Monday, July 31, 2006

Blagojevich Legal Fees Continue; Topinka Has None

Six months ago I reported on Governor Rod Blagojevich’s legal expenditures from his campaign fund.

I found the firm of Robbins Schwartz Nicholas Lifton & Tay was paid $6,040 in August, September and October. Monico Pavich & Spevack was paid $6,930.12 for copies in July.

Perhaps more significant was $34,068.38 paid former Governor Jim Thompson’s firm, Winston & Strawn on the last day of December.
I went through Blagojevich's expenditures twice, but missed what Rich Miller discovered. Winston & Strawn got another $151,816.66 on January 27th. (Thanks to Rich for correcting me.)

During the last six months small amounts were again paid to Robbins Schwartz Nicholas Lifton & Tay:

1-03 $1,316.25
2-10 $1,560
2-27 $1,023.25
3-24 $762.02
5-09 $916.25
6-12 $828.75
This does not read like a governor who thinks he is in big trouble.

Of course, Blagojevich could already have a separate legal defense fund, whose contributions and expenditures would not be subject to public scrutiny.

And, for those hoping to find lawyers' fees for Republican candidate Judy Topinka, you are going to be disappointed.

Nothing's on her campaign disclosure form.

Topinka tapped her campaign for a relatively modest $23,599.90 in September, 2003. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw are her lawyers of choice. She first wrote a check to the firm for $10,600 during the third week of May, 2003.

If there is a U.S. Attorney's investigation about her use of state employees for political purposes four years ago, it certainly cannot be very active.


National Disgrace: Oprah Highlights Illinois Education Gap

Today's Oprah Show featured a ballyhooed interview with Bill and Melinda Gates and a segment which focused on the education gap here in Illinois. Oprah organized a student exchange which allowed kids from Chicago's Harper High to spend the day at a high school in Naperville and brought the Naperville kids to Chicago for a day.

Here's what they learned:

When the Harper students arrived at Neuqua Valley, they were stunned to see what the suburban school offered—an Olympic-size swimming pool, a gym and fitness center, an award-winning music department, a huge computer lab, and a rigorous course curriculum.

When they arrived at Harper, the students from Neuqua Valley were shocked immediately by the difference between Harper and their own school. For starters, students have to enter Harper through a metal detector. They have a pool at Neuqua Valley, but the Harper pool hasn't been filled with water in a decade. The Neuqua Valley students have an award-winning music department, while Harper doesn't have enough instruments for a music class and relies on improvised instruments—like banging on desks. At Neuqua Valley, students can enroll in more than two dozen advanced placement courses, compared to the two offered at Harper. "It's so mind-blowing to think that there's such a difference and we're both in the same state, an hour away from each other," one Neuqua Valley student says.

The difference between the two schools can also be seen in their scores on state exams. At Neuqua Valley, 78 percent of students meet Illinois' reading standards, 76 percent meet the science standards, and 77 percent meet the math standards. At Harper, 16 percent meet the reading standards, 1.5 percent meet the science standards and just .5 percent meet the math standards.
Meanwhile this little nugget from the Sun-Times' Ralph Martire is bound to catch the attention of Oprah and civil rights leaders across Illinois:
The Illinois data are as bad or worse. In K-12 education, Illinois ranks as the third most segregated state for blacks, with 82 percent of black children attending majority minority schools. Latinos don't fare much better, as 76 percent of Latino children attend predominantly minority schools. Ninety percent of white kids go to virtually all-white schools. Clearly, the Illinois school system is still separated by race, but is it now more equal by race? Not from a funding standpoint. Minority school districts in Illinois start out with $1,154 less per child to spend on education than do predominantly white school districts, the second worst funding gap nationally (emphasis added).
Too bad Senator Meeks didn't have that newsclip in his pocket when he marched on the Mayor's office last week. He might have marched to Governor Blagojevich's office instead to find out why the state is spending nearly $14,000 more on average on the public education of white children. I'd love to hear the Governor explain that one.


Melissa Bean Flips on Pork

Imagine my surprise to learn that 8th congressional district congresswoman Melissa Bean is now against pork.

I seem to remember her announcing this highway project and that highway project just last year.

Her press release is dated July 29, 2005.

What a difference a year makes.

Will she mimick Democratic Party Presidental candidate John Kerry and explain, "I voted for it before I voted against it?"

She votes for almost all of the appropriation bills and claimed that she was responsible for securing $24 million of district funding in the Tranportation bill that was signed into law last summer. If she has a plan to reduce spending, it has not made a big splash.

Now, however, she is the only Illinois congressman to vote for eliminating at least 14 (out of 19) pork projects. She voted for all 19 amendments. Note that her sponsor Rahm Emanuel voted against all of the the amendments.

Expect a TV ad with a little porker as a visual effect.

A list of those who voted in favor of at least 14 of the 19 amendments appears at Hog Heaven. Under the heading, “House Members Who Voted Against Pork.” They are listed alphabetically.

David Hogberg, the man who did the research, calls them “taxpayer heroes” in The American Spectator article.

The Club for Growth—a fund raising group that favors lower federal spending—has developed a chart where one can check how one’s local congressman voted on the amendments.

Here, in alphabetical order, are how Illinois congressmen voted on the 19 amendments offered by Congressman Jeff Flake.

Bean – 19
Biggert – 6
Costello – 0
Davis – 0
Emanuel – 0
Evans – 0 (not voting on any)
Gutierrez – 0
Hyde – 0 (not voting on 6)
Johnson – 7
Kirk – 3
LaHood – 0
Lipinski – 0
Manzullo – 0
Rush – 0
Schakowsky – 1
Shimkus – 2
Weller – 0

Speaker Dennis Hastert is not on the list.

= = = = =
Couldn't resist including this photo of me and Miss Piggy. I am testifying in 2002 at Waukegan's tollway hearing on higher higher tolls. I told them that I did not want little Miss Piggy to grow up to be a toll tax hog.


Best Wishes

State Representative Larry McKeon, my colleague for a decade and the Representative for the district adjoining mine, today announced that he will be retiring from the Legislature at the end of his current term.

As both a legislator and a person, Larry proved himself to be a tireless fighter, triumphing over legislative issues as well as personal health issues. Not surprisingly, Larry has indicated that he intends to continue working on many of the issues which he holds dear.

Please join me in wishing him the best in his future endeavors.

To read, or post, comments, visit Dome-icile


Umholtz Endorses Madigan?

Today's SJR has a piece on the ongoing battle between Rod Blagojevich and Lisa Madigan for control of records regarding hiring practices at IDOT. There's an extensive interview with Madigan's GOP "opponent" Stu Umholtz -- it turns out Umholtz's wife does contractual work for AG Madigan, and several phenomenal quotes that would make for great mail pieces (hat tip, CapitolFax) :

Meanwhile, Stewart Umholtz, the Republican nominee for attorney general, said Friday he believes that his Democratic opponent "is on very firm ground" in the legal dispute.

Madigan clearly has the law on her side because the attorney general has a statutory responsibility to represent IDOT or any other state agency, said Umholtz, the Tazewell County state's attorney. "She ought to be allowed to do that by having these files returned to her," he said.
"The fact that Valerie Umholtz continues to work for Madigan's office shows that Madigan isn't taking action based upon politics," he [Umholtz said. "That's the way it should be. We should just approach these things with professionalism."
and, my favorite,

Umholtz's wife, Valerie Moehle Umholtz, also is a lawyer, and she sometimes handles eminent-domain work for Madigan's office as a special assistant attorney general


"I enjoy the work," she [Valerie Umholtz] said. "If and when Stewart wins the election, I don't want to work for him."

Can we just fastforward to 2010 and elect Lisa Madigan our Governor?


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Next Life Safety Bond Scandal

The taxpayer suit in Jersey County, Illinois, is not too complicated, but it could be of widespread significance.

Citizen spark plug Jeff Ferguson and others in Jersey and Greene Counties (located northeast of St. Louis) are outraged that their local school board found a way to build two schools after 69% of the voters sounding rejected a $21 million high school proposal in 1999. (The state was going to kick in another $8 million.)

