Saturday, June 30, 2007

Peace Group Banned from Crystal Lake 4th of July Parade

It’s not the coverage given opposition to the Gay Games rowing regatta in Crystal Lake last spring, but one wire service has picked up on the Gala Committee’s rejection of the peace marchers in Sunday’s parade.

United Press International, a shell of its former self, ran a short story of the banning of the McHenry County Peace Group’s from the annual 4th of July Parade.

= = = = =
Picture of peace marchers from Crystal Lake resident Patrick Murfin's blog.On Thursday, Murfin reported that the group will show off its float, featuring the Statue of Liberty, in a yard at the southwest corner of Dole and Pierson (on the lake side of Route 14). The picture of Lady Liberty's head also comes from Murfin's story.

I can't tell if there are tears coming down her cheeks, but there might be.

More every weekend on McHenry County Blog.


SEIU fighting for immigrant rights?

So what happened in Spring 2007? From SEIU's Spring 2006 News,

Illinois SEIU members proudly joined the massive march in Chicago March 10 to stand up for all immigrant families and workers. Locals 1 and 73, and the Hospital Accountability Project all carried SEIU banners in the seemingly endless four-lane-wide procession of activists who streamed into the city from noon through rush hour on on a beautiful spring Friday. When any group of workers is exploited, it hurts all workers and communities.
Things sure went quiet this Spring, and President Bush and Sen. Kennedy could have used another massive march in the streets. But SEIU's quiet on the now dead immigration bill. They weren't in a fighting mood I guess.


Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Airport Earmark

via NewsMax re: Jackson's earmark for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission,

Jackson’s earmark would take $231,000 from U.S. taxpayers for "Minority and Small Business Development and Procurement Opportunities.”

The House’s Republican Study Committee (RSC) said in a statement: "It seems rather curious than an airport that doesn’t yet exist would need to develop opportunities for minorities and small businesses.”
For consultants maybe, always need consultants to make plans and stuff.


Friday, June 29, 2007

CTA Union's Sweet Deal

I am certain that CTA union officials must be smiling.

Even thought the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday,

”The bottom line for CTA unions is an agreement that would force bus drivers and motormen to lose money during the first year, break even in the second and finally start making money in the third year,"
employees are being called to contribute only 3% toward retiree health care and 6% toward their pensions (up from 3%).

Talking to a former NICOR union vice president last Saturday, I learned that Northern Illinois Gas union employees pay 40% of their health care costs.

Paying 40% is a real incentive not to misuse health care.

The coming Chicago Transit Authority’s 3% isn’t.

Notice the pension plan doesn’t look like the private sector’s norm—a 401(k). It’s still a defined benefit plan.

And the pension plan was what the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 wanted to save.

The Sun-Times reports its president, Darrell Jefferson, said,
"We’re living in a time now when pension plans are being crashed instead of being brought back to life. I think we’ve done a remarkable thing here.”
The CTA still wants McHenry and other collar county residents to double the amount of sales tax (from one-quarter of one percent to one-half of one percent) to the Regional Transportation Authority.

Maybe you won’t notice the difference at the cash register, but I’ll bet you the extra money does not get spent in McHenry County.

And will it pass?

Former Jacksonville State Representative Jim Reilly, now head of the RTA, “predicted that the sales tax hike could attract ‘extraordinary majorities in both houses’ needed to override a veto.”

More on the weekend on McHenry County Blog.


Surprise: Special sessions


To the surprise of all four legislative leaders, the governor has called a special session scheduled to begin July 5th. Though the leaders came to an earlier agreement that both chambers would take next week off to celebrate the July 4th holiday, the governor said it would be more patriotic to spend the holiday week working on a budget.

“Now it’s time for us to get the real business of the people done,” he said. “It’s time for us to finish a budget that isn’t just a one-month, stopgap emergency budget.”

He said legislators will meet every day, including weekends, until they can agree on a budget that addresses unfunded pension liability, education funding and health care. He went on to say that the emergency budget was necessary to keep the government running; however, “It’s just a Republican budget in disguise.”

He also called Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, “the conservative Republican ally” of House Speaker Michael Madigan, quoting comments that they wouldn’t support any new revenue.

Ending his meeting with the media, the governor did promise to sign the temporary budget that won the approval of both chambers. Needless to say, leaders were shocked a new schedule was dropped on them at the last minute, but they were willing to work.

Now that there’s a special session, legislators will receive a per diem to cover the cost of their stay in Springfield. “We call it a teacher a day,” Watson said. “$40,000 is about what you spend on a special session.”

The governor’s last words were the legislators could forfeit their per diem if they were worried about keeping costs down.


"Things are really in the toilet at work"

I thought Sen. Donne Trotter of Chicago was ad-libbing when the Senate was about to approve an emergency, one-month budget Friday morning, but he wasn’t. On the Senate floor, he read his actual horoscope published in today’s Chicago Sun-Times:

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): … “You can’t expect things to run smoothly right now. There are glitches, delays, confused communications and short tempers. Things are really in the toilet at work. Just take it all one minute at a time. That’s all you can ever do anyway.”

Everyone cracked up, not just because Trotter said “toilet” on the Senate floor, but because the horoscope couldn’t paint a more accurate picture of the “glitches, delays, confused communications and short tempers” that plague the four legislative leaders and the governor in their drawn out process of crafting an FY08 budget. They were supposed to have one in place by May 31.

Senate Republicans made sure to highlight leadership problems during floor debate. Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, said there’s only one difference between the “personality politics” in today’s one-party, Democratic rule and the one-party, Republican rule in 1994: “We had an engaged governor in Jim Edgar, who was here every day, who managed state government well.”

Dillard served as Edgar’s chief of staff. Dillard continued, “We don’t need to pass a resolution like the House did to remind the governor that he needs to be in Springfield working with our four legislative leaders, especially the two gentlemen from his own political party.” But Dillard voted in favor of the emergency budget to prevent state services and payrolls from shutting down because no budget was in place before the new fiscal year starts July 1.

Freshman Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, told his fellow senators that the budget-setting process has been an “utter embarrassment” and that they should take a stronger stance. “You should oppose this bill and force the leaders out of their entrenched corners, into the middle where common ground can be reached. Extending this one month does nothing more than provide cover for the people who need to check their egos at the door and get something done for the people of the state of Illinois on a long-term basis.”

He voted to reject the one-month budget with five other Republican senators: Bill Brady of Bloomington, Dan Cronin of Elmhurst, Randy Hultgren of Winfield, Carole Pankau of Roselle and Dave Syverson of Rockford.

The only Democrat to vote against the measure was Sen. Martin Sandoval of Chicago. He said he wouldn’t vote for a budget that fails to fund school construction and mass transportation but that continues to pay chauffeurs who drive department heads to meetings and pilots who fly the governor between Chicago and Springfield. “We have condoned his behavior,” Sandoval said. “You will have financed the friendly skies of Illinois that Gov. Rod Balgojevich flies day in and day out in the month of July.”

Then he spoke directly to Senate President Emil Jones Jr. “President Jones, I know you don’t like this budget. I see it in your eyes. I see it in the tone and the texture of your face. And you know what, President Jones, I don’t either … I cannot and will not support this or any other no-growth budget that perpetuates the ongoing government shutdowns of the status quo in my community and in other communities from Cairo to Chicago. No schools, no buses, no tax relief, no growth, no vote. Have a great Fourth of July and keep on fighting.”

Both chambers are scheduled to come back to Springfield Tuesday, July 10, starting another full month of overtime session. (The Senate’s schedule isn’t online, yet, but they’re in session every weekday starting July 10, including the last Saturday and Sunday in July).


Rep Kirk: no gas for Iran

Yesterday's International Herald Tribune,

In Washington on Thursday, leaders of a bipartisan House panel, led by Representative Mark Steven Kirk, Republican of Illinois, and Representative Robert Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, proposed legislation intended to punish any company that provides Iran with gasoline or helps it import gasoline after Dec. 31. Such a company could lose its access to American customers through sanctions.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Illinios Population Growth Lags

12,831,970 in the middle of 2006 versus 12,765,427 for the 2000 census.

