bit of pickle.

In addition, Blagojevich has been working furiously for months to correct his abysmal polling numbers, passing a budget with massive spending increases based on a pension raid, passing AllKids in a week, and doing everything in his power to promote his accomplishments. That they've not improved is indicative of a serious credibility problem - that voters and the media regard him and his accomplishments cynically, no matter how meritorious - that is going to be very, very hard to overcome.

(Hat tip: Rich Miller at Capitol Fax.)

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Voting for competitive balance

The IHSA approved a proposal yesterday which now goes to all 751 member high schools for a vote. The proposal asks that the enrollment for all private schools be multiplied by 1.65 in the hope that athletic competition will be more balanced. Since private schools are not bound by school district borders they are able to "recruit" so to speak and thus field stronger teams. This has been a bone in the craw of public schools so long even my parents who are in their 80's relate stories of Chicago private school football success in the 1930's.

A quick look at this fall's state champions other than football shows 2 private schools out of 9 winning titles. In football the number is 3 of 9. Last winter's state basketball champion in class AA was Glenbrook North a public school and in class A -Hales Francisan, a Catholic school. 2004 had a similar ending, the AA champion was public, A was private. If approximately 20 percent of high schools in Illinois are private then if these schools are winning more than their share of state titles the numbers should reflect that. It does appear as though this is true in the two major sports, football and basketball, but private school titles are few on the ground in other sports.

Voting on the proposal heads to the schools today and ballots are due on December 28. If it passes the new rules will apply for this year's state basketball tournament. The question is will it be the big guys who are affected or the little guys like Breese Mater Dei and Edwardsville's Metro East Lutheran? Somehow I doubt that schools like Joliet Catholic or Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin or Chicago Catholic league schools will miss a beat.

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So much for "choice" in Illinois

KSDK reported last night that Walgreens suspended four IL pharmacists without pay November 28 for refusing to dispense the morning after pill. Walgreens said it was forced to take this "drastic action" due to "a new law relating to this type of emergency contraceptive."

Not remarkably, the mainstream media obfuscated what really happened: Earlier this year, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, during a fit of legislative fiatitis, issued an executive order mandating that IL pharmacists dole out these sometimes abortion-causing pills whether or not they had moral or religious misgivings.

Those advocating abortion "choice" want it one way. They want mothers to have the "choice" to abort their babies but don't want health care providers to have the "choice" not to participate.

Aside from social politics, fiscal politics are also impacted here. The Associated Press reported recently on the national shortage of pharmacists. In a state already known for its chilly business climate, IL stands to repel not only pharmacists but small-town pharmacies by this law. Walgreens' action yesterday is merely a forecast of the fall-out.

Go to www.jillstanek.com for more information on the morning after pill, which is also untested and potentially dangerous, btw.

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Was There Really Chrism Used at the Allegro?

The Chicago media seem to wax poetic when blood appears on the surface of pond political. I heard and read the word 'anoint' more than several times in reference to Tom Dart's endorsement from the Cook County Democratic Committeemen: thus, from Jonathan Lipman of the Daily Southtown - "The session was an anointment for Dart, whom Sheahan has pushed as his successor since making his surprise announcement last week. Both come from the city's powerful 19th Ward."

In the same report, Rep. Rev. Bobby Rush (D.) sullied Dart's racial sensitivities and suggested that the former legislative collaborator of Barack Obama wore ' a hood in his head.'

The infectious poetry sounding from many similar reports confuses poor prosaic dopes like me. Did the sacramental oils actually anoint Dart's endorsement? I was not present, so I can only accept what was reported.

Tonsured and prostrate , the prone Dart did obeseince to mitred pontiffs of the Cook County Democratic Party. Following the intonation of antiphons and te deums, the holy oils were applied to the now sanctified fingers, lips, and tonsure of Thomas Dart.

Archpresbyter Bobby Rush struck his crozier three times before rending garments and proclaiming Dart excommincato et anathema! Dart was accussed of wearing his 'hood IN his head and not ON his head' as custom and dignity ordains. How's Dart get his 'hood' in his head anyway?