The school board found a way to build it and a grade school anyway.

Enter outside advisors trying to make a buck.

The school board is told that it can issue bonds without a referendum by issuing fire prevention and safety fund bonds, commonly called life safety bonds.

But, first, according to state law (105 ILCS 5/17-2.11),

a school district may replace a school building or build additions to replace portions of a building when it is determined that the effectuation of the recommendations for the existing building will cost more than the replacement costs. Such determination shall be based on a comparison of estimated costs made by an architect or engineer licensed in the State of Illinois. The new building or addition shall be equivalent in area (square feet) and comparable in purpose and grades served and may be on the same site or another site. (emphasis added)
That’s typical legislative gobble-de-gook. What it means is that if one can get an architect to say that fixing the old building to meet life safety standards is more expensive than building a new one, the school board may borrow money and build a new school.

And, that’s what this school board did.

But, there was a hitch.

The first architect said it would only cost $742,590.42 to fix up the high school.

The board decided to go for a slightly lower amount for the high school, added in a grade school and got permission for life safety improvements locally and by the State Board of Education in 2001.

Almost immediately afterwards, the board hired a second architect who would give the “right” answer.

$12.7 to $13.9 million was the “better” answer from the second architect.

That’s only 17 times as high as the first architect’s estimate.

For the rest of this overly long story, plus a copy of the suit, go to McHenry County Blog, Sunday, July 30th.


Alan Suderman: Who is the next Harold Washington?

Suderman asks the question in The Defender.

I worked for the Army in Germany during Washington's years. I missed his whole era. I came home one Thanksgiving and spent a Saturday riding the 'L' (a favorite pastime) and visiting Bookstores. I was heading for Armitage to the Guild Bookstore (then on Halstead) and remember being shocked by the new construction from North Ave to Armitage.

But what really surprized me was seeing African American carpenters working on the sites. Guys with tool belts and hammers hanging on their sides. Not guys relegated to chipping the old bricks or doing the mud work. You just hadn't seen blacks in the trades before in Chicago. I realized what Washington had done to break segregation in the work place.

I think only people over a certain age can appreciate how different things were then and now. How deeply segregated work was and how Chicago lagged the rest of the country; and only caught up, when dragged kicking and screaming, during Washington's years.

He didn't seem the sort to do it. He just seemed a typical Chicago Pol before he won.

Suderman writes on him and speculates on whether another Washington is out there.

"[Washington] was just a remarkable person," said former alderman Leon Despres. For 20 years Despres was one of the city's most vocal opponents of the corruption and excesses of the fabled Chicago Democratic Machine, run by Mayor Richard J. Daley.

Despres and a handful of others championed African-American and progressive causes long before Washington, who once was a machine stalwart, made his mark on the political scene.

Now, nearly 20 years after Washington's death, Despres, the former Fifth Ward alderman, doesn't see any likely successor.

"I look for him all the time," said Despres, now 98, whose wife, Marion, encouraged Washington to enter student politics while he was enrolled at Roosevelt University.

"Washington was a singular politician," echoed Washington's former deputy press secretary, Laura Washington, a journalist and college professor. "He was one of the most brilliant and politically artful elected officials I have ever covered."

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) said it was Washington who inspired him to go into politics. "I don't know if there will be another Harold Washington," he said. "There isn't anyone out there who is as charismatic as he was."

But Davis, who worked closely with Washington, said the legend of Washington has outgrown the man. "I knew Harold before he was mayor, and he wasn't all that charismatic before."
I have a feeling despite Despres's age, his eye sight is sharp, and there are no likely successors.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hide - The Root of Chicago Race Relations

Chicago has never recovered from the Meatpackers Strike of 1904. Though engulfed by flames in 1871, Chicago rose from its roots again like an oak forest on steroids. The Pullman Strike, put down by George Custer's replacements, Illinois Yellow-legs and Pinkerton's goons, was as nothing compared to what lay ahead on the tracks.

Chicago's steel tentacles pulled cattle, hogs, sheep and any other hoofed hide that could be tanned, eaten, rendered or husbanded to a vast yard owned by sharp men of business. The amalgamation of tanners, packers, renderers, and shippers had cheap, disorganized and willing pool of people to labor, bleed, and exploit - Czech, Irish, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Westphalian, Belgian, Prussian, Bavarian, Norwegian, and Swedish.

Some of those immigrants had skills as carpenters, millwrights, metal workers, coopers, cartwrights, and teamsters; most had no skills other than brute strength. Today they would be called Caucasian, though very few had passed through Caucasus to get to America.

On July 12, 1904, a strike was called by the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen (AMC) whose President Michael Donnelly announced the strike.

The causes of the strike ranged from low wages to the excessive pace required while on the job. The strike lasted for nearly two months and included rioting and murder with few periods of peace. The strikers used tactics such as demonstrations and parades while the packers responded by hiring strikebreakers. Although factory conditions were unchanged, the strike had many far reaching effects on the city of Chicago, the union, and the nation as a whole. . . . The Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen played a major role in the strike. It was a giant organization and employed both skilled and unskilled workers, a circumstance often resented by skilled workers.(Halpern 32) Though unity was not one of the union's strong points, the union did give workers some sense of it, which was vital when the strike finally began. The main protagonists of the strike were the common laborers, the skilled and unskilled butchers of the Chicago packing plants. The workers, now somewhat organized, demanded higher pay and an end to the relentless "speeding up" of the packing progress. The typical laborer at the time of the strike was foreign, unskilled, worked long, hard hours, and was paid less than twenty cents an hour. The strikers were also very violent which resulted in numerous murders and riots. ("Strikers Firm" 2) ( Italics indicate secondary source used)


The murders and riots were in reaction to the bringing of strikebreakers, most African Americans from the South and hired goons to agitate and incite violence. Chicago Tribune archived articles from the period of the strike - roughly July through September 1904 bear witness to the actions and motives behind those acts.

The violence brought home to the heart of readers the intense frustration felt by the strikers and their families and the malice and greed that Chicago's leading families were willing to orchestrate in the name of profit. 8,750 strikebreakers, mostly miserably poor blacks, were lured with promises of a better life in Chicago and train fare to this Killing floor of the human heart. Strikers and their families were in fact starving despite the effort of Strike relief committees and the sympathy for strikers crossed state lines. However, the need to feed the greed was greater than articulating an agreement with the AMC. The owners intended to break this strike and they succeeded.

After a unanimous vote to maintain the strike, AMC President Michael Donnelly announced the strike ended on Sept. 9 1905 - 59 days after the strike was called.

The resulting antipathy between multi-cultural,lingual, and religious Caucasians and the strikebreaking African Americans would play out for next one hundred and two years in Chicago. The nature of race relations would always be reduced to the simple 'color of a man's skin' equation by people with the luxury of not being close to the conflict.

The descendants of the strikers would recoil from relations with the people who came North in the hope of a better life. They were shoved into combat with people themselves the victims of exploitation and those who profited by that combat. Those same descendants, one hundred and two years later, continue to be at odds with one another. The strikers descendants moved away as the Black Belt expanded to Berwyn, Cicero, Maywood and the southwest sides - places that since the 1904 strike have been branded as single-mindedly racist, unlike neighborhoods far removed from killing floors on the south side. The Armours and the Swifts and their co-industrialists did well by the strike and became clean with wealth, while the strikers and the strikebreakers were set at odds with one another and continue to be.

The horrific race riots of 1919 were confined to battlefields of Back of the Yards and the Black Belt. The fight for fair housing from the 1940's through the new millennium mirror that combat zone. Dr. King marched in Marquette Park, where the descendants of the strikers lived and not in Highland Park where the people who prospered by that broken strike might have taken root. Southside white ethnic neighborhoods continue to be referred to as 'racial hotbeds,' as recently as last week, in the Chicago media. Blacks continue to be pitted against ethnic whites and both exploited for political and economic gain.

