Friday, December 12, 2008

Indicted IL Governor pairs another 1000 Jobs in Southland

Four years ago, it was Barack Obama who led a hearing in the Southland on the (indicted) Governor's effort to close the Tinley Park Mental Health Center and Howe Developmental Center. When Barack came out of that meeting, he remarked (per memory): "We'll have to take it easy on the Governor now. We've whacked him enough today."

Yesterday, it was the people of the Southland who came out to take a few whacks at the Governor's proposal to close the southside and south suburbs' only public providers of intensive, in-patient care for individuals with severe mental illness and profound developmental disabilities. Boy, did they come.

Among the first people I met at this hearing of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability were active Obama volunteers in our efforts in Indiana. I wouldn't venture a guess as to how many people showed up without knowing the capacity of the room, but the parking lot was full and the space fairly full. 2000?

One of the Governor's officials started the proceedings by saying that they needed to shut down these facilities because they wanted to replace them with new facilities. What a crock! Did the Chicago Bears stop playing when we replaced Soldier Field with the spaceship? Did the Sox stop playing when they replaced Comisky Park? Hell, no! They built the new facilities first before they moved out of the old ones.

But this isn't what the Governor is proposing to do. He will shut down Tinley Park/Howe, shave a thousand jobs off the government payroll and build new facilities when the budget is under control. Which, in Illinois, means never.

If you're wondering if this has anything to do with the (indicted) Governor's proclivity towards "pay to play," you might have a point. The thousand workers who will lose their jobs can't afford to contribute to the Governor's extravagant lifestyle. And I doubt you will see any builder in the Southland stepping forward to "pay up" to build the new facilities. With lines of credit frozen everywhere, what bank is going to want to help out here? Nope, these thousand jobs will be lost to Illinois' practice of corruption. The people, both workers and clients, will be sacrificed so that the Governor and his political cronies can continue in the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed.

We voted for real change at the federal level. Probably time to vote for change at the state and local level, as well. How many more jobs can we afford to lose here?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cong Jackson Most Popular Replacement Senator for Obama

In a telephone poll commissioned by Friends of Sandi Jackson, Illinois voters preferred Congressman Jesse Jackson over nine other people who might be considered possible replacements. The list included Tammy Duckworth, Jan Schakowsky and Danny Davis.

Commissioned by Jackson's wife (to whom Jr. moved hundreds of thousands of dollars before her election to the Chicago City Council) means that state political dollars were used, and not those falling under the rules of the FEC. Illinois has no limit on the amount that someone can give a state political committee. Contributions to federal campaigns are currently limited to $2,300 per cycle.

The survey, conducted Nov. 5-6, 2008, shows that, given a choice of 10 possible candidates, 21% think Gov. Rod Blagojevich should appoint Jackson to the seat when Obama leaves it vacant to ascend to the presidency, far more than the rest of the field. Tammy Duckworth, a former Democratic congresswoman candidate from a suburban Chicago district, is the only other potential candidate to win double-digit support -14% said she should be appointed.

Jackson's base of support is strongest among those who consider themselves "strong Democrats," 32% of which believe he should win the appointment to the Obama seat, while 14% favored Duckworth. Among moderately strong Democrats, 25% said they think Duckworth should be appointed, compared to 20% who favored Jackson. Among weak Democrats, Jackson leads with 18% support, compared to 12% support for Duckworth.

Among independent voters, Jackson is favored over Duckworth by a 14% to 10% margin. Among Republicans, Jackson is also favored over Duckworth. Support levels for other candidates are 6 percent for Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, 4 percent for Congressman Danny Davis and 4 percent for State Senator James Meeks. Several other candidates received less than 1 percent.

The biggest problem with the survey is that none of the names are well known across the state. While Zogby tried to obfuscate this by combining the "Not Familiar" and "No Response" categories in his public release of the poll. The client (Jesse Jackson) undoubtedly got a better breakdown here. The only thing we can really determine is that the Congressman really wants the job -- enough to commission a poll and release the findings.

Those findings were aimed at mitigating the fear among state Democrats that Jackson wouldn't be able to retain the seat in 2010. Zogby tested Jackson's statewide strength:

In two prospective Senate races, Jackson would defeat Republican Congressman Ray LaHood by a 50% to 31% margin, the survey shows. Among the 15% who were not certain about whom they would support, nearly two said they were leaning toward Jackson for every one that was leaning toward supporting LaHood.

