Thursday, October 27, 2005

Don't Bet on It

So we just got done with Rep. John Bradley's bill that would eliminate riverboat gaming in Illinois. After what was actually some interesting debate, the bill passed 67-42-7. Now I have a lot of respect for John but at the end of the day, I think that there's more going on here than even John may realize.

The reality is that we can't and won't blow a $700 million dollar hole in the budget. Back in 1989, the Legislature made a decision that would lead to us becoming dependent upon gaming revenues. And sure enough, that's now where we find ourselves. So any talk of eliminating riverboats without pointing to an alternative revenue stream has to strike one as somewhat disingenuous.

So what's really going on? I'm not sure, but one scenario could be that there will be an effort, not to eliminate riverboat gaming, but to void out the existing licenses in order to start over, auction off licenses, and actually wind up with an expansion of gaming. Given the millions of dollars invested by the license owners, you have to think that the litigation that is sure to result will make the Emerald stuff pale by comparison.

Obviously I'm just speculating about this scenario, but I don't think that I'm too far off base. I am sure that there will be more to come.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Veto Session Update

2:12p.m. - Relatively uneventful session today. Nobody, myself included, can really figure out what's going on with Rep. Bradley's gaming elimination bill. No other real surprises, but then again the day's not quite over yet. If anything else worthwhile pops up, I'll update it here later. Watching six hours of a World Series game has sapped my creativity for the day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Veto Address

So the Governor just got done with his speech to the Legislature, and all in all, not bad. He started with a very deserved moment of silence for Rosa Parks, who ironically, if she lived in Springfield, would need to be more worried about being thrown under a bus rather than moving to the back of one.

As I noted earlier, the Governor had no Teleprompter, and personally, I think that he does much better without one. So whether it was lack of timing or something else, I think that he should stick with this in the future.

From a substance standpoint, he laid out a summary of past accomplishments, focusing on better health care for seniors and families, which made for a good lead in to the All Kids stuff.

He then made the point that the bill isn't for legislators' kids, rich kids, or poor kids, it's for middle class kids. Good point, but it verged on sounding like he would use a 'no' vote against people by saying that legislators don't think that the middle class should have the same health coverage that legislators do.

He also pointed out that the bill would be good for the economy, noting that healthcare is the second fastest growing industry in the state with wages alone going up by $30mil in first year of program.

He sure isn't waffling on this proposal though as evidenced by the quote "We know it will work". If he's right, he deserves a heck of a lot of credit.

There were some other bold statements as well, including that "healthcare is not a privilege it's a right, as fundamental as civil rights".

All in all, good speech, not sure what it accompished substantively, but a good speech.

Still think that it's problematic that not one legislator I've spoken with has seen a substantive summary let alone the bill.

On a complete aside, there is a Labor Committee hearing Wednesday on ComEd/Exelon retiree health benefits. This whole battle is going to be very interesting.

Off to Committees.

Um, Not So Fast

It seemed that a lot of people were saying last week that the wheels were falling off of the Government's case against Gov. Ryan. I would suggest that anybody who underestimates Patrick Fitzgerald and his team is making a big mistake. I'm not saying that this thing is a lock by any stretch of the imagination, but these guys are really quite good.

Yesterday, the prosecution put their skills back on display. Probably the most damning tidbit was this:

In an aggressive "re-direct examination," Collins got Fawell to say Ryan personally told him to initiate state leases and contracts that would benefit the politician's friends. Ryan allegedly steered the business to his cronies, including his co-defendant, lobbyist Larry Warner of Chicago, in exchange for cash, trips and gifts during his 1991-99 tenure as secretary of state.

"As a factual matter, (Ryan) did in fact get into the nitty-gritty on these things we talked about?" Collins asked Fawell.

"Yeah," Fawell answered.

That's the type of stuff that is easily digested by a jury. Ryan lawyer Dan Webb is a phenomenal attorney, but it's hard to imagine that Fitzgerald would have brought this case unless he felt very confident about its outcome.

