Friday, December 23, 2005

What's Really Important

To my friends, colleagues, neighbors, constituents, readers, supporters and detractors alike:

Over the past month or two, I have felt like Lemony Snicket, inasmuch as I have been dealing with a series of unfortunate events on a number of fronts. And while it has been inviting to dwell in despair over a number of these things, with the holidays upon us, it has put upon me the realization that now is the time to take stock in the good, not the bad.

Those of you who know me have likely heard me say that it is all too common for people (myself included at times) to sulk in self-pity when things are not exactly as we would like them to be, yet we rarely pause to be grateful for when things are going smoothly. Every day that we can get up with our health and good fortune, and be able to share that with people whom we care about, is a good day.

When I am able to step back from the incidents in which I have found myself enveloped, I realize that my fortunes far outweigh my problems. And in so doing, I feel small for imagining my problems to be so big. This past year has seen a disproportionate number of worldwide tragedies. A tsunami, hurricanes, a child on his way to grandma's house crushed by a plane. To the extent that none of them involved you, be thankful. Sincerely thankful.

We always forget the fragility of life and the inexplicable randomness of the line between life, death or misfortune, until it somehow touches our lives. To the extent that it hasn't touched our lives, we should appreciate and revel in that fact.

And though in the weeks, months and years ahead, we may vociferously agree or disagree upon issues of politics and government, keep in your heads and hearts those things that truly matter, that are truly worth expending energy upon, and that would justifiably mean the most to be without.

It is very easy for those in politics, or for those that follow politics, to become consumed in this arena. Remember, however, that the other 99% of the people, while dependent upon the decisions we reach, are still smart enough to appreciate that there is a world out there that goes on every day. One filled, not with poll numbers or issue formulation, but with friends, family and the riches of life. And remember that what we do is a means to an end, but should never be considered an end in and of itself.

In closing, my year-end wish for all of you is the health and comfort of you and those that you care about and happiness next year and the years to come.

Barring anything that really jumps out at me in the next week, I will likely step away from this blog for a little bit. I have put a lot of time into this endeavor, and have tried to make it something that people find of some value. Thank you for reading my ongoing thoughts and for sharing yours with me.

Best Wishes

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Intelligent Decision

I actually have a bunch of stuff to get done today, but I just saw this and wanted to put it out there for everybody. According to, a federal judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that "Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes, ruling in "one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial".
"We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom," he wrote in his 139-page opinion.

The Dover policy required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement said Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." It refers students to an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information.

Jones wrote that he wasn't saying the intelligent design concept shouldn't be studied and discussed, saying its advocates "have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors."

But, he wrote, "our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."

No word yet on when the judge will rule on the rest of Sen. Bill Brady's platform for Governor :)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Tricky Decision

So in light of Mike Quigley's (incredibly difficult and honorable) announcement not to seek the Cook County Board Presidency, I was thinking about the dynamics of the race and the big quandary that it poses for the Governor's campaign.

Why the Governor's race you ask? Well, here's how I see it. Obviously, the two remaining candidates in the Democratic Primary are the incumbent, John Stroger and Commissioner Forrest Claypool. With Quigley not only out of the race, but fully supporting the Claypool campaign, this race will be positioned clearly as the reformer taking on the old way of doing business. Sound familiar?

So here's where it get interesting. Stroger has not been shy about playing the race card in the past, and will subtly (or not so subtly) use it now in order to get voters to the polls. Similarly, the Governor's re-election strategy, to a certain extent in the Primary, but much more so in the General Election, is going to be very dependent upon not only a big plurality of the African-American vote, but also upon a big, fat turnout in the African-American community. In order to get that result, come November, he needs...Stroger on the ticket.

As I see it, this puts our reform and renewal Governor in a serious trick box. If he openly backs Stroger over Claypool, he will significantly damage his credibility among reform voters, not only in Cook County, but around the state. If you are for 'changing the old way of doing business', that has to be a position of principle, not convenience.