Maybe, some talk about the causes and consequences of the 1904 Meatpackers Strike should preclude any 'Let's talk Race' challenge.


Halpern, Rick. Down on the Killing Floor: Black and White Workers in Chicago's Packinghouses, 1904 - 54. Urbana, Illinois : University of Illinois Press, 1997.

Strike is Ended; Men Surrender." Chicago Daily Tribune. 9 Sept. 1904


Anti-smokers to City of Peoria: Shut the Hell up do what we tell you to do

I bet you didn't know that smoking in bars and prostitution are the same thing.

That's just one message I'm getting from today's Journal Star article about the start of a campaign to get local government to ban smoking in restaurants and bars

Historically, Peoria has held its own as a rough-and-tumble town. Prostitution, for instance, was a widely accepted, yet illegal business in the city up into the late '50s, said Bill Adams, a town historian.

"Peoria was known as a wide-open town," Adams said. "This was a place where all the action was: gambling, drinking, prostitution, and all those sorts of things."

Next time I see a lady smoking a cigarette in a bar or restaurant, I think I go up and inform her of what anti-smoking activists think of her.

That's hardly the only insulting thing said in this article. Kathy Drea, director of public policy for the American Lung Association, has all sorts of wonderfully arrogant things to say. First, if Peorians generally don't support s smoking ban now, that's because they are too stupid and ignorant, and that this attitude will change once they plaster their bill boards everywhere (and get compliant progressive-minded newspapers to run articles promoting their point of view). Second, she scoffed at the idea that elected politicians here in Peoria won't eventually bow to their will. They always have before and Peoria will be no different, she says.

"The city council or county board will always make a statement that it will never happen (in their town)," Drea said, adding "every single place that we've ever gone now has a smoke-free law."

When I broke this story a month ago, I quoted documents that reveal how closely tied the Peoria City/County Health Department is to this well-organized and not-very grassroots campaign. What restauranteurs are worried about is that even if the Peoria City Council says "no" repeatedly to these people, the allies of "Smoke Free Peoria" in the health department will make sure that any restaurant or bar that allows smoking will fail their health inspections, by taking points off for every ash tray they find that isn't spotless, for example.

Anyone who has owned or managed a restaurant -- or any business for that matter -- knows how arbitrary a health or safety inspection can be.

Cross posted to Peoria Pundit.


Chicago Wards voting Against Big Box Ordinance

Soap Blog Chicago has a nice map of the Big Box vote by ward.

Leftists used to say of Hyde Park: it's a place where white and black alike, unite against the poor.

Overlay median household incomes on this graph and I think you'd see Chicago's wards, white and black alike, uniting against the poor.


RTA Tax Hikers Line Up...In Chicago, Of Course

100 politicians showed up to show their support of a consensus for raising taxes for mass transit, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

The press release can be found on McHenry County Blog, complete with subhead

Status quo for transit funding is not sustainable
To find the names of your local officials (I see 3 from McHenry County) , read the press release. If you want to have some fun, ask them which tax they favor hiking.

There was, of course, a regional consensus among similar
politicians, transit officials, labor representatives, businessmen and community activists
in 1973 when the Regional Transportation Authority Act was passed.

That “consensus” deteriorated to a 50-50 referendum passed by less than 13,000 votes at the primary election in March 1974.

Some consensus.

Rumor has it that Roger Stanley, the RTA Citizens Committee for Better Transportation’s pollster, found kNOw RTA forces were gaining one percentage point a day in the closing days of the campaign. (Stanley paid bribes to Metra Board member Don Udstuen and got a lighter sentence, after protesting loudly that he would not flip, for helping in the George Ryan corruption case.)

Of course, Chicagoland’s politicians have learned from that experience.

No future tax hike will have to be approved by referendum.

You can bet on that.

I do find almost quaint the title of the consensus report:
Moving Beyond Congestion
In whose lifetime?

Incidentally, blogger Dan Johnson-Weinberger is doing work for the project.


Friday, July 28, 2006

How Does the Living Wage Ordinance Affect Your Life?

A. Have to drive to Joliet to get those Toby Keith CDs
B. Miss out on Equate-brand lattes
C. No more of the smiley-face guy, goddamnit!
D. Now that I can never be a Wal-Mart greeter, I can look forward to playing shuffleboard in a nursing home.

There is actually some truth to that last one. Now the people that could have gotten jobs at Wal-Mart or another big box store will have to go back to doing what they were doing before. And if that means calling me during dinner to ask if I want to sponsor a starving child in Kenya for just pennies a day, I want no part of it.

The problem with the living wage ordinance is that at even those big box stores that might stay in Chicago, people will have a harder time getting jobs. Maybe Joe Schmoe can get a Wal-Mart job for 7$ an hour, but not $9.25.Where does that leave us? With a whole lot more people watching daytime TV, I can tell you that. Which means more people who will want to buy Toby Keith CDs--and Wal-Mart will get even more money. Geez...economics is hard. (The only reason I keep talking about Toby Keith CDs is that they're the only thing I'm sure Wal-Mart actually sells, other than those 99 cent hot dogs.) At any rate, the choice between a job at Wal-Mart and no job at all is not, as one Chicago labor leader put it "a choice between bad and worse." If Wal-Mart were that bad, no one would work there. People may not want to work there, but no one makes them. And hey, working at Wal-Mart sure beats being a telemarketer.

So we don't get more calls from telemarketers, or more old people with time on their hands(which, as Henry Winkler showed, can be a dangerous thing), we should give everyone a fair shot at getting a job. Chicago shouldn't subsidize those who have the skills and training to get jobs at 9.25$ an hour, at the expense of those who can't. If only because not having a job leads to more country music.


Heirs of Wobblies "Weenies?"

No, I didn't say that.

But a Sun-Times columnist did.

Comments on my original Illinoize story are about the Chicago City Council's big box ordinance are now up to 20. You can scroll down or you can read a reprint of them here.

One commenter took me to task, probably justifiably, because I don't know unionization law as well as he must, for saying that the signature of a hospital chain president would be enough to put the designated employees in the union. I guess I should have said that it would relieve the union of the onerous work to get enough signatures to force an election. Thanks for the correction.

And, yesterday, on page 2, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a column by David Roeder which seemed even stronger than my story.

Under the heading “Missed opportunities,” here’s the last part of his column:

Workers' desperation writes the script for a union organizer, those that are left. But most unions won't pick up the opportunities handed to them. The U.S. Labor Department says union membership of the total work force is down to 12.5 percent from about 20 percent in 1983. But if you strip out government jobs, you've got a union share in the single digits.

The public sector is among the few areas showing union growth. It figures. Access to the workers is greased with campaign contributions, and there's an easy mark, the taxpayers, on the other end of the bargaining table. So the union brass won't dirty their hands with organizing the private sector. They're more comfortable at political fund-raisers than they are with people who could use their help.

So Wal-Mart avoids a head-on fight. In Chicago, the heirs of the Wobblies are weenies.
If my original story angered union supporters, what will this do?

= = = = =
Abe Lincoln must not have a photo of the Blagojevich tollway signs for his post below, you can find it here.

If you would like to see a picture of 8th congressional district "Moderate Party" candidate Bill Scheurer's donkephant named, "McBeaney," you can see it at McHenry County Blog.


What a crew

If you believe this, I have some land to sell you in Arizona.

Nobody in an oversight position at the Illinois tollway or the governor's office knew about plans to spend nearly a half-million dollars on the big blue signs that advertise Gov. Rod Blagojevich's name to thousands of motorists a day on Chicago-area toll roads, the toll authority's chairman says.

And it looks as though Tollway Chairman John Mitola is tired of this being an issue (poor baby):

I am proud to have the governor's name on those signs," said Mitola, who was appointed by Blagojevich. He added he is "sick and tired" of hearing about the issue.

Here's what really cracked me up:

A spokeswoman for Blagojevich said open-road tolling has been a major initiative of the governor. The decision to put up the signs, said Abby Ottenhoff, was made by the tollway, "and we were fine with the decision."

