Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Lottery Lease and the Discounts.

Thanks to the Hon. John Fritchey and his post over at Illinoize I was able to get a copy of the lottery sale RFQ.

First an explanation. Any deal like this has a NPV that is how much the cash flow over time is worth like an annuity, (that is $100 million from the lotto paid out over 20 years is not worth $100 million cash today) so the break-even (sort of) price is the NPV. So when I use the word discount that is an reduction in the price I would be willing to pay. Usually due to risk. Using a 3% growth rate of sales and consider the payout to the school fund to be the profit (the same ratio to sales as in 2005) in 75 years, the lottery would have total revenues of $552,603,678,353 and a total 'profit' $184,569,628,5569.

From the RFQ

The State currently contemplates that the Concession Agreement would include a revenue sharing arrangement with the State retaining a percentage of the Lottery's gross receipts in excess of historic gross receipts during a to be determined base year.

This could/should have an impact on the value of the deal. Unless you are giving me a decent inflation rate as part of the calc, this can end up a being a big risk in a 75 year deal. A few years of major inflation at the wrong time may mean I pay the state a decent chunk of my revenues forever, I don't really know how you price that in, but you have to price it in.


The Concession Agreement will include operating standards related to the operation of the Lottery with which the Concessionaire will be required to comply. The Concessionaire also will be subject to a regulatory system of control and oversight by the State.
This one is going to cost you as well. Unless the regulatory structure is well defined in terms of rights and role this would also require a discount on the price. Why? If I buy the lottery I want protections against you using a regulatory club to bring me back to the table on the deal and/or taxing me to death.

Then a disclaimer

(iv) any unaudited financial information or other information with respect
to the Lottery at any time provided by the State or any of the State's Financial Advisors, legal counsel or other representatives is merely an estimate, assumes the successful implementation of the Lottery's long-term business objectives, is not compiled in accordance with United States generally accepted accounting principles and may not reflect the actual results of the Lottery's operations; and
This might be boilerplate, but if I am the one you start moving forward with on this I am going to have my auditor come in and run the numbers. This is too big of a deal to find an oops with down the road. If I can't do this, that's right a discount.

From the highlights.

Exclusive Long-Term and Defensible Franchise: As the sole and exclusive lottery in the State, there is no direct competition to the Lottery. The current legislative framework strictly limits the presence of gaming alternatives. The State anticipates a secure and defensible regulatory and concession framework will be established to maintain the Lottery's unique position as the exclusive lottery gaming in the State and will furthermore provide the concessionaire significant flexibility to operate the business within current law. It is anticipated that the concession term will be up to 75 years.

First question, how much of the 'significant flexibility to operate the business within current law' is dependent on current law? What are my redresses I get legislated out of business? We had a state house that voted to close all of the casinos last year. Unlike a road or a bridge a single action of the state legislature and a stroke of the governors pen can put me out of business or add a competitor.
What if casino gaming expands significantly?
What if you decide to tax me like you tax the casino folks?
What if other units of government start to tax lottery sales?

Your exclusive isn't worth much unless I have protections in the contract on it, even if I do it's a discount if I don't it's a huge discount. Why? Because this is a huge risk, I am at the whim of political opinion and will. If any factor is a showstopper on this whole thing, this would be it. Bottom line, as a buyer I don't know if I could trust the state. I would price the deal on the assumption that I will be out of the lottery with 25 years due to action by the state.

Significant Growth Opportunities: The Lottery’s per capita sales are below US averages, despite the State's per capita income being among the highest in the nation. The Lottery believes there are numerous opportunities to increase per capita Lottery spending and overall growth. For example, under the State laws and policies, the Lottery's sales force and management is currently not permitted to receive incentive-based compensation, which would reward expanded retail
penetration, higher sales, or enhanced profitability per customer. In addition, marketing expenditures remain approximately 1% of sales and have not grown since 2001 despite a positive correlation with sales. It is anticipated that the concessionaire would have flexibility to increase marketing expenditures and advertise through a wide variety of media so long as it is within the limits of state and national laws. In addition, we anticipate that the concessionaire could further drive sales growth through the application of the Lottery's recent market segmentation research, in order to reach a better understanding of and increase connectivity with Lottery patrons.

(Off the finances for a second) If increased marketing spending would help revenue why isn't the lottery doing that now? Also your sales force might sell more if they got paid more or if management was rewarded differently?

Back to finaces, a 5 year history of growth isn't enough to base the entire plan on. Also me doing all of the 'incentive' things is going to cost me more money. There is a finite amount of growth in this market without it becoming a social issue that you will end up legislating on me. As for the market segmentation data, that's great but will you let me really market to it? Even if it is awkward?

Strong Economic Environment: Illinois has a strong and diversified economy. Measured by per capita personal income, Illinois ranks third among the ten most populous states in the US. The State's economy encompasses a diverse range of industries, including manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, transportation, technology, and consumer products. The State of Illinois is home to over 60 of the Fortune 500 companies in the US and is the 17th largest economy in the world if ranked as a nation. The State's population and personal income levels have grown substantially over the last five decades, and are projected to continue to grow at 0.7% and approximately 4%respectivelyspectively. The State currently has its lowest unemployment on record at 4.1%. This is largely due to an addition of 400,000 jobs since 2004, which represents the fastest groMidwesthe Midwest. The State of Illinois' size and relative economic strength further suggest the significant growth potential of the Lottery through increased market penetration.

Even if I buy all of that, it's a 75 year lease! Do you know how much enconomic conditions can change in 75 years? The growth numbers are from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Bureau of Econmoics Analysis, I'll ask my economist what he thinks about things 10 years out, after that it's vodo. Reguardless one things for certain, America is getting older and older folks will be spending less on the lottery.

If it has all this growth potential why aren't we doing a better job taking advantage of it? Oh yeah, we want a quick buck so we don't have to make hard choices today.

If you want a spreadsheet to run your own numbers send me an e-mail.



SEIU Illinois calls for city government that supports working people; 37 aldermanic candidates endorsed

Early voting starts next week and SEIU finally comes out with their endorsements. Here are the races where they take no sides,

SEIU made no endorsements in the following wards: 2, 5, 11, 17, 20, 25, 29, 34, 37, 43, 44, 46 and 50. The union also did not endorse in the mayoral or city treasurer races.
Considering Emma Mitt's high profile during the Big-Box debates, I find no comment in the 37th sort of startling.

As for the no comment on the mayoral race, I can't understand ducking a commitment there. Balanoff tells us,
"We need a city government that will be committed to raising the living standards for Chicago’s working people,” said Tom Balanoff, president of the SEIU Illinois Council. “That means living wages. That means affordable housing. That means good schools so that our children have the opportunity to succeed.”
I can't see how labor washing-it-hands of making the choice advances labor's cause. It doesn't fit the song I knew.
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there.
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
But maybe for today's labor movement, waffling around is ok. Pick no sides; pick no losers.


Goes to 11

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

The Semiannual disclosure reports are coming in for last fall's hot statewide and legislative races and it looks like there were 11 races over the $1M mark, not 10 like we earlier thought. Not everybody's filed, but by and large, our estimates were low. We found 10 races that we expected would show spending of more than $1M: the 22nd, 34th, 42nd, 49th, and 52nd Senate races, and the 71st, 91st, 92nd, 101st, and 107th House. It now looks like we missed the 33rd Senate race. Both losing incumbent Cheryl Oxley and winning challenger Dan Kotowski have filed, showing $1,152,662 in combined spending.

If you were watching fundraising totals last fall, there was one other race you might have thought could go over $1M: the race for Jay Hoffman's House seat. Combined, the two candidates showed over $1M in fundraising. But we didn't count it bas a million dollar race because Rep. Hoffman had all the money. The D2s now show that he didn't spend much. Challenger Carol Kugler spent $34K. Hoffman spent $541K, but that includes $61K in transfers to other candidates and $250K buying Certificates of Deposit at the DuQuoin State Bank, after the election. Over all, Hoffman reports raising more than he spent last fall. He ended the year with $970K available, including the CDs.