If he takes the opposite position, he alienates some of the powerful organizations that are already on the fence with him, plus he may very well shoot himself in the foot with a constituency that does not easily forgive and forget.

It is virtually impossible for him to 'stay neutral' in the race. Even if he doesn't formally take a position, which is the likely case, the efforts of his supporters and those close to him will be justifiably attributed to him.

One can point out the presence of SOS Jesse White on the ticket. But to Jesse's credit, the guy is so well-liked across the state, that I don't envision a rallying cry to get the vote turnout in order to put him back in office.

Accordingly, I think that the Governor finds himself in a very untenable position. Based on a number of things, I have a strong sense of what the Governor is going to do, but I thought that it would be more interesting just to put this out there for all of you to ponder and share your thoughts on. Have at it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Press Success

You have to hand it to the Governor, even with $20 million in your campaign account, you can't buy earned media this good. Eleanor Clift's Capitol Letter column in Newsweek gushes over the All Kids program, and fawns over the Governor himself with tidbits like this:
With his shock of black hair and cherubic face, he is reminiscent of another eager young governor, Bill Clinton circa ’92, even using much the same language about the forgotten middle-class that launched Clinton on the national scene.
There is no question that the article gives him a nice dose of positive national exposure, but I still kind of squirmed when I read the spin job on his about-face on the med mal issue.
His confrontational governing style has made him his share of enemies, including among those who were his friends. A prosecuting attorney in Chicago before he went into politics, Blagojevich enjoyed heavy financial support from trial lawyers. But after he was elected and faced with doctors leaving the state because of high malpractice insurance, he supported caps on malpractice awards. “From a political standpoint, it was a difficult decision,” he says. “From a moral standpoint, it was easy.” That’s the kind of tradeoff rarely made in Washington.
When all is said and done though, this article alone, not to mention all the other press that stemmed from his D.C. trip, is probably the best stretch of attention he's had in quite a while.

Major Issue

Since I really know nothing about her, I am looking forward to watching 6th District Congressional candidate Ret. Major Tammy Duckworth on television this Sunday morning and hearing what she has to say. And while I have no position on the race between her and incumbent Christine Cegelis, I can't help but think back to what happened to former Georgia Senator Max Cleland.

Cleland was a Vietnam veteran who came home a triple amputee. That didn't stop Cleland's opponent in 2002, Republican congressman Saxby Chambliss, from running a post-9/11 campaign that essentially (amazingly?) pounded Cleland for not being patriotic enough or caring enough for the security of our country. The campaign tactic, premised upon Cleland's votes against some of the homeland security measures that were being pushed through by the Bush Administration, worked well enough to oust the war hero from office.

But I'm not drawing a direct parallel between that race and the one closer to home. I just think that it will be interesting to see how the war issue and Maj. Duckworth's status is going to play out in a primary between two Democrats. Understandably, she would want to use her service to her country as an asset. But at the same time, Cegelis is going to want to counter this, but will have to do so without the appearance of attacking a war hero.

Should Maj. Duckworth win the primary, the general election contest with Peter Roskam raises a whole new dynamic. Should be interesting.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Beware the Dark Horse

Knowing absolutely nothing about this gentleman, I prefer to think of the following as a cross between Rocky, Hoosiers, Rudy, and Seabiscuit. And while I have no idea how many signatures the man filed, I say LET THE MAN RUN! Democracy at its finest.

Filed: 12/16/2005 4:30 PM
Status: Active
12/16/2005 4:30 PM

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Digging Out

I've got a few topics that I'm trying to formulate thoughts on, but I'm also trying to get caught up on some other stuff as well. So give me until tomorrow or Saturday to get back on track and I'll see if I can come up with some interesting things.

Until then, you can always check out Illinoize for some (mostly) substantive pieces. Or visit any of the sites listed on the right-hand side here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Here's One You Don't Hear Too Often

"Vote for me and I'll take away your kids' access to healthcare."

