Friday, June 30, 2006

Lemons into Lemonade

Despite their thorough coverage, the Capital Fax and Archpundit have overlooked one noteworthy aspect of the notorious Fitzgerald letter (pdf):

We are also sensitive to ensuring the maximum recovery of possible State of Illinois losses from the alleged criminal conduct we are investigating. I assure you that we will vigorously seek to protect the State’s interest in this regard, as we would for any victim of an alleged crime. In particular, should there be a federal indictment resulting from our investigation, under the federal Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (MVRA) any defendants convicted in any such case must ordered to pay full restitution to any victim.

Furthermore, should the United States seek the forfeiture of assets, we would likely agree to equitably remit any forfeited assets to any victim of the crimes charged to the extendt necessary to make the crime victim whole. And we can assure you that if, through our investigation and any subsequent trial, we are able to demonstate that the State of Illinois was such a victim, we would pursue whatever remedies are available through restitution or forfeiture to return any losses sustained by Illinois to the state’s coffers.
They say that the Chinese have a single word for "crisis" and "opportunity" -- People of Illinois, this is our "cris-itunity"!

The governors' office should be soliciting parties who wish to bid for the right to future revenues due Illinois in the form of forfeitures and restitution. Much like the Skyway lease, a bidder would pay an up-front sum in exchange for any money that comes into the state's coffers as the result of this federal prosecution. And if bidders expect the degree of fraud that the feds will uncover in Illinois government to be high, they will bid accordingly.

The value of fraud in governmental hiring in Illinois likely exceeds the value of the lottery and Thompson Center combined.

Finally, government corruption that pays off for the citizens of Illinois!


If Kinko's charged a dollar a page...

Cross posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

… nobody would go to Kinko’s. But what if you HAD to go to Kinko’s to get a copy of the document you wanted?

For years now, ICPR has tracked candidate ads on Chicago television stations. We do this partly by taping broadcasts and partly by obtaining the contracts from the 9 largest stations in the Chicago market. Stations are required by federal law to make copies of these contracts available to the public, though the law also allows stations to charge a reasonable copying fee. Which quickly raises the question, what’s reasonable?

Actual fees charged by the stations vary wildly. Some are free. Others are ten cents a page, or twenty cents a page. But one is fully a dollar a page. That’s out of the ballpark of most stations; it’s also much more than what commercial copiers charge, and it’s more than most governmental agencies charge for copies.

Today’s papers carry at least two stories on a challenge to the DuPage Election Commission’s practice of charging $1 per page for copies requested by the public. High copying fees prevent the public from gaining access to records that are supposed to be available to the public, not just to see, not just to read, but to have, to write on, to mark up, to study. High copying fees, as the people quoted in these stories so eloquently describe, work against the purpose of public access to records.

We stand with those who ask the DuPage Election Commission to lower their fees. And we also hope that the people at WBBM (CBS-Channel 2) in Chicago will re-examine what it actually costs them to make copies of ad contracts.


Yusef Jackson in Bud ( er bid) to Buy Sun Times

Looks like the Peotone Airport Ploy will get some solid media coverage if the Bud Brothers's, Yusef, gets the winning bid for the Sun Times. Reports in the media, like Phil Rosenthal's column in the Chicago Tribune ( June 30, 2006), estimate that Yusef Jackson with the backing of grocery store magnate Ron Burckle of California might pop down $ 850 million buds ( er, Bucks) for The Bright One.,1,3499896.column?coll=chi-business-hed


CQ's Congressional election predictions

Congressional Quarterly (CQ) has their take on House races up on their site. Nationally they predict the outcome will be republicans winning 224 seats and the democrats 202. Interesting to Illinois voters is how they see the individual state races and by clicking on the interactive map a page of individual district demographic information pops up as well as commentary on the various candidates.

CQ sees Illinois' 6th district pitting republican Peter Roskam over democrat Tammy Duckworth leaning republican. They have democrat Melissa Bean winning her race with republican David McSweeney in the 8th. Safe seats include republican John Shimkus in the 19th, democrat Jerry Costello in the 12th etc...

Updated race predictions will be online after July 15.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Waiting for Congressman Rahm Emanuel’s Deposition

There are going to be some interesting questions asked of Democratic (Party) Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel.

And, it won’t be at a press conference.

It will be at a deposition, unless Emanuel can extract himself from a federal lawsuit just filed Thursday.

8th congressional district peace candidate Bill Scheurer apparently didn’t get the 14,000 signatures required to get on the ballot as a candidate for the Moderate Party, but, besides running a write-in campaign, Scheurer has sued various Democratic Party officials, including Emanuel.

McHenry County Blog reported last Friday how Scheurer was duped by what certainly must be a Democratic Party operative.

The operative, whose name remains unknown, used a card from an employee of first term Democratic Party Congressman Dan Lapinski to convince Scheurer than he was the employee, a guy who runs a political consulting firm on the side.

The impostor promised to get at least 10,000 petition signatures for Scheurer, but didn’t deliver, leaving Scheurer short of the necessary 14,000 names a week before filing.

Scheurer won’t be on the ballot this fall, but he will extract revenge until the suit is concluded. Besides the suit, he will run a write-in campaign.

Congressman Lipinski is also named in the suit, as is Michael Madigan, Chairman of the Illniois Democratic Party.

= = = = =

Congressman Rahm Emanuel is show on top, Bill Scheurer in the middle and Congressman Dan Lipinski on the bottom.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ald. Bernie Stone accuses unions of strong-arming colleagues over "big box" ordinance

Crossposted on Marathon Pundit. (And there is plenty of DePaul stuff to be found, too.)

Ald. Joe "No Foie Gras For Me" Moore is spearheading the Chicago City Council drive to raise the minimum wage for large "big box" retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

Moore, whose 49th Ward is not surprisingly lacking in attractive retail outlets, harrumphs that Wal-Mart and the like "can afford" to pay the higher wages.

Perhaps. But that doesn't make it less likely that these chains will open new stores in Chicago? Stores that aren't built here, won't employ Chicagoans.

Moore's neighbor to the west is 50th Ward Alderman Bernie Stone.

Bernie wants to block Moore's bill. And he had some interesting things to say yesterday to the Chicago Sun-Times:

"The unions have backed aldermen against the wall. They've threatened to fund opponents against them and to solicit opponents to run against" those who dare to oppose the big-box ordinance, Stone said

"I'm not stupid. I know certain aldermen have been threatened. That's the type of campaign the unions have run. I think it's despicable what's been done. They figure they've got us by the short hairs."

Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon, who has led the charge for the big-box ordinance, emphatically denied strong-arming aldermen.


Incumbent Republican Congressmen at Risk

As I was driving home from Cub Scout Camp, I heard that the United States Supreme Court has validated the GOP Texas legislature’s re-districting of its congressional seats.

Congressional districts must be re-districted after every census, of course, but, under the guidance of former congressional leader Dick Armey, a newly elected and Republican-controlled legislature decided to do it a second time in order to elect more Republicans

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is OK to re-district congressional seats more than once a decade.

Here are the implications I’ve thought of so far for Illinois:

· Republican congressmen are going to be a whole lot more supportive of GOP gubernatorial candidate Judy Topinka than they otherwise would have been.

One way to stop Illinois Democrats from lowering the hammer of reapportionment would be to elected Judy Topinka. After all, reapportionment doesn’t become law until a governor signs a bill. Congressional candidates like David McSweeney and Peter Roskam now have a real reason to gin up their troops for Topinka. Republican congressmen will also probably start being a big help in Topinka’s fund raising quest. She may end up with enough money for a real television campaign this fall.

· All congressmen are going to be a lot more responsive to state legislators than they previously have been.

Federal congressmen generally pretty much ignore state elections. They have had no stake, except for the once-every-ten-year’s reapportionment. From now on, state legislators have a choke chain that did not exist before.

United States Representatives now have a large stake in seeing their party’s candidates elected to the General Assembly. Before, any stake was limited to the elections ending in the year “0.”

Besides that, I can think of one change in Federal legislation that would receive bi-partisan state legislative

When the 1992 re-districting was forthcoming, Congressman Phil Crane sent a letter to Illinois legislators promising to lower the tax rate on non-congressional campaign funds. He didn’t deliver.

