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Cross not interested in Hastert’s seat Oswego Republican likes state politics, family life near kids - John Patterson
SPRINGFIELD — With Congressman Dennis Hastert likely nearing an end to his political career, Tom Cross’ name tops nearly every list of potential Republican replacements.
But Cross, of Oswego, isn’t interested, telling the Daily Herald the family sacrifices he’d have to make are too severe and he enjoys leading the Republicans in the Illinois House.
“I have young kids. They’re 13 and 10. I get a chance to see their concerts, their basketball and soccer games, and baseball, and I love doing that. But two, I like state government. I like being the House Republican leader,” Cross said.
Cross has long been considered a protege of Hastert, the Plano Republican recently displaced as U.S. House speaker. Although there was immediate speculation he’d step down upon losing power, Hastert remains and has said he’ll serve out his term.
Still, both parties are scrambling for candidates for the day when the 14th Congressional District comes open.
And while he didn’t slam the door shut, Cross made it clear he’d prefer focusing on state government rather than seek a rank-and-file seat in the next Congress.
Cross recently sat down with the Daily Herald for a wide-ranging discussion. Here are excerpts from the interview. To hear more, go to dailyherald.com
On a Barack Obama presidency:
Q: Given the potential benefits to Illinois, wouldn’t an Obama presidency be better than any other candidate?
A: I think Mayor Daley (a Democrat) thought it was good to have Speaker Hastert (a Republican) as the speaker because it meant more money coming into the state of Illinois for roads and mass transit and schools, and it was. And in that respect, it’s always good to have somebody in power in those positions.
So in that respect, sure it’s good to have somebody there, because that person’s going to hopefully help your state with money. But I don’t know that I’d go that far, that I’m going to have the same argument when it comes to policy. I’m going to support a Republican for policy reasons.
I understand the premise there. It’s good and there’s something to that, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for him.
On his recent openness to gambling expansion:
Q: You’re the son of a Methodist minister, and in the past you’ve been critical of the state’s reliance on gambling. How do you balance that?
A: I don’t discount actually the Methodist church’s position on gaming. You do struggle with that. But it’s (gambling) here, I don’t think any Republicans voted for it, and at the end of the day, maybe the General Assembly doesn’t have the willingness to do that from a policy standpoint. My main point is there are only ... there aren’t a lot of places to go to get the money needed to do a (construction) bill.”
On Hastert’s post:
Q: You seem to be as interested in going to Washington as I am interested in going to Washington, which is not at all.
A: Yeah, I like state government. I think the speculation on Denny’s seat is a little premature, but I also understand the nature of the business we’re in and people love to speculate.
I have young kids. They’re 13 and 10. I get a chance to see their concerts, their basketball and soccer games, and baseball, and I love doing that. But two, I like state government. I like being the House Republican leader.
On political trust:
Q: When the Democratic leaders go behind closed doors, which one of them do you trust the most?
A: I get along with all the Democratic leaders. As far as I’m concerned, there’s not a trust issue that bothers me. We understand we’re in the minority. We understand that they’re going to do some things without us and that’s fine. I think we have a responsibility to voice our opposition when we have opposition, to work with them when we can, and it’s our duty and responsibility to tackle these problems, and we’ll do it when we have the opportunity, and even when we don’t, we’ll make our point known.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: VERY SAD: Tim Wise blames problems that minorities have on whites
(DIERSEN: Yes, racism does exist, for example, in the Chicago Office of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO). Because I am a white male and I opposed their giving preference to minorities and females, my liberal Democrat GAO superiors wasted my career and forced me into early retirement.)
Speaker reveals how deep race goes - Emily KroneTim Wise wants to know if you thought about your racial identity today.
If not, you’re probably white, Wise says.
Wise, an anti-racism educator and author, lectures across the country on the dangers of white privilege.
Tuesday, he spoke to enthusiastic crowds at Elgin Community College as part of a lineup of events for Black History Month.
Contrary to the opinion of most white Americans, racism exists, Wise told students.
To deny racism is inherently racist because it discounts the experience and testimonials of people of color, Wise said.
And with racism, Wise said, comes its inverse: white privilege.
Wise sprinkles his lectures with humor — “white people are like Visa, they’re every … place you want to go” — and with statistics — a job applicant with a white-sounding name is 50 percent more likely to be called back than one with similar qualifications and a black-sounding name.
Wise challenged his audience Tuesday, and they responded with knowing nods, laughter and applause.
Wise has been labeled a racist by some and even drawn the occasional threat against his life.