Of course you were Abby.


It's all about the economy (and the economy is about investment)

Terry Dean in The Austin Weekly News,

Obama hosted the Q&A at Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St. Business owners were joined by representatives of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA) and elected officials.
Obama advocated African-American businesses pooling some of their resources together to help existing or new businesses. As an example, he suggested the large number of black churches on the West Side could possibly pool some of their money to help fund loans for small business.

Obama said other ethnic communities with businesses-such as the Korean communities-have such a structure in place. Despite problems facing some small businesses in Austin, Cook County as a whole, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in April, has more black-owned businesses than any other county in the nation, and has the fastest growing black-owned firms in the nation.
Instead of asking Churches to poney-up for the investment pool, it would have made more sense to ask big retailers to patronize these small businesses.

I know Chicago has a bad history here, but I'd trust Walmart to implement an effective minority business program more than the City.

It's all those growing business that will employee people, and you can bet they're just as worried as Walmart when the council starts meddling.

Makes more sense to me then passing the plate at Church.


An apple for the teacher? Rejected by union.

The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial today over-shadowed by discrimination enabling pay policies, on the FACT that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) rejected $40 million from the federal government for education (specifically teacher's pay) simply because of "principles". I respect principles even though I don't always agree with them, as no one should. Even mine, for what that's worth.

The Chicago Teachers Union's "principles" in this instance rejected the $40 million from President Bush and the Republicans simply because that money was targetted for a program that would give pay bonuses to teachers who were performing well above average and achieving good results. Do we, the ones paying for the schools, want above average and good results? The Chicago Teachers Union doesn't. This is absolute proof of that.

What does the Chicago Teachers Union want? Socialism. Yes, I know, that term is thrown around a lot. But this is the perfect example. The Chicago Teachers Union wants EVERY teacher to be paid EXACTLY THE SAME based soley on the amount of time they have worked there. That is PURE socialism no matter how you cut it. They don't care if a teacher goes above and beyond and teaches her/his students better than someone else that started at the same time just showing up and collecting a paycheck.

According to the Chicago Teachers Union, beyond any shadow of doubt, the ONLY variable the CTU wants used when calculating a Teacher's pay, is time served. (Do they teach math well enough to understand this sentence?) The CTU doesn't care a lick about performance or going above and beyond, or students' test scores, or actual performance, or anything remotely considered human nature. The CTU only cares about time served. If I were a teacher, I wouldn't give the CTU one more dime of my money, unless I was below average, which it appears most Chicago teachers are considering graduation rates. That probably expains it best.

And please don't use the tired, irrelevant excuse that Chicago teachers don't make enough money. Here is their chance to make MORE MONEY if they do a good job, but their union is throwing it away.

I believe this example is a much bigger problem with our education quality than anything else, especially the cries for more money. Here is MORE MONEY, right in front you to take. But you reject it in favor of a completely socialist principle of equal pay regardless of job performance and based solely on time served? That's just sick. How many people in the real world reject a PAY INCREASE because the guy hired the same day as them who barely performs isn't getting the same pay increase based solely on time served? That answer is probably zero.

So what is it that our state government, the teachers unions, our taxpayers, and our children not understand about socialism never working? Maybe it's the education system not doing their job.

Someone, someday is going to have to stand up to the teacher's union to bring them back to the reality of pay for good performance, market-centered retirement benefits, average healthcare benefits, and a reminder they don't work a full year for their $39,000/9 month average salary plus benefits. Will it be Blagojevich, Topinka, or Whitney to remind them and look after the best interests of all Illinois residents and taxpayers? Nope, I highly doubt that.

We don't need to "break" the teachers unions, we just need to avoid breaking our future generations chances at doing as well as their parents did. For the first time in US history those future generational prospects are worse than their parents generation. The first generation in US history to do worse than their parents!!! That fact should be shocking and sickening.

Don't we owe it to the kids to pay teachers based on performance instead of seniority at the very least? Don't we owe it to the kids to not pass along bills that will require them to pay more than half or 60% of what they earn in taxes? (Why didn't the Chicago City Council propose eliminating ALL federal income taxes, including FICA/Medicaid/Medicare, on the poor "big box" employees because it is assinine to tax poor people even one penny?) We are bankrupting our future with current taxes and policies and government union contracts and it's time to say enough is enough and join the reality most citizens face, just like the citizens working at Target or Wal-Mart.

A state income tax increase is entirely illogical and heartless until we address REAL issues that pertain to real results in the classroom. Pay for time served versus pay for performance and results has to be properly addressed, considered, and acted upon before any state income tax increase is even considered. Anyone telling you differently doesn't care about our children's future, plain and simple. They are simply bought and paid for by the BIGGEST political campaign donor (bigger than corporations you Greens that are reading) in Illinois.

Let's stop listening to people (including unions, corporations, and Wal-Mart) trying to buy our politics and instead start listening to our children and logical, fiscally sound reasoning that conforms to the ideals our great country was founded upon. Please?


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Oprah to be drafted for Governor's race?

Former NBA star Charles Barkley announced today that he is leaving the Republican Party to run as a Democrat for Governor of Alabama:

"I was a Republican until they lost their minds," he said earlier this month.

This immediately got me thinking. If 17% of Illinois voters already say they would vote for a third party candidate over Blagojevich and Topinka, wouldn't Oprah be a shoe-in as a write-in candidate for Governor?

-She's got name recognition
-Fundraising won't be an issue
-She's got the swing voters and Democrats in her camp
-A political career is an obvious extension of the advocacy she does through her show

She'd have to figure out how to be Governor and still tape her show every day, but I'm sure she'd figure that out.


Chicago alderman inside their boxes: Thinking of themselves

Crossposted on Marathon Pundit. And later today, don't forget to listen to my radio interview.

While yesterday's passing of Chicago's "big box" living wage ordinance was the major local news story--and it's gotten pretty heavy play nationally--one story got buried. Chicago's alderman voted themselves pay raise for themselves yesterday, (free registration may be required to access the link).

As for the "big box" bill, the unions no longer bother denying that they've threatened to run opponents against the soon-to-be-a-little wealthier aldercreatures if they voted "wrong" on "big box."

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Aldermen had made commitments to organized labor months ago. They were not about to renege -- and test labor's threat to run candidates against sitting aldermen.

Today's John Kass column in the Chicago Tribune is a work of brilliance. Here is an excerpt, and yes, free registration may be required:

As public policy, the big-box ordinance is certainly unconstitutional. It is an insidious attempt by Chicago politicians to squeeze businesses that hoped to open new markets--particularly underserved minority neighborhoods--while providing tax revenue and thousands of desperately needed jobs to unskilled workers, many of them black and Latino.

"I've got these white liberals telling me what's good for my community. But this big-box thing will cost black people jobs," Ald. Ike Carothers (29th) told me during Wednesday's pontifications.

"If I put out a notice that there were 500 jobs waiting in my ward--what Wal-Mart was offering for each store--you'd see a line of people from my ward all the way to Mississippi. People want jobs. That's it."

Eventually, Wednesday's histrionics will cost taxpayers even more money, once lawyers start generating billable hours. Ultimately, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, requiring equal protection under the law, should trump the council's economic populism.

Sure it'd be illegal, but it would be a fair ending to this tale if the 35 alderman who voted for the "big box" wage bill were forced to pay the legal bills resulting from "big box" out of their own salaries. After all, they just voted themselves a raise.


On the Air in Chicago

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

Gov. Blagojevich has spent $5.2 million on TV ads in the Chicago market during the first half of 2006, including $1.8 million before the primary and $3.4 million afterwards. His campaign reported having $18.3 million available for the Primary, including cash on hand and funds raised before March 20. Looking only at the pre-Primary numbers, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Gidwitz spent the most on Chicago market ads, at $2.4 million. Disclosure reports for all candidates for the first half of 2006 are due to be filed with the State Board of Elections by Monday, July 31.

