Gutierrez's moves cash in on surging real estate market - Lynn Sweet
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) will be quitting his 1st Ward Democratic Party job and today delivers a speech further positioning him for a mayoral run.
Last November, Gutierrez moved from Logan Square to Bucktown, his fifth move in 10 years.
Gutierrez moves with regularity almost every two years in order to cash in on the Near Northwest Side's rising real estate market.
He now lives on West Churchill Street, not far from Western Avenue. When he ran for re-election in 2004, Gutierrez lived at 2846 N. River Walk Drive; in 2002, he had a home at 1745 N. Hermitage; in 2000, his residence was at 1934 W. Wabansia.
Gutierrez has told me in past conversations that he is willing to live a lifestyle that would drive most people to distraction -- keeping a home clutter free and "for sale" fastidious from day one -- because it is a way to make money on the side while not violating any of the many House rules that restrict the ability of members to earn outside income.
While his new home is in the 4th Congressional District that he represents, Gutierrez now is a resident of the 32nd Ward.
Gutierrez spokesman Scott Frotman told me Sunday that the lawmaker will be stepping down as 1st Ward Democratic committeeman, though the timetable has not been finalized.
Gutierrez will start a conversation with members of the 1st Ward organization to designate a successor.
As of this writing, I'm told he has no one he wants to tap. Nor is he trying to line up a candidate to take over the 4th District House seat he plans to vacate after one more term, presuming he is re-elected in November, a good bet since it is an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
Gutierrez plans to deliver a major address today before an audience of opinion makers at the City Club of Chicago.
The speech, still a work in progress Sunday, will serve to continue to frame issues Gutierrez may use for the mayoral bid he has told me he is considering.
In the wake of serial patronage hiring scandals, Gutierrez will call for a major City Hall change in hiring -- privatizing personnel operations.
He will again challenge Mayor Daley to make school funding as much a priority as the city's contemplated 2016 Olympics bid.
Gutierrez, a leader on immigration issues in Congress and a speaker at the massive rallies in Chicago, will also talk about the prospects of broad-based immigration reform.
Daley returns from Jordan, Israel
Speaking of the mayor, Daley wrapped up his first trip to Israel and Jordan on Sunday, talking to a group of Israeli businessmen in Petach Tikva, one of Chicago's sister cities.
Daley made a PowerPoint presentation about doing business in Chicago, I was told when I chatted by phone with Michael Kotzin, an executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago who traveled with Daley.
Controversial donor, redux
The New York Times wrote Sunday about the controversial John Burgess, his firm, International Profit Associates of Buffalo Grove, his political donations and his connections to former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Melissa Merz, a spokesman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, confirmed Sunday that Madigan is investigating the company.
That a pol may not want to take a Burgess-connected donation is not hard to figure out -- it's as easy as checking Nexus. On Sept. 5, 2002, I wrote about how the Blagojevich campaign announced it rejected $125,000 because Burgess was disbarred and convicted of grand larceny; a June 2000 story in Inc. magazine mentioned his guilty plea to patronizing a prostitute and personal bankruptcy.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Laura Washington favors illegal immigration and mass immigration, happy Latinos take jobs that Blacks do not want
Black leaders must convince followers on immigration - Laura Washington
A lot of people say I'm hell on black political leadership. They are correct. Most of the time, our elected and self-appointed African-American leaders are do-nothing, self-aggrandizing and venal.
Now hold the presses. I actually have something positive to say about African-American leaders. In the thorny debate over immigration reform, many are seizing the moral high ground -- against their own self-interests.
We all know that the face of immigration reform is largely Latino. People of all stripes have misgivings about issues like amnesty, guest worker programs and other prongs of the immigration reform movement.
Still, black leaders are trying to bridge the gap between doing the right thing and their constituency's narrow-minded, short-sighted bullheadedness. Based on the chat I hear in the beauty shops, at barber shops and on talk radio, it won't be easy.
Take my own family. Longtime readers of this space will remember my Uncle Leland, a hardheaded and politically whip smart octogenarian. I checked in to get his reaction to last week's massive May Day marches. He was not amused.
"Every freedom that African Americans fought for, we earned the hard way," he said. "Now they say, 'We came across the border and we want it now.' And we will be pushed to the bottom."
He frets over whether there will be a future job for his grandson. "I don't blame the immigrants for coming over here [illegally]," he notes. "But you're rewarding somebody for doing wrong."
I called my mom just to say hello. Mama is a regular viewer of Lou Dobbs, TV's preeminent xenophobe. I got a 20-minute rant aimed squarely at Latino immigrants.
"Those people are breaking the law. ... They have no right to be here. ... They are taking our jobs. ... They don't even want to learn to speak English. ... We're paying for their health care ... their schools. And they have the nerve to demand -- demand -- that we give them citizenship!"
I tried to reason with her, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise. She is not alone. WVON's airwaves are chock-full of diatribes against "those people." Just ask the black-oriented station's talkfest hosts, Roland Martin and Cliff Kelley, who have been fielding angry calls on the topic for weeks on end.
A new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center found that nearly 80 percent of African Americans said that Latino immigrants worked hard and possessed strong family values, the New York Times reports. Still, nearly twice as many blacks as whites surveyed said that they or a family member had been deprived of a job that went to an immigrant instead.
