David John Diersen, GOPUSA Illinois Editor
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February 16, 2006 News clips
Posted by Diersen on 15-Mar-2007
-- Chicago tapped to bid for 2008 GOP convention - Will Lester
-- Daley not interested in hosting GOP in 2008 - Lynn Sweet and Fran Spielman 
-- Gov unveils $53.3 billion budget plan - Dave McKinney and Tracy Swartz 
-- Governor sets election-year budget  New programs: No income, sales tax hikes proposed
-- Blagojevich: No longer a penny-pincher - John Patterson
(Not posted as of 5:00 AM)
(Article includes quotes from Brady, Gidwitz, Froehlich, Mulligan, Oberweis, Osmond, Peterson, Topinka, and Watson.)
-- 8th District hopefuls take walk on supply side -
-- Five battling for two DuPage County forest preserve seats - 
-- Hospitals decry charity care plan  Madigan pushes legislation, saying tax-exempt hospitals not doing enough -
-- Blagojevich proposals: Good ideas, but the price is too steep - Editorial
-- Naperville Councilman Furstenau is not what charges imply - Randy and Judy Peterson 
-- Edward: Charity bill would cripple hospitals  Plan would have dug $7 million hole for Naperville hospital - Larry Avila
-- Latest poll shows Topinka, Gidwitz making biggest gains in GOP race - Rich Miller
-- Cheers, jeers for budget proposal  Blagojevich finds politics guides views - Ray Long, Christi Parsons, Diane Rado, and Maura Possley
-- Bloggers post updates from Capitol Hill hearings - Eric Benderoff
-- Gidwitz defends ad targeting Topinka - Andy Shaw
-- Critics Weigh In On Blagojevich's Budget Proposal  Republicans, Some Democrats, Remain Skeptical - Mike Flannery
-- Topinka Wants Gidwitz To Pull Advertisement
-- Blagojevich budget to impact IL business -
-- Daley pleased with poll, denies knowing of misconduct - AP
-- Brady announces tax-relief proposals - John Faddoul
-- Minutemen plan meeting in Elgin, rally in Batavia - Andre Salles
-- Blagojevich seeks to expand stem cell research funding - Ann Sanner
-- Gidwitz, Jones, Topinka, Valle, Watson offer comments on Blagojevich budget address
-- GOP continues attack on limited Lake and McHenry County judicial bill
-- Election judges sought for Cook County
-- Illinois Association of REALTORS(R) Urges Stronger Protections for Private Property Owners Against Eminent Domain
-- Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association ponders Oberweis boycott - Cheri Bentrup
-- Smokers, vendors find new tax a real drag - John Huston
-- Dems test suburban strategy  Who will replace Henry Hyde? - Daniel Sullivan
-- Kathy Salvi: Time for ads, but not for true debates? - Jeff Berkowitz 
-- Institute Releases FY 2007 Budget Analysis - Greg Blankenship
-- Robbing Peter To Pay Paul Is Not A Right - Greg Blankenship
-- Gay advocate Rick Garcia blasts Oberweis, again
-- Jim Oberweis on Blagojevich's Wednesday budget address
-- Gidwitz Responds to Topinka Attacks - Ron Gidwitz
-- Kathy Salvi Launches Television Ad
-- McNeil welcomes endorsement of Illinois Federation for the Right to Life
-- A friendly debate at CPAC - David Keene
-- CPAC: The conservative sell-out - Cliff Kincaid
Chicago tapped to bid for 2008 GOP convention - Will Lester
WASHINGTON-- More than two dozen cities, including Chicago, have been invited to submit bids to explain why they would be the best choice for the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The 31 cities were announced Wednesday by the Republican National Committee, which also has asked to hear from cities not on the list but interested in playing host to the convention.

The committee's site selection committee will hold individual meetings in Washington with representatives of all interested cities to discuss the choice of a convention city. The RNC has several basic requirements for the host city.

-- A main convention facility capable of seating at least 20,500.

-- A city and its host committee's willingness and ability to provide and pay for security for the convention.

-- City must be able to make available to the RNC's planning committee 20,000 hotel rooms and 2,000 one- and two-bedroom suites.

Besides Chicago, cities that received requests for convention proposals are: Anaheim, Calif.; Atlanta; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; St. Louis, Mo.; and Tampa.

The RNC's site selection committee will decide on a list of finalist cities by mid-summer of this year and will visit those cities in the late summer. Final selection is expected no later than Feb. 1, 2007.

The 2004 Republican convention was held in New York City.

Daley not interested in hosting GOP in 2008 - Lynn Sweet and Fran Spielman

WASHINGTON -- Chicago and 30 other cities were asked Wednesday to bid on hosting the 2008 Republican National Convention.

But mayoral spokeswoman Jackie Heard said City Hall is not interested.

Heard said Mayor Daley told her Chicago officials are more focused on deciding whether to launch a campaign for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The United Center was home to the Democratic National Convention in 1996, when President Clinton was nominated for a second term.

The city ran a successful convention and was able to put behind it the disastrous 1968 Democratic Convention where Chicago Police clashed with Vietnam protesters.

City focuses on Olympic bid

Daley's City Hall would rather contemplate the more ambitious Olympics bid than staging another costly political convention.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said in a statement, "We are excited to begin the process of selecting a city to host our 2008 convention."

Committee treasurer Robert Kjellander, an Illinois-based lobbyist, told the Chicago Sun-Times the party sent bids "to every city that potentially had the capability'' of handling a convention.

Cities that received 2008 request for proposals are: Anaheim, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Tampa.

The date for the convention has not been set. The GOP convention was in New York in 2004 and in Philadelphia in 2000.

Gov unveils $53.3 billion budget plan - Dave McKinney and Tracy Swartz

SPRINGFIELD -- Mapping out themes of his re-election bid, Gov. Blagojevich on Wednesday proposed a $55.3 billion state budget that would expand preschool, hire more police, fund stem-cell research and offer tax breaks for families with kids in college.

The governor said his plan to increase state spending by nearly $1 billion in 2007 would "do good things for the hardworking people of Illinois,'' but his 37-minute speech drew GOP jeers.

"I'm proposing a budget that invests a lot more money in our schools, helps more people get health care, helps our police fight crime, creates more jobs, strengthens our pensions and streamlines our government,'' Blagojevich told lawmakers.

The centerpiece of the budget is an expansion of state-subsidized preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, reaching 32,000 children in its first year at a cost of $45 million.

"We're all in the business of choosing,'' the governor said. "What you say yes and no to defines who you are, what you stand for, what values you believe in, whose side you're on. So I'm asking you to say yes to our kids.''

The governor touted a proposed $90 million plan for $1,000 tuition tax credits for families with college freshmen and sophomores who keep "B" averages.

Vocal critics

He also proposed a $100 million, five-year program to promote stem-cell research and funding for two State Police cadet classes, bringing 110 new troopers online by the end of the 2007 budget year.

Blagojevich would pay for his new proposals, in part, by yanking $198 million in business tax breaks, increasing taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco by $10 million, withdrawing $144 million from special-purpose funds and reaping $100 million from the proposed sale of the state's student-loan portfolio.

Even with those steps, Blagojevich's Democratic and GOP critics said the state could not afford new election-year goodies at a time when it has sharply curtailed state pension payments this year and in 2007 to keep the Treasury afloat.

"It's cotton candy for the election cycle, quite frankly,'' GOP gubernatorial hopeful Ron Gidwitz said of the governor's speech.

Not mentioned by Blagojevich was a proposal to cut spending by nearly 4 percent in the office of the executive inspector general and the Executive Ethics Commission, which investigate allegations of wrongdoing in state government. His administration faces a series of state and federal hiring and contracting probes.

'Enron math'

A Blagojevich spokeswoman said the cuts reflect the fact neither body will fully spend 2006 allocations because duties to oversee universities were transferred.

Rarely during speeches to the Legislature do governors draw boos, but Republicans jeered as Blagojevich said the state's underfunded public pension systems have improved ''indisputably'' on his watch.

''It was Enron math,'' said Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson (R-Greenville). ''How can he say that? How can he be so outrageous?''

Blagojevich's allies, however, said the governor's fourth budget speech stood as one of his best, interrupted the speech several times with applause and ridiculed the GOP criticism.

"I expect that to come from Republicans,'' said Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), the governor's campaign co-chairman. "If the governor gave the Sermon on the Mount, they'd find something wrong with that.''

Blagojevich called for a $400 million increase in education funding, including $100 million for Chicago's public schools. Still, that total leaves Blagojevich only two-thirds of the way toward meeting his 2003 pledge to hike state spending per student by $1,000.

The governor also implored lawmakers to pass his $3 billion-plus construction package but neglected to identify how a key part of it -- $500 million for school bricks and mortar -- would be funded.

With Wednesday's address behind him, Blagojevich now turns to politics. His campaign has scheduled a press conference today to discuss a "formal kickoff to the governor's re-election campaign.''

Governor sets election-year budget  New programs: No income, sales tax hikes proposed
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Rod Blagojevich is taking advantage of the state's improving economy to propose an election-year budget that would expand preschool, help families pay for college and hire more police and prison guards.

"This budget is about continuing to make progress for the people of Illinois," he said Wednesday.

But the budget he outlined would break his campaign promise to devote at least half of all new revenue to education. And he based parts of his budget on revenue ideas that have failed before or, in at least one case, on no specific idea at all.

His proposal would hold income and sales taxes at their current level, upholding a campaign pledge that Blagojevich is likely to make a centerpiece of his re-election bid.

Cigar smokers would pay a higher tax, however, and businesses would lose several tax breaks, giving Republicans ammunition to renew their accusations that Blagojevich is driving jobs out of state.

Blagojevich maintains his administration has helped Illinois businesses thrive and record their highest profits in a decade. That, in turn, has produced more tax revenues and spared the state another year of massive deficits, he says.

"It has created a better climate for business, and it's paying off," he told a joint session of the General Assembly.

State Rep. Renee Kosel, R-New Lenox, said some of the governor's goals are laudable, but the state cannot afford them at this time.

"The governor has nearly tripled our bond debt over three years, and he hasn't addressed our $2 billion backlog of unpaid Medicaid bills that continues to grow," she said.

State Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi, D-Joliet, liked Blagojevich's focus on education, human services and quality of life issues, particularly the AllKids healthcare program.

"I'm excited that Illinois could become the first state in the nation to fund a universal preschool program," Wilhelmi said.

State Sen. Ed Petka, R-Plainfield, said too much of the budget is on the backs of business.

"The governor's proposal includes $130 million in new taxes on Illinois employers. You can't expect our employers to expand their businesses and hire more people when you make it more expensive for them to stay in business. These tax increases wouldn't be necessary if there wasn't this insatiable appetite for more spending."

State Sen. Gary Dahl, R-Granville, also criticized the new taxes on business. Dahl said he was cautiously optimistic about a $10 million proposal to provide Illinois' low-income veterans with comprehensive health care benefits, but stressed that the state should attend to its current responsibilities before implementing new programs.

Blagojevich's budget calls for state government to spend $55.3 billion in fiscal 2007, an increase of $950 million, or 1.7 percent.

That's almost exactly the amount of growth in the state's income and sales tax revenue, which the governor expects to reach $17.852 billion, up 5.6 percent.

After years of reducing the number of state employees, Blagojevich proposes to hire about 1,100, bringing the total to 58,490.

Some of those would be prison guards, including staff to finally open a prison in Thomson that has stood empty for years. Blagojevich would also hire 100 new state police.

Much of his proposal is likely to pass easily.

Blagojevich and Democratic legislative leaders agreed last spring on a two-year plan that sharply cut the amount of money owed to state pension systems. That decision set the stage for lawmakers to pass this year's budget with a minimum of bickering.