All reports should be filed by midnight tonight. We'll start analyzing the numbers as soon as they're all in.


10th District Blog Off the FEC Hook

In a decision that should make political bloggers happy, the Federal Elections Commission denied a request for action for “failure to register and report” from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna against

Tenth District Blog,(Link no longer working.)

The Illinois – 10 General Election Fund, a project of ActBlue, Matthew DeBergalis, treasurer and

The Committee to Elect Zane Smith, Barry J. Moltz, treasurer.

Here’s what the FEC press release said (more FEC information here):
The complainant alleged that the Tenth District Blog expressly advocated the defeat of Congressman Mark Kirk (IL/10), solicited contributions for the campaigns of potential Democratic opponents, and failed to include a proper disclaimer on these communications.

The Tenth District Blog was established by an anonymous person using Google’s E-blogger software, which is offered free of charge.

Both ActBlue and the Smith Committee denied any knowledge or contact with the Blog and stated that they had not received contributions from the Blog or through ActBlue.

Based on available information, the Blog did not appear to have made expenditures or received any contributions that would trigger political committee status. The Commission found no reason to believe any of the respondents violated the Act.
Always more at McHenry County Blog.


Biden puts foot in mouth over Obama

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del) formally entered the presidential race this morning.

The buffoon is not going win his party's nomination, he won't be the Democrats' choice for vice president.

I've always held that view.

But if I had any doubts about it, now from the New York Observer comes this Biden comment:

Mr. Biden is equally skeptical--albeit in a slightly more backhanded way--about Mr. Obama. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," he said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man."

Can you imagine the firestorm that would break out if a Republican presidential candidate made such a comment?

He says some (surprise!) stupid things about John Edwards and Hillary Clinton too.

As far as Biden's entry into the race, well, there goes the neighborhood.

Fox News just did a story on the piece, a Repubican operative called in "nuclear" for the Biden campaign.

Related posts:

Biden making it official for 2008 in his longshot bid

I almost forgot about this Biden boo-boo

Biden wants Confederate flag off South Carolina capitol grounds

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin for the story.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Kudos to one of our favorites

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

Congrats to Mike Lawrence and the staff at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute for their first 10 years. While we think of the Institute as the go-to place for thoughtful insights into campaign reform issues, this article in today's Daily Egyptian reminds us of all the other issues the Institute has tackled over the past decade. Here's to another 10 years, times 10!


What's in a Name?

The Sun-Times reports that Governor Blagojevich signed a bill “requiring candidates who have changed their names within three years before running to have a ‘formerly known as’ under their name [on the ballot].”

It seems that a number of candidates for judicial offices in Cook County have changed their name to sound Irish, because, “candidates with Irish names…tend to sweep judicial elections.” Well now, thanks to a bill signed by the Governor and sponsored by fellow Illinoize blogger State Rep. John Fritchey, only truly Irish candidates get the benefit of such ridiculously thoughtless voting habits.

Seriously, isn’t the fact that voters are selecting judges based on ethnicity to begin with a much more disconcerting issue? Granted, I’m not sure much can be done about that. In a democracy, people are certainly free to base their vote on whatever superficial criteria they want. But how far should the state go to help them do so? Should we start including the race or religious affiliation of a candidate after their name on the ballot, in case someone wants to base their vote on that?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hastert Raises Cash and Questions with Recent Mailings

A story in today’s Roll Call (subscription required) reports that former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who is expected to retire before the 2008 election, recently sent out a mailer soliciting funds for his campaign committee. The story goes on to explore the various reasons why “the Coach” may be loading up his coffers, and the circumstances under which he may pull the trigger on retirement

Hastert is clearly positioning himself to become a power broker in both his 14th District and throughout the state. In terms of his retirement, Roll Call notes that there are concerns a special election could lead to a free-for-all, and encourage a strong Democratic candidate (not mentioned by name, but presumably Aurora State Rep. Linda Chapa-LaVia) to enter a race that would otherwise require them to risk their current positions. I think they are right, and thus my original prediction that Hastert would force a special election was based on faulty and incomplete reasoning. In regards to the Republican nomination, they speculate that Hastert could follow the example of Illinois Democrats Bill Lipinski and Lane Evans, and run through the primary only to drop out and have his organization push for his chosen successor (reportedly Batavia Republican State Rep. Tim Schmitz).

As someone who was critical of Lipinski and Evans, I’d be very disappointed to see Hastert do the same, especially when there is an effective but far less objectionable alternative available. As Roll Call reminds us, "campaign finance laws allow Hastert to give unlimited soft-money donations on the state and local level in Illinois from his campaign committee." I think it's more likely that he will use his war chest to help Schmitz in a primary by shifting funds to local and state Republican office-holders who agree to endorse him.

Coincidently, such moves could also add some muscle to Hastert’s endorsement of Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney if the Illinois primary is moved up.

Also posted at the Grand Old Partisan of Illinois


Monday, January 29, 2007

Sex Offender Work Places Available

Folks have long known that they can find out where released sex offenders live.

But, did you know that there is a file of where some of them work?

According to the State Police, “local police agencies provide the information and we print it as submitted.”

Here’s a question for you.

How much restitution does a person arrested of a sex crime have to make?

Should he—and the almost 120 who show up as McHenry County employees are all men—have the right to support himself and not be hassled at work?

Is working at a factory OK?

How about an auto dealership?

What about driving a limo?

Any problem with someone with such a conviction record working for a restaurant?

What about a retail establishment?

A printing company?

How about construction?


Garbage collection?

A grocery store?

A moving company?

A carnival?

Physical therapy?

I know some of the employers and my guess is that some know the criminal background of the employee in question.

They are clearly giving a guy a second chance.

More always on McHenry County Blog. Fox News in Chicago found the data first.


Progressive Self Image and What Shows Up.

Shaving is brutal. It reminds me that not only do I bear a striking resemblence to a fifty four year old, Mick-Mugged, saggy eyed, widow man, but I am that Caliban -with whiskers that need scraping - Damn.

Politically, I guess that my image pretty much lines up with what stares back at me at 5a.m. - not pretty, but shaved and ready for work. Good enough. Lifelong Democrat - but not enamored of the 'how can you think that?' crowd. I have always believed in XY&Z - my neighbor holds to EF&G - we cancel each other out the polls and he borrows my Miracle Grow Spreader and I keep the racket down.

In today's political climate - not good enough. That brings in the Progressive. The Progressive (Republican, Democrat, Green, Bullmoose, or LaRouchie)who demands that every person within shout distance gushes and oozes with the same pre-packaged enthusiasm that they have picked up from watching Bill Maher or listening to Rush Pill-Popper.

'Second Hand Smoke Will Kill Kids in Iceland Unless We Act in Illinois, People!' GOOSE LIVER EATERS ARE ANIMALS! IF One Licence Plate Says 'Good Day' What Is To Stop Mean Killers From Thinking It Must Be A GOOD DAY TO DIE AND YOU ARE NEXT! Take the Christ out of Christmas! Kosher Food Shouldnot be Displayed in a Public Place. Holocaust Deniers Are Smart! The Pledge of Allegiance is Fascist! Felons Know Justice! Bloggers Who Bash Bush are Morally Superior to Bloggers Who Do Obama-nations!

Progressives tend to see themselves as Atticus Finch from Harper Lee's great novel 'To Kill A Mockingbird' - strong, loving resolute and dedicated to Justice.
The problem is that they act like Ernest T. Bass from the Old Andy Griffith Show -Nuts and Obnoxious.