An increase of 66,543 people.

A growth rate of just a tiny bit over one-half of one percent.

But the nation as a whole grew almost twice as fast--one percent (0.98%).

Still the fifth largest state.

Only one state larger—New York—shrunk in population.

The larger northern states, like Illinois, were pretty stagnant.

All neighboring states grew more than Illinois (+0.52%), except Wisconsin, which tied.

  • Indiana +0.77
  • Iowa +0.57
  • Missouri +0.75
  • Kentucky +0.79
So, what happened in Illinois to stunt growth?

And, what happened in McHenry County, one of the growth tips of Illinois?

Seventeen municipalities grew faster than the state average. Six grew less.

The McHenry County details are on McHenry County Blog.

You get to speculate on what happened to Illinois from 2000 to mid-2006 in the comments section below.


Moving right along, for now

It only took eight minutes for a Senate committee to discuss and approve the one-month budget that’s expected to prevent the state from shutting down in July. No one on the committee voted against the stopgap measure. The full Senate is expected to approve it Friday.

Although a 12-month budget is far from a done deal, Sen. Christine Radogno, a GOP budget negotiator, said she felt encouraged by the one-month budget because 1) it fully funds pension payments at the statutory level, 2) it fully funds state debt service, 3) it’s void of “pork barrel” funding for legislators’ pet projects and 4) it holds the line on spending. She says those four things prove “we can live within our means even if it’s one month at a time.”

Let’s hope it won’t take a month at a time to keep the state in business, but one ominous sign is that the Senate extended all deadlines for the passage of bills until December 31. Sheesh. That’s extremely cautious and totally unnecessary, right? Right?!


Daily Herald's Editorial on Dillard

I thought the Herald made some good points today,

Last year, voters got fed up with Republicans doing little in Congress other than running roughshod over Democrats, and turned them out of office. Democrats now in power have so far not done much better. We’re not seeing much progress in lawmaking. Nor have we seen Democrats do much reaching across the aisle.

Republicans naturally are irked at Dillard for the means he chose to praise a former fellow legislator. But Republicans — and Democrats — shouldn’t be missing the message in all this.
Now, I'm waiting for Rahm Emanuel or Mike Madigan to do some of those Obama spots.


Durbin's move to hush Rush

via The Hill,

“It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they’re in a better position to make a decision.”
Durbin thinks we voters making bad decisions because we're not hearing both sides.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

House approves a stopgap measure

The House has now passed two budgets, the first, of course, held hostage until electric rate relief is figured out with utilities. The one-month budget approved by the House this evening keeps the 2007 level of funding for most state operations, except pension and debt payments are a bit higher to meet the prescribed fiscal year 2008 levels.

“If we don’t take some action to authorize the comptroller to continue paying bills, starting Monday when that office opens up, the state will slowly begin to grind to a halt,” said Rep. Gary Hannig, the Litchfield Democrat and budget negotiator, during a House committee earlier Wednesday. “So the four leaders and the governor were able to come to an agreement, at least on this issue, on a method to keep state government open for an additional 31 days.”

House Republican Leader Tom Cross used the one-month budget as an opportunity to blame Democrats, who control both chambers and all state executive offices, for still being unable to draft an agreed budget a month after the constitutional deadline. “All 67 of you, on your side of the aisle, all 67 of you are responsible for the failure of not passing a budget in time for the people of the state of Illinois,” he said during House floor debate this evening. He added all state lawmakers have to accept the state has less than $800 million in new revenue to balance the budget, and they can’t get everything they want.

Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat Woodstock who frequently clashes with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said the temporary budget simply defers tough choices. He was one of three representatives, the others Republicans, to reject the emergency budget.

Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican, said the next pressure point is August, when the state has to make its first payments of fiscal year ’08 to elementary and secondary education systems. He said he and other Republicans would approve the one-month budget as a stopgap measure to keep the state operating through July, but he added, “Don’t count on it in August.”

If all goes as planned, the measure moves to the Senate right away so that chamber can abide by the rules and read it on three different days before approving it and sending it to the governor Friday, the last business day of fiscal year ’07.


State rep. reenlists in the Reserves

A lasting sense of duty moved State Rep. Jim Watson, a Jacksonville Republican, to reenlist in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.

He says he increasingly felt the need to do more as his former civil service unit based in Camp Pendleton, Calif., was called to its third tour of duty in the Middle East. “I don’t think we can sit back and let the same guys carry the water over and over and over,” he says.

He’s committed to one year. Starting in July, he’ll attend drill one weekend a month at Camp Pendleton. He served as a U.S. Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves from 1985 to 1991, including one year in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. If his unit were mobilized back to the Middle East, he says he would be in a combat environment teaching local officials how to run their government, setting up the hospitals or trying to rebuild the infrastructure for an education system.

In the rare event that an Illinois lawmaker would go to war while serving the state, Watson says his constituent services would continue with the help of his fellow lawmakers, Sen. Deanna Demuzio, a Carlinville Democrat, and Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat.

He says his inner belief in the importance of the overseas effort leads him to rejoin the other service men and women making sacrifices and offering their skills in a time of need. “If we don’t clean this thing up, we’re going to leave just one more mess for future generations, for my kids, to deal with,” he says.

He’s been serving as state legislator since 2001.


Remembering Terry Parke

Of all of the criticisms of State Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg) launched in recent days, the most ludicrous is that Froehlich is somehow responsible for longtime conservative gadfly Terry Parke's loss to Hoffman Estates Trustee Fred Crespo.

Let's look at the facts:

1. Terry Parke's voting record was his own worst enemy. Parke's 100% Pro-Gun, 100% Anti-Choice, 100% pro-insurance industry voting record was out of touch with suburban voters. He was hammered for it by the Crespo/Madigan campaign operation, and its the reason the Chicago Tribune handed Crespo the endorsement.

2. The district, it is a changin'. Parke walked the conservative line when it came to immigrant issues, enabling Crespo, a Latino, to mobilize the district's rapidly growing Latino population -- and other immigrants. According to the 2000 Census, Hanover Park is 27% Latino, 25% of the households in Schaumburg speak a language other than English at home, and in Hoffman Estates 30% of households are non-English speakers.

3. Parke spent money like Paris Hilton. Parke outspent Crespo $380K to $130K, but a closer look at Parke's filings with the State Board of Elections raises serious questions about Parke's resource management abilities. Parke spent $133,884 on a single Elmhurst consultant in five months, over $8,000 on newspaper ads (always a waste of money), over $3,500 on t-shirts, emery boards and other trinkets, nearly $2,500 in donations to local business groups, and over $3,300 on pizza and other food (one pizza party ran up a nearly $600 tab). As Burt Natarus proved, you can raise all the money you want, but if you spend it like Paris Hilton, it ain't gonna help your re-election efforts.

4. Cross bailed on Parke. The House Republican Organization made a total of $40,000 in contributions to Parke's Tier One race, mainly for staff, even though Terry Parke was telling Statehouse types back in the Spring that he would be Madigan's #1 target. By contrast, HRO spent over $200K on Aaron Schock's Tier One race in 2004 and a whopping $530,000 over six months trying to push John Caveletto over Kurt Granberg. Parke barely got more help than newcomer Sandy Cole did the same year, for a Tier Two race.

5. There's no evidence of voter suppression. The attack on Froehlich is that his organization laid down on Terry Parke and failed to get out the GOP vote. However, according to the State Board of Elections, voter turnout was up by 7% in 2006 and 1,300 more ballots were cast (compared to 2002, the previous non-presidential election). Interestingly, Jesse Macro, Parke's Democratic opponent in 2002, spent only $16,000 and got 7,140 votes without an ounce of help from Madigan. It's not difficult to understand why increasing spending on a race tenfold, sending in top notch staff and precinct captains would add 3100 votes four years later.