In the Dark-Updated

Forget about potential power shortages, the biggest blackout in Springfield is in the legislative process. For two weeks now, I and others have been asking for something more substantive on the All Kids proposal other than the ubiquitous promotional literature.

And even though the Governor is set to address us on this issue in a few hours, to date, I have still received nothing from his office. So let me tell you how heartening it is that I get to read in the Journal-Register this morning that while legislators' requests have gone unanswered, the press was given a draft copy of the bill.

But when the subsequent article is titled, All Kids Bill is Sketchy, I don't know that that was quite the coverage they were hoping for:
Draft legislation authorizing All Kids is 20 pages long, with nine pages actually devoted to the highly publicized initiative to ensure that all of Illinois' children have health insurance...

But specific premiums, co-payments and co-insurance are not spelled out, with the draft bill stating that the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will determine them according to a scale based on family income...

The draft says nothing about how the switch from a fee-for-service Medicaid system to a managed-care system will work. That, too, will be determined later through a rule-making process.

A Blagojevich spokeswoman, Abby Ottenhoff, said, "That's how managed care is implemented."

And apparently, this is how the process works down here now. As I've previously said, for a number of reasons, I will very likely vote for this bill, but could they let us do it with some sense of confidence and knowledge about what we are voting on?

And don't even get me started on the ethics stuff.

Well you gotta love this...according to the SJ-R article, All Kids is an amendment to HB806. And online, I can see that indeed an Amendment 3 was filed to HB806 today by President Jones, guessed it, as a floor amendment, you still can't get the language online.

And as I sit here on the House floor, there's not a Teleprompter in sight. Don't know if this is going to make things better or worse. We'll find out.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Mixed Messages

I know that I have been a little lax on the posting of late, I am frustrated/aggravated with a lot of things going on right now, and am trying to do my best to self-edit some things I want to post about. So once I collect my thoughts, I will be back at it. Probably tomorrow. Definitely be sharing my thoughts next week during Veto Session.

Anyway, in the Things I Never Thought I'd See Department, and courtesy of my friend Dave Clarkin, and with a panoply of mixed emotions, I give you the following image:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

House Guest - Lou Lang (with bonus angle)

Since I was pretty certain that regardless of the topic he chose to discuss, today's guest would have some compelling comments, I was eager to have Rep. Lou Lang contribute to the blog. And true to his word, today we have his first visit to the Dome-icile.

But little did I know that in Lou's submission, he would be giving me the one of the biggest political stories of the year. Yep, that's right - peace is in the valley, love is in the air, the Sox are in the World Series, and...Lang and the Governor are on the same page.

You'd have to be living under a rock to miss the fact that Lang has been all over the Governor like a like a hungry man at a buffet. But according to his post, Lang is the sponsor of the Governor's ubiquitous All Kids proposal. So either directly or indirectly, the two are talking and have found a common cause on which they can join forces.

I would imagine that this is a good development for both of them as well as for the party as a whole. And I give sincere credit to both of them for getting it done. But you have to wonder what's next, Jack Franks carrying the Governor's campaign finance reform bill?

Anyway, without further delay, Looooooooooooooooou Lang:

Health Insurance for Every Child that Every Parent Can Afford
New Program Would Be a First in the United States

By State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie)

Illinois may soon be the first state in the nation to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance for every child in the state.

I am sponsoring a plan to ensure that every child in Illinois has access to affordable health insurance. Of the 253,000 children in Illinois without health insurance, more than half come from working and middle class families who earn too much to qualify for other government programs, like KidCare, but too little to afford private health insurance.

The program—All Kids—would offer comprehensive health insurance to all Illinois children, with parents paying monthly premiums and co-payments for doctors visits and prescription drugs at rates they can afford.

Last year, health care costs for the average working family out-paced inflation. These costs pushed middle-income families beyond their budgets. Accelerating costs also pushed many employers to either cut benefits or shove premium increases onto their workers.