Currently, in a typical Animal Farm scenario, congressmen’s political action committees have a 15% tax rate, while state and local PAC’s pay 35%. That probably is to make it much harder for state and local politicians to accumulate the resources to challenge a sitting congressman. That incredible disparity in tax rate much change.

· If Democrats can reach agreement on new district lines, there will be more Democratic Party and fewer Republican Party congressmen than there are now.

That's pretty obvious.

Although the Democrats would have time to pass reapportionment legislation before a Governor Judy Topinka would take office, there is not guarantee that they will.

I remember trying to convince Lee Daniels to pass legislation to force the Metropolitan Sanitary District board members to run from single member districts, instead of at-large, when he was House Speaker. For some reason, he refused to do so, even though it would have assured at least some GOP suburban representation on the MSD’s board. Maybe there was a side deal I wasn’t privy to.

There could be a side deal here between Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and United State House Speaker Dennis Hastert, assuming Madigan needs any incentive whatsoever to help elect Topinka.

After all, Topinka doesn't want to serve more than one term anyway. She can raise the income tax, becoming a heroine of the Left Stream media for doing the "right thing," and retire on an excellent pension, after Attorney General Lisa Madigan is sworn in as Governor.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Blagojevich salutes new running program

The group is called Illinois Runs, and guess who is a board member?

(You have to scroll down a bit.)

Here in PDF form is the congratulatory letter from Governor Rod Blagojevich to Beth Onines, wishing the Illinois Runs executive director good luck with the new venture.

A similar post can be found on Marathon Pundit.


Ditka's Defense of Guillen: Immigrants are Too Stupid

I like the White Sox. And while Ozzie Guillen is not the best coach and has made some questionable pitching changes in his career, he sure knows how to get the most out of his team on the field.

Still, there's no defense for his comments toward Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti, and after today's driveling interview with Mike Ditka in the Sun-Times, I have to agree with Moriotti's contention on Chicago Tonight (6/26) that the Sun-Times is not really backing it's staff up.

Is it news that Mike Ditka likes Ozzie Guillen? Only if it's news that Harry Caray liked Budweiser. What I did love was Ditka's defense of Guillen:

"He's down-to-earth, he's blue-collar and he's also also a product of Venezuela who has spent his life playing baseball and that's just who he is. So he probably still doesn't understand a lot of things in our country as well as he understands baseball. And let's be honest, this is the same problem players from the Dominican Republic and other countries have when they don't speak perfect English. There will be misunderstandings."
It's an interesting defense. First, by definition, there are no blue collar professional baseball players; these are guys that hire other people to walk the picket line for them when they go on strike. And even most blue collar folks I know realize that you don't run around calling journalists "fag" when you're the coach of a major sporting team.

Secondly, Ozzie Guillen has lived in the U.S. for over twenty years. He may be an immigrant, but he's not a moron, and I'm sure he's learned what the word "fag" means now, if he didn't already know when he got here.

Third, this was no "misunderstanding." This is only the latest insult by Guillen over a journalist's perceived sexual orientation, which included a locker room incident where Guillen, then a player and buck-naked at the time, walked up behind a guy and pretended to sodomize him from behind.

Illinois has come along way in ending discrimination. Both gubernatorial candidates support our current anti-discrimination laws and marched in this year's Pride Parade. An effort to enshrine the anti-gay American agenda in our Constitution is about to go down in flames. And new research is shedding light on the link between biology and gayness.

Despite all that, Jay Mariotti is slowly being squeezed out of his profession because of Guillen's bigoted views about his perceived sexuality, and Ditka's redneck defense of Guillen's redneck remarks is that Latino immigrants are to stupid to know what they are saying.

There ought to be a Constitutional Ban Against Stupid People.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Sad News

Things like this put everything quickly back into perspective:
(Crain’s) — Alexis Giannoulias, founder and chairman of Chicago-based Broadway Bank, died suddenly while traveling in his native Greece over the weekend.

Mr. Giannoulias, 69, suffered an apparent heart attack, according to a spokesman for his son, Alexi Giannoulias, who is the Democratic nominee for state treasurer... In addition to his three sons, Mr. Giannoulias is survived by his wife of 38 years, Anna.

Politics can be a rough and tumble business, and this is the type of story that should remind everybody of priorities and what's really important in life. My condolences to my friend Alexi, his terrific mom, and their whole family.


Bill Scheurer Files for Congress in the 8th Congressional Distric; Green, Constitution and Indepence Parties File against Blagojevich & Topinka

Whether he had 14,000 signatures or not is unknown at this point, but Moderate Party candidate Bill Scheurer is listed as having filed for congress in the 8th congressional district on the State Board of Elections web site.

Scheurer can be accurately described as a "peace candidate."

Scheurer was the victim of a dirty trick last week in which a political consultant impersonator did not deliver the 18,000 signatures that he had promised.

Reached in his car, McHenry County Blog asked how many signatures he filed. His enigmatic answer:

The official public answer is, "We filed 10-12,000 less than the number we would have filed had we not been the victim of criminal fraud. We filed 10-12,000 more signatures than either of the corporate party candidates filed to get on the ballot themselves."

(Republican David McSweeney just emailed me that he filed "2,500-3,000 signatures." Do the math and you will see that Scheurer has precious few signatures over the 14,000 required or he is a bit short.)

A copy of our filing was pulled with three minutes after it was filed.

We are pursuing several avenues of criminal investigation I have filed to be on the ballot to be on the ballot as a third party candidate. I have also filed with all three of the counties a declaration of candidacy for a write-in candidate.

We believe that the Democratic Party is involved in a fraud against democracy itself. And the way they can wipe their hands clean of that is to welcome me into the race like the other party.
Scheuer said he had
4 or 5-dozen volunteers in the streets
this past weekend.

I have previously suggested that the Democrats have the most to lose if Sheurer is on the ballot. Substantiating that opinion was David McSweeney's announcement that he would not challenge Scheurer's petitions.

It will be interesting to see who challenges Scheurer's petitions. A good clue is that House Speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan's former parliamentarian Mike Kasper is the person who picked up copies of Scheurer's petitions.

For more information on Scheurer, click here.

Also filing were the following gubernatorial candidates:
· Randall Stufflebeam of the Constitution Party
· Rich Whitney of the Green Party and
· James Blaine of the Independence Party
Stufflebeam won the game of “chicken” and will be last on the ballot, if he withstands an expected ballot challenge from supporters of Judy Topinka. Stufflebeam is a social conservative who would not have participated in the Gay Pride Parade yesterday, as Topinka did.

Stufflebean told McHenry County Blog:
"We ended up filing 4,382."
The answer to the question about whom he expected to challenge his petitions:
"The Republicans."
Stufflebeam said that the Democrats were there ready to contest (Green Party Whitney's petitions), but
"Apparently, the Republicans ran out of time because it was five o’clock."
The Green Party seems most confident in its having gathered the 25,000 necessary signatures, which, I hasten to add is 5 times the number required by the power party candidates.

As Green campaign manager Jennifer Rose told McHenry County Blog,
"We exceeded the legal requirement by several thousand."
The Independence Party candidate did not file a full slate of candidates, so will be disqualified, if anyone cares to challenge its petitions’ sufficiency.


Limiting Limits

Cross posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

Today’s Supreme Court ruling in the Vermont campaign finance case shows strong legal support for reasonable campaign finance reform, and it points the way to enacting such reforms here in Illinois.

Vermont’s law, perhaps the toughest in the nation, is unlike any measure now pending in Illinois. Vermont’s law limited giving to as little as $200, which, the Court noted, “are the lowest in the Nation.” It applied the same limits to individuals, parties and PACs. Limits applied to all giving over a two-year period, rather than applying for each election. Although the law never took effect, the Court suggested that it would have applied to expenses incurred by volunteers even if not reimbursed by a campaign. And perhaps most importantly, it restricted total expenditures. Sizing up all of these restrictions, a plurality of the Court concluded that the Act was unconstitutional.