That appears to be the unofficial motto of the Bill Brady campaign.

I had no intention of posting anything about the Governor's visit to D.C. to pitch the All Kids program, but when I saw the following statement, I had to chime in:
But state Sen. Bill Brady, an All Kids critic and Republican candidate for governor, predicted many families would be attracted by low-cost treatment for their children's serious diseases.

"Unfortunately, the governor lives in Never-Never Land," said Brady, who promises to try to halt the program if he is elected. (emphasis added)
While I supported the bill, I still think that the jury is still inevitably out on how well the program is going to work once it's up and running. But it's one thing for Brady to say that he opposed the legislation, but to actually campaign on taking away insurance from families is one of the most poorly thought through ideas I've heard in a long time.

Although I guess that if his plan is to make people forget about the assinine commercials of Oberweis flying over Soldier Field in a helicopter while playing on people's prejudices, he may have just succeeded.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Somebody's Getting a BIG Lump of Coal

So I'm at Field's this evening doing the Christmas thing with my family and happened to run into my friend Rep. Osterman with his family. While we're talking, some guy in his mid-30s who I don't even know decides to interrupt us to pretty aggressively chastise me for 'never voting with taxpayers'.

When I ask the guy to give me an example, he couldn't, but just said that he was sure that I didn't 'vote right'. He brought up the bill that temporarily capped property taxes, but when Osterman pointed out that the bill actually helped our individual constituents, he tried to change subjects.

He recognized me, so I assumed that he must know something about politics, but I was quite wrong. When I gave him several more examples of why he was wrong, he basically refused to acknowledge them. He then told me he was a Libertarian, but could not discuss any specific platform issues with me that made him one.

After ruling out option one (tossing him over the railing next to us), and option two (having Osterman do it for me), I invite the guy to come to my office any time to talk about my record and any issues he wanted to discuss with me. (Why? Who knows? Seemed like the right thing to do and I figured that it would result in a much lesser sentence than options one or two.) But in response, I get "I don't know if I'll have time to get around to that."

So he has time to cluelessly come at me while I'm with my family at night, but not to come meet with me to try to have an intelligent talk? Politically correct or not, I have to say that some people are just rude and ignorant. Damn, I wish I knew where his chimney is.

And spare me any attitude issues on my part. I assure you that if somebody approached you in the manner that this guy did, and you didn't have to worry about public repercussions, your reactions would have been much less subdued than were mine. And yes, I'm a public figure, but there should still exist some level of decency in interpersonal contact. Okay, I'm done venting.

Return of the Draft?

So I'm doing some work late in the office one evening last week, and something came through my fax which caught my eye. Caught both of them in fact. Devoid of any fax header, it was a press release of sorts captioned "THE DRAFT DOROTHY BROWN FOR MAYOR COMMITTEE BEGINS FORMATION". The fax touts the Clerk of the Court's "results oriented management and integrity", which seems to not so subtly infer that it is believed that these qualities are presently missing from City Hall.

Through a incredibly odd coincidence, I happen to recognize the contact person listed on the 'release' as belonging to a local consulting outfit. But just who is having them do this is beyond me, although you could formulate a couple good guesses relatively quickly. The only other info was a website (which consists of one page with no additional information on it) and a phone number (which I wasn't going to bother to call).

Now as the only other Louisiana-born local elected official, I like Dorothy; but this thing is just odd on a lot of fronts. It will be curious to see how she responds when she is inevitably asked about this issue, which may be just why it was sent out to start with.