Finally, but most importantly, even if Froehlich is responsible for Parke's departure, its a little hypocritical for House Republicans to criticize him since not one of their caucus misses him. "Despised" is not too strong a word to describe how many of his former colleagues felt about Parke, especially his suburban colleagues, and especially female lawmakers. They used words ranging from "creepy" to stuff that can't be reprinted to describe him. Just as telling, despite decades of carrying water for the insurance industry and other business groups, not one single statehouse lobbyist has offered Parke a job, despite his months of searching.


Why is Kirk Dillard getting criticized for helping Barack in a primary?

I don't get it.

Now, I'm certainly not qualified to advise the Republican Party on anything related to 'how to be a good Republican' but I really don't understand the blowback against Senator Dillard appearing in a Barack Obama television commercial for a primary election.

First, I think Senator Dillard has made it clear that he prefers a Republican candidate to Barack Obama in November.

Second, wouldn't we all benefit in Illinois if an Illinois resident were the President of the United States? Doesn't it make sense -- from the perspective of helping out the people of Illinois -- to prefer that the only Illinois candidate in either party primary get a nomination?

Third, if there's a Democratic candidate who has made a habit of reaching out to Republican colleagues and forging good, bipartisan solutions, wouldn't Republicans prefer that type of a Democratic President instead of one who governs like George W. Bush and essentially steamrolls the other side?

All of those good reasons for a former Republican colleague of one of the leading presidential candidates to appear in a primary campaign ad are apparently outweighed because, perhaps, in October or November (16 long months from now), if Barack is the Democratic nominee, then perhaps Senator Dillard's comments could be used to undercut the Republican nominee's chances, particularly if that Republican nominee doesn't have a history of forging bipartisan solutions.

Except, Senator Dillard's preferred nominee, Senator John McCain, does have such a history.

And to a certain extent, so do the other leading GOP candidates (Rommey who worked in an overwhelmingly Democratic state and Giuliani who worked in an overwhelmingly Democratic city).

If some New York City Democratic politician appeared in a Giuliani ad in Iowa or New Hampshire congratulating him for working well with the Democratic City Council (assuming that he did), who cares? Or if Senator Feingold appeared in an ad for McCain congratulating him for trying to lessen the clout of big business in political campaigns, so what? People deserve to get credit for their good work and if it means the politicians who work to reach consensus end up winning primary elections, that's a good thing.

I can understand why Republicans would be upset if Senator Dillard supported Obama's presidential campaign in the November general election. But to support the best candidate with a record of building consensus who is from Illinois and understands state legislatures in a primary election seems like smart politics rather than a partisan betrayal to me.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

GOP Loses Solid Conservationist

I sincerely hope that Paul Froehlich's switch from Republican to Democrat, announced today, has more to do with the political issues cited in news coverage than with his strong, pro-environment voting record.

I am sure Froehlich will continue to support environmental protection as a Democrat, just as he did as a Republican. That's because he casts his votes based on the facts and the will of his constituents, and his partisan affiliation doesn't affect either.

The American conservation and environmental movement has historically had support from Republican leaders at critical times, whether it was Teddy Roosevelt protecting many of the public lands we enjoy today, or Richard Nixon overseeing the enactment of our modern environmental laws and agencies.

Here in Illinois, Republican legislators are a critical part of the growing bloc that is increasingly making our state a leader in environmental protection. Representatives Winters, Coulson, Biggins, Mulligan, Krause, Bassi, Tryon, Fortner, Pihos, Lindner, Cole, and Pritchard, and Senators Cronin, Althoff, Radogno, Peterson, and Dillard are among those who have been supportive of smart energy solutions, cleaner air, cleaner water, and protecting natural areas for future generations. (My apologies to any I missed - this is a quick list off the top of my head just to give you an idea.)

These numbers have been growing in recent years (as they have in the Democratic caucuses). For those of us who work for clean air and water, and all of us who value it, let's hope that trend keeps moving in the right direction. It makes for good public policy, and good politics as voters increasingly choose pro-environment candidates from both parties.


Judge James Zagel Empowers Internet Reporters

Federal Judge James Zaqel has empowered internet reporters. Even non-reporters interested in the "Family Secrets" mob murder trial in Chicago can listen to the tapes and see the photographic exhibits.

You don't have to settle for what print and electronic reporters think is important.

You can gain access to the U.S. Attorney’s exhibits, including tape recordings, by clicking on this page on the U.S. Attorney's web site.

Judge James Zagel has allowed their dissemination, but only by the internet.

That's what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's spokesman Randall Samborn wrote earlier today:

"Please be advised that Judge Zagel has authorized the Government to release trial exhibits publicly only via the Internet on the U.S. Attorney’s Office website. We are endeavoring to establish a webpage containing the trial exhibits that have been admitted and published to the jury so far, but I do not expect it to be available until sometime this evening, hopefully, and probably not until after the 6 p.m. news cycle. I will send out another email notice when it is launched with a link to the page. It will contain the photos that were admitted yesterday, along with the audio/video tapes and transcripts that were presented today."
How's that for an innovation?

Samborn later advised,
“The exhibits are now available on the Internet via the link above. Please note that audio/video recordings are embedded in the pdf transcripts of each consensual conversation; that is, if you click on the pdf link corresponding to the date of a conversation, separate links to the audio/video recordings will appear beneath the transcript."
The top photo was labeled "group photo" by the prosecutors. Can anyone name the diners?

Below left is Joseph Lombardo with dark hair. A bit lower and to the right appears to be a booking photo of Anthony Spilotro. Frank Schweihs is seen below Lombardo. Below Spilotro is Anthony Daddino. Marshall Caifano is below Spilotro. Mike Glitta is bottom left. Louis Eboli is bottom right.

I haven't listened to the tape recordings yet, but you might find them interesting in their entirety after you read or hear snippets. The tape recordings are from 1987 and 1988.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. Can anyone identify the restaurant without reading its name in a newspaper?

There is less interesting news on McHenry County Blog.


One-month budget by Friday

Whatever needed to be worked out among the Republican and Democratic caucuses of each chamber appears to be worked out. At least, there’s enough of an agreement for the legislative leaders to publicly say that the House is expected to approve it Wednesday and the Senate to consider it Friday.

The summary from House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Minority Leader Tom Cross: It’s a maintenance budget that simply extends the fiscal year 2007 budget with some changes. But it has no new revenue and no “member initiatives,” or “pork barrel spending” that pays for special projects in legislators’ districts.

Next on the discussion table: new revenue to support a full, 12-month state budget. “We haven’t had a discussion on available revenue,” Cross said outside of the governor’s Capitol office Tuesday afternoon, “and we had no discussion about electricity.”

Electric rate freeze action is still possible in the next couple of days — Senate President Emil Jones Jr. said he’s just about fed up. “I resent all the stalling that’s been taking place as it relates to those negotiations,” he said after budget talks. “We may, even though I’m opposed to it, let them go ahead and have the freeze.”

He said he could call the measure as early as Wednesday once he talks to his members. He added that after several meetings to discuss rate relief, the people who advocated for extending a 10-year rate freeze that expired in January are suddenly starting to change their minds. “Now they’re saying exactly what I’ve been telling them all along: The freeze does not solve the problem,” Jones said. “But now they’re throwing different things into play, so therefore, maybe I’ll go ahead and let [Sen. Gary Forby] call the freeze. I’ll find out tomorrow.”

- The House is expected to vote on the one-month budget Wednesday, adjourn Friday and come back for more overtime session the second week of July.
- The Senate will get the budget and have to follow the rules to hear it three times before they can consider it for good on Friday.
- Senate President Emil Jones may let his chamber debate an electricity rate freeze, depending on how his caucus feels about it Wednesday morning.
- The next leaders’ meeting, whenever it’s scheduled, could likely talk about revenue ideas.