"They have been working together on the budget. There may be some revision, but certainly the framework is there," said Cindy Davidsmeyer, spokeswoman for Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago.

The part of the budget devoted to construction projects will face a harder test. It requires approval by two-thirds of lawmakers, essentially giving veto power to the Legislature's Republican minority.

Blagojevich wants to borrow $3.2 billion to build new roads, mass transit systems and schools. Republicans object, saying he has not spelled out how to pay that debt and cannot be trusted to allocate the money fairly.

While the governor insists he can pay most of the debt from existing revenues, aides acknowledge one question mark: How to pay for the school portion of that construction plan. His original idea — legalizing keno games — failed, and Blagojevich is still looking for an alternative.

Some of his other revenue proposals have come up before and been ignored by lawmakers. They include a $48 million change in the way software is taxed, ending a $25 million tax subsidy to some landfills and imposing $45 million in taxes on some gasoline-distribution companies that are now exempt.

These measures, Blagojevich says, are unfair "loopholes" that benefit business without creating jobs. On the other hand, he wants to expand a tax break for the film industry, saying the $5 million to $10 million in lost revenue would put more people to work.

Cigar smokers would pay $10 million more a year under a change that Blagojevich says would equalize tax rates for cigars and cigarettes.

Blagojevich inherited massive deficits — largely caused by stagnant revenues and soaring health care costs — ever since he took office three years ago.

He responded by eliminating thousands of jobs that were vacant because of an early retirement program and raising many small taxes and fees. He also took money from accounts supported by special-purpose fees, something he wants to do again to the tune of $144 million.

Blagojevich says next year's new revenues will cover routine spending increases — in other words, there will be no deficit.

But that is possible only because of last year's decision to cut state pension payments, a policy that Republicans decry as irresponsible. Blagojevich's budget office also could not say Tuesday night whether the governor's budget would slow down Medicaid payments to hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers.

Blagojevich proposed a long-term effort to streamline routine administrative services. He wants, for instance, all agencies related to crime and prisons to share accounting, human resources and procurement services.

Ultimately, that will save $100 million a year and cut the number of employees providing those services in half, to 2,000 or fewer, he says.

"It's now up to the legislature to take (the Governor's) proposal, listen to the testimony of agency representatives, ask a lot of questions and debate the details before finalizing the plan by the end of the spring session," Petka said.

That could be easier said than done.

"The idea of what (Blagojevich) is going to call a balanced budget borders on the absurd," said House Republican Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego.

Cross said that sometimes the state must say no to increased spending, something Blagojevich chided during the speech.

"It sounds good to always say yes," Cross said. "I'm not going to apologize for saying no."

Blagojevich: No longer a penny-pincher - John Patterson
(Not posted as of 5:00 AM)
(Article includes quotes from Brady, Gidwitz, Froehlich, Mulligan, Oberweis, Osmond, Peterson, Topinka, and Watson.)
8th District hopefuls take walk on supply side -
Republican tax-fighters, fear not.

The supply-side economic theories championed in Washington for more than three decades by former Rep. Phil Crane are alive and well among the six Republicans hoping to win back his seat in Congress.

Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in the GOP hopefuls’ shared commitment to the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which lowered income tax rates, provided tax incentives to families and small businesses and slashed penalties on investment income.

Each of the candidates says those cuts should now be made permanent, even though doing so would cost the government an estimated $1.4 trillion over the next decade.

“To take them back now,” Barrington Hills investment banker David McSweeney says, “would be to approve one of the biggest tax hikes in our nation’s history. We just can’t afford to do that right now.”

Still, McSweeney and the five others concur that the country can also ill afford to continue the deficit spending that is expected to drive the national debt to nearly $9 trillion by 2007.

“The number and size of wasteful projects approved by Congress is embarrassing,” said state Rep. Bob Churchill of Lake Villa. “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”

Accordingly, he proposes that all new spending initiatives be subject to a “sunset clause,” meaning they would have to be re-approved by Congress after a set time period, usually four or five years. He also wants at least 50 percent of new revenue to be used to pay down the national debt.

Wauconda attorney Kathy Salvi, meanwhile, would support a plan that would transfer the functions of the departments of education and housing and urban development to individual states.

She also favors “dramatically curtailing” the process of “earmarking,” by which powerful lawmakers can add pet projects to spending bills at the 11th hour.

Earmarks, she said, “have been the fuel for massive pork-barrel spending increases and have contributed to the culture of deal making and challenged ethics” on Capitol Hill.

One-time Lake County Board member James Creighton Mitchell agreed, calling earmarks “a combination of bribery and extortion.”

He further proposes freezing the level of federal foreign aid — an $18 billion line item in 2006 — and then cutting such spending by 1 percent a year.

Wauconda attorney Aaron Lincoln says he would advocate a 10 percent across-the-board spending cut to all federal programs — including the Department of Defense.

Gurnee consultant Ken Arnold, though, calls such percentage-based cuts “mindless and arbitrary,” and instead proposes a series of more dramatic reforms including biannual instead of annual budget-making and the overhaul of the health care and Social Security systems, which account for roughly 40 percent of the federal budget.

All six candidates support the elimination of the controversial Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed to keep very high-income Americans from avoiding taxes through credits and various deductions.

Last year, though, more than four million middle class Americans ended up paying more in taxes because of the AMT, with that number expected to rise to more than  22 million in 2006.

Five battling for two DuPage County forest preserve seats -

The familiar real estate mantra “location, location, location” is a recurring theme in the DuPage County Forest Preserve District commissioner primary races.

Five Republican candidates are vying for two open positions. And most are staking their claim to votes based on issues such as whether to acquire more open space and how to obtain more land.

Incumbent Joseph Cantore of Oakbrook Terrace faces a challenge from Oak Brook residents David Fichter and Joseph Aceto in District 2.

Fichter, 65, a former Oak Brook park board member, contends that northwest DuPage has an abundance of forest preserves, while his district in the eastern part of the county has suffered.

The environmental consultant doesn’t buy arguments that property in his neck of the woods is too pricey.

 “Yes, land is more expensive, but open space should be purchased on the basis of need, not what is cheaper,” Fichter said.

Purchasing wetlands along Salt Creek and the East Branch of the DuPage River will address serious water quality issues along those streams, Fichter said.

“What’s happening is the water quality is going south and no open space is being acquired,” he said.

Cantore, 34, who has served as commissioner for three years, counters that there’s limited open space in District 2 to buy now. And he denies that his area has been left in the cold, pointing to acquisitions in Fullersburg Woods in 2003.

The district has been criticized for abusing its authority by condemning land it wants to acquire.

But Cantore asserts that the forest preserve has shed those heavy-handed ways with such tactics as conservation easements.

“We’re going about acquiring property in a whole new way; it’s a friendlier way,” he said.

Cantore, co-owner of a vending machine company, said it’s important for the district to “hold the line on taxes and spending.”

“The forest preserve needs to act like any other business entity. Sometimes you have to tighten your belts,” he said.

Aceto, 71, a former builder and real estate agent, says the district can economize more.

“I look at my tax bill, and every year (taxes) go up,” he said. “I looked at the prior year, and they were up again. It seems funny to me, every year they go up.

He shares Cantore’s dislike of condemnations.

“With real estate, you never say condemnation, you negotiate. You don’t want to take property through condemnation,” Aceto said.

If elected, Aceto wants to improve the appearance of forest preserve entrances.

District 2 encompasses east-central DuPage and includes Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Lombard, Oak Brook Oakbrook Terrace and Villa Park.

District 4

The race here pits Glen Ellyn resident Michael Formento against Kaaren Oldfield, also of Glen Ellyn.

On one important concern — whether the district should hold a land acquisition referendum in November — both candidates agreed it’s important to forge ahead with a vote.

Oldfield, 58, a former member of The Conservation Foundation and media consultant, said she’s worked tirelessly on similar open space campaigns for DuPage in 1997 plus in Kane, Will and Kendall counties.

“I will promote efforts to preserve open space,” she said.

But if a referendum goes ahead and voters agree to borrow money for more open space, Oldfield wants to see land purchased more promptly than in the past.

“We’ve moved a little too slowly,” she said.

If she wins the seat being vacated by Commissioner Gwen Henry, Oldfield will support additional features for seniors and disabled residents at preserves.

“There could be improved access for wheelchairs,” she said.

Formento, 72, owns an interior design business, is a former Glen Ellyn mayor and served on both the DuPage County Board and the forest preserve board in the 1990s.

He believes his business background and previous experience with the forest preserve are assets.

If he’s elected, one priority will be improving communication with residents.

“One focus is to better acquaint people with the facilities of the forest preserve. The forest preserve is one of the best-kept secrets of DuPage County,” he said.

Formento is concerned not enough people are informed of education activities at preserves and wants to increase circulation of the district newsletter.

“Sometimes, I hear they’ll hold a class and two people will show up,” he said.

District 4, in central DuPage, takes in Addison, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Glen Ellyn, Glendale Heights, Lisle, Lombard, Wheaton and Winfield.

Hospitals decry charity care plan  Madigan pushes legislation, saying tax-exempt hospitals not doing enough -

Area hospitals went on the offensive Wednesday after a controversial proposal requiring them to provide more free or discounted health care edged a step closer to becoming state law.

Six Democrats on the House health care availability and access committee approved the measure, while the five minority Republicans voted against it Tuesday night.

“The legislation is flawed in so many ways. It’s not just the mandate; it’s several mandates that would cripple the hospital industry,” said Danny Chun, a spokesman for the Illinois Hospital Association, which represents more than 200 facilities.

The proposal would require hospitals to put aside 8 percent of their annual operating costs for charity care. Chun said that represents $739 million from all Illinois hospitals.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan pushed for the legislation, complaining that private non-profit, tax-exempt hospitals were not living up to requirements of their tax-exempt status.

“For Illinois hospitals that choose to take advantage of the lucrative benefits of tax exemption, Illinois law requires they operate exclusively for the welfare of Illinois residents,” said Anne Murphy, senior counsel to the attorney general.

Officials at Naperville’s Edward Hospital hastily put together a morning conference call to outline their objections to the measure and showcase the charitable work the hospital has done.

Last year, Edward spent $3.4 million on charity care and $4.6 million in Medicaid shortfalls — which would be credited toward the overall 8 percent — and that accounted for 2.1 percent of its annual operating expenses. To match Madigan’s request for 8 percent would take another $22.4 million, Edward spokesman Brian Davis said.

It also would knock the hospital’s bottom line into the red, forcing it to operate with a $7 million deficit.

Davis also pointed out the hospital accrued another $6.5 million last year in bad debt.

Murphy said some bad debt would be credited in this proposed legislation.

The push for more charitable care comes as more scrutiny is placed on hospitals’ tax-exempt status. The tax assessor in Champaign County revoked the exemption for two hospitals there, Murphy said.

Davis said Edward Hospital has not examined what it would mean to its operation to give up its tax exempt status to avoid this proposed mandate.

He said Edward’s community benefits programming, which includes $500 million in capital expenditures in the next five to seven years, should count toward charitable care.

“Hospitals run a lot of services that lose money that are there for the community benefit,” Chun said. “That’s why there is no one formula that will fit every hospital across the state.”

Murphy said the proposal would better define charitable care to specify the money go toward patient care and not capital projects.

“Charity care should be at least as important as building a new hospital in Plainfield,” Murphy said.

If hospitals don’t provide the 8 percent in a year, the remainder would be added to a special fund to be divvied up for charity care that was delivered elsewhere, Murphy said.

Murphy said there is still time to negotiate.

“The attorney general very much looks forward to continuing a good-faith dialogue with the hospital community to make sure this bill not only sets those clear standards, but to make sure it is fair and reasonable as applied to hospitals,” she said.