And Then There Were Two

I said a while ago that I was pretty well convinced that Edwin Eisendrath was going to, at a minimum, file to run in the Democratic primary for Governor. And nothing I have seen or heard since then has caused me to do anything but strengthen that opinion. If you are reluctant to heed my beliefs, read his own words from this story from the Southern Illinoisan. The story was done as a follow-up to Eisendrath's visit to SIU Carbondale to gather petitions and spread his message:
"(Hurricane Katrina) was a wake-up call for me that misery is right around the corner when you have bad government," he said. "I've always had a strong passion for the obligation of citizenship. ... Our governor is not living up to expectations."
Then there was this apparent precursor of things to come:
"Public trust matters a lot in politics - and you can't buy it back," he said, referring in part to Blagojevich's $20 million re-election fund.
And as far as having enough signatures to run:
Eisendrath said he currently had enough petitions to meet the 5,000 required to put his name on the Democratic primary ballot. However, he can submit up to 10,000 names - which he intends to do to ensure that he has enough to survive challenges to his petition.
Intelligent people can (and will) make arguments that this is good for the Governor, bad for the Governor, or who knows what else. But it will definitely make things much more interesting.

On a minorly related note, it's too bad that I'm probably one of the few people in Chicagoland that reads the Southern Illinoisan. They put together a good paper and regularly have some interesting stories that you won't find other places.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Good Hire

From the it's always good to see good things happen to good people department, I caught this in Bernie Schoenberg's column today:
PORTER McNEIL, a former Springfield resident now living in Moline, is working as consultant and spokesman for the re-election campaign of Comptroller DAN HYNES.

McNeil, 46, previously worked for Hynes, House Democrats and the University of Illinois at Springfield and now is involved in public relations and politics. He considered a run for Illinois House this year, but the incumbent, Rep. MIKE BOLAND, D-Moline, decided to seek another term.

During the 2004 presidential cycle, McNeil was communications director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Illinois.

He and his wife, former Statehouse reporter for WUIS MARY CARLIN McNEIL, have three children.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Time Out

I've got a real busy couple of days ahead, so doubtful any time to post or babysit this thing until the weekend. Still working on what I think is an interesting story though. I'll try to get it posted on Saturday. Take it easy everybody and stay warm.

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's the Economy, or Maybe Not

My friend Ralph Martire has in interesting piece in today's State Journal-Register discussing a new report on the state of Illinois' economy. The report, “The State of Working Illinois”, was produced by his organization, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, together with Northern Illinois University, with significant input from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The study, funded by the Joyce Foundation, identifies Illinois specific job, wage, work force and industry developments over the last 15 years, and is available online at

To be honest, I have yet to read the whole thing, but I found this excerpt highlighted by Ralph to be very interesting and troubling:

Over the last 15 years, economic growth in Illinois lagged both the nation and the Great Lakes Region. While overall employment grew, the largest job growth occurred in the low-paying service sectors.

Meanwhile, Illinois lost more than 222,500 well-paying manufacturing jobs. Most of the service sector jobs that replaced lost manufacturing jobs, paid 29.2 percent less than the jobs replaced. No surprise, then, that the report found inflation-adjusted median income for all Illinois households declined by more than 12 percent since 1999, the second-worst decline of any state in the nation. Concurrently, poverty in Illinois increased, while the number of jobs that provide health-care coverage and private retirement benefits declined.

For the next twelve months, Illinois voters are going to be simultaneously told that Illinois' economy is right on track, or not even on the track, depending upon who is doing the telling. And both sides are going to trot out facts and figures to support their position. But scholars aside, I think that it will once again come down to the question of "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Yet ironically, just as it was four years ago, I think that the bigger question on voters' minds will be "Do I trust this party to be in the Executive Mansion?" And rest assured, there will be plenty of debate on that subject as well. It's a sad situation indeed when ethics issues repeatedly trump other issues that should be the real focus of government.

Even His Ambulance isn't Too Smart

Sure, in theory it could have happened to any of us - but it didn't. And before anybody jumps on me for picking on the President, lighten up, I'm just sharing a little levity on a Monday morning.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's motorcade had a minor accident Sunday when the ambulance that routinely trails the president in case of an emergency crashed into a support vehicle on the way back from Camp David.