Disagree up a storm, but try not to worry about what I 'really think.' Who cares? Tom Roeser posted a question about the Madrassa education - kicked off a pretty good debate. Then the Progressive thinkers - Eric Zorn, SCAM, and the MidwestProgressive -whoever that is - tried to out do each other with invective. Disagree. MoveON! Instead the Progressive demands that Tom Roeser paint his house Red or Pink or Green.

Don't like Tom Roeser, don't read him. The Progressive response - "well, Roeser's dangerous!' To Whom, Cupcake? My How delicate you must truly be! Fragile. Gossamer Cuts Too, Honey. Plenty of journalists are taking shots at the best person in the Democratic Presidential Field - Barack H. Obama The H is for Hussain -Jeepers. Guess what the F in Patrick F. Hickey stands for ! Tom Roeser discussed the name Ok. One Progressive Clown demands to know what Tom's middle name is - Is it SATAN? STALIN? SANDBURG?' Be like Atticus. Be like Scout. Be Like Barack. Be like a Person who does not need to be taken away in cuffs, who shouts and screams, and uses bullhorns - No not Cindy Sheahan - Ernest T. Bass.

The thing is, when Ernest T. shaved and and got guss-ied up - he behaved pretty well - like a good neighbor.


On Medical Liability Reform - the People Have Spoken

It’s been two years since the Illinois voter uprising that forced the Illinois legislature – and governor – to enact medical liability reform legislation.

Yet the full positive impact of those reforms has yet to be felt – due to uncertainty pending the trial lawyers’ challenge of the measure’s constitutionality in court.

Needless to say, the trial lawyer challenge was anticipated as soon as the governor’s pen signed the reforms into law. On November 20 of last year, the challenge finally came – in the form of a case filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County seeking to challenge the cap on non-economic damages ($500,000 for physicians and $1 million for hospitals.)

To be sure, the reforms have begun to work. According to a recent Crain’s article, "a number of (medical liability insurance) companies have cut rates in recent months, and new insurers are moving into Illinois after soaring malpractice claims chased many out five or six years ago."

In addition, ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company, which provides malpractice coverage for 13,000 doctors, recently announced that it might add up to 400 new physician policyholders this year – four years after soaring medical malpractice insurance rates forced the company to stop accepting new business.

The plaintiffs’ bar, however, wants to turn back the clock on this progress. No doubt emboldened by the Illinois Supreme Court’s blockage of similar reforms in 1997, the trial lawyers are determined to protect their profits at the expense of Illinois families’ access to quality, affordable health care.

Despite progress, the uncertainty caused by the trial bar’s challenge has not allowed the state to climb fully out of its medical liability crisis. Lest we forget the full extent of the crisis, we should remember that just a few short years ago, all of southern Illinois was left without a single neurosurgeon; many pregnant women still are forced to travel to Missouri, Wisconsin or Indiana just to find an OB-GYN; Illinois doctors still pay as much as $100,000 more per year in medical liability insurance premiums than doctors in neighboring states.

The trial bar, however, is in a state of denial. They try to cast blame on everyone from the insurance industry to the doctors themselves. They try to hide the fact that many states have had successful medical liability reforms for years.

In California, for instance, the gold standard of medical liability reforms has been in place since 1975. While the reforms did not result in immediate rate reductions – medical liability premiums in that state have risen at a much slower rate than the rest of the country. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, while total premiums in the rest of the U.S. rose 1011% between 1976 and 2004, the increase in California premiums was only 309% over the same time period.

In Ohio, due to reforms enacted in 2003, the premiums of the five major state liability carriers rose only 6.7% in 2005, compared with a 20% raise in 2004, and a 30% increase in 2002.

In Texas, where comprehensive reforms have been passed in recent years, the largest medical liability insurers have slashed rates, and more than 3,000 new physicians came to the state.

Furthermore, numerous state courts, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia, have upheld legislation for caps on non-economic damages.

Bottom line – medical liability reforms work and there is precedent for them being ruled constitutional.

So why are the trial lawyers fighting these reforms so aggressively? Why did one trial lawyer I spoke with last week refer to them as “tort deform”? Why did the president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association recently declare a "crusade" against those who support civil justice reform?

Because it’s about protecting an Illinois medical liability system in which tort costs for medical-malpractice liability are a greater share of Illinois’ economy than of any state’s save New York’s.

It’s about protecting an American medical liability system in which 75% of medical liability claims do not result in any payments to patients.

Don’t be fooled by the national trial lawyer association’s advocacy Web site, "People over Profits." To those trial lawyers who fight against common sense reforms, it’s about profits, not people.

And the people of Illinois have spoken. They support reforms that bring fairness and common sense to our lawsuit system. They support medical liability reforms that protect due process for all Illinois citizens – plaintiffs as well as defendants.

The people have spoken. Now we await for this challenge to get to the Illinois Supreme Court for the ultimate decision.

Cross-posted by Curt Mercadante at Illinois Justice Blog.

To view or post comments, visit Illinois Justice Blog.

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February primary bill has been filed by Madigan, Boland and Flowers

Speaker Madigan filed (with Mike Boland, the chamber's leading election reformer and Mary Flowers -- potentially a sign that she'll be the new Chair of the Election and Campaign Reform Committee?) HB 426, a bill that would move the entire primary (not just the presidential primary) from the third Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. The bill is also a permanent bill, and not just a one-time-only move for 2008. It applies to gubernatorial years (2010, 2014) as well as presidential years.

You might call this the Help Barack Obama bill, or the Make Illinois Voters Relevant to Picking the President Bill, but in any event, the bill has been filed, I predict it will be signed into law and I think for 2008, that's a good thing. For other years (that is, when Barack isn't running for president), I'd rather have nice weather for elections, as I don't like walking in the cold, so if it was up to me, I'd move the primary to June or September. And I'd imagine most campaign workers would agree with that sentiment (ignoring the speculation on how cold weather might impact election results).

It's up to the DNC and the RNC to force through a later presidential primary schedule for 2012. Party rules dictate how presidential nominees are selected, and party rules allow states to schedule their primaries on the first Tuesday in February that will help select delegates to the national convention. If you think this is too early to have a huge primary election (since California and a few other big states are also moving to the first available slot), and that nine months is a long time for the two presumptive nominees to battle it out, then tell Howard Dean and/or Mel Martinez, as well as the Illinois members of the DNC and/or the RNC to push through even tougher party rules now.

John Fritchey has some thoughtful posts on the topic here, and a few groups are pushing some innovative reforms for presidential primaries, including the American Plan and the Secretary of States' Rotating Regional Plan.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tribune joins the push for a 5% (or so) income tax for smarter schools statewide

Today the Tribune's editorial board starts calling for a 5% (or so) state income tax to invest a good chunk of the 2 or 3 billion in new revenue into K-12 education.

One particularly nice part of the editorial is the call for voters and legislators to consider the investment in the entire state, and not just how they would come out under any change.

There is a corrosive habit of citizens, and their politicians, to weight only what a different funding scheme would mean for their communities.

Illinois needs to outgrow this penchant for school financing that can't look beyond economic self-interest. There are plenty of reasons for Effingham taxpayers to care about Hinsdale school children, for Hinsdale taxpayers to care about Harvey school children, for Harvey taxpayers to care about Effingham students. We've just never acknowledged as a state that the future economic health, workforce and leadership of Illinois depend on better educating all of our children. And yes, all children can learn.
This echoes of Obama. I recall one of the themes of his Senate campaign: "When a grandmother on the South Side has to choose between her food and her medicine, I am poorer for it. When a child can't breathe at night because of asthma, I am sicker for it. It is the belief that I am my brother's keeper."

This is a welcome change, as the last time a shift towards statewide funding of education got some traction (SB 755 was voted out of committee in 2006), the Trib ran a front-page story detailing exactly how each school district would make out, comparing the income tax increases the taxpayers would pay (while not noting the federal offset) versus the likely increase in school district revenues. That was a particularly chilly day at the Statehouse and the Trib's hostility was one reason no other Senate Republicans jumped on board the bill. Hopefully the editorial board will sway the news editors a bit this time.