All Kids would offer children access to comprehensive health care, including doctors visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care and medical devices like eyeglasses and asthma inhalers.

Parents will pay monthly premiums and co-payments for doctor visits and prescriptions, based on a family’s income. For example, a family with two children that earns between $40,000 and $59,000 a year will pay a $40 monthly premium per child, and a $10 co-pay per physician visit. A family with two children earning between $60,000 and $79,000 will pay a $70 monthly premium per child, and a $15 co-pay per visit.

For preventative care visits, such as annual immunizations and regular check-ups and screenings for vision, hearing, appropriate development or preventative dental, there will be no co-pays. Contrasted with typical private insurance premiums of $100 to $200 a month, or $2,400 for each child annually, premiums for middle-income families will be significantly more affordable.

The difference between parents’ monthly premiums and the actual program cost—expected to be $45 million in the first year—the state will pay. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services expects the state can pay those costs with savings generated by leveraging the state’s Medicaid program negotiating power.

By providing patients preventative care on the front-end, fewer will need expensive specialized care or emergency care later. For example, infants with stomach flu (gastroenteritis) who receive appropriate primary care can avoid hospitalization for dehydration. Furthrmore, early treatment of children who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, will also reduce expensive emergency room visits.

Additionally, research reveals, delayed treatment can lead to more complex and more expensive care later paid for by the insured. According to a recent Families USA report, the cost of paying for the uninsured will heap $1059 on to the average family insurance premium, here, in Illinois in 2005.

Twenty-nine other states, including North Carolina, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana, have saved money by reworking and leveraging their Medicaid programs. Based on independent analyses, Illinois will save $56 million in the first year.

However, beyond costs or savings—every child deserves the basic human right to grow up healthy. In addition, every adult has an obligation to advance that right.

My vow, as an adult and legislator with responsibility for Illinois children, is to push for approval of this plan by the General Assembly in November; so, the program can be up and running by July 1, 2006.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

But Can He Hit a 16 incher?

Once again proving that good things happen to good people, I am happy to congratulate Harry and Peggy Osterman on the birth of Harry Joseph Osterman who was born yesterday, weighing in at 8 lbs. 10 oz. and 20 inches long.

Visit the site tomorrow for a guest appearance by Rep. Lou Lang. (Who by the way, cannot hit a softball)

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Values of Family

"He did the best he could with what he had - and then he moved on".

Those words from my Great Uncle Dave, spoken at Saturday's interment of my grandfather's ashes, probably best summarized the life of his brother, John Q. Alden Fritchey Jr. My Grandpa's life.

The service, actually more of a do-it-yourself ceremony involving two handfuls of relatives and an old friend of my grandfather's, took place at Mt. Pleasant cemetery, a tucked-away vestige of a bygone time, located just outside Claremont, the littler town outside of the little town of Olney. Claremont and Olney were the home of five generations of my family, six if you include the brief stint that I did there as a small child.

The windows to the church were long since shuttered, but almost eerily, the door to the small single room building was invitingly unlocked. As I walked in with my daughter and brother Jon, (don't even ask), the air smelled as if it it hadn't been smelled in decades. The small rays of light coming in through the door and the occasional flash of my camera were the only means of discerning what lay inside.

There were still a couple items hanging on the wall, a stack of discarded bibles on a shelf, and posted on the wall near the door, a plat of the cemetery showing all of the family plots, many laid out well over a century ago.

On the plat, you could still read the square with "Fritchey" handwritten on it, showing where my great-great grandfather and great grandfather are buried, and where we buried my grandfather's ashes ourselves on Saturday. (My great-great-great grandfather Richardson is buried about thirty feet away across the driveway.)

There are six plots in our section of the cemetery. After Saturday, three of them are now occupied. And despite having grown up pretty much as in the middle of downtown Chicago as you can grow up, as I looked at the plat, I couldn't escape a feeling that one of those remaining spots would one day be mine.