Jackson's district includes part of Chicago and extends to the south suburbs. Lahood is a congressman from rural Illinois whose district includes Peoria and the northern suburbs of Springfield.

In a prospective match-up against Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, Jackson wins 48% support, compared to 32% for Kirk. Among the 15% who are leaning toward one candidate or the other, Kirk has a 10% to 7% edge, the survey shows. Kirk's district is north of Chicago along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Neither Kirk nor LaHood should be considered likely Senate candidates in 2010.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama Campaign Opens New Office in South Suburbs

Yesterday, the Obama campaign opened up a new office/call center in the old Pancake House in Olympia Square. The exact address is 3408 Vollmer, and the office space is right next to the Eye Care Center.

Open from 9am to 9pm (Sunday noon to 9), the office will serve mainly as a phone bank talking to supporters of Barack Obama. Volunteers should bring their cell phones to make phone calls. The office also has yard signs available for $8.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Who Needs Graft when there's just plain Greed?

Vote Now!  Vote No!

* A state in recession.

* A government with crippling underfunded pension obligations, considered "worst in the nation."

* State leaders paralyzed by an increasingly bitter, personal family feud prepared to abandon millions of federal dollars for infrastructure repair.

* A HUGE pay raise for said leaders.

One of these things doesn't fit with the others. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn is asking people to tell their legislators what they think about this huge pay raise that they have given themselves with his new Vote Now! Vote No! website.

With the raises, lawmakers would be making $73,000 to $100,000 a year by next summer. Gov. Rod Blagojevich would see his pay climb by more than $20,000 to about $192,000 a year.

Remember, this is an 11.7% increase for a *part time job,* a year after they got a 10% pay increase. Most Illinois legislators have "real" full-time jobs from which they derive considerable income (although some, such as St. Rep. Will Davis, do not). But that's Illinois politics. Getting rich is part of the perk of power here.

It's not quite a done deal -- although the governor and the senate leader would like you to think otherwise. The Illinois House has already rejected the enormous pay increase, and it will be jettisoned if the Illinois Senate does the same in the upcoming special session. While the governor called the special session to score cheap political points, it does give the state senate the opportunity to do the right thing. It should join the state house in rejecting this pay increase when Illinois is struggling to meet its obligations and debts -- and when Illinoisians are struggling to meet the current tax burden levied upon them.

Sign The Petition Now
Quinn's website offers a convenient voter contact tool to communicate with their state senator to tell them their views on this substantial pay increase (again). A simple email and petition message to your state senator provides them with your views on their upcoming pay raise. It not only comes out of your pocket, but it also decreases our ability to fund other, vital programs.

Increased violence in Chicago? No problem, as long as state leaders get their pay raise! The worst roads in the nation? No problem, as long as state leaders get their pay raise! This is, after all, Illinois. The whole point of government in this state is to line the pockets of the connected. And no one is more connected than your state senator!

While you're at it, may as well throw a few dollars at our progressives in Illinois government, those who are fighting the good fight in Springfield, making state government more efficient, effective and transparent, standing up for the "little people" (who I like to call voters) in the state: Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. It's harder for them because they aren't cogs in the machine...

(H/T to Rich Miller's Capitol Fax blog)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Failed Governor, Failing Illinois

We're Number 49! We're 49th!

Ok, so Illinois isn't dead last in state funding, as a percentage of the state's share of education funding, but that isn't anything to be proud of. Under Rod Blagojevich, Illinois has continued the death spiral to the bottom, making education (apparently) the lowest priority in his lacklaster administration.

So what does the governor do? Why, call a special session of course, so that he can leverage the state's dismal education record in his obsessive and increasingly bitter feud with the speaker.

Phil Kadner laid out the crisis:

State support for public schools in Illinois dropped to an all-time low at 29.6 percent of the overall education budget in 2006, placing a greater burden on property owners to finance the schools.

That's the first time the state has dropped below 30 percent in decades of recordkeeping.

The report on school funding by the National Center for Education Statistics (operated by the U.S. Department of Education) was released in April and was featured on the front page of a recent newsletter by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

According to the report, Illinois' share of the education burden ranks it 49th out of the 50 states (Nevada at 25.9 percent is dead last).

Local school districts in Illinois are forced to raise 62 percent of their revenue from the property tax on homeowners and businesses. They get 8.4 percent of their money from the federal government.

Because public schools in Illinois are so dependent on a local tax, the disparity between the funds available to property-poor school districts and wealthy ones continues to increase - causing some of the poorest suburbs to pay among the highest property tax rates for substandard schools.