The full text of the Daily Southtown article follows:

Dems tap Dart to succeed Sheahan
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
By Jonathan LipmanStaff writer
Former state legislator Tom Dart won the Democratic Party endorsement Monday to succeed Michael Sheahan as Cook County sheriff, but not without bitter resistance from U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who compared Dart to members of the Ku Klux Klan.
After urging the slating committee to question Dart's record on supporting minority issues in Springfield, Rush (D-1st), of Chicago, told reporters he found Dart "repulsive."
"Dart represents to me a kind of Klansman," Rush said. "One that don't wear a hood over the head but one that has a hood in the head."
Clearly aware of the resistance from black officials, Dart listed black Democratic politicians he has worked with and projects he's worked on in minority communities. He also said he and his wife set up a tutoring program for students at a predominantly black school.
He told the members of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization assembled Monday the sheriff's office "is something I desire from the bottom of my soul."
As Sheahan's chief of staff and as a legislator, Dart said he's worked on the issues he will focus on as sheriff.
"I think I can take all that experience and put it into the sheriff's office," Dart said. "There are so many things we can do to keep people out of our jails."
While he insisted his attacks were not personal, Rush has long held a grudge against Dart for Dart's role in organizing political campaigns against Rush for mayor and Congress.
The congressman's voice was the loudest in a general murmur of discontent audible at the Allegro Hotel on Monday, where the Democrats met for the second Monday in a row.
The session was an anointment for Dart, whom Sheahan has pushed as his successor since making his surprise announcement last week. Both come from the city's powerful 19th Ward.
Rush and a handful of other South Side black politicians unsuccessfully pushed for the party to endorse no candidate, saying the process was too rushed. Hispanic politicians also argued for a process that would include more minorities on the countywide slate.
"We should start living what we claim, which is the party of diversity," said Cook County Commissioner Robert Maldonado of Chicago's Northwest Side. "We did not give one single consideration to a Hispanic candidate for sheriff."
Dart still might face opposition in the primary. Four other candidates sought the party's endorsement, most notably former Chicago alderman and county board of review commissioner Robert Shaw, who threw his name into the ring at the last minute.
"I served as alderman for 16 years in this city of Chicago. Didn't get indicted, never served any time," Shaw said proudly and to great laughter from the assembled state and local leaders.
Shaw said he was not yet sure if he'd run without the party's support. He promised a "breath of fresh air" for the sheriff's office.
Also asking for the nomination were attorney and political organizer Frank Avila and three current or retired sheriff's officers: Sylvester Baker, Richard Remus and Bob Maxwell.
Rush said he wasn't sure who he'll wind up backing in the spring primary. He and other black elected officials are hosting interviews with prospective candidates at a meeting tonight.
In the past, Rush has endorsed Republican challengers to Dart. He wouldn't rule out the same thing happening again, and the Republicans already have a Hispanic candidate, Peter Garza, in the race.
"Our options are open, we won't close any doors," Rush said.
Jonathan Lipman may be reached at jlipman@dailysouthtown.com or (312) 782-1286.

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Adding Lanes to Expressways

I’m not a fan of tollways. Motorists are forced to pay twice—once at the tollbooth and a second time at the gas pump. And, maybe even a third time, since the Illinois Department of Transportation (not the Toll Highway Authority) gets federal aid for each mile of the tollway's Interstate highways.

In Illinois, tollways are used to suck money out of the six-county area to build freeways Downstate that cannot be justified on the basis of traffic count. (The general rule of thumb is that one needs 20,000 vehicles a day to justify a four-lane expressway. Some of the diverted money is spent on other Downstate highways.)

Chicago Tribune transportation columnist Jon Hilkevitch’s article entitled, “Wider I-55 is in talking (but not funding) stage,” however, pulled up a thought from my American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC, for short) days.

Serving as chairman of ALEC’s Transportation Task Force, I learned how the private sector is sometimes willing to finance public improvements. Locally, Peotone Airport comes to mind. There the private sector seems to have agreed to build the airport.

So, why not allow the private sector to add lanes to expressways?

For more information, go to McHenry County Blog.

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Doing well so far

We had almost 1,400 individual readers yesterday - not bad for the first official day of a state politics blog that doesn't promote itself with paid advertising and isn't connected to a major media outlet.

Later today I plan to update Capitol Fax blog readers about the most recent posts on Illinoize. So, if you've been saving something, it's time to publish.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

A New standard for Quality Candidates

From a ABC7 report from the Cook County slating meeting.

"I served as alderman for 16 years in this city of Chicago and didn't get indicted," said Robert Shaw, (D) Candidate for Sheriff.

With everything going on in Chicago I can understand pride in never being indicted. But is that really something to brag about?

OneMan

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"Thinka Topinka" - Judy Baar Topinka's Web Site

"Thinka Topinka" is about as corny as one can get, but it’s State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka’s web site for governor.

There’s even a downloadable petition.

Will she "Think Poe" for her Lt. Gov. candidate?

Here’s a copy of her letter asking for help in getting on the ballot:

Dear Friend:

Are you ready to change this State? I plan to formally announce later this month that I will run for Governor of the State of Illinois. It is a big undertaking and frankly, I could not have made it this far without the support of friends like you. From my first race for State Representative to my career as Illinois State Treasurer it has been a group effort. Now I need your help more than ever.

