Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Who Will Follow Daley -- Someday?

Another Daley post especially since he has just won re-election this year with just about 73% of the vote.

Governing.com's blog has a post about who might suceed Daley. In this post there are a few oddball names that have popped up as Daley's successor...

There's no heir apparent -- familial or otherwise -- although Governing's executive editor and Chicago native Alan Ehrenhalt reminds me that it wasn't clear early on that the younger Daley was capable of taking up his father's political mantle, either. To many observers, the more likely candidate was his brother Bill, but he went into law and business, eventually serving as U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration.

We started kicking names around here on the 13th Floor, and our short list includes U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez (a former city alderman who declined to challenge Daley this year) and Chicago Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey (click here for more on her political/managerial savvy).

My colleague Zach Patton suggested Barack Obama might be interested in the job -- if he loses the Democratic presidential nomination to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Or, I responded, perhaps Clinton -- if she loses to Obama. After all, she has stronger personal ties to Chicago (being born there and raised in suburban Park Ridge) than New York.
Hmm I don't know about all that. Especially Clinton, but what do you guys think will happen with Daley during his sixth term. Do you think he'll go for his seventh term? Do you think he will hang it up after 2011? Or perhaps who might make a great mayor in the future?

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A Way to Reduce Teen Car Deaths

Osewego does not have to re-invent the wheel.

Since 1998, Crystal Lake has figured out a way to induce teens to wear seat belts.

A combination of prizes and education has proven successful in increasing seat belt use from 65% to 95%.

As Crystal Lake’s Deputy Police Chief Dennis Harris told me,

We have seen almost a 50% increase in seat belt compliance. That 95% is significantly higher than the national average of between 72 and 75%.

Anecdotally, we do believe that the rate of teen accidents and the severity of those accidents has declined.
And the biggest inducement:
The grand prize is now a new car, but was a late model car previously.
There is nothing to stop this idea from spreading widely.

In fact, the program is now being introduced into four more high schools.

Maybe your town will have someone like Crystal Lake Pontiac-GMC Truck dealer Sam Oginni, who just opened another dealership in Fox Lake. He donates the car.

Maybe other towns will have a public-spirited car dealer or used car dealer.

There’s, of course, a federal tax benefit, but there is no reason the State of Illinois couldn’t offer one, too.

That’s a way legislators could get into the act.

And it would probably have more effect than the bills now being considered.

Could any of the legislation now being considered increase seat belt usage to 95%?

How about a 50% state tax credit for anyone who is willing to give away a car as a grand prize for a program similar to Crystal Lake’s at high schools all over Illinois?

If all 781 high schools in Illinois took part with one car per high school and the car costing about $14,000, the maximum cost would be $5.5 million. Of course, it could start with a pilot program of 71 high schools would only cost half a million.

If high schools were grouped so they can compete, $500,000 would go a long way.

The state already provides up to 50% state tax credit for businesses that help employees buy housing.

How about a tax credit to help keep teens alive?

How much could it cost at $5,000 to $10,000 per high school?

And Crystal Lake’s program, which used to be called Operation Cool, covers four high schools and is in the process of expanding to four more.

For whatever reason, the Illinois State Police will not relinquish the name “Operation Cool” to the successful non-for-profit group in Crystal Lake, so the program has been renamed “Operation Click.”

You can learn more about Operation Cool, now Operation Click, here at McHenry County Blog.

= = = = =
Crystal Lake Pontiac dealer Sam Oginni is seen with Operation Cool car winner Matt Frederick in the picture above. The other images are from Operation Cool's web site.

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A note to wingers: You're not helping us

I'm going to disappoint everyone here and not taunt anybody. Yes. That's right. I won't taunt anybody. I'm not going to taunt anybody because it was a great election on both sides. Brown and Walls fought hard and kept it close to a sliver of just 175,000 votes. They did far better than they, or anyone, ever expected. Your wildest dreams will come true if you just work hard and never give up.

I know, Zorn, 'Big' Ben Joravsky, and Ray Hanania are all out right now celebrating as we speak @ the bar in the mall parking lot in Orland Park. For today, they have sent a message: That they and all Chicagoans, will not tolerate the Mayor's skulduggery. Enjoy your victory, for I shall not taunt today.

Instead I want to talk about Paul Richardson and why he hates the unborn by correctly assessing that the stem cell research resistance is positively futile and ultimately pointless - unless of course your point is to further emotionally exhaust the ILGOP base in Illinois. I thought the post was nicely punctuated with this:


Drifting further to the ideological right on a social issue that runs counter the vast majority of Illinoisans, is against the national tide, and has a pragmatic “out” to appease most moderate conservatives.

The state GOP can't afford to stay on the wrong side of this one.


If you really look at the Illinois GOP and you say to yourself: Here's a vital, fully functional, and healthy political organization, than you can go ahead and talk about stem cell research and HPV vaccines all day and all night. I mean, all 8 of you can sit back and marvel at the efficiency of the party, gawk at just what a credible threat we are anywhere in the state ballot and just yuck it up over the fake issues.

And oh yes. Yes they are. One of the cringer comments was, unfortunately, the good Dr. Baar's, as I generally respect him - though I don't always agree with him. It was a cringer because I really didn't think he'd fall for this one:


It shouldn't and isn't a partisan issue. Look at Cong Lipinski's position. Some Democrats try and pretend it is and use it as a club against the GOP as a party dominated by the religious right.


Ok. Reverse it. Change the polarization. Actually, near as I can tell the stem cell research faux 'controversy' really only made it's mark into the national discussion 'round abouts Bush Era. Maybe I'm wrong here. Wait, I'm not. The real steam here wasn't generated until 2001. And, in the midst of the social conservative revitalization, it's not hard to read between the lines. Wingers, on either side of the aisle, aren't very bright. Tell our wingers that somehow, doing research and destroying a cell that could one day be human life, should generate the same kind of outrage that abortion does, make it a partisan issue with "See? More democrat baby killing", and your wingers will be out in force. It'll make great news for your infotainers. Get'em all angry and out to the voting booths. All that, to essentially maintain the Clinton setstatus quo.

And the issue has lost whatever steam it once had. I'm sure it's good for a quick gag every now and again, but it doesn't have the fire power it once had when early Bush era high was in full force. The worst thing is, it's the pro-lifers that should understand more than anybody why it's this is a loser issue. Pro-Lifers can be wingnuts (Note, I am not dismissing all pro-lifers as wingnuts. I am saying that there are pro-life wingnuts).

I feel like I have to teach them a lesson as to why they're losing on this one. What those wingnuts get is that their wingnuttery can be overlooked for the reason that they're seen mostly as just strident advocates for a victim who can't defend itself. See image:


The issue of stem cell research there is no tangible victim. You don't have anything to elicit people to your side. With no victim, you're just back to being ideological zealots, because you're defending this:


And the bad news is, your wingnuttery can't justified by victim advocacy. Just to make it worse, the other side has their victim to advocate for and it's infinitely more powerful than you're flow chart.



Face it: You're advocacy on this issue is a waste of time and you're hurting the party more than you already have. You've been tricked by the big man. The sooner you get over it and move beyond this and the other fake issues, the better off we are.



As a party we have neither the time, the resources, the emotional energy, nor the surplus of swing voters to play up to yet another national dead end issue on the local scale. It didn't work with Jimmy the Milkman in '06 and it isn't going to work in the future.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Daley Forecast: Continued Reign In Chicago

Mayor Daley, is actually featured in the Washington Post political blog The Fix. Take a look, he talks about his road to re-election and the candidacy of Sen. Obama. Even touches upon Obama's main rival for the Democratic nomination Sen. Hillary Clinton.

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Political Promises

Somehow this "Message of the Day" from McHenry County Blog seems appropriate the day of a Chicago election.

I found it on District 300 school board candidate John Ryan's web site, but have no idea where he found it.

The sign on the back of a California septic tank pumper truck says,

CAUTION.
Truck may be Transporting
Political Promises!

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Broken promises: How "jarheads" got shunted aside at the University of Illinois: A Marathon Pundit series

Now that the orange and blue smoke has faded from the Chief Illiniwek controversy at the University of Illinois--my alma mater--I have a story to tell that will that will make the administration of the state's flagship university wish for the good old days of defending the Chief.