Rep. Froehlich changes from an R to a D
State Rep. Paul Froehlich of Schaumburg will join the Democrats Wednesday after considering himself a “lifelong Republican,” according to a press release. He served as Schaumburg Township Republican Committeeman since 1998, so he’s also resigning from that panel.

“I became a Republican because the party permitted a broad range of views and welcomed moderates with open arms,” he said in the release. “Over the last six years, that has changed. I, however, have not. The same beliefs I held last week, I hold today.” He said he thought he could best serve his constituents as a Democrat, and his constituents in the northwest suburbs of Chicago are leaning more Democratic these days.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross said he’s unhappy about Froehlich’s switch, but there’s nothing he can do about it. “This is a guy that decided that he wanted to do what was best for him, unfortunately at the expense, perhaps, of his constituents,” Cross said before entering the governor’s office for budget talks Tuesday. “I’m not going to comment on what he did or didn’t do. I think he did what was best for his own political future.”

After budget talks, Cross said he’s likely to target Froehlich in the fall election campaigns, “just like I will in all the races where I think that we have a chance, and clearly I think we have a chance there. He will be on a list with others [where] we think we can have success in the fall of ’08.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan said he did not recruit Froehlich, who supported another Schaumburg official, now state Rep. Fred Crespo. He won a seat on a local board with Republican support but ran as a Democrat to win a House district seat last fall.


History shows Peoria library expansion needs strict oversight

Kudos to Peoria blogger C.J. Summers for his post about the shenanigans at the Peoria Library Board. For those who didn't read the post, Monday's Word on the Street kudos-worthy-column in the Journal Star stated:

…At-large Councilman Gary Sandberg, the library’s new council liaison, discovered that the library board’s building committee voted May 15 to recommend that the full board hire PSA Dewberry to program what will go in the new and expanded facilities. That vote was a full two weeks before local architects were asked to submit their programming proposals. Further, they were only given a one-day turnaround.

The previous council liaison was John Morris, and Sandberg was appointed in his place when Morris retired. While I like John Morris personally (a more affable man never lived), he was way too much of a cheerleader and not enough of a fiscal hawk. Sandberg, however, wants every expenditure explained, and sometimes he drives city staff to fits. And that's exactly what the taxpayers need now, considering the amount of money being spent, as well as because of the severe problems that plague the last library expansion project ran by the man in charge of this one.

In April, voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of a non-binding resolution in favor of spending $35 million to expand the libraries. One week later, the Peoria City Council directed city staff -- at the city manager's request -- to develop a proposal to make that happen, which almost certainly means a plan to levy bonds that would be paid by an increase in property taxes.

Leading the charge for passage of the advisory referendum was Peoria Public Library Director Edward Szynaka, who was appointed to fill the post in August 2006. He had been fired from his previous job.

Voters might have liked to have known about Ed Szynaka's record from Indiana, where he was in charge (in the beginning, at least) of a similar expansion project for the Marion Count Library in Indianapolis. One of the first things he started work on here in Peoria was getting the money to expand the library facilities, considered by many -- especially the Peoria Journal Star -- to be inadequate.

When asked, Peoria library board members said that they were aware of Szynaka's history, but considered it just a case of politics being played the Republicans on the library board (Szynaka apparently is a Democrat). It seems to be a bit mroe complicated than that, and it doesn't explain other questions.

On it's Website, the Indianapolis Star still runs a multi-part series detailing how a modest renovation and parking project mushroomed into a $100 million project that's still being plagued with cost overruns and questionable spending, including more than $60,000 on Szynaka's credit card that were never explained. Most of that library's building snafus are generally being blamed on contractors and other personnel hired by the board while Szynaka was still director.

From the Website of the Indiana Attorney General's office:
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Nearly $60,000 has been returned to the Indianapolis/Marion County Public Library’s operating budget since a state audit revealed misappropriated public funds. A final check of $22,446.00 has been received to cover the audit charges against former Chief Executive Officer Ed Szynaka for questionable purchases and charges on the Library credit card.

“We have worked with all parties involved to recover the thousands of dollars inappropriately depleted from the public library’s operating budget without the added expenditure of litigation for taxpayers,” Attorney General Steve Carter said.

A State Board of Accounts (SBOA) audit revealed $21,372 in unallowable credit card charges by staff and officers paid for from the library’s operating budget. Former CEO Ed Szynaka was charged individually with making inappropriate charges of $23,776. The SBOA also charged the library for audit costs and referred the case to the attorney general’s office for collection.

“Collection efforts have included settlement negotiations and fund transfers to make the operating budget whole again,” Carter added. “The final check completes this civil matter.”

And I remain unconvinced the expansion is needed. And I'm concerned that there hasn't been subtle manipulation of circumstances to make the public believe conditions are worse than they really are.

I recently took a walk through the Main Branch at the corner of Monroe and Main streets. In addition to banks of computers, the biggest change I noticed is on the second floor. Apparently, they've decided to combine the circulation/reference desks from the Arts and Music section and the nearby Business, Science and Technology section. The new, single desk is located in the hallway that joins the two sections, which means unless there isn't a library workers actually in either section, there's no one keeping an eye on what patrons are doing. Someone could be tearing pages out of books, or wandering around unable to find what they are seeking.

One of the complaints that drove the expansion furor is that there's not enough room to put things. That's not true at the Lakeview Branch, where top and bottom shelves are empty, supposedly because they aren't handicapped accessible. The downtown library has no problems at all putting books on the top and bottom shelves, as there isn't a single room I saw the other day in which all shelves are not used. Even the children's section uses the top shelves.

If there are library employees here in Peoria who are upset at these changes, or with Szynaka's management style, they are well-advised to keep their opinions to themselves. Back in Indiana, he was able to talk his board into firing a long-time library employee because she was critical of the changes he made there (similar to the changes he wants to make here in Peoria). Minutes of that library board meeting are available in PDF format.

Cross posted to Peoria Pundits.


Froehlich's Party that runs everything?

via Eric Krol,

Republican state Rep. Paul Froehlich jumped ship Monday and left behind the Schaumburg GOP organization he controlled for nearly a decade. “I’m going to be part of the party that runs everything,” Froehlich said in explaining his switch to the Democratic Party. “I can’t do for my district in the minority what I would do in the majority.”
Far as I can tell the party-that-runs-everything sees no solutions for Illinois but an income tax hike, and none of its leaders have testicular virility enough to ask for it.

No brains, no virility; they just run everything and I guess that's reason to join them.

That won't last.

Update: A quote from Greg that deserves repeating.
The big story remains and will continue to remain the budget. If, actually IF Democrats can come to some sort of agreement on the budget that raises taxes they will be have deal with a House Republican Leader and his caucus that has repeatedly and firmly stated that they are against any tax increases. They will be necessary to pass a budget and the left and their minions in the press will be relentless in trying to force them to surrender. Given the current opposition to tax hikes, if Republicans go wobbly now it will surely mean a new depth to the party's woes. All eyes should be on that and the center-right should be excited and ready to support Cross' efforts to hold the line.
And a Republican Leader Cross by the way who chair's Giuliani's campaign in Illinois, so so much for the notion Theocrats have hijacked a GOP away from Froehlich.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Burning Bridges

So in the latest effort to attempt to work with Democratic House members, the Governor's office was behind an anonymous flier that was distributed to attendees at yesterday's Pride Parade.

Truth be told, I don't have the time or energy right now to post the thing, but it essentially calls out Sara Feigenholtz, Greg Harris and me by name for voting for the House budget and tells people to call us about it.

But it does so in such a clumsy way that it is almost laughable. Almost.

Did anybody in the administration really think that it was a good idea to try to assail the state's only openly gay legislator, Rep. Harris, for cutting housing resources for HIV/AIDS patients? Via a flyer at the pride parade?

But it has indeed resulted in phone calls. And let's just say that those people that have contacted Rep. Harris and myself were very unhappy. And not with us.

The frosting on the cake is that the Governor's office, directly and through another legislator, denied having any knowledge of the flier. Without wanting to put anybody in a bind, let me just say this. They're lying.