In order to get on the ballot I must file 10,000 signatures with the State Board of Elections next month. Your help collecting those signatures will be invaluable. Please download and print the petition forms located on this page and have your family, friends and neighbors sign them. Instructions for completing and returning them are included with the petitions. It does not matter if the page is full, every signature counts.

Thank you again for all of your help; together we will win!

Sincerely,

Signed Judy Baar Topinka

For campaign contact information, go to McHenry County Blog.

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Blago and Democrats Steal Money from Scholarship Funds

Cross-posted from IlliniPundit.com.

On IlliniPundit, there had been some clamoring for a thread to discuss this:

Drivers sporting University of Illinois or other special collegiate license plates in Illinois were told that the extra fees for those plates would go toward scholarships, but some of the money is actually being used on other state expenses.

The Governor's Office of Management and Budget recently took about $40,830 of the funds raised by specialty license plates for public and private universities and put it into the General Revenue Fund. An equal amount was taken in July. By the end of June 2006, a total of $163,320 will have been transferred out of the collegiate license plate funds.

Budget office spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the collegiate license plate funds had built up excess balances beyond what had been appropriated to pay for the scholarships, and a small portion of that was transferred into the state's main checking account to help with other expenses.

"This is one of hundreds of fund sweeps that have been conducted over the last three years," Carroll said. "This is by no means anything new, nor is it anything that will impact the funding of any scholarships, not by one penny."

But state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said people who purchased those plates were told that the money would be used for scholarships, and that's what it should be used for. Transferring money out of those funds means fewer students can get help paying for college, he said.

"The governor's budgetary sleight of hand is having a real impact in people's lives," Rose said. "Every single one of these funds that is swept has a person behind it, and in this case it is students all over the state of Illinois."

Of course, apologists for Governor Blagojevich and State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson will probably claim that this is some kind of overdue reform that will actually result in more scholarship money being paid to students. Either way, it's worth discussing.

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Government vs. Business

I've seen many posts lately about running government like a business. Some feel that it is important that government be more efficient -- like a well run business. Others feel that government serves a completely different purpose than business, and therefore it should be run differently. Before this debate can be fully understood, one must define the difference between government and business.

While there are many types of businesses, the ultimate goal for any business is to make a profit. If the business is publicly owned, there is a responsibility to the shareholders to provide a return on their investment. People don't intentionally invest in a company they know will fail. Privately owned businesses don't have shareholders to respond to -- if the private business fails, it is the owner and employees who will be out of work. While good businesses understand that it's in their best interest to keep their employees happy (provide benefits), there are few legal requirements on what they must provide for their employees -- basically a minimum wage and safe working conditions. If the business fails, everybody loses -- executives, workers, and shareholders. Therefore, to remain competitive, businesses must have clearly defined goals to which people are held accountable, they must be run efficiently, and they must rid themselves immediately of products or personnel that hinder the performance of the business.

Government, on the other hand, is different. Government is not meant to be profitable -- basically, at the end of the day, you should have spent what you took in, and no more (although its always good to put some money aside in a rainy day fund). Thus the Illinois law requiring that the budget be balanced each year. The question that arises as a result of this last statement is "how much should be spent?" This is a good question and it's why the legislature must approve, or amend, the budget proposed by the Governor each year. While Democrats and Republicans may disagree on the last question, we can usually find common ground in the understanding that, at its most fundamental level, government should provide essential services to the taxpayers who fund its operation. The bickering begins once people start debating what services are "essential."

Whatever consensus is reached on essential services, these services require employees to provide them. This, in my opinion, is where the true division between government and business is defined. While employees in business are often not provided much in the way of benefits, government employees are provided generous benefits. Pensions, vacations, comprehensive health coverage -- the list goes on. For many government employees, these benefits are guaranteed, either through union contracts or civil service codes. Don't get me wrong, there are many hard working professionals who work in government, and I have great respect for them. But the reality is that when you create such a system of guaranteed job security, you encourage laziness and discourage a strong work ethic. Employees in government view these benefits as entitlements, even when the government's pension obligation and health insurance costs account for over 1/2 of the annual budget (and growing fast!). Without the ability to adapt as any business would, government will be dragged down by its own weight and, while employees and retirees are enjoying their generous benefits, the very basic services that government should be providing suffer.

If you disagree, look at what is happening to the U.S. auto industry. Once dominant in the world of manufacturing automobiles, companies are losing their edge to newer, foreign car makers. Why you might ask? Because American car makers are forced to incorporate the cost of employee and retiree benefits into the cost of the product. The increased cost makes our product less competitive with our foreign competitors, this lowering sales and cutting profits for our car makers at home.

