Friday, November 30, 2007

Marathon Pundit exclusive: Quinn's letter to U of I president about military scholarship scandal

The below letter has been authorized as authentic. Thanks to Marathon Pundit commenter R. Gerritt for submitting it last night under my blog comments section.

Thank you R. Gerritt, and thank you Lieutnenant Governor Quinn.

November 20, 2007

Dr. B. Joseph White
President, University of Illinois
364 Henry Administration Building, MC-346 506 S. Wright St
Urbana, Illinois 61801

Dear President White:

I am writing to express my continuing concern about the University of Illinois' Executive MBA program's treatment of our veterans.

On March 3, 2006, I joined Robert van der Hooning, then Assistant Dean for Professional and Executive Education at the University's College of Business, at a University of Illinois-sponsored luncheon to promote the College of Business' commitment to award free tuition for its Executive MBA Program to Illinois servicemembers who have served in the Global War on Terror. At that time, the University pledged to provide up to 110 full academic scholarships to the 20-month Executive MBA Program, including tuition, mandatory fees, books, meals, and lodging.

Since that promising beginning, I have been deeply disappointed by the University of Illinois' failure to fulfill its promise to our veterans. Instead of honoring our pledge to our veterans, the University ofIllinois has cut back on its promise.

I am writing this letter to formally request a full listing of all veterans who have thus far received the tuition waiver from the College of Business, along with a list of all veterans who have applied for an been denied admission and total enrollment numbers for the Executive MBA program over the last two years. I expect the University of Illinois to make good on its promise and set an example of ethical behavior for all of its students.

I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.


Pat Quinn Lt. Governor

cc: Dr. Richard Herman, Chancellor, UIUC
Members, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Related Marathon Pundit posts:

Related posts:

Scandal update: Lt. Gov. Quinn wants count of vets in Univ. of Ill. MBA program

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

Marathon Pundit Exclusive: What happened behind the scenes of the University of Illinois veteran scholarship scandal

University of Illinois: "Hookers are Praised as Soldiers" –Marathon Pundit's Third Investigative Report

University of Illinois military scholarships scandal update

Exclusive: Van der Hooning, and Illinois vets, get a hearing at the Court of Claims


UPDATE: Blagojevich receives birthday presents of Facebook support for healthcare

Wow. What a difference a day and a blog post makes!

Only a day after I pointed out that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was all alone on Facebook in his holy Web 2.0 crusade to get the people of Illinois healthcare, he's received 169 additional supporters for his group, "I Support Healthcare."

(Click images for full screenshots)


And.... after:

Looks like some of the 2,148 "Friends of Blagojevich" decided to take my advice and give him an early birthday present (much more preferred over Facebook gifts). Keep it up guys!

Wait, what's that? He doesn't have 2,148 friends anymore?

Why did this unknown supporter leave? I've got a theory: Maybe it was because Blagojevich prefers watching the Blackhawks game instead of watching a "rigged" game in the Illinois House.

(Cross posted to my blog. E-mail me or Facebook me!)



Do you ever get the feeling that nobody is minding the store when it comes to government here in Illinois?

Well, I wish I had better news for you but a couple of recent developments are not helping matters..

But, there is a silver lining...we have someone out there looking out for pocketbook even if the government isn’t.

Government is Now a Mystery to Itself

A recent report conducted by the Auditor General of Illinois found that the state government could not provide a comprehensive list of programs it runs. Let me repeat that…the state government spends our tax dollars, hires staff and runs programs on behalf of Illinois citizens but cannot list them.

Often times, these reports go unnoticed but thanks to the policy experts at the Illinois Policy Institute shined the spotlight on this report. John Tillman who serves as Chairman of the Institute appeared on the Greg and Dan Radio Show in Peoria talking about this report during their morning program. As John Tillman pointed out, the audit indicated that there are a minimum of 1,750 programs the state administers and that is on the conservative side. As a result, they are calling for a sunset commission to eliminate unnecessary and duplicative programs, which makes a lot of sense. How much of an impact are they making if nobody is making a list?

CTA Doomsday?

We all agree that the CTA is a vital element to moving around the City of Chicago. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t use a tune up.

Although there has been an enormous amount of media attention about the CTA doomsday scenario, there has not been a whole lot of talk about tightening the belt at the CTA or making sure we don’t face future budget problems. Instead, we look at the posters on trains in the morning that say we just need more money.

Once again, the Illinois Policy Institute is shining that spotlight on some problems that I think we all know exists but really nobody is talking about. A recent column by Dennis Byrne in the Chicago Tribune highlighted a series of common sense proposals that would right the economic ship at the CTA instead of asking taxpayers to write a blank check and hope for the best. In fact, these proposals will also help the CTA avoid further doomsday scenarios and actually operate more like a business than a bloated agency.

In the coming weeks, we might have a deal on the CTA. Hopefully, some of these proposals that actually solve short term and long term problems at the CTA can be included in the deal. If not, we can always go back to “Where’s Waldo” in our state government.

Ryan McLaughlin
VP/Group Director, Public Affairs
Zapwater Communications, Inc.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Moooo Yuck

The political gadfly Jim Oberweis has emerged and filed for elected office, again.

This congressional installment is far worse than Jaws 3, more tragic than laughing at Carrot Top.

From the man who compared conservatives to the Taliban, Oberweis has upped the insanity by teaming with the same gang that brought us such box office duds as:

Oberweis’s 2002 debut, “The Taliban Always Rings Twice”;
the 2004 epic “Jack Ryan, Packing for Paris”;
and the 2006 slasher, “The Keyes to a 27% victory”.

Obie plus this Team equals more pain for all of us, including his main competition, Senator Chris Lauzen.

Lauzen must be leading this race, since he is subjected to a daily barrage of meaningless Oberweis press releases that demand that Lauzen immolate himself.

To date, Lauzen has held his fire…smart move.

Attacking Oberweis is as easy as finding a tranny on Craigs List, but as the joke goes, you should avoid wrestling with a pig: the pig enjoys it, and you get filthy.

But Oberweis will soon insert his size 10 shoe into his size 12 milk hole, as he has done in all his quests for mediocrity. As always, the best person to slay Oberweis is Oberweis, and that will be the most satisfying part of this sequel.


The 12th month

The Illinois House is working on a plan to expand gaming as a way to pay for a long-awaited infrastructure projects around the state. That plan is highly anticipated because it has potential to unlock the entire, gridlocked legislation session of 2007. Downstate lawmakers say they won't vote to subsidize Chicago-area mass transit until a statewide capital plan materializes.

But while gaming negotiators say there are only a few issues to work out before a gaming bill comes through, there’s another set of negotiations that could potentially further delay an actual deal. As spelled out by Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat and House Gaming Committee chair, Thursday, the challenge is never ending: “So there’s going to be $X billion in capital. What’s on the list? Who gets what? When do they get it? How do they get it? What’s the priority? How do you make sure that people get what they’ve been promised?”

Once those questions are answered, there’s still the question of whether those plans would have any future in the Senate. Lang said after Thursday’s special session that he didn’t know.

Those types of incremental steps have drawn out the entire session, all 12 month’s worth. Yes, Gov. Rod Blagojevich again threatened to call state lawmakers into special sessions throughout December if they can’t agree on how to subsidize Chicago-area mass transit and finance the statewide infrastructure plan. “There is the possibility we could have special sessions every day as we get closer and closer to Christmas,” Blagojevich said outside his Capitol office Thursday afternoon. December marks the seventh month of overtime session.

House Speaker Michael Madigan told his members to expect a four-day notice if they were to be called back to Springfield in December.

If the governor does resort to calling special sessions, there’s a chance lawmakers would simply “gavel in” and “gavel out,” or convene and then adjourn without doing any actual business until a deal is made. That’s been the case in many of the 18 special sessions so far this year. The governor’s office says at least they’re in the same building and more likely to meet. “They’ve made little noticeable progress over the past several weeks when they were not in session,” said Abby Ottenhoff, Blagojevich’s spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “When they are in session, they are at least talking and working toward a solution.”