But Wise, who is white, deflects the criticism, saying he’s not against whites but against white privilege.
Wise defines white privilege as the luxury of not having race affect your day-to-day life.
White people, Wise said, don’t have to worry about disproving negative stereotypes; or representing their race; or conforming to standards set by whites.
When Timothy McVeigh committed the Oklahoma City bombing, white people didn’t worry they would be labeled anti-government or extremists, Wise said.
When President Bush commits a grammatical blunder, whites don’t worry people will think they’re inarticulate.
And when whites want to learn about their own history, they don’t have to set aside a separate curriculum or month, because every day is white history day, Wise said.
The psychological advantage of being white, coupled with lingering social, economic and institutional inequalities, contributes to a lopsided state of affairs that is bad for minorities and whites alike, Wise said.
Wise sees the footprints of white privilege in many of America’s biggest missteps and tragedies — the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, Columbine.
For example, people of color by and large opposed the Iraq war, white people by and large supported it, Wise said.
Wise attributes the dichotomy to white privilege. Because white people were out of practice of seeing the world through other people’s eyes, they could not see that Americans would not be greeted as liberators, Wise said.
“White privilege says the world sees you the way you see you,” Wise said. “And there’s danger in living in that bubble.”
OUTSTANDING: Stop holding back Adoption and Scout license plates - State Sen. Kirk W. Dillard, Hinsdale
I write about your story on a federal court ordering the Illinois Secretary of State to manufacture “Choose Life” license plates to promote and fund adoption.
The federal judge wrote, “where the government voluntarily provides a forum for private expression, the government may not discriminate against some speakers because of their viewpoint.”
Another license plate which the “politically correct” Democratic Party control in Springfield refuses to allow is for Boy or Girl Scouts.
It is time for the Democrats — under pressure from gay rights advocates to stop scouting — to lift the brick on license plates to promote scouting, as other states allow.
Illinois should be a place of common sense Midwestern values. Adoption and scouting are among those values.
LAKE COUNTY NEWS SUN
NOT SURPRISING: Beaubien and Link predict uneasy session over state finances - Jim Newtonhttp://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/newssun/news/244500,5_1_WA06_CTYSTATELEG_S1.article
And the state's burgeoning deficit will not make resolution of controversial issues any easier.
"I predict the most difficult legislative year we've had in recent history," state Rep. Mark Beaubien, R-Barrington Hills, said at the Lake County Board's annual Legislative breakfast Friday in Gurnee.
"We have some serious budget and revenue issues that have not been addressed and will be addressed this year," Beaubien said, adding that he believes the session will extend beyond its scheduled conclusion in May.
State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, said the Senate leadership has met with Gov. Rod Blagojevich and that the governor has made it clear that neither income tax nor property tax increases will be a bail-out mechanism.
"We have to look at other revenues," Link said, adding that gaming proposals under consideration could generate between $2 billion and $4 billion a year. A casino for Waukegan is included in gambling proposals before the Legislature.
Link and Beaubien both vowed that the county's legislative delegation will fight hard to ensure that Lake County gets its fair share of transportation and school funding, and that county dollars will not go toward bailing out problems primarily related to Chicago and Cook County.
"There's no way we're going to pass a $3 million RTA bail-out," Beaubien said. "No way it's going to happen. That's just my opinion."
"We're a long way from what the RTA wants us to do," agreed Link. "We're not here to bail out the CTA and its mismanagement."
Link said a Senate Democratic Suburban Caucus, holding 11 of the Democrats 37 majority votes, has been formed to protect suburban funding issues including fair transportation and school funding for collar counties.
"We are going to be heard when it comes to these issues, Link said.
Link said he is sponsoring one of several smoke-free bills, and that his would ban smoking in restaurants, bars and casinos. He said Wisconsin legislators are also considering a statewide ban in conjunction with Illinois.
Beaubien and Link both were optimistic with regard to the County Board's legislation requests for the upcoming session.
The county is seeking funding for transportation improvements identified at a countywide traffic summit held in the fall.
Also on the board's wish list is more authority to negotiate developer impact fees and a larger role in the siting of cell towers in unincorporated areas.
"I think a lot of the things you're asking for could be accomplished this year," Beaubien said. "I think most of these things we can do this year."