In my opinion, government should not be run like any business -- government should be run like a good business. There should be accountability from the CEO (President, Governor, Mayor) on down to the most entry level positions. If an employee isn't bringing value to the employer, the employee should be terminated. If the chief executive can't run the business efficiently, the CEO should not be reelected. Conversely, good employees should be rewarded and good CEOs should be reelected. Benefits should be evaluated on a regular basis, and changes should be allowed to ensure that, while employees and retires are treated fairly, the government has the funds necessary to provide adequate services to the taxpayers.

After all, government doesn't exist to provide safe, lifelong employment -- it exists to provide basic services to the taxpayers. The second we lose sight of this concept, we become France.

As posted at: Whack-a-Mole

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WWJD in Springfield?

No, not Jesus -- Jefferson, as in Thomas.

Cal Skinner wants to rewrite the Constitution to defend marriage (ironically, not by cracking down on domestic violence, increasing family incomes, or placing a moratorium on sports channels on cable).

Randall Sherman suggests a Constitutional Convention to wrestle back control of our justice system from big corporations.

Others have suggested a Constitutional Convention to overhaul Illinois' antiquated education funding system.

If you were a delegate to Illinois' next Constitutional Convention, what would you most like to change?

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National GOP Chairman Calls for More Volunteers, While Illinois GOP Ignores Issue That Led to Volunteer Recruitment in Ohio

Left Stream Sunday Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Pearson says that National Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman was in Illinois last week. Mehlman urged "a return to the traditional grass-roots style of organizing that proved so successful for the Bush campaign in Ohio last year.”

Mehlman wants to recruit “40,000 volunteers” and establish “a system of voter recruitment, registration and ID based on old-style, door-to-door canvassing combined with telephone banks,” Pearson writes.

It appears that either Mehlman did not tell the audience of party leaders about the spark plug that ignited the firestorm of volunteers or that Peason did not report it.

To find out the issue that inspired thousands to volunteer in Ohio, click McHenry County Blog.

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Welcome to Illinoize

If you're visiting for the first time, take a few minutes to look around. I hope you like what you see so far and will come back often.

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Anatomy of a Decision

(cross-posted from Dome-icile)

(Long post warning - I'm not saying that it is or isn't worth the read, just that I felt like I needed to write down some of my thoughts. So don't blame me if you read it and feel that it was a waste of your time.)

Astute readers will note that way back on August 14th, in announcing at that time that I wasn't interested in running for Treasurer, I made the following statement:
I won't get into who I think will run, but I think that we would be remiss not to field a strong candidate for what is a very winnable race. That is to say, don't just throw somebody from downstate on the ticket to say that we have balance, but support a qualified candidate who can articulate the issues and strengthen the overall party.
I meant it then and I mean it now. But I can honestly say that I didn't realize what my comments a few weeks ago would put in motion. When Judy Barr Topinka indicated that she was going to make the race for Governor, I said in part, the following:
It's just that I think that in a blue state, with an open statewide seat up for grabs, the race is now begging for somebody with legislative experience and a broader perspective of state issues than one would get in (Mangieri's) present position...As such, the Dems best bet is to put the most qualified candidate forward regardless of geographic or other considerations. And that means that there are now a lot of people that are going to give this race a fresh look.
At the time, my comments were candidly made from the mindset of observer, not participant. I wasn't trying to throw the door open for myself, rather it just seemed obvious to me that at least one or two seasoned Democrats would make a move to take the open seat. In fact, I even placed calls to a couple of current and past Democratic office holders encouraging them to seek the office. But oddly enough, nobody really had the interest.

Then the phone calls started and I found myself again considering whether or not this was something that I wanted to do. And while it would have been easier just to ignore the fact that the race was viable (to say the least), that would have simply been a way to avoid making a decision.

The technical analysis of the race was actually the easiest part of the decision. Based upon the commitments which were graciously extended to me by key individuals from around the City and County, I am confident that Chicago and Cook County would prove to be a very significant asset in my campaign. As important, however, have been the numerous calls that I have received from downstate Democrats, including some Downstate Chairmen with whom I had never previously spoken, indicating their support as well.

A review of the field really didn't sway me one way or the other. About a week ago, I met with Alexi Giannulias, a 29 year old alum of my high school who has stated his intentions to run. Alexi reminds me of myself at that age, although much more focused and with a lot more money :) I think that he is intelligent, sincere, and that he and I would find ourselves to have much in common on the issues.

Slated candidate, Paul Mangieri came by for a visit a couple of days later. Paul exudes the confidence that a slated candidate should carry, and strikes me as a good and decent man. In any event, out of deference and my commitment to both men, I am not going to discuss the content of our meetings other than to say that I thought that they were both positive and that I like both of these guys.

