Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Uh Oh

If I'm Dan Webb, or more importantly, George Ryan, I am not sleeping well after seeing this story from Channel 2 News:
The family of an ousted juror is rallying to her defense, saying she is a good mother who wanted to stay on the jury.

As CBS 2’s Joanie Lum reports, Evelyn Ezell’s son says his mom feels the odds are stacked against former Gov. George Ryan.

Dismissed juror Evelyn Ezell was not available at her South Side home, but off-camera, her 23-year-old son did talk about his mother’s experience.Marvin Brown says his mother “feels sorry for George Ryan. Now that she’s gone, no one’s on his side.” (emphasis added)
Not only does this send an ominous message to the defense, it also rachets up the prospects of an appeal based on the handling of the jury issue. And that in and of itself poses all kinds of interesting issues.

There is apparently a lot of discord among partners at Winston & Strawn regarding the millions in free legal work being provided for Ryan. The thought of spending millions more on an appeal is going to be a tough sell to the partners.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

No plans tonight?

For those in Springfield this evening, Alexi Giannoulias, Democratic nominee for State Treasurer, will be hosting a free meet and greet this evening at Floyd's from 6 - 8:30. Stop by, say hi, and enjoy.

Monday, March 27, 2006

overtime (with a small o)

Not to be outdone by all of the great OT games in the NCAA Tournament this year, it looks like the General Assembly is going to miss it's previously scheduled April 7th adjournment date as well. While not technically an overtime session (yet), latest word is that session for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday is cancelled, with April 8-12 being added.

Why you ask? I'm not really sure and wouldn't read too much into it. And at this point, it's obviously nowhere near the magnitude of the photo on the left, but the picture was too good not to use :)

All session, the consensus has been that the budget was a fait accompli, essentially an afterthought in light of last year's pension restructuring. But there is word that the Latino Caucus is threatening to hold things up unless their demands are met, and the Black Caucus showed last year that it has become much more adept at flexing their muscle at crunch time, so things could get dicey in a hurry.

Whether or not this is just a version of The Price is Right or whether the leverage will be used for some significant restructuring of budget priorities remains to be seen. But if either of these groups digs in their heels and forces the Governor's hand, it could make for an interesting collision at a very inopportune time for the Executive Branch. And with the Meeks third party Gubernatorial candidacy hanging out there as well, the stage could be set for big problems with the Democratic ticket.

For now, I'm going with the belief that somebody, likely the Speaker, will figure out how to get this resolved relatively peacefully and wrap things up with minimal collateral damage. And while there could be some good theater ahead, I hope that it doesn't come at the expense of a sensible budget and is mindful of the big picture obligations owed to the public.

In any event, as tempted as I was to make plans to get out of town in mid-April, I sure am glad I thought better of it and decided to hold off any definitive plans.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shuffle 'em Up

Obligatory Disclaimer - I wish nothing but a speedy and complete recovery for John Stroger. My interactions with him were limited to going to the same gym for a while, but he was never less than warm and jovial to me every time we saw each other. His son Todd was my seatmate for a while down here and I consider him a good friend. I spoke with Todd over the weekend to wish the family well and we talked about how recent events really serve to put in perspective those things that are truly important.

That having been said, completely ignoring the possibility that there might be a need for a replacement is turning a blind eye to the elephant in the corner of the room. There have been countless scenarios tossed about, some plausible, some just bizarre. But I want to throw two out there, solely for the purpose of giving people something to think about. Let me be clear that these theories are based upon nothing concrete, and are more a product of me having too much time on my hands as I drove downstate. And in the interest of avoiding diving into the middle of a potential firestorm, I will, for these purposes, accept the presumption that the replacement would need to be an African-American.

Theory one - The committeemen appoint Emil Jones as the Board President nominee. He is a known and trusted commodity by the powers that be, and has the experience needed to run what can be a contentious body. This would allow him to get away from the ongoing grief down here, let him be home with his new bride, and increase his salary and pension while he's at it. It also allows for the installation of a new Senate President, which creates some very interesting possibilities, and has little impact on any other ticket considerations. Personally, I think that this is one that's got to be considered.

Theory two - The already much talked about appointment of Jesse White to the position. Personally, I don't see why he would want to do it. He's universally loved right now and would have to take the reigns of a Board that's under intense scrutiny and pressure to fix itself. BUT, if it did happen, I would look for the State Central Committee to move Dan Hynes to the SoS slot, and fill the Comptroller position with the much-coveted downstater candidate. My pick for that would be Sen. James Clayborne, giving the party a downstater, a minority, and a qualified candidate all in one fell swoop. Both Hynes and Clayborne would fare very well in the General, making for a real strong ticket across the board. But again, I just don't know why Jesse would want to do it.