Showing how complicated this kind of law can be, however, the ruling was not a majority opinion. Four justices (Breyer, Roberts, Alito and Kennedy) agreed that, while some limits are allowable, these are not. Three others (Souter, Stevens, and Ginsburg) concluded not only that some limits are allowable, but that the appellate court should study this further; Justice Stevens suggested he would have upheld these limits. Only two justices, Scalia and Thomas, argued that the Vermont law and also every other restriction on campaign finances are unconstitutional. Even though they could not agree on a single reason, a majority of the justices agreed that Vermont’s laws went too far. As a result of this fracture, the practical impact of this case may be limited.

Illinois, without any limits, remains the Wild West of campaign finance in the USA. Donors can and do give six- and even seven-figure contributions to support a single candidate. The impact of these large contributions cannot be underestimated. Large donors continue to enjoy practical benefits and access unavailable to ordinary citizens. Illinois continues to need campaign finance reforms, and this ruling shows how to craft reforms that respect free speech.

Reform proposals here would likely not run afoul of today’s ruling. Limits legislation now pending in the state legislature, including HB 743 and SB 1822, set higher overall limits, apply limits per election rather than per biennium, allow larger contributions from PACs than from individuals, and higher still from parties; and do not touch overall spending limits. Indeed, Illinois’ current proposals would do nothing more than bring our state into the 20th Century of campaign finance laws.

For a copy of the Supreme Court ruling in Randall v Sorrell, click here (PDF)


Sometimes I enjoy watching cable access...

Just about every weekend morning from about 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM I watch this slot on Chicago Access Network Channel 19. This slot has programming where often I would see programming hosted by blacks that are live call-in programs. Usually the topic of discussion is politics and issues as pertaining to blacks living in Chicago.

This weekend was interesting. On Saturday morning was a program called Daleyland. This is a somewhat frequent programs that might air maybe 4 or more times a year hosted by Eugene Mathews. He would have a co-host who on this day was a man named Boyse Edwards (I'll talk about him in a minute).

In any case this show usually laments the policies of Mayor Richard M. Daley and his control over city politics. On this day they didn't talk much about Daley for the most part they steered clear of Daley. The show revolved around President Bush, the shutdown of a federal courthouse in downtown Chicago, the recent incident involving a police officer involved with a drug ring, and then the issue of illegal immigration. In any case there is an indication that the show will return in August hopefully I'll be able to tune in.

On Sunday was a live call-in program produced by Jamm Right Productions called the B-Corner. This was hosted by the aforementioned Boyse Edwards who for the first half hour had as his guest, Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica. He talked about the current race for county board president mostly and the wrangling involved with figuring out what to do about the sickness of John Stroger.

Peraica says that the board has difficulty agreeing on anything let alone if Stroger should be removed and replaced. Even went so far as to saying that the Democrats on the County Board disregarding the advice of their fellow Democrat State's Attorney Dick Devine who suggested that John Stroger could be replaced temporarily.

He even talked about an impromptu press conference he had in city hall where according to him he was no where near the floor of the council but was in another room nearby. Apparently he was responding to a statement made in the city council by Ald. Todd Stroger with regards to his father's health. Saying that John Stroger was on a feeding tube to name one thing I recall correctly. Anyway eventually this conference was cut short when some police asked him to leave. Peraica even said he was almost about ready to box.

So anyway this segment ended with Peraica talking about why he should be elected. He didn't seem to make it clear that he wanted to be elected. Just said a line about vote for me for change or vote for the status quo. But he did say about one true statement, it's a shame that 24% of Cook County residents can vote while a much higher number of Iraqis can go out and vote in the middle of a war.

The programs that I see everynow and then, seem to have more black public official on then I'd see on more mainstream outlets. I think that on Beyond the Beltway one time Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was lamenting that the media never seems to talk to him about other issues other than black issues. They never talk to him about say economic issues and education and it's definitely not like he's educated (he does have a Bachelor's, a Master in Divinity, and a jurist doctorate). Either way watching Chicago Access Network seems to be the main why I can connect with the city's black officials.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Dirty Tricks May Keep 8th District 3rd Party Candidate Bill Scheurer Off the Ballot

Democratic Party fraud to keep Bill Scheurer from running against Melissa Bean?

That’s what today's article by Joshua Holland on AlterNet hints.

It seems that Bill Scheurer hired a guy whose day job is with U.S. Rep. Dan Lapinski to collect 18,000 signatures. Or, at least that's what he thought.

The story says,

In mid-May, a man claiming to be Anthony Constantine from AR Consulting got in touch with the Scheurer campaign and pitched the firm's services: for a fee, they'd help collect the needed signatures. They met, and Scheurer hired the firm.
The firm was hired. Scheurer got a progress report every week. Early this week Scheurer was supposed to pay for and receive the signatures. The guy didn’t show up, sick relative and all that.

To continue the story,
finally, Constantine returned a call after being threatened with legal action.

Constantine says it's the first he's heard of any of this. He never met with Scheurer, AR Consulting never cut a deal with his campaign and he definitely doesn't have the thousands of signatures that Scheurer needs to get on the ballot. It's a hard blow for the peace candidate's long-shot candidacy.

There's no evidence linking any of this directly to Bean, or to the Democratic leadership. But Illinois Dems have come out in force against Scheurer -- DCCC Chair Rahm Emmanuel has been particularly vocal.

The only thing that's certain is that Scheurer finds himself missing several thousand precious signatures just ten days before the filing deadline.
One can say that Scheurer was naive to the ways of Illinois Democratic Party politics. That's for sure.

Who do you smell?

If you want to help collect petitions this weekend, here are the details.

The AlterNet article pretty well explains what I posted earlier, which is below:
= = = = =
Got this email yesterday from Bill Scheurer’s campaign coordinator Vince DeSecki:

This weekend is the final push to get our pro-peace, pro-working-family candidate on the ballot for the IL-8th Congressional District this November.

People are coming from far and wide (Washington DC, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois) to be part of this historic campaign. Please join them!

Also, bring others with you, spread the word, and have everyone do the same. We expect dozens of people in this celebration of our democracy.

We are going out on: June 24, Saturday, 10:00 AM; and June 25, Sunday, 12:00 Noon.

We are staging from the Lake Villa Public Library parking lot at 1001 E. Grand Ave., Lindenhurst, IL. Here is the link to a map of this location.

Take the Tri-State Parkway (I-94) exit for "Lindenhurst, Route 132, Grand Avenue, West" and go a few miles west. The library is across the street from Deep Lake Rd.

Thanks to everyone. This is the culmination of all our hard work. See you this weekend.
hone: 847-543-1253 Mobile: 847-867-6631
The deadline for filing is Monday. A Democratic Party challenge is a certainty.

If you are interested in Scheurer's candidacy, I posted a fuller article today at McHenry County Blog. It references the others I have written since February.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jeff Ladd - Second Thoughts

After sleeping on the story about Jeff Ladd’s pending retirement below, I came to the conclusion that it was too negative. (Photo is of Ladd and McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler.)

That’s probably based on his 1970 political opposition to my family’s goal of locating McHenry County College in Crystal Lake when his family was trying to put it on their land behind McHenry West High School, plus his support of the 1974 RTA.

I imagine that the political broadside that I developed with the cover blast

The Ladd Sight Is a Bad Site
Vote No December 5th
didn’t help the relationship. (The referendum failed by 80%-20%.)

Both of us then, and in the RTA fight, were probably representing our own self-interests.

With regard to RTA, Ladd had, by 1974, left the family home construction firm, where he was treasurer, and become a railroad commuter for law school and his subsequent job.

I got to work by car and could not see the justification for car drivers being forced to subsidize the train commuters from McHenry County, who, at that time, earned about twice the income of the average McHenry County resident.

(You can see how deeply the RTA fight affected me from the above paragraph. I can still call up the arguments and facts I used back then.)

The basic philosophy of the RTA re-structuring, which House Speaker George Ryan and Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne agreed to in the early 1980's:
de-centralization was good.
Chicago would get to run the Chicago Transportation Authority--which, of course, it already did--while suburban interests would have control of suburban trains and buses, along with their political patronage.

Selecting Ladd as head of the train division, now call Metra, placed a strong leader in charge of a vital suburban interest.