The numbers register palpable anxiety. To the credit of most black elected officials, they are looking at the bigger picture. They know that blacks and browns need to work together.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. of Rainbow/PUSH has repeatedly heralded the May Day marches. "The new immigrants seek precisely what has made our country great: They thirst for democracy and freedom, a job and security for their families, for citizenship rights and to leave repression and poverty behind," Jackson wrote last week in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Speaking out at a recent Capitol Hill hearing on immigration reform, John Lewis, the civil rights stalwart and longtime Georgia congressman, argued that immigrants take the low-wage jobs that others won't fill.
"I don't think we should be afraid of people coming in, doing some of the work that needs to be done," he said.
I know immigration reform is a very complex issue. I also know that black folks are always harping about how we can't afford to let our community be divided and conquered. And we cannot afford to let immigration critics separate us from natural allies. Latinos and blacks share abiding common interests in job creation, affordable housing, health care, access to quality education and a slew of other bread-and-butter issues.
While we are scrambling for the crumbs, you can be sure the people on top will be supping on foie gras and champagne.
The politicians must convince the people that it is in their urgent interest to resist the divisive and stereotypical race-baiting propagated by the powers that be.
One swallow does not make for a supper, but African-American leaders are on the right track.
Whether state budget is balanced depends on who's looking at it - Christopher Wills
Balanced is in the eye of the beholder.
Democrats who drafted the new $56 billion state budget see it as balanced because the Illinois government will pay out the same amount of money it takes in -- on paper, anyway.
Doctors and pharmacists look at it differently. They know Illinois will end the year with hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid bills it can't pay. Businesses that provide health care for the poor will have to wait months to collect their money.
Retired teachers and government workers might see it differently, too. The budget makes a $1.1 billion cut in the state's contributions to already-underfunded pension systems, on top of a similar reduction last year.
"This budget is going to do nothing to really help the state's longterm fiscal problems. In fact, it worsens them," said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.
That kind of remark gets under the skin of John Filan, budget director for Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
He argues the latest budget continues Blagojevich's track record of making progress on fiscal problems -- by chipping away at that backlog of medical bills, for instance -- without skimping on vital education and health services.
"I couldn't stare somebody in the eye -- as a person, let alone as a financial person -- and say, 'You've got to wait while we concentrate on financial problems,"' Filan said.
Republican lawmakers offer a long list of complaints about the budget that was approved last week. They say it is loaded with wasteful spending, that it expands programs when the state can't pay for existing ones, that it takes money out of funds set up for specific government services.
But the fundamental questions about whether the budget is balanced involve two issues: Medicaid and pensions.
Medicaid is the government health insurance program for poor people. Doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes and other providers treat poor patients and then are reimbursed by the state for part of their expenses.
When state government is short of money, it simply chooses not to pay those Medicaid bills on time. Right now, providers are waiting, on average, about 75 days for reimbursement. But since that's an average, some are waiting far longer.
In their debates over the budget, some lawmakers described getting panicked calls from medical providers on the verge of going out of business because the state was months behind. In one case, payments for services in November still hadn't arrived.
Filan said the new budget will reduce the payment cycle to 55 days. But House Democrats and Senate Republicans put the figure at 78 or 79 days -- a little worse than it is now.
Filan's office also said the total backlog of unpaid Medicaid bills will drop to about $1.3 billion. Republicans say it will approach $2 billion.
Whatever the exact amount, the state budget depends on delaying hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid bills until the next fiscal year.
"This will definitely have an impact on access to care," said Dr. Peter Eupierre of Melrose Park, president of the Illinois State Medical Society. "We're trained to take care of the patients and look at the bills later, but it's getting to the point that physicians can't continue to practice."
The budget also depends on cutting contributions to retirement funds for state employees and downstate teachers.
Illinois already has the nation's worst-funded pension systems. The gap between assets and the money owed to retirees is $41 billion. The pension systems have about 60 percent of the assets they'll need, compared to a national average of 83 percent, according to the Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
Reducing state contributions means the gap between assets and obligations will grow even larger.
The Illinois Constitution requires the state to pay its retirees their pensions, so eventually taxpayers will have to come up with all that money. The longer the state waits, the larger the amount it will have to produce.
Filan argues that Blagojevich put a significant dent in the pension problem with a borrowing plan that produced about $8 billion for the retirement systems. "We've made seismic movements," he said.
Rep. Gary Hannig, a budget negotiator for House Democrats, also noted Blagojevich sharply reduced the number of state employees, which will mean less demand on the retirement systems in future years.
In essence, they're saying the state has made enough pension progress to justify slowing down now. "Those things have all canceled out to some degree," Hannig said.
That position doesn't make sense to Lawrence Msall, an advocate for pension reforms. He calls it "backsliding" on the state's biggest financial concern.
Msall and Martire both criticized the Democrat-drafted budget for adding new programs while failing to pay the cost of old ones.
"You can't afford these programs if you're not making the most basic contributions to your pension system," said Msall, president of the Chicago-based Civic Federation.
The budget's advocates argue that's unrealistic.
They say Blagojevich is making consistent progress in cleaning up the financial mess he inherited upon taking office after 26 years of Republican governors. But the state's other needs can't be put on hold while that clean-up takes place, they say.
"I think we did try to strike the balance between not spending too much but spending enough to do the things we need to do," Hannig said. "You'll never silence both ends of that debate."
"Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) introduced non-binding resolutions in each house declaring that the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance and other songs or statements "that symbolize the unity of the nation" should be sung or said in English. Days earlier, President Bush declared that the national anthem should be sung in English."
Pandering with the anthem - Editorial
Many immigrant groups have long saluted their new land with poignant renditions, in their native tongues, of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other patriotic songs. Example: Pop vocalist Jon Secada reportedly sang our national anthem in both English and Spanish at the 2001 opening ceremony of the presidential inaugural--although his publicist now says the Cuban exile actually sang "America the Beautiful."
But is Secada's mouthpiece being precise or protective? Anthem purity has become an oddball issue in the furor over illegal immigration, with calls for English-only versions. After producer Adam Kidron's update of a 1912 translation hit the airwaves as "Nuestro Himno" in late April, some member of Congress said, "No mas."
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) introduced non-binding resolutions in each house declaring that the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance and other songs or statements "that symbolize the unity of the nation" should be sung or said in English. Days earlier, President Bush declared that the national anthem should be sung in English.
Bilingualism used to be more bueno in U.S. politics. Quicker than you can say "online search," Democrats found instances in 1995 when Alexander criticized calls for "English only" policies and defended bilingual education. "My dream is that every child in America grows up learning two languages," he said back then, according to The Associated Press.
And in 2000, candidate Bush would sometimes sing along with Spanish versions of the national anthem while campaigning in Hispanic communities, author Kevin Phillips writes in "American Dynasty." Then-Bush spokesman Scott McClellan later cast doubt on his boss's ability to do that. "The president speaks Spanish," McClellan said, "but not that well."
Leave it to First Lady Laura Bush to sound a note of reason, after a moment of self-contradiction. Describing America as a "nation of many, many languages" in a CNN interview, she said she didn't see "anything wrong with singing [the anthem] in Spanish." But when the interviewer asked if she differed with her husband's view, she said, the anthem "should be sung in English, of course." Finally, she explained that Americans want the anthem to be sung in a way that "respects" the U.S. and its culture.
Si. Oui. Ja. Da. Aretha Franklin's song got it right. Everyone wants respect. Without it, even a call for national unity can stir more division.
Heaven help us when politicians start governing - Dennis Byrne
On May 1, millions of illegal immigrants and their supporters marched to demand that huge numbers of their own immediately get out of America.
I haven't seen anyone else put it that way, but if the protesters took to the streets to force Congress to pass what is dishonestly called "comprehensive," "balanced" and "fair" immigration reform, then that is exactly what they want.
The Senate legislation would require that an estimated 1.6 million immigrants who have lived here illegally for less than two years turn themselves in and leave America, perhaps forever. They're supposed to do this without any incentive, when a better option for them would be to stay here undetected. Who among the millions who marched would throw themselves under that bus, just because a new law comes along that says--just like the present one--that they must?
Here's something else all those marchers are demanding of millions of their compadres who have been here illegally for two to four years: They must uproot their families, travel hundreds or thousands of miles, return to a U.S. port of entry, announce they are illegal immigrants and then hope they are issued a temporary work visa to let them re-enter America. Some won't get the cards, because only 1.4 million work visas will be issued over three years, and about 2.8 million people would be asking for them.
As for the estimated 8 million illegal residents who have been here five years or more, the marchers are demanding that they: turn themselves in, pay a $2,000 fine (or $4,580 for an average-size illegal immigrant family) and any back taxes, hope to clear a criminal background check, learn English, keep a steady job and then, maybe, they'd be eligible for citizenship.
I keep harping on this because this legislation is a cruel hoax.
And the hoaxers are the immigrants' alleged friends--assorted "activists," agenda journalists, organized labor, above-the-law clergy, self-righteous "progressives" and, of course, politicians. Every politician knows perfectly well that it's a hoax, but they push ahead with their deceit to make themselves look good, and to hell with the immigrants. The disservice that this legislation does for illegal immigrants is so obvious that those who won't confront it have to be dishonest or blind. Or so enthralled by the sight of all those people marching arm-in-arm that they have abrogated their obligation to read the legislation and report on its real impact on real people.
In the contempt-of-the-public department, this dishonesty ranks right up there with politicians who know that pushing down gas prices is something that's way beyond their reach, but they act like they can do it anyway, calling press conferences and looking seriously into the camera as if they mean it. Pass a law, punish a villain. Ignore the law of supply and demand. Hand out $100 rebates. Have you ever seen so many transparently witless ideas taken so seriously by so many supposedly responsible people? Why is it that so many politicians think that we'll like them more if they treat us like idiots? Probably because they know it gets them re-elected.
Speaking of idiots, Illinois legislators obviously want us to believe that they're doing their job (governing) when they pass a $56 billion ("rough" estimate) budget a mere two or three days after they first see it. It was handed to them by a legislative oligarchy that has run Illinois government for years, effectively reducing remaining lawmakers to mopes. You know few of them are giving $56 billion the scrutiny that a pile of money that size deserves. Not when they only have enough time to check whether projects they promised favor-seekers back home made it into the budget.
Not a person who lays eyes on this budget even momentarily can fail to understand that it is a dishonest document, supplying money not for the public good, but for re-electing whoever is in control, which happens now to be a cluster of Democrats. How else do you explain Gov. Rod Blagojevich securing agreement from the Democratic-controlled legislature for funding "universal" pre-school?