Politics in moderation Former governors discuss bipartisan cooperation - Chris Klarer
Former President Bill Clinton once said, "When we put aside partisanship, embrace the best ideas regardless of where they come from and work for principled compromise, we can move America not left or right, but forward."The SIUC Paul Simon Public Policy Institute explored this stance Tuesday night.Three former governors, one a current U.S. Senator, came out to sing the praises of cooperation and centrism in a political climate they claim to be too often dominated by extremes."There is a reason that the first three words of the Constitution are 'we the people,'" former New Jersey Gov. and moderate Republican Christine Whitman said.Guests at the event also included former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar and former Nebraska Gov. and current U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson.In their discussion, the speakers outlined a number of reasons why many politicians have continued to move towards the extreme of their parties, despite the large amount of citizens who express interest in bipartisan cooperation.Whitman said it is up to the often-silent majority of moderates to stand up and demand that their legislative bodies reflect their image.The majority of the public sees the country as more politically polarized than in the past and is ready for more compromise in government, according to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and National Public Radio.The survey found that 75 percent of participants liked politicians that are willing to compromise, except on contentious issues like Iraq and abortion policy. The survey also found that 60 percent appreciate a mixture of conservative and liberal positions in their elected officials.One contributor to polarization Whitman briefly touched on was the media. She said there are so many options available to the average American that news outlets often latch onto the more sensational issues and these tend to polarize the public. She said that politicians also add to public polarization by calling attention to "litmus test" issues - contentious issues that tend to evoke strong emotions but do not affect people on a daily basis. These issues can help them keep voters tied to their party based on single issues rather than overall scope, she said.Edgar said allowing open primaries could increase voter turnout at primary election time, giving voters better choices from both parties. He said the extremes of both sides tend to be the ones that vote at primaries."People don't always want to publicly claim a party," he said.Assistant Director of the Institute Matthew Baughman said it is important for students to see there are plenty of politicians who are not pandering to the interests of the extremists on the right or left side of the political spectrum."It's possible to be a moderate and be successful in politics, and to be effective in government," Baughman said. "That's perhaps something the nation needs more so now than ever."
Eleven legislative races topped $1 million in spending, shattering the previous record of seven set just two years earlier, an analysis of campaign finance reports reveals.
More than half the money for those expensive contests came directly from the legislative leaders. In some races, the leaders contributed more than 80 percent of the candidates' money.
Advocates for campaign finance reform worry that the four leaders -- one from each party in the House and the Senate -- gain too much control over rank-and-file lawmakers by funding and running their campaigns. Lawmakers will pay more attention to the leaders than to voters, they argue.
''It's simply common sense that you're going to owe a deep allegiance to your leader,'' said Cindi Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. ''That's who you're going to turn to every time you go out for election.''
Legislators in those top races deny that they're beholden to their leaders.
''My job is to listen to my constituents, and at the end of the day it's my constituents who sent me there,'' said Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Urbana. ''You run great peril if you just concentrate on those who gave you money.''
The November election was unusual even for Illinois' free-spending legislative campaigns.
Open Republican seats in the Senate and vulnerable downstate Democrat seats in the House led to about a dozen strong races instead of the usual half-dozen or so seen in recent elections. In all, the leaders pumped nearly $20 million into all the legislative races.
The Democrats -- Senate President Emil Jones and House Speaker Michael Madigan -- came out on top in money and wins. They spent nearly $11 million combined, while Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson and House Republican Leader Tom Cross spent about $9 million.
Democrats also came out on top in the hottest contests, winning nine of the 11 most expensive races. That gives Democrats a 37-22 ''supermajority'' in the Senate and a 66-52 lead in the House.
Campaign funds controlled by the leaders accounted for more than $8.4 million -- or 52 percent -- of the $16.1 million that went into the top 11 races. The Illinois Republican Party kicked in another $944,000, bringing the percentage to 58 percent.
The most expensive race, at $2.1 million, was between Frerichs and Republican Judy Myers. That failed to break the old record of $2.4 million spent in a southern Illinois legislative contest in 2004, according to the Campaign for Political Reform.
The share of money from the leaders varied greatly among the races, from as little as 30 percent in a couple of races to more than 80 percent.
Legislative campaigns have been million dollar-plus affairs for more than a decade, but leaders have cranked up the money to make them professional, streamlined organizations run by their trusted staff members and key advisers.
The races have taken on more of a uniform look, Canary says. The ads and mailers used around Champaign may closely resemble the ones used by a different candidate in Elgin.
''It's becoming more focused,'' said Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert and political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. ''They're not local contests. They're leadership-dominated.''
Canary and Redfield worry that campaign domination translates into legislative domination.
Legislative leaders already strongly control the flow of legislation, and rank-and-file legislators might be wary of challenging their decisions if it means losing future campaign money.