As an example of the tremendous pressure that Ladd put on Metra’s staff to accomplish the goals he set for the agency, read what WBBM’s Bob Roberts reported Saturday:
Ladd fumed over delays for two consecutive rush hours to riders on Metra's BNSF commuter line, pronouncing the three-hour delays endured by some to be "unacceptable."
And, Roberts continued,
He defended his territory vigorously, and that meant butting heads often, especially in recent years, with leaders of the Chicago area's other transit agencies.
And, beyond.

When Governor Rod Blagojevich wanted to re-centralize the region’s mass transit agencies and put them all under firm Democratic Party control, Ladd led the successful opposition.

For that, Ladd certainly deserves high praise.

Ladd was criticized for ignoring the South Suburbs.

What nonsense!

Ladd’s comment in the WBBM piece:
They shouldn't (feel slighted). They have more service than anybody on the entire system,
brought back one of the anomalies I found in 1974.

While McHenry County’s trains ran only once an hour during non-peak times, the South Shore ran every half an hour.

How unfair was and is that?

Here’s how Ladd summed up his service to the Chicago region to WBBM:
The operations were such when we came into being that I don't leave with anything but a sense of satisfaction and pride in what we have accomplished. We built the finest commuter rail operation in the country.
I see no reason to argue with that conclusion.

There certainly were tons of deferred maintenance and need for new equipment, the money for which Ladd pried out of Springfield and Washington…not always from sources for which I would approve, but he did get the job done.

(One of the reasons Senator Dick Klemm voted for George Ryan’s Illinois FIRST was that money from it would go to rehabilitation the railroad bridge over the Fox River. Jack Franks and I voted against Illinois FIRST, on the other hand, I because it stiffed Chicago area highways. Note well that 8 years later we still don’t have 4 lanes on
· Route 47 through Huntley,
· Algonquin Road from Randall Road to Route 47 or
· 31 north from Crystal Lake to McHenry. )
From a more parochial viewpoint, Ladd had long desired a new McHenry County train station. His favored location was Ridgefield, nearer his almost Bull Valley home than the Downtown Crystal Lake station. Instead, we now have the station on Pingree Road, built to European standards. In other words, it allows people to get from one side of the track to the other without actually crossing the tracks, as is the typical situation at Chicagoland stations.

All in all, a job well done.

For my more critical first take on Ladd's retirement, click McHenry County Blog.


The Clout List's Race column

Notice the third column for Race on the Clout List (pdf file)? It's W's, B's, H's, and a few O's.

My experience working with race indicators is the results are vastly different if Race is self reported versus someone else reporting. Self reported results yield far more blanks or unknowns. A few blanks on this list and not a single U from my scan.

I don't think they were using the data for affirmative action reports so it would be interesting to see what in the world they did do with it; and who was deciding what Race everyone belonged too.

I thought -if I was using this list- I would have been more interested in the person's precinct of residence, but that may have turned out to be as flakey as the flakey biology of race.

cross posted at Bill Baar's West Side.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Emanuel out after November

via The Hill,

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) will step down from the House Democrats’ campaign operation after the November elections to spend more time with his family, he told The Hill yesterday.
He lamented a lack of effort from some of his colleagues.

“I’ve ruffled feathers with a purpose. There’s a sclerosis that’s set in. I’ve ruffled feathers of elder members of caucus with intention of recruiting younger members. I’ve ruffled of New Democrats and Blue Dogs. I’ve ruffled feathers, no doubt about it.”
I think the sclerosis is winning.


That Oatmeal Might be Rat Poison, But Tastes Like Cream to Goo-Goos: Some Thoughts on 'The Combine' and Who's Pouring the Cream

The Quaker Oats Man, Illinois Corporate Shill Tom Roeser had a great piece about the lad who set the table, Petey Fitzgerald, when George Ryan was convicted back in April. Old Roeser who delights in others' misfortune - especially local game that spit out the Oats Ball - is especially truculant concerning the "The Combine." My favorite is his sniffing about poor Phil Gramm - a world class piece of slime. The List, The Squealing, The Lincoln Library, Quaker Oats Corp., Halliburton, Enron, and the 'deep-thinkers' have some root in Old Tom's mentoring of Petey Fitzgerald. For those Progressive souls made swooning by politics by politicians, the cats pouring the cream to you might like to eat some mice. Exemplum Gratia!