More than one group that receives state funding has indicated that they were contacted by the Administration and asked to assist in the effort. I'm believing them.

Memo to the Administration: If you're going to go after legislators (especially ones from your own party) on issues, have the decency to stand behind it. Otherwise you're just making a bad move worse.

And more to the point - in the big picture, what was this possibly going to accomplish? That we would file a motion to reconsider the GRT resolution? That being anonymously blindsided would encourage us to work more closely with the Administration?

Maybe they missed the class when you learn that this is a game of addition, not subtraction. Too bad.

And I know that my refrain is getting redundant, didn't have to be this way. This type of strategy furthers no policy initiatives, accomplishes no goals for the public good, weakens people's belief in our state government, and hurts our party. Time will not judge this period kindly.

To read or post comments, visit Open House


Check The Source Of Judicial Election Reform Proposals

Sometimes the calls by "reformers" for "reform" deserve a close inspection.

Why are these particular people or institutions calling for these particular "reforms?"
On their surface, some "reforms" seem to make a lot of sense but a deeper look can reveal some suspicious -- if not selfish -- motivation.

Such is the case with the report circulated last week and reported locally by Kevin McDermott in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (link below).

The report points out that Illinois holds the "record" for the most expensive judicial election campaign in U.S. history (2004 Supreme Court race) and blah blah blah.

We've heard the stories before ( ...we were, in fact, in the middle of some of them ...) and there is no denying on anyone's part that the Illinois Supreme Court race in 2004 was costly. And yes, the $9.3 million raised and spent by the two campaigns (or on behalf of the two candidates) raised some eyebrows.

But there are a few points that need to be made -- or repeated since they've been made time and time again -- to put it in perspective.

First, money was not the deciding factor in the 2004 race in the Fifth Judicial District of Illinois. About $4.7 million was spent on behalf of Republican candidate Lloyd Karmeier and about $4.6 million was spent on behalf of Democrat Gordon Maag. The difference was about $100,000 -- or about 1% of the total dollars.

Second, while the Maag money was clearly and indisputably from trial lawyers and organized labor, the Karmeier support came from Fifth District voters and residents, in addition to business and medical supporters.

Check it for yourself: the final campaign spending reports of both campaigns are available at the Illinois State Board of Elections and they show what was received in final six months of 2004.

The Karmeier report is 156 pages and shows more than $500,000 in individual contributions. For the most part, these contributions are from people -- voters in the Fifth District.

The Maag report is less than half the size -- 66 pages -- and shows about $172,000 in individual contributions, about one-third of what Karmeier received from actual voters in the district. The balance of his money came from trial lawyers, funneled through the state Democratic Party.
Maag clearly was the recipient of more "special interest" money. The dollars show it. Karmeier clearly was the recipient of more Fifth district voter money.
Here's a quick refresher course on the 2004 Supreme Court election:

The race in Illinois in 2004 was driven by several factors:

1. There had been patterns of abuse in the judicial system in Southern Illinois, particularly in Madison and St. Clair Counties, for years. Voters wanted a change.

2. Voters were paying much more attention to Supreme and Appellate Court races in Illinois, particularly after the Supreme Court overturned a major civil justice reform law in 1997. It was a Madison County case and the 2004 Supreme Court election was the first since that decision

3. There was a growing shortage of doctors and access to health care in Southern Illinois and many blamed the shortage on the high cost of medical malpractice insurance and the high number of malpractice lawsuits against good doctors and hospitals in Southern Illinois.

4. The candidates were starkly different. The Democrat (Gordon Maag) was a former personal injury trial lawyer from Madison County -- exactly the kind of judge voters wanted to be rid of (and they not only defeated him in the Supreme Court race, they removed him from the Appellate Court). The Republican was a moderate-to-conservative judge from Washington County with an impeccable record and a down-to-earth demeanor.

5. It was a no-brainer for most voters and the money in the race came from voters as well as businesses, doctors and others who wanted change, who wanted to start correcting the system.


How this all relates to the latest published report is this:

The report referred to above is from Justice at Stake -- an organization heavily funded by trial lawyers and trial lawyer interests.

About two years ago, the ICJL conducted a thorough and comprehensive study -- and produced several reports -- on the various influences in the discussion of campaign spending and judicial election reform.

Our reports: Watching the Watchdogs and Justice at Stake can be found here. These reports -- follow the links for detail and verification -- make it pretty clear who wants to control the reform of the judicial system in the U.S.

The trial lawyers and their allies, in Illinois and elsewhere, are disturbed that other interests, including business and medical and citizens, are getting involved in judicial election campaigns, and they don't want to lose their control.

And they won't hesitate to distort the facts -- to lie -- about what really happened.

Here's a quote from Kevin McDermott's story in the Post-Dispatch referring to the 2004 Supreme Court race:

"A footnote points out that the race ranks as the second most expensive court campaign in American history, outpaced only by the $9.3 million raised in a 2004 Illinois Supreme Court campaign.

"In that Southern Illinois race, spending by Democrat Gordon Maag and Republican Lloyd Karmeier together topped $9 million for the first (and still only) time in any judicial race in U.S. history. Both candidates got millions from opposing business and legal interests with issues before the court. Karmeier won, and he remains on the bench today.

"As an example of how that kind of money can diminish the stature of a court, the report cites Karmeier's subsequent decision not to recuse himself from a case involving State Farm insurance, even though the company, its lawyers and its supporters donated more than $350,000 to his campaign.

"After rejecting calls for his recusal, Karmeier cast the deciding vote in favor of State Farm, with the divided court throwing out an earlier judgment against the company.

The report holds up the controversy as an example of why courts should institute new rules, including automatic disqualification of judges from cases in which they have received donations above a certain threshold, and better educate judges on the need to avoid even the appearance of partiality.
The truth is that Karmeier did not get $350,000 from State Farm. In fact, State Farm does not contribute to campaigns, nor to political action committees. We're not authorized to speak for State Farm but they are a member of the Illinois Civil Justice League.

State Farm employees contributed modest amounts to the Karmeier campaign and to other campaigns, as they have in previous elections. (I suspect that many of the Karmeier contributors were State Farm policy-holders.)

But because State Farm is a supporter of the Illinois Civil Justice League, and a member of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce and probably many other organizations that did support the Karmeier campaign, the trial lawyer-backed opposition stretched the truth in their effort to discredit Justice Karmeier.

There was a very clear motive behind their attack and it is a motive that extends to all of the Justice at Stake reporting, including this most recent report.

The trial lawyers and the groups they support (and which support them) do not want to lose their control over the judicial systems in many states and they especially do not want to lose control over the selection of judges in states that currently elect them, such as Illinois.

So they will continue to do what they can to paint the current systems as flawed and in need of change, whether by establishing controls on campaign contributions or the actual selection process for judges.

It's unfortunate that their self-interest motivation gets in the way of doing what's right.

With a potential Illinois Constitutional Convention on the horizon, we think a change in the process of selecting judges in Illinois should be considered and we'd be likely to support a good merit selection process. But if the trial lawyers and Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center are on the same side, we'd have to take an ever closer look.

Frankly, we don't trust them.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch News Article: Campaign Reformers Target Illinois

Justice At Stake Report

ICJL's Reports On Brennan Center, Justice At Stake

Summary of ICJL Findings -- With Web Links

Cross-posted at Illinois Justice Blog.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Campton Hills’ Andy Griffith

Today's Daily Herald on the search for a Police Chief for the newly incorporated Village of Campton Hills,

Village officials said at a recent committee meeting that they envision a chief similar to the television character Andy Griffith.
Drive the roads of Kane County and you'll see crosses at almost every major intersection it seems; marking the lives lost to car crashes.

Joe Pena, former Chief of East Dundee, is one of the candidates. I heard him speak while he was running in the Republican Primary for Kane County Sheriff, and recall him saying that if incorporation was successful, to avoid the mediazation of crime when building our Police force. He said traffic would be our number one problem.