Secret Service spokesman Jonathan Cherry said no one was injured and the motorcade did not stop before arriving at the White House. The presidential limousine, which travels near the front of the motorcade of more than a dozen vehicles, was not involved.

The accident occurred a few blocks from the White House. The motorcade's lead vehicles slowed down, but the ambulance did not stop in time and rear-ended a Chevy Suburban carrying high-tech communications equipment, damaging the back bumper and doors. The Suburban in turn hit a support van in front of it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Sunday Cup Runneth Over

All kinds of interesting tidbits today, but in the interest of (my) time, I'll just throw a few of them out there for you to digest, and comment upon if you so choose.

We'll lead with Lynn Sweet, who has a piece about the letter Sen. Carol Ronen drafted in an attempt to have influential progressive signers urge Edwin Eisendrath not to enter the gubernatorial primary. Given the title "Pressure tactic to clear Dem primary field falls flat", I think you can gather how well this idea went over. The piece closed with this little zinger:
The penultimate paragraph of the letter to Eisendrath said, "We must continue the fight as a unified Democratic community for the values we hold dear with the distractions of a hopeless primary challenge."

Not so hopeless that it was not worth a try to bottle him up.
I had lunch with one of the more prominent people to receive the letter, and let's just say that the letter went over even worse than the column would lead you to think.

On an aside, I wonder it the commitment to "the values we hold dear" will keep Sen. Ronen and the other 'progressives' who actually did sign the letter from supporting very conservative candidates on the ticket. Or does will they decide that geopgraphy trumps principles when it's convenient?

Greg Hinz drives home why Judy Barr Topinka has her work cut out for her if she wants to go after the Governor based on the integrity of the administration.

But even Topinka-backer state Sen. Kirk Dillard, the DuPage County GOP chairman, last week said that "other people" on the 2006 GOP ticket will drive the ethics issue against the Democrats.

It shouldn't be that way. Ms. Topinka herself needs to prove that she's not just a get-along, go-along gal. She can start by moving away from Bob Kjellander, who has a stunning conflict in his twin roles as a lobbyist who has to butter up Democratic officials and a protector of GOP interests as the state's Republican national committeeman. Then she can propose and unite her party behind new ethics laws with teeth.

Ms. Topinka can't undo the past. But she needs to demonstrate the future will be different.

Bernie Schoenberg has a piece about Topinka's announcement in Springfield which includes this tidbit:
Hewitt Douglass, an employee of the Illinois Department of Human Services, is president of Local 2600 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"I'm here to find out who is going to be the best candidate for governor," Douglass told me later. "And I like what I heard her say. ... I believe that she can beat Blagojevich."

I asked if Douglass thinks Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH should be defeated in 2006.

"I believe he should be beaten because he lied to me," Douglass said. "He said he would not balance the budget on the back of state employees. My pension money has been used for the next two years to balance the budget on the back of state employees.

From Doug Finke's Statehouse Insider column is this inexplicable quote from the Governor.

Coincidentally, earlier that day, Blagojevich made an appearance in Chicago along with Sen. MIGUEL DEL VALLE, D-Chicago.

"I'm so proud of the fact that (del Valle) lives just about a block and a half from the grade school that I went to and got Cs in," Blagojevich said.

Apparently, his academic mediocrity started at an early age.

I just don't know why the Governor insists on repeatedly going to the well with this line. The first time might have been kind of funny, but when you boast about gettting C's in Constitutional Law, then a federal judge tosses out your biggest-hyped initiative of the regular session (violent video games) on constitutional grounds, lines like this don't really go over as well.

Rich Miller's sydicated column last week about the vehemently anti-kitten Sen. Obama was actually hilarious, with just enough truth to make an elected official cringe. If you didn't see it, and want a quick chuckle, check it out.

Friday, December 02, 2005

JUST IN - Fire Up the Playstation Kids!