All told, candidates have spent some $15.2 million for TV ads broadcast in the Chicago, including $14 million by candidates for state office and $1.1 million by candidates for federal office.

Governor Blagojevich’s re-election campaign is the only campaign that has been running ads since the March Primary. The first wave of these ads, from the day after the Primary through April 10, included 453 30-second spots in the Chicago market, at a cost of $732,000. The second wave, which switched to bookended 15-second spots but otherwise retained the same apparent placement strategy, ran from April 20 to May 10 at a cost of $1.2 million for 1,365 total spots. The third wave ran from June 2 through July 3, including 1,764 15-second spots at a cost of $1.5 million.

The governor’s campaign has not aired spots since the Independence Day holiday, but they have told Chicago TV stations that the ad flights will resume in August. ICPR has updated its analysis of these ad broadcasts here. ICPR has also teamed with reform groups in other states around the Midwest to monitor news broadcasts in the weeks leading up to the November general; read the press release here.


Can't We All Just Get Along?

So although I've been continuing my light summer blogging schedule, I've got a couple good topics in mind that I hope to post up here in the next week or so. In the interim, I just happened to catch a press release that didnt' pop up in any stories that I saw today.

Apparently, the Governor today appointed Judge Abner Mikva to head the Human Rights Commission to replace outgoing Chair J.B. Pritzker.

Now I have nothing but admiration for Judge Mikva, and think that he is a fine choice for appointment to most any position, but I can't help but think that this announcement will inevitably rekindle discussion about the whole controversy regarding Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad and the Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. Granted, one has nothing to do with the other, but it's a relatively short line from one to the other.

It is difficult to think that the administration would not anticipate this linkage. But on the other hand, maybe they figure that it's better than the press that they've been getting lately.

To read, or post, comments, visit Dome-icile


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Using Government to Do What Unions Can’t

Public employee unions have long accomplished through legislation what they could not achieve at the bargaining table.

Think teacher pension increases.

And union organizing used to involve actually talking to workers.

But, Democrats like Governor Rod Blagojevich allowed unionization of, what, 49,000 day care workers by executive order. No messy contested vote once the state employees’ union, AFSCME, pulled out of the election against Service Employees International Union—not coincidentally, Blagojevich’s biggest campaign contributor.

Now unions like the SIEU want hospital employers like Advocate Health Care to just sign over their employees.

That’s right.

No messy democratic election supervised by federal authorities.

Just the signature of the CEO on a piece of paper and all of the designated health care employees would be dues paying members…and getting more dues is what union’s are all about, right? Who wouldn’t want to avoid the difficult job of organizing, if one could?

Tom Balanoff, the SIEU’s Illinois president was even appointed to Blagojevich’s original Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. He didn’t stay long, but wasn’t that part of the SEIU’s stategy to put pressure on Advocate from every direction possible?

Evoking the Governor’s name as a way to induce hospitals to organize is certainly not beyond the SIEU’s pale.

Just picket the homes of the hospital presidents.

And sic Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn on organizing targets Advocate and Resurrection Health Care Corporation for charging poor patients to much.

Its called a corporate campaign and it consists of a systematic assault on the reputation of a corporation designed to undermine its relationships with such key stakeholders as its customers, shareholders, regulators, bankers and the general public. For details, click here.

I was reminded of how unions and the SEIU specifically use their allies in government to do their dirty organizing work for them by the Chicago City Council’s vote today to impose salary and benefit minimums on so-called “big box” stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target.

I saw the SEIU tee shirts in the audience.

Why wait for the super stores to enter the market place with new employees to try to organize and, again, not a coincidence, provide competition for the unionized Jewel and Dominick’s stores whose employees already pay dues?

Just get your minions on the city council to make it tough on the folks you want to organize.

36 of the alderpersons do not hold outside jobs in private enterprise or anywhere else.. They are full-timers (like I used to be as a state representative). Being government employees—even elected ones--does not yield a particularly representative group of citizens, even in Chicago.

Besides the relative few jobs per store, don’t what one former Democratic state representative called “alderthings” think their constituents might like to be able to walk to a place where they can buy groceries, soft and hard goods cheaper than elsewhere in Chicago?

Guess not.

And, if you don't know what a "Donkephant" is, go to McHenry County Blog.


Anti-jobs "big box"ordinance passes Chicago City Council

Crossposted on Marathon Pundit.

Longtime Chicago Tribune sports columnist Bob Verdi often calls Chicago, in a play on words of Carl Sandburg's description of the town, the "City of broad shoulders and narrow trophy cases."

Now that the "living wage" ordinance focusing only on "big box" retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart has passed the Chicago City Council, the city's new moniker may end up being the "City of broad shoulders and empty storefronts."

A test case for my theory is the boondoggle known as the Gateway Shopping Center in Joe Moore's 49th Ward. Moore, the anti-foie gras zealot, was the main sponsor of the bill.

The bill passed the council by a surprisingly large margin, a veto-proof 35-14. However, Mayor Richard Daley could still veto the bill, forcing big labor to worry about a few defections as the Council attempts to override Daley's first veto in his 17 years as mayor.

It's easy to view Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot as the losers today. The real losers are the people who won't have jobs in the stores that won't be opening in Chicago. The "big boxes" have plans to put stores in the underserved areas of the city, with no viable retail presence there for the "big boxes" to displace.

Chicago will continue to tax revenue to the suburbs and the web. It's an old article, but in 2004 Crain's Chicago Business reported:

MetroEdge calculates that city dwellers spent $32 billion on retail goods in 2003, but only $25.5 billion of that amount was spent in the city. The remainder was spent elsewhere — anywhere from the suburbs to the Internet. The size of the gap is debatable; MetroEdge's sales estimates don't exactly match what the state reports. But what's beyond question is that the city of Chicago is understored.

Liberal activists, columnists, and bloggers are claiming Wal-Mart and Target are bluffing when the retail behemoths state they'll cut back or cancel their expansion moves into the Second City. My hunch is they're not. Look for Wal-Mart to create a "big box" necklace along the borders of America's third most-populous city if the "big box" ordinance stands.

The sales tax in Chicago for most goods is 9 percent, with 2.25 percent of each sale going into city coffers. If it's not sold in the city, the city collects nothing.

Chicago's first Wal-Mart will open next month on the impoverished West Side, employing about 450 people. Wal-Mart has told Chicago leaders that the retailer has plans--or had plans, I should say, to open 10 or 20 stores in the city. You do the math.

On the positive side, Wal-Mart Watch, the Service Employees International Union funded group, is looking to hire a press secretary. So a Wal-Mart opponent has one job to offer.

Also on Marathon Pundit: A review of Senator Ted Kennedy's children's book, and information on my ,Thursday radio appearance.


No jobs, no investment; but pay raises for the ruling class

I think this is the Democrat's plan for all of Illinois. From Crain's,

"This vote sadly put politics ahead of Chicago's working men and women,” Michael Lewis, Wal-Mart’s Senior Vice President of Store Operations, said in a statement. “It sends a message that Chicago is closed for business, closed for development, and closed for job creation.”
and drive out the tax revenue need for this: from CBS,
Members of the Chicago City Council voted 26-to-16 on Wednesday to give themselves raises linked to the cost of living in each of the next four years.

The measure will probably result in smaller-than-normal raises for the aldermen. They approved a $20,000-a-year increase in 1995 and an additional $10,000 in 1998.

The city's 50 aldermen currently make more than $98,000 a year, so even a small raise will boost them past the $100,000 mark.

The annual increases will be based upon the Consumer Price Index -- published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The ordinance passed with no floor debate.
Post Script 1: Big problem with today's liberalism is its complete inability to distinguish the lessor of two evils. A real handicap considering there is a downside to just about every decision we face.

Frédéric Bastiat saw this as the difference between a good economist and a bad economist. Chicago's problem yesterday was we had no economist, just medicore Pols without forsight. Here's how Bastiat described it,
In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.

Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.
But then we've always been a city that's never looked much further ahead then where's mine. Post Script 2: The Sun Times sums up the Council's bet,
Supporters point to Wal-Mart's huge profits and executive salaries as evidence that it can afford to pay its workers more. They think Chicago's dense, urban market still will be attractive to the big boxes, which have saturated the rest of the area. If they're right, the City Council will have raised some workers out of poverty. But if they're wrong, they'll have relegated more workers to it.
Demographics and the obstacles of selling in the City are working against supporters.


Big Box Watershed?

Immediately after the City of Chicago passed it's smoking ban, there was a rapid move by the Cook County Board to make the ban countywide. That countywide ban was quietly supported by the same Chicago businesses who opposed the city ban. They figured the best way to keep customers from being driven to restaurants ringing the city was to extend it to the county as well.

Here's my question: if the Big Box Ordinance passes in Chicago today, as is widely expected, will Mayor Daley and the handful of others who opposed the city ordinance becuase they say it will drive jobs abd development out of the city work behind the scenes to enact a parallel ordinance for the county? Could it pass?

Text messages I'm receiving from within the hearing indicate that atleast two undecided Aldermen have joined the "Yes" column. If they secure a veto-proof majority, making the ordinance countywide might make the most sense for Daley.


Blagojevich 45%; JBT 34%

from survey USA,

Analysis: In an election for Governor of Illinois today, 7/25/06, incumbent Democratic Rod Blagojevich defeats Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for KSDK-TV St. Louis. Blagojevich gets 45% today.
The two are effectively tied in Suburban Cook County and in the Chicago Collar Counties. Topinka is up by 4 points Downstate. The election is on 11/7/06.
Where are the other 50 points worth or Republicans going?


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

S.F. Democrats Straight-Forward on Health Care for Illegals...Unlike Illinois Colleagues

San Francisco Democrats are so different from their colleagues in Illinois.

Illinois Democrats passed the “All Kids” health care program primarily to provide health care to children who are in the United States illegally, but didn’t have the courage to say so.

Not so San Francisco Democrats.

Or, maybe, it’s that reporters in San Francisco are more astute than those in Illinois. Certainly, there was an opportunity to quote Republicans about the "illegals" angle to Governor Rod Blagojevich's bill.

I, for one, would have appreciated a little truth in advertising prior to the bill's passage. You know, tell your consituents what you are trying to do before you do it.

I'd even settle for the truth now, although I readily admit that Elgin's Daily Courier-News laddled it up boiling hot on December 4th.

Here’s the lead in the Associated Press story of San Francisco’s pioneering effort:

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to make the city the nation's first to provide all residents with health care, approving a plan that would give adults access to medical services regardless of their immigration or employment status. (Emphasis added.)
The only two news sources in Illinois to reveal the illegal alien angle early on besides Dick Kay on a Chicago Tonight panel was Crystal Lake’s Northwest Herald and the Quincy Herald-Whig.

When Chicago Newspapers blogger Jim Bowman asked Kay a follow-up question, this was his answer:
He has it exactly right! They will not apply under Kids Care because that is a federally funded program. All Kids is state-only and will cover illegal immigrants so long as they can pay the monthly premium and the co-pay. For that matter it would cover children of billionaires so long as they could pay the much higher premiums that would require. Our sister station, Telemundo, has done a couple of stories on the program.
The first hint that illegal aliens might be involved in All Kids didn’t show up until late January in an Illinois AP story and in a Daily Herald story. Of course, neither used the term "illegal alien," but one could read between the lines, if one wanted to.

If anyone can find evidence to contradict my assertion that Illinois reporters failed to discern the primary purpose of All Kids before it was signed, please let provide me with a link. I'd love to publish it (them) on McHenry County Blog.

(I would remind folks that Jim Edgar put forth the Kids Care program, which provides welfare medical benefits to poor kids who are legally in the United States. Now, Blagojevich is switching children from Kids Care to All Kids to pump up the latter's numbers.)


Burt Natarus: "I'm a friend of workers. No, really!!"

Alderman Burt Natarus finds himself in quite a pickle. Tomorrow, Natarus will vote against the Big Box Ordinance and against giving roughly 10,000 working families in Chicago a raise. He'll also vote to give himself a pay raise, the second in four years. The last was 15%, to $98K a year. This one will be 12%, to $111K.

Desperate for any kind of political cover, Natarus is trying to drum up grassroots support to provide himself political cover. An e-mail sent out by Natarus' office today said:

Dear Neighbor:

Tomorrow, July 26th, the City Council will vote on a “Big Box” Ordinance that would establish a super-minimum wage just for large retail stores located in the City of Chicago. I will vote no on the ordinance and I need your support for my vote........Throughout my long career, I have been a strong supporter of unions and the right of workers to organize. I believe that I have been instrumental in creating more union jobs in this ward than have been created in any other ward in Chicago. I am proud of my support for worker’s rights, but this is an exceptional situation. On this singular issue, I cannot support the union position.

Just to recap: in the last year, Natarus has opposed a smoking ban that was backed by the city's restaurant workers, made discriminatory comments about female traffic control officers, and lambasted the employees of the United States Postal Service.

With a friend like Burt Natarus, working Chicagoans don't need enemies.


Lobbyists Everywhere (Cook Co. Edition)

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

Who’s the biggest lobbyist in Illinois? Many of us could guess, but there’s no way of knowing exactly. Illinois does not require lobbyists to disclose their billings, nor what actions they take on behalf of their clients. But some parts of Illinois do, and those can be interesting.

Cook County, for instance, requires disclosure of billings by lobbyists. The top lobbyists in Cook County are probably familiar to statehouse denizens: Michael Kasper and Courtney Nottage report the highest lobbyist billing in Cook County. But those figures reflect only billing for lobbing in Cook, not statehouse work, or other levels of government.

Today’s Trib reports on these numbers, courtesy of Cook County Clerk David Orr. It’s past time for Illinois to consider this kind of reporting for state lobbyists. And a measure like HB 5765 would be a good place to start.


Censure Durbin dot Org

I like politics. I like most politicians. I like almost all of them regardless of politics. Their's a tough job and Americans not an easy people to govern.

I shared a flight with Durbin to DC and I told him I thought he had tough job... and then he later uttered in the Senate the nonsense you can hear below... I signed this today.

He just turns my stomach now in a way almost no other pol can do.

PS Durbin's current silence on Torture covered here and here.

Update: Maybe the anti-war crowd will be joining the censure too,

Six anti-war demonstrators were arrested Monday after refusing to leave U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin's Loop office, police said.

The activists, from the Christian Peacemaker Teams, delivered a letter Monday afternoon to Durbin's office in the Kluczynski Federal Building, 230 S. Dearborn St., and asked him to make a public statement condemning U.S. military aid to Israel, team member Nils Dyvig said. When the activists did not get an answer, they declined to leave, Dyvig said.
HT yinn at SoapBlog Chicago


African-Americans oppose "big box," plus interesting editing

Crossposted on Marathon Pundit. And don't forget about my radio appearance on Thursday!

Fran Spielman writes about Chicago's "big box" ordinance, and notes something that even supporters of "living wages" agree on. African Americans oppose this bill:

Dr. Leon Finney of the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church said recent polls commissioned by black ministers show voters in African-American wards oppose the big-box ordinance by 70-to-80 percent margins.

Finney scoffed at the threat by union leaders to finance candidates against incumbent aldermen who oppose the ordinance.

"Since when do we know that the labor unions have been able to elect anybody to office? . . . If an alderman decides to vote the interests of their people, they should be punished?'' Finney said.

Spielman's article was picked up by the affiliated Daily Southtown. Here's that first excerpted paragraph from the Southtown:

Leon Finney of the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church said recent polls commissioned by black ministers show that voters in majority black wards overwhelmingly oppose the big-box ordinance.

Maybe I'm being a bit picky, but since the Sun-Times version of that paragraph is--at least to me--more effective in communicating the strong opposition of blacks to the "big box" ordinance, was the person who edited Spielman's Daily Southtown version of her article trying to diminish the punchiness of Fran's point?