We all went to the cemetery in the late afternoon to bury Grandpa. My dad and Great Uncle Dave had taken an earlier run to the cemetery to prepare the headstone and dig the plot. It fell upon my brother and I to make sure that the burial vessel was properly and securely ensconced in the Earth.

I learned a lot that I didn't know during Dave's comments about Grandpa. About how when Dave was born at home at the height of the Depression, the eleven year old boy who would one day be my Grandpa stayed to work at the family store because it was a Saturday and that was the day the farmers came into town for supplies. How he used to be Fuller brush salesman. About how even though my grandfather was in the hospital for a year after getting blown off of his motorcycle as the result of German fire during WWII, he never received his Purple Heart. About how Grandpa never complained about it.

Uncle Dave also talked of my Grandpa's love of poetry, one which I never would have guessed in a thousand years. Dave punctuated this familial affinity with an extemporaneous recitation of the conclusion of William Cullen Bryant's Thanatopsis:
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustain'd and sooth'd
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
I doubt a more poignant selection existed for the occasion than the one chosen by Uncle Dave. As he spoke, I looked at the headstones of my ancestors and couldn't help but be filled with thoughts, both somber and random. Was the maple that now towers over the Fritchey plots even planted yet when my great-great grandfather was buried there in 1905, having died the day after his 35th birthday? How did he die? Was it a hell of a birthday party or a family tragedy?

I learned more things about my grandfather during Uncle Dave's comments than I ever gleaned in the first forty-one years of my life. Some serious, some thought-provoking, some just downright amusing. The mental image of two grown men, my grandfather and future Congressman George Shipley, pushing each other down the middle of the street in a wagon after a night of 'socializing' comes to mind.

My family has never been overly separated by geography. Dad lives outside Houston, Uncle Dave outside St. Louis, my brother in Terre Haute. It's been the emotional bridges that have proved to be the larger barriers. Hearing Dave talk how Grandpa was a man prone to hold his feelings about his family inside of him gave me a certain sense of solace that some of my personality traits are the resdiue of countless decades of genetic wiring and not just some developmental failure on my part.

But as we all stood around Grandpa's final resting place Saturday afternoon, the sun getting low in the sky, there was a overall sense of family among us that hasn't existed in a long time, if ever.

I had gone down to Olney for a burial, but left having had a homecoming.

It's strange how it often takes a death to make us appreciate life. So maybe while we're here, we should all do the best we can with what we have - before we move on.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sometimes it's the Simple Things

It was my daughter's first trip to Olney and Claremont. Her first meal at Mike's.

And after an hour of her playing with her cousins in the City Park as I scouted the grounds like the advance scout in a military operation, her first in-person sighting of the famed white squirrels did not look like it was going to happen.

We actually hadn't seen the creatures until we were literally pulling away to drive out of the park, somewhat forlorn at the fruitlessness of our downstate safari. As I shifted into drive, I spotted one out of the corner of my eye. I stopped the car, and for the next fifteen minutes, we followed around two of the albino creatures like we were rodent paparazzi, our stalking not ending until they finally ran back up the trees.

White squirrel existence confirmed by my daughter.

Mission accomplished.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Roots Revisited

I won't be posting again until Sunday or Monday. I'm going down to Olney for an long overdue family reunion. And to prove to my daughter that I'm not making up these creatures on the right.

In the meantime, there's an interesting debate about school funding going on in my 'Edgar Gets Schooled' thread that you might want to check out.

Feel free to e-mail me with any subjects you'd like to see me take on in the future. Otherwise I'll just continue to write about whatever I feel like writing about.

Or e-mail Rep. Miller and tell him to send me the guest column that he's been promising me. Lang, that goes for you too.