Last Sunday I met with Robert van der Hooning at a Starbucks a few miles north of Morton Grove. He's a former Assistant Dean at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Business. We spent a little more than an hour together. This post is the first of a series.

Van der Hooning noticed my post from last month that drew from an ABC 7 Chicago story, He contacted me via e-mail, and we agreed to meet. He’s passionate about University of Illinois and providing world class education to veterans.

After a successful career in the private sector, van der Hooning decided he wanted to give something back to the community. In early 2004, van der Hooning was hired to beef-up enrollment and academic standards for Urbana-Champaign’s money-losing operation in Chicago, including its Executive MBA ("EMBA") program. Two years later he was promoted to Assistant Dean and commended for recruiting good classes, launching a capstone course in China and strengthening the University’s position with the Chicago corporate community.

He was not new to academia, however. He's a former professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and McCormick School of Engineering, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and IMD International (Lausanne), the #2-ranked B-school in Europe. He also ran the International Bankers School on Wall Street and built a $50 million software company in artificial intelligence.

Van der Hooning was "reassigned" by the University last June--but he remained under contract to the school until two weeks ago.

When van der Hooning signed on at Illinois, there were about 23 students enrolled in an EMBA program which had been shrinking and losing money in previous years. Even Illinois’ MBA program in Champaign had shrunk from over 200 students to about 100 today and most of them are foreign students. Illinois’ other masters degree programs in Finance and Technology serve nearly 100% foreign students.

The most-sought after MBAs in the Chicago area attend the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. Both of those schools have thousands of MBA students enrolled in their programs every year. Thousands more attend Loyola, DePaul, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and even Notre Dame. The radio airwaves here are dominated by commercials from schools touting their MBA programs--why should Illinois' flagship public university not be part of that mix?

Heck, even DePaul University, a frequent topic of my scorn here because of the ongoing the Thomas Klocek case, has a larger MBA program than Illinois. They want it even larger, as they occasionally send me postcards urging me to enroll there.

The College of Business holds its classes on the fourth floor of the 200 S. Wacker building--across the street from the Sears Tower. I've been in the building at least a dozen times--the alumni association is on the second floor.

(Note: The University of Illinois at Chicago, located on the city's Near West Side, has an MBA program, too, run separately from the downtown Executive MBA program of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Yes, it's a little confusing.)

The fourth floor facilities of the Urbana-Champaign College of Business have three classrooms, one huge meeting room that seats 200, and several meeting rooms. Two classrooms can accommodate 110 students. Van der Hooning came up with an idea to reach that number by partnering with the Illinois Veteran's Grant program. 110 seats could easily be filled with Illinois veterans.

From the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs web site:

The Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) Program pays tuition and certain fees at all Illinois state-supported colleges, universities and community colleges for Illinois residents. An individual must:
· be a veteran; and
· reside in Illinois six months before entering the service; and
· have at least one full year of active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces which includes veterans who were assigned to active duty in a foreign country in a time of hostilities in that country, regardless of length of service
· return to Illinois within six months of discharge from the service.

With thousands of Illinoisans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan--many of whom, sorry John Kerry, have bachelor's degrees and years of hands-on leadership experience, surely this would be a marriage made in heaven.

Van der Hooning's boss, Dean Avijit Ghosh (pronounced "gauche") liked the idea. So did David Ikenberry, van der Hooning's U of I business school mentor, and many others in the Provost and Chancellor’s office. David Ikenberry is the son of Stanley O. Ikenberry, former University of Illinois president. Van der Hooning even made sure the Board of Trustees approved of what he was doing.

So the idea was a go and a press release announcing the program was sent out on March 3. In it, the 110 military scholarships was the big news. No other University in the country had ever done something on this scale for veterans.

Here is an excerpt from that press release:

The IVG Program is funded by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission
and provides up to 120 units for tuition of eligible students. According to Robert van der Hooning, Assistant Dean and Director of the Executive MBA Program in Chicago, the College will make this a cost-free opportunity for qualified and eligible candidates by waiving tuition and program costs. The Executive MBA Program consists primarily of classes that meet every other weekend (Fridays/Saturdays) in Chicago and is designed exclusively for mid-to senior-level managers and professionals. The program is valued at $74,000 and includes tuition, a trip to China, mandatory fees, books, meals, and lodging.

A trip to China, too. Awesome.

That press release, van der Hooning told me at our Starbucks chat, "was approved by the public relations director and Dean Ghosh in writing." Ghosh wrote others at the University confirming the ambitious plan.

I want to reiterate this point: With financing coming from the Illinois Veteran's Grant, those 110 scholarships were meant to be for the 2006-2007 academic year. Van der Hooning told me, both in person and via e-mail, the understanding within the College of Business was also very clear--110 military scholarships were to be awarded for the current academic term. He showed me an internal document written by the top administrative dean at the College called "Guidelines for Implementation for Academic Year 2006-2007."

The Christian Science Monitor wrote an article about it. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about the program -- this link comes from the University of Illinois College of Business web site. Within the article, there's a video link of Rumsfeld discussing the U of I MBA scholarships. Van der Hooning communicated with about 1,000 veterans in 2 months. Soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan called him at his home.

The Daily Illini, while not the official newspaper of the university, is essentially the newspaper of record for the University of Illinois, and it wrote about the program here. US Rep Rahm Emanuel touted it here. And in a press release from Illinois Lieutenant Governor Patrick Quinn, the state's number two man "saluted the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for its commitment to award free tuition for its Executive MBA Program to Illinois service members who have served in the Global War on Terror" in his press release.

Lieutenant Governor Quinn also gave a speech about it on the Champaign campus in front of U of I’s President, Joe White, the Chancellor, Provost and several dignitaries in May. He received a loud round of applause when mentioning the 110 veteran scholarships.

Veterans who qualified for the program, van der Hooning told me, were accepted on a "quick admit" basis, which meant busy veterans and overseas soldiers were conditionally admitted based on grades, college degree, experience and the like pending receipt of those seemingly endless forms. Van der Hooning got the idea from his mentor, David Ikenberry, who used it to expedite admissions for foreign students in his Masters of Finance program in Champaign.

And a whole bunch of Illinois veterans were accepted--and received letters confirming that.

Then problems came up. Van der Hooning told me that Dean Ghosh wrote him two months after the launch of the scholarship program and demanded dramatic cut-backs in the scholarship program for financial reasons. Ghosh wrote van der Hooning an email and said he wanted "additional cash flow from the additional students so we need to think about how the veterans scholarship will affect our cash flow." Ghosh said he only wanted a class of 45-50 students total – military and non-military students – regardless of the promise made to deliver 110 scholarships just for vets. Van der Hooning said Ghosh was concerned about "underfunding by the Illinois Veteran's Grant, and he didn't want to have the College of Business left holding the bag."

Actually, IVG funding has been constant for several years, van der Hooning told me. As schools raise tuition prices, there is less IVG funding to go around, but this is something Ghosh acknowledged in writing to van der Hooning and others on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

And then there was the complaint that there were two many "jarheads" in the program. That phrase, which caught my eye in the ABC 7 Chicago report, bothered me. So I asked van der Hooning who said that to him.

"Actually three people, John," he told me. Professor David Ikenberry, Dean Ghosh, and Larry DeBrock, a professor and associate dean.

So the decision was made by the University of Illinois College of Business to rescind most of the scholarships by using petty bureaucratic bullying. In a meeting in Champaign on May 17, van der Hooning was ordered by Ghosh to reduce the number of military scholarships from 110 to 15-17. Worse, van der Hooning was told to find or create technical reasons to rescind admission to military candidates already admitted. He was told "too many jarheads will bias the class demographic."

To the best of my knowledge, "military" isn"t a demographic. But to the all-too-quick-to-classify-and-demography world of academia, I guess it is.

He refused to cooperate. He told them their plan was unethical, discriminatory and probably illegal. (Just one of those things is good enough for me.) He told them to consult the University’s attorney, Chancellor Richard Herman, President Joe White, the Chief Ethics Officer and others.

What happened next is shocking. Ghosh, DeBrock, Admissions Dean Sandy Frank and Ikenberry decided to take matters into their own hands. So they got a copy of the admissions database from the Executive MBA program, studied it, and in an ex post facto manner, put in new procedural deadlines for the completion of application materials in order to reduce the number of military veterans in the program.