"This is the real deal," Senate President Emil Jones said last week of this charade, apparently not noticing how foolishly self-serving that statement makes him look. Just like the "real deal" is a new immigration law that penalizes the very people it's supposed to help. Or vapid promises by reckless politicians to lower gasoline prices.
Do these people have a conscience?
Income Growth Latest Debate For Governor Hopefuls
Illinois' candidates for governor are taking aim at each other today over the pace of income growth in Illinois.
GOP candidate Judy Baar Topinka said the state's economy has languished under Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Topinka points to a report in USA Today last week that says inflation-adjusted incomes in Illinois dipped one percent from 2000 to 2005.
That ranks Illinois 46th out of 50 states in income growth.
But the Blagojevich campaign spokesman Doug Scofield said that period includes more than two years under former Republican Gov. George Ryan, under whom Topinka served as treasurer.
Scofield said Blagojevich has improved the business climate in Illinois since he was elected in 2002, creating 95,000 jobs over the last two years.
Dream is for citizens - Marcia Capaul-Oliver
http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews/opinions/letters/2_4_au08_letters_s1.htmDo you remember the kid who used to mow your lawn? How about the teenager who bussed tables for college money; the struggling moms who worked at the local motel cleaning, the factory workers? Illegal aliens do it all now.
Illegals don't do "the jobs no one wants." They do the jobs our own, legal and native-born used to do and still need.
Sure, everyone wants the American dream. The American dream is for American citizens, not "guest workers" or those who come here illegally.
If you are not a citizen or are here on an expired visa, go to your home country. Rally the vote in your town and change the conditions that made you leave.
Our country is not stingy. We have so many that come to our shores who would die from persecution if they went home. Our country lets them stay. Economic wishes are not persecution.
Why is there any debate about this at all?
BELLEVILLE NEWS DEMOCRAT
Blagojevich celebrates preschool initiative, Topinka says it shows poor fiscal planning - Nathaniel Hernandez
CHICAGO - Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Sunday celebrated the recently approved expansion of state-funded preschool programs, but his Republican opponent in the general election says it's further evidence of poor fiscal planning by his administration.
State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka said the state's economy has languished under Blagojevich's watch and that government expenditures, like his Preschool for All program, do not fix the problem.
"When these kids get out to a certain point where they're going to have to work, if we don't have a job market for them, what have you done for them in the long run?" Topinka said Sunday at a Chicago news conference called by her campaign to discuss the Illinois economy.
Later in the day, Blagojevich walked into a family resource center across town where education advocates applauded the General Assembly's approval of his $45 million preschool plan, which is designed to help thousands of young children in the state who might not otherwise have access to early education programs.
Funding for the plan was included in the $56 billion state budget lawmakers approved on May 4.
Blagojevich said the program is a good example of how he and his administration try to follow the "golden rule" by supporting measures in the state budget that they would support in their own family budgets.
"It's practicing what we do in our own lives, giving every family in Illinois - every parent - the opportunity to afford preschool for their kids," Blagojevich said.
Topinka said she would like to support the preschool program but the state's finances are in disarray and more belt-tightening is needed. She blamed Blagojevich for a USA Today report last week that said inflation-adjusted incomes in Illinois dipped one percent from 2000 to 2005.
The newspaper ranked Illinois 46th in the nation for per capita income growth since 2000. But it also reported that incomes in the state are 4 percent above the national average.
"It's another embarrassment, I think, for this governor whose policies are moving this state in the wrong direction," she said.
The Blagojevich administration countered by saying that 95,000 new jobs have been created in the state under his term.
Let the sun shine on Illinois' budget - Editorial
Put Illinois' budget on display for seven days before it can be voted on. What a fantastic, novel idea from state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka.
It's fantastic because it would provide time for public viewing and input before the budget is adopted.
It's "novel" only because politicians - Republican and Democratic - have prevented that from happening for years.
Annual state budgets have been dictated by essentially three people when the governor's office, House and Senate are controlled by the same party - the governor, speaker of the House and Senate president. That means only one person voted on throughout the state has had a say in the budget - the governor. The other two are elected by district.
Providing a $55 billion budget to the Legislature a day - or less - before it is voted on is preposterous. Only those few Democratic leaders involved in the drafting really know what is in the 863-page, fiscal 2007 budget.
But don't get the idea this is a Democratic monopoly. The same thing happened during Republican years, too. Even when party leadership was split, no more than two legislative leaders from each chamber and the governor usually hammered out the budgets.
Topinka would not only provide time for review and comment on the budget before it is adopted, but she thinks the treasurer and comptroller, as the state's top financial officers, should be included in budget discussions with the governor.
Topinka said her "Seven Days of Sunshine" would allow the public time to scrutinize the hundreds of pages before a budget is adopted. At least it would provide time to let elected representatives know how the public feels about budget items - even if it doesn't change lawmakers' party-line votes.
Seven days is still ridiculously short, especially when you compare it to corporate America, but it's a start.
"For many years," Topinka said in her news release, "both parties have operated behind closed doors, setting the state's budget priorities and spending tens of billions of dollars.
This process usually culminates in lawmakers being given one hour to review hundreds of pages of details in a budget bill before they are asked to vote on it."