Blagojevich proposals: Good ideas, but the price is too steep - Editorial

One would be hard pressed to say that many of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s new proposals are not good ideas.

Preschool opportunities for all children? Sure, the governor is correct when he touts the later-in-life dividends of early education. Health-care coverage for uninsured veterans? Great idea, because, who, after all, has paid higher dues than those who have put their lives on the line in service of country? One-thousand-dollar tax credits for qualified college students? Absolutely, just ask any parent who’s written a tuition check lately.

The governor loaded his budget address, delivered to legislators Wednesday, with these and many other appealing initiatives, including $440 million in new funding for education, money for 100 new state police officers and a series of initiatives to meet the coming shortage of nurses.

These are all worthy ideas. Some, such as stem-cell research, are even visionary.

That doesn’t mean, however, that legislators should embrace them all. To the contrary, lawmakers need to be extremely selective as they work their way through the governor’s long list of spending programs.

The governor has presented the kind of budget that elected officials like to present during healthy economic times — new programs that benefit a wide range and variety of people.

But the state’s economic health, while improving, is not all that robust yet. The governor boasted of balancing the budget after inheriting a $5 billion deficit. He neglected to mention that he and the Democrat-controlled legislature balanced the current budget in large part by deferring $2 billion in pension contributions over two years. The governor spoke of new job creation in the past two years but did not mention that in some ways Illinois still is not widely viewed as a business-friendly environment.

The governor is in full re-election campaign mode. That was evident in his State of the State address, evident again in budget proposals that offer a little of something for everyone. Fair enough. But the choices are not as easy as suggested by Blagojevich, who implied Wednesday that residents can benefit from all his initiatives if only legislators will make such moves as choosing education for cuddly preschoolers over tax “loopholes” for money-grubbing corporations.

Illinois needs to put its financial house on the most solid footing possible before committing itself to a lot of new and long-term programs that almost inevitably grow more costly over time. With the state’s economy improving, why not use some of the increased revenue to make some of the pension payments legislators voted last year to defer?

The state is just emerging from a long and tough financial period that offered all kinds of potential lessons about the risks of overextending one’s resources during good financial times. How many of those lessons have legislators learned? We’re about to find out.

Naperville Councilman Furstenau is not what charges imply - Randy and Judy Peterson

We were sorry to read about the charges brought against Naperville City Councilman Dick Furstenau. We have known Dick for 29 years and have seen him in a wide variety of situations and circumstances and find this allegation inconsistent with our experience. We cannot imagine him acting in such a manner.

Dick is a strong individual who is not afraid to stand up for what he feels is right. He is quick to seek explanations regarding the use of taxpayers’ money, and he fights for the rights of individual citizens.

We understand that the alleged incident occurred while Dick was questioning the necessity of towing residents’ cars from the downtown area, especially without proper notification. We know of one person whose car was towed who paid almost $280 to get his car back.

Dick’s own car was not involved, so his concern was not for himself, but for other Napervillians he felt were being treated unfairly. That’s the kind of man Dick is!


Edward: Charity bill would cripple hospitals  Plan would have dug $7 million hole for Naperville hospital - Larry Avila

Edward Hospital officials believe if a state plan to expand charity care services is approved by Illinois lawmakers the hospital could face a deficit as high as $7 million.

"This bill would be devastating to Illinois hospitals," Brian Davis, Edward, vice president of marketing, said during a conference call with the media Wednesday. "Illinois residents need to understand that if this bill passes, access to health care will be devastated."

HB 5000 was approved late Tuesday by the state House Health Care Availability and Access Committee and moved to the full House. A major portion of the bill, spearheaded by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, mandates that all hospitals' total charity care equal at least 8 percent of a provider's operating costs.

In Edward's case, if HB 5000 passes, Davis saidthe hospital would have lost an estimated $7 million for fiscal 2005, which ended June 30.
Davis said he believes Edward would experience a similar impact in its current fiscal year if the bill were approved.

Davis said Edward provided about $3.4 million in charity care during fiscal 2005. If HB 5000 had been in effect, the amount would have been about $22.4 million.

Edward's operating expenses for fiscal 2005 totaled about $382 million with an estimated profit margin of $15 million, he said. As a nonprofit entity, overage is reinvested into facilities expansion and upgrades and equipment replacement.

Davis said if Edward were forced to operate in a deficit situation, it would mean any plans for expansion, including its proposed Plainfield hospital, would be shelved.

Billing being addressed

Madigan began pushing the charity care bill last month in response to numerous consumer complaints, ranging from confusing medical bills to aggressive collection tactics used by hospitals and debt collectors. Another component of Madigan's plan is HB 4999, which would prohibit overly aggressive bill collection and make medical bills easier to understand.

Madigan has said because most hospitals are tax-exempt, they should provide more care in exchange for their tax break. She estimated that Illinois had more than 1.8 million uninsured residents and that hospitals overall spent less than 1 percent on charity care.

Davis was critical of Madigan's estimates, saying hospitals already exceed the 8 percent threshold by providing community benefits. Regarding easing medical billing, Davis said Edward already is looking at simplifying its billing system and working on a program in which patients can pay on the Web.

Linden Oaks Hospital, Edward's mental health services division, is a money-losing operation, Davis said.

"But we continue to invest money in it because we feel it's a vital service to the community," Davis said. Edward estimated its community benefit or unreimbursed costs for fiscal 2005 at about $49 million.

Bill could die

State Rep. Joe Dunn, R-Naperville, said Wednesday that the charity care bill will not move quickly through the House.

He said he believes HB 5000 will be amended several times, given the bill moved out of committee by a 6-5 vote. Dunn said if several amendments are added, the bill would be referred back to committee and could die there.

"Hospitals in general, I feel, already do so much charity work," Dunn said. "Many of them already are reimbursed through Medicaid or Medicare under cost."


Latest poll shows Topinka, Gidwitz making biggest gains in GOP race - Rich Miller
The latest Chicago Tribune poll appears to track closely with recent polls conducted by two Republican statewide contenders.

The Tribune poll found Judy Baar Topinka leading the GOP governor's race with 38 percent, followed by Jim Oberweis at 17 percent, Ron Gidwitz finally breaking into double-digits with 11 percent and Bill Brady bringing up the rear at 8 percent. Twenty-five percent were undecided.

That matches up pretty well with polls conducted by two GOP gubernatorial candidates whose campaigns shared their results last week on the condition that the numbers not be revealed.

Topinka and Gidwitz were the biggest gainers from the last Tribune poll in October, both of them picking up 7 points. Gidwitz has almost tripled his October numbers, but he has spent millions of dollars on TV ads in the process. Topinka has done little actual campaigning since October, but the word has had time to get out to "regular" Republicans that she is the organizational choice. Oberweis picked up two points, and Brady picked up one.

The results could be looked at as a call for Gidwitz and Oberweis to go negative on Topinka, but that move can carry a big risk.

Topinka and Oberweis are evenly splitting "very conservative voters," according to the Tribune. About the only way for Oberweis to let those voters know he's one of them and Topinka isn't would be to run so-called "comparative" ads that are usually highly negative in tone.

If the moderate Gidwitz allows fellow moderate Topinka to hover around 40 percent for long, he'll never pick up enough votes to win. Yes, Gidwitz's numbers are going up, but it's been like spending a fortune to budge the Titanic a foot off the ocean floor.

Word from inside is that the Gidwitz and Oberweis campaigns have been strongly urging each other for days through an e-mail exchange to start the attacks on Topinka, but neither side is apparently willing to do so yet. Gidwitz, like many political neophytes, is reportedly very reluctant to get down and dirty. Oberweis is already viewed negatively for his infamous 2004 "black helicopter" ads, and probably doesn't want to suffer the consequences of being the first to pull the trigger against Topinka.

Candidates who attack usually succeed in driving down their opponents' numbers, but those newly disaffected voters don't immediately (or ever) gravitate towards the negative campaigner.

However, voters who buy into negative attacks often either head temporarily into the undecided column or, if it's a crowded field, choose a different candidate. The most famous instance of this was the 1992 Democratic U.S. Senate primary when Al Hofeld's well-funded negative assault on Alan Dixon drove voters into Carol Moseley Braun's camp. Negative campaigns also usually at least temporarily drive down the numbers of those running the ads.

Oberweis seems most intent for now on keeping fellow social conservative Bill Brady as near to zero as possible, or getting him out of the race once and for all. Brady has aggravated Oberweis to no end by using a direct mail campaign to paint the dairy magnate as a flip-flopper. Brady appears to be hoping to deprive Oberweis of conservative votes so that he can then consolidate his position and move into second place, and pray that enough late money pours in to fund the drive to the finish line. If Oberweis attacks Topinka, it's possible that voters might head to Brady.

For now, though, Brady just doesn't have the funds to compete, at least that we know of. His first TV ad was very good, but there were so few ratings points behind it that nobody saw it enough to do Brady any good. Word is Brady just bought ads on Chicago cable TV. Total buy: $5,000. Jim Oberweis spends more than that handing out free ice cream every day.

Meanwhile, the Tribune poll found that if Edwin Eisendrath could put together a real campaign, he might make it at least a somewhat respectable race. Just 52 percent of Democrats want to see Rod Blagojevich re-elected, according to the poll. Just 42 percent of Democrats thought the state was heading in the right direction, while 38 percent chose wrong direction. But Eisendrath hasn't spent any money, got in way too late, struggled for weeks just to find a downstate coordinator, and now trails Blagojevich 62 to 18.

The line on Eisendrath is that a Blagojevich indictment would sweep him to victory. He may need a conviction.


Cheers, jeers for budget proposal  Blagojevich finds politics guides views - Ray Long, Christi Parsons, Diane Rado, and Maura Possley,1,5609562.story?coll=chi-newslocalchicago-hed
SPRINGFIELD -- Transforming his budget speech into an election-year political rally, Gov. Rod Blagojevich drew cheers from Democrats and jeers from Republicans Wednesday as he implored lawmakers to pass a $55.3 billion spending plan that boosts social programs.

Delivering his address from the ornate House chambers, the Democratic governor at some points sounded like a polished sales representative in a corporate suite, at others a fiery preacher in the pulpit.

He used a PowerPoint slide show to try to demonstrate why his programs for children and seniors were preferable to what he called Republican desires to "cut, slash, burn."

Blagojevich repeatedly noted that the massive budget deficit he inherited from his scandal-tarnished predecessor, Gov. George Ryan, had been closed without raising sales or income taxes--his hallmark 2002 campaign pledge. He declared that he had reprioritized spending in government.

"What I'm asking you to do is more than pass a bill or pass a budget," Blagojevich said. "I'm asking you to embrace a broader vision--a vision that all children ought to have access to health care and all children ought to have access to preschool."

Blagojevich's initiatives also appeared aimed at trying to construct a political box for minority Republicans during a year in which all House members and many senators face election.

Consistent with his previous talks to lawmakers, Blagojevich sought to present simple reasons for them to approve funding for universal preschool and affordable children's health insurance while boosting dollars for schools and providing tax credits for families of college freshmen and sophomores.

"What you say yes and no to defines who you are, what you stand for, what values you believe in, whose side you're on," Blagojevich said.

He exhorted lawmakers to choose children going to preschool and getting health care over a "corporate loophole that protects tax cheats" and "special interests" guarding their share of funds.

The Democratic governor's plans received cheers and standing ovations from members of his own party. On the Republican side of the chamber, Blagojevich drew only mild applause, then was greeted with shouts when he contended he had reduced the unfunded level of public pension systems.

In response, Blagojevich turned to the Republican side of the chamber and said, "I thought it was time to wake you guys up."

