Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Scary Stuff

During the course of trick or treating with our daughter this evening, I had at least four different neighbors tell me about how sick they are of the incessant onslaught of campaign ads. And not just the campaign ads, but the endless drone of negative messages.Completely unscientifically, it seems that negative ads are comprising about 80% of the ads that we are seeing on the airwaves. What is interesting is that while the consistent reply from the public seems to be against these messages, common sense and empirical data reflect the fact that the ads achieve their intended results.

Case in point, while the majority of Illinoisans are wondering what Judy's thinking, very few people can actually cite any policy differences between Topinka and Blagojevich. And the same thing goes for races at virtually every level. Issues take a back seat to attacks, and at the end of the day, nobody wins.

It would be refreshing to see an election that was driven by issues not spin, but I think it would take an engaged electorate to demand that it happen. For now, it seems that people find it easier to just change the channel.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


The Illinois Democrat said he could no longer stand by the statements he made after his 2004 election and earlier this year that he would serve a full six-year term in Congress. He said he would not make a decision until after the Nov. 7 elections...

"I'm not sure anyone is ready to be president before they're president," Obama said. "I trust the judgment of the American people..."We have a long and vigorous process.

Should I decide to run, if I ever decide to, I'll be confident that I'll be run through the paces pretty well," Obama said.
The pundits and the public are sure to dissect the prospect of his candidacy over the weeks and months to come. Many will say that he doesn't have the 'experience' to be President.

A number of people have said that they would rather see him run for Governor in 2010 and then move onward.

But Barack is a clear example of what can result from the right candidate being in the right place at the right time. The same man who got beaten handily by Congressman Bobby Rush has gone on to international superstardom while proving to the public that he had the goods all along.

I believe that he has the intellect, character and visceral traits necessary to re-engage and unify a disillusioned country...and that may be just what the American public is yearning for.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Checks and Balances

My thanks to Eric Zorn for shining some attention on a press conference that I did last week with Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley announcing legislation that I will be filing to reduce the majority vote of the County Board needed to override a presidential veto from the current four-fifths to three-fifths. You can read the entire press release here.

The present four-fifths requirement is the highest in the country and is a throwback from the previous board structure that was designed to keep Chicago commissioners from having too much power on the board. Since the 1994 restructuring of the Board, however, there is no basis for maintaining the four-fifths requirement, and reducing it should serve to enhance the power of the commissioners in an equitable manner.

All other counties in Illinois have a three-fifths override rule as does the General Assembly. Congress and the Chicago City Council both maintain a two-thirds override requirement.

Regardless of who wins the Board presidency in a few weeks, I think that this is an idea whose time is overdue. To his credit, Todd Stroger has already come out in support of this measure. I would hope that Tony Peraica will do the same.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Card Game

The backstory is this:
A campaign official for Cook County Board president candidate Ald. Todd Stroger (8th) resigned his position Tuesday following news of his arrest last week for allegedly harassing an ex-girlfriend.

Sean Howard, who was a scheduler for Stroger and who also serves as spokesman for the Village of Dolton, quit his campaign post after a spokesman for Stroger's opponent, Cook County Commissioner Anthony Peraica (R-16th), mentioned Howard's arrest to a group of reporters Tuesday morning.
But making a bad situation much worse is this:
Robert Shaw, who with his brother is a longtime supporter of the Stroger family, said he was outraged the Peraica campaign would stoop to leaking arrest information about Howard, and claimed it was racially and politically motivated.

"This leak is from an individual who's trying to get at Todd Stroger, in my opinion," Robert Shaw said. "It can't be nothing but something anti-black."

"I've been in this business (of politics) for 54 years, and I've seen all kinds of tricks. I think this is an attempt to malign a respected black man," Shaw said.
Now Dan Proft and I may disagree on some things, but not on this on issue. In fact, I think that he summed things up pretty well.
Peraica campaign spokesman Dan Proft scoffed, saying, "Howard got arrested, and it's our fault? These guys are embarrassing.