'The first bad luck of the draw had been the election in 1998 (the same year that George Ryan won governor) of Peter Fitzgerald as U. S. Senator. Never were two Republicans farther apart in philosophy and practice than George Ryan and Peter Fitzgerald. Ryan has a blow-torch temper, stalking, angry and demonstrative; Fitzgerald is calm, studied, soft-spoken and to some even naïve. Ryan is an old-line pol to whom philosophy means nothing; Fitzgerald is the brilliant, reclusive philosophical conservative scion of a multi-millionaire banker-a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard Law who studied in Greece and speaks the language fluently. He’s learned in the law, in business, in ethics and the classics (Latin and Greek) who disdains politics-as-usual. From the day Peter Fitzgerald served in Springfield as a reform state senator, he was at odds with the Republican secretary of state. As Senator, Fitzgerald blocked a lot of Governor Ryan’s initiatives and refused to act as a subsidies bearer for the state. He blocked Ryan’s plan to get federal funding for the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum because Ryan wanted to use the Library as a patronage dump for his favorites. Ryan never slept an untroubled night in the mansion as governor with the feds on his tail. He thought he could fix it with either Lazar or another Democratic prosecutor-and, friend of Daley as he was, he probably could. Nevertheless, he started to re-craft his image to appeal to a future jury pool. He switched from being a death penalty advocate to vigorous opponent who granted clemency to all prisoners on death row which gained him huge publicity from the liberal media (for which he sought the Nobel Prize). Since African Americans dominated death row, Ryan calculated he would make gains with any blacks on the jury. One large group remaining was Hispanic. Ryan became a darling of liberaldom nationally by going to Cuba, meeting with Fidel Castro in Cuba, urging the U. S. to change its views on the Communist dictator. To please Daley, he switched overnight from an opponent of O’Hare expansion to a firm supporter of it. A former pro-lifer, he vetoed a pro-life bill to win favor with pro-choicers, being totally a re-born liberal; he now supported gay rights, too. The Combine was happy with Republican Ryan. All that had to happen next was the election of a Democratic president in 2000. To ensure the Democrats would carry Illinois and further ingratiate himself with Daley, Gov. Ryan backed a man who was a long-shot candidate for the GOP nomination. A long-shot candidate but a very good man: Texas Senator Phil Gramm, superb on economic issues but afflicted with a cracker barrel Georgia-born accent and a neck that extended out of his collar like a turtle’s which marred his presentation (but there were those who liked him, including me). Even there, Ryan’s venality came through: he couldn’t resist scuttling around, talking to Gramm’s managers about being paid from Gramm’s campaign fund: this as governor, an incredible craven gesture, and seeing that some family members were paid, as well. This greed was another part of his un-doing. The records showed Ryan didn’t do anything whatever for the money he received and the sinecure ended up as part of the indictment. Gramm, a private citizen, came in to testify that he was amazed to find out later that Ryan was paid. In bold terms, Gramm said that there’s a difference between being truly in love or being paid for love, calling Ryan a “prostitute” off-stage following his testimony. Always exploding from the short-fuse, Ryan struck back with an ill-considered public denunciation before television, blasting Gramm in front of the Dirksen courthouse, trying to tie him and his wife Wendy to the Enron scandal since Wendy was on the board (although linkage of the Gramms is tenuous and today he is being mentioned as the next secretary of the treasury) while the ex-governor’s lawyers winced. The legendary Ryan blow-torch temper had to let off steam. When Ryan bellowed out against Gramm, I am told that his lawyer Dan Webb decided the ex-governor could not be trusted to testify in his own behalf: he could only last at most 20 minutes before he’d blow a gasket. After Gramm’s campaign faded and George W. Bush won the nomination, Ryan insisted on running the Bush presidential campaign in Illinois in 2000 by virtue of his being governor-designing it, many believe, to lose. Certainly there was no Bush presence in Illinois. Indeed, Ryan did an extraordinary thing on election day itself: arranging a meeting during that day with Daley, pretending that it was on a policy matter…and prior to the polls closing, congratulating Daley lavishly for carrying Illinois for Gore. Now all Gore had to do was win the whole enchilada. Well, as we know, he won more popular votes but lost in the Supreme Court to Bush. And Bush’s election as president was the second bad luck of the draw for George Ryan. The third bad luck of the draw was the appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald as U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois because of the recommendation of Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (no relation). I well remember dining next to William Bauer, former chief judge of the local U. S. Court of Appeals. A gifted man, he is at turns witty and unfathomable. He started Jim Thompson on his career when Bauer was U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He made Thompson his first assistant. Bauer convicted Otto Kerner with Thompson’s help. Then Bauer went to the District Court and Thompson took over the job. Why, asked Bauer with great emotion, did Peter Fitzgerald convince Bush to name an outsider, Patrick Fitzgerald, as U. S. Attorney here? An insult to the local bar. I asked him this: Did you know that the last local D. A., Scott Lazar, was planning to go to China on a vacation with Mayor Richard M. Daley when the trip was called off because of 9/11? Did the Judge think that was too cozy? Yes, Bauer said. He was astounded at the news. I believe him. Anyhow, Peter Fitzgerald believed an outsider was indispensable to get a clean sweep of corruption here. He was massively turned off by Ryan and the governor’s determination to be boss. Ryan was up to his old tricks with the aid of his friend Denny Hastert: he tried to cash in on the state’s Lincoln museum by filling it with patronage hires. Fitzgerald took to the Senate floor to filibuster against it. Hastert tried to interfere in the naming of a prosecutor only to be told to butt out by Peter Fitzgerald. Then Fitzgerald began to interview only prosecutors from outside Illinois, a fresh departure from the old home-town prosecutor game the Combine plays. After Patrick Fitzgerald was confirmed, it was only a matter of time. Whether it was that Senator Peter Fitzgerald wanted to stay home with his wife and son, it was also true that the Combine wouldn’t back him for reelection. Judy Baar Topinka became State GOP Chairman and incredibly declined to endorse him, an incumbent, scandal-free, highly regarded Republican Senator for reelection in 2004. Peter Fitzgerald then declined to run again: a great loss when this young man threw in the cards. But Peter Fitzgerald has won just the same. It took time: eight years of painstaking work for Patrick Fitzgerald to nail down the Ryan case, but he did it. Throughout those years Ryan’s relations with Daley blossomed and Ryan’s hope grew that John Kerry might win the presidency in 2004 and appoint a new prosecutor. No such luck. The conviction of George Ryan is more than of a man but of the old-line play-for- pay political alliance between Democrats and Republicans. To shore up the Combine’s defense, Jim Thompson, architect of the scandal-tarred alliance, devoted the resources of his law firm to Ryan’s defense for free. It didn’t work. Now the one who will begin to lose sleep is Richard M. Daley. Among others. The question as mentioned above is whether or not Patrick Fitzgerald wants to follow through with a total slam-dunk: for the stuff of future convictions is there. *************** In the meantime, a gubernatorial election is being waged this year and a mayoral election will be run in 2007. The legatee of the old days of the Combine is Judy Baar Topinka, who declined to endorse Peter Fitzgerald for reelection. If she wins the governorship, that office will be in play to continue the game and do what it can to forestall trouble for Daley. Daley is determined to run for reelection unless he gets the feeling that the feds are coming so close he should conserve his energies-but he can be reelected rather easily. The huge circle of business and industries close to Daley are close to Jim Thompson and a large coterie of Demi-publicans as well. There’s a central thread which if it gets pulled…well, look out. Thus , it turns out that leaders of both parties are considering that it wouldn’t be fatal if the opposite side were to win the governorship. Here’s how some Democrats think: If Topinka were to win, she would likely ask for and get a general income tax hike which would stunt her popularity for the remainder of her term. In four years, when she would be age 66, she would decline to run again. That’s when a revitalized Democratic party could return with, let us say, a Lisa Madigan, the apple of Speaker Mike’s eye. So some Democrats reason: it would not be too bad to have Topinka win. You get rid of Rod who drives the party nuts, you get a social liberal and then get rid of her for a full-blooming liberal in four years. At the same time, there are some Republicans who reason that it is not entirely crazy to hope that Rod Blagojevich wins a second term. Topinka’s win would shut out conservatives for four years, even those non-conservatives like Ron Gidwitz who want fiscal reform. The GOP would be open to new ideas. In that way at least one party-the Republican-could conceivably be open to reconstruction along traditional lines. They reason: one more term for Blagojevich might be short-range salutary. He doesn’t seem to have many friends in his own party. After a term during which he either is forced to raise taxes or go out in ignominy with the state in terrible shape, maybe even, in a strange calibration, to a vice presidential nomination in 2008 (stranger things have happened), the public will have had such a belly-full of liberal Democrats, the state would be ready for Republicans and reform. In a sense, the galloping leather-lunged Senator-Minister James Meeks who uses his church as a political launching pad with no fear that the IRS will come, evidently, could decide everything. I doubt he’ll run-but if he does, he takes automatically a huge number of votes from Blagojevich. African Americans are not noted to stand by idly or vote for a white when one of their number-especially the dynamic kind that Meeks is-runs for a major office. Forget that many Republican social conservatives will support him because pro-life to him is different than pro-life to them. All the same, Meeks has it within his power to elect Topinka. You can bet your third to the last bottom dollar that Topinka’s people are dealing with him. Mike Madigan wants his little girl to be governor after one term: You can bet your second to the last bottom dollar that Topinka’s people are cutting a deal with Papa Madigan for his covert support for one Topinka term only. The Jim Thompson-Richard Daley combine would accept Topinka as governor. You can now bet your bottom dollar that somebody from the Combine is talking to Meeks. On the other hand, young Jesse wants to be mayor but wants more concessions from Blagojevich for the Abraham Lincoln airport in Peotone; they wouldn’t be discouraged if Meeks delivers and decides not to run for governor. A demonstrative black ally of the Jackson’s who causes the Democrats to lose the governorship doesn’t help Young Jesse’s reputation as a mayoral candidate in 2007, All of these things can’t interest George Ryan very much. You’ve heard of the old axiom “from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” In one generation-his-Ryan will have moved from the posture of extending his royal ring for caressing because he granted prestige license plates for power-brokers to actually getting down to the business of making license plates in a prison factory.Is this a great country or what?"

Getting Greater all the time Tommy! ( No thanks to Corporate Shills. ) And it ain't going anywhere! A Rat has whiskers and so does a cat, but that don't make them brothers.

N.B. - Sorry about the Cyber language glitch in the paste-up of Tom Roeser's musings. Looks like it came right outta Commie Russia.

10:11 AM


LaBarbera's Deviant Behavior

Today, the Illinois Family Institute defends Robert J. Smith, who was fired from his post on the D.C. Metro Board for refering to gay Americans as "persons of sexual deviancy." The IFI webpost goes on to argue that the word "deviant" merely means "differing from the norm or from the accepted standard of society."

Nothing pejorative about "deviant," eh? Fine.

Let's add these folks to the list of "deviants":

-Anyone who stands along a parade route with a bullhorn, chastising paraders while quoting the Bible. Definitely not a behavior your average American engages in.

-Anyone who moves from Maryland to Illinois to run for the U.S. Senate.

-Anyone who flies over stadiums in helicopters alluding to rounding up immigrants, or spends millions of dollars on losing statewide races more than once.

-Anyone who calls themselves a social conservative but takes their wife to a sex club.

-Left-handed people like Pat Robertson.



Da Mare, Listlessly UPDATED

Cross posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

Yesterday’s revelation that the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs kept a 60-page clout list, detailing over 5,000 applicants and their political sponsors, has provoked outrage and indignation in the press and even around the water cooler (and not just at our office). In size and scope, this list dwarfs any previously disclosed lists maintained by either Gov. George Ryan or Gov. Rod Blagojevich. While there is broad consensus that patronage hiring and civil service should not mix, maybe it’s worth exploring why.

Mark Brown’s column today notes that patronage hiring “gives political leaders too much power.” Without disagreeing, I think that condenses the effect too much. Here’s my unpacking of the problems of patronage (in no particular order):

* Telling staff that the quality of their work is meaningless cheapens their labor and their lives. This is equally true of front line workers and supervisors.