It shouldn't take a constitutional amendment to force a seven-day viewing period for the budget, as Topinka has proposed with reluctance, but it's probably the only way the job can get done.
Her proposal is obviously tied to winning the race for governor come November. That office would provide the pulpit for her to propose the amendment to the Legislature in January.
If the proposal is approved by at least a three-fifths vote in each chamber, the amendment could go on the state's 2008 general election ballot.
The perils of one-party rule - Jim Sacia
Representative government is the foundation of this great country. On the federal level, the Republican party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House. That's not representative. Here in the state of Illinois, the Democratic Party controls both chambers of the legislature and the governor's mansion. Again, that's not representative.
For the first time in my four years representing you in Springfield, the Republican Party is not even at the table for the budget negotiations. Our “budgeters” are frustrated. At least during the past three years we had input, whether those in control listened to it or not.
We are now told there is a budget agreed upon by the governor, the Senate president and the House speaker. By the time you read this, we will have voted on the budget and it will be old news.
In the coming weeks as you read the media reports and hear about the budget from those on both sides of the aisle, never forget that the budget pushed through the General Assembly this week again raids the pensions of our teachers and state workers while once again excluding from the raid the pension systems for members of the General Assembly and judges. This is simply wrong. I believe what's good for the goose is also good for the gander.
Do you remember our governor, when running for election four years ago, railing against member-initiative money and pork projects in the state budget? Well you won't believe it folks, but in order for him, the speaker and the Senate president to get the votes necessary to pass this abomination of a budget, they had to promise approximately $800 million in pork projects to Democrat legislators. This is totally irresponsible.
You may also remember that last year I shared with you the ridiculous $218 million in pork funding given to Chicago-area legislators to secure a budget. Unfortunately, that list doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.
I try very hard in writing this column to remain non-partisan, but this budget is “over the top.” With that said, I will tell you that there are some good things in this budget as well, including $408 million in additional funding for K-12 education and $78 million for the Department of Corrections - $6.5 million of that will partially open Thomson Correctional Center, something you know I have been working on for the past several years.
The additional funding for these crucial areas is wonderful, but I still must call the budget as a whole “irresponsible” because it creates $1.4 billion in new spending. The governor keeps promising new spending without an identified source of funding.
Our state debt is now $21 billion - up from $7 billion just four years ago. Our Medicaid reimbursements to providers are now $1.8 billion in arrears; you don't have to take my word for that, just call any nursing home or pharmacy. Right now, the average debt our state owes to each pharmacist (Medicaid reimbursement for services they have already provided) is $118,000.
I've previously written of the crisis our state is creating by shorting our nursing homes. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that the governor's “All Kids” program is going to be funded on the backs of the elderly. Keep an eye on this one folks. Remember the movie line “Show me the money!” Well, there is none. The projected $45 million for “All Kids” is buried in a multi-billion dollar Medicaid line item. That $45 million would cover just two days of the state's Medicaid costs. Yes, it certainly sounds good to provide state-funded healthcare coverage to all children, but wouldn't it be the right thing to do to put “All Kids” in the budget as a separate line item so we could see the actual cost? That won't happen, but we're all going to see Medicaid costs explode over the next several years. As it is, we are already 180 days behind in reimbursing our nursing homes for caring for Medicaid patients. No revenue is designated in this budget for paying that debt. Have you heard the old saying about before you can fill a hole you need to quit digging. Wow, does that apply to this administration. They just keep paying the bank loan with the credit card, digging that hole deeper and deeper.
Many of you are contacting me asking for my help in preventing money being “swept” from dedicated state funds. I promise to do all I can on the House floor. I will share in future columns any successes and also where the $800 million in pork-for-budget-votes money is going.
Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, represents the 89th District, which includes the Freeport area. He can be reached at 232-0774.
NEW YORK TIMES
Border Arrests Rise as U.S. Debates Immigration Issue - Randal Archibold
SAN DIEGO — Outside a shelter for migrants in the teeming Mexican city of Tijuana, Jesús Lugo Díaz clutched a creased paper with names and numbers of people in the United States scrawled over it — and clung to the hope of sneaking across the border.
It would be his fifth try.
"One way or the other you're going to cross," Mr. Díaz, 36, said as he waited for the shelter to open and offer him a bed and food for the night, a few days after the United States Border Patrol had last caught him and sent him back.
Here on the American side, a Border Patrol agent, Richard Kite, surveyed an array of fences, stadium lights and sensors. Mr. Kite kept a wary eye on several men loitering just across the border, singling out one perched atop a billboard.
"He's probably a spotter," Mr. Kite said.
The cat-and-mouse game along the 1,900-mile border with Mexico proceeds as it always has, even as the national debate over revamping immigration laws intensifies. The chanting in the streets of America's big cities and the arguing in the halls of Congress serve mostly as background noise.
The ebb and flow of arrests also goes on, with the Border Patrol watching a dip in central Arizona and a spike in San Diego and other developed areas for signs of shifting smuggling patterns.
Some suggest that a Senate proposal to adopt a guest worker program, possibly leading to legal residency and citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, might be inspiring more people to try a crossing. Others say the larger numbers indicate nothing more than stepped up enforcement or even a statistical aberration. Nobody really knows.