"This has nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with us, nothing to do with race. This is a charge filed by a black woman against a black man by the Flossmoor Police Department. That is where the circle closes."
Given their past relationships, and a little knowledge of the Shaw brothers, I'm working from the presumption that Shaw's comments were made with the intention of helping the Stroger campaign.

But if his logic is that he can ramp up turnout in the African-American community by playing the race card where it doesn't appear to be at issue, that strategy seems not only disrespectful to the very community at which it is aimed, but also likely to backfire.

I think that frivolously playing the race card is an offense to the legacy of all people who fought for, and continue to fight for, civil rights. And I believe that the vast majority of intelligent people, of every color, feel the same way.

If, on the other hand, Shaw sincerely believes his comments, that's just inexplicable. Maybe I'm being naive, but I don't remotely see any indicia of race in what happened. I've seen worse done than leaking public information in countless elections involving white, black and Latino candidates. (Maybe somebody should ask the Shaws about what was done to Rep. David Miller in the last election cycle.) Noble politics? No. Racist? Not a chance.

In any event, I think that Shaw's remarks will do nothing but force Stroger to have to comment about them which, three weeks out from an election in an surprisingly tight race, cannot be what he wants to be doing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Housekeeping

I'm not even going to try to delve into all of this week's news - yet. Instead, I want to belatedly direct your attention over to a very good source of information and irreverance. If you haven't checked it out, The Beachwood Reporter is worth adding to your morning browser excursion. You can also find the link added to the list on the righthand side of this page.

If nothing else, I have to give credit to a guy that names his blog after a neighborhood bar :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

No Words to Describe My Thoughts

(I've removed the graphic that I had with this post because I've decided that I'm not going to bring myself down to Jill's level of tactics.)

I am out of town and had no intention of posting for several days. But then something happened which I just couldn't let pass. Feel free to comment, but I'm not sure when I will be able to get the comments posted. I take the comments below very personally and am amazed that somebody would wear their ignorance so proudly on their sleeve. To call them extreme would be an insult to extremists.

I feel confident in saying that I have made a lot of effort, and had unprecedented success, in trying to work with the different sides on the abortion issue. No small feat. And I believe that all sides appreciated the efforts of myself and Rep. Brandon Phelps in negotiating the passage of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act last year.

It should be noted that even then, when groups such as Illinois Federation for Right to Life, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood reached an accord, Jill Stanek was on the sidelines trying to derail everything.

I announced legislation yesterday that I knew would be controversial, but was sincere, and strikes what I believe to be a reasonable common ground on the very contentious issue of parental notification.

Here is the bill

Here is the press release

And here is possibly the most absurd and offensive thing that I have heard uttered by somebody (I am printing it in its entirety so you can 'appreciate' this for what it's worth):

Fritchey promotes more clergy sex scandals

Just when we thought our minor girls were nearly safe, due to the IL Supreme Court's recent action to finalize the IL parental notification law, Democrat Rep. John Fritchey Monday introduced a parental notice bill in the IL House that would allow girls to notify clergy instead of parents before aborting.

John, what are you thinking? Aren't we just getting over clergy sex scandals in IL? And you want to provide them new safe harbor? You actually want to make it legal for girls to notify their clergy rapists rather than parents when they're pregnant - and then bypass the judicial bypass?

I know what John is thinking, actually. He is thinking he must do the bidding of the abortion industry to keep those endorsements and campaign donations coming in.

And the abortion industry is thinking it will maintain "clergy" on staff to rubber stamp minor abortions. ("I hope every Planned Parenthood affiliate in our organization may someday have clergy presence and staff chaplaincy." - Dr. Barbara Coeyman, chaplain at PP Texas Capital Region, September 2005.)

Fritchey's bill unconscionably promotes more child sex abuse by clergy. The bill itself is a scandal.

Addendum, 8:51 a.m.: BTW, Republican Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, who spoke at the press conference unveiling this ridiculous bill, once advocated aborting her own grandchildren during a committee meeting I attended. She's certainly no advocate for properly functioning families.