They basically looked at military candidates' application data and came up with new deadlines that they knew military candidates hadn't met. Sort of like betting on a horse a couple days after the race...or moving the goalpoast before a field goal attempt.

They told van der Hooning to implement the new policy. They e-mailed him a letter to send military candidates and told him to sign it on official College letterhead. He refused. Eventually, Ghosh sent DeBrock to meet with van der Hooning. DeBrock came armed with a list of about 35 military veterans to rescind from the MBA program. Again, van der Hooning protested on grounds of ethics and discrimination, so DeBrock added one civilian to the list of rescinded candidates.

Most of those dozens of military men and women, "the jarheads," got tersely-worded letters rescinding their admissions statu--ironically right after Memorial Day weekend. The letter, which van der Hooning refused to sign, contained his electronic signature literally cut-and-pasted from a marketing postcard. Robert told me he refused to sign it. The letter stated that an applicant’s "quick admit" had been rescinded but they could still wait in line with a new admissions committee Ghosh formed that now included DeBrock and Ikenberry. What the letter didn’t say was that the class size had been capped at 60 but there were 85 people already admitted. Worse, van der Hooning was told to continue recruiting non-military students to the class at the same time the rescind letters went out to military students. DeBrock and Ikenberry told van der Hooning "you'll be a hero if you get this done."

The former "quick-admittees" were furious. They contacted an equally furious van der Hooning who had written a letter of protest to Ghosh citing concerns of ethics and discrimination. The veterans sent e-mails and letters to Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and Congressman Emanuel, who were not only upset, but like van der Hooning, felt their support had been misused by the university. They also wrote Joseph B. White, President of the University, and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Robert told me he was contacted by UIC Chancellor Sylvia Manning’s office in early June on behalf of President White to investigate the problems associated with the military scholarship program. He asked for and received a promise of confidentiality--fearing for his job.

He gave Manning's investigator a 30-minute debriefing of the situation and was told that the matter needed to be escalated to President White. A few days later, President White's office called him and scheduled a phone conference. Robert waited for the call, but it never came, so he called President White's office and was told that Ghosh and President White had talked and the "matter would be handled internally by Ghosh." A few days later, Robert was "reassigned."

Representatives of Quinn and Emanuel, both Democrats I'd like to add, made their opinions known to Ghosh personally, and after two interventions, the "jar heads" who Ghosh rescinded were promised they could attend after all. Ghosh wrote on June 14, "... the College will not waiver from its commitments. Be assured each case where an applicant has received a notice of conditional admission, via email or by letter, will be honored by (the) College." It’s ironic that the "commitments" Ghosh spoke about were the ones he tried to break.

Despite assurances in Ghosh’s letter, van der Hooning was again pressured by DeBrock and Ikenberry to quietly discourage some of these same veterans from enrolling in the program. He was told to be a "team player" and keep recruiting more non-military students to the program while telling military candidates the program was full. There were about 100 military veterans waiting in line.

Ultimately, 37 veterans enrolled in the Executive MBA program.

But 37 is not 110. Tom Hardy, U of I’s top PR spokesperson, told Chuck Goudie of ABC 7 Chicago that the 110 scholarships were always meant to be spread over 3 years. However, all references to the military scholarship program have been dropped from the college’s web sites and program brochures.

Ironically, most of the graduate students in the College’s MBA, MS Finance and MS Technology programs in Champaign are foreign students outside the United States. Overseas students are highly coveted by US universities for the same reason, as I learned in covering the DePaul-Klocek story, that American Muslims are. They often pay cash for their tuition--so there's no cumbersome student loan paperwork for the schools to deal in order to satisfy government requirements. For religious reasons, many US Muslims eschew loans, believing that dealing with financial transactions that involving interest is against their faith.

But the University of Illinois is a state-funded institution. The Illinois vets who had the scholarships pulled from them are, like myself, Illinois taxpayers. These men and women were promised education benefits from the Illinois Veteran Grant program and GI Bill. The U of I is good enough for the international students, but not the jarheads, it seems.

But one of van der Hooning's military recruits would be a proud addition to any master's of business program. He's author and blogger Matthew Currier Burden, better known as BlackFive. His book is The Blog of War: Front-Line Dispatches from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Too many jarheads? I say, not enough.

During our discussion, van der Hooning told me his motivation in getting his story out now is "to do the right thing, to fulfill a promise the university made to these vets and bring attention to the problem of veterans' education." Since van der Hooning was "reassigned," he has been developing a business plan to provide education to returning veterans through partnerships with Illinois businesses, several other schools and benefit programs like the GI Bill and the Illinois Veteran Grant. He’s spent his own time and money to develop the idea.

As with all "B" schools, I'm sure there is a mandatory ethics course in the curriculum. Perhaps the administration of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign should take it.

Yes, he's suing his former employer. He feels he was wrongfully forced out of his job because he tried to get the university to honor its promise to those War on Terror veterans. He believes because he challenged Ghosh’s ethics and revealed the details to an investigator sent from President White that he was pushed out by the university. Incidentally, Ghosh led the search committee that nominated Joe White for President of U of I.

Incidentally, the Sarbanes-Oxely Act, something I for the most part oppose, protects whistleblowers. Surely Sarbanes-Oxely is required subject matter for all MBA programs, including the one at the University of Illinois. SOX only covers corporations. The State of Illinois has a whistleblower protection act in place, but I couldn't find much online about it, and besides, I'm not a lawyer.

Bad publicity is something the University of Illinois can weather--after all, the Chief Illiniwek controversy will die down, and the university will still be here. But being hit in the pocket book is something walled-off administrators understand much better.

John Mauck, Thomas Klocek's attorney, mentioned that DePaul wrongly pinned a "Scarlet R of racism" on him. Van der Hooning, probably has a Scarlet "T" for troublemaker attached to him. He wants to continue working in academia. But that's pretty hard to do with a scarlet letter next to your name.

He’s a single father with three daughters.

Meanwhile, the man who had a dream to build up the little MBA program across the street from America's tallest building just deposited his last U of I paycheck--he's officially unemployed, his final "reassigment."

Is there something missing from this post? Yep, there sure is. I e-mailed Tom Hardy, the U of I public relations office spokesman quoted in the ABC 7 Chicago story. He never replied to me. My e-mail to him was firm, but polite. If Hardy wants to get in touch with me--or for that matter if anyone from my alma mater wants to--the door is open.

To comment on this or any other Marathon Pundit post, please click here.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Trial Lawyer Agenda Begins To Unfold In Statehouse: Here Are Two Bills That Should Be Defeated

The Illinois General Assembly got down to serious business this past week and the anti-business, anti-insurance and anti-medicine agenda of the personal injury trial lawyers began to take shape.

Two bills (of many expected) are on the agenda for the Senate Judiciary (Civil) Committee this week. They could be called Wednesday or held over until later but they will be considered and likely passed out of the Committee before the March 15 Senate committee deadline.

The first (SB 747) is sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park. Harmon frequently carries the personal injury trial lawyers' water and fights their battles. This bill, similar to one sponsored during the last General Assembly, has been dubbed the "plaintiffs' windfall bill." It would allow compensation to plaintiffs and their lawyers for amounts that were not actually lost.

For example, if a hospital bills a patient (the plaintiff) $6,000 for care and services, but agrees to accept $5,000 because of an agreement it might have with Blue Cross/Blue Shield or some other insurer, SB 747 would require that the defendant pay $6,000, the full amount originally billed, even though that amount was not paid (or lost) by the plaintiff. The legislation does not require that the plaintiff receiving this windfall pay the extra recovery to the provider of the medical service.

Instead, the plaintiff and his/her attorney reap the benefits of this added cost -- a cost above and beyond the actual loss to the plaintiff.

(Anyone who has ever received an "explanation of benefits" from his/her insurer understands what this means: The doctor/hospital bills a certain amount but because the doctor/hospital has a contract with a health care insurer, the actual amount paid is reduced. This legislation would require the defendant in litigation to pay the billed amount, not the actual amount.)
The second problem bill is (SB 1296), introduced by Sen. John Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary (Civil) Committee. Cullerton is usually fair and open and is likely to listen to arguments and public opinion. This bill is one that deserves argument and plenty of public opinion and pressure.