* Putting workers in a position where they believe that their jobs depend on political work coerces them to forfeit their political independence

* Showing taxpayers that government will waste their money for private, electoral gains fuels backlash at government efforts for the common good.

* Locking a block of voters and campaign workers to a particular candidate dilutes the deliberative function of elections.

* Giving one set of candidates ready access to campaign cash and workers (I won’t use the euphemism “volunteers” in this context) disadvantages competing candidates and ideas and perverts the outcome of elections.

I’m sure there are other reasons, that’s what I came up with in 15-minuts of keyboarding. And we should distinguish between a system of tracking all applicants and their rec. letters from what we seem to have here, which tracks only those applicants with politically-connected sponsors. Handing the public payroll over to political insiders is a horrible idea for many, many reasons.

On an unrelated note, I would hope that Corporation Counsel Mara Georges will finally stop saying that the Shakman Decree is outdated and should be dumped, and that the aldermen will stop complaining about the cost of the Shakman monitor. At the very least, the list shows that the City needs a refresher on Shakman compliance. If Chicago's aldermen really want to stop acting like sheep, they'll demand an end to these abusive hiring practices.

UPDATE: The Tribune has posted the list here. (pdf; zoom in 200% to read the names)


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Freedom Folks on Pat Quinn

I like him. I wish he was Gov.... Freedom Folks among the few who follow him here.


“Firm that made toll signs also a Blagojevich donor”

That’s what the Daily Herald state government reporter John Patterson discovered.

What a surprise.

Actually, the idea of checking out such a connection flitted through my mind yesterday, too, but I didn’t follow through. I’m glad Patterson did, because the public ought to know that

Western Remac Inc., based in Woodridge, gave $1,200 to Blagojevich’s 2002 bid for governor.
The company has been a tollway vendor for 20 years, a tollway spokesman told him.

What the contribution shows--at minimum--is that vendors think it is in their best interest to contribute to Governor Rod Blagojevich’s campaign fund.

Or should that read, “Rod R. Blagojevich,” as the sign says?

Maybe, since gubernatorial contributions are only shown to Friends of Blagojevich after the primary election in 2002, it shows how nervous this long-time vendor was that he would lose his connection to the tollway.

Or maybe the owner is just a Democrat that one of Blagojevich supporters hit up.

All of its contributions are to Democrats (Lisa Madigan, Richard M. Daley and John Schmidt), except the most recent of $250, which went to the man who took control of Cicero--Larry Dominick.

32 of the $15,000 signs have been ordered.

It takes 37,500 forty-cent tolls to raise $15,000 to pay for one sign.

It takes 1.2 MILLION passes through the automatic toll lanes to pay for all 32 signs.

Pretty expensive for campaign signs.

Read yesterday's story on the signs, including what Tribune readers think about it, go to McHenry County Blog.


'All my guys were qualified'

via Sun Times,

Political operative Dominic Longo, of the controversial Coalition for Better Government group, made no apologies for going to bat for his people. "All my guys were qualified," Longo said.
Amazing Daley's administration could keep a list like this secret for so long in the first place. Or why no one assumed it existed in the first place and sent an FOI request for it.... if there is such a thing as an FOI request for City Government. Or maybe just why a reporter never asked about it for all these years.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Marking "His" Territory

Lots of animals mark their territories.

Dogs pee. Politicians put up signs with their names on them.

During a campaign, yard signs mark current and, sometimes, eventually hoped for territories.

When a new president of the Cook County Board takes office, the signs in the Forest Preserve are changed to reflect that fact.

Back in 1973, the “People’s” Governor, Dan Walker, the man who somehow captivated the media by walking from the bottom of Illinois to the Wisconsin border, decided that he did not need to put his name on the state’s welcoming signs.

When Walker made the announcement, I was in my first year in Springfield, just as was he. I sent him a congratulatory letter and a press release of praise to local papers.

How ironic that it took over 30 years for a subsequent governor--Rod Blagojevich--to decide to undue that good work of his Democratic Party predecessor.

No longer do just the people of Illinois welcome visitors. Not now that Rod's name is on the sign.

Even the little "welcome to Illinois" on Route 47 north of Hebron has it.

But, that was not enough.

As Jon Hilkevitch writes in his “Getting Around” column in today’s Chicago Tribune, the new

Open Road Tolling – Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor
signs sprouting on all the toll roads cost $15,000 apiece.

“The signs, mounted on steel monotubes above the open-road tolling lanes, require special materials and galvanized brackets that the tollway sign shop cannot install,” the reporter explained.

Tollway spokesman Kathleen Cantillon explained,
We consider it an important sign.

Important politically.

At least pee is free. It doesn’t waste our tax money.

= = = = =

The Chicago Tribune has a poll on its web site on whether the new blue Blagojevich signs are worth $15,000.

At 2:15 Monday afternoon 7.7% (600) were in favor, while 92.7% (7,756) voted, "No."

= = = = =

More good stuff at McHenry County Blog.


Blagojevich Takes Another Hit on Education Funding

The Building Owner's and Managers Association (BOMA), released a study of Chicago's commercial real estate last week, blaming Illinois' over-reliance on property taxes for school funding for high vacancy rates in Loop high rises. From The Chicago Reader (circluation 158,000):

“Illinois’ dependence on property taxes jeopardizes Chicago’s long-term economic prospects,” says Ron Vukas, executive vice president of the association, which represents about 80 percent of the commercial rental buildings in the Loop. “We need a change.”
For starters, the vacancy rate in downtown office buildings remains stubbornly high. At about 18 percent, roughly five points higher than the national average, it’s below the rate in Houston (21.2 percent) and higher than rates in New York (8 percent), Boston (11.5 percent), and Los Angeles (around 15 percent).
New office buildings have gone up in the Loop over the last few years. But according to the report they’re being built not for a new market but for an old one, as tenants move from one building to another. “Notwithstanding a few significant moves by companies to Chicago, on average the city has added only 100,000 square feet of new tenant-occupied space a year over the last five years,” the report says. “Those 100,000 square feet translate into just one large new commercial tenant a year for the whole city.”
According to BOMA, rising property taxes are the chief culprit in making it hard to keep commercial tenants downtown, let alone draw new ones. Tax increases are forcing both tenants and landlords to pay a significant chunk of their income in property taxes. “Chicago had the highest property taxes over the last ten years, with an average of $6.98 in taxes per square foot,” says the report. “This compares to $5.31 for New York, $2.78 for Dallas, $2.40 for Atlanta and $1.98 for Los Angeles. By far, Chicago leads the other cities in how much of a building’s income goes to taxes. Nearly 25 percent of a building’s income in the city goes to property taxes alone. In New York and Dallas, that figure is 12.6 percent. In Atlanta, 9 percent and Los Angeles 7 percent.”
In this regard, the report is aimed at Governor Blagojevich as much as Mayor Daley. It’s Blagojevich who’s resisting attempts to have the state pick up a greater share of educational funding—he doesn’t want to back away from his promise not to raise taxes, particularly on the eve of his reelection campaign against Judy Baar Topinka. The best bet for some sort of change will come after next fall’s election, when the newly elected governor has more freedom to act boldly.

“I don’t have a prediction for what will happen with property tax legislation,” says Vukas. “But it really worries me. People think these downtown buildings are cash cows. They don’t get it.”

Of course, the problem for Vukas and BOMA if Blagojevich wins while maintaining his "no new taxes" mantra is that he will cling to that soundbite like a shipwreck survivor clings to driftwood as the '08 Presidential race approaches.

The article also takes a look at the impact that TIF districts have on the overall tax burden, showing once again why The Reader is one of the best sources for in-depth public policy reporting. This week's round-up of the police torture scandal centered around Jon Burge is also a must read.

UPDATE: BOMA's study is here.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Arlene Jones asks Why can’t the West Side get that casino?

If we're going to gamble, this makes sense to me.

A license for a 13th casino that is still available. Why can’t the West Side get that casino and have a group of African Americans become part of the investors in it? The jobs to build any part of the new Entertainment District would put a priority on local African-American participation. No one wants to see folks just gamble, so we can include a first-class hotel with an auditorium offering musical acts and plays. How many of us have gone all the way to Merrillville, Ind. for a concert or play?