More details on opposition to "big box" in the African American community in this May Marathon Pundit post, Chicago's "big box" anti-jobs ordinance.


Kos on Illinois

For those of you who do not read the Daily Kos blog, you should. While it's an understatement to say it leans to the political left (don't be afraid conservatives), it is a very thought provoking site.

Anyway, I bring this up because Kos has this to say on the race for Governor in Illinois:

Illinois (D-Rod Blagojevich)-- Blago's administration is corrupt, he's got a terrible relationship with the Democratic legislature, and people don't like him. There is one semi-popular Republican in the state, Judy Baar Topinka, yet she'll have a hard time overcoming her state's heavy Blue leanings. Voters seem willing to keep her as state treasurer. As governor? Skepticism abounds.

Kos also has Blago listed as an "endangered incumbent":

In just about any other state, Blago is toast. But Illinois has no quality Republicans left, and its heavy Blue tilt gives him a boost that quite frankly, given his administration's corruption, is undeserved.



That's exactly what it is. From today's ST,

"This is going to hurt the minority community. . . . You talk about redlining. This is basically redlining. . . . This deals with economic development in the African-American community," Daley told a City Hall news conference.

"No one would ever bring that up in the suburban area. We're not talking about the Near North Side. . . . We're not talking about Wrigleyville. We're not talking about any of those [white] communities. We're talking about the West Side and the South Side. . . . For us to say, 'No, we don't want these stores,' that puts Chicago more on the map [as anti-business] than foie gras. That says, 'We don't want development.' ''
PS After looking at the pics of today's SDS (coming to Chicago for their convention) I realize today's progressives have never heard of redlining or have a clue what it is.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Ex-Lake County GOP Chairman Arrested for Kiddie Porn

Tom Adams, village president of Green Oaks and former Lake County Republican Party Central Committee Chairman, was accused of distributing child pornography.

In their arrest stories, both the Daily Herald and the Chicago Tribune call Adams a “mayor,” but he isn’t. He’s just the village president of a tiny town of 3,500.

Adams was GOP chairman from 2002-2004 and now serves as chairman of the Mayor Richard Daley-dominated Metropolitan Mayors Caucus. It's financed largely by the John D. McArthur Foundation.

The caucus has been preparing the way for a state income tax and other tax hikes for several years.

In 2003, for instance, the caucus pushed for the state to pay 51% of the cost of local education. That would, of course, require a massive hike in state taxes.

The only tax that has been mentioned by supporters of that concept and which is capable of bringing in significant money has been the state income tax. The Mayors group calls it a “tax swap,” just as the Rev. and State Senator James Meeks, 1994 gubernatorial candidate Dawn Clark Netsch and former Governor Jim Edgar did when they proposed similar plans.

When the income tax was established and hiked, municipalities were cut in on the deal. Undoubtedly, they would expect a share of any future hike in the state income tax, again, proving that following the money is a good idea, if one really wants to know what is going on.

With this arrest, I wonder if Adams was blackmailed into supporting the tax hike, which would suck money out of his home area. Or maybe he just has bad judgment in public policy, as he admittedly does elsewhere.

Nicholas B. Blase, another guy who likes to call himself a mayor, but is really Village President of Niles, recently was arrested for “convincing” local businessmen to buy insurance from his favored broker, is the Mayors’ Caucus Legislative Committee Chairman. Blase is a Democrat.

Maybe investigators should be looking at all the guys and gals who have to assuage their egos by using the inflated title of “mayor” when they are really village presidents.

More political stories at McHenry County Blog.


Ald. Joe Moore, retail genius

Crossposted on Marathon Pundit. While there, you can read about my upcoming radio appearance.

On Wednesday a vote is scheduled to take place in Chicago's City Council on the Chicago "Big Box Living Wage" ordinance.

Ald. Joe Moore, a two-year opponent of Wal-Mart and other "big box" stores, is the sponsor of the ordinance.

Supporters of the bill include the usual suspects: unions and the far left. Opponents include business leaders, as well as African-American community and church leaders.

Before becoming an alderman, Moore was an attorney for the City. He has no experience in retail.

Yesterday morning, I drove down Howard street to take a look at the Gateway Shopping Center, a project that was built at the inspiration of Alderman Moore, who helped grease things along by using the power of eminent domain to get the place built.

Driving west on Howard from Sheridan Road, I notice quite a few empty store fronts on Howard east of Gateway. West of Gateway too.

Arriving at the shopping center, I noticed, it does look pretty nice. A non-big box discounter, probably not union, Marshall's is there. Grocer Dominick's has a store, and yes, they're union.

But among the smaller units there, set aside for specialty outlets, about one-third sit empty. Gateway opened in 2000.

Now that "expert" in retail, Joe Moore, wants to tell the rest of Chicago how retail businesses should operate in the City.

For those readers living outside of Chicago, a quick lesson in how things are done in the Second City is needed. There's a "gentleman's agreement" among the Chicago's fifty alderman that the council member representing the ward, using--or shall I say, abusing zoning laws, exerts enormous power on what is built---or not built--in their ward.

Oh, the picture was taken Sunday morning in front of one of the many vacant store lots at Gateway. Call the number listed if you need retail space in Chicago's Rogers Park community.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Illinois Democratic candidates roll call: Where is Alexi, the boy-banker?

Crossposted Sat. July 22 on Marathon Pundit.

Wandering around the web is a pretty good exercise for bloggers to find stories.

Two nights ago I found my self on the official web site of the Illinois Democratic Party,

I checked on the candidate page. The Democrat's candidate for governor, Rod Blagojevich is there, as is his running mate, Pat Quinn. For attorney general, Lisa Madigan....Jesse White, for secretary of state, Dan Hynes, comptroller....

Gee, someone is missing! Where is the Democrats' candidate for state treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias?

Could it be Alexi was accidentally omitted by a careless Illinois Democratic Party webmaster?

Or did he drop out of the race? I was out of town last week, so I might have missed something....

No, he's still running. In fact, Friday Alexi Giannoulias was campaigning in downstate Quincy, Illinois, as the Quincy Herald-Whig (cool name, isn't it?) reports.

There's been an ethical cloud surrounding Giannoulias since for the last few months.

From Crain's Chicago Business, March 13:

But there are a few other things voters might want to know before putting a 29-year-old Democrat who never has held government office in charge of investing $7 billion of your money each year.

Like how Broadway Bank financed property used for a gun store so notorious that it was sued by Mayor Richard M. Daley and finally shut down by federal authorities. Or how the bank lent money to a crime figure convicted of running a national prostitution ring to buy land in Florida. Not to mention the Texas lawsuit that contends Mr. Giannoulias and the bank "extorted" a nearly $100,000 loan fee. And the $5,000 campaign donation Mr. Giannoulias returned after revelations that the donor bought a fleet of gambling boats from a group including indicted Washington, D.C., lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff? Isn't he that corrupt Republican guy?

Via Rich Miller's Capitol Fax, here is an excerpt from a Chicago Tribune editorial a month later:

Let’s get this straight. Voters are supposed to be impressed by Giannoulias’ experience at the bank. Yet his defense here is that he was clueless as to what his bank was doing?

And he wants to take control of the entire state treasury?

Giannoulias was asked if it was acceptable for a state treasurer to lend money to crime figures. His response to Tribune reporter David Jackson: The treasurer should work to get "the best rate of return for taxpayers to create jobs."

What, no questions asked?

Actually, it seems understandable that the Illinois Democratic Party "forgot" to list the boy-banker from its list of candidates for statewide office.

For those living outside Illinois, you're probably wondering how Alexi won the nomination to run as the Democratic candidate for state Treasurer? Paul Mangieri was the candidate endorsed by the state party.

However, St. Barack, also known as Illinois Senator Barack Obama, stepped in and endorsed Giannoulias. It was the only endorsement Obama made in an Illinois contested primary race.