The Missing Senate Bill 307 CTA/RTA Subsidy Roll Call

In the

"Isn’t that special?”

category is the Legislative Information System's failure to post the roll call on the CTA/RTA bailout bill last night.

Even this morning when I called to ask why, it wasn’t up.

There was an asterisk next to the notation, but there was no note below. (Click below to enlarge the image.)

The person I talked to said that there had been a motion to reconsider by State Rep. Gary Hannig.

“So what?” I thought.

A vote was taken and it wasn’t put on postponed consideration.

Well, as I write this, it’s 11 o’clock in the morning and the roll call has magically appeared.

I believe it is worth noting that newspapers and radio stations without someone on the scene would not be able to report this morning how local legislators voted.

All three of McHenry County’s delegation—Jack Franks, Mike Tryon and Mark Beaubien vote against the measure.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross, whose idea was the guts of the bill voted “Present.”

Maybe he was thinking how people in Kendall County would react to his proposal to force each man, woman and child to subsidize the Chicago Transit Authority and Regional Transportation Authority $30 this year.

First posted on McHenry County Blog, where you can also find the roll call.


EXPOSING BLAGOJEVICH: Is his approach an obstacle for Facebook popularity?

Mike Flannery's report on how Gov. Rod Blagojevich goes to Blackhawks games instead of being present in Springfield for mass-transit funding legislative action has gathered quite a bit of attention. And it's deserved. After all, when was the last time you remember your local nightly news devoted 7 minutes and 55 seconds to a single-topic story dealing with a politician that didn't involve a scandal or election? My understanding is that this sort of thing is unheard of or at least rare in TV news.

While many are drawing their own conclusions about how Blagojevich's stay-at-home governing style is affecting important issues like the CTA, I thought this wouldn't be a bad time to look at the lighter side. For instance, how has his Facebook popularity fared? (Please note, you'll need a Facebook account to view some links.)

Blagojevich is the sole member of the Facebook group "I Support Healthcare," of which he is the creator.

(Click for the full-size group page)

The group's profile makes this statement:
"This group is for people who want to work to make affordable, quality healthcare for everyone a reality."

Despite having 2,148 "Friends of Blagojevich" that support him on his Facebook profile, the governor is alone in supporting healthcare.

(Click to see a full-size image)

That's right. Not a single of his supporters on Facebook has joined his group to support healthcare, despite Blagojevich being the 18th most popular sitting governor on Facebook.

How can his lack of support on Facebook be explained? Could this be a result of his "inaccessibility" by not checking his profile often enough and posting on his supporter's walls? Is this a sign of his "poor skills at building relationships" surfacing not only in Springfield, but also in the complicated world of Web 2.0? Is his "lack of interest in details" of items in his supporters' News Feed updates driving people away from Facebook groups he creates?

I should point out that Rod's birthday is coming up in 11 days, so maybe some of his closest 2,148 supporters on Facebook can post on his wall and join his "I Support Healthcare" group as a birthday gift.

(Cross posted to my blog. E-mail me or Facebook me!)


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No action sets the stage for another show

Compromise would be a welcomed word during this 6th month of overtime session, but Wednesday’s special session — the 17th called by Gov. Rod Blagojevich this year — exemplified the “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine” game played by legislative leaders and caucuses, said Rep. Bob Molaro, a Chicago Democrat. He provided comic relief with a candid and blunt analysis during a committee hearing Wednesday night.

The daily news is that the House shot down a mass transit plan that was backed by the governor and drafted by House Republicans. It was altered by House Democrats, and House Speaker Michael Madigan urged lawmakers to support it as an “act of compromise.” But the bigger picture is that the mass transit plan was doomed from the start. By letting it die in the House, the speaker demonstrated that yet another one of the governor’s plans failed.

It’s all come down to two issues: 1) How to save Chicago-area mass transit from cutting services and raising fares and 2) how to finance an infrastructure program for roads, bridges and schools statewide.

“There’s a lack of trust on many fronts,” said Sen. John Sullivan, a Rushville Democrat. He was one of nine senators who reiterated Wednesday that he wouldn’t vote for a mass transit plan without a capital plan. “We need an assurance that both of these issues will be addressed, and the only way we see to do that is if they’re done at the same time.”

Madigan said he’s continuing to negotiate on a capital plan, which would rely on gaming expansion to pay for the bonds. But he said he refuses to tie gaming to mass transit. On the other hand, once a gaming-for-capital plan drops, downstate members of both political parties would be more likely to approve a mass transit plan.

While Madigan said he was “disappointed” Wednesday night, the failure of the "compromise" plan could revive another measure that the speaker prefers, Rep. Julie Hamos’ measure. It previously failed but is preferred by Madigan for its “regional approach” with a sales tax increase in the Chicago area, as opposed to the compromise plan that would have taken money from the state’s general revenue from the sales tax on gas.

Hamos’ measure was framed as the lesser of two evils in debate Wednesday night — Molaro joked that it was “the greatest bill that never passed" — but the governor repeatedly vowed to veto the measure because it raises general taxes. Hamos pointed out, however, that lawmakers will have to make some tough votes whether they vote to save mass transit by increasing the sales taxes in Chicago or by diverting general revenue from the sales tax on gas.

I’ve given up on timetables and deadlines for legislative action, but pressure points will start to pop in December if lawmakers don’t deal with at least mass transit. Besides risking angering Chicago-area voters who would be affected by fare increases, lawmakers from all parts of the state risk being stuck in Springfield during the thick of campaign season due to the early primary election, February 5.

Lawmakers return to the Statehouse Thursday, when the governor called another special session Thursday to focus on mass transit funding with a capital plan.


Because He's Black?!?

That was the screaming headline on the front page of the Sun-Times today, and its the excuse offered by Commissioner William Beavers for why County Board President Todd Stroger can't pass his nearly $900 million tax increase.

Nevermind that Tony Peraica, whom Beavers claims is the racist leader of the opposition, is only one of atleast nine commissioners who oppose the tax increase, and is hardly the leader of anyone.

Nevermind that organized opposition to the tax increase comes from black ministers and business owners in Stroger's ward.

Nevermind that polling shows that opposition to higher taxes is usually strongest among low-income African Americans, because they understand all too well that they can't afford higher taxes.

Nevermind that Stroger's proposed tax increase is more than three times what is needed to fill the $239 million budget deficit.

Nevermind that Stroger's proposed budget included no proposed cost savings, cuts, consolidations, or increased efficiencies.

Nevermind that since he's taken office, Stroger has been ripped for giving the clout-heavy plum, high-paying jobs in his administration.

Nevermind that Mayor Daley and Governor Blagojevich have faced similar opposition to their tax increases.

Nevermind that Stroger's 2% sales tax increase, and other tax increases he's proposed, are regressive taxes that would hit low-income families hardest.

And nevermind that his father - who, for the record, was also black - never had these problems.

Inexperienced, overreaching, ignores good advice and political realities, avoids even the appearance of reform -- these are all valid explanations for why Stroger is facing mounting opposition.

Opposition to Stroger tax increases comes from groups like the Citizen's Utility Board, AARP, ACORN, and the Ministerial Alliance Against the Digital Divide, whose NoPhoneTax Website has seen nearly 100,000 hits in opposition to a $48 per year phone tax backed by Stroger and Beavers that will cost the typical Cook County family of four $240 per year.

Beavers over-the-top claim that anyone who opposes Todd Stroger must be a racist not only ignores reality, it undermines efforts to combat real racism. Shameful.


Quinn wants count of vets in Univ. of Ill. MBA program

Rich posted a blurb on Capitol Fax...Here is an extensive rundown on the University of Illinois military scholarship scandal.

Almost a year ago I made my first post on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (my alma mater) reneging on its promise to give 110 full-ride executive MBA scholarships to War on Terror vets.

The school's EMBA program is based in the Illini Center in Chicago's Loop, pictured above.

In March of 2006, with great fanfare, the university announced the scholarship offer. The understanding within the college, and among supportive public officials such as Lieutenant Governor Patrick Quinn and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, both Democrats, was that the scholarships would be given out immediately.