On the Republican side, I just don't see anybody out there that can make a real go of this race. Without going after anybody personally, let me just say that the Dems should be ashamed of themselves if we don't pick up this seat.

I then needed to take a fresh look at the substantive nature of the office. A review of the work of past Treasurers convinced me that the job is much more than that of a glorified banker. The Treasurer has a unique ability to implement and direct policy through the monetary leverage that is the state depository amount. A meeting with Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and a review of his tenure as State Treasurer shows the ability, through link deposit programs and the like, to work on issues ranging from agricultural incentives to veterans' programs to affordable housing.

I also took into consideration that I was making a decision that, one way or another, would forever change my path of public service. As such, properly or not, the question that I focused on wasn't whether I wanted to run for Treasurer, but in light of how I have seen things fall into place, whether I want to be Treasurer. I have always said that I would never seek an office solely for the sake of doing it. But it is also quite possible that there will never be a better chance to seek the honor and privilege of being a statewide constitutional officer and of doing the service that I could do in such an office.

After numerous discussions with friends, both political and non-political, and with my immediate family, a couple of questions kept resurfacing - One, was I leaning toward running because of a sincere desire to become the State Treasurer or simply because I believed that the campaign would be a successful one? Two, is this the capacity in which I feel that I can best be of service? And most importantly, is this the direction that I want to take with my family at this juncture?

It would be disingenuous to say that my thoughts haven't been back and forth numerous times. But I am now reassured that I have actually meant it all these years when I said that I would not run just for the sake of it.

I believe that there are issues and causes that I still want to work on, and I do not believe that the office of Treasurer is the best place for me to do that. For that reason, I will not be a candidate for the office in 2006. Rather, I will seek re-election to represent the 11th District in the Illinois House.

Often times, people shy away from a race that seems like an uphill battle. Let me assure you that that is an easier decision to make than this one has been. I appreciate to no end the calls of friendship and offers of support that have poured in, and the patience of my friends and colleagues as I worked to come to a decision.

I have no idea what, if anything my political future holds. Heck, I'd be lying if I said that I am positive that I am making the right decision. But I am going to look forward to the future and continuing to work, not just on substantive issues, but on making our party and the process the best that they can be. And I will continue to put those interests before my own.

On an related note, and maybe a topic for anoter day, this exercise has clarified for me that the future of the Democratic Party in our state rests in the ability and commitment to put forth ideals before individuals. There are people from one end of the state to the other prepared to step up for a candidate, regardless of location or background, whom they believe can give them a vision for leadership. The Party must strive to put those candidates forward.

I don't have the time or energy right now to monitor posts on both sites right now. If you feel compelled to post on this issue, feel free to do it at Dome-icile.

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Where's The Love?

Lord Have Mercy, did Rush and Avila have some bad things to say about Tom Dart and the Irish to Channel 7's Andy Shaw last week! Where's the love? It's Christmas!

'Congressman Bobby Rush is lobbying against Tom Dart on the grounds of alleged racial insensitivity. Latino activist Frank Avila says another Irish politician from the Southwest Side is unacceptable. A lot of names are being floated to see what happens but Tom Dart appears to have the support of enough powerful democrats, including the Daley's, John Stroger and ward bosses from the city and suburbs, to ensure a victory next Monday when the organization picks a candidate to run in place of Michael Sheahan.' - From ABC 7 last week! 11/22/05

Wait - here's the love -

'In addition, Congressman Bobby Rush is calling on African American politicians to come up with a black candidate because, in Rush's opinion, Tom Dart's record as a state legislator is unacceptable.
"You want to have a sheriff who is racially insensitive. I think Tom Dart might be one of the most racially insensitive persons," said Rep. Bobby Rush, (D) Chicago.
"I think he is going to have a very difficult time finding (racial insensitivity)," said Dart.
Cook County republicans have a Latino candidate for sheriff. Investigator Peter Garza and democratic activist Frank Avila says that his party should do the same thing.
"The question is, does is every single elected official have to be Irish? Does every single elected official have to be from the 19th Ward? The fact of the matter is the regular organization has not supported Hispanics. They have opposed Hispanics," Frank Avila, (D) Possible Candidate for Sheriff '

As I recall Tom Dart was sensitive to Barack Obama when they drafted legislation together in Springfield. Bobby Rush suggested that the Junior U.S. Senator for Illinois was not "Black enough" when Obama ran against him for his Congressional seat and Tom Dart very sensitively backed Obama's candidacy. Bobby Rush could grow roses the size of Wal-Mart with stuff he spreads around.

Frank Avila, Latino Activist, hates Irish names. Bernardo O'Higgins? Don Bernardo O'Brien? Juan O'Riley? Guilermo Bulfin? Those guys were all Latinos. Heroes of Chilean, Argentinian, Mexican, and Brazilian freedom. Frank you're profiling.