Have a good weekend everybody.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Waiting to Be Rocked

It is not an exaggeration to say that you cannot go a day in this state without reading a story regarding governmental scandal or campaign improprieties. The old adage should be revised to 'nothing is certain but death, taxes and political scandal'. And while I for one am glad that these issues are finally getting the attention that they deserve, you would think that after decades of this nonsense, elected officials would be tripping over themselves to get out in front of this issue.

For almost the enitrety of my tenure as a legislator, I have worked with a handful of colleagues and some good government groups on the issues of campaign finance reform and governmental ethics. Often times, these efforts were met with disdain and contempt by many of my colleagues. And despite the patent commonsense nature of some of these measures (prohibiting state inspectors from soliciting contributions from people and businesses they inspect), these fights often take years (8 in the case of the Inspector Misconduct Act) But occasionally you win one and it keeps you energized to fight on.

Having had these fights with Governor Ryan for his whole tenure, and helping my House predecessor become Governor, I had assumed that things would be markedly different. But many of the proponents of the countless reforms that still need to be enacted are still saddled with a sense of frustration.

What got me to write about this today is an column by Bernie Schoenburg in today's Journal-Register that started off by talking about Ray LaHood's critique of the state of Illinois politics. And the focus here is campaign finance reform, not LaHood. Bernie adeptly notes the political upside to getting in front of the reform issue, noting:

But If the governor can take time away from the publicity train he's now boarded to seek a way to get insurance to all children in Illinois, you can bet he'll give the finance reform package a go in the legislature sometime between now and the election of November 2006.

Which is really what I figured would have happened some time ago. But the hypocrisy that got me going was something said by Pete Giangreco (who in the interest of full disclosure, is someone at whom I'm somewhat miffed. I think he knows why, not that he cares):

PETE GIANGRECO, a spokesman for the Blagojevich campaign, said the governor's top priority during the veto session, which starts Oct. 25, will be passage of the All Kids insurance program. Giangreco also said that Republicans nationally have generally supported campaign disclosure, but not the kinds of reforms both Blagojevich and LaHood are now talking about.

"We welcome Ray LaHood belatedly to the fight," Giangreco said. (emphasis added)

This past March, the Governor talked about rocking the system. Nothing happened for two months until mid-May, at which time, they put out a press release, not a bill, but a press release, touting the plan. (Not wanting to rain on some very good ideas, I held my tongue when asked about the release, not realizing that a crumple was fair game for a news story. My comments would have been much more newsworthy.) Then a bill gets dropped way past the time when anything could have been done during session.

And they welcome LaHood belatedly to the fight? I sat on the Governor's ethics transition team with some of the best and brightest this state has to offer. We all knew then, and know now, what needed to be done.

So where's this rant going? If there is time to draft and pass a major initiative like All Kids during Veto Session, there is sure as hell the time to enact a lot of these overdue reform measures. And do it without the poison pills like caps on interPAC transfers which, right or wrong, is a surefire non-starter with the leaders.

At a bare minimum, I would like the Governor to show the same leadership that he is showing on All Kids, on House Bill 4073, (Fritchey-Black), which eliminates pay to play by state contractors. How wide is the support for that measure? Keep your eyes on the papers in the next couple of weeks. This bill can, and should, be passed during Veto Session.

It's not my intention to get into a snit with the Governor's folks, although it is interesting that while every other group has worked with me on these issues, I have been excluded from participation by the Governor's office. I have pleaded with them to move on this stuff, for both political as well as substantive reasons. Listen, I don't care who gets the credit for this stuff, let's just get it done.

At the end of the day, many of us are sick and tired of being collateral victims of the public perception of elected officials which results from the actions of others. Not to take a thing away from insuring our children, but the Governor was not swept into office by health insurance issues, it was by a populace fed up with business as usual. The Governor's people are great at knowing how to push the right political buttons. How can you pick up a paper and not understand what the big button is right now?