As he delivered his presentation, a large monitor next to the podium showed pictures of smiling children, a white-haired man holding an American flag and even Batman rescuing a damsel in distress.

To symbolize his efforts to supplement the new federal Medicare drug program, Blagojevich's slide show displayed a doughnut that gradually had its hole filled in to resemble a jelly-filled Bismarck.

Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, the front-runner among four major candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor in the March 21 primary, suggested the governor's spending plan was more like a "fudge budget," adding, "There's a word for it, but I don't want to use a cuss word."

Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), another GOP candidate for governor, maintained Blagojevich is digging the state into a deeper fiscal hole as he eyes higher office and a "national election platform."

Businessman Ron Gidwitz, a third GOP candidate, said the governor's budget would pile up future debt that would fall on the "backs of our children."

But Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), a co-chairman of Blagojevich's re-election campaign, said that while the governor's budget proposal might need a few tweaks, the complaints from Republicans were to be expected.

"If the governor gave the Sermon on the Mount, they would find something wrong with that," Jones said.

Former Chicago Ald. Edwin Eisendrath, who is challenging Blagojevich in the Democratic primary, said he had confidence people would see through the governor's rhetoric.

"He hasn't been honest with our kids," Eisendrath said.

Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson (R-Greenville) called the budget presentation little more than "razzle-dazzle." House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) said Blagojevich's suggestion that the budget is balanced and the state's fiscal house is in order is "absurd."

Cross, the father of a child with juvenile diabetes and an ardent advocate for stem-cell research, said he was unsure whether the state could afford many of the governor's proposals, including one for a 5-year, $100 million research program.

The centerpiece of Blagojevich's budget is a universal preschool program that would allow children to attend when they are as young as 3--a move that would make Illinois the first in the nation to have such a program for children that young.

Blagojevich's budget also calls for $400 million in new funding for public schools, though the figure would leave him short of his 2002 campaign pledge to boost the minimum level of per-pupil funding by $1,000 over four years in office.

Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) praised the governor's budget, saying the "speech shows what Democrats care about."

"We're known to care about education," Davis said. "We're known to care about health care. We're known to care about senior citizens."

Bloggers post updates from Capitol Hill hearings - Eric Benderoff

Using new media to promote the virtues of freedom in cyberspace, a handful of bloggers were invited into the room to report on Wednesday's Capitol Hill hearings on the activities of American Internet companies in China.

Bloggers from five organizations, including a political Web sites,, and the New York Times, posted updates from the hearings as they happened in Washington, D.C.

While organizers of the U.S. House of Representatives' hearings on U.S. Internet companies in China were careful about calling this the first time bloggers reported live from a Congressional hearing, it was a first for the Committee on International Relations.

Allowing bloggers "challenges the traditional views about what constitutes `the media'," said Sam Stratman, communications director for U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill). Hyde is chairman of the International Relations Committee, which held the hearings.

"We now have this entirely new force," Stratman said. "Armies of citizen journalists." The bloggers were cordoned off in a corner of the hearing room at the Rayburn House Office Building to accommodate their needs. "We don't have Wi-Fi yet," Stratman said, so the bloggers needed to plug into phone lines.

The bloggers acknowledged their position on "bloggers row"-one even posted a picture of the view-and provided links to the blogs of the other participants.

The impact of this relatively new medium was poignant considering the hearing's subject: U.S. Internet companies' operating procedures in China.

The companies at the hearing-Google Inc. Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc.-have been accused by human rights organizations and politicians of complicity with Chinese authorities for filtering Internet content and assisting in handing over e-mails that have lead to imprisonment of Chinese dissidents.

To illustrate the dramatic differences in what Chinese citizens see at's China-based search site-compared to the American version at, U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), who chaired Wednesday's hearing, displayed an image from a search of the phrase "Tiananmen Square" on both sites.

At, several versions of the famed image of a column of tanks halted before a protestor dominated the 20 photos that popped up on the first page.

At, the images included children playing and typical snapshots of visiting tourists. Not a single image of the deadly 1989 protests appeared because the Chinese government censors all references to the incident. posted Smith's comparison, along with Google's position on how it developed the Chinese search service. Google's comments included "being responsive to local conditions."

Another blogger, Tim Chapman from, posted the opening statement from U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), in which he showed a video of a Falun Gong member beaten for his beliefs. Chapman posted his video from the hearings of Rohrabacher's video being shown. "The video tells most of the story but I stopped recording right before Rohrabacher called the man a hero and he received an ovation," Chapman wrote.

Like most blogs, readers were encouraged to comment on the proceedings. Comments at ranged from calling the Internet companies "hypocrites" to how the Chinese government is playing American companies like "violins."

The bloggers played off each other throughout the day, but it was clear that the postings by Redstate's Clayton, who only provides one name, were the most detailed. Other bloggers acknowledged this, with Chapman encouraging readers to link to for details of company positions.

The postings were rough and quickly compiled but allowed for a unique glimpse into the political process. Unlike most blog postings, Wednesday's reports were light on the usual Red state vs. Blue state commentary common of political sites. That is likely because the postings were on the fly, with the bloggers acting more like reporters than commentators.

But Clayton, whose site calls itself a Republican community weblog, did take this shot at the Democrats over the National Security Agency's recently acknowledged domestic eavesdropping:

"To every one of the Democrat committee members in today's hearing that compared the NSA wiretapping to the evil, oppressive human rights violations in China, shame on you. We enjoy near limitless freedoms in this country, and we pay a small price in privacy for our security. A price which most citizens are glad to pay."

At a hearing probing American practices in a non-democratic society, the freedom to comment was on full display.
Gidwitz defends ad targeting Topinka - Andy Shaw
A new campaign ad by Ron Gidwitz has touched off a dispute in the Republican race for governor. It attacks Judy Baar Topinka, who is the front-runner in the polls. She is now demanding the ad be taken off the air.
Judy Baar Topinka says "Don't mess with me." Ron Gidwitz says, If you think the first ad is tough, just wait, and the Illinois Republican party is trying to referee the fight. The gloves are obviously off and the political blows are determined to be smackdowns.

"Official government records confirm, Judy Baar Topinka supports bigger government," Gidwitz's ad said.

It is the first attack ad of the Republican primary. The gubernatorial candidate Ron Gidwitz accuses the frontrunner Topinka of doubling the spending in her own office, proposing a higher state sales tax and supporting excessive government borrowing. "People need to understand just exactly who our treasurer is and who our candidate for governor is," said Gidwitz.

"I will fight back," said Topinka. "I am not one to take lightly."

Topinka is demanding that Gidwitz pull the ad off the air, claiming it distorts the fact that spending in her office is mandated by the legislature, she is required by law to approve borrowing plans, and she supported one tax to get rid of another one that was even more burdensome.

"Don't throw things out there that you cannot prove. We have the numbers to prove they are incorrect," said Topinka.

"We are going to continue to run the ads. The ads are factual and the ads portray part of what we believe Judy's record to be," Gidwitz said.

"From what I can tell, everything Ron said is accurate. The truth of the matter is, Judy will not take a pledge to (not)  increase taxes," said Bill Brady, (R)-candidate for governor.

Republican leaders like Tom Cross are worried about GOP candidates going after each other instead of the real target, governor Blagojevich.

"I happen to think at this point Judy's our best candidate in the fall. I hope she can get through the primary relatively unscathed, and I would hope that all the people in our party will understand we don't want a candidate that is so scarred it's hard," said Ill. Rep. Tom Cross, (R)-minority leader.

"If you have a weak record it shouldn't be surprising that you're going to be embarrassed by it. Those that have what we believe to be strong records should not be bothered," said Gidwitz.

The Illinois Republican party is studying the Gidwitz ad and they will weigh in publicly after they decide who's right. As for Topinka's campaign, the question is, Will they escalate the air wars by going after Gidwitz if the ad isn't pulled? The Topinka campaign will only say "stay tuned."


Critics Weigh In On Blagojevich's Budget Proposal  Republicans, Some Democrats, Remain Skeptical - Mike Flannery (includes video clip)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Not everyone is buying Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s budget proposal, presented Wednesday in Springfield.

CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery has reaction from both sides of the aisle.

The governor used a first-time ever video slide presentation to illustrate his election-year budget.

While Democrats stood and cheered for proposals such as universal pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds, Republicans and some others were skeptical.

“These are all wonderful things, but at some point we have to pay for these things,” said GOP Gubernatorial Primary Candidate Judy Baar Topinka.

“He is literally bankrupting the state. And to kid about the fact that he’s actually funding the pensions. I mean, the people are going to see through it,” said GOP Gubernatorial Primary Candidate and state legislator Bill Brady.

Despite the criticism, others praised the governor’s speech as the best he’s delivered.

“It was a great speech. I liked the way he laid it out,” said Senate President Emil Jones.

“While there’s no question it’s the best speech he’s ever given, I think the fact is the governor’s going to be a tough guy to beat come this November,” said Sen. John Cullerton. “Because of the fact when you can tell the Republicans right to their face that you’ve never raised taxes, it takes a lot of fight out of their belly.”

Democratic primary challenger Edwin Eisendrath was also on hand for the speech.

“He gives a very good speech, but it’s an old message. A lot of parts of his speech are just recycled from old ones, land fill gas tax, canned software tax.” Eisendrath said. “All these tax increases are old. The legislature has already turned them down. He keeps trying to raise these taxes and fees.”

What his critics call taxes, the governor prefers to describe as closing corporate loopholes. Final action on the budget is expected by the end of April.

Topinka Wants Gidwitz To Pull Advertisement

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. The mud has hit the airwaves in the Republican race for governor. Frontrunner Judy Baar Topinka says a new ad by her rival Ron Gidwitz is dirty and ought to be pulled.

The ad says Topinka supports big government and that as treasurer, she doubled spending in her office.

The ad also says Topinka sponsored tax increases. It calls her more of the same and says it’s time for a change.

“I want it off the air because it’s incorrect. It’s incorrect. He can do what he wants. Maybe he’d like do a positive ad. But don’t throw things out there that you can’t prove,” Topinka said.

“I think this is a straightforward recitation of just exactly some of the issues that Judy has to talk about,” Gidwitz said.

Get ready for a lot more campaign commercials. The primary is just five weeks away.

Blagojevich budget to impact IL business -
From “closing tax loopholes” on some firms, to offering new incentives for film making and stem-cell research, Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s proposed new fiscal 2007 state budget will have a definite impact on Illinois business, both pro and con.

Likely to draw praise from the entertainment industry is the governor’s plan to revamp the film credit to lure more movie-makers here.

The current credit applies to the first 25% in wages paid to Illinois residents working on TV and film projects shot in Illinois. Mr. Blagojevich would make the credit a flat 20% of total Illinois production spending, something he said would broaden its scope and make it easier to use.

Mr. Blagojevich did not release cost estimates, but said the new credit would be effective for three years, instead of the current annual renewal requirement.

Related story: Gov.’s $55 billion budget holds line on income, sales taxes

More controversial is Mr. Blagojevich’s proposal to spend $100 million in proceed from the tobacco settlement for grants for stem-cell research over the next five years.

Much of the Chicago area’s biotech industry argues that funding such research is crucial to development of a key industrial sector. But some social conservatives consider such research immoral, and the proposal is certain to face strong debate in the General Assembly.

Mr. Blagojevich this year used administrative powers to authorize $10 million in stem-cell grants, thereby avoiding legislative action.

Under his new plan, he would be able to use any funds appropriated by the legislature from tobacco settlement proceeds, but is declaring his intention to do so before anything has been appropriated.

Major business groups are expected to strongly oppose the governor’s plan to raise $138 million next year by closing what he describes as unjustified corporate tax loopholes.