When the Democratic Committee announces the Democratic Cook County candidate for Sheriff, we will have more opportunity to grow some roses.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Springfield Animal Farm

Under the heading of “If you don’t like the rules, change them” comes a new law which the State Board of Elections identifies as “sponsoring entity.”

Before, if at any person or entity contributed at least one-third of total funding of a political committee, that contributor had to be listed as a sponsoring entity of that committee.

Now, there are three exceptions:
· An established political party,
· A partisan caucus of either house of the Illinois General Assembly, and,
· The Speaker/President or Minority Leader in the Illinois House/Senate

This would allow, for example, a Downstate Democrat who was strongly funded by one of campaign funds controlled by Speaker Mike Madigan to avoid revealing that fact in the title of his/her campaign committee.

The law joins the special right to conceal staff time sheets, which the Leadership previously granted to itself.

Both are right out of “Animal Farm,” in which some animals are more equal than others.

But, as Lynn Sweet, Washington correspondent for the Chicago Sun-Times, stressed in one of her columns, “Abuse of power comes as no surprise.” (Translated from a small billboard near the Amsterdam train station, which she photographed.) She said that she “did it to remind myself of the power of the people I cover—mostly government and political officials—and of the power I have as a journalist.”

From McHenry County Blog

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Cong. Jan Schakowsky: Just full of it

Marathon Pundit's rep in Congress is Jan Schakowsky of Evanston, IL. She's a
hard-left liberal, and here once again is the write-up on Jan from FrontPage Magazine's Discover the Network.

A week before Thanksgiving, this press release came out of Schakowsky's Washington office:

SCHAKOWSKY COMMENDS CONGRESSMAN MURTHA FOR HIS CALL TO WITHDRAW AMERICAN TROOPS FROM IRAQ

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, a founding member of the Out-of-Iraq Caucus, today released a statement commending Congressman John Murtha's call for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Representative Schakowsky's full statement is below:

"Today, Congressman John Murtha, a decorated war veteran and national leader on defense, called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Congressman Murtha's principled stand is a breakthrough moment in the effort to bring our troops home. A majority of Democrats in the House voted against this disastrous war, but now, those who supported it agree that the situation on the ground is untenable, that the Administration has mishandled the war, and that our troops deserve better than to be left in Iraq indefinitely."

"Last month, we lost our 2,000th American soldier in Iraq. The situation is getting worse and less stable. The Bush administration has left our men and women in harm's way with no exit strategy and no way out. It is time to bring them home."

"I commend Congressman Murtha for his leadership
."

Well, earlier this month Jan had her biq chance on the floor of the House to vote to bring our troops home from Iraq. And you know what? She voted to keep the troops there.

Murtha, Jan's new hero, voted the same way. Murtha says he wants the troops to leave Iraq, but in six months.

Schakowsky wanted the troops to leave Iraq after the January elections there. From Buzzflash, quoting Jan:

"A political process has begun, admittedly fragile, and it is time for the United States to leave. Once the January 30 elections are concluded, the new Iraqi government takes responsibility for forging its own path toward stability and democracy. The U.S. should provide financial and material assistance for that effort and encourage the international community to help."

Just full of it.

Oh, Jan is by no measure a screaming lib backbencher. She's in contention to become vice chair of the house caucus, the Democrats' fourth-ranking member in the lower chamber.

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Bears Win Away in Tampa Bay


The Bears win streak is now at 7 games with today's 13-10 win over the Buccaneers in Tampa, however, it wasn't the 44-0 blowout hoped for here . Thanks to Mark Potash of the Sun Times for reminding me of that great day in 1985 when the Bears showed the world they were for real with the 44-0 clobbering of America's team, the Dallas Cowboys. Going into today's game, I was feeling that this Bears team resembled the '85' Bears much more than the '01' Bears did.

After whipping up on the Carolina Panthers last week, the Bears defense came in to today's game with the best defense in the NFL. They picked up today where they left off last week. On the first Buccaneer possession, Alex Brown forced quarterback Chris Simms to fumble on the Bucs own goal line. On the first play after the change of possession, Kyle Orton came out and threw the 1 yard touchdown pass to tight end John Gilmore. The Bears were on their way to win number 7 in a row.

If this Bear team would like to be compared to the '85' Bears in the one area that is actually relevant (World Champions), lets take a quick look at where they need the greatest improvement -- the offense. Let me start by saying that I like Kyle Orton a lot. As a rookie, he has stepped up and performed admirably. However, after cruising for something like 37 offensive possessions without surrendering a touchdown (this is remarkable), the inevitable happened, and Mike Alstott (I would never wish to be the person asked to try to tackle this beast) barreled into the end zone in the 4th quarter. What the Bears needed most here was to get the ball back and score -- touchdown or field goal -- it didn't matter. What did matter was the feeling that the Bears were allowing the Bucs back into the game (their last two wins were 4th quarter come from behind wins). In their next possession, the Bears were forced to punt after Orton was called for intentional grounding.

