Friday, September 28, 2007

It Might Be, It Could Be...

Having sat through the debacle known as the Bartman game, and with the eerie silence that surrounded Wrigley Field after the subsequent Game 7 loss still fresh in my mind, I swore that I would not get sucked into believing again that this would be the year.

And earlier this season, when we were 8 1/2 games out, any temptations of October fantasies were just not an issue that I had to deal with. So then what happens? CUBS WIN!!

I don't care what anybody says, our magic number is 99 (years, that is). It's our time.

And to my friend Rich Miller and his similarly misguided Sox fans, don't worry, there's always next year. (24 games back?!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Your Good Deed for the Day (link is now fixed)

A friend asked me to post this opportunity to give everybody a chance to both help out a local school and preserve a piece of Chicago architectural with just a couple clicks of your mouse.

Von Steuben High School is one of Chicago’s top high schools, and alma mater of many living on the North Side. In 2003, Newsweek selected Von Steuben as one of 100 top public high schools in the country. Now the school is in the running for up to a $1 million grant from the Partners in Preservation program.

The Partners in Preservation program was launched in 2006 as an initiative in which American Express, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, pledged $5 million over a five-year period toward preserving historic sites in the United States. This commitment will help protect historic and cultural landmarks and will strengthen local communities. This year, the focus and $1 million, will be on Chicago.

I urge everyone to cast a vote to help Von Steuben High School win a grant that will help repair the school’s historic façade and preserve this architectural gem for years into the future.

I know a number of people who would be grateful if everyone could take a minute out of their day and go to the website and cast a vote for Von Steuben. You can vote once a day through October 10th.

The Partners in Preservation website is

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Not Fare - UPDATE: Doomsday Delayed

Despite all of the miscues in Springfield since this session started, I just can't see any of them having the potential impact of our failure to successfully address the mass transit funding issue thus far.

As many of you know, I have not historically been a fan of how the CTA was operated, believing that a lot of their problems were self-inflicted over time. That was why I introduced and passed the resolution directing Auditor General William Holland to perform a comprehensive audit of the CTA last session.

If the CTA was going to get any additional funding from the State, taxpayers deserved to know that the money was being efficiently utilized.

With the audit in hand, Rep. Julie Hamos has done a Herculean effort of trying to build consensus for SB572, legislation aimed at not just reforming the dated funding formula for the RTA, but actually providing for greater accountability so that riders and non-riders alike are getting their money's worth in regional mass transit. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the bill and stand in full respect of Julie for her determination in this battle.

It's hard to believe that you would have to convince people, legislators or not, of the critical nature of mass transit. The anti-congestion benefits. The environmental benefits. The economic benefits. The impact on day-to-day life.

Yet there are still people that refuse to help advance this issue. It is baffling to me that the legislation that we are trying to pass places the (minimal) burden solely on the affected region, provides additional funding for transit agencies statewide, is vital to the economic engine that is the Chicagoland area, and yet the support to date from many legislators outside the area has been lacking.

The upcoming 'doomsday' fare hikes and service cuts are not just a mere inconvenience for people. For some people, it may be the difference in whether or not they can get to their jobs. For others, the fare hike isn't about bus money or beer money; it's about rent money or grocery money.

For weeks (months?), the Governor (from Chicago, who lives in an area hugely dependent upon mass transit) has said that he would veto SB572 because he opposes and and all sales tax hikes - even if his veto would create more hardship on the working men and women that he says he is looking out for than would the sales tax dragon that he is hell-bent on slaying.

Compounding the issue is that he and Senate President Jones have failed to put any passable alternative on the table. (Now that I think about it, this is sounding like his GRT proposal on wheels.)

My real point, again, is that this issue is not one for political posturing, like scheduling Senate session the day after the cuts are supposed to go into effect. This should not be an exercise in bad political judgment.

It should be about legislators, around the state, recognizing that we have a real problem that needs to be immediately addressed, and that these are the types of issues that they were elected to fix. If we are ever going to get away from the archaic Chicago/Suburban/Downstate divides that are increasingly irrelevant in today's economy, this would be a great place to start.

UPDATE - From the Chicago Tribune website:
The CTA's top officials this afternoon accepted a $24 million funding advance proposed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to avert fare increases and service cuts set to take effect Sunday and Monday, but the agency's doomsday scenario will still take place in November unless new funds are obtained.
The stop-gap measure forestalls a lot of transit riders' angst until the new drop date of November 4. Hopefully, this time the General Assembly can get the job done.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Carr Wreck

Lloyd Carr that is.