The system also means interest groups can focus their lobbying and donations on just a handful of lawmakers, knowing that whatever the leaders decide will be supported by the rest.
Lawmakers say they still have a say in how their campaigns are run, and some argue they'd rather take money from the leaders than special interest groups who might expect favorable treatment in return.
''It's much better if he (Madigan) provides it,'' said Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline.
Boland agreed with reform advocates that reducing leadership's influence is a worthy goal, and that Illinois should look at options such as public financing of campaigns.
But the possibility seems remote as long as leaders who benefit from the system also are in charge of deciding whether it will change.
''Even though people don't like the system, they're comfortable and they're successful under the system,'' Redfield said.
VERY SAD: Abortion notification law on hold again - Abdon Pallasch
So the state's parental notification law, which has been on ice for 12 years, stays that way.
But when the state's courts have worked out the procedures so girls arriving there are directed to the proper courtroom and the forms are all ready, Attorney General Lisa Madigan can return to court seeking to finally get the long-delayed 1995 law enacted, Judge David Coar ruled.
Madigan's attorneys said they would return, though they gave no timetable.
The American Civil Liberties Union and abortion-rights activists praised Coar's ruling, though they recognize it may not last forever. "We applaud the judge for looking carefully at this and we are hopeful we will never see parental notice in Illinois," said ACLU attorney Lorie Chaiten. "We think the ruling is one that benefits the young women of Illinois."
State Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) has introduced a bill that would broaden the list of adults a pregnant teen could have notified, including a clergy member.
DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett said the law as it stands already allows for other adults to be notified and has been found constitutional in 38 states, including all of Illinois' surrounding states.
BEYOND OUTRAGEOUS: 4 convicted pols test state law, voter mercy - Stefano Esposito and Annie Sweeney
Now, four felons who once served as aldermen are hoping to churn out the vote this month to return to their old haunts.
Virgil Jones, Ambrosio Medrano and Percy Giles -- all convicted in the Operation Silver Shovel scandal -- are seeking to reclaim their seats in the 15th, 25th and 37th wards in the Feb. 27 election. Wallace Davis Jr., convicted in Operation Incubator while serving in the 27th Ward, is running for the 2nd Ward seat.
State law bars felons from holding municipal office. But the Chicago Board of Elections has ruled that it's unconstitutional to prevent the men from running, because felons can run for state and other elected offices. And the Illinois Supreme Court signaled this week that it will settle the matter sometime before Election Day.
For their part, prospective voters have divergent feelings about giving the four candidates second chances.
Of the 11 people running for alderman of the 15th Ward, two are known to have criminal pasts.
There's Jones, convicted in 1999 of taking bribes while in office.
And there's Tommie Grayer Sr.
Grayer, 82, said he assaulted a man 60 years ago -- but insists it was in self-defense.
He was in his early 20s and working as a short-order cook on the South Side when a customer yelled at him over an 85-cent egg order, Grayer said. The man threatened him with a gun, so Grayer threw a hammer at him, Grayer said, adding that he served six months probation for assault.
No public records could be found on the case, and Grayer said his record eventually was expunged.
Grayer sees a distinction between his crime and Jones'. "He doesn't deserve to be alderman for . . . the simple reason that he betrayed the trust of the people," Grayer said of Jones.
But some are looking past Jones' missteps.
"They haven't forgotten, but the ward has forgiven him," said John Morrison, who moved from the ward in 1997 but still clips hair at Penny's barbershop at 68th and Western, which he owns with his wife. "He was a real alderman. He walked the beat."
Jones continues to insist that he's innocent of all the charges and that the 41 months he spent in prison allowed him to plan his return.
"I've been involved silently working with people, talking with people . . . waiting for this opportunity," Jones said.
In the booming South Loop, where the skyline is in an unrelenting upward thrust, it's hard to find people who know much about Wallace Davis Jr. After four years as a city alderman from 1983 to 1987, Davis was convicted of extortion and spent four years in prison.
Mia Karoutsos, who owns Downtown Pets on South Michigan, said she would never vote for someone with Davis' history. "He's already been convicted of lying and defying the people he was supposed to be taking care of," said Karoutsos, 30. "Why would we want to put him back in the same position to do it again?"
But on the West Side, not far from where Davis owns Wallace's Catfish Corner, some are more forgiving.
"He helps people out a lot," said Debra Johnson, 46 and unemployed. "He helped me one time to find a job."
Davis, 55, says he's committed no crime and his community embraces him.