Leadership in 2007 on investing in education is going to be far more decentralized than in previous years. The Governor has boxed himself out of much discussion of the income tax hike that's necessary for statewide funding for education with his needless campaign pledge not to raise the income or sales tax. President Jones has shown every indication that he intends the Senate to take the lead on crafting a smart solution, even prominently quoting the state constitutional provision that reads "The State shall have the primary responsibility in funding education" in his inaugural program. House Democrats were the last chamber that voted for an income tax increase for education, not to mention the almost dozen House Republicans who voted for the income tax increase in the last 90s without one losing a re-election contest on the issue.

And ultimately, the will for an income tax increase for smarter education will come (or not) from us: citizens who tell our legislators that, if they can hire excellent teachers for Illinois kids, we're willing to pay a 5% (or so) income tax.

Cross-posted at DJWinfo


The End of Murder?

Los Angeles Weekly has a great cover story on murder, but unfortunately only compares LA to New York. I'd like to learn more about murder-reduction (or, dare we dream, murder-elimination) strategies.

The two things that seem to make the most sense to me in reducing crime are more police officers and more cameras in high-crime areas. Cheaper education programs, like Big Brothers, that help to raise children away from becoming criminals, also seem like smart investments.

The cost of violent crime is so high and so difficult to compute. The LA Weekly article cites at least $1,000,000 per homicide to the LA city government in police work, legal-system costs and lost business activity. As I recall from law school, juries in civil cases tend to value a life at between 3 and 6 million dollars when measuring compensation. And how do you measure the emotional impact of losing mother or son or friend to homicide?

If anyone knows how Illinois rates relative to the other 49 on crime-prevention strategies, I'd be very interested to learn from you.


Emil Jones on IDOT's Tim Martin's good job: Sometimes yes, sometimes no

Emil Jones on Martin in today's ST story on Martin's resignation from IDOT.

But Martin's tenure was rocked by questions over alleged hiring improprieties, mismanagement and massive cost overruns on Dan Ryan Expy. reconstruction.

Last year, Senate President Emil Jones gave a mixed review of Martin's performance when asked whether he thought Martin had done a good job. "Sometimes yes, sometimes no," Jones said.
Jones becoming a real sage on the prarie. I watched his interview with Paul Lisnek on comcast public access channel and he starts to grow on you. I wish comcast would make these transcripts available on line.

Today's Trib on Martin too.


Edward Ugel in NYT: The Lottery’s Next Big Loser: Illinois

I think this is free view. A friend emailed the column to me this AM.

In essence, Illinois wants what virtually every lottery winner wants: the money up front. Although now some lottery winners can take a large lump sum right away (of course, much less than the supposed value of the winning ticket), for years they were paid their jackpots in annuities over 20 or 25 years. There’s a major difference between getting a million dollars right away and getting 20 annual checks for $100,000 or so. Yes, both amounts are considered fair, but the lump sum is much preferable: you don’t have to wait to buy your mansion, or (more prudently) you can invest it, earn interest on it, and be protected against inflation.

I worked for a company that searched out winners who didn’t have the option to receive their winnings in a lump sum or had chosen not to, and who then had spent themselves into short-term debt and needed money before the next annual payment. We were happy to buy their future payments in exchange for quick cash, at a handsome profit to ourselves.
At the core, all these people acted as if they had received the money up front rather than over time. You may scoff, but do you think you could win the lottery and wait patiently for 20 years while your ship comes in? Good luck.

And now the Illinois officials are acting just like any spendthrift winner who’s being paid over time. Like many of my former clients, Illinois is selling its future in order to fortify its present. But an individual who burns through his lump sum in a few years will bear the consequences of his actions. That’s not the case for Illinois: the officials who would enjoy the $10 billion windfall will be out of office decades before the 75 years is up. And instead of giving up annuities of ever shrinking value, as a lump sum winner does, Illinois is giving up an ever growing stream of revenue — the state’s lottery revenue increased 15 percent from 2003 to 2005.
I hate it when we midwesterners look like bumpkins but with the Gov we've got now, I'm afraid that's what we are.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Novak: Obama won't be Rahmed down Emanuel's throat

Five years ago when Rahm Emanuel was in a heated primary race for the open seat in Illinois' fifth district, the then-little known Emanuel was often referred to by voters as "that Clinton guy."

Emanuel was a very early-supporter of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, and was a Clinton White House staffer for five years.

Flash forward to 2007: To a person, Illinois' Democratic elected officials who've declared their 2008 support have hopped on the Barack Obama for President bandwagon. So has the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Rep. Emanuel is acknowledging feeling pressure to support either the Clinton or Obama campaigns.

But columnist Robert Novak claims that Emanuel will stick with his first political love, the Clintons.

From Novak's column on Saturday:

Sources close to Sen. Barack Obama are sure that Rep. Rahm Emanuel will not support his fellow Illinois Democrat for the presidential nomination but will back Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Toll Bridges Across the Fox

How desperate must Kane and McHenry Counties be for additional road capacity.

McHenry County has enacted a 4-cent local Motor Fuel Tax.

Kane County levies 2-cents.

Although both counties have experienced incredible growth, state government has been unwilling to step up to plate, so to speak.

That hasn’t stopped state government from making little-used highways, such as Route 67, which runs from East Moline almost to East St. Louis four-lanes. At some points, the last time I checked there were fewer than 5,000 cars per day.

Usually, 4-lanes are considered merited when the traffic count reaches 20,000 vehicles each day.

So, as with mental health services and schools, if McHenry County is willing to tax it citizens more than other counties, it surely is less deserving of state aid.

To put it bluntly, politicians figure we don’t need help.

So, I guess I should not be surprised that Kane County is considering doubling its county MFT so it matches McHenry County’s.

But, Elgin’s Daily Courier had this shocker Thursday:

Kane County is considering tolls on the bridges it clearly needs.
Do those of us who live in the Fox River counties just look like sheep waiting to be sheared?

Or have we grown so much tax wool for the rest of the state that it is taken for granted that we are stupid enough to build toll bridges across our little river.

Missouri officials considered a toll bridge over the Mississippi River in the St. Louis area, but Illinois politicians won’t stand for that. A semi-rational argument is that would just keep the non-toll bridges overcrowded.

Anyone want to bet that toll bridges over the Fox won’t be used less than nearby non-toll bridges?

Or are we so desperate that we’ll pay them to get home faster?

= = = = =

The drawing of the proposed Stearns Road bridge comes from the Kane County Transportation Department web page. More news on McHenry County Blog this weekend.


Take it to the Bank

State Treasurer Alexi Gianoullias is wasting no time translating campaign commitments into action. On his first full day in office, he signed an executive order implementing numerous ethics reforms for his office, (many of the tenets of which are set forth in my HB1, the 'pay to play' bill).

He is now turning his sights to improving our lagging Bright Start college savings plan.

As succinctly stated in the article:
Bright Start — under a seven-year contract with one firm since its inception — has consistently been outperformed by plans sold by other states...As of the third quarter of last year, Bright Start's returns ranked 47th out of 48 similar plans nationwide, according to Joseph Hurley, chief executive of, an independent group that analyzes college savings plans...Hurley's group also ranks Bright Start worst in overall usefulness among Illinois' two other college savings plans and lower than many other states' offerings.
One can't help but wonder if Illinois families are getting short-changed at the enrichment of the fund manager for these past many years:
And the fees collected by the fund manager, Legg Mason, rank among the highest for college savings plans, according to investment analysis firm Morningstar Inc...The program handles more than $2.1 billion in more than 141,000 accounts. It allows investors to spread their money across eight different funds, six of which are owned by Legg Mason. (emphasis added)
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel:
The contract expires in March, and Giannoulias has narrowed the field to two firms competing for the new contract... In order to vet bidders, Giannoulias assembled a group of private investment managers to evaluate offers.
Retaining experts to increase the benefits to families saving for the education of their children is not only a sound idea, it is one that is long-overdue. Good job AG.

