Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It Must be Snowing in Hell

I just don't have the time (or energy) to fully elaborate on this right now, but suffice it to say that today, in the words of our Governor, was 'mostly and up day'. But in this case, it really was.

While a lot of people, myself included at times, never thought that it would happen, I had the privilege to stand with a number of my colleagues and others as we announced a historic agreement on legislation to prohibit pay-to-play politics in Illinois.

The agreement was a long time in the making, but it's days like this that make you feel good about the job. There are a lot of people that deserve credit, but I want to especially give a nod to Comptroller Hynes for his leadership on this issue dating back over three years, Sens. Harmon and Halvorson for their efforts, Cindi Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and our staffs who put in a lot of time up to the very last minute to help make this happen.

This measure should be on the Governor's desk within two weeks.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

You Think You've Got it Bad?

This is from the gas station about four blocks from my house.

No joke. No typos.

When $4.09/gallon is the lowest price you can pay, things are BAD.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stop the Violence

Today's Sun-Times took an innovative approach to try to get people's attention focused on the violence that is omnipresent across certain sections of Chicago. The obvious premise is that too many Chicagoans are simply turning their backs on the issue of gun violence.

This whole message unfortunately ties in well with a press release and press conference that I did a couple of weeks ago with hip hop legend KRS-One, and my friend and colleague, Rep. David Miller. Here is a short excerpt from that press conference:

KRS has been well ahead of the curve on this issue, dating back to his 1989 release of the Self-Destruction single. Now, the recent surge in gun violence has led him to put together an all-star cast of hip hop artists, rappers, gospel greats and reggae legends for a single and album called Self-Construction. And true to form, he practices what he preaches, literally turning the other cheek when struck in the face by a bottle at a performance last week in New Haven.

But there is a greater issue that I tried to point out at the press conference. Bluntly put, I find it hard to believe that there would be so much ambivalence in the city if the two dozen dead school kids would have had blond hair and blue eyes - if they were white. If they were from Ravenswood. From Bridgeport. I am not faulting the Mayor, nor the police department. Rather, I think that a large part of Chicago, for varying reasons, has checked their moral outrage at the door.

If you look at a map of the shooting locations, there is a distinct correlation to the west and south sides of the city. The victims, all minorities.

17, 14, 13, 18, 10, 14, 17, 16, 15, 16, 16, 17, 18, 15, 16, 18, 18, 15, 18, 15, 18, 17, 18.

Those are the ages of the first two dozen kids killed this school year. Kids killing kids. The socioeconomic theories that come into play here are boundless, and many of them are correct. Many youths in our inner city find themselves without opportunity, without hope, and without an alternative to the cycle of violence that surrounds them. This mentality not only serves to cause them to devalue their own lives, it also leads to a lack of comprehension of the moral and social deterrents aimed at preventing them from taking the life of somebody else.

And what has resulted is a tale of two cities. One in which these tragic occurrences are simply facts of life. And another in which more time is spent debating where to put a children's museum rather than figuring out how to get our city's children to and from school without getting killed.

But one way or another, this divide will be erased. Isolated violence, left unchecked, will continue to spread until it pervades neighborhoods across the city. And with summer just around the corner, and the economy leaving more people wanting, the potential for rising tensions is enormous. (Turns out I'm not alone in my thinking, CNN just put up this story, "In Chicago, fears of a long, bloody summer")

Conversely, if we are to move forward as a city, as a society, we must react to every killing as it if had happened on our own block. As I said at the press conference, "this is not a south side issue; this is not a west side issue; this is an issue about too many children in our city killing each other. People of every color, from every part of Chicago, need to come together and say enough."

The time for that statement to be made is now.

If you want to hear more of KRS One's comments from the press conference, watch this video. He brings up some great points:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

I got justifiably chided by a couple of people at the City Club lunch today for being lax in my blogging, so here you go:

Despite the fact that he was at the groundbreaking for the new Children's Memorial Hospital today, the Governor was apparently unable to find any kids to use as human shields to protect him from the press. So instead, he went to his fall-back plan to explain the dysfunctionality that surrounds him - blaming the House Democrats.
The governor called on the House to pass his plan to expand health-care coverage to all Illinoisans, approve a capital construction program and increase controls on guns amid a spate of violence in the city’s neighborhoods.

“We wish the General Assembly and especially the House would be less obstructionist and be more willing to embrace health care for children, health care for working families,” Blagojevich said.

He then went on with comments which sounded pretty long as you're not concerned about letting little things like facts get in the way of a good pitch. Among the victories that the Governor touted was his expansion of health insurance coverage (just not the part blocked by the court, I guess) and “fighting those who want to raise taxes” (except those who propose a $7Billion gross receipts taxes, that is).

But it was when he was pressed about a number of issues that haven't been accomplished that the Governor started building the straw man, stating,

“When you consider the dynamics, I think we’ve made a lot of progress. It could be a heck of a lot more harmonious, though, if those Democrats in the House stand for what they say they’re for.”

The Governor then inexplicably cited the specific issues of the lack of a capital bill and the failure of recent gun safety bills in the House as examples of those Damn House Democrats (DHDs) keeping Illinois from moving forward.

As far as a capital bill is concerned, the last time I checked, neither chamber has been able to identify a funding source that it can pass, be it gaming, the lottery, leasing the mansion, or anything else that they can come up with.

But what is most problematic about the Governor trying to jacket the DHDs for the lack of a capital bill is that the greatest obstacle to passing such a bill is the lack of trust by legislators of the Governor. In at least 3 of the 4 caucuses, there is no confidence that the Governor's office would actually release the agreed-upon projects. (see MOUs). If you think that this concern is unfounded, ask any of the 17 schools in my (his)
district that are still waiting for their money for books and computers that was included in last year's budget, but which the Administration refuses to release. Our students falling behind? Blame the DHDs.

It was the Governor's use of the gun issue though that showed that pre-season is over and that he's in game shape. Throwing truth to the wind, the Governor, with a straight face from what I hear, blamed House Democrats for the failure of a bill that would require background checks for private gun sales. Kids getting killed? Blame those DHDs.

But wait a second. As is turns out, the vote on the bill was 58-58-0, two votes short of passage. And out of those 58 votes, do you know how many were cast by those DHDs? FIFTY-TWO. That's how many. 52 of the 58 (of the 118).

But there's more. (There's always more). Part of being Governor is the ability to lead and to get things done. You know, help pass laws when they're for something that you're really committed to. During his tenure, the Governor has had a handful of loyalists among the DHDs upon whom he could reliably count on to support his position. (Ignore the GRT vote, nobody was going to vote for that.)

Now I mentioned above that the gun legislation about which the Governor is so passionate (actually not so much when he's downstate, but that's another issue), fell just two votes short of passage. So how did the Governor's stalwarts vote? Granberg: No; Hoffman: No; Phelps; No; Reitz: No. Now, I am in no way faulting any of these individuals for their respective votes, but rather am pointing out the fact that the Governor's statements inherently show him to be either insincere or ineffective, take your pick.

Suffice it to say that it doesn't bode well for a productive, let alone timely, session if the Governor is already in demonizing mode, which he apparently is. So if session is still going on in August, you'll know who to blame. And it's not the DHDs.

Friday, April 04, 2008

40 Years Ago Today

As you may or may not know, the day before he was assasinated, Rev. King spoke at the Mason Temple in Memphis, delivering what is commonly referred to as the "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech.

Toward the end of the speech, Dr. King made prophetic comments that foreshadowed his quickly impending death:
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Try to take some time today to read and reflect on this imperfect man who did some remarkable things.