The peaks and valleys of arrests over the years reflect a variety of social, economic and political influences, including the pull of jobs and family here, a lack of opportunity on the other side, or even the weather.
What is certain is the United States keeps building up its border defenses, with more planned this year, including adding 1,500 agents and spending some $35 million in Arizona alone on surveillance equipment.
People still keep trying to get in, tucked under the dashboards of cars, tunneling under the fences — more than a dozen passages have been found this year — throwing bicycles over the barriers and pedaling away like weekend enthusiasts, crawling through brush, and walking, walking and walking — sometimes dying in the desert.
"They are ingenious sometimes," Mr. Kite said.
Fresh off a four-day bus ride from León, Mexico, Roberto Estrada, 43, toted a small plastic grocery bag with his belongings and planned to bed down the night before making contact with a smuggler. He said he had heard nothing about the immigration debate in the United States and was simply itching for work, maybe in a restaurant, but he would not get picky.
"I'll take whatever job," Mr. Estrada said.
After a peak of 1,676,438 arrests in 2000, apprehensions dropped, but they have drifted upward again to 1,189,067 in 2005 from 931,557 in 2003.
While the Border Patrol attributes the increase to the build up of security, scholars who study the border said it was more likely that migration was rebounding from an economic slump after the Sept. 11 attacks and years of diminished back-and-forth crossings by repeat crossers.
In the San Diego sector, which includes some of the Border Patrol's heaviest fortifications, federal agents have apprehended 90,843 people since October, a 33 percent increase over the same period a year before.
Along the busiest stretch for crossings, a 1,000-mile stretch from San Diego to the Texas state line, there have been 699,609 arrests over the same period, a 6 percent increase.
But arrest figures fluctuate, so the Border Patrol cannot declare a trend. As a rule of thumb, the agency estimates that for every person arrested two or three get through. But because of repeat arrests the number of apprehensions does not necessarily reflect the actual number of people trying to cross.
Still, people familiar with the border crossings, including the head of the union representing the border agents, suggest that the crossing attempts are growing, with some of those inspired by the prospect of a guest worker program.
"I think we are starting to see the early stage of a rush to take advantage of what is perceived to be a shift in immigration policy," said T. J. Bonner, president of the union, the National Border Patrol Council.
Mr. Bonner said some of the people arrested had told agents that they believed Congress had approved a guest worker program that would make their presence in the United States legal.
Mario Martinez, a spokesman for the Border Patrol in Washington, did not dismiss the guest worker program as a factor in the rising numbers of crossing efforts, but he said other influences, like jobs and reuniting with family, could also account for the increase.
Wayne A. Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego, said researchers there recently surveyed prospective migrants from the Yucatán Peninsula. They found that 60 percent of them had heard of the guest worker debate and that 30 percent said it would make them more likely to go the United States if it was approved. Only one who had already made the trip said the program was the main reason.
Operators of shelters in Mexico said they had noticed an increase in the number of people passing through, but they were also unsure of the cause.
The director of the Casa del Migrante shelter in Tijuana, the Rev. Luíz Kendzierski, said shelter visits had increased about 20 percent in the past year. More than anything, he said, grinding poverty in parts of Mexico and Central America and word from relatives about the ease of finding jobs in the United States have pushed most people to try crossing.
At Casa Betania, a shelter in Mexicali, Mexico, Tomás Reyes Hernández, the director, said he had heard only a few people mention the prospect of legalization as a reason for crossing.
"Most people don't know what is going on in the United States," he said.
At the Tijuana shelter, men flowed in and out, trading stories about their journey to the border and comparing notes on promising smugglers.
More and more people use guides, known as coyotes or polleros, because of the dangers of the desert and the strengthened enforcement.
"It's not that hard if you're willing to pay a good smuggler," said a 23-year-old man deported from Los Angeles after an arrest for domestic violence. "The hard part is getting the $2,000, $3,000 it costs for a good one. But sometimes they can get you across right here in Tijuana in the trunk or under the seat of a van."
Rove Is Using Threat of Loss to Stir G.O.P. - Jim Rutenberg
WASHINGTON, May 5 — To anyone who doubts the stakes for the White House in this year's midterm Congressional elections, consider that Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the Democrat who would become chairman of the Judiciary Committee if his party recaptured the House, has called for an inquiry into the possible impeachment of President Bush over the war in Iraq.
Or listen to Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who would run the Senate Judiciary Committee if the Democrats took the Senate. Mr. Leahy vowed in a recent interview to subpoena top administration officials, if he got the chance, to answer more questions about their secret eavesdropping program and what he considers faulty prewar intelligence.
The prospect of the administration spending its last two years being grilled by angry Democrats under the heat of partisan spotlights has added urgency to the efforts by Karl Rove and Mr. Bush's political team to hang on to the Republican majorities in Congress.
Newly shorn of the daily policymaking duties he took on after the 2004 campaign and now refocused on his role as Mr. Bush's chief strategist, Mr. Rove is facing an increasingly difficult climate for Republicans, and an increasingly assertive Democratic Party.
The ambitious second-term agenda he helped develop has faltered even with a Republican Congress. His once-grand plans for creating a broadened and permanent Republican majority have given way to a goal of clinging to control of the House and Senate.
The prospect of Democrats capturing either, however, may be one of the best weapons Mr. Rove has as he turns to what he has traditionally done best: motivating his party's conservative base to turn out on Election Day.