To read or post comments, visit Open House


SEIU and the Working Class

I've been waiting for SEIU's aldermanic endorsements now that they're building a machine like organization,

McMullen said SEIU has a clear goal. “There hasn’t been a strong model for any organization to mobilize voters besides the Democratic machine. SEIU is trying to set up a political organization that is machinelike in its structure,”
I've yet to see anything at the State Council's site as of this am. Instead I keep getting this,
Clock is ticking on first 100 hours in new Congress; SEIU members fight for middle class agenda.
Unions used to be for the Working Class. College radicals used to shun the middle class. Sincliar Lewis ridiculed the middle-class in Main Street.

If pressed, I'll admit to belonging to Orwell's lower-upper-middle class but it's an identity I don't wear on my sleeve.

So I'm curious who SEIU sees below the middle class and whether SEIU intends to fight for them too.

John L. Lewis said of the working class,
I have pleaded (labor's) case, not in the quavering tones of a feeble mendicant asking alms, but in the thundering voice of the captain of a mighty host, demanding the rights to which free men are entitled."
SEIU may have gone too middle class to thunder like Lewis, but tell us the middle class champions you're going to endorse; and the lower class those champions may leave out of their agenda. Those folks might need a modern day John L. Lewis.


Danny Davis and Dock Walls

Obama endorsed the Mayor but Danny Davis is listed along with Bill Dock Walls on my latest email from Dock.

Tom Roeser came out for Davis for Mayor once.

My wife sang in an Christmas Pageant where Davis read from the bible. He sure sounded like the voice God to me. Sadly, Dock's going to need a lot more than Danny Davis and his forums.

As one member of the audience stated it is time for us to clean house. We encourage voters to examine all the facts before placing your vote and not to just vote based upon popularity or eloquent speeches. Instead, place your vote on facts not emotion for the people are perishing for lack of knowledge.
Unity in Chicago means don't back losers. That's a faith impossible to overcome.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Illinois To Lose Another Congressional Seat

Projecting population trends among the 50 states redistricting consultant Clark Bensen of Polidata Incorporated predicts that Illinois will be among the state that lose representation in the United States Congress.

For all but one decade I have lived in Illinois, its relative share of the country’s population has declined enough for us to lose a congressman.

There were

· 25 during the 1950’s
· 24 during the 1960’s
· 24 during the 1970’s
· 22 during the 1980’s
· 20 during the 1990’s
· 19 during the 2000’s
Other projected losers:
Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York (-2), Ohio (-2) and Pennsylvania
If the Democrats will just raise our income taxes 67%, maybe we lose two seats.

Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Texas (+2) and Utah.
Thanks to Paul Richardson at Capitol Fax Blog for the tip pointing me to The Thicket story by Tim Storey.

Posted first at McHenry County Blog, a blog that does not go to sleep over the weekend.


Bollywood Friday - The hills are alive...

...with the sounds of BOLLYWOOD! Apparently the kids "want to go to America" while the adults say "give me my India, I love my India". It doesn't take long for the kids to come around and love India, too. As well they should!

Look for the funny Bollywood cowboy at the end ;).

From the movie Pardes.



A Soros spot for the Obama campaign

Almost lost amidst the madrassa, or I should say, the debunked madrassa story, is some news on the fundraising front on the Democratic side of the 2008 presidential election.

Running for president is increasingly expensive. For a serious campaign, it's accepted as fact that $100 million will need to be raised--and that's per candidate. That comes out to $274,000 per day.

If you're a Democrat, one reliable source of funds is Hollywood. It's worked for both Clintons.

But as AP reports, Sen. Barack Obama is now tapping into that wellspring of cash, including individuals such as Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen of the Dreamworks movie studio. All three men are past supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The Dremworks trio is hosting a $2,300-a-head fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton Hotel next month. But that event is for the cheapskates. After the Hilton event, those who've pledged to raise $46,000 for Obama get invited to a private dinner at David Geffen's home.

(For those trivia buffs out there, you'll want to know that $46,000 is more than the estimated net-worth of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who is also running for president.)

Hollywood hasn't completely given up on Hillary, Elizabeth Taylor yesterday announced her support for Hillary.

That brings us to a New York Times story on George Soros:

George Soros, the billionaire New York philanthropist, has made maximum donations in the past to both candidates, for instance, and last week he faced a choice: support Mr. Obama, who created his committee on Tuesday, or stay neutral and see what Mrs. Clinton and others had to say. In this case, Mr. Obama won.

Mr. Soros sent the maximum contribution, $2,100, to Mr. Obama, the first-term senator from Illinois, just hours after he declared his plans to run.

"Soros believes that Senator Obama brings a new energy to the political system and has the potential to be a transformational leader," said Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Mr. Soros.

But with Soros, a billionaire currency speculator, his $2,100 check to Obama is probably just the beginning of his involvement in Election 200--and perhaps the Obama campaign.

In the last presidential campaign, Soros in his quest to see George W. Bush defeated, donated heavily to left-wing political groups. He gave $3 million to the Center for American Progress, $5 million to MoveOn, and $10 million to American Coming Together.

Soros brings a lot of money to the Democrats, but he also brings a lot of baggage.

In 2002, the billionaire was found guilty of insider trading in France.

In 2003, Soros blamed the policies of Israel and the United States for the rise in anti-semitism.

Soros holds many controversial views.

From Peter Schweizer's 2005 book, Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy:

This reformed capitalist wants to fight capitalism, reverse globalism, and soak the rich with steep income and inheritance taxes. He also wants to legalize drugs, promotes unfettered immigration, and advocates euthanasia and assisted suicide. Among his other causes are abortion rights, atheism, sex education, gun control, and gay marriage.

Soros' Quantum Fund deserves a close look, although it's difficult to do just that. Although Quantum's offices are in New York, it's incorporated in the Netherland Antilles, which allows Quantum to avoid US taxes and SEC oversight.

More from Schweizer's book:

His ultrasecret, unregulated fund avoids not only the SEC but also public scrutiny. No one knows who his investors are, though many believe they include some of the wealthiest people in the world, including Saudi princess, royal families in Europe, and the superwealthy in Latin America. Even employees at Soros Fund Management in New York do not know the names of many of the people they are making money for. They are simply given coded Swiss bank accounts.

Yes, there are other offshore currency funds. But if Soros didn't invent the practice, he certainly perfected it.

Unfortunately, Soros' shady reputation gets little play in the mainstream media--they support many of causes the billionaire backs.

There's something in Obama that Soros likes. It could simply be that he believes the Illinois senator has the best chance to win in 2008.

But don't look for Soros' cash to be an issue in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, since the other Democratic candidates still hope to bathe themselves in the billionaire's bundle.

However, if Obama is the Demoratic nominee next year, it's a safe bet that his Republican counterpart will make the name of George Soros a familar one among voters.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blue State Blues

Tuesday, I ran a story about a Federal Judge’s having ruled that Secretary of State Jesse White had to issue “Choose Life” license plates, if 850 people wanted them.

I headlined my story,

Jack Franks Off the “CHOOSE LIFE” License Plate Hook
Thursday, Tribune columnist Eric Zorn writes that he is in favor of getting rid of all specialty plates.

Zorn doesn’t come right out and say, “Regiment them all,” but that would be the result.

No individuality at all.

And, why?

So pro-lifers in Illinois can’t demonstrate their commitment on their license plates.

I would suggest that we have a contest.

Let the pro-choicers pick any slogan they want for a license plate.

How about “Choice!

Maybe they will give their money to adoption agencies, too.

Let’s see who can sell the most license plates.