Anyway, I have to go off to committee. I may toss a couple more ideas up here later. But for now, you've got a couple things to think about and discuss.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

News From the Front

Walking pneumonia or not, it's Election Day and I've been up and at it. A few observations as I take a break from my morning activities:

Given the new ballots and machines, there seem to be fewer problems this morning than in past elections. The fact that turnout is light has also taken pressure off of getting people used to the new voting methods.

People seem to like the new ballots better than the old punchcards, but NOBODY wants to use the optical screen voting machines. I talked to a few voters about it and the universal response was that they don't trust the machines and are worried about their votes being counted.

While turnout is light on the northside, it's not as light as I thought that it would be. I've spoken with some people in some southside and westside wards, however, and was told that their 10 a.m. counts were LOW. Advantage: Claypool, Giannoulias.

Spoke to some people in Springfield, not as much snow as they expected, but icy as can be, and schools closed. I'm not sure what that will do to local races down there, but it's got to be good for Topinka and pretty good for Alexi.

I'm off to go check out some different areas around the City. One thing I am going to take a look at is what effect all of the recent reforms has had on the old-school organizations. Two ways to measure that - one is turnout at the end of the day, but that doesn't control for inate voter incentive and decision-making. The other, maybe more reliable, indicator is to take a look at how much manpower is out in the streets. I'll update this post later.

UPDATE - 6:00p.m. First off, I HATE Blogger today. I have been unable to post for the last couple of hours. In any event, looks like turnout in what should be Stroger wards picked up this afternoon. But lakefront wards, while relatively light this morning, are pretty strong in the evening rush. Same thing with suburban Cook. I wish we would be able to go back and see a running vote count on this one as the day progressed.

For what it's worth, right now I'm calling the Board President race too close to call, and saying that it's going to turn on the last 2 hours of polling.

I have also heard that the Repub Gov's race is going to be much tighter than people were thinking. If Oberweis somehow were to pull this out, the well-coiffed guy you see dancing on Sunnyside tonight would be our Governor. I'm still calling Topinka a winner though.

After volumes of positive television and negative mail, it looks like the Treasurer's race may well turn on downstate weather, which I guess falls in the "act of God" category (Wonder if he's Greek?). Other than that, the interesting numbers to look at will be progressive wards whose organizations nevertheless went with Mangieri. If they were able to deliver their votes their way, it could tip the scales. For all the talk about the importance of a downstate candidate, if Mangieri wins, it will be because he was carried in by Chicago organizations. Ironic. Think about that one folks. For now, I'm saying that Alexi runs better than expected downstate and pulls this one out. It's the aftermath that will be interesting.

3rd Congressional - Sounds like the forces are delivering for Dan Lipinski. Look for a win but by a single digit margin.

Water Rec - Who the hell knows? In the interest of sticking my neck out just a little bit, I'll say that Shore and O'Brien are in. As far as the third one is concerned, grab the 8 Ball and turn it over, it's as good as any guess I could make.

I'm off to clean up and head back out. (Election Day is much more enjoyable when you're not under the weather.)

UPDATE - 7:30p.m. Sounds like southside turnout was real light toward the end of the evening, could be a late evening before we know what the story is with the Board President race.

Coming as no surprise, looks like my good friend David Miller is going to win in a laugher. (Won't these guys ever learn?) In light of the stunts involved in that race, look for some fallout from that contest.

No real word on anything else yet. We're getting our first results in now.

UPDATE - 8:35p.m. Still too early to tell, but the Stroger numbers from the northside are continuing to be stronger than expected. Claypool's carrying up here, but the margins aren't what some had hoped. I have no other County numbers though, so this observation is in a little bit of a vacuum.

I've talked with a bunch of folks around the City and State, and not hearing any real surprises thus far. Results are coming in slower than I'd like, but we were informed that that would be the case.

Just got a call with some numbers from Lake County where Alexi is swamping Mangieri. The early downstate numbers show him holding his own as well.

...Except for Metro East, where's he's doing a lot better than that. I know it's real early, and at the risk of embarassing myself, looking at the trends so far, I think I'm about ready to call this one done.

I'm going to make a few stops, so updates may be far and few between for a bit.

Still some real interesting House races out there. Regardless, I'll have some insights and recap tomorrow.

UPDATE - 12:30a.m. Looks like my early hunches are holding. Have a feeling that the Board President race could be out for a long while still. From what I'm hearing, the precincts that are still out should be Stroger precincts. Whether they are enough to overcome his present 18,000 vote deficit remains to be seen. The media is treating this one with kid gloves because it's so volatile. It sure as heck won't be known by the time that I go to sleep, which will be a couple of minutes after this post. I don't even know that it will be done by this time tomorrow night.

On top of everything else, I wouldn't be shocked if this one somehow winds up in court. The rhetoric over the late ballots is heating up quickly. Just has that feeling to it.