Heading into the election, many conservatives are disheartened by the war in Iraq, upset at what they see as a White House tolerance for bigger government and escalating federal spending, and divided over issues like immigration. The abrupt resignation on Friday of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Porter J. Goss, promised to feed the impression of an administration that is off balance.
But White House and Republican officials, trying to turn vulnerability to advantage, say conservatives could be united and re-energized by the possibility that Democrats could put Mr. Bush and his policies on political trial by winning control of even one chamber of Congress.
Senate Republicans sent out a fund-raising letter this week seeking to use that possibility to fire up the base, warning that a Democratic majority would put fighting terrorism "on the back burner" and that "our worst fears" could be realized.
The appeal is just one indication of how hard the White House and its Republican allies are likely to fight from now through Nov. 7 and of the challenge Mr. Rove faces in what could be the last campaign he orchestrates with the party.
At stake is not just what remains of Mr. Bush's hopes of making a permanent imprint on policy, but also whether Democrats will have a platform to define his presidency for history.
With so much on the line, Mr. Rove has taken to traveling the country to form strategies with individual candidates and local parties while brainstorming with the president's political and policy teams on broad items the White House can pursue to help Republicans everywhere. He is focusing on only the major planks of Mr. Bush's agenda and not the minutiae of policy that had consumed hours of his day.
In regular West Wing breakfast sessions catered by the White House mess, Mr. Rove and the White House political director, Sara Taylor, have already been reaching out to nervous and vulnerable Republicans, three at a time, laying out an emerging three-prong attack on Democrats over national security, taxes and health care.
In meetings at the White House, aboard Air Force One and in candidates' home states, Mr. Rove is trying to rally Republicans to stand by the president and his agenda.
He has focused in particular on uniting them behind the administration's proposals to overhaul immigration, which include guest worker provisions that conservatives despise; the Iraq war, which has driven Mr. Bush's poll numbers sharply downward; and the Medicare prescription drug program, which the administration says will cost $872 billion from 2006 to 2014 and which Mr. Bush backed enthusiastically despite complaints from conservatives that it was a vast expansion of the social welfare state.
Democrats need a net gain of six seats to win control of the Senate, and 15 for the House. With the overall outcome potentially coming down to one or two races, nearly every district and state seems to be getting some attention from Mr. Rove. He enlisted the president, and called on his own, to persuade Representative Elton Gallegly of California, a 10-term veteran, to reconsider a decision to drop his planned re-election campaign because of health worries.
Mr. Gallegly's decision threatened to jeopardize a seat the White House could otherwise count as safe. Mr. Gallegly quoted Mr. Rove as saying, "You know how important this election is going to be to be to all of us."
Mr. Gallegly acquiesced and said his health fear had ultimately proved unfounded anyway.
Mr. Rove's playbook is drawn straight from the one that worked for him in 2004: first, get conservatives fired up enough to vote, a particularly important goal in a midterm election, in which turnout is usually quite low. Second, make sure the election is not just about Mr. Bush's performance, but also about the choice between a Republican Party defined on its own terms and a Democratic Party defined on Mr. Rove's.
"We need to be really aggressive in explaining the sharp differences that exist between our candidates and their candidates on issues like taxes," Mr. Rove said in a telephone interview on Thursday as he headed to address a Republican dinner in Lancaster, Pa. "We have to do a better job of pressing advantages that we have on Medicare, prescription drugs."
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said Mr. Rove's task was tough but overdue. "Part of the problem is, I don't think there's been that kind of communication or the attempt to build political consensus within the party," Mr. Cornyn said, while voicing confidence in Mr. Rove's ability to pull it off.
Mr. Rove is also working in close contact with Ms. Taylor and the Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman, to put in motion the get-out-the-vote machinery Mr. Mehlman masterminded in 2004. They are refining state "victory programs" to identify potentially friendly voters who can be expected to receive messages about how the Democrats are ill prepared to fight terrorism or will undo tax cuts the president wants to make permanent.
Democrats say that is an old ploy that will not work this year. "The only things they can bring back this year are the old saws," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "They just won't play. We're in a new world."
At this point in the last midterm elections four years ago, Mr. Bush's approval ratings were around 70 percent, making him a huge asset on the campaign trail for his party.
Now the president's approval ratings are half that. The war has cast a shadow over the rest of the administration's agenda, and Democrats say some of the accomplishments Mr. Rove wants to highlight, like the prescription drug benefit, have troubled histories that make them less than ideal centerpieces for a campaign. And Mr. Rove remains embroiled in the federal criminal investigation into the disclosure of a C.I.A. officer's identity.
But Republican and White House officials say that as the kinks subside the prescription drug plan will be a net positive for the party come November, just as Mr. Rove said that the passage of a sweeping overhaul of immigration law would please voters who wanted action from Washington.
Republican and White House officials are also telling fellow Republicans that criticizing the president risks bringing the party down with him. At the same time, party officials have said they do not want the election to be a referendum on Mr. Bush.
Democrats are determined to make it just that. They say they believe that talk of their plans to demand answers from the administration is a rallying cry for their core voters.
"I think when the Congress finally joins the American people, this president is going to have to not just show how stubborn he is by sticking out his jaw," said Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, who would be in line for the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee if Democrats took the House. "He's going to have to answer some questions."