This bill would make sweeping changes in the personal injury and property damage litigation law. It would increase a defendant's liability and responsibility to pay under joint and several liability by changing the formula for determining apportionment. A defendant could/would be held liable much beyond his or her own fault. The defendant with "deep pockets" would be the plaintiffs' target, even if the degree of responsibility was minor.

*

Two years ago, Illinois legislators heard the call for reform from Illinois citizens and the legislators responded by enacting medical liability reform. This was done in the face of heavy odds against reform. A law was passed and the governor signed a liability reform bill into law.

That would not have happened without public (translation: voter) pressure. Legislators do respond to their constituents, especially when they sense that constituent unhappiness could translate into voter unhappiness.

These first two bills -- SB 747 and SB 1296 -- are certain to be only two of many that we will urge civil justice reform advocates to speak out on this year.

But it is important early in the legislative session to let legislators know that we -- their constituents and their employers -- expect them to be paying attention.

The first vote on SB 747 and SB 1296 will be in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The members of that committee are listed below.

Please click here to contact these legislators:

Senate Judiciary (Civil) Committee:
John J. Cullerton (D)
Kirk Dillard (R)
Don Harmon (D)
Dan Cronin (R)
William R. Haine (D)
Randall M. Hultgren (R)
Michael Noland (D)
Matt Murphy (R)
Ira I. Silverstein (D)
A. J. Wilhelmi (D)

To post or view comments, please visit Illinois Justice Blog.

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HPV Vaccine & Circumcision-Relative Publicity

As I was reading the Chicago Tribune while waiting for my swim conference- bound son to finish a two-hour practice, I read an article on page 14 entitled,

AIDS risk lower than thought for circumcised
Maybe it got better play in the New York Times, where the story by Donald G. McNeil Jr.originated, but page 14 in the Tribune struck me as not good enough.

Especially when put into juxtaposition with the coverage given Merck’s “Gardisil” HPV inoculations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which I have been calling the Centers for the Spread of Disease since about 1989, say that vaccinated will be protected against 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, still somehow director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, is quoted in the story thusly,
If we had an AIDS vaccine that was performing as well as this, it would be the talk of the town.
What’s the news you probably haven’t read?
Circumcision reduces a man’s risk (of becoming HIV-infected) by as much as 65%
Seems like the Bible has some good advice quite early on.

More at McHenry County Blog.

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Oh boy, the Chicago municipal elections are tomorrow...

As a blogger this is certainly my first city election and there were so many ways to keep track of it. I found grass roots blogs that really critique their respective aldermen. There were blogs run by newspapers such as Clout St by the Chicago Tribune and Clout City from the Chicago Reader that keep track of the city elections. There's even AlderTrack that keeps track of news in the various wards going into this election.

I really have a feeling that the election coming up is going to be good. I think some Aldermen are going to lose their jobs and yeah Daley is certainly going to have one more term as Mayor. Still this has been a cycle where there are plenty of stories to be told. And it's not the media who are telling the stories. Nope it's mostly everyday people.

BTW, I'm sure everyone here who are following the Chicago elections have favored wards they are tracking. The wards I'm watching the most in no exact order of importance are the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 9th, 15th, 16th, 20th, 25th, 42nd, 45th, 46th, 49th, & 50th wards. Some of these wards are probably of no surprise to you.

The 20th contains an alderman who is tainted by bribery. The 15th ward is an open seat so there's some excitement there. The 42nd because of Natarus and his young opponent. The 50th has been reported here, that should be interesting. Oh yeah the 49th looking at the blogs from there nobody likes Joe Moore, but we'll see if this means that Ald. Moore will lose his seat. The 7th well it's just a barometer (my 2 cents) of whether Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be a force in the future. His wife Sandi Jackson is taking on the daughter and successor of the former 7th ward Alderman and current Cook County Commissioner Bill Beavers, Darcel Beavers.

Oh yeah why the 6th ward? Well I've noted on my blog how Ald. Fredrenna Lyle is one of my favorites on the city council. Unfortunately it seems, she is projected to face a runoff if not lose outright. One of her opponents, Karin Norington Reaves, has been endorsed by not only the Chicago Sun-Times also the Chicago Tribune. I could ask if an endorsement by any major newspaper will mean anything in some of these wards.

Finally, what are the issues in some of these campaigns. I've seen development a lot (either too much or lack of it) people complaining about the building of condos, a lack of affordable housing, a lack of buidling period (as is the case in the 3rd and 20th wards), and the lack of economic development. There's also issues of crime, this has been one issue in the 6th ward for instance. I'm sure there are other issues I am missing.

So I guess I'm going to open up the floor. What's going on in your neck of the woods? And be sure to vote tomorrow.

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CONTRIBUTIONS TO MAYOR DALEY’S CAMPAIGN COMING AT A FAST CLIP

MORE THAN $50,000-A-DAY COMING TO MAYOR’S CAMPAIGN

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



Since the start of 2007, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s campaign has collected more than $3 million in contributions – a rate of more than $54,000 per day or $2,250 each hour.

In the first 56 days of 2007, the Daley reelection committee has received just about the same amount of money as it collected in the prior two years, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and the Sunshine Project.

Daley, who is seeking a fifth term, received $3,058,556 in campaign contributions between Jan. 1 and Feb. 25. In the 2005-2006 election cycle, his campaign committee reported $3,226,870.

Information about contributions to Daley and other candidates in Tuesday’s election are now available at www.ilcampaign.org.

The Sunshine Database has been updated with more than 36,000 individual contributions to the election campaigns of every candidate for citywide office, all 50 aldermen and their opponents, and the wealthiest political ward committees. The database has complete records for the 2005-2006 cycle. Large contributions in 2007 are being tracked and noted on the web site, and the complete documentation will be added after the election.

New information added to the web site on the eve of the city election includes Daley’s top 20 individual contributors from Jan. 1 through Feb. 25, 2007; the top 20 union and corporate contributions to the Daley campaign in the same time period; and top 20 contributors to aldermanic campaigns in 2007.

Judd Malkin, Chairman of JMB Realty, so far is the top 2007 individual contributor to any candidate. He has contributed $200,000 to the Daley campaign.

The political action committee controlled by the Illinois branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is by far the biggest single contributor to any of the campaigns. Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 25, the SEIU Illinois Council PAC Fund contributed $860,000 to aldermanic campaigns. SEIU represents more than 165,000 Illinois workers in government, health care and building services. SEIU gave nearly $1.2 million to Illinois candidates in 2005-2006, the largest of all contributors in the 2006 campaigns.

Downloadable files of top donors to the Daley campaign and fundraising totals for aldermanic and citywide races as of 9 am the day before the election are available on ICPR's blog, The Race is On.

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Dead end issue for GOP

The stars are aligning for Illinois tax dollars to support embryonic stem cell research. The bill (SB1336), sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston,) calls for $25 million to be dolled out and includes a provision banning human cloning. Last week the Senate, which had killed similar measures in the past, approved the bill with a comfortable 35-24 vote.

The House now takes the reigns and will likely send it to the Governor who will almost assuredly sign the legislation. Just last year Blagojevich skirted state restrictions by using his executive power to create the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute, which awarded $15 million in a variety of stem cell research grants.

All of this keeps the state in line with the current nationwide trend, starting with the always prophetic California:

California's stem cell agency on Friday doled out nearly $45 million in research grants to about 20 state universities and nonprofit research laboratories, far exceeding the federal government's spending on the controversial work….

California voters in 2004 passed Proposition 71 to create the institute and give it authority to borrow and spend $3 billion for the research….

Next month, another round of 25 grants worth about $80 million will go to established stem cell scientists.

Four other states have also skirted federal restrictions with stem cell research funding schemes of their own: Connecticut has a 10-year, $100 million initiative; Illinois spent $10 million last year; Maryland has approved a $15 million budget; and New Jersey has spent about $25 million in two years.


Our northwestern neighbor also tagged along last week:

A controversial bill easing restrictions on the research of embryonic stem cells obtained through cloning is headed to Gov. Chet Culver's desk after being approved in the Iowa House Thursday night….