From ABC 7 Chicago in February:

Obama is the narrator in a new TV spot that launches a million-dollar-plus statewide ad campaign, financed in large part by Giannoulias's wealthy family which owns the Broadway Bank in Chicago, where Alexi's a vice president and contributes a lot of money to a lot of candidates, including Obama.

"The treasurer's job is a financial job. He's the candidate who has financial experience," said Senator Barack Obama, (D)-Illinois.

"When he told me he would be endorsing my candidacy, I promised I would never waver in my inherent desire to help people at every level have better lives," said Alexi Giannoulias, (D)-candidate for state treasurer.

The commercial, in which Obama calls Giannoulias "One of the most outstanding young men I could ever hope to meet" is still viewable on Alexi's web site.

A lot of questions need to be answered. The ones Alexi need to answer are pretty clear. The Illinois Democratic Party has to answer if it's just an oversight that Giannoulias was "disappeared" from the listing of Democratic statewide candidates on the official party web site.

And Obama needs to answer why he chose to endorse the boy-banker to shepherd $7 billion dollars in state funds?

Was there a quid-pro-quo?

Oh, a personal note to Senator Obama: With your connections, can you please get Alexi up on that site?


Big-box ordinance would hurt blacks who need jobs

I've been trying to find a way to discuss the debate with regards to Wal-Mart other than using my own small knowledge of Economics and merely regurgitating what I've heard especially if it makes sense to me. Then I've heard tidbits here and there on cable access. The calls were either in agreement or not in agreement with Wal-Mart coming into the black community.

There are those who complained that Wal-Mart doesn't pay enough. There are those who claim Wal-Mart are nothing but some slave masters paying slave wages. Then there are those who say that disadvantaged communities will need these opportunities in such communities. No doubt opinions are all over the place.

Then I see Mary Mitchell's column this morning. She starts off by talking about the unions, who seem to hate Wal-Mart with a passion (that I've never understood)...

If City Council goes ahead and passes the "big-box" ordinance, it would show a couple of things. The first, of course, is that despite bad schools, the lack of black faces on construction sites and double-digit unemployment rates in black neighborhoods, unions still have a firm grip on this town
She talks about the proposed ordinance which requires by July 1, 2010 that superstores such as Wal-Mart and Target to pay their employees $10/hour and $3 in benefits. But Mitchell notes...
But underneath the feel-good rhetoric about all those poor black folks needing to make a living wage, the real battle with Wal-Mart is between the superstore and unions that are trying to organize its workers.

That's reason enough for union members to want to stick it to Wal-Mart. But what about the thousands of black people who are stuck in the unemployment line?

I put that question to the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church because, quite frankly, I was surprised he was supporting this ordinance.

"We need to have jobs where people can work and still not be in poverty," he told me. "Wal-Mart has billions of dollars in profits. You should share your profits with your workers. I'm totally against this craziness that any job is better than no job."
But then she has a take about what having a job at Wal-Mart is really all about...

What other company is going to hire a black person who has dropped out of high school and is basically unskilled and lacks job training? In the old days, an unskilled worker could go to a manufacturing company or to the steel mills and work his or her way up from the assembly line.

But those jobs are long gone.

That's why parents are pushing and pulling their kids through high school, and then piling on debt to get them through college. We know firsthand that an entry-level job at Wal-Mart isn't going to pay much. And, after all, who really wants their kid to end up living a minimum-wage life.

Yet despite our warnings, kids do drop out of school. And people get divorced; spouses die; retirees sometimes are forced to go back to work. When life takes these twists and turns, we can at least thank God for Wal-Mart.

Second, passage of the big-box ordinance would make poor people the sacrificial lambs in this battle. Look around your neighborhood: Who's working in the small shops? It's certainly not black people.

So suppose the superstores fold up their blueprints. What then?

"If this ordinance is successful, the unions would have carried the day temporarily," said Eugene Morris, CEO and Chairman of E. Morris Communications. "But at what cost? The cost is not being paid by the aldermen, who can shop where they want. The cost is being paid by poor people who have to go miles to get to a decent store."
And here's something I didn't know, Wal-Mart is actually good to black owned contractors. We just met one of them in that last quote Eugene Morris, but who else...

Morris' company has done business with Wal-Mart for the past 14 years. A member of the Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, the African-American-owned advertising agency is one of many companies that has benefitted from Wal-Mart's investment in the black community.

Other black-owned companies doing business with Wal-Mart include Ariel Capital Management, which manages Wal-Mart's 401(k) plan, and Margaret Garner, the owner of Broadway Consolidated Construction, the first and only African-American female-owned firm to build a Wal-Mart store.

Alliance members do more business with Wal-Mart than any other company, Morris told me.

"We do about $300 million in business transactions," he said. "Here is a company that has demonstrated that they will hire people from the community, will do business with people within the community, and we are going to keep them out?" he asked.

If black aldermen are ignoring this dynamic, then they are serving their communities with blinders on.

In its June issue, DiversityInc magazine named Wal-Mart No. 6 among its "Top 10 Companies for African Americans" based on the company's "recruiting at [historically black colleges and universities] and professional organizations, investing in black-owned businesses, building community relationships through philanthropy and leadership roles in black organizations and marketing directly to African Americans."
Now while Mitchell supports a living wage she says that this proposal will only serve to hurt those communities that may not be able to survive the damgage that may be cause by this ordinance. I'm very inclined to agree. The struggling black communities in the city needs some type of economic engine. The argument won't fly if the concern is for mom and pop stores why because there aren't many such shops in the black community. Those callers on cable access who complain about Wal-Mart not paying enough or calling Wal-Mart slave masters probably wouldn't take a job if one was staring at them in the face.

I close this post with Mary's challenge to those blacks sitting on the city council...
The only reason I can think of for black aldermen to vote for this ordinance is that they've forgotten it wasn't the insiders, but the outsiders that sent them to City Council.
Crossposted @ It's My Mind


John Kass on Stem Cell Research

Jesus did his best teaching with word pictures.

It’s the technique of all the best teachers.

Today, John Kass has a column about stem cell research that is like no other commentary on the subject that you will ever read.

Your thoughts?

Also posted at McHenry County Blog.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Amtrak ridership hits a new record in Illinois

Good news: another year of double-digit growth on Illinois-financed Amtrak service.

This press release by the Blagojevich Administration, picked up by the Trib, the Pantagraph, the Lincoln Courier, the Belleville News-Democrat and AP, outlines the good news:

Almost a million passengers on state-supported Amtrak trains from July 2005 through June 2006.

Every route had increases in ridership:

St. Louis-Chicago: up 9.2 percent to 133,036 [note: there are 3 round-trips a day, but 2 of them are not funded by Illinois, so these figures are only for the 1 round-trip]
Carbondale-Chicago: up 9.8 percent to 134,531 [does not include the New Orleans-Chicago train that passes through Carbondale]
Quincy-Chicago: up 4.6 percent to 118,502 [does not include the LA-Chicago train]
Milwaukee-Chicago: up 13.2 percent to 569,460 [does not include the Portland-Chicago train and Wisconsin covers 75% of the cost of this one]

And in October, the new service is scheduled to start, with 2 more round-trips on the St. Louis-Springfield-Bloomington-Chicago run, and 1 more round-trip each on the Quincy-Chicago and Carbondale-Chicago runs.

That's going to be great.

This will make living and working in Illinois more affordable, as people will have a more viable option that burning $3.50/gallon gas when they want to travel around the state. That's good for our economy, particularly our Downstate towns. It also makes our colleges more attractive, as it gives affordable access to Chicago to students and faculty at the campuses along Amtrak.

Illinois is now the second-biggest state partner to Amtrak in the country (California has a huge program).

If you want to book a ticket, check out or call 800-USA-RAIL. And if you are a state employee, ask for the state rate (you get a discount).

I think it's going to be big news in October when the new trains start running, and I think the General Assembly and Governor Blagojevich deserve a lot of credit for making the big investment in Amtrak service for all of Illinois.

(Full disclosure: I worked on this as a lobbyist for the Midwest High Speed Rail Association).


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