But as Robert van der Hooning told me many times over the months, the University of Illinois School of Business, led by its dean at the time, Dr. Avijit Ghosh, decided to "reverse-engineer" the process and admit significantly fewer veterans. Their fear was that expected share of the tuition costs. The IVG would be the primary funding source for those scholarships, the University of Illinois would pick up the rest.

The B-shool then rescinded on some scholarship offers--then un-rescinded some (after Quinn and Emanuel got involved) then rescinded some more.

After the dust settled, about 35 veterans, not 110, received scholarships for the 2006-07 school year. The balance, university officials promised, would be awarded over the next two years.

Well, it's year two, and I have received credible allegations that far fewer than the expected number of veteran scholarships were awarded to Illinios veterans this year.

Van der Hooning, who filed an ethics complaint about the chicanery, is no longer employed by the university. He's filed a suit against the school, and his case was recently heard by the Illinois Court of Claims in Chicago.

He's still keeping an eye on our veterans, as is Lt. Governor Quinn. He sent a strongly worded letter to Dr. Joseph White, the president of the University of Illinois, requesting a not only a count of veterans currently enrolled in the EMBA program, how many received scholarships, and how many vets were turned away by the state's flagship university.

And the local media is listening. WBBM-AM Chicago has already reported on the story, as has the Associated Press and below is an excerpt from their report:

"Since that promising beginning, I have been deeply disappointed by the University of Illinois' failure to fulfill its promise to our veterans," Quinn wrote. "Instead of honoring our pledge to our veterans, the University of Illinois has cut back on its promise."

University of Illinois spokeswoman Robin Kaler, noting that the person in charge of the scholarships is out of town, said the school hasn't responded yet to Quinn's letter. She wasn't sure how many scholarships have been awarded so far.

"They're working on a response," she said.

Quinn spokeswoman Elizabeth Austin said he wrote the letter after hearing from veterans in the program and others that the university isn't making good on its initial pledge of 110 scholarships.

Thank you, Mr. Quinn and Ms. Austin.

And thank you, Illinois veterans for fighting for our freedom.

Related Marathon Pundit posts:

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

Marathon Pundit Exclusive: What happened behind the scenes of the University of Illinois veteran scholarship scandal

University of Illinois: "Hookers are Praised as Soldiers" –Marathon Pundit's Third Investigative Report

University of Illinois military scholarships scandal update

Exclusive: Van der Hooning, and Illinois vets, get a hearing at the Court of Claims

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Times of London: Conrad Black could get just a five year sentence

Former newspaper baron Conrad Black, former CEO of the Hollinger Group which once published the London Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, and Canada's National Post, could receive a surprisingly light prison term of five years when he is sentenced in Chicago next month, according to an exclusive report by the Times of London.

The rump of Hollinger is now called the Sun-Times Media Group, which publishes the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Southtown and a whole bunch of suburban newspapers, including the Morton Grove Champion.

Lord Black was found guilty of fraud and corruption charges in a federal court earlier this year, the office of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald prosecuted the case. The prosecution is asking for a sentence of 24-30 years, a possible death sentence for a 63 year-old man.

The Hollinger case was a major story in Great Britain and Black's native Canada, but not so here. Authors Dominick Dunne and Mark Steyn were regulars in the visitors section of the courtroom during the trial.

Former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson is a former Hollinger board member.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


$30 to CTA/RTA for Every Man, Woman and Child in Illinois

So, what’s the potential downside for voting for the Mike Madigan-Tom Cross CTA-RTA bailout deal?

$385,000,000 coming right off the top of the Illinois General Revenue Fund.

No replacement money identified.

More pressure to pass an income tax hike or a massive expansion of gambling.

Hey, we could follow South Dakota’s example and have little casinos where mom could gamble while the kids eat at McDonald’s almost within sight right through the archway.

But, let’s look at how a political opponent might characterize the proposal.

Say you are from Downstate, also known as anything outside of the six-county Chicago metropolitan area served by the Regional Transportation Authority.

$385 million divided by the state’s population of 12,831,970 (Commerce Department figure) is what?


So, an opponent could send a mailing to a Downstate legislator’s district saying anyone who voted for this deal voted to force a family of four to send $120 to Chicago.

Or robo calls could be made. Even cheaper.

I mentioned in an earlier post how Zeke Giorgi’s polling results went down because of RTA. Wasn’t it Jeff Mays that rode to office in Quincy when his opponent was charged with having been “taken for a ride by the CTA?”

Multiply $30 times a Downstate county’s population.

Here’s one.

Effingham County had 34,429 people as of mid-2006.

$30 times 34,429 means residents are being force to pay over $1 million to subsidize the Chicago Transit Authority.

Every year.

At least that is what an opponent could credibly assert.

Boy, could a “Yes” vote on this bill create some good campaigns.

And, probably some upsets.

If not this election cycle, then in some future year.

= = = = =

Enlarge the photo by clicking on it and you will be able to read the name of the casino.

Posted first on McHenry County Blog.


Monday, November 26, 2007

More on International Profit Associates

My good friend Dan Curry at Reverse Spin has been keeping an eye on the International Profit Associates scandal for months. The Miami Herald has a story on the controversial Illinois firm, one that has been very generous to the campaign funds of many Democratic candidates--including Illinois' attorney general, Lisa Madigan, as well as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

From the Herald:

Florida's attorney general has registered 28 complaints against IPA and passed those concerns along to its Illinois counterpart, which is investigating the company. While IPA has been sued by individual clients in the past, this is the first time that former customers have banded together in court.

From Reverse Spin:

That was Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum's first mistake—if he wants anything done about IPA. Madigan, a Democrat, has been investigating IPA, a political donor, for more than four years without producing any results. And the Democratic Attorneys General Association, the political action committee of Democratic AGs, took one of its largest campaign donations, $50,000, from IPA last year in the midst of Madigan’s "probe."

Getting anyone in Illinois interested in IPA fraud complaints will be difficult. The New York Times and now the Miami Herald have delved deeply into the IPA matter but not the Chicago media. That is puzzling to say the least considering that IPA is headquartered in suburban Buffalo Grove and it has showered Illinois politicians with hundreds of thousands in campaign donations. IPA also has given Hillary Clinton more than $150,000. For all (of Curry's) posts on IPA, go here.

There are active communities of victims who vent their frustrations with IPA here, here and now at the bottom of the Miami Herald story.

A friend recently (not me, by the way) asked me if the Illinois media freeze on IPA was related to the IPA radio and TV ads that seem to air constantly on Chicago stations. Seems like a fair question.

Seems like a fair question to bring up in the next Democratic debate.

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Mass transit compromise begs questions

Two major questions remain unanswered after House Speaker Michael Madigan issued a letter pledging support for a mass transit compromise. The plan would prevent drastic service cuts in the Chicago area and boost funding for downstate services (it would increase the state assistance for downstate transit agencies from 55 percent of operating costs to 70 percent. See my November article for more on that).

Hot-button questions for Wednesday’s special session:

1) Madigan agreed to the general idea of diverting the state’s portion of the sales tax on gasoline in Cook County to meet the region’s transit needs, but here's the question: How will the state plug the estimated $385 million hole in the general revenue fund, which is like the state’s main checkbook?

2) How likely are downstate lawmakers to support this newfound compromise if it isn’t coupled with a long-awaited capital plan to address mass transit, roads, bridges and schools?

Madigan’s letter cited a “genuine crisis,” and said, “This compromise will put an end to the piecemeal cash infusions, months of anxiety for transit riders and workers, and the incessant, and unfortunate, legislative drama that has surrounded this issue for the past several months.”

That would be the day, but the compromise will include changes and will open the door for more troublesome negotiations in the future.

According to Madigan, the House will advance the legislation supported by Gov. Rod Blagojevich and House Minority Leader Tom Cross, but it’ll include amendments. The speaker vowed those changes would not increase the general sales tax in the Chicago region or allow the Chicago City Council raise its real estate transfer tax, as proposed in Rep. Julie Hamos’ legislation. Blagojevich opposes that plan. According to the letter, the compromise legislation will include such pension reforms as requiring higher employee contributions, increasing the retirement age and limiting some health care benefits.