A Bears scoring drive following the Bucs touchdown would have gone a long way towards shifting the game's momentum back in favor of the Bears. A scoring drive would have also shown that this team can go punch for punch with any team in the league. Fortunately, as mentioned before, the Bears have the best defense in the NFL and were able to secure the Bears victory (with a little help from Buccaneer kicker Matt Bryant who missed what would have been a game tying field goal from 29 yards). While the missed field goal was reminiscent of the '01' Bears type of win (they had shamrocks flying out of their butts that year), Ogunleye game ending sack brought me back where I wanted to be -- 1985.

This team has what it takes to go more than one deep into the post season. The Bears defense has made this the 8-3 team that it is. Its time for the offense to step up and put more points on the board.

Whack-a-Mole

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bar Association Plans Ad Campaign

After two years of beatings by corporate America and their allies, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the non-partisan Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) is planning an ad campaign to try to reform their profession's image.

The ISBA membership includes both trial attorneys and defense attorneys for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. The ISBA officially opposed limits on compensation for pain and suffering passed by the Illinois General Assembly last year, and according to the Post-Dispatch, has recognized the negative impact that corporate-backed ad campaigns have had on their profession and the judicial system:


Anderson said that while the marketing proposal is not directly designed to combat criticisms of trial lawyers in Madison County, the attacks cannot be ignored.

"Certainly that has to be in our minds because of the onslaught of advertising that does reflect negatively on lawyers and judges and the judicial process," he said.


Supporters of limits on legal rights hope to use their momentum from the med mal battle to pass further restrictions on civil rights, including limitations on compensation for asbestos victims, giving corporations control over where suits are filed against them, and limiting the right of consumers and families to file class action lawsuits against polluters, frauds, and the manufacturers of dangerous products.

Question: What message should the ISBA send to the public to help restore the image of attorneys, and what impact do you think it will have on public perceptions of our judicial system?

More on this topic on Yellow Dog Blog this week.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Rich Miller -- ahead of his time with this blog

First, this is a great idea and a great opportunity to learn about some of the other things going on around the state -- lke the Asian carp story I just read about. I can't speak for anybody else, but it gives me great comfort entering the holiday season to know that Sen. Jacobs is leading the brave fight against carp - described in some circles as terrorists with fins.
That reminds me of a joke I heard recently.
What's the difference between a carp and an elected official in Illinois?
Well, one is a blood-sucking parasite that wallows in the mud and preys on the weak ... and the other one is a fish.

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In the coming weeks I'll be reporting on a couple of stories that will be of interest statewide.
Four employees of the Franklin-Williamson Regional Office of Education, including superintendent Barry Kohl, were arrested last year on a 62-count indictment that includes forgery, perjury and theft. This case has slugged through the court system and is now scheduled for a final pre-trial hearing on Nov. 30. After countless hearings held by conference call the four defendants will finally be in a courtroom this coming Wednesday, so things should start getting interesting pretty quicky. On top of the problems with the Attorney General, Kohl also received another bad audit only last month -- problems that surfaced about expenditures AFTER he was arrested.
The really unique thing about this story is that Kohl has announced that he will run for re-election in the March primary. The last three elections Kohl has ran unopposed but Matt Donkin, a principal at West Frankfort High School has announced he will be a candidate so Kohl will face a challenge in the Democratic primary in March. It goes without saying that the Dems in Franklin and Williamson are sweating bullets right now about what to do with Kohl, who has been a leading figure in the Democrat Party for more than two decades. To say that some Dems are trying to distance themselves from Kohl would be an understatement.
It's a story that will get more interesting as the court process continues right alongside the election campaign.

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Another story that is developing in Southern Illinois is a move by Franklin County officials to get legislation passed during the next session to change the current system of assessing taxes.
Currently, township assessors handle the job, but the problem is this group is not doing a very good job. In fact, and to be totally honest, some township assessors are doing nothing, period. This was highlighted when the Franklin County Board hired an independent assessor who, within a six-week span found $25 million of property that had never been added to the tax rolls. That list included 51 businesses! How do you miss 51 businesses in a county the size of Franklin? Some assessors turned in zero changes or additions during an entire tax year.
In a nutshell, the legislation that will be proposed will allow any county board -- in a county with a population less than 80,000 -- the option to hire outside assessors and do away with township assessors. The key word is 'option' meaning that if counties are happy with the current process no change is mandatory.
I have heard rumblings, and maybe somebody on this site knows for sure, that Franklin County is not the only county that has big problems with township tax assessors.