But, before ending this article, let me quote Zorn’s the part about State Rep. Jack Franks:
"Law enforcement officials tell me over and over that they don't like [specialty plates]," said state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), who says he's proud to be the bottleneck denying applications as chairman of the House State Government Administration Committee. "They're confusing."
I have a related observation.

Have you ever noticed how many cars in Illinois don't have front license plates?

The logical suggestion was made to get rid of them. Lots of states have done that.

That would decrease the cost and increase the net tax take, since license fees surely would not be cut.

The law enforcement community made similar comments about front plates to me that they made to Franks about the specialty plates.

It would be harder to catch crooks.

I asked Algonquin Police Chief Russ Lane, who headed the police chiefs association at the time, I believe, to ask his board members, who favored front and back plates, to tell me how many citations they had issued for failure to have a front plate.

There were very, very few.

I reasoned that if the police thought front plates were important that they would surely write tickets to the large number who didn't have one.

The lack of enforcement led me to decide one back license plate was enough.

Since then, however, I've found a reason for two plates.

I saw a license plate reading device at work in a TV show about a Canadian police force testing it.

The device read the plates of cars on both the highway and in parking lots. While the news camera was on, the policeman found a stolen parked car. Since people park both ways in parking lots, for the device to work best, two plates would be needed.

But, back to the reason for this story--Jack Franks' commnents to Eric Zorn.

Ever since his first campaign in 1998, Franks has said he was “pro-choice.”

Franks has had an almost perfect pro-life voting record, however.

I figure he just wants to polish up his credentials with the pro-choice crowd.

That’s a must if one is ever going to run for statewide office.

More on McHenry County Blog.


Can I bum a smoke mister?

But don't light up in Kane County buddy.

The St Charles Sun on the proposed smoking ban for the Tri Cities. It may expand to all Kane County.

In two weeks, the city councils in Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles may be voting on the same ordinance to ban smoking in public places, including public restaurants and bars. Council committees in Batavia and St. Charles already have taken public testimony on a draft ordinance, and Geneva's council heard testimony at its Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night (Jan. 22). All three cities have posted draft copies of the ordinance on their Web sites, and are taking e-mail testimony there, too.
And their editorial today backs it up.

I quit a pack a day in Oct 1986. I would appreciate smoke free restaurants and taverns, but this sure smacks of big brother. I've got Senator Obama telling me how to be a Dad, and now St Charles tells me Dad can't have a smoke; at least in the gin mill.

What's Rich Whitney's stand here: guns but no cigars?

Update: from the The Nicotianist Fellowship
"My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass"

(Deuteronomy, Chapter 32, Verse 2)
Guess it's a Church vs State thing too.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Whitney Writes for McHenry County Defenders

I had wondered if Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney had made any impact on his natural and well-organized McHenry County constituency—the McHenry County Defenders.

I have often characterized the McHenry County Defenders as the largest and best-organized political organization in McHenry County.

While they do not participate overtly in partisan elections besides running candidates’ forums once in a while, when a local group feels aggrieved, it’s often the Defenders they turn to.

And, the Defenders are capable of giving fits to local and county governmental entities.

Currently, they have taken up the cause of a Burton’s Bridge neighborhood threatened by a building as big as a Jewel store “to serve commercial building businesses and to develop a storage facility for commercial equipment and vehicles,” as an article by neighbor Lori McConville writes.

Nevertheless, I was surprised to see

A Call to Action

by Rich Whitney
2006 Green Party candidate for Governor
on the front page of “Nature Matters,” the quarterly newsletter of the McHenry County Defenders. It goes on for two and one-have pages.

And, I learned its writing was solicited by the Defenders.

I haven’t read it yet, but wonder if Whitney will attend the Saturday, February 10th annual pot luck dinner meeting at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in McHenry. (It’s “members only,” so, if you want to attend, get yours dues check in.)

If he came, he might be able to stimulate some members to run for county board in 2008 as Green Party members.

He might even be able to recruit enough precinct committeemen to form a real party in McHenry County.

Bill Baar at Illinoize points out that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an article about the opportunities by Adam Jadhay.

It starts,
Wanted: One candidate for the U.S. Senate, 19 for the U.S. House, 118 potential state representatives, dozens more wannabe state senators, hundreds of potential county officials.

And as many as 11,692 precinct committeemen, among other vacancies. Interested applicants should contact the Illinois Green Party.
Phil Huckelberry is the party's candidate recruitment guy. Anyone know how to get in touch with him?

Whitney received 10,750 votes for governor in McHenry County. In contrast, I got 3,903 in 2002 as the Libertarian Party candidate.

Posted first on McHenry County Blog.


Barack Obama (D-Daley)

Barack Obama endorsed Mayor Richard M. Daley on Monday, saying among other things that the city had made great strides in overcoming corruption. Forgive Obama, he hasn't been in the state much since being elected senator.

Just where does Obama see improvement? Daley is now finishing his worst term since the one in which more than 700 people died in the 1995 heat wave that he so badly mismanaged. Perhaps Obama hasn't heard of the Hired Truck Scandal, or that Robert Sorich, the mayor's former patronage chief, is on his way to jail. And that's just the top of the shitpile; there are also the revelations of Daley's extensive patronage machine; stalled efforts at CPS and CHA; a CTA that is literally running off the rails; soaring property taxes; and the stain of that pesky Burge Report, whose whitewashing managed in reverse to make the mayor look guilty.

Now, to be sure, Obama's endorsement had very little to do with Daley's re-election campaign (except to help satisfy the mayor's thirst to positively crush his opponents and critics), but everything to do with Obama's presidential campaign.

And that's what's troubling.

For all his talk of representing a new kind of politics, Obama's every move smacks of business-as-usual. It's not just that his endorsement of Daley - just days after Hillary Clinton announced she was joining the race - sends a message to the city's big money people and other players still on the fence that there will a price to pay in mayoral vengeance should they side with Clinton over Obama.

It's that it puts to rest any doubt that Obama is anything but at the center of the same old machine, the same old fundraisers, the same old tactics, and, in the end, the same old cynical political calculations.

Obama has now endorsed Richard M. Daley, Todd Stroger, Alexi Giannoulias, and, just to be clear about all that against-the-war-from-the-beginning talk, Joe Lieberman. He made a real estate deal with Tony Rezko, and now is trying to tap Carl McCall, the former New York comptroller whose fingerprints are all over the Stuart Levine pension fund scandal. His advisors include Bill Daley and the telecom lobby.

So just what kind of new politics does Obama represent? Better manners?


It didn't appear in the print version of the Sun-Times article, but the paper's original Web report about Obama's endorsement of the Daley included this anecdote of Obama trying to weasel out of some fairly innocuous comments he made about the mayor in 2005.

"In August 2005," Fran Spielman wrote, "Obama nearly ran into trouble with Daley when he hedged on whether he'd support the mayor for re-election in light of the corruption investigations at City Hall.

"Asked then if he planned to support the mayor or if the corruption probes might have given him pause, the senator replied, 'What's happened - some of the reports I've seen in your newspaper, I think, give me huge pause.'

'An hour later, he called the Sun-Times saying he wanted to clarify his remarks. Obama said the mayor was 'obviously going through a rough patch right now.' But he also said Chicago has 'never looked better' and that 'significant progress has been made on a variety of fronts.' The senator said then it was 'way premature' to talk about endorsements because the mayor had not yet announced his candidacy.

"Daley didn't hold a grudge against Obama. He reportedly concluded that the freshman senator had been trapped by a loaded question."

Yes. Asking if the corruption surrounding the mayor gave him pause certainly is loaded.

Barack Obama: A kinder, gentler old politics.


"I don't understand how Sen. Obama could look at this administration and see a cleaner government," challenger Dorothy Brown said.