The problem certainly predates Governor Blagojevich. Like other states that have brought in a lottery with the misplaced promise that lottery dollars would enhance education in the state, Illinois has steadily reduced state funding for public education.

For example, in Illinois, where the state spends $6.5 billion a year on education, only $619 million, or one-tenth, comes from the lottery. In California, with an $84 billion education budget, the lottery funds only about $1.2 billion, or one-seventieth. In Florida, lottery proceeds cover one-twentieth of state education spending. In New Jersey, it's one-thirtieth; in Texas, one-fiftieth.

"We thought that it would be a windfall" says Michael Johnson, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards. He says the idea that lottery money adds to education funding is a myth.
"The general public -- they were fooled by this,” he says. “The belief that that's additional money, above and beyond what we would normally get, that's the part that's not true."

"Well, it's certainly one of the worst votes I ever made," says former Illinois State Senator Dawn Netsch.

Netsch, whose vote helped pass the Illinois lottery in the 1970s, says lottery money simply replaces tax dollars legislators might spend on education, but instead spend on other projects.

"The lottery becomes part of the big pot of money that funds the basic functions of state government," Netsch said.

The lottery has made state financial support for education a shell game, and we are the suckers. Voters believe there is a stable source of revenue for education (aside from the General Revenue Fund), when there's not. Reforming education in Illinois starts with the provision of stable and predictable revenue streams for state government that provides the level of services we need and demand. This is not to say that state government spending can't be cut. The costs of patronage and corruption in the state not only bloat government but add to the problem exponentially. The fact is that this governor has not cut out the corruption and patronage that would free up revenues for real problems, but seems to have added to them.

Resolving the problems that Illinois has -- and they are legion -- requires bold leadership. No one in their right mind ever thought Speaker Madigan would provide bold leadership -- a remarkably cautious and conservative politician, bold leadership isn't in his political DNA. But Rod Blagojevich has constantly talked the game, promising bold leadership repeatedly to address this problem or that one.

And he has failed to deliver every single time.

Rod's issue isn't his political DNA, but his immaturity. Rich Miller, of the Capitol Fax, has suggested that Rod's eternal feud with Madigan stems from the latter's lack of respect for the governor. Even if this is the case, it is no excuse. The personal feelings of the two powerful Democrats shouldn't have any effect on their ability to do their jobs. The fact that it does, in the case of the governor, demonstrates a lack of maturity that effects us all.

The failure of the governor, and Illinois' steady decline to the bottom, is certainly relative. But the fact is that the governor's obstinance and his inability to lead only perpetuates that decline.

The starkest realization when I moved here from Florida was how far behind Illinois is in the rudimentary infrastructure for the "knowledge economy" of the 21st century. Visiting the bookstores of UofC and UIC left me underwhelmed. In those bookstores combined (and including numerous others), I couldn't find the shelf space for the math books I had available at the local Barnes and Noble in Merritt Island. Shelf space for computer books, while certainly not the same as you'd find on the coasts, was dominated by simplistic texts on how to use inane Microsoft products. It took me a few years to realize that the reason that there is no market for real tech books here is that the education system in the state simply sucks. So if Illinois has seen better days, there is one source we can lay the blame. As Brian Kahin puts it:

K–12 education creates [the] human capital that will serve the knowledge needs of the future. (Prospects for Knowledge Policy)

While Blagojevich is locked in a kind of personal battle to the political death with Mike Madigan, Illinois burns. There are real problems that need to be addressed in the state, but the governor seems incapable of addressing them in a manner that will win passage from the Illinois legislature. A real leader would find a way to work with the other PTBs; a *bold* leader would not only find a way out of this impass, but point the way out of the others, as well.

Calling a special session doesn't cut it. It's just more theatrics. It will take more than 2 days to resolve the issues that need to be addressed in education reform -- and it's doubtful that the governor will even spend those two days negotiating with the legislature even then.

There's not a lot we can do about Speaker Madigan. He seems to be Speaker/Party Leader for life -- a permanent part of Illinois' political environment. Like other obstacles, we just have to work around him. But that is exactly what Governor Blagojevich refuses to do. Instead, we are left with his quixotic attacks and his lack of political leadership. We will have to endure two more years of this political paralysis (unless, of course, he gets indicted). But progressives and reformers should not be lulled into Blagojevich's trap, in his attempt to frame the battle as him against the speaker. Yes, in a sense, there is that dimension to it. But the battle for education reform is much broader than that, and Blagojevich is neither a leader nor a foot soldier in that battle. Nor is this special session (or those that follow) a gateway towards resolving the education funding issue.