In House action, Lisa Hernandez from Lt. Gov. Quinn's office is a big winner, and I think she'll be a great addition to the House.

I can't get current numbers from Calvin Giles race and am hearing conflicting reports from people who both would seem to have good info, but it looks like he may be in big trouble.

And Sam Cahnman looks to have pulled out a big upset over the House Dem pick Chuck Redpath.

On the Senate side, Geo-Karis has lost, but deserves everybody's respect for a long career of service.

And for what it's worth, for all the Chicago/Downstate talk during the Treasurer's race, the latest numbers look like Alexi won the counties outside of Cook by 30,000 votes.

There's a bunch more I could get into, but I'm wiped out.

To everybody who voted, whoever you voted for, thank you for being part of the process.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Power Move

In a strong policy and political play, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed papers charging federal regulators with abuse of authority with respect to the pending power auction.

From Crain's:

(AP) — The Illinois Attorney General says federal regulators violated their own administrative rules when they met with officials from ComEd and parent company Exelon Corp. last year before approving the utility's controversial power auction proposal.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office on Monday filed documents with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting the agency review its Dec. 15 decision to allow ComEd to buy power from Exelon.

State lawyers say FERC commissioners violated federal administrative rules by meeting several times privately with executives from ComEd and its parent company, Chicago-based Exelon, before making their decision.

"Exelon and ComEd have not been playing by the rules, and we have taken action today to make sure that they don't benefit from their misconduct at consumers' expense," Madigan said Monday.
However it plays out, this is a confident move that will keep the pressure on this whole issue. It also has the potential to gain some big legs if it grows into a story about relationships between the energy lobby and federal government officials. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


So I was alarmed this morning when I read that Cook County Board President John Stroger was hospitalized, and more so just now when I learned that he had suffered a stroke.

Notwithstanding that I have endorsed my County Commissioner Forrest Claypool in the upcoming election, I have nothing but respect for President Stroger as a person. He has always been congenial with me when I would see him, and his son Todd was my seatmate in the House before he became an Alderman.

But it's times like this that help you put everything in perspective. In races at every level, attack ads are rampant, and winning seems to be acceptable at any cost. But it becomes easy for people to forget that these are real people with real lives. They attack a person's 'integrity', forgetting that they have families and lives outside of the public domain. But these attacks can take their toll on folks. I am NOT saying that the campaign caused Stroger's stroke. With his health history, it's pretty doubtful.

My point is that as we watch the political rhetoric continue to escalate, remember that there are more important things out there than winning an election.

Sick Call

Sorry the blogging has been non-existent for the past week. Combination of getting over a case of walking pneumonia and nothing really grabbing my attention.

I'm feeling better and there should be some interesting days ahead, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This One's for Harry O'Sterman

If you're looking for a great way to mix politics and a good time, bring the friends and family down to walk (or ride) with State Rep. Harry Osterman, his family and supporters, in this year's St. Patrick's Day parade.

The parade is this
Saturday, March 11th, and your best bet is to meet the group and the trolley at the corner of Michigan Ave. & Balbo Ave. at noon.

Harry always has a good crowd and a good time, so if you've ever wanted to march in the St. Pat's Parade, here's your chance.

For questions, or to RSVP, contact

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Batter Out

Even though you knew that this was coming, it is still just a big kick in the pants to America's pastime. From the upcoming Sports Illustrated article and book Game of Shadows:
NEW YORK ( -- Beginning in 1998 with injections in his buttocks of Winstrol, a powerful steroid, Barry Bonds took a wide array of performance-enhancing drugs over at least five seasons in a massive doping regimen that grew more sophisticated as the years went on, according to Game of Shadows, a book written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters at the forefront of reporting on the BALCO steroid distribution scandal.

The authors, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, describe in sometimes day-to-day, drug-by-drug detail how often and how deeply Bonds engaged in the persistent doping. For instance, the authors write that by 2001, when Bonds broke Mark McGwire's single-season home-run record (70) by belting 73, Bonds was using two designer steroids referred to as the Cream and the Clear, as well as insulin, human growth hormone, testosterone decanoate (a fast-acting steroid known as Mexican beans) and trenbolone, a steroid created to improve the muscle quality of cattle.
Read the story, it is incredibly well-sourced and documented. In light of these allegations, asterisks don't even come into play, his records have to be stripped.

Permission Slip Required?

In light of the decision of the South Dakota Governor's decision to sign into law a measure banning all abortions, except when necessary to save the mother's life, the already heated debate is now going to go into fever pitch, and will likely remain there until this goes to the Supreme Court as the test case for Roe v. Wade.