Saturday, June 17, 2006

RTA Universal Pass Roll-Out Time

My family kids me about how my little computer work space looks like the office of the hero in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.”

Well, it’s time to take down one of those notes.

That little article published on December 18, 2005, in the Chicago Tribune stimulates this post.

Its headline:

One card for Metra, Pace, CTA? They’re working on it

Just like in 1974, when the RTA Citizens Committee for Better Transporation (Really. That's what the proponents' committee was called) made this false promise boldly, although not often:
Public transportation, when and where you need it, thoughout the region.
What an outrageous promise!


And, in December, Steve Schlickman, RTA Executive Director, said the RTA’s “goal” is to have the “universal fare card available to Metra riders in six months.”

The RTA's six months is up.

A footnote:

Steve’s father, State Rep. Gene Schlickman (R-Arlington Heights), and I were on Milt Rosenberg’s Extension 720 the Friday before the primary election RTA referendum in 1974.

As we sat at a hotel bar that is now near the last CTA station before O’Hare after taking the negative side of the question to WGN radio’s 50,000 watt listeners, I asked,
Are you more conservative than you before this campaign started?
He agreed that he was.

Both of us would have been labeled moderate Republicans at the time.

The opposition committee was know as "kNOw RTA." We arrived at this title at a meeting in State Rep. Don Totten's basement shopping center office in Schaumburg. Since the opponents had those like Don and me who thought government had no business in subsidizing trains and buses, plus mass transit proponents like State Reps. Gene Schlickman and Don Deuster, we had to reach some compromise that would fit us all.

We decided that using a combination of the words "NO" and "know," would allow fit us all. While the mass transit proponents among us were in favor of the public's subsidizing train and bus travel, they believe that if people knew enough about the actual RTA plan that they would vote "No."

Hence, the small "k" and "w" in the final "kNOw RTA" button design. What you see here is the prototype. Above is the cover of the pamphlet, 188,000 of which were printed in my father's office at the tip of the "V" of the Crystal Lake Plaza, plus the cost and benefit analysis on the first inside page.

If you want to read the rest of the opposition pamphlet, including a larger view of the McHenry County pitch, click here.

McHenry County voted 93-7% against creating the Regional Transporation Authority. the paper ballot RTA referendum passed by less than 13,000 votes and no recount was allowed, even though there was obvious vote fraud in Chicago.

Also posted on McHenry County Blog.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Patronage Tax

Patronage politicians often say that it is OK to hire your friends as long as they are as competent as other applicants.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

But, there is a cost to patronage hiring because the best qualified are often not hired.

Andrew Jackson is credited with starting the “spoils system.” Chicago politicians obviously have been excellent students.

Today, the Chicago Tribune starts what I hope will be a continuing series. It was written by reporters Laurie Cohen, Todd Lightly and Dan Mihalopoulos.

This a big step beyond the typical television finding of guys leaning on shovels or operating a business while on a public payroll.

It took a lot of work to see what a former legislative assistant to State Rep. Eddie Acevedo (D-Chicago) cost Chicago taxpayers because she backed a garbage truck into a pole severely injuring her helper. The article says Acevedo is a leader in HDO, the Hispanic Democratic Organization.


Madigan should start blogging

He's writing a lot notes. Here's Matt Adrian writing about him in The Southern. Check the link because there is space for comments. They'll be worth watching.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, outlined 17 questions that should be answered before the state's 274 miles of tollway are placed on the auction block. Questions raised include who will be in charge of road repairs and how much authority would private companies have to raise tolls.
Madigan has penned several such memos in recent weeks. A similarly worded letter was sent to Gov. Rod Blagojevich raising several questions about his proposal to sell or lease the Illinois Lottery.


The Chicago way

Three contractors are bidding to fix the White House fence. One is from Chicago, another from Kentucky and the third, Florida. They go with a White House official to examine the fence.

The Florida contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says. "I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Kentucky contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Chicago contractor does not measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers: "$2,700."

The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"

"Easy," the Chicagoan explains, "$1,000 for you, $1,000 for me and we hire the guy from Kentucky."


a self-serving letter written simply to cover his own behind.

It just seems lame to me trying to stick Hastert with the culture of corruption label on a perfectly legit land-deal when we have so many fish-in-the-barrel to take pot-shots at in Illinois.

Banker Alexi Giannoulias -- the Democratic nominee for state treasurer -- is accused of approving a $1 million loan to an 86-year-old mentally incompetent woman whose "business partners" have been suspected of fraud in the past.
Additionally, Giannoulias wrote a letter to Billings, expressing his concern to her about their history, recommending she hire an attorney to help review the documents.

However, attorney Peter King, representing Billings' estate, which filed the suit against Broadway, called that "a self-serving letter written simply to cover his own behind."

The suit marks the second time questions have been raised about bank loans tied to Giannoulias.

Corruption is rampant in Illinois and it's mostly among Democrats because that's mostly what we have.

At least Durbin and Obama both voted against the culture of defeat when the both voted to yea to table amendment 4269 to the Defense Authorization Act,
To require the withdrawal of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq and urge the convening of an Iraq summit.
My problem is I'm not sure if Durbin and Obama voted to table this because they believed it wrong, or if because they're more Democrats covering their own behinds.

cross posted at Bill Baar's West Side


Thursday, June 15, 2006

$550,000 for paper shredders.

I kid you not. (Via Dan Curry.)

State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) wants to know why the state plans to spend $550,000 on paper shredders in light of budget concerns, ongoing federal investigations and recent reports that a Governor's employee was fired when she refused to shred documents.

You know the saying about giving a bottle of whiskey and the car keys to a teenager? I'd say "giving" $550,000 worth of paper shredders to a Blagojevich administration under investigation is pretty similar.


Questions About Denny's Drive-Thru

I don't know Denny Hastert's spokesman Ron Bonjean, so I can't tell you whether he holds the public in contempt or if he thinks we are all fools. But this story from your Chicago Tribune about Denny's windfall profit for flipping land near his Prairie Parkway indicates it is one or the other:

Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and two partners turned a profit of more than $3 million on property they accumulated and sold in just over three years near the route of a proposed controversial freeway on the western fringe of suburban Chicago, according to land records and financial disclosure reports released Wednesday.

Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean rejected the notion that the land, located 5 1/2 miles from the proposed Prairie Parkway route, rose in value because of the highway project. The speaker long has been an aggressive proponent of the highway and helped secure more than $200 million in federal funding through an earmark in federal transportation legislation.
Of course he has. But the question is not whether the Prairie Parkway was a new idea. The question is whether Denny's personal profit of more than a million dollars was due to some abuse of his position as speaker.
The property near Plano, Ill., was sold three months after the transportation bill was signed into law. It was purchased by a real estate developer who is planning to build more than 1,500 homes on the land.

Kendall County, where the land is located, has one of the fastest-growing housing markets in the nation, and there has been a corollary rapid rise in land values. ***

Hastert received five-eighths of the proceeds from the land sale, said Dallas Ingemunson, one of his partners. That indicates a profit of more than $1.5 million for Hastert. ***

Bonjean said the speaker had fully complied with financial disclosure rules for members of Congress and had simply profited from a well-timed real estate investment.

"For 26 years, the speaker has been a proponent of the Prairie Parkway to address the transportation challenges in northeast Illinois," Bonjean said. "None of the properties purchased by the speaker are near enough to the Prairie Parkway to be affected by the proposed highway."
That's right. Mr. Bonjean thinks you will believe that having an expressway built five miles away has no effect on a property's value. As I said above, I don't know if he thinks you are stupid enough to believe that load of bull or if he doesn't give a damn if you believe it or not.
Kendall County land records show the 138-acre parcel was transferred to a real estate developer in a sale valued at $4,989,000 in December 2005, about three months after the highway legislation was signed into law.

The land had been accumulated in phases. The first 69-acre parcel was part of the purchase of a larger 196-acre farm made under the name of the speaker's wife, Jean Hastert, in August 2002. According to land records, she paid $2,125,000 for the property. On a per-acre basis, the original prorated cost to Hastert of the parcel included in the later deal was $868,000.

The remainder sold to the developer was purchased by a land trust in which Hastert shared a quarter-interest in February 2004. The partnership paid $1,033,000 for the parcel, according to land records. In addition to Ingemunson, the other partner was Thomas Klatt, a local trucking company owner who also has been a long-time supporter and campaign contributor to Hastert, Bonjean said.