That's because you're not supposed to look at this administration head-on, you're just supposed to kind of glance at it from the side and then turn away really quickly and get back to admiring the flowers.


"Obama also endorsed Daley's running mates, whom he described as old friends," Spielman reports. "They are City Clerk Miguel del Valle and Treasurer Stephanie Neely."

Obama also shares a media advisor with Daley in David Axelrod. And Obama's wife, Michelle, used to work for the mayor.

Barack Obama (D-Daley).


Do you think Obama encouraged Daley to debate his opponents for the first time in his mayoralty?


Do you think Obama, who has been a Wal-Mart critic, asked the mayor about calling proponents of the big-box ordinance racists?


"Mayoral challenger Dorothy Brown said Obama's endorsement of Daley flies in the face of remarks the senator made about corrupt politicians during a fiery Martin Luther King Day speech in Harvey," Spielman reported.

But just what did Obama say?

From the Daily Southtown:

"There are a lot things Harvey needs," Obama said. "Some folks here in city hall think that maybe the office that they possess is because they are so special, it is supposed to be a place where they can help their family and their friends instead of helping the people who elected them."

Gee, whose administration does that sound like?

Beyond that, Obama's Harvey appearance raised questions - again - about his choice of political friends.


See also "The Trouble With Obama."


Cross-posted at The Beachwood Reporter.


Syverson: I was against tax increases before I was for them.

Berkowitz has it. Sen. Syverson also says he wouldn't sign a pledge to constituents to oppose any and all tax increases:

"Jeff Berkowitz: Is that a problem with the Republican image? Should Republicans take the pledge? Would you take the pledge not to raise the income or the sales tax?

Sen. Dave Syverson: No.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, you don’t believe in that?

Sen. Dave Syverson: No, because as a conservative, it doesn’t mean that you’re—it means doing the right thing. Every generation in this country, the leaders have sacrificed so that the next generation could have a better life. This is the first generation we have elected officials who are saying: we don’t care about the next generation. We’re going to spend today. We’re going to..."

There's just one problem. Syverson took the pledge in 1992 and has been listed as a signatory since. I confirmed that Americans For Tax Reform has his pledge on file. Here's the list of all state signatories.

Now, 1992 was awhile back, but if he can't recall such a solemn pledge then perhaps he's been in office too long. Either that, or the guy has personal integrity issues.

UPDATE & CLARIFICATION: An anonymous commentor tells us that 1992 was a long time ago. And mentions anulment or divorce as ways of getting out of other pledges.

When a candidate signs the pledge he or she is informed in writing that to get out of the pledge you simply let ATR know and hold a joint press conference with Grover Norquist announcing that you want out of the pledge and you intend to vote for tax increases. Senator Syverson hasn't done that. Holding to anon's analogy, Syverson is more of adulterer. That doesn't get you out of the marriage. It just means you are a bad person.


About those discs…

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

The news that the Chicago Board of Elections released information "ideal …for identity theft" on as many as 1.3 million voters has gotten a lot of coverage in the traditional media and on-line. Most of the coverage has focused on the personal privacy aspects of the release. There's another angle to it, though, as related to election law, and that hasn't gotten covered. These are just questions; we aren't saying conclusively that mistakes were made. And yet the current explanation leave open a series of concerns.

First about the scope of the release. Press reports suggest that data on about 1.3 million voters were on the files, which were initially released in late 2003 and early 2004. The Chicago Board of Elections website notes that there were 1,334,909 voters registered for the March, 2004 General Primary Election. So is it accurate to say that data on all registered voters was on those discs? As a mitigating factor, it's worth noting that not all voters gave their full Social Security numbers when they registered; many, especially those who registered with motor voter forms, gave only the last four digits of their social security numbers or their drivers license numbers, which may mean that identify theft is less of a concern for them than for others. But still, do the discs include every voter in the City of Chicago in late 2003?

If, indeed, the file includes every voter in the City of Chicago, then it's got some interesting names. Just to give a sense of the scope: the mayor and all of the sitting aldermen are probably listed. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President, among other legislators, who now may want to change the laws to prevent this from happening again. All of the statewide constitutional officers, and about a third of our congressional delegation would be there. Press reports suggest that lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court; if the discs included all voters, then it's likely that most of the Circuit's trial judges, and also most of the District's appellate judges, are on these discs. Heck, three-fourths of the state Supreme Court are likely included.

Press reports also suggest that about a hundred copies of the discs were distributed in "late 2003 or early 2004" and the Tribune notes that another half dozen or dozen were distributed recently. If that's accurate, was the Chicago Board of Elections giving out three-year-old data recently? Last October, they announced (PDF) new voter registration totals, including 61,875 new registrations since the 2006 March Primary. Were those not included in the "recently distributed" file? If not, that's lucky for the voters who weren't included, but why were some candidates and campaigns given old data? Were other candidates and campaigns given newer data? Or was the same mistake repeated in all discs distributed over the last three years?

An amendment to Illinois election law, PA 93-574, which took effect in August, 2003, said that Boards of Election could give electronic data files only to candidates and committees. We assume, then, that the 100 or so discs that were distributed in late 2003 and early 2004 went to the campaigns of sitting aldermen and city-wide officials, and some ward committees. In July, 2004, PA 93-847 changed the law to allow distribution of electronic data to governmental entities for governmental purposes. Did anybody else get this data? If so, were they also given the older 2003 version of the data or did they get newer data? Did any of their discs include social security data?

Finally, the stories suggest this but don't say explicitly, so it bears asking: did discs distributed to any of the 264 candidates who filed for Chicago office in December all contain the same current data, without social security numbers?

The release of voter files that include social security records is troubling on many levels. Privacy is certainly one of them. But there are other aspects to the release of this data that deserve explanation.


$400,000 School Superintendent Saga Continues

First let me concede that the Elgin School District 46 is the second largest in Illinois. In the 1970’s I represented its west side in the Illinois House.

But, surely there is a disconnect between the school superintendent, the school board and the taxpayers.

Today those who run the Elgin Schools displaced those in Carpentersville District 300 in the “Let’s Criticize the Schools” coverage in the upper Fox River Valley.

Yesterday, Elgin’s Courier News told of school board member Daniel Rich’s resignation in protest of pending school board action, which he said would bring School Superintendent Connie Neal’s compensation package to $400,000.

Today, the Courier’s headline is

Neale-Rich pay dispute heats up
I wonder why.

“I’ve been getting the same raise that the teachers have been getting,” reporter Erin Calandriello writes, noting that all U46 employees got a 5.95% pay raise last year.

Think people reading that second paragraph information will be a bit angry that the government employees got probably twice the raise they did, twice the increase in the cost of living?

Speaking of her critic, Neal observes,
“So, perhaps he didn’t understand the process,”
because the three-year school board member was attending his first superintendent’s salary negotiation meeting.

Supt. Neale also admitted giving 10 top assistants “$5,000 bonuses and that’s on top of the $30,000 to $50,000 increases in their salaries over the next few years,” Rich is quoted as saying.

Neale said that was “absolutely not true.”

Ex-school board member Rich retorted,
If she’s going to tell me she didn’t mean what she said and that none of what happened and that whatever perception I had was off, people are going to know she’s lying.

You can’t keep kicking things under the rug.

The public is crazy if they reseat any of those board members.
Also today, the hotly competitive Daily Herald’s Emily Krone got on the story.

Her lead is just superb
Six school board members called it an acknowledgment of a job well done.

Superintendent Connie Neale called it routine.

Former school board member Dan Rich, who resigned in protest Monday, called it a shakedown.

District teachers called it outrageous.
Krone reports the $43,000 pay raise would be retroactive to July 1st of last year.

So, what would you do with a $20,000 check?

And what about this “school superintendents-eyes only” information that was in Neale’s memo?
customary acknowledgment of performance success for superintendents is a tax-free, 10 percent to 20 percent bonus, when major accomplishments are made.
That’s sounds like something Diane Rado of the Chicago Tribune should do a statewide story about.