Education reformers have to look beyond the governor (and recognize that nothing may happen towards their goals in the next few years). The governor is unlikely to consider the tax swap or the principles behind SB2288 in this special session, or anytime. The Governor's failure stains Illinois and allows the state to drift further behind...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Obama Vols Meet in Homewood

this morning, more than 50 people interested in helping elect barack obama president met at the homewood public library. we heard about how we could get involved in the campaign, both locally and out of state.

you can join obama's growing team of dedicated volunteers by going to his website or contacting sheena patton directly.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth!

The view from the street in Flossmoor. A whole bunch of red, white and blue!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Storm Warning

quite a little storm that passed through this afternoon/evening. our parking lot was flooded, and seems like some basements might have been flooded, as well.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Friday, February 8, 2008

Freedom, My Immense Song -- Ainadamar

my wife, mrs bored, and i attended the chicago symphony orchestra's performance of ainadamar: fountain of tears, and all i can say is, wow. a big wow.

first of all, let me say that i was disappointed when my wife said it was an opera. and i was wrong. i must have an inclination towards the cso's modern offerings, because those have been the most memorable for me. but i am also a huge fan of al di meola, so i was familiar with the rhythms and syncopations used in ainadamar. plus, any time the symphony plays with two guitarists, i'd want to see it.

you should want to see it, as well! this is a totally impressive, very memorable performance which will leave you humming the themes throughout the rest of the night. it's no surprise that the opera was recorded, nor that it won two grammy awards: best opera recording of 2006, and best classical contemporary composition.

ainadamar was written by osvaldo golijov, the cso's mead composer-in-residence, who has been called "today’s hottest composer – young, innovative, creatively versatile, and rooted in different cultures and styles."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Madigan's Troops Carry Riley to Victory

the race in this area has been near the center of the fault line. the speaker of the house, michael madigan, and the governor of illinois, rod blagojevich, seem pitted in a titanic battle to decide power and influence in the state. unfortunately, we -- the residents of illinois -- are the losers in this battle.

that battle became local as rich township supervisor, al riley, was appointed to the unfilled term of state representative robin kelly (who took the job of chief of staff for state treasurer alexi giannoulias). some thought, apparently including the governor's office, that this made riley the most vulnerable of state reps in 2008. it wasn't that close.

in flossmoor, the presence of madigan workers has been apparent in the last couple of weekends. they've been out knocking on doors, putting up yard signs, and asking voters to commit to voting for riley. that work paid off, as david orr's office shows riley winning by a substantial margin:

Al Riley 17,037 63.85%
Toni T. Ashmore 9,646 36.15%

we've gotten at least eight mailers from riley, while i don't recall seeing a single one from ashmore. toni campaigned at the flossmoor metra station, and you could find her literature at local churches, but nothing that was widespread...

Monday, January 21, 2008

In Honor of Martin Luther King

there's a picture of me and jesse jackson jr hanging in the halls of bethune cookman college in daytona beach, florida. we were playing in our swimming pool, and my parents didn't even know the picture existed until the college was looking for the names of the people in the picture.

i don't remember it. i can't say that i remember anything about that day, when john lewis, andrew young and jackson, sr (among others) came to our house to relax and strategize. i was just a kid. and, to be honest, lots of african americans came to our house in the late 60s and early 70s. if my parents had not mentioned it, i would never know.

what i do know is that the civil rights movement is in my dna. my parents were leaders in the cross-cultural, cross-denomination effort called bridge builders. today, we celebrate the efforts of martin luther king, jr, and those who have followed him, to bring equality into our society, economy and political system. it is good for us to remember. it is important to realize that the battle has yet to be won. we have come a long way, but that doesn't mean there aren't miles left to go. equality may be more than a dream today, but it is less than a reality for many. lest we forget...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What Happened to the Madigan Boys?

i walked into elga jefferies office yesterday. instead of bustling activity conjuring a competitive campaign, i found a relaxed atmosphere with no sense of the looming deadline and more of a fixation with thursday's special session.

but the first thing that occurred to me was, what happened to the "madigan boys?"

this question is not an outgrowth of my conversation with jefferies' campaign manager, someone sent in by the speaker of the house and head of the illinois democratic party. that was merely the latest datapoint for the question. on saturday and sunday, i ran into other madigan workers, and they didn't leave me particularly impressed.