The governor would collect $48 million by taxing computer software purchased in bulk, and $45 million by taxing gasoline that is purchased out of state but stored in Illinois. Smaller amounts would come from levies on electricity produced by landfills; some corporate operations in Guam, the Virgin Islands and other “continental shelf” locations; and limiting loss carrybacks in the income tax.

Most of the measures previously have been rejected by lawmakers, with Republicans charging that they are reasons why job growth here has lagged the national rate. But the governor argues that business ought to pay its fair share of the tax load, and says Illinois gained more than 64,000 jobs in calendar 2005 after years of losses.

Daley pleased with poll, denies knowing of misconduct - AP

Mayor Richard Daley said Wednesday he's happy that a majority of voters like the job he's doing. To those who don't believe he was in the dark about contracting and hiring scandals at City Hall, he said: "I can't know everything. That's impossible."

According to a Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll of 700 registered voters in Chicago, seven out of 10 say they don't believe Daley's assertions that he did not know about favoritism in awarding city jobs and contracts. The poll was published Wednesday.

But 56 percent said they approve of the job Daley is doing, a small increase from the 53 percent he received in a similar poll last May. That had been Daley's lowest approval rating since becoming mayor in 1989.

Voters polled were less concerned about scandals than about improvements Daley has made to the city. Only 27 percent said the scandals were more important, while 59 percent said they were more concerned with Daley-backed city improvements.

A two-year federal investigation into the city's Hired Truck Program has led to charges against 43 people. The investigation has branched out to include alleged city hiring fraud by Daley's former patronage chief and other political operatives. Daley has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Daley, speaking after a news conference, said his administration has "put in policies, procedures and standards" to combat favoritism in hiring and contracting.

"But it could happen again," he said. "It could happen in six months. It could happen in another year."

The poll also shows Daley would face tight competition in next year's mayoral race from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. should the two face one another. Forty-one percent of respondents said they would choose Daley, 38 percent favored Jackson and 21 percent were undecided.

Jackson's name has come up as a possible mayoral candidate, but the Chicago congressman has not said whether he will run.

Daley said Jackson would be a strong candidate, adding, "Anybody in this room could be strong."

Daley won about 80 percent of the vote when he ran for his fourth term in 2003. He enjoyed a 75 percent approval rating two years ago.

On Wednesday, Daley would not say whether he will run again.

The poll, conducted Friday through Monday by Market Shares Corp. of Mount Prospect, had an overall error margin of 4 percentage points.


Brady announces tax-relief proposals - John Faddoul

Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican candidate for governor, is proposing a property tax-relief plan and repeal of the state's portion of the sales tax on motor fuel, he said in an interview with the Daily Leader on Monday, in between a lunch in Sangamon County and dinner in Chicago to celebrate Lincoln Day.

Brady returned to Springfield on Tuesday since the Legislature was in session.

The Bloomington-based state senator announced the property tax plan on Feb. 2 and the motor fuel tax idea on Feb. 12, as his campaign to get the GOP nomination for governor enters the final five weeks. He said primaries are won "on the ground" and that his limited TV and radio advertisements are "air support for the ground troops."

Brady proposes ending what he calls "the state's double taxation on motor fuel" by eliminating the state's portion of the sales tax drivers pay. That would reduce the state-level sales tax on gasoline from 6.25 percent to 1.25 percent. The state or local motor fuels excise tax would not be affected.

He said that would provide some tax relief, and also provide an impetus for businesses to invest in Illinois.

In his plan for property-tax relief, Brady proposes 10 percent of all "natural revenue growth" each year in the state budget for that relief. That could mean as much as $1 billion over a four-year administration, he said.

Those revenues would be sent proportionally to county treasurers "to reduce the portion of the real estate taxes used to support local elementary and secondary schools," Brady said when he announced the plan.

In the interview, Brady said he had a "proven track record" as the conservative candidate among four the Republicans seeking the nomination for governor to run against the incumbent, Rod Blagojevich. Brady said he is pro-life, and supports Second Amendment rights and an amendment to the Illinois Constitution to protect marriage. He has pledged not to raise sales or income tax rates if elected governor, and also backs tax incentives for ethanol.

Brady's campaign Web site is


Minutemen plan meeting in Elgin, rally in Batavia - Andre Salles

The Illinois Minuteman Project has scheduled the weekend of Feb. 25 for its next Fox Valley meeting.

The Minutemen will convene at The Centre of Elgin, at 100 Symphony Way, on Feb. 25, seeking members for its fledgling Fox Valley chapter. The meeting, which goes by the title "No Amnesty," will discuss reforming the immigration system, both locally and nationally.

The next day, the Minutemen plan to rally in front of U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office in Batavia, to show their support for a House bill that would make illegal immigrants guilty of a federal crime and would fine companies that hire them.

"I think people are becoming more disgusted with illegal immigration," said Rosanna Pulido, head of the Illinois Minuteman Project. "I'm thankful that people are getting off the couch and taking back their country."

The Illinois Minuteman Project is the local offshoot of the nationwide Minutemen, created in 2004 by Californian Jim Gilchrist.
That organization's volunteers set up an unofficial patrol along the Arizona-Mexico border last year, armed with binoculars and cell phones, reporting suspected illegal immigrants to police and immigration services.

Since then, the Minuteman Project has grown, and volunteer groups have sprung up in several states, amid charges of racism and xenophobia.

The meeting on the 25th will focus on opposing worker , which Pulido says contributes to the loss of jobs for American workers. The speaker will be Susan Tully, the national director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, based in Washington, D.C.

Pulido has invited Elgin Mayor Ed Schock and the Elgin City Council, state Sen. Chris Lauzen and other local officials to the meeting. She expects nearly 200 people to attend.

Met before in Elgin

This is not the first time the Minutemen have chosen Elgin as a meeting place. On Nov. 10, the IMP held an organizational meeting at the Elgin American Legion, and was met with protesters. Elgin police called in other local departments to help keep the peace.

The protest was considered peaceful, and no arrests were made, according to police.

A subsequently planned meeting in Kendall County that same month was scrapped after American Legion halls in both Oswego and Yorkville denied the Minutemen use of their facilities.

Pulido fully understands why some may protest the meeting, and expects that it will happen again.

"Of course they're concerned," she said, "because we're on the verge of taking away free health care, schools and services for illegals. Of course these people will be angry."


Blagojevich seeks to expand stem cell research funding - Ann Sanner

Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to spend $100 million in public money on stem cell research, despite objections from those who consider the research immoral.

The budget proposal Blagojevich released Wednesday seeks $15 million for stem cell research in the coming year. The amount would increase $2.5 million annually over five years.

"Stem cell research holds the promise of curing diseases," Blagojevich said in his budget address. "If there's an opportunity to cure those diseases, we ought to seize it."

He said money for the program would come from the state's share of the settlement in a national lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The money originally was meant to help states pay for health care but has been used for a wide variety of purposes.

However, the governor's official budget book said the stem cell money would come from ending a tax break available to some offshore companies.

Last July, Blagojevich authorized $10 million for stem cell research, making Illinois the fourth state to use taxpayer dollars for the research.

The move surprised the public and most lawmakers because the money had not been earmarked for that purpose. In fact, legislators had debated the issue before and declined to support stem cell research.

Critics complained Blagojevich circumvented the Legislature to spend tax money on research some people reject as unethical because it can require the destruction of human embryos.

"Embryonic stem cell research using state dollars is wrong," said Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, a Republican candidate for governor. "One, it's morally objectionable to many of the taxpayers in this state and, secondly, it doesn't provide positive results."

Scientists say the study of stem cells, which can divide and morph into any kind of cell in the body, could lead to cures for diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's.

When Blagojevich authorized the $10 million, his office and allies argued that lawmakers would be more likely to support future funding once the door had been opened to using public funds.

His budget office initially said $4 to $6 million had been handed out in grants, but later said they didn't know how much had been disbursed.

Gidwitz, Jones, Topinka, Valle, Watson offer comments on Blagojevich budget address

Here's what people had to say about Gov. Rod Blagojevich's budget address Wednesday:

"Yes, they are nice programs. Yes, we want to do for our kids. Yes, we want to make sure we take care of our seniors and our health care. These are all wonderful things, but at some point, we have to pay for these things." -- State Treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka.

"If the governor gave the Sermon on the Mount, they would find something wrong with that. Where are their proposals? They are part of the General Assembly. Are they for preschool, (do) they want children to get education? Are they for everyone having access to health care?" -- Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, on Republican criticism.

"I think it was Enron math. How can he say that? How can he be so outrageous?" --Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville.

"When you look at the last two years, the governor has been able to get his budget with just Democratic votes. My guess is that given that it's a political year, it will probably be a partisan vote again." -- State Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago.

"Essentially what he's done is he's giving away the store and the bills are going to be coming due after this next election." -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Gidwitz.

"If we want to keep our economy moving in the right direction, we must put partisan politics aside. Let's pass a jobs bill. Let's put people to work." -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"We were very surprised and discouraged that there was virtually no mention of any details. There were a couple of throwaway sentences. If not now, when are we going to start the discussion about where to invest?" -- MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, on the governor's construction plan.

"The gravitational pull of partisanship will say, 'Cut, slash, burn, take us back.' I say let us continue to move forward." -- Blagojevich.


GOP continues attack on limited Lake and McHenry County judicial bill

Republicans are continuing their criticism of Democrats in Legislature for cutting back on the number of additional judges for Lake and McHenry counties' circuit court, and one is also criticizing the Lake County Board.

Senate Bill 1681 was approved last week and is awaiting a final decision by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"The numbers are clear, the course of action must be as well," said Colin McRae, a former County Board member and Mundelein mayor. "Lake County judges carry a caseload of 8,322 in comparison to 4,777 in Cook County and 4,936 as a state average."

As a result, McRae said, delays hurt domestic violence victims, children in custody hearings, couples seeking divorce "and DUI offenders are driving on our roads because of delays in justice.

McRae also criticized County Board leaders for not creating a bipartisan group to urge state legislators to allow the three new judges for Lake County and two for McHenry that had initially been approved. More recent action has seen the General Assembly trim that back to one new judge for each county.

"This same Lake County Board spent far more than the amount here, several years back, to rid themselves of an administrative employee with whom they had differences," McRae said. "Just ask how much and you would be shocked."

State government spent $1 million for a church in Chicago, and millions more for other non-budgeted programs, McRae said. "We the citizens are witnessing the folly of leadership at two levels, county and state."

"If this bill becomes a law, not only will we lose a judicial seat, we need to help cope with a mounting backlog of cases in our clogged courts, but it will also signify a departure from our democracy's most precious and fundamental system of checks and balances," said state Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry.

"We need these judicial seats if we are to restore balance in our court system," she added. "This bill plays political football with the best interest of my constituents."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady of Bloomington called the Democratic initiative "strong-arm, partisan tactics," adding that if he were governor, he would veto the measure.


Election judges sought for Cook County

Cook County Clerk David Orr is looking to recruit hundreds of new election judges needed to work during the March 21 primary election.

Beginning with the primary election, Cook County will use a dual voting system. Voters will have a choice of voting either with an optical scan paper ballot, similar to a standardized test, or on an electronic touch-screen machine, which is similar to an ATM.

More than 12,000 Democratic and Republican election judges are needed to fully staff the 2,386 precincts in suburban Cook County every election. Ideally, five judges work in each precinct.

Election judges open polling places, certify that voters are registered and qualified to vote, explain election procedures, issue ballots and activate cards for touch screens, operate election equipment and transmit the votes at the end of the day.

Election judges receive a total of $150 for their work. That includes $100 for working Election Day and $50 for attending a three-hour training session prior to the election. Judges begin work at 5:15 a.m. and work until the polling place votes are transmitted after the polls close at 7 p.m.