As far as plugging the hole in the state’s general fund, Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, mentioned the governor’s proposal to end some corporate tax breaks. “The speaker has been supportive of closing corporate loopholes in the past,” Brown said. “I suspect it’ll be something that will be addressed down the road. I don’t envision that being addressed this week.” He said the state Constitution limits the legislature to discussing a specific topic designated by the special session.

According to Cross’ spokesman, David Dring, the House Republican Caucus perceives Madigan’s letter as a positive step, but members hope the speaker won’t stop working with them on a capital plan. Dring said the House GOP Caucus also will discuss Wednesday how members feel about ways to plug the general revenue hole. Previous ideas have included increasing the tax on cigarettes, which Dring said wasn’t so popular. But there’s also transferring money from other state funds or slightly increasing fares for the CTA, Metra and Pace services.

Either way, Wednesday could generate more questions than answers.


Early ‘Victory’ In Cards For 37 Judicial Candidates

More than 35 candidates for judge in Illinois will be “elected” on Tuesday, February 5, nine months before the 2008 General Election.

Although they won’t be sworn in until early December, the new judges will be able to make plans for careers of six to ten years without facing the intense scrutiny that other candidates for public office in Illinois will be facing.

(Some of these new judges may even get on the payroll sooner than next December if any of the currently sitting judges decide to begin collecting a pension earlier by retiring.)

The reason for this early “election” of judges is the almost complete control over the judiciary held by the Democratic and Republican parties in Illinois.

Of the 61 judicial offices on the ballot in November (not counting retention), 37 will be uncontested. Twenty-four will have contests matching a Democrat against a Republican.

The 37 new judges include 29 Democrats and 8 Republicans

Is this what Illinois voters really wanted in 1970 when they (we) voted to continue electing judges, rather than changing to some kind of a merit selection system in which judges are appointed after some screening and review process?

Did we want most of our judges (and practically all in Cook County, our largest and most active county) to be selected by local political leaders?

The local political leaders (and, sorry to say, the voters) selected the people who are running our state government right now. And those political leaders also are responsible for picking many of the judges in Illinois.

Another powerful entity, the Illinois State Bar Association, also plays a significant role in the election of judges because it surveys its members and uses that information as a way of influencing the news media and voters and trying to convince them that it – the organization that represents the lawyers in Illinois – is best suited to decide who would be a good judge, after the political parties have slated them or selected them in a primary election.

But much of the renewed attention on how judges are selected in Illinois is not because too many judicial candidates are unopposed, or because political parties have too much influence.

The current distress is primarily the result of money – lots of money – being spent on judicial candidates in the few hotly contested races Illinois has experienced in the past few election cycles.

Largely because of the active involvement of the business community and the health care community in Illinois in the 2004 Supreme Court election – and largely because the Republican candidate, Lloyd Karmeier, defeated the trial lawyer-backed Democrat Gordon Maag – there has been an increase in cries for public financing of judicial elections.

But public financing – that means taxpayer financing – of partisan elections is not the answer. In fact, the elections which have troubled the public financing advocates the most are those races in which voters were probably better informed and aware of the election and candidates than they are likely to be on any of the races on the ballot this year.

So maybe the public financing advocates really don’t want the voters to know as much as they can about the candidates – and maybe they don’t want the voters to become passionate about a judicial election – as they did in 2004.

Fortunately, there are other ways of selecting judges and next year, Illinois will have a chance to consider them. A constitutional convention referendum could open the door to judicial reform and various proposals are likely to be heard even before the con-con referendum.

Many states have an appointment mechanism – there are several appointment systems – and they seem to work well.

But Illinois citizens have rejected that idea at least once in the ballot box, and on other occasions in public opinion polling.

So it’s time to consider something new and during the next few weeks, the Illinois Civil Justice League will spell out our proposal.

-- Ed Murnane
Illinois Civil Justice League
November 26, 2007


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Harold Washington twenty years later

For many Chicagoans, the "Where were you when..." question, such as the John F. Kennedy assassination, is one asked about the November 25, 1987 death of Harold Washington, the city's first black mayor.

I had a day off from my job at the time at the Bismarck Hotel where many politicians would meet for lunch, so I watched the television coverage--the soap operas were preempted by the news that the mayor had collapsed in his city hall office.

I met the mayor twice, and found him to be the probably one of the warmest and most charming men I've ever encountered. The second time was a month before his death. Although he was clearly terribly overweight, he didn't seem anywhere near death as he asked me and my girlfriend all kinds of questions while he patiently waited for his dinner at a Chicago Loop restaurant. Here was a man, I though, who was genuinely interested in others.

I asked how come he almost never dined at the Bismarck, which was located a half-block from city hall, he replied, "Soon, John...soon."

But I was not a supporter of his. I didn't live in Chicago in 1983 when Washington pulled off an upset win over the incumbent, Jane Byrne, and current mayor Richard M. Daley. Four years later, I voted for Jane Byrne in the Democratic Primary and Ed Vrdolyak--who's currently under indictment on fraud and bribery charges--in the general election. I'm not particularly proud of those votes, but I just couldn't knock the chad off for Harold.

Even in my twenties, I had an antipathy about "movement" politics, viewing them as high on ideals, but low on common sense. Although a product of Chicago machine politics, by the 1970s, Washington presented himself to voters as a reformer.

Several mayoral appointments Washington made were very troubling. His longtime friend Clarence McClain, who was a top campaign aide in Washington's 1983, as well as his almost-forgotten 1977 run for mayor--lived in Harold's Hyde Park apartment building.

The media uncovered an old pimping conviction of McClain's, and Washington had to let him go from his position as director of intergovernmental affairs. McClain wasn't very far removed from power--becoming a consultant. After Washington's death, McClain went to prison for accepting bribes to ensure a New York firm would be awarded a lucrative collections contract.

Mayor Washington promoted Robinson to chairman of the CHA. By 1987, Robinson's inept stewardship forced the federal government to begin the process of placing the housing authority in receivership--a compromise betweed Department of Housing and Urban Development avoided the indignity for Chicago.

Then there is Robert Mier. Washington chose the academic as his director of economic development. Mier was the wrong man for the job, but let's not be too hard on him. Washington's successor, Eugene Sawyer, kept him in place. Chicago's days as an industrial behemoth were over by the time Washington became mayor--when factories closed, for example Wisconsin Steel in 1980--business sages knew at the time that they would never reopen.

But not Mier. Smaller industrial sites, especially in neighborhoods, to use a new word at that time, that were "gentrifying," were viewed as attractive sites for upscale housing and retail developments. But Mier wanted to keep these areas in an abandoned state, so when the Chicago economy improved, new captains of industry could swoop in, open the gates, and put Chicagoans back to work.

It didn't happen that way because it couldn't happen that way. Mier was reading from a 19th century playbook--and the new Chicago, as well as the new America--was one where information and ideas were the prime commodity.

Drive around Chicago today, particularly in former industrial zones such as Ravenswood and Elston Avenues, and you'll see how wrong Mier was.

Mier was shipped back to academia by Sawyer's successor, current Mayor Richard M. Daley, shortly after being sworn in as mayor.

On the positive side of Washington's four and a half years as mayor, after his election African-Americans could finally believe that Chicago was their city too. Spending for city services became more equitable--minority neighborhoods weren't at the end of the line.

The mayor made some bad appointments, but he also jettisoned two men who had it coming.

Washington forced city sewer commissioner out of his job, which led to his end of his reign as Chicago's last "Plantation Ward Boss." Quiqley was committeeman of West Side 27th Ward, one that had few white residents other than a gaggle of Quigley's sewer cronies--almost everyone else living there was African-American.

Another powerful ward committeeman, Ed Kelly of the 47th Ward, was maneuvered out of his job as chairman of the Chicago Park District by Washington. Discrepancies between spending in parks in white neighborhoods and minority areas were glaringly obvious to even casual observers. Tiny Welles Park, within walking distance of Kelly's North Side home, was a jewel among Chicago parks. It's still pretty nice.