He was right. It's a literal killer here, and the talk about TV from our new board, with the ongoing slaughter is not very reassuring.


The 4th of July Parade That Isn't

For some reason. Patrick Ouimet, the former chairman of the McHenry County Democratic Central Committee, had trouble posting a comment under my story yesterday about the Democrats' boycott of the Crystal Lake Gala's 4th of July Parade.

Unfortunately, others have, too. When Google updated its Blogger program, for some reason it got harder for some people to post comments.

With the Northwest Herald's having run a story written by Jocelyn Allison today in which Gala Parade Co-Chair Louise Steinbach commented on the banning of the McHenry County Peace Group because it wanted to express its members’ views.

She denies the group is being banned, but, as commenters under the NW Herald story point out, if you can’t be somewhere, “banned” is an appropriate word. (Feel free to add your own comment under the NW Herald story.)

More strangely, Steinbach denies that it is a 4th of July Parade.
Here’s what she told the Herald:

“This is not an Independence Day parade; This is a Gala Parade."
Could have fooled me.

Ouimet's comment is below:
Congratulations to the McHenry County Democratic Party for actually standing up and defending the rights of all individuals, other political parties, and private service organizations to freely think and speak.

The words of Mr. Justice Brandeis still remain the classic exposition on the principle of free speech in a free society:
"Those who won our independence believed...
  • that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth;
  • that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile;
  • that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine;
  • that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people;
  • that political discussion is a political duty; and
  • that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.
They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew
  • that order cannot secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction;
  • that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination;
  • that fear breeds repression;
  • that repression breeds hate;
  • that hate menaces stable government;
  • that the path to safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and
  • that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.
Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law-the argument of force in its worst form."

Whitney v. California,
274 U.S. 357 (1927)(Brandeis, J., concurring).
Silencing those with whom you disagree is never the answer.

Therefore, I urge the Gala Committee to reconsider their decision to silence those with whom they disgaree and celebrate our nation's independence in a manner truly befitting those who fought for and won our independence. "

Patrick M. Ouimet, Esq.
= = = = =
The McHenry County Peace Group is shown marching in a Gala 4th of July parade, compliments of "Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout" blog, written by Crystal Laker Patrick Murfin. He has several stories about the Freedom of Speech issues involved in the Gala Committee's attempt to control the content of the parade.

More this weekend at McHenry County Blog.


City planning-a cross country road trip-Illinois reports

The publisher & editor of the Planning Commissioners Journal, Wayne Senville, is in the midst of a cross country road trip, following Route 50 from Maryland to California, and is posting on his blog, Greetings from Route 50, each day. He was recently in Illinois, stopping at the 3rd principle meridian near Centralia where he put up some interesting links about what this is-America's principal meridians helped shape the nation's land pattern-as well as a bit of meridian history.

He then drove to O'Fallon, Illinois, part of the St. Louis Metro East, where he put up three interesting city planning posts along with photos, of a city planning commission meeting, a development proposal called Creekside containing quotes from community members speaking against certain types of development, and a post titled, "A small town state of mind", featuring conversation with O'Fallon's Mayor, Gary Graham among others.

He then moved on to East St. Louis where he put up one post with photos and not much good to say.

Fascinating reporting, especially if you are interested in how cities plan and why, or do not plan.

All of Wayne Senville's Illinois posts are found here.


Good News/Bad News

Mark Decker, the chief kook and bottle washer behind the IFI affiliated is dead. is an organization dedicated to stopping really, horribly dangerous things like pornography, myspace, and Harry Potter Books in America's libraries.

You may read the well written tribute @ David Smith's blog or - for those of you looking for a punchline, please check out the fire and brimstone his purity ball throwing pal Nancy Czerwiec, has cooked up for us:

The death of a good man like Mark Decker brings sorrow to all touched by his life. But there is another kind of death brought about by pornography. It is the death of the mind, heart and soul. Pornography and violent filth slowly eat away at the goodness of every human being.

Freedom to read is abused when it includes these sexually titillating materials

Right on! You go! On the third day after our porno-watchin' caused damnation, we'll open our maggot encrusted eyes and realize that the one true way to heaven has a name: It's Nancy! And she lives right next to the luxurious Aloha Motel (with 4 hour room rates) on 71st and Cicero! Man, this woman makes Jill Stanek seem like somebody you'd invite to a summer BBQ.

....Anyway...Zorn's got the dish on a most excellent ongoing in Oak Park:

The Oak Park Public Library has sent out a news release announcing that it is creating the "first focused transgender resource collection in a U.S. public library."

The release quotes Bleue Benton, Collection Development Librarian and creator of the transgender collection grant, as saying the "collection will serve not only transgender people, but also anyone seeking information, including employers, medical providers, allies, friends and family members.”

I have to hand it to that Homosexual Agenda. Just days after the death of the man who was trying to clear the library of all the 3\/1L p3rv3rt5 passes on, they've already managed to shove their anti-Christian, pro-homosexualist agenda back into the library. Wow! Talk about a powerful!

In all honesty, this sort of collection is a great thing. It's no secret that there are very few resources dedicated to transgendered folks, even despite the obvious that they're oft overlooked. Zorn even gets caught up a bit on defining Denis Rodman as 'transgender' to which he has no retort but "It's a broad definition". Which of course, given the volumes that can be written and the amount of disagreement (even amongst those who identify with the 'T').

I'm the first to admit that I don't totally understand transgenderism. It requires you to stop viewing gender as a binary condition and recalibrate your thoughts for a more 3 dimensional exploration. And even at that, I'm not sure that calling it '3 dimensional' even begins to explore the level of nuance needed. Trying to strip away 20+ years of gender normalcy kind of blows your mind.

In fact, it'll make you tired just to think about it. It's far easier to just blow it off even if you're fairly liberal on gender/sexuality to begin with which is why something like this going up locally is undoubtedly necessary for  a group which often finds itself at the butt end of advocacy. 


“I have a gun. I’m going to come and kill you.” Part 1

On Thursday, Illinois political journalist Rich Miller sent me a copy of a press release from Sen. Dan Kotowski's office. (I posted on the ongoing police investigation into alleged threats against Sen. Kotowski earlier.)

Here is Sen. Kotowski's statement:

Illinois State Senator Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) says threatening phone calls, faxes, and letters his office received during the past few months were handed over to local law enforcement including the Illinois State Police.

Kotowski says, “When someone calls my office saying, ‘I have a gun. I am going to come and kill you’, I have to worry about my safety, and the safety of our staff.” Kotowski added, “That is why I followed proper procedure and forwarded any correspondence with threatening material to the Illinois State Police.”

A recent release by the Illinois State Rifle Association accuses Kotowski of infringing on the First Amendment Rights of our citizens but Kotowski says this is ridiculous and irresponsible. “You won’t find a bigger advocate for free speech in the legislature, but someone’s right to free speech stops when they threaten to kill you.”

Kotowski and his office staff received threats during the first few months of the Spring Legislative Session, most of which specifically referred to his sponsorship of gun safety legislation. “If Illinois State Rifle Association members were as law abiding and anti crime as they claim, then they would be the first to condemn these threats and help to champion the cause for measures designed to get guns away from those with criminal intent.”

Kotowski concluded, “I believe that everyone should have a voice in the legislative process, but the ISRA does their membership no favors by perpetuating suspicious threats, and standing up for those who have misguided intentions.”

It's clear from this that the ISRA press release earlier in the week (and the follow-up release ostensibly condemning Father Michael Pfleger, but also throwing a false low-blow Sen. Kotowski's way) were simplistic attempts to distract attention from the real heart of the police investigation -- death threats against the Senator.

Here's a reminder from junior high civics -- the First Amendment doesn't cover death threats. And the police take such threats damn seriously, especially in the wake of 9/11, etc.

Sen. Kotowski, despite the ongoing police investigation, has answered the ISRA's petty demand for details as to why ISRA members received police visits.