Culver, a Democrat, argues Iowa's current law leaves the state at a competitive disadvantage, while Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri moved ahead with research facilities. Culver has called for lawmakers to approve $12.5 million to create Iowa's Center for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Iowa.


This makes me wonder how some in the Illinois GOP, already in sinking circumstances, can afford to politically stonewall on the issue. Sen. Chris Lauzen epitomizes the rhetoric of those in opposition:

"Obviously we all want cures to diseases. The question is, what are willing to sacrifice to get them?" said Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora. "The unique identity of an individual human being disappears for eternity."

But his Republican colleague, Sen. Kirk Dillard who voted in favor of the legislation offers the pragmatic logic that conservatives can use as an out:

"They go into the public sewer system. I really believe my maker would want me to use these embryos to sustain and improve human life," he said.



As Dillard makes clear, in almost all cases the “individual human being” will be “lost for all eternity” with or without this legislation. A "No" vote will not change that. Most reasonable Illinois voters can make this distinction, leading to the very strong public opinion supporting the research.

Republican legislators in select areas may spark some local displeasure among the most faithful by supporting of this type of bill, but it certainly wouldn’t be the end all. Even then, I'd imagine that the political damage could be partially neutralized by appealing to the sympathetic stories of human suffering. Michael J. Fox can be persuasive.

But more important than individual legislators, further opposition to stem cell research politically damages the State Republican Party. No matter how it is spun, the party loses by staying the course. Nevermind the distinction between embyonic and adult stem cells. The public won't process the nuance, and the political damage will still be done.

No one knows how to right the sinking GOP ship in the state….

But it is clear what wont:

Drifting further to the ideological right on a social issue that runs counter the vast majority of Illinoisans, is against the national tide, and has a pragmatic “out” to appease most moderate conservatives.

The state GOP can't afford to stay on the wrong side of this one.

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Just when you thought the 46th ward couldn't get any stranger.

I've said it before: I don't have a dog in the 46th Ward fight. My girlfriend lives up there, so I'm in that area quite a bit. I am minus an opinion on the whole thing.

Now, that doesn't mean I can't watch it just for the purposes of watching it. I've always wanted to see how Netroots would function in Chicago on a localized race in a diverse ward. We're a town where things like that can work, after all, what we call 'The Machine' was effecitvely one of the more powerfull grassroots movements of all time. I've observed What the Helen, I've done some nice back and forth with them, and I participated in my own form of combat journalism, braving Broadway after dark, dodging the pools of vomit and the homeless. I am a true people's hero.

I kid.

Anyway, I was pretty sure that the 46th Ward race couldn't get any more odd. You've got a former anti-Daley 'independent' alderman (turned Daley toe liner) facing off against an openly gay social worker. There are rumors that Shiller's outfit pays homeless folks to do ward work for them - but even if those rumors aren't true - you've got the fact that she or her designees actively seek out the homeless to get them registered to vote. The homeless don't mind - a voter registration card is one step closer to getting a real ID.

Cappleman, who has been widly criticized for his debate skills, likened to being a 'republican' (whatever that means), and has generally failed to generate the kind of visible steam that I would expect to be easy given the sheer visibility of Uptown's problems.
It's been strange. But now it's just bizarre.

Jesus People USA (or JPUSA, pronounced 'Japoosa') is a 'church' which makes it's headquarters on Wilson Ave. I guess it's not a headquarters, so much as it's a commune where the more devout members make their home. It also provides a handfull of social services and about 2 floors of income based housing for the elderly.

For the good that they may do, they're still an oddball cloistered religious organization - and have the long tail of cult allegations to prove it. They were the subject of a 2001 Trib investigative report alledging psychological abuse and shifty financial dealings.

One of the group's more vocal members, a cat named Jon Trott, keeps a couple of blogs where he muses the usual defense of the indefensable that you would expect from this breed:


I will tell you here and now that doing so (calling JPUSA a cult) is essentially the same as calling a black person "n****."


What makes it weird is that he's apparently Shilling for Shiller.

Strange. Very strange. So we've got a left wing, anti-gay, communal living, Christian fundamentalist organization who's name couldn't be any more comical if it were "Hippys For Jesus", out on a limb making hay in a hot political race involving 2 left leaners trying to make their mark on what could only be described as ward with some mismanagement issues.

Maybe I'm becomming a little too cynical, but just what is the deal here? What interest could this kooky group have in picking Shiller? Heck, what interest could this group have in being involved in the political ongoings to begin with?

I mean sure, everybody has a voice. Everybody has a vote. But when somebody who's functioning as a 'spokesperson' for such a strange fusion of extreme Christianist thinking and at least 'cult like' behavior, is out there directly nodding a candidate, somebody has to ask the question.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Madigan's Plan to Stick It To Suburbanites

I don’t know why it took so long to figure out that House Speaker Mike Madigan has plans for suburban tollway motorists to finance his version of the Crosstown Expressway.

The scheme struck me Sunday night when I was reading Chicago Tribune transportation reporter John Hilkevitch’s article entitled,

New Crosstown project has key difference—tolls
Back in the 1970’s Glencoe Democratic Party State Representative Harold Katz passed a bill, which I was pleased to support, requiring that any new tollway pay its own way.

This law, of course, was repealed by DuPage County legislators when they wanted to build I-355.

So, toll tax payers on the Tri-State, the Northwest and the East-West Tollway have been forced to subsidize the old 355, as well as its extension into Will County.

Who cares that Northwest Tollway, Tri-State and DuPage portion users of the East-West motorists have paid for their road more than once?

Madigan obviously plans to use this Pate Philip technique to build the Crosstown.

Why not?

It’s free money, isn’t it?

And suburbanites won’t raise a stink.

There too busy earning money to continue paying tolls that should have been abolished decades ago.

Always more on McHenry County Blog.

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Poop!

I generally don't have much love for muckrakers in my fair city. There's at least one I can get into, simply because Official Dan L Girlfriend (TM) lives in the horrible horrible ward, but for the most part letter-writers and committee-formers annoy me usually because they're yapping about nonsence.

Usually, I hear something like this:


WELL YESTERDAY I TOOK THE TRAIN AND THE TRAIN RAN SLOW. THE TRAIN WAS LIKE 10 MINUTES LATE AND LIKE I WASN'T ABLE TO GET TO NY UNTIL THERE WAS ONLY 30 MINUTES LEFT IN THEIR HALF PRICE MARTINI HOUR. DARN YOU CORRUPT DALEY. I'M CALLING THE ALDERMAN!!


But for the shock value, Peter Zelchenko may have a point

I think we should send Patrick McDonough over to the 43rd to investigate this. In addition to being a water department hero, certified plumber, ace corruption investigator, and having an engineering background - his expertise in these matters are legendary.


Sometimes I really, really can't help myself.

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Clock Ticking on 'Buck' Somerville's 2nd Stab at Keys to the 19th Ward





An Hispanic activist, Len Torres, from the City's 12th Ward wrote this comment on a previous ILLINOIZE ( posted by DanL) blog:

"I am voting for Mayor Daley. However, there is a machine in our neighborhoods it is not indigenous, it is not good, it is not part of a positive 19th ward machine like Hickey has and I wish we could have."

To hear Somerville talk you'd think this was not a nice neighborhood. Thanks Len! It's nice to hear that good folks beyond the 19th ward appreciate neighbors who care for one another. This is a great community of hard-working neighbors. John Somerville wants to Buck that trend. Make this more Hyde Park-like, where folks go to class, work downtown and lock themselves in their apartments.

Anguished mother -'You see Timmy and Clare Mr. Kilroy? They were playing in front of your apartment? -

Josh Kilroy ( Somerville Campaign Manager, Hyde Park resident and Obama basher) -'Hey, lady, they're not my Kids! I have a Ben The Commie column to read in the Chicago Reader; now, mind your kids and leave me alone!' Paradise.

Hmm. Seanbone Star has morphed in the last day's of John 'Buck' Somerville's second stab at control of the 19th Ward Aldermanic Chair in the City Council.