Incredible. Outrageous. And will not be forgotten.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Isn't that Special? - UPDATED

I just got word that the Speaker is sending a letter to the Governor calling on him to convene a Special Session within the next week to overturn the Illinois Commerce Commission actions regarding power rates. The proposal is geared at passage of HB5766, which has gotten a lot of traction around the state.

I have received dozens of calls and e-mails in support of the bill, and this is one of those issues that consumers can clearly comprehend.

The Speaker rightfully points out that the envisioned competition in the energy market has not materialized. He then goes on to label the recently-concluded power auction a 'sham procedure' aimed at doing little more than padding the bottom line of the energy companies and their investors.

The energy folks are going to have their work cut out for them trying to convince the powers that be that any change to the proposed pricing increases could set us up for California-esque brown-outs. In an election year, I'm betting on the Speaker.

SO IT JUST DAWNED ON ME - that it's ironic in light of some of the other news of the day, that the Speaker wants to extend the rate freeze for three more years, but we can't get any traction in trying to extend the 7% property tax cap. Go figure.

Must be Nice

In the No Wonder the Governor's in no Hurry to Help Us with the Bill Dept.:

Eric Krol follows up on a story about the Governor's flat-lined property tax reassessment that I had first read about in a Sunday column by Kristen McQuery. I'll just give you a snippet of the Daily Herald article, but you should check out both pieces:

On a square-foot basis, his home is assessed well below others of its class in his neighborhood.

The governor’s 0.98 percent assessment increase in what’s been a hot Chicago real estate market left one government watchdog group scratching its head.

Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association and a Northwest Side resident, stopped short of saying the governor had received a special break on his taxes, but he did say Blagojevich may be “the luckiest property owner on the Northwest Side.”

“I can tell you from personal experience that people in that neighborhood would die for a 1 percent assessment increase,” Stewart said.

The Governor lives in the north end of my district, about 3 miles away from me. And I can tell you that I don't know of ONE person between my house and his that wouldn't give a limb for a 1% increase in their assessment. My constituents (and I) are getting pounded by property taxes, and we are getting no help from the Governor's office in trying to find a solution to this issue.

And don't get me started on today's Tribune editorial, which simplifies the issue to the point of irrelevance.

It's safe to say that the collective absence of will to fix how we fund schools and assess properties has been one of the most disillusioning aspects of my tenure in the House.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Identity Crisis - Solved

Most people never liked the original name of the blog. At the time I thought it was a pretty creative play on words. But I think that the cleverness (if it ever existed) has finally worn off in my mind.

And so, while sitting on the couch doing work and watching football, I have decided that the new moniker will be...Open House. I think it's a much less clumsy name and it conveys what I'm trying to do here.

Talking the Talk

The State Journal-Register has a good piece today about the Gubernatorial candidates' position on education and education funding. They also have a link to the unedited answers of the candidates to the questions posed to them by the SJ-R. It's definitely worth a read.

It reminds me though of what I was talking about the other day. This is a huge issue that is confronting us, yet so much of this campaign has been (very understandably) focused on corruption and scandal, that things like this get drowned out. We need to get our house in order so that we can focus on the priorities of the people who live in Illinois.

The More, The Merrier?

In what could be yet another interesting twist in the upcoming February municipal elections, the Sun-Times today reveals that the Service Employees International Union is going to include the name of Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley in polling about Chicago's mayoral election.

In my opinion, Quigley has bravely taken on some issues that nobody else was willing to touch, and in today's climate, that should carry some weight in some sectors of the electorate.

But given that in the post Big Box world, SEIU and other unions are lining up behind Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., one can't help but wonder if they are just viewing Quigley as a convenient straw man for their purposes. As S/T writer Abdon Pallasch notes:
The union, Jackson and the other challengers reportedly would love a high-profile Irish-American challenger to jump in the race and siphon white votes from Daley to push the mayor below a majority in the February election and force an April runoff.
In any event, for myriad reasons, the February elections could heat up an otherwise cold and dreary winter.