It's time for Richard Pearson and the ISRA to make good on their word and condemn the ne'er-do-wells who have allegedly threatened the Senator's life. After months of heated vitriol, petty smears and outright lies from gun lobbyists attacking Sen. Kotowski's work representing his constituents in our state capitol it would be a respectable change of pace for the ISRA and others to come out strongly against those making such death threats.

If the ISRA can condemn Fr. Pfleger's poor choice of words in his overly firey rhetoric, they ought to be able to condemn someone who made an actual, clear-cut death threat.

And all those gun enthusiasts who gleefully copied and pasted those alarmist (and off-base) ISRA press releases? Maybe they'll now come back to their good senses and stop calling Sen. Kotowski and the police who are just doing their jobs all those petty, kindergarten names like Nazi, goon squad and the like.

Send your state senators all the faxes (and letters and calls) for or against whatever issue you like... But someone needs to make it clear that the line in the sand is drawn well before threatening anyone's life.

Then again, we are dealing with people who seem to enjoy making such threats as a routine matter of course as libertarian gun enthusiast Bill St. Clair makes clear when he tells us: "Sounds to me like Sen. Kotowski deserves to be threatened. Why, if he were to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head three times, it wouldn't surprise me one bit." (emphasis added)

If you don't want folks to treat you like fringe extremists and you don't want police thinking you could be the next Timothy McVeigh ... learn some self-control.

And again, the ISRA and other leading gun advocacy organizations have plenty of culpability here given the copious amounts of fuel they've been pouring on this fire. It's time they act like the leaders of the "safe, lawful and responsible firearms ownership" they claim to be.

(c/p at Illinois Reason and Daily Kos. Full disclosure: I endorsed and volunteered for Dan Kotowski in 2006.)


Friday, June 22, 2007

Obama Earmark Requests

According to KC for Obama, the following projects have been requested by Senator Barack Obama be included in the United State budget for McHenry County. (All the other ones can be found at the Kansas City Obama web site.)

McHenry County, for its Sheriff's Office law enforcement communication system, $1,000,000

The radio system owned by McHenry County and operated by the McHenry County Sheriff's Office needs to be replaced. This critical link between residents, dispatchers, and public safety officers was designed in 1953 and it has run its useful life and needs to be replaced with a new 800 MHz system. New technology will allow McHenry County to meet the communication needs of its Sheriff's Office and the 9 municipal police agencies for which it provides dispatch services, and will provide McHenry County with regional interoperability.

McHenry County, to widen Miller Road, $500.000,

The state routes (Illinois Route 120 and Illinois Route 31) through the City of McHenry are heavily congested. Due to continued growth in this area, the existing Miller Road corridor is also heavily congested. The widened Miller Road corridor would enhance the mobility of the area by reducing congestion and improving safety and decreasing emergency response times.

McHenry County, for Flexible and Sustainable Training Solutions Initiative, $600,000

The Flexible and Sustainable Training Solutions Initiative would provide training so that employers' needs for skilled workers, and residents' needs for livable wages, can be met. "Boot camps" would provide intensive short-term occupational training in fields identified by employers through their participation on the McHenry County Workforce Investment Board.

Johnsburg, IL, to support construction of additional sewer lines, $2,000,000

The Village of Johnsburg is the largest municipality on the Illinois portion of the Fox River lacking a sewer system. An estimated 300,000,000 gallons per year of raw or partially treated wastewater is discharged from failing or failed septic tanks into the Fox River. This situation is problematic not only for residents, but also for visitors and the 200,000 individuals for whom the Fox River is a primary source of drinking water.

= = = = =
The picture of Obama comes from his campaign web site.

There is more on the weekend at McHenry County Blog; and a Friday article about the McHenry County Democratic Party's boycott of the 4th of Day Parade.


Don Gordon v. Joe Moore vote fraud suit proceeds, moves to discovery phase

In a ruling given late this morning, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Marsha D. Hayes refused the request by Alderman Joe Moore's attorneys to dismiss the Don Gordon's lawsuit against the 49th Ward incumbent in which Gordon alleges vote fraud took place on a level significant level that warrants overturning the results of April's run-off election.

The borders of the 49th Ward roughly match that of Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood.

Regular Marathon Pundit readers know that Moore has sought to make a national name for himself by trumpeting such causes as the Iraq War, Wal-Mart expansion and the banning of the goose liver delicacy foie gras in Chicago. On that last one, according to an e-mail sent to me by Jake of the Freedom Folks--he's a chef--about a dozen restaurants among the thousands of eateries in the nation's third largest city served foie gras.

Meanwhile, as Tom Mannis reports on Rogers Park Bench, Moore is not a good steward of his ward--basic needs of his constituents go unfulfilled. The Broken Heart of Rogers Park has corroborating evidence.

The case goes on to the discovery phase.

Moore is a former City of Chicago attorney, and can't too feel comfortable being on the other side of the legal microscope. When you're used to being in power, it's painful being in a situation where you can be powerless.

A Chicago election has never been overturned by the courts. But stranger things have happened. After all, two years ago, a Chicago baseball team, the White Sox, won the World Series.

Voter49 has a lot more.

To comment on this post, or to vote in the Pajamas Media presidential straw poll, click here.


Don't Worry, Be Happy

Overtime. Three weeks down. The other side of June draws close. As Rich mentioned in today's Fax, the recent rumblings of a one-month budget deal is a mixed blessing: workers won't miss paychecks but the light at the end of the session tunnel dims further away.

I've noticed that overtime has strange effects on the statehouse gang. After May 31st, the senses of the capitol residents are altered. The marble floors seem harder on the feet. The air seems a little more stale. The tourists are peskier. As vacation plans fade into nothingness, I've seen more permanent scowls appear on once happy faces in the building. It reminds me of the Disney movie The Lion King...the once flourishing, ripe, and bustling pride lands of the African jungle are plunged into a barren field of misery with the mismanagement of its leader.

My friends have often referred to me as annoyingly optimistic. In that spirit, I wanted to turn attention away from the darker times we are currently weathering and ask a question about the good that there once was and will be again.

The Question: Of all Springfield players, who is the ideal role model?

Says Wikipedia: The term Role model was introduced by Robert K. Merton [1]. Merton says that individuals compare themselves with "reference groups" of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires. [2]. The term has passed into general use to mean any person who is an example to others.

I have been trying to bundle all of my lessons this session into a neat package that I can easily remember to take with me wherever I end up. But, I'll be honest, I've struggled to match up those qualities that I most admire with single individuals.

Those qualities:

-Intelligence— knowledge of good public policy AND the reality of the process

-Ambition—desire to achieve the greatest good at the highest level possible

-Purity—always in the game for the 'right reasons'

-Timing—made the right moves at the right times, taking advantage of opportunity

-Balance—a healthy lifestyle both politically and personally, well-centered

Who comes to mind? Preferably someone living and still active.

There ARE good folks in Illinois politics, I know it.


Michael Moore's SiCKO has something for everyone

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for an advanced screening of Michael Moore's new documentary on the American health care industry last night, with a post-film Q&A with the director, and I have to say this is probably Moore's best film yet and definitely worth seeing.

The main strength of SiCKO is that it offers a balanced view, with something for everyone, without sacrificing the truth. Moore eases off the vitriol as well, and while the film has lots of serious, heart-wrenching, "how can we live with a system that is so cruel" moments, it also has its funny, light-hearted, and warm moments, and a couple of moments that were punctuated by applause from the audience -- made up largely of doctors and nurses.

Long time proponents of universal care will find that the movie largely restates things they've always known: treating health care as a profit-driven commodity makes about as much sense as treating police protection, fire protection, or adoption as profit-driven commodities.