Mr. Rove said he was not worried. "We won't see how that plays out because they're not going to win," he said.
AOL executive Mary Cheney has her turn to speak — and write - Carol Memmott
Mary Cheney, an AOL executive, looks like a typical thirtysomething Washington professional.
She's well dressed, reserved and has an aura of self-confidence. She's dressed in an expertly tailored bright pink jacket and black trousers. Her makeup and hair are done simply but carefully. She shares an uncanny resemblance to her father, Vice President Cheney.
Mary Cheney is ready for her close-up. Her memoir, Now It's My Turn (Threshold, $25), will be published on Tuesday.
The attention is welcome now, but it wasn't during the 2004 presidential campaign, when her sexuality became, to her, an uncomfortable campaign issue.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, his running mate, John Edwards, and various gay rights groups talked openly about her lesbianism. Cheney was just about the only person who didn't.
"I'd made a commitment to the campaign," says Cheney, who ran her father's 2004 vice presidential campaign. "My job was to do whatever I could to help my dad. It wasn't to be making policy statements of my own."
But Cheney, 37, is now ready to share her feelings and opinions.
She writes about the day she told her parents she was gay: She had just broken up with her first girlfriend and wrecked the family car. Her parents, Cheney says, were supportive, unlike the parents of other gay people she knows whose families abandoned them.
"It never even crossed my mind that there was a possibility that that's something my parents would do," she says. "Quite frankly, if it had, I wouldn't have come out to them when I was 16. My mom said, 'Your life will be so hard,' but she really understood there wasn't any choice in the matter."
Cheney says that she is close to her parents and her older sister, Elizabeth, who is now pregnant with her fifth child, and that family members try to get together for Sunday dinners whenever possible.
Her mother, Lynne, recently stopped by the Great Falls, Va., home outside Washington, D.C., that Cheney shares with her partner, Heather Poe, to look at some new furniture they had bought.
She says the vice president is "a wonderful father and a wonderful grandfather, but he's also a very private person in terms of family life."
She said of the quail hunting accident in which her father shot Harry Whittington: "Of course my dad was upset," she says. "It was a terrible accident, but his main concern was making sure that Harry Whittington was taken care of and that he got the medical attention that he needed, and that Harry's family was taken care of and that they had everything they needed."
Cheney says that she loved writing Now It's My Turn and that before she worked on her father's vice presidential campaigns, she started writing a novel. It's a political thriller that takes place in Washington and Moscow. "I had it pretty much outlined and have the first 50 pages written," she says.
But the story many people want to hear is why she didn't speak out about gay rights during the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign, when Bush announced support for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.
She makes it clear in the book that she and her father did not and do not support the amendment.
Numerous gay rights supporters — and an infamous webcampaign called "Where is Mary Cheney?" — called on her to speak out against Bush's stand and considered her sexuality fair game. "Fair game?" she writes in the book. "My sexuality is fair game? It was completely outrageous."
She also was roundly criticized because she and Poe did not stand onstage with the Cheney family at the 2004 GOP convention: "We decided that we were going to be low-key. ... We had talked about the possibility of going up onstage either after my dad's speech or after the president spoke. I was happier and more comfortable staying behind the scenes." Poe, she writes, was "more averse to stares and cameras than I am."
Asked whether she could have used her position as daughter of the vice president to help promote gay rights, Cheney, a Bush Republican, says: "I am and have always been very open and honest about who I am, about being gay. I'm about to publish a book that devotes a whole chapter to the issue of marriage amendments. Quite honestly, I think that's the way I can be most effective."
Cheney becomes more animated as she talks about her life with Poe, 45. The couple is renovating the Virginia house they bought about six months ago, around the time Cheney started her job at AOL's headquarters in Dulles, Va. She is chief of staff for AOL executive Ted Leonsis.
Poe, a former UPS manager, is devoting all her time to the renovations, Cheney says. The home is "beautiful on the outside but very confused on the inside," she says. "We're living in a construction zone."
Cheney says she and Poe met in 1988 while playing ice hockey. They had their first date in 1992 and have been together ever since.
They like to spend time outdoors walking their dogs and mountain biking, and, when they can, they travel out West for snowboarding. This year they gave each other kayaks as birthday gifts.
This fall, Virginians will vote on a proposed amendment to the Virginia Bill of Rights that would ban same-sex marriages and civil unions in the state. Cheney says she will vote against it.
"What you have to understand," she says, "is that as far as I'm concerned, Heather and I are married. We've built a home and a life together. She is the person I hope to spend the rest of my life with.
"We're just waiting for the state and federal laws to catch up with us."
-- Joe Birkett, Lee Daniels, and Bob Schillerstrom speak at outstanding Chris Kachiroubas fundraiser - Dave Diersen
Over 300 attended an outstanding Chris Kachiroubas fundraiser brunch at the Lisle/Naperville Hilton. Attendees included Bob Biggins, Fred Bucholz, Yolanda Campuzano, Franco Coladipietro, Patrick and Kathie Durante, Hank Gianvechio, Michael Gresk, Gwen Henry, Paul Hinds, Joel Kagann, Chris Kain, Gary King, Pat Moretti, Marsha Murphy, Carole Pankau, Don Puchalski, Jim Rasins, Dennis Reboletti, Ron Smith, John Valle, and Stan Wojtasiak.