John Somerville, the friend of real estate barons north of the 'picket-wire' has had Duttonhead Lowry morph his appeal to the folks in the neighborhood. No longer the earnest young lawyer, Rance Stoddard Somerville. The guy whose sole claim to office is his willingness to drag movie projectors all over the neighborhood and grab credit for work already done by Beverly Area Planning Association ( BAPA), The Mount Greenwood, Park Foundation, The Maeve McNicholas Foundation, Alderman Ginger Rugai, State Rep. Kevin Joyce and State Sen. Ed Maloney is now Buck Somerville. The only thing that Dishonest John, the Bucker of Everything, has not taken credit for is the Information Super-Highway owned by Al Gore. He did however mention that he was 'The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo' as well as the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

With the Clock ticking and hours fading as fast as a Somerville pledge of eternal loyalty - like the one he made to Tom Dart - Buck Somerville will Buck the old guard - Ancien Regime -Rance didn't do it for the folks, Buck Daley, Buck the Neighbors! Buck the Insiders! Buck the Voters who will cast their votes for Ginger Rugai!

Ride 'em, Buck! All the way to a third place finish!

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Stem Cell Bill Too Controversial

Two instances in one week where citizen pressure made a difference in public policy formation! First the McHenry County Republican Cat Tax and now a stem-cell research vote.

Wow!

(Sorry for the college verbiage, but I have taught state and local government at Rockford and Harper Colleges in years past and sometimes lapse into "classroom speak.")

If you even wonder whether McHenry County’s Republican State Senator Pam Althoff will listen to her constituents, take a look at what is under the Senator’s picture on the front page of today’s Northwest Herald.

It says, “Program is too controversial.”

The fight against the bill, which would legitimize the illegitimate Executive Order of Governor Rod Blagojevich to spend $10 million on stem cell research, including on human embryos, was hotly opposed by pro-life groups.

McHenry County’s Right-to-Life lady, Irene Napier, was sending out emails encouraging people to contact Senator Althoff.

Apparently enough did to convince Senator Althoff not to offend a large proportion of her Republican primary voters.

Althoff is up for re-election next year.

Althoff told the NW Herald reporter Brenda Schory that she opposed the bill for two reasons:

* it would cost money the state did not have and
* the state should not be spending money on a program that so many of her constituents oppose

Althoff told the NW Herald that she supported

Senate Bill 19 sponsored by State Sen. William Haine (conservative Democrat from the Metro East area), which would establish a statewide network of umbilical cord banks and supports umbilical cord stem-cell research.

“To date, there are absolutely no successful studies that have shown embryonic stem-cell research will cure or help any of the diseases frequently referenced—like juvenile diabetes or epilepsy,” Althoff said.
SB 4, the bill Althoff voted against, passed the senate 35-23, with 30 needed for passage.

There are more stories on McHenry County Blog this weekend, as usual.

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Where's the Machine?

There's something else I wanted to say about Ben Joravasky's Reader piece, "Daley is a Wife Beater, and I his spouse". Having already had my fill of chuckles over the whole thing - making a list of other such folks you could compare him to for similar over the topness to show just how whacked out of their mind this crowd is. I think I settled on Nero and Mao being the funniest. That's not the only chuckles to be had as you're reading through the obligatory litany punching bag issues, the bold shocking revelation that Chicago likes winners, followed by an ideological teary eyed plea for mercy, "A vote for the opposition—whoever the opposition is—is a vote of defiance against a system that needs to be changed". Of course as we all know, even if Red Line Chicago turns out in force to attempt to even make a statement, the election will still be a complete and thorough butt kicking.


I’ve had people tell me that as much as they despise the mayor’s policies they’re afraid to vote against him because chaos will ensue if he loses. I remember machine aldermen using that line as far back as 1979, when Jane Byrne was running against Mayor Michael Bilandic. To hear them talk, you’d have thought the city would fall apart—the Sears Tower would jump in the lake, as Mike Royko satirically put it four years later, when it was Harold Washington running against the machine and chaos again was predicted. Well, guess what: under Byrne and Washington, and Eugene Sawyer for that matter, city workers picked up the garbage, cleared the snow, salted the streets. The trains and buses ran—a hell of a lot better than they run today.


The implied premise is that The Machine is still alive in Chicago. That, Cermak's largely organic and somewhat popularist method of government from the 1930's still has the gears running today as it did during King Richard I's rule. That's a notion that I've never been certain of.

I believe that there are still some good ol' fashioned Machine based roots somewhere in the Daley II apparatus. I believe that there still is a good ol' boy network of political favoritism. I'm sure that there are still plenty of old mechanizations that remain in city government. I do not believe that when you sum up whatever is left of The Machine you still have any system that resembles Cermak's Machine which if you're tracing lineage, to say that Daley I was the result of the Cermak Machine, and Daley II is the result of Daley I you would have to find some similarities.

You may have something else. Maybe over the last 50 years the Machine has evolved. Or maybe the myth of the Machine perpetuates while the reality of it has been in a true decline since 83. Perhaps the reason why the Red Line Liberals have had so much difficulty defeating the Machine is because it no longer exists. It's possible that what's left of the Machine's architecture is woven so deeply into city government that it is not something that can be realized and rooted out by any increase in Aldermanic spine or reform Mayors.

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Daily Southtown: Hospital police disbanded

After years of vacillating about it, the Cook County Board decided to disband the Stroger Hospital police force after a quick debate.

As debate on the county budget wound down early Friday, Commissioner Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago), a long-time critic of the agency, pushed through a budget amendment disbanding the force by September and replacing it with a contracted security firm.

The measure was approved on a 9-to-7 vote. Commissioner Pete Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) abstained.
Cook County will contract it out instead. That'll be a contract to watch.

update: I don't follow the South Burbs that much (Kane County has its own idiot recordings) but you don't want to miss their story today 'Humbugging and scheming' ,
The chairman of Markham's Police and Fire Commission offers to help a female officer cheat a police test, discusses a plot to fire her, suggests her career is being held back because she won't sleep with the mayor, and boasts that corrupt "humbugging and scheming" is his "hobby" in taped conversations.
Material here worthy of a tragic-comedy in the right writers hands.

Also, Check Daley has to talk in police torture case which is way too late for Bill Dock Walls to do much with against the mayor in the election.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Let's All Talk

Just found out that the House is going to meet as a Committee of the Whole next Tuesday at 1p.m., a day earlier than session was set for next week. The purpose of the committee hearing is to discuss the electric rate issue that has set people into somewhat of a frenzy, especially downstate.

While I fully sympathize with my downstate colleagues about the need to address the concerns of their constituents, it sure would be nice if we were able to get the same attention paid to the property tax issue that is ravaging many of the families in Cook County.

On a tangentially related note, Tuesday's hearing is going to pose a logistic issue for many House members. Next Tuesday is the municipal election, and there are a number of people that want/need to tend to local battles back home.

To read or post comments, visit Open House

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Inappropriate Letter to the Editor

I read a comment that Cary Grade School member Chris Jenner made about his letter to the editor of the Northwest Herald being edited and was so amused, I thought I would share it with you.

Use the link above to read what the NW Herald published. Here is the Jenner's original letter:

To the Editor:

State Rep. Mary Flowers (C-31st) recently introduced HB382, which would make it state law that school children wash their hands before eating. I'm not anti-hygiene, but where does government nannying stop?

In 2005, Illinois passed a law (PA 093-0946) requiring K/2nd/6th graders to have dental exams. It was sponsored by State Rep. David Miller (C-29th), who by coincidence is a dentist and president of the Illinois State Dental Society's Political Action Committee.

Gee, I wonder if Rep. Flowers owns stock in an antiseptic soap supplier.

It's clear you parents are incapable of electing ethical officials who understand the concept of limited government. Are you also completely incapable of raising your children without government telling you what to do every step of the way?

Why stop with washing hands? I call on our legislators to introduce the Clean Posterior Act of 2007, requiring all Illinoisans to wipe in a manner consistent with national standards.
The NW Herald didn't like the last paragraph.

It's so funny it belongs in an editorial cartoon.

I don't know Representative Miller, but I do know Mary Flowers and I would be astounded if she had any conflict of interest.

I agree that it looks pretty bad to have a dentist sponsoring a bill to get his profession more business.

And I think Jenner's parting shot about legislators who aspire to the role of nanny is hilarious.