The All Kids proposal shows that when there is a will, they can always find a way. Rock on.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Real Sports Hero

Say what you will about Crede, Konerko and the rest of the South Side Crew, this is the type of character that you want your kids to learn.
BOSTON -- Chicago Cub Nomar Garciaparra rescued two women who had fallen into Boston Harbor late last week, his uncle and a witness told the Boston Herald...
Johnny O'Hara of Natick witnessed the incident from his boat. "A bunch of us came running over and sure enough, pulling the two girls from the water was Nomar," he told the newspaper. "It was crazy. Nomar was like jumping over walls to get to the girls and the other guy leaped off the balcony. It was unbelievable."
And being married to Mia Hamm gets him some additional props.

Monday, October 10, 2005

House Guest - Julie Hamos

I want to thank my colleague State Represenative Julie Hamos for being the first legislator to step up and contribute an opinion piece for this blog. Julie is the Chairman of the House Mass Transit Committee. She has been working doggedly on the mass transportation funding issue and has really been taking the lead in working to find an equitable solution to the question of how we fund the CTA, Pace and Metra. If you want more information on Julie, her website is If you want a primer on the mass transit issue, read on.

Without further delay, I give you Rep. Julie Hamos:

The CTA has now announced a balanced budget that should restore our faith that they can manage their own budget without draconian service cuts and a massive bailout from Springfield. However, to achieve this balanced budget, CTA had to take some unpopular but necessary steps, including a fare increase for cash fares and use of some capital dollars for operations.

Is CTA’s budget deficit due to mismanagement and inefficiency, as many suggest? CTA claims to have documented about $1 billion in cost-cutting initiatives since Frank Kruesi came on board in 1997. They have now engaged an outside team of efficiency experts to identify more. We won’t really know until the Auditor General concludes his independent audit, thanks to Rep. John Fritchey’s audit resolution, which passed unanimously during the spring legislative session.

From phone calls I have received as Chair of the Mass Transit Committee from “moles” inside the various transit agencies, I have come to believe that there are inefficiencies within the RTA, Metra and Pace – as well as the CTA. I will urge the legislature and the Auditor General to extend the audit to all of these transit agencies as well.

From our committee’s one-year-long probe of the transit system, here is what we do know:

First, we may have been disturbed by the threatened CTA service cuts last spring, but the truth is that the General Assembly had not analyzed the transit funding formula for 22 years. It took the CTA crisis to create the Mass Transit Committee and direct us to review the funding formula. No formula withstands that test of time, especially in a rapidly changing region. Shame on us for not taking action without a crisis!

Second, the CTA will continue to face an annual “structural” budget deficit until we change the funding formula. The 1983 formula provided for a fairly arbitrary distribution of sales tax dollars for RTA and the three transit agencies, with no relationship to transit performance or level of service. In a nutshell, the amount of sales tax dollars that are collected and distributed to the CTA have never been and never will be sufficient for CTA service – even when the economy rebounds. This is also true for Pace. The authors of the 1983 formula understood this, and expected the original formula to last only 5 years.

Third, as gas prices and the population of the region have increased, transit has become more important than ever. The suburbs and collar counties are now recognizing that the all-American love affair with the automobile is creating traffic congestion, pollution and a reduced quality of life for communities. Bold plans are being developed for transit expansions throughout the region, especially in the collar counties. It’s now up to us to develop new funding sources for these expansions, especially to match the new federal dollars that are available through the federal transportation bill.

Fourth, the RTA has new leadership, both the Chairman and the Executive Director, and it’s exciting that they actually have a vision for a regional system. We need to give them some powers to enforce systemwide coordination through a revised RTA Act.

Finally, we will require an extraordinary amount of regional consensus and cooperation to support the transit expansions that all parts of the region want and need. It will take “testicular virility” (to quote the Governor) to face the facts that new transit “revenues” (aka taxes) are needed to fulfill our transit vision and to ensure that federal dollars are not left on the table. The debate can’t devolve into city versus the suburbs, or CTA versus Metra and Pace. We’re all in this together, and the future of this dynamic, world-class region depends on us!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Where's There's Smoke?