Washington had to face a hostile City Council for his first three years as mayor, dubbed the "Vrdolyak 29." For eighteen months, Harold could finally rule as an effective mayor. Even so, for a while, rather than being a rubber-stamp body that it is now--and it was that way before he became mayor--the council worked as a legislative body. An unintentional reform, but a reform all the same.

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


Friday, November 23, 2007

Pre School for All

Remember this?

Heather Cook writes Canadian Brand Socialism: Failing the Sick and Poor and quotes this report finding,

The policy thus provides the greatest benefit to upper-income families, who as it turns out make greater use of subsidized daycare services.
Cook concludes,
To add fuel to this fire, national childcare advocates are pushing for the government to further restrict private daycare options in Canada, after an Australian company – 123 Busy Beavers – began buying up Canadian day care centers. The company’s only crime seems to be that it’s the largest such company in the world.

It seems to me that a little free-market competition might help to keep the costs reasonable and the options open for Canadian parents.

It’s clear that the Canadian brand of socialism is no longer effective. Canadians are clinging to the safety nets of “free health care” and “subsidized programs” without thinking things through. They don’t stop to ask themselves “what would happen if the tax money currently earmarked for health care and subsidies stayed in my pocket?”

If Canadian socialism can’t take care of the children and the sick, what exactly is it here for?
Today's Socialism is taking care of someone for sure; just not children, sick, or workers.

It's that reality that makes me still feel a leftist after chucking Socialism. Socialism and progressive politics just not the people's program anymore.

Also check Spontaneous Solutions on queues and waits in Stuff Rich Miller Would Never Post (Rich did).

Americans don't like queues. Americans want choices. Collective solutions have a nasty habit of benefiting those least in need, and removing everyone elses choices.

So our question in Illinois is, what exactly is Blagojevich here for? Like Canadian Socialism, the Gov's not in it for the sick and poor.

xp Bill Baar's West Side


Thursday, November 22, 2007

David Orr, TIFs, and "...a few lonely academics, community activists, and reporters."

Ben Joravsky on how solutions become the problem: The True TIF Tally Cook County clerk David Orr reveals—nay, publicizes—that TIFs sucked up more than $500 million in property taxes last year.

“The total amount Cook County taxpayers are paying in TIF revenue now exceeds $800 million,” Orr writes in his report. “If TIFs were their own separate taxing agency, they would collect the second largest amount of revenue in Cook County. The Chicago Public Schools rank first with $1.7 billion.”

What led Orr to break the news so boldly this time around? “I’m open to TIFs as a tool, but I believe there are significant abuses,” he says. “I believe we have reached a point in the process where the public needs much more information about how this program is operating.”
Isn't this welfare for Capitalists?


Daily Herald: Laesch wants Oberweis to withdraw ads

Laesch in yesterday's Daily Herald on the Oberweis ads. Laesch took on Foster too.

Laesch also criticized one of his Democratic opponents, Bill Foster, who has proposed the creation of a national ID card for all workers. Such an ID card is an impractical "Big Brother solution," Laesch said.

In response, Foster's campaign spokesman issued a statement bashing Laesch for offering "no practical solutions on the issue of immigration."

Laesch contends that border security and immigration are separate issues. He advocates what he calls "a more humanitarian stance."

ID cards won't stop illegal immigrants, Laesch said. Fair trade policies and measures that protect workers' rights and ensure they're paid adequate wages will keep corporations from "outsourcing poverty," he added.
Lauzen may have the good sense to steer clear of this one. From the Trib,
While the wealthy Oberweis said voters are telling him the top issue is illegal immigration, Lauzen said he's been telling voters about his 15-year record as a state lawmaker.
Lauzen does have this on his website which I think lays out a pretty sensible response to last springs rallies in support of illegal immigrants,
Recently, the Illinois House, with support of at least two area representatives passed legal driving privileges for illegal immigrants who currently flout immigration, employment, traffic and insurance laws. It is incredibly naïve, or downright dishonest, to expect our constituents to believe that this legal inconsistency was passed so illegal immigrants can be "tracked" better.

The response to this enormous give-away is not gratitude, but protest.

As Americans, we are generous, patient people, but once we understand what is really happening, many people resent having their good nature taken advantage of. John F. Kennedy said, "Our nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty, and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny...For no man however prominent and powerful, and no mob however unruly and boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law."
Lauzen balances the fine lines in that piece.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Romenesko: Top three execs quit at Springfield paper

At Poynter Online, Jim Romenesko reports:

The publisher, editor, and managing editor of Gatehouse's State Journal-Register in Springfield Ill. will depart Dec. 14.

Each cite personal and professional reasons for their resignations, and say they were reached independently. Publisher Sue Schmitt says: "We did not make this call because of an insider's view of something catastrophic just over the horizon."

The paper was acquired early this year by GateHouse Media from longtime owner Copley Press.
Anyone with more insight is welcome to chime in with comments, but this sounds like a fairly big deal to me.


Board of Elections Assesses $25K Fine Against Todd Stroger PAC

Cross posted (or soon to be) from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

Can paying $25K save $100K?

The State Board of Elections met Monday to consider the fine to be assessed against Friends of Todd H. Stroger for President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. [See previous post here] The Stroger PAC had failed to report 78 contributions, totaling more than a quarter million dollars, during the 2006 General Election as required on A-1 forms. The donations were not reported until 3 months after voting was over, when the PAC filed their semi annual report. After failing to agree on a penalty at the October meeting, the Board of Election continued the matter to the November meeting.

Long story short, the Board voted 5-1 to assess a penalty of $25.5K for the PAC's failure to timely report $255K in A-1 contributions. The five votes came from Republicans Jesse Smart, Bryan Schnieder, and Robert Walters and Democrats John Keith and Wanda Rednour. Democrat (and Chairman) Albert Porter voted no, while Republican Patrick Brady and Democrat William McGuffage abstained. The penalty was, in our estimation, lower than it should have been, and shows how the Board is determined to stick with a faulty formula for A-1 fines.

But to understand the big picture, you'll need a few more details. Now, beware: thar be inside baseball ahead.

Since the October meeting, two developments are worth noting. First, the Stroger PAC filed an argument with the Board that the failure to assess the fines in October meant that the Board could not assess a fine now. It's hard to tell if they seriously mean that the PAC was off the hook or if they merely intended to press the Board to wrap this up. And second, former Stroger opponent Tony Peraica filed a complaint alleging that another Todd Stroger PAC had a previous A-1 violation, making this his second, not first, violation. That distinction is important because first violations are, by Board practice, assessed penalties at 10% of the unreported donations, while second violations are fined at 50%. If the Board had been persuaded that the Stroger for President PAC was a successor to Friends for Todd Stroger, the Board's formula could have indicated a fine of $125K. This argument is just as novel as Stroger's claim that the Board had missed its chance to levy a fine; the successor committee rule has not previously been used to determine A-1 fines, and Peraica may have been asserting it more for show than for real. But it's apparent from these two developments that both sides were ratcheting up the rhetoric for Monday's meeting.

It was against that backdrop that the Board considered the penalty. The Stroger fund failed to timely disclose more donations than any previous campaign (that we can find), both in the number and the total value of donations. The PAC acknowledged creating a clumsy and time-consuming apparatus to screen donations, taking far longer than other campaigns to review donations. Apparently, no donations were returned as a result of this vetting process. But some members of the Board appeared reluctant to assess a penalty as large as $25K, urging a reduced fine only on transfers from other PACs (which, they said, should not have taken so long to vet). The Board found itself in its classic box, splitting along partisan lines and unable to take action. But the logjam broke under the added pressure from Stroger to wrap up the matter, and from Peraica to claim that the fine should be quintupled (from 10% to 50%), not to mention all the reporters buzzing around (see, for instance, yesterday's Sun-Times story and today's Trib editorial ).

The Board ultimately levied one of the larger fines they've ever handed out. Still, the bigger problem remains: the Board's slavish adherence to a formula that automatically assesses penalties at 10% for first violations. Statute clearly urges the Board to consider individual circumstances, including:

(1) whether in the Board's opinion the violation was committed inadvertently, negligently, knowingly, or intentionally
(2) the number of days the contribution was reported late; and
(3) past violations of [the Election Code].