Someone who would introduce such a bill would obviously be an ally of the McHenry County Republican Cat Tax Collectors, where McHenry County Blog even gets a front page hat tip for leading the fight agaist the Cat Tax.

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$16M for Contested Chicago Council Races

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

Candidates for contested seats on the Chicago City Council have raised at least $16 million for their 2007 election campaigns, and only a handful of challengers have been able to match the fundraising success of the incumbent aldermen, according to an analysis by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR).

Fundraising totals vary wildly from one candidate to another. One candidate reports a six-figure total, but others have raised just a few thousand dollars. Nine candidates are unopposed and are not included in these figures.

14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke once again is the fundraising king of the City Council. Burke, a long time council veteran, reported more than $5.8 million in contributions. His opponent, his first in years, has yet to form a fundraising committee. By comparison all 12 candidates running for an open seat in the 15th Ward have a combined total of less than $250,000.

Citywide candidates report $8 million, though incumbent Mayor Richard M Daley holds the lion’s share of those funds: $7.1 million, while all other citywide candidates, for all three citywide offices, combine for $850K.

Among the more interesting Aldermanic campaigns:

* In the 2nd Ward, three candidates report raising over $100K, with a fourth close behind. From a fundraising perspective, this race appears to have the most well-funded candidates.

* In the 7th Ward, appointed Ald. Darcel Beavers and opponent Sandi Jackson have both raised more than $100K;Jackson reports the most, at $227K, while Beavers shows $136K. No other candidate reported over $10K in funds for next Tuesday’s election.

* In the 12th Ward, incumbent Ald. George Cardenas reports $149K, giving him a slight financial lead over challenger Carina Sanchez, at $129K. Only one of the other four candidates, Jesus Salazar, reports raising over $10K; Salazar stands at $12K.

* In the open 15th Ward, Toni Foulkes reports $196K; all 11 other candidates combine for about $50K.

* In the 19th Ward, incumbent Ald. Ginger Rugai shows $142K, more than both challengers combined. Repeat challenger John Summerville shows $58K, while newcomer Tim Sheehan shows $26K

* In the 20th Ward, indicted incumbent Arenda Troutman shows just $33K for Tuesday’s election. She still holds a strong fundraising lead over both challengers, one of whom, Willie Cochran, shows $17K and the other of whom, Edward Chaney, has failed to file timely campaign disclosure reports.

* In the 21st Ward, Leroy Jones reports $206K in receipts, $200K in recent money. He's facing incumbent Howard Brookins, who reports $50K in receipts; two other challengers, Sylvia Jones and Dwayne Belle, have yet to form fundraising committees.

* In the 25th Ward, Ald. Danny Solis shows $290K, most of which was raised since January 1. Challenger Juan Soliz shows $70K, nearly all of which came in since January 1, while Martha Padilla reports $53K. Three other candidates combine for another $70K.

* In the 42nd Ward, challenger Brendan Reilly reports$335K for the race; more than most incumbents. The incumbent he is facing, though, Ald. Burton Natarus, reports more than twice as much, at $684K.

* In the 43rd Ward, incumbent Vi Daley holds a strong fundraising edge, at $315K, but two opponents, Michelle Smith and Tim Egan, have raised over $100K. Of the other two candidates, one, Rachel Goodstein, shows $1K, while Peter Zelchenko hasn’t filed timely disclosure reports.

* In the 50th Ward, Ald. Bernie Stone and challenger Naisy Dolar both show $130K available, while Greg Brewer shows $91K. A fourth candidate, Salman Aftab, reports $15K.

Figures for all races are available from ICPR's blog. Totals are based on disclosure reports filed with the State Board of Elections, including cash on hand on December 31, 2006 and reported funds raised since then as of 9AM on Friday, February 23.

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Illinois Same Sex Marriage Bill: "Because it is the right thing to do"

And I think it's awesome news. Greg Harris, to my knowledge the only openly gay state legislator, is responsible for HB1615, "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act", brought out yesterday. You can read the synopsis at the link above. It's fairly basic it would seem. Some of the highlights:



Makes legislative findings: same-sex couples are denied equal access to civil marriage benefits; the current marriage law is discriminatory and harms same-sex couples; and there is no compelling interest or rational basis to deny same-sex couples those benefits. Provides that the Act does not interfere with any religious beliefs about marriage..

* - Bold - We found that out yesterday, didn't we?

Additional nuts and bolts:

Provides that benefits apply equally to same-sex marriages in these areas: causes of actions related to spousal status, for wrongful death, emotional distress, and loss of consortium; adoption; family leave; group insurance for State and municipal employees; accident and health insurance protections tied to former spouses and dependents; and taxes and tax deductions based on marital status.

rovides that nothing in the Act should be construed to interfere or regulate any religious practice concerning marriage and no religion is required to solemnize a marriage to which it objects.

Provides that a marriage is between 2 persons (rather than, a man and a woman) licensed, solemnized, and registered under the Act. Effective immediately.


Obviously, I have significant doubts about whether this bill will pass but it's a good, fair, honest start. Read more general spots at Chicago Pride and 247Gay. For other bloggers talking, check Good As You. To see counterfeit "Christians" question the bill with things obviously addressed in the bill check AFT, NOW COMPLETE WITH FINANCIAL GROVELING!!!

This comes as the exclamation point to a Day of Defeat for people of the glorious Republic of Wingnutistan who saw their beloved Protect Marriage Illinois organization (Spin off from Illinois Family Institute, Concerned Women For America, "Porno" Peter Labarbera's Americans For Truth and any other organization that those 8 people are presidents or policy directors in) got themselves sent packing by the Supreme Court
on their challenge related to their previous attempt to get a anti-SSM referendum after they were shown to have doctored the necessary petition with "tens of thousands" of questionable signatures.


Since commentary on such things tends to get heated, out of respect to all comments may be made at my joint where I don't moderate anything.

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Strogers Budget Victory and Cook County's GOP triangulators par excellence

Stories today in the Trib, and Sun Times. Trib writes,

But late Thursday, when it become obvious that Stroger had the votes he needed, the Claypool camp called their proposal for a vote doomed to defeat. That gave each commissioner the chance to explain their position on the budget in front of a standing-room-only crowd that included sheriff's deputies, nurses and other county workers.

Claypool and commissioners Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago), Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) and Timothy Schneider (R-Bartlett) voted against Stroger's budget.
And the Sun Times tells us those who lended Stroger a hand here,
Though a formal vote by the County Board had not been cast by 12:30 a.m., it appeared Stroger had locked up 10 of the 17 votes necessary, including winning the support of Republicans Peter Silvestri, Gregg Goslin and Liz Gorman, along with surprise support from Mike Quigley.
Makes you wonder about the GOP in Cook County that they can't unite around fellow Republican Peraica allied with a Progressive Dem like Claypool. Silvestri, Goslin, and Gorman all candidates for the Carl Davidson triangulator par excellence award.

xp Bill Baar's West Side

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Big-box shy Chicago facing "food desert"

For the past year or so, Chicago Alderman Joe Moore has been leading the charge to keep big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target out of the city. The Chicago City Council passed a bill mandating "living wages" for big-box employees--but the bill was vetoed by Mayor Richard M/ Daley.

Organized labor has a hit-list of alderman it wants to see defeated--because they voted against the "living wage" bill--later this month the first round of Chicago municipal elections take place.

Here's some irony: Dominick's is closing more than dozen Chicago stores--Dominick's is a union operation. The doomed stores are shutting down because they aren't profitable.

From ABC 7 Chicago:

The planned closing of more than a dozen Chicago Dominick's grocery stores will create what one researcher calls a "food desert" in some neighborhoods.

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Gallagher Research found the move would leave 75 city blocks and more than 18,000 residents with little access to full-service grocery stores. The research also indicates closing grocery stores may have a negative health impact on women and children.

"You have to have access to healthy food to choose. Sometimes we tend to preach eat those five vegetables a day where in some neighborhoods you can't find five vegetables," said Mari Gallagher, urban research consultant.

The study calls on public officials to create better tax incentives so more grocery stores will open in underserved neighborhoods.

Wal-Mart and Target's largest stores sell groceries, so having more of these big-boxes in Chicago is a natural fit--unionized staff or not.