Bonjean said he could not immediately determine how the partnership divided the proceeds. He added that the value of the two parcels was enhanced by combining them because the land purchased by the partnership gave the property direct access to a roadway.
So Mr. Bonjean apparently understands that transportation availablity enhanced the value of Denny's property -- but doesn't seem to understand that the transportation opportunities offered by a 200 million dollar expressway would also enhance the value of that property.
The developer who purchased the land said the proposed Prairie Parkway was not a deciding factor in making the deal.

"We would have done the transaction whether it [the parkway] was proposed or not," said Arthur Zwemke, a partner in Robert Arthur Land Co. who also has been a donor over the years to Hastert's campaigns.
Once again, this misses the point. I don't doubt that Mr. Zwemke might have purchased the property even if the Pairie Parkway had not been funded. The question that needs to be asked is, "Would he have paid as much if Denny hadn't secured federal funds to put in the nearby expressway?"
More important than the planned freeway are the land's location in the fast-growing western exurban Chicago corridor, a favorable political climate for growth, and the availability of good infrastructure like water and sewer, he said.
Again, he might have purchased it, but would that purchase -- without the expressway -- have resulted in such a windfall profit for Denny?
Zwemke said he inherited the financial terms for all of the land in contracts acquired from another developer, who decided not to pursue the project.

He acknowledged that he paid a price well above what Hastert and his Little Rock partners paid in assembling the property in less than four years, but said, "We have a fair deal. Everything was market value."
But what would the property's market value have been if Denny had not seen to it that an $200M expressway was built nearby?
The site is attractive, Zwemke said, because the land for it was assembled in just two transactions, the one with Little Rock and another concluded last August with the owners of an adjacent 589-acre farm.
Say it with me: The question isn't whether the site is attractive or if the parcels of land would have been sold if Hastert's Prairie Porkway had not been federally funded.

The question is: Could the Speaker of the House and his partners have flipped the property for such a huge profit, in such a short time, if not for Denny's using his power as Speaker to earmark $200 million dollars of taxpayer money to build a freeway nearby?

Unlike Mr. Bonjean, I think you are smart enough to figure out the answer.

UPDATE: Think Progress has a "graphic timeline explaining how House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) used a federal earmark to turn a $1.5 million profit"


Equal Pay Act Benefits Less Than Employee's Salary

Never let it be said that Governor Rod Blagojevich or the Democrats in control of the General Assembly know how to do a comparison of costs and benefits.

Especially if the primary goal of a bill’s passage is a headline.

The feminists wanted a state equal pay for equal work law and the Democrats responded with Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Senator Carol Ronen.

”Women doing the same work as men should be paid the same wages,” the Governor says piously in an April 25th press release.

Find someone who disagrees with that axiom.

The law has now been in effect for over two years. Before its existence the Illinois Human Rights Department and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handled such complaints.

But, the proponents argued, these didn’t cover small employers. Democrats contend that the new state law covers an additional 330,000 workers.

There were 2,250 calls to the toll-free line (1-866-EPA-IDOL). The high number of inquiries is probably the result of the politically motivated placard mandated posted in all businesses. It says,

If I were a woman, I’d probably have called, too.

No matter that the statistic is an argument for “comparable worth,” not equal pay for equal work. (See this article for a dissection of this invalid comparison.)

7.5% of the 2,250 calls resulted in
nearly 170 cases, prompted settlements between employees and employers as a result of strict enforcement, and recovered close to $7,300 in back wages under the Act.
Read that back wage recovery figure again:
$7,300. No, it’s “close to $7,300.”
But, to be fair, the figure is really probably higher than that. If I add up all the numbers in the press release, I can get to $41,828, including wages and fines sought in court. (The press release actually uses the most conservative estimate of benefits for the program--$7,300.)

That’s the tangible benefit side of the cost-benefit equation that the Democrats will ignore by keeping this law on the books.

The cost side?

Prior to passage the Labor Department estimated that it would cost $325,000, but, apparently, only one employee, Nancy Hernandez, was hired. She “devotes 100% of her time to handle cases and conduct investigations,” according to Public Information Officer Anjali Nayyar-Julka.

Hernandez gets paid $43,104 per year, the State Comptroller says. (The Labor Department refused to provide the salary information.) Fringe benefits are $13,800 for health insurance, $4,134 for pension and $3,297 for the state’s share of Social Security. So, the one enforcement employee costs taxpayers $63,335.

An entirely new division was created:
the Equal Opportunity Workforce Division, which also administers the
· Equal Pay Act, it oversees the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act, which allows victims of sexual assault to take up to 12 weeks off without pay and

· Displaced Homemakers Program, which provide participants with education, training and employment services through a $621,300 grant program.
It looks like it is $47,000 per year or less, because the rest of the division’s money goes to help displaced homemakers.

The cost for the two years it has been in operation?

Certainly over $100,000, considering the approximate $20,000 in fringe benefit costs each year.

Did the law do some good?

It appears so.

Did it do enough good to merit staying on the books?

Compare my liberal benefit estimate of $41,828 for the two years or so about which the press release talks with a cost of something under two times the $63,335 for the salary of the one enforcement employee.

What do you think?

Read about the beneficiaries of the Equal Pay Act in a June 8th article at


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Prairie Porkway: Denny Hastert's Retirement Plan

TPMmuckraker reveals Rep. Denny Hastert's sure-fire investment strategy: Buy Low, Earmark Funds to Build Nearby Highway, Sell High

Over at the Sunlight Foundation, they've found Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) taking a page from Rep. Ken Calvert's (R-CA) investment playbook.

For years, Hastert has been pushing the construction of a highway called the Prairie Parkway in Illinois. He secured $207 million in earmarks to support the project. But what he didn't tell constituents was that he owned a huge plot of farmland just a few miles from where the road would run. And now that the project's gone through, the land has been tranferred to a real estate development firm with plans to build a 1,600 home community. The land has already improved in value by millions of dollars.

I wonder how much Hastert will ultimately make on the deal?

More at the Sunlight Foundation.

Hat-tip to "Backup Pundit" at Archpundit


State of Economic Interest

Cross-posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

Federal office holders have just released their statements of economic interest, and the reports give the public a good view of their elected official’s finances. These reports show major financial interests, and also give the value of the interest, so that the public has a better sense of where conflicts of interest might arise, and which matters may present more conflict to the official than others. If an official, for instance, derives a few thousand dollars a year from a particular company, they might be tempted to give that company special treatment. If they get hundreds of thousands of dollars from that holding, the pressure might be all the more intense.

Illinois officials also file statements of economic interest, but while the name is the same, the content is not. The forms are available for download here, but all they list is the name of the interest, with no specific information on the value of the investment or the income earned from it. In short, Illinois’ statements of economic interest provide very little meaningful information for Illinois voters. Many electeds list simply that the question does not apply to them.

Changing the forms has proven to be a tough hill to climb. While reformers have recently succeeded in getting the forms posted to the Internet, measures to improve the content have stalled in Rules. That reform, to paraphrase Cubs fans, apparently has to wait until next year.


Gay Games' State Subsidy

When the Gay Games’ spokeswoman was in Crystal Lake for the meeting during which the Crystal Lake Park Board capitulated to legal threats, I asked how much was taxpayer subsidy was expected from Springfield.

The answer given was $450,000.

I just received a copy of a subsidy agreement from the administration of Rod Blagojevich, which says Chicago Games, Inc.—the official name of the Gay Games—will receive $296,616 out of the Fiscal Year 2006 budget. (That’s the budget year that ends June 30, 2006.)

That's 66% of what was expected.

The money is for presumably non-controversial items:

Administration - $45,000
Purchase of Services - $3,000
Marketing/Promotion - $18,000
Equipment/Facility Rental - $59,000
Cash Match-Equip/Facility Rent - $171,616
There must have been something revealing in the first application, because it was withdrawn and re-submitted.

Of course, more could come from next year’s budget. The FY07 budget year starts two weeks before the Gay Games are being held.

Tomorrow on McHenry County Blog- Rowing event scheduled on the Chicago River...on Monday, July 17th.


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