To qualify as an election judge, you must be a registered voter and live in Cook county. People interested in serving on Election Day can call (312) 603-0965 to sign up or complete an online application at

Using federal funding, the county replaced its punch cards with a dual system of optical scan ballots and touch-screen machines. Inside the polling place, voters can choose to vote on either system:

* Optical Scan ballots: Similar to a standardized test, voters use a pen to mark the circle next to the candidates of their choice that are printed directly on the paper ballot. Voters insert their completed ballots into a machine that alerts them to possible errors (overvotes, and more).

* Touch-Screen Machines: Similar to ATM machines, voters touch the names of candidates listed on a computer screen. The machine does not allow overvoting and alerts the voter to unrecorded votes. The voter is able to verify his or her votes on a secure paper audit trail before casting the ballot.


AARP Illinois Commends Governor for Aging Budget;jsessionid=FB5661411C3482B831B783B1C72B670A.tomcat2?resourceid=3144277&access=EHget%20usr=diersen/res=3144277/sch=1096182

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- A group of seniors from across the state met in Springfield today to hear Governor Blagojevich announce the implementation of the overhaul of the long term care system in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2007.

The increase would enhance infrastructure of the senior service system for home and community-based services. It would assure access to services by establishing a comprehensive case management system. This system will provide a single point of entry for services and a universal assessment tool to determine service needs. It would also allow seniors to find services easier by establishing a common name for all agencies that assess seniors. The increase expands services to include home modification, housing crisis intervention, and emergency home response.

"AARP thanks Governor Blagojevich for funding the implementation of the overhaul of the long term services and care system," said Donna Ginther, Manager of State Affairs, AARP. "These are first steps toward a comprehensive service portfolio for seniors."

Governor Blagojevich showed vision and leadership by signing Senate Bill 2880 into law in 2004. That legislation's purpose was to allow all Illinois seniors regardless of where they live to remain independent and in their own homes supported by a basic set of services. Under Governor Blagojevich's proposed budget the vision of Senate Bill 2880 will begin to take shape.

"This will be an opportunity to establish new services, add new services in under-served areas, give seniors a greater say in their care, and make currently available programs easier to find. When this initiative becomes fully funded, Illinois will have a senior care system that will be the benchmark for the rest of the nation," said Ginther.

Senator Louis Viverito has introduced Senate Bill 2730 that will be the vehicle for Governor Blagojevich's proposed aging budget details. Currently, the bill has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and is on second reading.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; Segunda Juventud, our quarterly newspaper in Spanish; Live and Learn, our quarterly newsletter for National Retired Teachers Association members; and our Web site, . We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Illinois Association of REALTORS(R) Urges Stronger Protections for Private Property Owners Against Eminent Domain

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The Illinois Association of REALTORS(R) (IAR) today urged enactment of new state protections for private property owners when local governments want to take their property for economic development purposes.

The Association called on the Illinois Senate Executive Committee to approve and send to the Senate floor SB3086, the Equity in Eminent Domain Act, saying the measure is needed to prevent abuses that could occur as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

"Eminent domain is already among the most awesome powers of government, and we must do everything possible to protect the rights of private property ownership," said REALTOR(R) Stan Sieron, president of IAR and a Belleville broker-owner. "Eminent domain should be defined as narrowly as possible so that it is restricted to truly public purposes."

SB3086 was introduced to address concerns that were identified during public hearings Senator Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) convened following the controversial June 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the government's use of eminent domain. Eminent domain is the government power to take private property for public use with compensation paid to the displaced owner. It has traditionally been used to build roads, water treatment facilities, utility infrastructure, parks and similar projects.

But Kelo went farther, saying government could condemn homes or other private land for private redevelopment projects -- essentially taking land and turning it over to other private owners. The Kelo decision triggered a strong backlash from people of diverse political philosophies, who believe it allows an abuse of government authority.

The Illinois legislation enjoys strong bipartisan backing and the support of a growing coalition of organizations from across the spectrum. The measure's primary sponsors are Democratic Sen. Susan Garrett of Lake Forest and Republican Dan Cronin of Elmhurst, who introduced the measure after holding hearings on the issue last year. Additional senators recently have signed on as co-sponsors, including Democrat Jacqueline Collins of Chicago, and Republicans John Millner of St. Charles, William Peterson of Buffalo Grove, and Todd Sieben of Geneseo.

Illinois already requires that private property be deemed "blighted" to be taken by the government for private redevelopment, but the current definition of "blight" is broad and ambiguous. Additional clarification of "blight" is needed to prove that a parcel of land is actually "blighted." Senate Bill 3086 would shift the burden of proof to municipalities to prove that the property in question is actually "blighted." And it would ensure that property owners displaced by eminent domain for private redevelopment are fairly and fully compensated -- not only for their land, but for relocation expenses and legal fees.

"Senate Bill 3086 will provide enhanced protection and compensation for private property owners yet still allow the government to redevelop blighted property," Julie Sullivan, the IAR's assistant director of governmental affairs, told the Executive Committee.

"Whether the government wants to take land for a new strip mall or condemn the home of a senior citizen for new condos, it must be required to pass the most stringent test possible to exercise this extraordinary power," Sullivan told the panel.

The measure would NOT, as some municipalities have claimed, end local redevelopment efforts, Sullivan said.

  Key provisions of the measure include the following:

  -- In light of the Kelo decision, distinguishes economic development from
     traditional public use.
  -- Shifts the burden of proof to government to prove private property is
     blighted in condemnation proceedings.
  -- Adds language requiring compensation to be paid to displaced property
     owners for relocation and other costs rather than leaving it to the
     discretion of the condemning government.

Other organizations supporting the measure include the Illinois Farm Bureau,
Home Builders Association of Illinois, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois State AFL-CIO,
United Food and Commercial Workers, National Federation of Independent Business
and the Outdoor Advertising Association of Illinois.
The Illinois Association of REALTORS(R) is a voluntary trade association whose 59,000 members are engaged
in all facets of the real estate industry. In addition to serving the professional needs of its members,
the Illinois Association of REALTORS(R) works to protect the rights of private property owners in the state
by recommending and promoting legislation that safeguards and advances the rights of real property ownership.  
Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association ponders Oberweis boycott - Cheri Bentrup
The board of the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association will meet Tuesday to discuss whether to boycott Oberweis Dairy products.

"At this point we're in the initial stage," OPALGA co-chair Brad Bartels said Feb. 8.

Jim Oberweis, a Republican primary candidate for Illinois governor, gave $2,000 in campaign money in January to the Illinois Family Institute, which has long lobbied for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, Bartels said. Oberweis also wants to repeal the state's Human Rights Act which went into effect Feb. 1. He is chairman of the board of Oberweis Dairy.

A call Monday to Joe Wiegand, Oberweis's campaign manager, was not returned.

Oberweis's campaign Web site includes a petition calling for an advisory referendum to amend the Illinois constitution defining marriage as a heterosexual union.

"If he's going to give money to groups that oppose same-sex marriages, why should we give money to him?" asked Alan Amato, co-chair of public policy for OPALGA.

"I believe Oak Parkers aren't aware of his right-wing attitudes, especially toward the lesbian and gay community."

The OPALGA board will meet Feb. 21 and plan its public awareness campaign for a possible boycott, Bartels said.

Amato said he expects the board to move forward with the boycott, which would seek to bring in support beyond the gay and lesbian community. Bartels said he would want the effort to extend beyond Oak Park.

"Given that Oak Park happens to have one of their dairy outlets . . . we need to do something," Bartels said.

The local Oberweis Dairy is located at 124 N. Oak Park Ave. Local grocery stores also carry Oberweis products.

"If our neighbors know, (perhaps they will) consider other places to enjoy their treats and purchase their milk products," Bartels said.

Smokers, vendors find new tax a real drag - John Huston

Anxious to attract Cook County smokers frustrated by the coming $1 tax on packs of cigarettes, some businesses in collar counties have already begun advertising with signs such as "No Cook County Tax" to attract disenfranchised smokers from the east.

Smokers, too, are making plans to change their buying habits.

Tim Henning, who lives in DuPage County but works in Oak Park, said he'd rather face the pangs of withdrawal than pay Cook County prices.

"I will not smoke the entire day just because I refuse to buy them in Cook County," Henning said. "Why buy in Cook County when I can literally save $5 a pack now by buying them in DuPage?"

And he's not alone, he said.

Won't buy in Cook

"All my friends that live in the south suburbs, they refuse to buy from Cook County as well," Henning said. "They'll buy them in Will County or drive to Indiana and buy cartons."

It is words like Henning's that make Sunny Singh, manager of Puffs Discount tobacco shop in Oak Park, nervous. Singh said he's heard customers already making plans to buy their cigarettes elsewhere.

"DuPage is not that far," he said. "It's only five or six miles away. Right now we've got some people coming from Chicago because it's a little cheaper. Maybe in the future they'll go straight to DuPage and buy some cartons."

Concerns also were voiced by owners of stores selling cigarettes in Leyden Township before the County Board's vote, especially those in Northlake and Franklin Park which are across the tollway from DuPage Cointy.

March 1 will be a drag for Cook County smokers and tobacco vendors as the price for cigarettes will increase by $1 a pack. Cook County Commissioners voted 10-7 Thursday to raise the per pack cigarette tax.

Opponents of the county's cigarette tax increase say the measure will drive consumers to nearby counties, hurting local business owners. Proponents say it will fill a $70 million budget gap in a year where the County Board voted to keep property taxes from increasing.

No history

History doesn't support the argument that higher taxes will lower revenue by decreasing demand.

After Cook County increased its cigarette tax by 82 cents per pack in fiscal 2004, revenue that year soared past projections -- bringing in $131 million compared to the estimated $69 million. And that was more than triple the previous year's $40 million tally. In 2005, the cigarette tax reaped $157 million.

Despite the county's history with steep raises, Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores, said businesses in Cook County have a lot to lose with the tax increase.

"Cigarettes are a legal product. It's probably our No. 1 seller, if you don't have gas at your facility," Fleischli said. "And the consumer is awfully powerful. He's awfully intelligent. He will move for price. And every time you raise a tax like this, they will move and it's business you can never get back.

"I think you will see small convenience stores hurt so bad they will not survive this."

Fleischli also said if the consumer drives to neighboring counties or states to buy cigarettes, they will also fill up their tank with gasoline and buy other groceries while they're at it.

Not all against

But not all business advocates were against the cigarette tax hike.

Vera Douglas, president of the Chamber of Commerce in Bellwood, just miles from the DuPage County border, has no problems with the increase.

"I'm an ex-smoker," Douglas said. "If they raise the taxes, it's fine with me. The more they raise the taxes, the harder it is to buy."

But to her, the issue is less dollars than common sense.

"I'm not trying to put any business out of business. I'm interested in the longevity of life. Either we're going to pay it in taxes or in insurance, which will continually go up because of smokers."

Douglas said she quit smoking five years ago after three decades with the habit.

An addiction

"In my own imagination, it was one of the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Douglas said. "They're addicted to it. They're going to buy it whether it's in Indiana or DuPage or right here in Cook County."

Other counties appear to be catching on that a cigarette tax can be a windfall. DuPage County officials have begun to look into the possibility.

"The county is currently exploring having the authority to have a cigarette tax primarily as a source of help with the smoking sensation programs and initiatives in the county," said Jason Gerwig, spokesman for the DuPage County Bboard.

He said the issue is more about health than finances.

"There have been studies we've seen that if you increase the price of cigarettes, it prevents teenagers from starting to smoke," Gerwig said. "That's where our emphasis comes from."

Cook County is the only Illinois county with the authority to tax cigarettes -- on top of the 98 cents per pack charged by the state and the 39-cent federal tax per pack.

