Saturday, September 30, 2006

Boy oh Boy!

Congrats to Comptroller Dan Hynes and wife Christina, who are the proud parents of twin boys, born early this morning.

I ran into Dan's dad when I was getting coffee this morning and he gave me the good news. Word is that everybody is doing great.

Added bonus is that I have two new constituents who I'm guessing are going to grow up to be Democratic voters :)

Friday, September 29, 2006

You Gotta Have Art

Just a quick community service update. Tomorrow, I am holding my 10th Annual Arts Funding Seminar. This is a great opportunity for everybody from local artists and musicians to theater companies to schools to find out about various State and City grants designed to help with arts programming and education.

Representatives from both the Illinois Arts Council and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs will be on hand to discuss what types of funding are available & how to apply for grants.

The seminar will take place TOMORROW, September 30th at 9:00a.m. at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, 3035 North Hoyne.

While reservations are not necessary, space is getting limited, so if you would like to RSVP or if you have any questions, please call Aviva Gibbs at 773.871.4000.

Judy's Cap

In the ten years that I have served in the Legislature, no issue has generated the grassroots activism (and anger) in my district as has our skyrocketing residential property taxes. And if she plays this the right way, Judy Barr Topinka can get some good mileage out of this in Cook County:
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL. (AP) -- Republican candidate for governor Judy Baar Topinka says she's confident lawmakers would approve the Chicago casino that's a key component of her proposed budget plan.

Topinka was in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights Thursday to promote the proposal, which includes a two-year cap on property taxes.

Under Topinka's plan, the education portion of a homeowner's property tax bill would be frozen and the money to school districts replaced by the increased money she says her budget proposal would generate.

Topinka's plan also calls for increasing gaming positions at the state's riverboat casinos.

Topinka says her plan would provide more than $2.4 billion of property tax relief statewide.

About one-half of our property taxes goes to the schools, so even freezing just this portion would have a noticable impact. But I still have questions about how this would work in relation to Cook County's triennial assessment pattern.

I have repeatedly stated that I am not enamored of the thought of putting a casino in Chicago. And there's no question that this doesn't solve the issue of how we assess property, nor does it resolve the decades-old school funding debate. But I think that dangling the prospect of keeping property taxes in check, even for a short period of time, is a smart political move that will resonate with voters.

I would like nothing more than for the Governor's office to stake out some bold ground on this issue. As he lives in one of the neighborhoods in my district where the current property tax revolt started, he has to be keenly aware of the problem and how important an issue it is to local residents.

If nothing else, maybe Judy's focusing on the subject will help force the related issues further to the forefront where they belong.

On a related note, you can check out this AP article today about the candidates' views on school funding and consolidation.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Big House

Not that big house. This one.

Since I'm blogging again, how about a belated nod to my alma mater for thumping Notre Dame in South Bend the other week?

Or as Sports Illustrated put it: "Domer Distress: No. 11 Michigan annihilates No. 2 Notre Dame 47-21".

I think that they are poised to make a run at the whole thing this year, but even if they don't, my season is complete with that game.

Fed Up?

I appreciate the e-mails asking me about my lack of blogging, and rather than make excuses for my long-term lack of blogging motivation, let me just try to get back into the swing of things. To facilitate the process, in the short run, I may stick to some short form entries aimed at putting some topics out there in order to at least try to prompt some thought and/or discussion.

I had said initially that the intention of this blog was not solely to be a forum for me to post my thoughts, but rather a place where I could try to give a perspective from the point of view of an elected official.

One of the reasons that my posting has been so scarce of late is that the majority of 'political' news has really focused on scandals, allegations and investigations. And since I don't want to tread in the waters of speculation and/or piling on, I have decided to stay away from this fray.

So rather than get into the individual merits or ramifications of any particular investigation, let's try to look at the issue globally. It is literally impossible to take in the local news on any given day without being buffetted by stories about the actions of the U.S. Attorney's office.

In fact, Federal agents are spending so much time going in and out of government offices these days, they shouldn't need warrants, they should get timecards.

And while all of this activity should help foster needed housecleaning (one way or another), it 's a sad statement about the state of local politics. One thing that it has done however is given the media ample material with which to work, and woken them from their tacit acceptance of business as usual. Gone are the days when a story that would chase an administration out of office in other cities or states merits only p.27 coverage in the local press. These days, the media seems emboldened to break the next big story and stay on the story until fruition (or conviction, whichever comes first). Whether this is a make-up attitude from the late start on the License for Bribes story is tough to determine, but I think that this new media vigilance is here to stay.

What is difficult to determine is what the impact of all of these actions will be on the electorate. It can essentially break one of two ways. Voters can toss up their collective hands out of apathy or cynicsm, or they can decide that they have had enough and use the power of their vote to effect change. Now I realize that, in some races, voters may feel that there is no real difference, and as such, not vote in certain races. But that mentality should not be used as an excuse to forego voting altogether in November or in the municipal elections next February.

Personally, I think that even mildly informed voters will see these two cycles as a unique opportunity to shake up the status quo and try to make their voice heard. That being said, it is still disheartening that the amount of campaign discussion cycle after cycle that is dedicated to corruption related topics drowns out so many other issues (education funding, healthcare, economic development, etc.) that the candidates should really be focused on.

So what say you, do all of these goings on help or hurt upcoming turnout?