"I have paid my debt to society -- a debt that was never owed," Davis said. "I wound up being lynched by the legal rope."
Arturo Cortes, 40, has lived in Pilsen since 1979. He owns a wedding photography business. He takes for granted that all politicians are in it for the money.
It doesn't trouble Cortes that candidate Ambrosio Medrano pleaded guilty in 1996 to accepting $31,000 in bribes. "This time he's not going to fail," Cortes said.
Cortes plans to vote for Medrano because he says the candidate is responsive to people's needs.
But along South Halsted, lined with art galleries and many newcomers, some are more cautious.
"We don't need someone who doesn't have a moral bone in his body," said Robin Rios, owner of 4 Art gallery.
Medrano says he's paid for his mistake. "I don't know how many times I have to pay," he said. "I don't know what I have to do. If anything, what I did made me a better individual."
Aldermanic candidate Daryl Jones doesn't use the term "political suicide," but he says publicly bashing another candidate for his felony history is unwise in a ward where many residents have been locked up at one time or another.
"The general feeling around the ward is that if you commit a crime, if you [do] your time, then you should be permitted to run," said Jones, a Cook County prosecutor.
In fact, voters already have given candidate Percy Giles a second chance: They re-elected him as 37th Ward alderman in 1999, even though he'd just been indicted for racketeering, bribery, extortion and mail fraud. He was forced to step down after a jury convicted him later that year.
Some in the ward wonder why it's OK for him to run for office while a felony history often keeps residents from getting decent jobs.
Says Giles: "I'm asking for a second chance to be a servant to my community."
I have thought of that analogy myself. It is perfect. Lung cancer is predominantly caused by cigarette smoking, which is currently a politically incorrect behavior. Chicago and Illinois lawmakers have increasingly sought to discourage this behavior by making it more difficult to carry out this behavior.
So to answer Perry's question, we would welcome a lung cancer vaccine but wouldn't turn around and say, "Great, let's all smoke!" Because we know smoking causes a myriad of other cancers as well as health problems like emphysema and hardening of the arteries. Furthermore, we know this behavior has secondary consequences of endangering the health of other people who come in contact with the smoker.
So when state Sen. Debbie Halvorson admitted she had HPV and worried others might get it, you would think she'd focus on her behavior that caused her to contract that sexually transmitted disease.
Halvorson would be most helpful by discussing the health consequences of pre- or extra-marital sex. Here are some potential topics:
But no, Halvorson does not advocate avoiding a risky behavior that leads not only to HPV but to 20+ other STDs and their strains, along with unplanned pregnancy. Halvorson merely advocates trying to avoid the consequences of risky behavior. Shame on her.
CONTACT: Edwin C. Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union ofIllinois, +1-312-201-9740, ext. 305, Pager: +1-312-851-2832,Cell: +1-847-687-1129, firstname.lastname@example.org
DuPage Housing Authority stands to lose over $1 million in vouchers - Paige Winfield
(DIERSEN QUESTION: What percentage of housing voucher recipients blame their problems on Republicans and always vote for Democrats?)
It may become more difficult for low-wage earners in DuPage to obtain federally subsidized housing vouchers if the U.S. Senate passes a revised funding formula under the Fiscal Year 2007 Continuing Resolution.
Under the new formula, the DuPage County Housing Authority will lose about 100 housing vouchers worth more than $1 million, while the Chicago Housing Authority will see its funds boosted nearly $51 million. The bill has passed the House and now awaits Senate approval.
Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Hinsdale, is urging Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Dick Durbin to work with Republicans to reform the Section 8 housing funding.
"While Chicago does quite well under this revised formula, it does so at the expense of suburban seniors and low-income families who rely on Section 8 vouchers to keep a roof over their head," Biggert said in a letter to the senators.
"Our constituents are not well served by this abrupt and drastic change in the formula," she said.
Under its current contract, the DuPage Housing Authority has $23 million to grant 2,571 vouchers to county residents who earn at or below 50 percent of the median income. A voucher recipient typically receives $8,800-$9,000 per year to use for apartment rent, depending on his or her income level.
A 3 percent to 4 percent county poverty rate and more than 1,000 names on the waiting list for vouchers contradicts those who deny the presence of poverty in DuPage, said John Day, president of the Housing Authority.
He added that the new Section 8 formula is disproportionately weighted to favor the city of Chicago.
Other Chicago suburbs also will suffer from the bill. Cook County Housing Authority will lose $8 million, while the Joliet and Aurora Housing Authorities each stand to lose around $1 million.
Paid for by David John Diersen