It's a beautiful September Saturday. I met with neighborhood volunteers this morning. I marched in the Von Steuben parade with my family this afternoon.

I look forward to college football season from the day after the last bowl game to the opening day kick-off that Fall. So I came home to watch Michigan redeem themselves after last week's fiasco. (Did we really lose to Appalachian State?)

There is 3:03 left in the first half.

The score is Oregon 32, Michigan 7.

A 50-point win over Notre Dame next week would do little to ease my sorrow. Heck, I can't even hate Notre Dame football with the requisite gusto when my own team is this pathetic.

Worse yet, I will have no enjoyment of college football for at least another year.

I still believe that the talent is there. It's the coaching that's not.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Party Politics

If you want to spend some time mingling with a couple hundred of Chicago's young professionals as well as many city and state elected officials, then head over to Rockit Bar & Grill in River North this Thursday night at 5:30p.m to 7:30p.m.

Along with State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, I will be co-hosting the latest ChicagoPAC reception. I started ChicagoPAC a couple of years ago as a means to activate younger voters and to support progressive politics in our area. Past events have been a great time, and this one is poised to keep up the tradition.

To lock in the reduced rate of $40, simply RSVP to before 1p.m. Otherwise, the price at the door is still only $50.

Good politics, good time, good bargain.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Derailed - Updated

In the latest act of the 2007 Comedy of Errors Tour, SB572, legislation designed to fund and reform mass transit in northeastern Illinois, failed to gain sufficient votes for passage, receiving only 61 of the 71 votes necessary for passage.

The real surprise wasn't the number of Republican votes for the bill, however, it was the number of Democrats who did not support this issue that is critical to so many of us and our constituents. Some of the 'no' votes were disappointing but not shocking (Chapa LaVia, Franks), but others were very curious indeed.

A handful of Democratic legislators allied with the Governor did not support the bill, and while I don't want to get into a he said/she said exercise, it is my understanding that the Governor (either directly or through his office) was involved in pulling votes off of the bill.

My understanding is that the Governor may announce a 'plan' as early as tomorrow to address both the mass transit issue as well as the larger issue of a capital bill. For those keeping count, this plan would be in line behind the one to 'rock the system' on campaign finance and ethics; the one to improve health care for Illinoisans, and countless others.

One of the biggest impediments to any capital bill proposed by the Administration is a concern by members on both sides of the aisle that any projects set forth is such a bill would actually be funded. For those unfamiliar with the process, having a project enumerated in the budget is only part of the battle. The Governor's office has to then release the funding for the project. And there's the rub. The atmosphere right now is so poisoned that few people are willing to trust that their projects would actually see the light of day. (Save for the occasional half a bridge here and there.)

Accordingly, as recent events have shown, getting a capital bill passed is going to be an uphill battle to say the least. In the interim, however, if the Chicago public senses that the Governor should wear the jacket for the impending fee hikes and service cuts, his long summer may just get a little longer.

UPDATE - I just finished an interesting conversation with an individual well-versed in this process for longer than me who brought up a very interesting scenario. Realizing that 71 votes cannot be obtained for the bill, the Speaker could choose not exert any more real effort on this until the new session in January, at which time we would only need 60 votes to pass the bill.

Assuming that the blame in the interim can be laid at the feet of the Governor, which may not be real hard to do, this would have the double effect of having thousands of increasingly frustrated transit riders grow increasingly angry with the Governor while at the same time creating the ability to pass the bill over to the Senate, thus forcing both the Senate President's hand and putting an exorbitant amount of pressure on the Governor to address the issue on terms set by the Legislature.

Let me repeat, this is nothing more than conjecture, albeit very interesting conjecture at that.

The real problem with the above scenario of course, is that thousands of transit riders will suffer in the interim, and that even if a fix is had after the September 16 cut-off date, many riders who leave the system may not return to it.

This problem illustrates the bigger picture problem here, namely that as the political oneupmanship continues to grow, so do the needs and frustrations of the people of Illinois. Now it the time for statesmanship not gamesmanship.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hats Off

This Labor Day, try to make an extra effort to think about all of the men and women that have made, and continue to make, our country what it is.

While we will always have our issues and desires,
there is no better country in the world.