Given everything that's going on at just about every level of government these days, you have to wonder what's up with this. As reported in today's Daily Herald:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Friday accepted the resignation of the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

J.T. Somer, 57, said he resigned for personal reasons and declined to comment further. His resignation was effective Friday.

In March, Somer acknowledged his agency had turned over documents to the FBI and Illinois State Police related to a corruption investigation that predated his tenure. Somer said Friday his resignation was not tied to the investigation.
I don't think that I've ever met Mr. Somer, and I've heard he's a good guy. But these types of stories are starting to feel like Groundhog Day.

Edgar Gets Schooled Phil Kadner. In a column last week, Kadner took Gov. Jim Edgar to task for excoriating Dawn Clark Netsch about her support for a tax swap as a means of education funding reform only to later propose essentially the same thing himself. Edgar's proposal itself died in the Republican Senate, and our schools are still inequitably funded to this day.

When Kadner raised the issue at Edgar's (un)announcement last week, the former Governor had this to say:

Edgar said that people who support school funding reform should not presscandidates for governor to take a pledge in support of a tax hike.

On the other hand, any candidate who pledges not to raise taxes should be taken to task for making a promise that he might not be able to keep once he realizes thebudget problems faced by the state.

I am a sponsor of House Bill 750 and 755 which strive to implement essentially the same concept. And while I have acknowledged that the bill may not be perfect, I still have not seen anything concrete brought forward by any of the dissenters that would address the issue.

But where I'm going is, if you agree that we need to fix the way we fund our schools, how do we get there without a showing of some political fortitude? As recently as last week, I spoke at a town hall meeting in my district and explained my position on this issue. And even those in attendance whose net tax burden would increase showed an openness to the fact that something must be done. I represent a relatively well-off district, and people are still being property-taxed out of their homes because of the local burden of school funding.

And before the are any (justified) rants about school district bureaucracy, let me further focus the issue. If you think that the state's share of education funding should be increased, how do we accomplish that?

Friday, October 07, 2005

He Said It, Not Me

So I just found out that Chicago Tribune uber-blogger Eric Zorn was nice enough to give this blog a much-appreciated mention. See, us U of M guys stick together. Thanks Eric. What really amused me though is that he managed to take a subtle jab at the JoinCross Blog in the same post.
BLOG NEWS: The University of Chicago Law School faculty has started a blog here. Ill. Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) has started writing a blog, "Dome-icile...where government and politics live together." And unlike certain other politician's blogs, Fritchey is actually writing this one himself.
See, us U of M guys stick together. Thanks Eric.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Unity, Schmunity

Well, it didn't take long for fellow Dems to weigh in on the slating of Paul Mangieri for State Treasurer. Mangieri, the Knox County State's Attorney, was slated in a vacuum when nobody else stepped up to seek the only statewide seat not in Democratic hands, and after outreach by the party to other potential candidates came up empty.

In his column today, Bernie Schoenberg did a good job of laying out some of the objections to Mangieri by fellow Dems, including those on the State Central Committee who even supported him in a voice vote.

Attack on one flank came from some of the Latino electeds:

State Sen. MIGUEL del VALLE, D-Chicago, said he was “really disappointed in the slate as a Democrat.” “An effort should have been made to try and identify an ispanic candidate,” Del Valle said. He knows that the chairman of the party, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, wanted somebody from downstate to balance the ticket geographically, but del Valle said he doesn’t think that should have precluded finding a qualified Hispanic person. “They do live outside the city of Chicago,” he said. “You can’t say that you’re for diversity and then not practice it,” del Valle said of the central committee. (emphasis added)

State Sen. IRIS MARTINEZ, D-Chicago, who is one of three vice-chairs of the state party and is also on the Democratic National Committee, said she gave a voice vote, along with others Sunday, for the ticket including Mangieri. But she also wondered, “Where is the real diversity?” and said she would have loved to see a Hispanic candidate.