In our view, based on this assessment, the Stroger PAC deserved a penalty of far more than 10%. As a general rule, the Board's decision affirms that campaigns who have never paid an A-1 violation in the past can rest assured that they can hide donations they don't want to disclose so long as they're willing to pay 10% as a penalty. On that score, our disclosure system, and the public's right to know, is compromised.


Julie Schmitt (Green) running for 20th District seat on the Kane County Board

I live a stone's throw from Mayor Schock's incredible growing Elgin so I'll be watching Schmitt's race closely. Stories about her here, here, and here.

If Schmitt chucks some of the Green's Bush-derangement-syndrome and instead hit on themes of development and growth out here, she could advance the Party.... least with me.


Joseph Annunzio: hard worker but "lacked people skills."

No wonder Illinois has problems. This is what Democratic clout politics gives us.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Demography and the future

Reid Wilson today in Real Clear Politics,

The ten fastest-shrinking districts, with percentage of population lost between 2000 and 2005:

1. Ohio 11 -- Jones (-9.1%)
2. Michigan 13 -- Kilpatrick (-7.9%)
3. Illinois 09 -- Schakowsky (-7.9%)
4. Pennsylvania 02 -- Fattah (-7.4%)
5. Pennsylvania 14 -- Doyle (-7.4%)
6. New York 28 -- Slaughter (-7.1%)
7. Michigan 14 -- Conyers (-6.7%)
8. Illinois 05 -- Emanuel (-5.1%)
9. California 08 -- Pelosi (-5.1%)
10. Indiana 07 -- Carson (-5.0%)

Update: More demographics in yesterday's Deaily Herald. I'm too tired to try and make sense of it tonight but throwing it out there for you.


Mass transit special session

Lawmakers will return to Springfield November 28 to focus on mass transit as required by Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s proclamation of another special session Monday, but Republican leaders aren’t happy about it.

Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson said Monday afternoon, “I have no idea what this is about.” Watson said that the effort has been focused on a compromise plan to fund road and school construction projects, which some downstate lawmakers said is necessary for them to support a Chicago-area mass transit deal. “For [the governor] to call a special session dealing with mass transit and mass transit only is a troubling sign — because my attitude is we’re not going to deal with just mass transit. Capital has to be a part of this,” Watson said. “And I’m disappointed that if he’s going to call a special session, let’s deal with the whole package instead of just one or the other.”

According to House Minority Leader Tom Cross, he, Watson and House Speaker Michael Madigan were already scheduled to meet in Springfield two days next week. “We’ve got a lot of work to do on capital bill, but we’re slowly but surely I think moving forward,” Cross said.

The governor said in his letter to the General Assembly that he supports legislation that would “redirect revenue” from the Chicago-area sales tax on gasoline to the Regional Transportation Authority. “It does not raise taxes. It redirects them,” Blagojevich wrote. He added that the gas tax revenue would be replaced by “closing corporate loopholes,” or ending certain corporate tax credits.

Watson said he opposes that idea, saying such neighboring states as Indiana already benefit from Illinois’ tax policy. “These kinds of loopholes he talks about closing aren’t tax loopholes — these are incentives in many cases.”

The governor’s letter suggests there’s room for negotiation, but that’s unlikely given his opposition to the plan backed by Madigan. Blagojevich wrote, “I am open to other ideas so long as it is not another t ax increase on people.” That still rules out the proposal sponsored by Democratic Rep. Julie Hamos of Evanston that narrowly failed over the summer and that would have raised Chicago-area sales taxes and real estate transfer taxes to aid mass transit.


Rod Blagojevich and the Declaration of Independence

When most people think of the Declaration of Independence, they think of "taxation without representation" and the Boston Tea Party.

But of the 27 particulars laid out against King George, only one deals with taxation. Only seven deal with the use of military force.

The bulk of the charges against King George are based on his attacks on the Legislature, undermining, ignoring, harassing, bypassing, and in other ways weakening them however he can, including my favorites:

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

"He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures."

"He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only."

"He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people."

"He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise;"

"He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:"

You may also recall that Blagojevich attacked judges early on in his administration, vetoing appropriations for a salary increase for judges, a move that was derided by lawmakers and later overturned by the courts:

"He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries."

And how Blagojevich has repeatedly been criticized for using state workers for political purposes, to harass members of the legislature, shake down contractors and others for political contributions, and advance his own political campaign:

"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance."

It would appear that Rod Blagojevich is misreading the Declaration of Independence as a Playbook. Unlike some of his earlier moves, violating the Administrative Procedure Act by ignoring the ruling of JCAR is a clearly impeachable offense. The General Assembly should not take this one lying down.


Governor Potato Head

Governor Blagojevich on why he finally stepped up and proposed a comprehensive, permanent solution to the transit funding issue:

“I'm going to continue to do what I think is right, and that's one of the good things about being governor. You can do things like this.”

Governor Blagojevich explains why his proposed expansion of the Family Care insurance program won’t become a reality:
“I can't act without a bill. I can't sign thin air”

It's easy to play along! Just find an outrageously hypocritical quote by the Governor, and match it to a context that makes it sound responsible. Hours and hours of fun!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Something We Can All Agree On: Lincoln Kicks Ass

Chris Sims is a freelance writer and chronicler of Abraham Lincoln's four-color adventures. And he has proved that he is a Truly Great American by culling a particularly stirring panel from issue 210 of The Flash.

This scene of Lincoln doffing his top-coat in preparation for some bare-knuckle action that should bring a thrill to the heart of every red-blooded Illinoisan.

Mr. Sims also provides an explanation of why Honest Abe is fighting a planet-wide Civil War to reunite Earth-East and Earth-West in the year AD 2971...

But is no explanation beyond "Abe Lincoln Kicks Ass!" is necessary for scenes like this:

Yes, friends, Abraham Lincoln lays the Illinois' smack down!

Even in the 30th Century.

X-Posted at the So-Called "Austin Mayor" blog


Med-Mal Ruling Not A Surprise; But Will Have Impact(s)

While it was disappointing, the ruling by Cook County Judge Diane Joan Larsen that the 2005 Illinois medical-malpractice reform bill is unconstitutional, it was not unexpected, nor is it the end of the world for advocates of fairness and of common sense legal reform in Illinois.

In fact, there has never been a doubt that the Illinois Supreme Court would ultimately rule on the constitutionality of the 2005 law and the fastest – maybe the only – way to get the law to the Supreme Court is through a lower court ruling of unconstitutionality.

So the process is a step closer to conclusion and, frankly, no one is surprised.

Judge Larsen, the former chief of policy litigation in the City of Chicago Law Department, did what she was expected to do. She looked at the current law, looked at the 1997 Supreme Court ruling in Best vs. Taylor Machine Works, and decided that she couldn't override the Illinois Supreme Court, even if the law passed in 2005 -- eight years after Best -- deserves a new look by the Court. The Court, incidentally, has six new members (of seven) since the 1997 Best ruling.

So Judge Larsen did what she was expected to do and while I don't quite agree with Madison County medical malpractice trial lawyer John Hopkins that Judge Larsen acted "in true courage," (she did what she had was expected to do) Hopkins himself demeans his praise of Judge Larsen with his cheap shot at doctors in his commentary in the Madison County Record this weekend:

The winds of fearful political consequences notwithstanding, in an act of true courage, Cook County Judge Diane Larsen struck down the damage caps, finding they violate both the separation of powers provision as an impermissible infringement on the judicial process, as well as seeing the law for what is always was, an unabashed attempt to give even more special indemnities under the law to an already overly privileged class.(Link To Hopkins Commentary Below.)
Most doctors in Madison County, or elsewhere in Illinois, do not practice out of the luxurious offices occupied by Hopkins firm on a main thoroughfare in Edwardsville.

While the Larsen ruling is just a first step -- and an anticipated step -- on the way to a Supreme Court ruling, it will set in motion many other likely steps. It will have an impact, probably several.