The memo also noted,
for the past two years her salary ranked 40th and 56th in the state.
How sad.

$242,000 just isn’t enough.

Since neither reporter talked to taxpayers, I expect a third round of stories soon about how the people who pay Neale's salary feel about her getting a raise that is a large part of their annual salary.


How true stay Illinois Greens?

Adam Jaday writes Strength in '06 poses new challenge for Illinois Green Party in A nice example of success bringing a whole new set of headaches.

One pain will be how to stay pure Green (what ever that may be; Greens are going to have to tell us) given the need for new members.

Nick Cohen wrote a few days ago this column: Don't you know your left from your right? Cohen concluded this about the left,

It is not novel to say that socialism is dead. My argument is that its failure has brought a dark liberation to people who consider themselves to be on the liberal left. It has freed them to go along with any movement however far to the right it may be, as long as it is against the status quo in general and, specifically, America. I hate to repeat the overused quote that 'when a man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything', but there is no escaping it. Because it is very hard to imagine a radical leftwing alternative, or even mildly radical alternative, intellectuals in particular are ready to excuse the movements of the far right as long as they are anti-Western.
It's going to be interesting to see if Illinois Greens crash, or find growth attracting protectionists, isolationists, and libertarians they never realized they could get along with before. I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen. A shared disgruntlement with the status quo can build odd friendships.

No one's advocating nationalization of Walmart today. Socialism is dead. Greens are free to go lots ways now and I'm curious what they'll pick.


Cook County Budget Cuts

The Sun Times closing thought on Stroger's cuts to Cook County's budget.

There are growing rumblings that the drastic cuts are simply an effort to push the County Board to initiate tax increases to lessen the pain.
Feel like a shakedown?

Update: Larry Suffredin wants thoughts.
I expect that the Public Hearings this year will be different from past years in that the Board for the first time will have to function as a real legislative body. In the prior years the Public Hearings were used as pep rallies for the proposed budget and discussion of changing priorities was stifled. This years hearings will have to finish the “Target Adjustments” and create a spending plan that matches a new style of what services are core needs for our citizens.

I encourage all citizens to attend the Public Hearings and to speak out on issues that concern them. I will work to strengthen our revenues and better refine more efficient ways of providing service. As the President said in his address his responsibility is complete with the presentation of the Budget. The Board’s responsibility to finish this Budget in a fair and just manner has just begun.
Update: The Daily Southtown,
Some non-union county employees will be asked to take up to 20 unpaid furlough days under the proposal, said Stroger, who promised to take them himself.
Moon lighting at a big box not a bad strategy for replacing income lost during down time.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Numbers Game

As somebody pointed out to me about my last post, despite what was in the New York Times article, the State has put out a Request For Qualifications, not an RFP, to gauge interest in selling off the Illinois Lottery.

I stand corrected.

But some of the language in the RFQ is kind of interesting in and of itself. One part promotes the deal by telling potential bidders that they can use market research performed for State to, um, better target customers.
In addition, we anticipate that the concessionaire could further drive sales growth through the application of the Lottery’s recent market segmentation research, in order to reach a better understanding of and increase connectivity with Lottery patrons.
While that sounds like, and is, standard business practice, as I alluded to in the last post, I do not think that heightened efforts to pray on the lower-income population segment that makes up a good chunk of lottery players is going to sit well with a lot of community activists and gaming foes. There are members of the Legislature that would be willing to stand up to this type of targeting by the Lottery. They would have no say in predatory practices by a private vendor.

It also is sounding like a good part of the profitability for bidders will rest by simply having fewer winners.
The concessionaire will also have flexibility in structuring individual game pay-out ratios, limited by a 50% aggregate pay-out ratio floor...Prize payouts (presently amount to) 58.1% of total revenues. (emphasis added)
That amounts to a 14% reduction in pay-outs, far from a negligible number.

Another nugget is that the State is about to get closer to the old-school numbers game business.
The Lottery is about to launch a raffle game with limited tickets and several $1 million winners. It is anticipated that the raffle tickets will sell out in two to three weeks.
That would leave us about two steps away from New York's underground policy rackets. (I know that it's not at all a similar game, but I'm just trying to make a point.) But, that might not be so bad after all:
Over the years, this form of storefront wagering has served as something of a shadow Lotto for thousands of New Yorkers who would rather enjoy better odds than the myriad legitimate games offer - not to mention take their winnings home tax-free.
Now I realize that I may be being unduly harsh on this whole concept, but I don't believe that I am alone in my view on this issue.

Increased targeting of low income players + reduced odds of winning + uncertain long-term benefits to education funding...It just doesn't add up to a good deal for Illinoisans.

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State of the Union mini-review

This is a madrassa-free post.

Well, this year's State of the Union address was pretty similar to last year's--2007's version had the novelty of course of Bush addressing a Democratic majority Congress and a woman--for the first time---sitting behind the president.

My favorite part? I saw it twice. Senators Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy sitting next to each other--with Senator Hillary Clinton directly behind Obama.

I was driving home from work listening to CBS Radio's coverage before Bush spoke; they made a point of mentioning that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was one of the early arrivals who snatched a coveted aisle seat. Sure enough, after the president finished, there he was chatting with Jesse Jr.

Junior learned a lot from his old man.

To comment on this or other posts, please visit Marathon Pundit.


SSNs on Voter Lists, Bad idea.

Rich and some others have had some stuff about the Chicago voter lists containing SSNs.

As someone who gets voter lists, the last thing I would have ever wanted to even see on these lists was an SSN. Why, simple because you can't do anything with it (so it's just extra information to deal with) and also because something like this could happen (someone realizes you have it) and it's just awkward.

Also in terms of it's only X disks, don't kid yourself this information gets shared and not everyone with a computer is smart enough (or makes the effort) to keep something like this off of a walklist the make up or a copy of the voters in area X they give to a candidate or volunteer.

I am confident this information has been copied a bunch of times. If something is being done with it, who knows. I am willing to bet that the data has traveled to a bunch of people who did not get the original disks.

I don't think I have ever seen it in any of the lists I have ever gotten and if I did I would just pull it or make it all 9's if for no other reason than my own protection.



Monday, January 22, 2007


[Hat tip: Diane]

Hey, at least it'll distract us from that goofy Obama madrassa stuff.


A Losing Ticket

The article in today's New York Times about selling off the Illinois Lottery was full of surprises. The first surprise was the lead reason being offered by the Administration for the proposal. In the words of budget guru John Filan:
“This is fundamentally a retail business, and governments are not equipped to manage retail businesses,” said Filan. “Gaming is getting so competitive around the world that we’re worried our revenues could go down unless there is retail expertise to run the lottery.”

Unless you've been living under a rock (a rock outside of Illinois, no less), the main thrust of the idea, and its timing, was widely accepted to rest in mollifying the threatened gubernatorial bid of Sen. Meeks by finding quick cash for education.

I suppose that I could have missed something, but this is the first time that I have heard that the sale is intended to boost ticket sales, something that I don't think will sit real well with those concerned about the inherently regressive nature of the lottery.

The next thing that surprised me was this short sentence:

The deadline for bids is Feb. 20.

Again, unless I have missed something, a sale of the lottery would require authorization by the General Assembly. I literally have not spoken with more than two legislators who support such a plan. The main reason tends to be that the sale provides short-term dollars but no long-term support for education funding, and will ultimately leave us worse off than we are now.

How anybody could place a realistic bid in such an uncertain, if not downright adverse, political climate escapes me.

But even if the state and the school kids don't come out ahead at the end of the day, there are at least some winners under the proposal:

Goldman Sachs and UBS are advising the state of Illinois.

So a bold-sounding plan that will likely go nowhere and generate no income for the State, may in fact wind up costing us money.

What a surprise.

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