Now both of them said that they would like to have been considered for the spot, but if that's the case, then they should have stepped up to the plate. When I stated some time ago that I wouldn't seek the office because I didn't think we should have another Chicago Democrat on the ticket, I also presumed that somebody with name recognition and a good record would step forward. But nobody seems to want to take a shot without being the chosen one. Strange and unfortunate.

I think that the more poignant attack on Mangieri came from pro-choice Democrats troubled by the slating (once again) of an anti-choice candidate. The former head of Illinois Democratic Women, Carolyn Brown Hodge, had this to say:
“I worry about the way this country’s headed,” she said. “As we look at the face of the Supreme Court, I think we have to be very careful on this issue, and that’s why I would not want to run a statewide candidate that’s not pro-choice.
Now I know that we have a lot of good Illinois Democrats who do not support a woman's right to choice. But the fact is that we have a pro-choice plank in our party platform, and if that is the case, then we should be backing candidates that support that platform or scrap the plank. (Now that would make for an interesting battle.) And what is more troubling is that we have a number of staunchly pro-choice people on the State Central Committee, but none of them stood their ground on this issue.

I don't know Mangieri, and my comments have absolutely nothing to do with the guy personally. But this goes back to my belief that while our party is big on backing individual agendas, we aren't as committed to advancing a party agenda. Shouldn't be this way in a blue state. But at the same time, I guess that it insulates us from the constant infighting and sniping that we see coming from the Republican party.

So what it may come down to is what is healthier for a party, sprited debate at the risk of unity, or loyalty that is blind to principles? I'm not sure that I'm thrilled with either option.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Power Surge

Just saw a television commercial at the end of the 10 o'clock news which takes a not so subtle shot at the Governor's recent (and still unfinished) reshuffling of the ICC. In sum, while showing headlines critical of the Governor's actions, the narative tries to lay out the premise that holding down rates will lead us to "California-style" power shortages and failures.

While I don't think that the message is going to resonate with the public (how many people do you know that support paying higher electric bills?), it does send a loud and clear message that the utilities are preparing for battle on this front. With the Governor still mulling over a second replacement, it should be interesting how this plays out.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bad Intentions, Good Results

My father sent me an article from the Houston Chronicle about Alexander Watkins Terrell, a Texas legislator from the late 1800's about whom I doubt any of us have ever heard. Among Terrell's many accomplishments was the authoring of the 1903 bill that first outlawed the use of corporate contributions in state political campaigns — the very law, now much amended, under which Tom DeLay has been indicted.

The article
is a quick and interesting read about Texas politics and the not so warm and fuzzy (racist) intentions that gave rise to those initial 'reform' efforts.

No real point here, just thought it was interesting.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Vote Early (vote often at your own risk)

A few weeks ago, I commented that I didn't think that either the public or the media paid sufficient attention the the comprehensive changes to the election laws that we passed last session.

According to the Daily Herald, I think people are starting to understand the logistical issues that are going to be created as a result of the new measures, specifically the early voting provisions.

As I said before, I support the provisions, but I think that people better start preparing now for the problems and challenges that are sure to arise.

Southland Under Siege

Just for (my own) peace of mind, I wish that somebody would be able to credibly explain just what it is that people are seeing in the skies over the south suburbs. From the Daily Southtown article:

A trio of steady red lights seemed to swim across the western night sky starting about 11 p.m. Friday night and reappearing after midnight. The three dots at times formed a triangular shape, but they then seemed to straighten into a line, much like sightings in the same area late last summer and on Halloween, witnesses told the Daily Southtown. (emphasis added)
You often hear about these types of stories and then there's never any follow-up. Therefore, I demand to know what the heck is going on over there.

As an added incentive to ending my quest for knowledge of extraterrestial life, I will give a prize (of my choosing, probably something I have laying around) to the person whose post gives me the biggest chuckle.