One of them, obviously, is that some plaintiff's lawyers will begin pontificating. Those who practice in Madison County and in other troubled areas of Illinois and who aren't smart enough to hold their fire are likely to re-kindle the fires that led to major political change and major pressure on the Illinois General Assembly.

Doctors in Southern Illinois -- that "overly privileged class" -- are not going to rest easily when they see storm clouds on the horizon once again.

The coincidental timing of the ruling, less than a year before a state-wide referendum asking Illinois voters if we need to hold a constitutional convention, could have a significant impact. The question to be resolved on Public Act 94-677 is whether it is constitutional or not.

Some might argue that an issue that has been before the Illinois Supreme Court on several occasions may be best served by a new constitution that leaves no doubt. The "separation of powers" provision could be changed, the "special legislation" provision could be changed. The constitution could say "The General Assembly my establish limits on damages" or it could say "The General Assembly shall not establish limits on damages."

In Texas, where there have been sweeping civil justice reforms, including caps on non-economic damages, the economic benefits have been huge, including job growth and an increase in physicians. Harris County (Houston) has seen a gain of 689 physicians, 15 new insurance companies have entered the Texas market, and medical malpractice insurance rates have been reduced by upwards of 15%.

And another thing: Texans approved "Proposition 13," a constitutional amendment that eliminated potential court challenges to the law that limited non-economic damages.

Don't think Illinois doctors and others won't be thinking about this during the build-op to the Illinois constitutional convention referendum 11 months and 15 days from today.

Perhaps the biggest loser as a result of Judge Larsen's ruling is a fellow female Democrat who is running for judge in Southern Illinois.

Judy Cates is seeking the Fifth District Appellate seat -- the Southern Illinois seat -- in the Democratic Primary. Southern Illinois was "ground zero" in the med-mal fight in 2004 and again in the 2005 legislative session. The med-mal bill under challenge would not have been passed without the support of virtually all Southern Illinois legislators -- Democrat and Republican -- who recognized the need to do something to preserve and improve access to health care in Southern Illinois.

Among the leaders of the opposition to reform -- a very vocal and aggressive opposition leader -- was Judy Cates, the immediate past president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.

Democrats in Southern Illinois, as well as Republicans, wanted medical liability reform and they got it, over the intense opposition of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and ITLA's leaders, including Judy Cates.

Now, Judy Cates wants these same Democrat voters to support her for judge, just months after her organization, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, orchestrated the challenge to a law every Southern Illinois Democratic legislator voted for. Could be a problem.

John Hopkins Commentary.

-- Ed Murnane
Illinois Civil Justice League
November 19, 2007


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sen Lightford's Emergency Room

Sen Lightford on naming Loretto Hospital's new Lightford ER addition after her.

From Austin Weekly News,

Sen. Lightford said, "OK, my secret is out. I've called my secret weapon 'firestorm,' but really the truth is, I ain't too proud to beg. Year after year in Springfield I beg in my own little way to make sure resources come back to the Austin community. Education is my passion, my heart, and this has been my second passion. When you think of health care and you think of the people in the community, why not have the best quality health care in your own town? Why do you have to go out to receive quality health care? It's not fair, and it's not going to happen here in the Austin community.

"Someone said at the board meeting, 'You get the money, we'll name it after you.' I didn't ask them to. My personal journey and my understanding and relationship with Christ is that he put me in this position to help others whose voices had not been heard, right here in the Austin community."

The senator acknowledged all the various individuals who have helped keep Loretto open. She talked about how Loretto Hospital was going to close down unless the boilers were repaired. She obtained the $3 million in state funds with the support of Senate President Emil Jones.
ER's aren't happy places Senator. I've spent some sad evenings just a few blocks north of this one. There is a good reason to name them after saints instead.


Col. Jill Morgenthaler on immigration

Everyone is tough on the illegals now in the West Burbs. And the Colonel wants the Feds to pay!

From the Morgenthalers's site. (HT Stan Jagla )

Two years ago candidate Roskam promised to secure our borders. He didn't get it done, and every day another two thousand people cross the border into our country illegally. Look, I've been Illinois' Homeland Security director: I know the risks and I know what we've got to do. We need a comprehensive strategy to secure our borders with no amnesty for those who break our laws. And Washington should reimburse Illinois taxpayers for the cost of illegal aliens who get into our state. We've got to get it done.
Footnote: Gutierrez in today's WSJ,
Democrats "are pretty jumpy on the issue," says Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who pushed for immigration overhaul in the House. "They would prefer to allow the Republicans to shepherd the Hispanic votes into the Democratic column without having to scare away a single other voter themselves," he says.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Michael Svensson: Oberweis's Mailer for Geneva's Swedish Days

Oberweis has a knack for spinning a frame that just turns me off.

I could buy the case for a National ID card. It can be a solution for problems with a minimal loss of civil rights. But this latest mailer from him rubs my the wrong way. He's way over reaching.

Pages one and two from a glossy for page mailer received today. The sample ID Card is for a Michael Svensson from Stockholm, Sweden.


Rod v. Illinois

For over a week, I have maintained that everything about how the Administration rolled out its attempted expansion of FamilyCare smacked of an intention to create a legal confrontation with the General Assembly.

My initial inclination was that a lawsuit would be filed challenging the authority of JCAR. Had I thought it through more thoroughly, however, I should have seen this coming.
On Tuesday, the legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules turned down the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services' request for an emergency expansion of the Family Care program. The bipartisan panel of lawmakers was established in 1977 to oversee rules proposed for state programs. Its decisions generally are followed.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich contended Friday, however, that the committee does not have the ability to stop the Family Care expansion.

"JCAR's role is merely advisory - it does not have the constitutional authority to suspend the regulation," Abby Ottenhoff said in an e-mail...

Ottenhoff would only say that the governor's office has no plans of its own to challenge the committee's authority in court.

In other words, the Administration has decided to ratchet up its disregard and contempt for the Legislature, the Illinois Constitution, and by extension, the citizens of Illinois, by going forward with plans to provide expanded health care coverage despite a clear question as to their authority to do so, and despite the JCAR's suspension of the HFS emergency rule.

Let me repeat what I have said in previous posts AGAIN - I emphatically support expanded access to health care. My issue here is procedural and Constitutional.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that there is a legitimate question as to the authority of the Administration to take this path of action, and a legitimate question as to the authority of JCAR to block it. Common sense and decency (both increasingly dwindling commodities in our state capitol) would dictate that a binding legal determination be had BEFORE any attempts to enroll any new FamilyCare participants.

Failure to do so creates a situation in which patients may seek medical care believing that they have coverage only to later learn that they were mistaken (misled?). Health care providers are similarly jeopardized since they have no way of knowing whether a FamilyCare patient is a legitimate one, or one whose status is uncertain. Ironically, this could well lead to providers refusing to treat qualifying patients due to eligibility questions.

In light of this, for the Administration to proceed without clear authority in this critical arena is a reckless and irresponsible course of action.

If the Administration would put as much effort into building support within the Legislature as it has in trying to find ways to subvert the process, these issues would likely not exist, and other crucial matters such as mass transit funding and a capital bill may have been resolved months ago.

What next? I can't say for sure. But I would surmise that there exist at least two questions that are ripe for review. First, does JCAR have the authority to suspend the administrative rule at issue? Second, and tangentially related, does the Administration, through HFS, have the authority to undertake this action or does the expansion amount to an unauthorized attempt to expend unappropriated funds.

This is not a bright day for state government, nor for the people that we represent.

UPDATE - Aaron Chambers also has a good article on the subject.

To read or post comments, visit Open House


This American Life: Remembering Harold Washington

The 13th Floor Blog at discusses a program that aired November 9th of last week on NPR . It was called This American Life and this episode was about the first black Mayor of Chicago, the late Harold Washington. This program actually aired back on November 21, 1997.

Wow, it'll be a decade next Wednesday that this program aired. Also it'll be 20 years since his death on November 25, 1987. Mayor Washington was re-elected earlier that year and was only 7 months into his second term as mayor. He had been Mayor of Chicago since 1983 and that election will be covered in this program.