Chicago smokers pay an additional 68 cents per pack, bringing the total per-pack tax in the city to $4.05 -- more than half the total cost to the consumer.

A year ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich unsuccessfully tried to pass an increase to the state's cigarette tax.

Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky have all considered raising their cigarette taxes in recent years too, but Illinois' is still higher and ranks 20th highest in the country. But as far as cities go, on March 1 Chicago will rank No. 1 in the nation for highest cigarette taxes.


Dems test suburban strategy  Who will replace Henry Hyde? - Daniel Sullivan

After their long stretch as a hapless minority, Democrats believe they can make significant gains in this year’s mid-term elections. They are not alone. Many political observers also view 2006 as a pivotal year for the Republican majority.

A tough 2005 has threatened to sink the Republican national agenda, and the Democrats aim to seize the initiative and send local Republicans down with the floundering national party ship. One test race for their national strategy appears to be the one to fill the seat that retiring member Henry Hyde will leave behind in the Sixth District of Illinois.

Hyde’s heir apparent is Peter Roskam, a conservative Republican from this once reliably Republican district. Hyde’s challenger in the 2004 race, Christine Cegelis, garnered an impressive 44% of the vote; so Democrats smell an opportunity. The Sixth District lies across southern Cook and DuPage counties, covering several inner ring but historically prosperous suburbs of Chicago. This makes it a natural Democratic target.

After Bush and the Republicans’ dominance of the suburban vote during the 2004 election, Democrats need to compete in the suburbs, where the majority of Americans now live. Inner ring suburbs like those in the Sixth District are the most promising ground for the Democrats. Towns like Elgin and Elmhurst have come to increasingly resemble the cities they abut, where Democrats traditionally dominate.

So the race in the Sixth District of Illinois is a test case for the Democrats’ suburban strategy. It is also a test for their veteran strategy. Democrats will try to make Iraq, where polls have suggested Bush and the Republicans are weak, the dominant issue in 2006. In order to capitalize on that weakness, however, they must overcome the presumption, reinforced by the 2004 election, that they are soft on national security.

Enter the Democratic veterans.

Representative Rahm Emmanuel (of the neighboring Fifth District) chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign, and he is trying to recruit 6-10 Iraq war veterans to run in Congressional races. One such is Ladda “Tammy” Duckworth, a National Guard reservist who lost both her legs when insurgents attacked her Blackhawk chopper. After her successful recovery, the press called Duckworth a hero and made her a minor celebrity. On December 19, 2005, she declared her intention to run as the Democratic candidate for the Sixth District of Illinois with Emmanuel’s unprecedented early endorsement.

She is not the only Democratic candidate, however. The problem for Emmanuel, Duckworth, and the Democratic national approach is that some local Democrats resent their meddling. In the Sixth District, many local Democrats support Christine Cegelis, the woman who so convincingly challenged Hyde in 2004. When Duckworth started making noise about running, local bloggers and party members barked back. Cegelis has the grass-roots infrastructure, the contacts, and the local experience, blogger and local party chair Rick Klau wrote. Another local party chair called Duckworth a “carpetbagger” in a letter to her and Emmanuel (she doesn’t actually live in the Sixth District). The intemperate rhetoric reveals that national strategy always runs up against local particularities, even in a party starving for victory like the Democrats.

It also raised the substantive question of whether candidates thought to suit a national strategy are the best horses for the usually parochial House races.

The irony of the dispute is that on Iraq, Cegelis and Duckworth don’t differ that much. Because Duckworth is a veteran and Emmanuel – her most powerful backer – is a member of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, people assume that she will be more hawkish on Iraq than Cegelis. However, although the latter attacks the  conception, planning, and execution of the war as a mistake in more strident terms than the former, the difference is one of tone.

Looking ahead, both seem to have more or less the same plan: do what Bush says he wants to do but do it faster and better: train the Iraqis quicker, bring the troops home quicker and allocate resources better. The “veterans strategy” will seem like a publicity stunt if the veterans fail to offer a coherent alternative to Bush regarding Iraq. John Kerry knows this problem, and one wonders if it has occurred to Emmanuel and the Democrats.

Democrats have a reputation as untrustworthy on foreign policy not because no veterans run as Democrats (plenty do), but because the party has few ideas. However much Iraq may drag down President Bush’s popularity, a Democratic party either afraid to support a rapid pullout or offer substantive alternative to the president cannot profit from it.

Of course, Duckworth may lose the Democratic primary to Cegelis or one of the other Democratic candidates, in which case Emmanuel’s strategy may not be tested in the Sixth District. But this race is in Emmanuel’s backyard and it would be surprising if he let Duckworth go down easily. Both Emanuel and, of course, Duckworth herself will fight in the primary for the chance to test the national strategy in the general election.

Despite being short on substance, to appear strong and sensible on Iraq appears to be the first step in the Democrats’ bid to repackage themselves for a suburban audience.


Kathy Salvi: Time for ads, but not for true debates? - Jeff Berkowitz

Kathy Salvi, one of the three major candidates in the 8th Cong. Dist. Republican Primary, has just started running a nice, soft introductory ad, telling voters who she is- a woman of faith, a person who balances family and business. [Watch here].

Salvi neglects to tell voters that her “business,” is that of being a trial lawyer, and that she opposes caps on non-economic trial damage awards, which implicitly cap trial lawyer fees. Such legislative caps in medical malpractice cases passed the Illinois Legislature last year, with the overwhelming support of business groups as their major reform effort, and the legislation was signed by Governor Blagojevich. The business and Republican support for "Caps," was also joined by a number of Democrats [including, at least implicitly, House Speaker Mike Madigan] who did not want to incur the wrath of voters who were upset by "doctors leaving the state," but the “trial lawyers," remained strong in their opposition to the legislative caps.

An additional perspective on Kathy Salvi can be obtained by watching a 30 minute interview on our show, taped in early October, 2005, [Watch here] [At the end of the show, Salvi discusses tort reform and "Caps."]

Since that appearance, we have extended numerous invitations to candidate Salvi to return to the show, including an opportunity to debate her major opponents: investment banker David McSweeney [Watch new ad here] and State Rep. Robert Churchill [See campaign site here]. However, Ms. Salvi has either been unavailable or “too busy,” to face our questioning again, or to debate her opponents on our show.

8th Cong. Dist. Republican Primary Candidate David McSweeney, on the other hand, has found the time to face tough questioning on “Public Affairs,” in five appearances on our show. 8th Cong. Dist. Republican Primary Candidate Robert Churchill found the time to face tough questioning on “Public Affairs,” in three appearances on our show. And, one of those appearances by McSweeney and Churchill included a debate and discussion between the two on our show [Watch here,McSweeney-Churchill, Dec. 21], something Salvi has skirted.

We don't endorse candidates. But, we do endorse the notion that democracy is served by having office-holders and candidates who are willing to subject themselves to tough questioning, like that we dish out on our show, frequently, and with enthusiasm and candor.


Institute Releases FY 2007 Budget Analysis - Greg Blankenship

A number of questions popped into our heads while watching the Governor's Budget Address today surrounding the efficacy of his iniatives and the state of the state.   We ended up releasing a press release (see below) and we will soon have a five page paper posted to our web site .  And please pardon the mess over there.  Our new site is under construction and things are a little messy and unkept on the homepage.

Update:  I said to myself, "Self, why not just post at Illinois Review, too?"  Download business_as_usual_final.pdf

Link: U.S. Newswire : Releases : "FY 2007 Budget Address: The Song Remains the Same...".

Robbing Peter To Pay Paul Is Not A Right - Greg Blankenship

Governor Blagojevich is fond of saying that he believes health care is a right and it always strikes me odd that no one ever challenges him on that.  Indirectly, Walter E. Williams did this week. 

"So-called rights to medical care, food and decent housing impose an obligation on some other American who, through the tax code, must be denied his right to his earnings. In other words, when Congress gives one American a right to something he didn't earn, it takes away the right of another American to something he did earn."

Maybe we should invent a Peter and Paul rule for the Governor.  That is, if you have to rob Peter to pay Paul, then it isn't a right. 

While I'm at it, for the next 9 or 10 months we'll be suffering through the governor incessantly trying to give us "free stuff,"  we would be wise to remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Read:  Bogus Rights


Gay advocate Rick Garcia blasts Oberweis, again

Gays Seek Freedom to Marry - Andrew Davis

Hundreds of individuals attended Lambda Legal’s 5th Annual Freedom to Marry Reception Feb. 9 at High Risk Gallery.

Working with several other organizations, Lambda Legal spotlighted lesbian and gay couples who have married and the fight for the establishment of marital equality nationwide. Guest speaker Rick Garcia of Equality Illinois delivered a spirited discourse. “I can’t tell you how happy and thrilled I am to be here tonight. We come here to celebrate our life, love and families—but I am especially excited to stand here with you because we re-commit ourselves to take the next step down the aisle for full marriage equality in Illinois,” he said. He noted the gradual progress that is happening across the country and was confident about the ultimate achievement of equality: “I want you all to remember this: We are on the side of fairness, we are on the side of decency, we are on the side of what is right and, dammit, we’re going to win.”

Garcia also took on Jim Oberweis, the dairy magnate and current Republican gubernatorial candidate who has made his anti-gay marriage stance known by calling for a state constitutional ban. “The divorced Oberweis is traveling through the state of Illinois to “protect marriage,” Garcia stated. “Well, I have a couple of [ statements ] for Mr. Oberweis. Why didn’t he protect his own marriage? And why isn’t he milking a different cow, because Illinois doesn’t take well to hatemongering and discrimination.” Garcia also urged a boycott of Oberweis” businesses: “Our money should not and cannot enrich a man who will use it against us.”

Lambda Legal’s Mona Noriega, who presided over the event, said that people need to do something to fight for equality—and the course of action that is taken needn’t be elaborate. “We need action—action as simple as talking to the people you love, talking to families and talking to friends,” she told the audience.

Other highlights included cake cuttings, a toast and a bouquet toss. Among the partners for the reception were Dignity Chicago, Illinois NOW, Orgullo En Accion, Equality Illinois, Lesbian Community Cancer Project, Gay Games VII and I2I ( Invincible to Invincible ) : Asian-Pacific Islander Pride.


Jim Oberweis on Blagojevich's Wednesday budget address

"Tax and fee increases against job-creators and increased spending for political gains. This has been the three year theme of the Blagojevich Administration - tax and fee increases to half-fund new spending while doubling the state's indebtedness. It is no surprise that Governor Blagojevich proposes more tax and fee increases and more new spending in what voters will make his last budget," states Republican candidate for Governor Jim Oberweis.

According to press reports, the budget message includes spending $90 million on the nation's first universal free pre-school for three year olds, $90 million for a new annual college tuition tax credit and $400 million in increased spending on k-12 public education.

"It seems ironic that this governor believes the challenges in education are best addressed by adding new programs and more spending onto a bloated and bureaucratic system. While touting education, Blagojevich fails the most rudimentary test of economics, mathematics and good simply can't spend what you don't have," concluded Oberweis.

Jim Oberweis is available for comment after Wednesday's budget address. He may be reached at the Oberweis for Illinois DuPage Headquarters at 630-577-2360 until 2:00 P.M. After 2:00 P.M. Jim Oberweis may be reached by calling the campaign headquarters at 630-801-5370.


Gidwitz Responds to Topinka Attacks - Ron Gidwitz

Dear Judy:

This letter is in response to your request that we discontinue the current fact based-advertising related to your record.

I know that there are aspects of your public record that you are not proud of -- and frankly, I understand why you're so upset when they are highlighted. Illinois Republicans need to know where all the candidates stand on important economic issues facing the state and who will be the best candidate to defeat Governor Blagojevich this fall.