The big-boxes have acquired a reputation for driving out other retailers. But these closings can't be blamed on the big-boxes; there is just one Wal-Mart in Chicago, and only a few Target stores.

To vote in the Pajamas Media presidential straw poll or to comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.

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Sen Matt Murphy's Blog

He just started and his third post has 68 comments already.

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Confession: I am Not a Platform Republican

A friend told me that Ash Wednesday services were rather uncomfortable this year. The priest was dogmatic and on a tirade, demanding that everyone behave just like 50 years ago or don't bother at all. My friend was expecting the priest to tell them all, "If you're not a Platform Catholic, you can just get out." I started howling with laughter.

The term, Platform Republican, is the latest by which some conservatives identify themselves. The problem is that platforms don't create Republicans; Republicans create platforms. A platform is not a dicta telling Republicans what to think; it is a quadrennial effort by Republicans to tell the public in general terms what they think. (Of course, the same device is used by almost all parties, major and minor. For the purpose of this article I'm only concerned with Republican platforms).

When drafting a platform, usually not even all members of the drafting committee agree with every tenet of the final product. Are they all heretics? And if the platform they draft is, in any particular, different from the platform it replaced, aren't they heretics for not having given fealty to the previous platform? And which platform are we supposed to worship, the state or the national one? In areas in which the two platforms are not in conformity are we in schism?
When the old Illinois Republican platform approved of abortion, but merely opposed taxpayer funding of it, was I obliged to agree or get out? If the next platform reverts back to the same language I might not cease to be a Republican, but I sure won't cease to be pro-life. If the next platform adopts some moderate, or even leftist, clauses, will the people who style themselves 'Platform Republicans' suddenly become born-again moderates?

Of course these are absurd questions - but only because the term, Platform Republican, is based on an absurd premise. Each Republican will continue to think for himself and try to elevate some of that thinking into successive versions of the platform, which attempt to portray contemporaneous Republican thinking, not command it.

I AM a Platform Catholic, but am only a conservative Republican, which I shall remain whatever any current or future version of the platform has to say on the matter. So if you are not a Platform Republican, don't get too exorcised over it. Neither am I. And the punishment, much as some elements might prefer otherwise, is not excommunication.

Cross Posted at Illinois Review

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Why so quiet on Illiana?

I'm curious. The most recent incarnation of Crosstown has generated some some talk, there's a little discussion around about the improvements of 190 into O'hare but I haven't seen a lot of commentary coming from Illinois about the Illiana expressway. That wouldn't exactly cause me to raise an eye brow, if it weren't an absolute firestorm on the other side of the fence.

Maybe, it's because we folks from Illinois undoubtedly benefit from it, or maybe it's because we've got enough road stuff on our plate with 355 and the 53 North extension idea.

So, what's the take?

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Push to make every voter equal and relevant to picking the president in Illinois and Missouri

From today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a good article on the National Popular Vote -- a state-based initiative to cast states' electoral votes not for the winner of each statewide popular vote but instead for the winner of the national popular vote.


State Rep. Tom Holbrook, D-Belleville, who sponsored a popular-vote bill in Illinois last year, sees the issue as one of fairness.

"It's one man, one vote," Holbrook said. "You can muddy the water all you want. If you think every voter is equal, then you support this."

....

Illinois state [Sen.] Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, is among those who support a popular-vote plan.

"From my standpoint as a state legislator, regardless of party affiliation, it's a disservice to Illinois to never see the Democratic or Republican candidate come through our state, and we don't get the benefits of their advertisements," Dillard said.
The bills in Illinois are SB 78 and HB 858. SB 78 is sponsored by Senator Jacqueline Collins and has 9 co-sponsors while HB 858 is sponsored by Representative Bob Molaro and has 26 co-sponsors (as of this morning).

To my mind, the dumbest thing about the status quo is that about 1/4 of the nation's voters participate in a vigorous presidential campaign while the rest of us do not. Remember October of 2004? If you wanted to help elect John Kerry or George Bush, you had to road trip. From the Chicago area, thousands of people drove to Wisconsin. In other parts of Illinois, people poured into Missouri and Iowa. That is patently absurd.

As Representative Holbrook said, if we want Illinois voters to be equally relevant to picking the president, then we need a national popular vote. Those who oppose a national popular vote are essentially supporting the status quo -- and that means, Illinois is completely ignored.

There are a few interesting angles to this debate I'd like to mention.

Some have argued that if we held a national popular vote, the cities would overwhelm the rest of the nation, and candidates would simply campaign in New York, LA, Chicago and Houston and then take over. Well, let's do the math.

There are 300 million people in the United States today.

How many people live in the biggest cities?

First, take a guess.

Would you say something like 40%? 35%?

By the way some people talk about the city vote dominating elections (particularly state legislators in other states, not Illinois), I'd assume those people would make those guesses.

Well, here are the population numbers of the biggest cities:

New York 8.1 million
Los Angeles 3.8 million
Chicago 2.8 million
Houston 2.0 million
Philadelphia 1.5 million

That's a total of 18.2 million people.

About 6 percent.

Not a tsunami of voters to overwhelm the nation.

Even if you take the top 50 cities by population (stopping at Arlington, Texas with 362,000 people), combined they have 45.9 million people or only 15.2 percent of the total population.

Good to keep in mind.

The second interesting point is what the Founders would think about this.

Well, lots of the Founders wanted a national popular vote. In fact, at the convention in Philadelphia, proposals to implement a national popular vote were debated and narrowly lost (6-5 in one vote, because delegates voted by state). The main reason why delegates didn't create a national popular vote is because in 1787, having a national census, much less reporting the results of a national election, was administratively impossible.

The other factor was that the slave states didn't want any elections at all, since they relied on their slaves to count as 3/5 of a person for apportionment purposes, and they had far fewer voters (white male landowners) than the free states. The Electoral College, based on Congressional apportionment, gave the slave states a lot more clout than their population entitled them to.

So, many of the Founders, particularly James Madison (known as the Father of the Constitution), James Wilson, Rufus King and Governor Morris (who wrote the final draft of the Constitution), supported a national popular vote from the start and would love to know that there's an effort to finally implement their vision.

Further, none of the Founders ever debated the Electoral College as currently practiced: a non-deliberative body generated from elections that disenfranchise 2/3 or 3/4 of the nation's voters from meaningful participation. Remember, the Founders thought that the Electoral College would actually meet and consider who would make the best President. That never happened.

So, Illinois is leading a push to make every voter equal and finally implement what more than 70% of all Americans consistently say they want in polls: a national popular vote for our president.

Full disclosure: I lobby for the National Popular Vote campaign in Illinois.

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Dubious coalition killed a proud Chief

Robert Novak's latest column a must read.

The accusation that Illinois and other schools degrade Native Americans is absurd. These schools picked Indian symbols in admiration of their valor, ferociousness and indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. Native Americans were honored in naming states. Illinois is Algonquin for "tribe of superior men." Indiana means the "land of the Indians."

The NCAA originally demanded that the university not only dump the Chief but also drop the Fighting Illini nickname. Would Brand next demand that the states of Illinois and Indiana change their names (sticky for the NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis)? The NCAA backed away from its ban on the Fighting Illini.

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Tullimonstrum gregarium for U of I Mascot

Yesterday Rich asked for a new mascot for U of I. Let me offer Illinois's State Fossil: The Tully Monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium)

The state fossil of Illinois is an enigmatic, wormlike creature called the Tully Monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium). It was a predatory creature that inhabited the lowland swamps that covered the state during the Pennsylvanian Period, around 300 million years ago. This member of the world-famous Mazon Creek fauna still presents science with a mystery regarding its relationships to any modern creatures.
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The first Tully Monster was discovered by amateur collector Francis Tully in 1958. He took the strange creature to the Field Museum, where none of the staff could identify it. Curator Eugene Richardson gave it a proper scientific name in 1966, dubbing it Tullimonstrum gregarium, meaning "Tully's common monster."

Illinois State Geological Survey paleontologist Donald Mikulic lobbied the State Legislature for designation of the Tully Monster as the state fossil, and a bill to this effect was passed in 1989.
The pictures in the link aren't very good. You need to visit the Field Museum for a better idea. Lots of teeth so I think a good artist could come up with something fearsome.

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