So that's why I found an article in today's State Journal-Register all the more interesting. I can't do the article justice here, but it discusses a New York Times analysis indicating that parental consent laws are having no impact on reducing abortions in those states that have them. You should read the whole article, but here are some excerpts:
Yet the Times analysis of the states that enacted laws between 1995 and 2004 - most of which had low abortion rates to begin with - found no evidence that the laws had a significant impact on the number of minors who got pregnant, or, once pregnant, the number who had abortions. A separate analysis considered whether the existence or absence of a law could be used to predict whether abortions went up or down. It could not. The six states studied are in the South and West: Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia...

Supporters of the laws say they promote better decision-making and reduce teenage abortions; opponents say they chip away at abortion rights and endanger young lives by exposing them to potentially violent reaction from some parents...

But some workers and doctors at abortion clinics said that the laws had little connection with the real lives of most teenagers, and that they more often saw parents pressing their daughters to have abortions than trying to stop them. And many teenagers say they never considered hiding their pregnancies or abortion plans from their mothers...

Of the remaining decline in teenage abortion rates in the Times study, Joyce said that some of it might be attributed to minors going out of state for abortions. The health departments in these states do not track data on such abortions, but in three previous studies of states where such data were available, completed before 1991, two found that any drop in minors' abortions was matched by an increase in minors getting abortions out of state.

Obviously, studies like this can (and will) be manipulated to show whatever it is you want to show, but in light of the happenings in South Dakota today, I just thought that it made for some interesting thought.

Pretty Cool

Sometimes you think you know a person only to find out that there's a whole side of them you never imagined. If you know anything about the House, then you know Mark O'Brien. Mark handles the bills for the House Dems, and arguably knows more about the process and the law than a lot of the Reps.

But last week, Mark told me about a project that he operates called Pretty City-Springfield. It's a not-for-profit operation that does something basic but really important.

To quote from the website:


PrettyCity-Springfield will clean up litter, trash, abandoned items (chairs, sofas, mattresses, televisions) and dispose of them, properly.

PrettyCity-Springfield will work with local senior groups, churches, community organizations, and aldermen to pick up tree limbs and brush piles and drive them to City dumping areas.

As time permits, PrettyCity-Springfield will help elderly or disabled homeowners keep up their property, by cutting grass, removing unwanted trees from fences, etc.
This is a great example of good things happening from humble beginnings.

Visit Mark's site, help out in any way you can, and if you live in Springfield, when you see Mark, tell him thanks.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Read Between the Lines

So the Tribune endorsed Ron Gidwitz in the upcoming Republican gubernatorial primary. And ordinarily, the Democrats might not pay that much attention to the endorsement, but those that read it got an eye-opening foreshadowing of what's coming down the pipe.

In the midst of the endorsement came these two shots across the bow:
In 2002, the Republican Party lost the governorship of Illinois in part because it didn't confront the depth of that anger. But after three years of a Democratic regime's insider deals, profiteering advisers and campaign lucre, it's clear Illinois merely changed channels: Dial out bribes-for-licenses, tune in pay-to-play...

Above all, come that general election, Republicans will need a candidate whom voters of all persuasions will trust to drain the moat of cronyism and self-dealing that isolates the domed Statehouse from 12 million Illinois citizens.
Now obviously, the paper leans Republican, but I think that there's more to it than just that. I think that the corruption, ethics, and pay-to-play issues are going to drown out most every other issue in the General Election.

Don't get me wrong, pension and fiscal stability issues are going to be in the mix as well, but it's looking like every time the current administration will try to focus on the items that should be paramount - education, healthcare, economic growth, etc., they are going to have difficulty breaking out of the black hole that is ethics reform.

Personally, I think that he would be wise, substantively and politically, to push for passage of HB4073 (Fritchey-Black) that addresses the pay-to-play issue. Obviously, he would be assailed as being reactionary, but he is easily skilled enough to turn it into a political plus with the public.

I think that doing nothing on the issue, as well as letting his own campaign reform initiative lay dormant, simply opens him up to more criticism, which judging from the Tribune editorial, is not what he needs right now.

Misnomer in the South

I'm not saying by any means that he's running for Governor, but let me tell you that Sen. James Meeks is anything but meek. The man is determined, principled and far from naive. My friends from the south suburban contingent are quickly coming into their own, and learning all kinds of ways to flex their vote-getting muscle.

So whatever the end-game might be on his latest statements, you'd be well served to stay tuned.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

They Toll for Thee?

I don't know, but if I'm former Governor George Ryan, and I hear my lawyer say "If I can't attack Mr. Fawell, my client will be convicted", I'm not sleeping too well for the next week or two. Ryan's attorney Dan Webb made the comments in arguing for the ability to use a chart to show how the Government put Fawell on the circuit for 12 weeks, for the purpose (according to Webb) of getting Fawell to testify against his former boss.

If Webb really feels the chart to be of that much significance, he must be getting worried. Or maybe he's just that good of a lawyer. Or maybe both.