The facts in the ad are uncontestable.

You authored SB 1040, which would have raised the state sales tax from 1% to 6.25% on food and medicine, costing taxpayers $753 million. That's a fact.

It is also a fact that you doubled the spending in your office. The figures I cite in my ad have nothing to do with estate tax refunds or the other issues you raised. They are fact-based and focus on your spending on staffing and operations. As you might recall, you were one of two constitutional officers who fought Governor Blagojevich when he proposed cutting spending in government agencies. That suggests you have little interest in cutting spending or being accountable to taxpayers.

You approved over $5.6 billion in new state borrowing. That's a fact. Furthermore, you supported George Ryan's $12 billion Illinois FIRST program. In the 5/7/99 edition of The Bond Buyer you were quoted as saying "To get the $12 billion, he might have to do some negotiating, but if there's anyone who can do it, it's George Ryan." In that same article, you are quoted as agreeing with George Ryan that all the pork-barrel projects were worthwhile. "They are all needy items," was your exact quote. This state needs leadership to stand up for the taxpayer, not more of the go along to get along attitude that you displayed as treasurer.

But what is clearly misleading is what you're saying in your own advertisement.

You failed to mention the controversy surrounding the Bright Start program. Your campaign had to reimburse Smith Barney for a party they threw for Nancy Kimme, your current Chief of Staff, prior to the awarding of the contract. The Smith Barney lobbyist and her family have given your campaign thousands in political contributions. Even more troubling is that the Smith Barney lobbyist is the daughter of one of the investors in the President Abraham Lincoln hotel deal -- remember the controversy surrounding the hotel? Isn't this part of the pay-to-play culture that has existed in Illinois for far too long?

I do agree with you on one thing: you did make history with the Bright Start program. After the program paid for hundreds of thousand of dollars for advertising that included your picture, the state legislature passed a law that banned public officials from putting themselves in state-financed ads. A noteworthy achievement.

Judy, your ad raises a number of issues that are deserving of discussion. I look forward to discussing these issues and the differences between our candidacies in the days ahead.

Kathy Salvi Launches Television Ad
Mundelein, Illinois - Kathy Salvi, candidate for Illinois' 8th Congressional District, has launched her first television ad in her bid to win the Republican nomination.  The Republican primary is March 21.


"I am thankful for the outpouring of support from contributors which has allowed me to put my message on television.  My message of lower taxes and less spending should resonate well with voters of the 8th District who deserve to have more control over their economic future."


"With less than five weeks to go until the primary, my commercial adds to the momentum of my campaign.  I look forward to riding that momentum through the Republican primary and on to victory in November against Congresswoman Melissa Bean."


My ad can be found on my website,


Kathy Salvi is an attorney who lives in Mundelein with her husband, Al, and their six children.  She will focus on issues important to the families of Illinois' 8th District including fighting taxes, controlling spending, traffic gridlock, the war on terror, and upholding conservative values.


McNeil welcomes endorsement of Illinois Federation for the Right to Life

FRANKFORT – Republican candidate for state representative of the 81st District Chris McNeil has received the endorsement of the Illinois Federation for the Right to Life Political Action Committee, over his opponent and current incumbent state representative.

IFRL is the state affiliate to the National Right to Life Committee, the United States’ foremost pro-life organization.

“We are pleased to announce our endorsement of Chris McNeil for election to the Illinois House of Representatives in the March 21, 2006, Primary Election,” wrote Irene Napier, Chairman of IFRL-PAC, in a press release. “Not only has Chris McNeil expressed a desire to protect unborn children but has also indicated his support for those who are disabled and in need of protection at the end of life.”

McNeil responded, “I am honored by IFRL’s endorsement and vow to uphold the sanctity of life as the state representative of the 81st District.”

McNeil noted his opponent, Renee Kosel has taken an anti-life position several times throughout her incumbency. As recently as 2005, Kosel voted for House Bill 2492, which would have banned pregnancy care centers from showing ultrasounds to mothers in crisis pregnancies. Prior to that, Kosel voted in favor of legislation creating the “Freedom of Choice” in abortions.

In 2002, Kosel expressed confusion on the issue to a local newspaper. She stated, “I don’t know what to call myself. I’m not pro-choice enough for the pro-choice lobby, and I’m not pro-life enough for the pro-life groups.”

McNeil responded, “I do know what to call myself. I’m proudly pro-life, and I am honored by the IFRL’s confidence of that fact.”


A friendly debate at CPAC - David Keene 

The nearly five thousand conservative activists who attended this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at Washington’s Omni Shoreham were in a feisty mood when they arrived, and nothing they heard over the next three days did much to calm them down.

This was the 33rd annual CPAC and featured the likes of Vice President Cheney, Sens. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), George Allen (R-Va.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) as well as Bob Novak, Sam Donaldson, Ann Coulter, keynoter George Will and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). These and others debated and discussed everything from the Iraq war to the National Security Agency wiretaps, the Republican failure to cope with runaway spending and the various approaches to immigration reform with which Congress and the president are grappling.

These conferences are important for a number of reasons. They provide a means of gauging the temperature of the activists who make up the base of the GOP on issues and politicians alike. They have over the years become an essential stop for Republicans seeking conservative support and allow activists from around the country to share notes and views on those politicians who attend and those who don’t.

Those who cover them like to highlight the differences among attendees on various issues and any disagreements they might have with Republican leaders both because controversy is always better news and because some at least seem constantly to be hoping that the conservative movement will either splinter and collapse or abandon the Republicans who count on it on Election Day.

What they don’t seem to understand is that the conservative movement has always been a coalition of economic free-marketeers, social and religious activists concerned about moral values and men and women who focus on and care  about national defense and foreign-policy issues.

Conservatives have never, however, been particularly reticent about airing their disagreements, debating their fellows or making it clear when they believe a politician they admire has made a mistake or is seriously off course. Indeed, at a recent Princeton University conference, “Past, Present and Future of American Conservatism,” a member of the audience got up and began ranting at a panel of conservative thinkers because he felt they were “all over the lot” and “didn’t have a consistent or explicit program” because they “seemed to disagree with each other as often as they agreed.”

I was there, and my first reaction was that the fellow had wandered in off the street and just didn’t like conservatives. It turned out, though, that he was a senior history professor who concluded his rant by contrasting the conservatives’ apparent inability to march in lockstep to whatever wing of liberalism to which he adheres by proclaiming that he and his fellow liberals know exactly where they stand on “all of these issues.”

Though he must travel with a different set of liberals than those I’ve met, he hit inadvertently on what I would argue is the strength of the modern conservative movement, which is the ability or willingness of its various factions to get along with each other at the end of the day.

Thus reporters looking for a “break” with the president found instead that most of those attending the conference really like George Bush and are proud to have voted for him, although they disagree strongly with some of his policies and are frustrated by his unwillingness or inability to deliver on some of the promises they feel he made as he sought the presidency.

It came as no surprise to those of us who organized the conference that most conservatives are less than enthusiastic about the administration’s handling of the immigration problem or the failure of the White House and Congress to come to grips with runaway spending and the continued growth of a government that can’t seem to deliver much but gets in the way of the people who pay for it.

This year, conservatives at CPAC focused on these and other issues. Next year, they will begin to focus on candidates to succeed Bush and those hoping for their support would be well-advised to take note of where they are on the issues.


CPAC: The conservative sell-out - Cliff Kincaid

Senator George Allen of Virginia declared “We’re all conservatives” as he addressed the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). But Allen was badly misinformed. One group attending and sponsoring CPAC this year was the Marijuana Policy Project, which is actually run by a convicted drug dealer. Other groups attending and co-sponsoring CPAC were the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the George Soros-funded Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

This bizarre turn of events demonstrates that some conservatives have lost their nerve in the war on drugs¯and also in the war on terrorism. It is a story worth telling, especially because so many true conservatives told me how disgusted they were by the strange nature of this year’s “largest gathering of conservatives nationwide,” as CPAC advertises itself.

This year the DPA and Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) were actually put in charge of a CPAC panel on drug policy, which they were going to dominate 2-1 against Calvina Fay of the Drug Free America Foundation. Fay pulled out in disgust, even complaining that members of the pro-drug groups were harassing her associates.

Informed about this development, Rep. Mark E. Souder put a statement in the Congressional Record asking, “What on earth were the CPAC organizers thinking? Why would the American Conservative Union (ACU) allow extremist liberals like George Soros and Peter Lewis (who is responsible for most of MPP’s funding) to access a meeting of conservatives? And, in exactly whose estimation would there be balance in a debate moderated by the MPP?”

In another case of strange bedfellows, the DPA has joined the ACU and other conservative and liberal groups as a member of the Liberty Coalition, which sponsored the Martin Luther King Day speech by Al Gore attacking the Bush Administration’s NSA surveillance program. Left-wing members of the Liberty Coalition include the ACLU, People for the American Way,, Common Cause,, and others.

Bob Barr, a former conservative congressman who helped impeach President Clinton, is in the middle of this. Barr, who has become an ACLU consultant and member of the Liberty Coalition, debated Viet Dinh, a former Bush Justice Department official, at CPAC on the issue of privacy rights and the war on terrorism. One member of the audience, during the question-and-answer period, put Barr on the spot, demanding to know why he was associating with Al Gore and far-left groups like, another Liberty Coalition member.

While he was in fact scheduled to introduce Gore at that Liberty Coalition event from a remote location, technical difficulties prevented him from doing so. Barr defended his association with Al Gore and the Liberty Coalition but said that he had nothing to do with, a group created to save President Clinton from the impeachment drive that Barr helped organize. Nevertheless, they are members of the same “coalition.”

It is interesting to note that Barr’s biography, as published in the official CPAC program, omitted his work for the ACLU. Instead, it highlighted his work with the ACU and NRA. But the bio on his own website admits it, saying that he “provides advice to several organizations, including consulting on privacy issues with the ACLU…”

The omission in his CPAC bio may suggest that Barr knows that he is associating with a group that is anathema to conservatives. The first President Bush made political gains by attacking his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, as a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Among its controversial positions on domestic and social issues, the ACLU favors the legalization of the possession and distribution of child pornography, as well as the legalization of dangerous drugs. On foreign affairs, it is quick to go to the defense of suspected terrorists in U.S. custody who claim to have been mistreated.

Working with the ACLU might make some sense if Barr and his left-wing associates had come together to protest specific and documented cases of abuse of civil liberties by the administration. One such case, which AIM has written extensively about, is that of Steven Hatfill, the former U.S. government scientist whose career and life were ruined after being unfairly targeted as a “person of interest” in the FBI investigation of the post-9/11 anthrax murders, which are still officially unsolved. Hatfill has not been charged, and there is no evidence against him. But the FBI won’t apologize or clear him. Hatfill has been forced to go to court against the Justice Department and the journalists who defamed him.

More than a year ago I provided Bob Barr extensive material about the case, thinking he would write about it for the Wall Street Journal in a column about the federal government and civil liberties. But his Journal article appeared without any mention of it.

I never expected that the ACLU would go to Hatfill’s defense. He isn't the ACLU's kind of client because he is a patriot who believes in fighting the war on terrorism. The ACLU and the media tend to go to the defense of those with a left-wing or anti-American bent. It’s inexplicable why Bob Barr and other conservatives in the Liberty Coalition have not rallied to Hatfill’s defense, in a case where they could really make a difference for the better.

If they won’t defend Hatfill’s civil liberties, in a concrete example of federal abuse of power, then what is the point of their “Liberty Coalition” anyway? Like the case of CPAC, the Liberty Coalition looks like an exercise in which the left-wingers are taking conservatives for a ride. And it also looks like Al Gore’s friend Ted Kennedy is the driver.

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