But for independents and conservatives, the film is a real eye-opener. There's a great montage of clips of Hillary Clinton, cowering in flowery dresses and acting like anything but a future President in the wake of the defeat of her health care plan (I loved the scene with Big Bird). There's an interview with a Conservative Party member from Canada -- who looks like he could just as easily be golfing in Wilmette -- sharing his experiences with both the American and Canadian health care systems. And there's a great interview with one of the many doctors who "suffers" under Great Britain's Socialized Health Care System. That is if you can consider living in a $1 million four-bedroom flat in London's posh Greenwich neighborhood, with a family of three, driving an Audi, and pulling down $200,000 a year "suffering." Which, BTW, he didn't.

For me, the film pointed out serious flaws in Governor Blagojevich's "Illinois Covered" proposal, which relies on private insurance companies to deliver health care to the middle class. As the film points out, HMO's were founded 35 years ago on the premise that the way to make money is to deny people coverage for care, and that's how they continue to operate until this day. The film documents how one insurance company simply ran out the clock on one of it's insureds. Denying his claim and tying it up in red tape for so long -- laughingly calling a simple bone marrow transplant for his cancer "experimental" -- until he finally died. Guess what? Insurance companies pay nothing when you die.

Lt. Governor Pat Quinn was there, perhaps someone should ask him what he thought.

On the other hand, the film does offer some intermediate steps that lawmakers could take to improve the current system without replacing it all together. Chief among them: end the insurance company practice of setting quotas and providing bonuses for denying claims.

Moore said afterward that he hopes the film will serve as a tipping point in the debate over universal care in America, much as "An Inconvenient Truth" tipped the deb over global warming (the films share the same editor, ). The Tribune covered his pre-film rally in Millenium Park here.

I'm a little less optimistic than Moore, noting that the Consumer's Union called universal health care "imminent" back in the 1930's, and if the Great Depression couldn't tip this country toward universal care, I'm not sure one film will.

However, Moore's film could jump start the debate, and for that reason, folks should go see it when it opens for limited release in Chicago this weekend. Listings here.


Q&A: Alan Ehrehnalt

The executive editor of Governing, a monthly magazine that covers state and local government and is published by Congressional Quarterly, since 1991. Ehrenhalt has nearly 40 years of journalism experience ranging from working as a Chicago reporter for The Associated Press to writing three books: The Lost City, the United States of Ambition and Democracy in the Mirror. He’s also a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review and Washington Post Book World, as well as the Wall Street Journal.

He grew up on Chicago’s South Side and graduated from the University of Chicago High School. He earned his bachelor’s in psychology from Brandeis University and his master’s in journalism from Columbia University. He became a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University and had a few academic appointments before his current position as senior fellow at the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

He presented “The States in the 21st Century” for a forum on state government and citizen participation hosted by the University of Illinois at Springfield June 20 and sponsored by the Center for State Policy and Leadership, the College of Public Affairs and Administration and Public Radio WUIS 91.9 FM.

The Center’s Richard Schuldt, director of the Survey Research Office of the Center for State Policy and Leadership, presented results of a recent project, “Citizen Views of State Government: New Survey Findings from Illinois,” showing Illinoisans’ general dissatisfaction with their state government and their own participation in policy issues important to them.

Maybe the reason is Illinois isn’t even covering the basics, while other states are coming up with public policy innovations. Ehrenhalt shared his thoughts about Illinois compared to other states during a phone interview with Bethany Carson June 21. This is an edited version of that conversation:

Q: What makes Illinois’ fiscal situation one of the worst in the nation?
A: No. 1, Illinois has not handled its [public employee] pension responsibilities very well. As has been documented before, Illinois has chosen to have fairly generous pensions but not to fund them in an actuarially sound way. And the Government Accounting Standards Board is now requiring a much more thorough accounting of future, not only pension, but other retiree benefits. And when those numbers come in, some states are really showing to be doing badly. New Jersey is the other one that’s been very irresponsible.

Also, Illinois has had worse Medicaid problems than other states. And I’m not sure entirely what’s behind that, but Illinois for the last 20 years has been in more trouble in Medicaid than almost any other state.

Q: How bad compared to other states?
A: It’s hard to quantify, but on Medicaid, I only know that Illinois’ problems are among the most serious. And on pension liabilities, Illinois is in as serious trouble as any other states, maybe more. New Jersey would be the other one.

You know, this is what brought the city of San Diego down a couple of years ago. They were granting public unions generous pensions, and then they were not funding them because the debts were in the future. And they thought they could get away with it.

It is a technique that a couple of states have resorted to. And [Gov. Rod] Blagojevich did this. You borrow money against future assets in order to meet your immediate needs and not worry about what happens when the balloon payment has to be made. Christine Todd Whitman did that in New Jersey.

Q: If you’re borrowing money now and not worrying about the balloon payments later because it will be in another administration, what does that suggest?
A: It suggests bad leadership. It suggests perhaps attention deficit disorder, or worse, it suggests an attempt to push the problems off on somebody else. Let’s face it. We all like to do that. We all like to live well today and let somebody else worry about it tomorrow, but when a state consistently does that, that’s not good.

What it requires to deal with these problems is a strong governor and a legislature willing to work with him. Normally that means one party, but here you have one party and it isn’t doing any good. Sometimes it doesn’t mean that. California and Florida, and I would also say Pennsylvania, are examples of states where strong governors have been able to reach out to the other party and solve some problems, not to say California doesn’t still have serious pension problems. But it has a working majority. The irony is that it’s the governor and the Democratic Party, and the governor’s own Republican Party is essentially shut out.

Q: Our problems have compounded over many years, but how much does the leadership by the governor and the legislative leaders contribute to our current budget situation? Is it a symptom of a bigger problem?
A: It’s a symptom of a problem that, like many other structural deficit problem, festers, and if it’s not attended to, becomes acute. And I think that is what Illinois needs to worry about.

He asked why Blagojevich proposed the gross receipts tax. I said the governor promised in his campaigns not to raise income or sales taxes, pinning himself in a corner.

A: That gets to the problems that lots of governors have, making promises in their campaigns that tie them up later. The more prudent governors don’t promise things that they can’t deliver on or don’t promise things that make it difficult for them to accomplish their agendas.

Putting Illinois’ finances in order would be as great an accomplishment if not greater than passage of some of the programs that Blagojevich would like to pass. And since they’re not passing anyway, it would make a great deal of sense to deal with the structural budget gaps.

Mark Warner [a Democrat] did it in Virginia with Republican help. They had a rather serious fiscal crisis brought on by the previous governor’s campaign promise to eliminate the tax on automobiles. Warner came in, and Virginia really did have a serious structural problem. He split the Republicans, formed a coalition of moderate Republicans and his own Democratic Party and got the tax reform plan that he wanted. And the state’s in much better shape now. So it’s not impossible. It’s more difficult in some places than others.

I think a lot of it is it makes a big difference in whom you elect and re-elect. Unfortunately [in Illinois], the Democrats coming in after 26 years out of power elected a good campaigner who really didn’t have a very sustained interest in governing and in many ways showed contempt for the legislature rather than working with them.

Q: Is there anything that you think makes Illinois unique?
A: To the extent that states have been a source of innovation and creativity in the last 20 years, Illinois has not really participated in that to the extent that you would think it might. You think about welfare, Tommy Thompson; reorganizing government, John Engler in Michigan; Schwarzenegger and environmental issues; Eliot Spitzer in New York as attorney general, but nevertheless, really changing the role of the attorney general. And I can name others. In Illinois, I suppose most people would say that you would have to go back to Jim Thompson to find a governor and a legislature working together and providing some innovative government.

Although, George Ryan’s Build Illinois was a rather ambitious program. I certainly would give Ryan credit for that. If you throw out the scandal, you could make a decent case that he was a good governor.

Q: It’s interesting to think about how the current governor, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, will be perceived down the road.
A: If things don’t change, I would say not very well.

As Ehrenhalt and I talked, the governor and the top four legislative leaders, Republicans and Democrats, were negotiating a one-month budget in hopes of buying some time to come up with a 12-month spending plan. We’ll know next week whether that will happen to prevent a shutdown of state services when the new fiscal year starts July 1.


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