-0-

Once again, thanks for the invitation, Rich, I see nothing but success for this site.

-- posted by Jim Muir -- 'From Where I Blog'

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sen. Jacobs rides to the rescue on Asian Carp eradication


As families gathered for Thanksgiving across northwest Illinois, the main topic of conversation for young and old at the table this year wasn't Iraq, taxes, bird flu, or the Bears. It was who in the world could we depend on to step forward and create a public/private partnership to protect us from Asian carp. What was the use of living if it was in a world dominated by these souless fat jumping bastards.

Well, fear no more. Senator Jacobs, with his finger on the pulse of the electorate, has stepped into the breach to propose carp related program activities.

State Senator state Mike Jacobs says he is anxious to get something done about the problem of the Asian carp that now infest many of Illinois waterways.

The Moline Democrat says that while the invasive fish are an ecological nightmare, they could be the source of new jobs and other economic benefits for the state.

Jacobs says that when the legislative session opens in January, he will propose a public-private venture and request 900 thousand dollars in state funds for Schafer's Fisheries, the largest wholesale fish supplier in the Midwest.

Schafer's, which has branches in Fulton and Thompson, recently started production of an organic fish fertilizer. The company is also considering several options to create and fill the market for Asian carp including a protein extraction plant, a frozen fish pattie and vacuum-packed carp.
Mmmmmmm Vacuum-packed carp, it's not just for breakfast anymore.

Some carp have escaped the southern fish farms and made their way north along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and could soon reach the Great Lakes. An electric barrier south of Chicago, which gives the fish a non-lethal jolt, is designed to prevent them from entering Lake Michigan.

Asian carp, which often leap out of the water, can grow to more than 100 pounds.

As filter feeders, they're affecting the Illinois River food chain by eating plankton needed by native fish.

The silver species which leaps from the water makes boating dangerous when the large fish crash into boats, hitting people and damaging equipment.

They grow quickly, have no natural predators and won't bite a hook. One fish can produce 2.2 million eggs.

Some experts believe the electronic barrier installed to keep them out of the Great Lakes has come too late.
From the U.S. EPA:
Federal and state agencies completed construction of an electrical fish barrier as a demonstration project to study the effectiveness of preventing species migration between the River and the Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the temporary electronic dispersal barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Romeoville, Illinois, at a cost of approximately $2.2 million. It was activated in April, 2002.

In late October 2004, construction will begin on a second, more permanent barrier. The new barrier, scheduled to be completed in February 2005, stretches two rows of electrodes across the canal approximately 220 feet apart. The electrodes pulse DC current into the water, causing fish will turn back rather than pass through the electric current.

The cost of this permanent barrier is $9.1 million. These funds are 75% federal and 25% non-federal. The State of Illinois has committed $1.7 for the non-federal share.

So the state and federal government have a barrier in place which it going to be made permanent at a cost of over $10 million dollars all together. Is handing a private company nearly a million bucks to harvest the raw material they'll then process and make a profit on really in the public interest?

Having private interests harvest this invasive species is a fine idea. It's win-win. Someone like Shafer's can harvest the fish or buy them from independent fisherman, and then process the fish into various products and, with good management, make a profit and expand their business and create a handful of jobs in the process.

But where I'm confused is, why does Shafer's, which I'm sure is a fine company, need nearly a million bucks of our money to do this? If they need start-up capital, shouldn't they go to their banker like everyone else?

If the state were paying them simply to eradicate the carp and say, bury them or something as a means of protecting the fisheries and waterways, then that would be one thing. They'd need to be paid to cover their costs. But this proposal isn't about getting rid of a potentially harmful invader species. That should be able to be accomplished in the free market without taxpayer funded subsidies.

Shafer's is going to process the carp into potentially profitable by-products. Why shouldn't they pay for the raw materials for their business like every other business in the country, or world for that matter? Yet Jacobs is pointing to his proposal to hand them nearly a million tax dollars as if it's a great accomplishment for which we should all be grateful.

As long as someone says the magic words, "public/private partnership", and "jobs", are we supposed to just swallow that it must be ok and we shouldn't ask exactly how many jobs, at what pay scale, will be created and what we're getting in exchange for our nearly one million dollars? The question should be asked, how much is Jacobs proposing we pay per job created.

What gives? Somebody straighten me out here as to why Jacob's proposal is good for anyone but Shafer's and perhaps the few lucky people who may get one of the added jobs. And don't say it will get rid of carp. Thankfully, with several commercial uses for carp byproducts, that could be accomplished in the marketplace without public dollars.

As posted at THE INSIDE DOPE.

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