I heard this program a while back and I'm so glad that I can hear this once again. And an addition that they talk about the presidential candidacy of US Senator Barack Obama. A famous black lawyer and judge, Eugene Pincham, mentioned that Dr. Martin Luther King was not a well liked man when he was alive but when he was murdered and couldn't lead anyone anymore, he got a holiday. Then Pincham says that Mayor Washington on the other hand is not going to get those same accolades because Washington is likely to inspire people from beyond the grave.

Roughly 25 years have passed since Harold Washington was elected Mayor of Chicago and the question could be begged that this program seemed to address in 1997 & 2007. Would a black candidate have a fair chance to be elected Mayor today? Would that candidate have suffered the same resistance that Harold Washington had in 1983?

The pic at the top is of a Harold Washington memorial courtesy of YoChicago's Chatham neighborhood Flickr set. This memorial sitting on South Vernon Avenue was sponsored by the people of Vernon Avenue, from 83rd to 87th Streets. To YoChicago, it was more memorable of a tribute to Mayor Washington than the library named for him in downtown Chicago.


James L. Merriner: Mr Inside Out

Merriner's Chicago Mag story on Rezko is available online. A quote from Ray Hanaia,

Hanania criticizes Arab American business leaders as "a small cluster of activists, and they are all in trouble. They had a push for clout empowerment, not community empowerment—you know, a hunger for being part of the system, sharing the perks among the insiders. When you connect all the names and lines, it's going to look like a spider web."
Clout empowerment, that's the Chicago away for sure.


Ill. Green Party seeks to remove white supremacist from ballot--but what about McKinney?

An odious turd named Richard B. Mayers of Berwyn has filed the necessary papers to be placed on the Green Party ballot in the 3rd Congressional District. Mayers is a white-supremacist and if he wins the primary over Jerome Pohlen, who is endorsed by the state Green Party, Mayers will appear on general election ballot of the district, which encompasses Chicago's Southwest Side and parts of the western and southern suburbs.

The Chicagoist has a rundown on Mayers here.

Naturally the Greens want nothing to do with this trash, and want him off the ballot.

The Decatur Herald & Review has an odd article about Mayers and the Greens objections--but without saying what's so objectionable about Mayers.

"We don't want him on the ballot because of his past activities" is what Illinois Green Party spokesman Patrick Kelly said.

However, as bad as Mayers is, if his--to use a famous Nazi badgering technique--"papers are in order," the Greens can't kick him off the ballot because of his hateful views.

Bad in my opionion, but not as awful as Mayers is Cynthia McKinney, who will be on the Illinois Green Party ballot. McKinney, the first black congresswoman elected from Georgia, surrounds herself with race-baiters. Including her father, her bodyguards, and her campaign manager.

Before he assumed his title of Savior of the Earth--something Green Party members care about, Al Gore was a presidential candidate. During the 2000 campaign, McKinney complained that Gore's "Negro tolerance level has never been too high." Donna Brazile, an African American woman, headed Gore's campaign in 2000.

This YouTube video shows McKinney playing the "racial profiling card."

The Greens however don't seem to mind McKinney appearing on the Green Party ballot a a presidential candidate.

There was one objection made with the Illinois State Board of Elections about McKinney. It was made by Richard B. Mayers.

Can't we all just get along?

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Fighting corruption: The big picture

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

Yesterday, ICPR's blog noted ways that individual people can fight corruption. Today, we're happily surprised by the timing of an editorial in the Kankakee Daily Journal, which offers a helpful catalog of ways that the State of Illinois can act.

Their editorial, which notes Gov. Ryan as the latest in a too-long line of incarcerated ex-governors (and which asks, "is Gov. Rod Blagojevich next?") offers a thought-provoking list of ideas that would serve as a good starting point for any legislator wondering what to file for next Spring. Passing HB 1 is only a starting point, the Daily Journal notes. After that's accomplished (or, I assume, sooner, if HB 1 remains bottled up), they offer these ideas:

* Donations from gambling interests ought to be barred.

* Unused campaign donations ought to be given back at the end of a campaign, or given to charity. No more stockpiling of money.

* Donations given to one campaign should not be shifted to another. Our system now runs too much money through the Big Four (House and Senate leaders of both parties). The result is a concentration of power and a stranglehold of ideas. We're seeing it now.

* Donations from outside political districts ought to be restricted. Chicago cash should not be poured into downstate.

ICPR has supported some of these ideas before, including oversight of giving by regulated industries, and limits on transfers. Others may be, in our opinion, unnecessary to get at the root of the problem. Our positions aside, we applaud the Daily Journal for offering their thoughts and encourage all Illinoisans to join the discussion.

Individual people can do a lot to stamp out corruption. But the General Assembly can do more, too.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fighting corruption, one person at a time

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

The news recently has been full of stories reminding us of public corruption. One HDO organizer sentenced to 15 months in jail for perjury; another who "forgot" to mention 16 of his 22 previous criminal convictions when applying for a Chicago city job (who nonetheless was hired); and, of course, George Ryan's arrival at the federal prison in Oxford, Wisconsin.

Today's Christian Science Monitor has a timely editorial on what ordinary citizens can do to stamp out government corruption. After cataloging the costs of corruption (ranging from the loss of services and public trust to dampened job creation), the paper concludes with the cures. Greater transparency and oversight, for sure. But they also note that "individuals can remember their role. Fellow office workers need to speak up when they suspect wrongdoing." And voters need to remember that they have the power to hand out "pick slip(s) come election time."

And if you're looking for a place to start, why not head over to the Comptroller's fantastic new Open Book? They report 172,000 visitors in the first three weeks, so it's not like you'd be alone…


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Time for Plan C

Scooting around the Illinois General Assembly didn’t work this time for Gov. Rod Blagojevich. A bipartisan legislative committee shot down his emergency plan to expand state-sponsored health insurance to 147,000 Illinois adults Tuesday. The rule would have covered those adults who make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $82,000 for a family of four. The committee voted 9-2 to reject and suspend that emergency rule on the grounds that it was too broad, didn’t warrant an emergency and bypassed the legislative process.

The governor did try to work such legislation through the General Assembly this summer, but the measure hasn’t gone anywhere since July. So instead, the Blagojevich Administration tried expanding the program through the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a 12-member committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

Two of the GOP committee members — Rep. Brent Hasssert of Romeoville and Rep. Rosemary Mulligan of Des Plaines — supported the governor’s emergency ruling. Nine others rejected it. Sen. James Clayborne of Belleville was absent.

But the rejection came with a recommendation. In its ruling, the committee said one part of the governor’s proposal does warrant emergency action in light of federal rule changes that will kick 15,000 to 20,000 adults off of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program next year. “We said in our recommendation that if they would simply issue a new emergency rule that just dealt with SCHIP, we would all support that,” said Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat. “The department flack refused to do it, and so you have to wonder if they really feel any part of it is an emergency.”

As for the administration’s next step, Department of Healthcare and Family Services spokeswoman Ruth Igoe would only say the department is “reviewing our options and timelines available to us.” She did add that immediate action is warranted. “Our staff noted [Tuesday] that health care is an emergency for a lot of people in Illinois, and we believe this was an emergency. And we believe we have the authority to provide health care for these people. But at this point, we’re reviewing our options and the timelines available to us.”

The administration does have a fallback. It filed the same proposal as a regular rule, but that process takes a lot longer because it requires 45 days for public comment and another 45 days for JCAR review.

Lang said the committee will review that proposal, too, but the governor can’t keep trying to spend millions on new health care programs without legislative oversight. “While we all support a better health care system, we have something under our Constitution called the Illinois General Assembly. If governor wants to continue to try to bypass the legislative process in his effort to create a new health care system for Illinois, I think he’s got some real problems ahead of him.”

According to the department, expanding the state’s FamilyCare program to cover those 147,000 adults would cost about $43 million for this fiscal year, which ends in June 2008. Those costs were disputed by Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat who also sits on JCAR. See the Gatehouse story from November 10.

And see more background in my October article, “Booster Shot?”.


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