one reason why i am disappointed with the madigan workers i'm finding out in the streets and in campaign offices is because they have an image of being the smartest, brightest political operatives in the state. to wit, the campaign of brendan reilly was probably the smartest, best campaign in 2007 -- and it was stacked with "madigan boys." madigan's speaker's office staff remains top choice.

but it's been madigan's ability to control the streets, especially in chicago and cook county, that has kept him as top dog in the illinois democratic kennel. it's starting to look like that time has passed.

after talking to several of the people michael madigan has assigned to various campaigns in the chicagoland area, i have to wonder. many of the recent advances in voter contact don't appear to have been incorporated into the madigan system. despite assurances from a madigan boy this summer that they are making things like voter history (or pattern) available to their canvassers, i found no evidence of that this weekend. the voter contact sheets from madigan didn't look any different than they had in the past. one canvasser i talked to on sunday actually complained because he had spent the last hour or so knocking on republican's doors. nothing demoralizes volunteers like wasting their time.

more to the point, the system touted by the madigan boys over at the capitol fax blog in 2005 -- knock on ~90 doors an hour, distribute ~16 signs and find ~1 volunteer (i don't recall precisely, but i found them to be outrageous numbers when i heard them; i could not find a copy of the original capitol fax post that included this comment) -- wasn't in evidence. canvassers i observed had normal walk patterns, seemed a little confused by the terrain (they were from the city, it seemed, and this was the south suburbs) and had to walk a distance between doors. rather, they fit into the metrics from get out the vote. and at least one of the campaign signs for the madigan-supported candidate seemed to be placed there without the home owner's permission (well, maybe; it's always possible the upset home owner hadn't discussed this with her spouse).

these observations come from seeing madigan workers helping the campaigns of al riley, jefferies as well as others, from all over the chicagoland region. clearly, this is not all they bring. madigan has promised his challenged house members that he would double up the number of mailings that they did. so far, in the 38th house district, we've received two mailings from citizens for al riley (the education and the health care piece) while we got one mailing from friends of michael madigan (the predator piece). one campaign i've talked to only plans on sending out one piece on their own, to be doubled up by a madigan piece. that doesn't seem like a winning strategy.

in the past, madigan has also dumped money into state house races. at this point, i haven't seen evidence of that. but it does seem like the battle between the speaker and the governor has worn on madigan as well as blagojevich. in the 38th, while al riley is being supported by the speaker, his opponent, toni ashmore, is being supported by the governor. i wonder how many voters here, if they understood this, would have mixed feelings, as my family does. a pox on both your houses, as it were...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Grace Period Registration and Early Voting

early voting for the february 5 primaries begin on monday, january 14. suburban cook county voters will be able to vote at any one of 44 sites around the suburbs.

south suburban locations include:

Alsip Village Hall 4500 W. 123rd St.
Blue Island Village Hall 2434 Vernom St.
Burnham Village Hall 14450 Manistee Ave.
Chicago Heights City Hall 1601 Chicago Rd.
City of Harvey 15320 Broadway Ave.
Matteson Village Hall 4900 Village Cmn.
Park Forest Village Hall 350 Victory Blvd.
South Holland Village Hall 16226 Wausau
Markham Courthouse 16501 S. Kedzie Ave. – Rm. 238
CLERK’S MAIN OFFICE 69 W. Washington St. – CL 25

early voting runs from january 14 through january 31. but to vote early, voters must bring a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, state ID or passport.

early voting is "no excuse," meaning that no excuse is required to vote early.

Campaigns Break Out in South Suburbs

while i was out this weekend, i saw dozens of campaign signs and a few canvassers out, as well. i talked with one canvasser, who was out knocking on doors for al riley. al riley is the newly appointed state representative where i live (38th district). he's running for election against toni ashmore. you may have seen toni out at the metra train stops in the area, passing out her own literature.

anyway, the canvasser i talked to said that he was canvassing for riley as a friend of the madigans. he apparently lives outside the area, but said he "grew up" with lisa madigan and has known the madigans for 30 years. the significant thing is that the speaker is actively supporting al riley and has brought in his troops to help him get elected. the "walk piece" that the canvasser was distributing is below:

by way of coincidence, toni ashmore has been canvassing in our neighborhood as well. her walk piece is below.

signs for riley, tj somer and thomas mahoney have also popped up:

only one month before everything has to come down!