Much attention and time was spent last session debating Governor Blagojevich's proposal to place restrictions on the sale of violent video games to minors. Well, another wave of attention will likely result from the news that a federal judge has pulled the plug on the Violent Videogame law.

According to, Judge Matthew Kennelly called the law unconstitutional and enjoined the state from enforcing the same. In so doing, the judge stated that State officials "have come nowhere near" demonstrating that the law passes constitutional muster.

He continued, stating that "(i)n this country, the state lacks the authority to ban protected speech on the ground that it affects the listener's or observer's thoughts and attitudes.

This exact outcome was predicted by many of the opponents of the proposal as the bill was winding it's way through the General Assembly. Case in point, Dave Vite who showed the media that he can be as effective with his words as with his golf clubs:

"It's unfortunate that the state of Illinois spent taxpayer money defending this statute. This is precisely what we told them would happen," said David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, one of the groups that sued over the law.

The biggest impact of this decision will likely have little to do with the bill itself. The ruling is likely to add fuel to the fire for the Governor's detractors who have consistently maintained that he is more interested in the sizzle than the steak. Conversely, I would expect the Governor's office to try to use this to their advantage by appealing the matter, which would have the convenient impact of being able to stretch his 'pro-family' crusade through the next elections.

As for me, I think it's time to break out Medal of Honor for a little bit.

This Would be Big

I don't usually delve into national political matters here, but this story is worth noting. Newly-elected New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is strongly considering appointing an african-american woman to fill out his unexpired Senate term. The story indicates that he is looking toward State Senator Nia Gill, calling her an "extraordinarily capable woman." According to

If Corzine does select Gill -- a 57-year-old attorney -- she would become only the sixth black, and second black woman ever to serve in the U.S. Senate. New Jersey has never had a female or minority U.S. senator. The only black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate was Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois.

It would appear to be a savvy political move on Corzine's part, but for a number of reasons, I hope that, if selected, she is up to the task. Based on this quote, she seems to have no doubt that she is:

"I have the qualifications," she told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "If I am chosen by Jon, I am more than qualified to rise to the occasion."

The reality (unjustified in my opinion) still is that as a minority, and a female minority at that, Sen. Gill's performance will be of import not only to herself, but to the others that will follow in her footsteps in the future. Here's wishing her the best should this come to fruition.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

100 to 3!

My sheer happenstance, today is the 100th post on my blog. So I was simultaneously honored and amused to learn that my blog has been listed as the third best legislative blog in the country behind Detroit Congressman John Conyers and Texas State Rep. Aaron Pena. The site, called Lawmakers, is all about getting legislators at every level into the blogosphere, which is a fine idea which could know no limits in both the information department nationally and the entertainment department locally.

The site has profiles on some of the bloggers, including Tom Cross, (who they somehow have running for Governor, what are you posting over there Parillo?) and myself. My only gripe is that they stated that the only thing keeping me from being moved up even higher in the rankings was my failure to include Sitemeter on my blog. But after looking at the numbers of the two guys ahead of me, I'm taking solace in the fact that while Conyers' numbers blow mine away, I'm consistently outpacing Pena in readership. (Especially on the days that Rich Miller mentions me:) )

Regardless, several months and 100 posts later, I have come to the following conclusions. It is much more work than I had anticipated. I am still baffled by people who will repeatedly visit my blog and then complain that they don't like what I'm posting. (hint-stop visiting if it bothers you that much).

But most importantly, I think that the blog has succeeded in its main goal of opening the lines of communications between elected officials (at least myself) and the public. And to that end, I am convinced that once my colleagues, at every level, see that I have survived this exercise relatively unscathed, they will be that much more likely to jump in and test the waters themselves. And that would indeed be in everybody's best interest.

So thanks to those of you who visit the blog. I'll keep trying my best to make it worth your while. All I ask is that you recognize that some days my best is better than on other days.

In closing, let me pose this question. Do you think that having blogs by elected officials is a worthwhile endeavor, if so, why aren't more electeds jumping in?