Saturday, August 30, 2008

Proposition Bet

Hopefully I'll be wrong, but this one seems to have sucker bet written all over it. Governor Blagojevich has bet Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, that the Illini would beat the Tigers when the two teams take to the gridiron this evening.

But this wager has a bit of a twist to it:
But local delicacies are not on the line, as is typically the case when politicians wager on sporting events.

The losing state must declare an official day honoring the winning team. For example, if the Illini lose, Blagojevich would have to declare "University of Missouri Tigers Day." He'd also have to pose for a photo with the proclamation, to be delivered to the winners.
My biggest problem with this bet isn't what's at stake, although I am glad that our Governor didn't promise to rename the toll roads the Mizzou Trail if we lost.

I'm just wondering if the Governor realized that Missouri is a 9 point favorite going into tonight. Then again, the sheer amusement of seeing the photograph of the Governor holding up the proclamation just could make the whole thing worth it. Go Tigers?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tonight's Convention Schedule

Here are some of the highlights of tonight's schedule. All times are Denver time.

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Honorable Howard Dean

Video & Remarks: Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King
The Honorable John Lewis
Member of the US House of Representatives, Georgia
Rev. Bernice King
Daughter of the late Dr. King
Martin Luther King III
Oldest son of the late Dr. King

The Honorable Bill Richardson
Governor, New Mexico
Accompanied by John Legend (piano), Agape Choir, and band

Sheryl Crow

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

The Honorable Jan Schakowsky
Member of the US House of Representatives, Illinois

The Honorable Tim Kaine
Governor of Virginia

Stevie Wonder

The Honorable Al Gore
Former Vice President of the United States

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Michael McDonald

Susan Eisenhower

Sen. Dick Durbin

8:00 PM – 9:00 PM


The Next Best Thing to Being There

Tonight's the Night!

Join me and 42nd Ward Democratic Committeeman John Corrigan, both freshly home from Denver, in order to join friends, supporters and enthusiastic Democrats in a great downtown location to watch this once-in-a lifetime event.

Can we watch history being made and have a good time doing it?
Yes we can.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hug It Out... (Dem Breakfast photos)

Wow. What a couple of days it has been. Monday was somewhat of a whirlwind, with the excitement of the beginning of the Convention tempered by the publicly fractured nature of the Illinois Democratic Party as well as the Governor's amendatory veto of the ethics bill. (An issue that is still far from done.)

Most of the Illinois contingent expected that the most interesting moment of today's breakfast was going to be the Governor's appearance and comments, but the expectations of further tensions vanished as the Governor's speech was essentially a pitch for a capital bill.

But as the breakfast continued, the crowd was not going to be disappointed. Congressman Bobby Rush gave comments that ranged from funny ("I'd rather be seen than viewed"), to inspirational, to defiant. His parable about the eagle triumphing over the buzzards is one that I'll not soon forget.

But then Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. stole the show. In unscripted comments, J3 called upon Illinois Democrats to come together, then personally reconciled with Congressman Rush, Senator Halvorson, Mike Sneed and Mayor Daley.

It was a spontaneous, rare and unforgettable moment.

And when he successfully called upon the Speaker and Governor to hug it out, the room went up for grabs.

What happens when everybody comes home is anybody's guess, but for a Party that has been mired in discord, today's breakfast all but sealed the fact that this is a week that will not soon be forgotten.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Inside the Convention

No real theme to this post, just thought I'd share a few photos from inside the Pepsi Center on Monday night.

The Illinois media contingent was obviously in full force. As a result, I had to chance to do a segment with WIND's Big John and Cisco in person for a change, taping a segment from the convention's radio row, rather than on the phone.

The view from on high.

At one point when I was going down to the floor, I ran into old friend Patti Solis Doyle, now Chief of Staff to VP nominee Joe Biden. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I then turned around to find myself standing about 5 feet away from Senator Biden and his family.

Me and my good friend and colleague Rep. Harry Osterman.

And last, but definitely not least, me and Ald. Ed Burke, a man who has attended his share of Democratic conventions over the years.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Denver Nuggets - UPDATED

Instead of putting up new posts for the convention, I'll just keep updating this one for the next couple of days.

I just arrived in Denver a few hours ago and can tell you that for this week at least, downtown Denver is Obamaville. The Illinois contingent is already here in full force, although I thought that it was odd that on the way in from the airport, the taxi driver told me that he is in the running to become Illinois Senate President. (Guess he didn't want to feel left out.)

I'll try to post some updates and photos throughout the week to give everybody a feel for what's going on out here, but I'll tell you now that the energy level already blows away the last couple of conventions that I've attended. That's all for now.

MONDAY - The Illinois delegation breakfast was hosted by the Chicago Federation of Labor. It was very well attended and everybody was in a positive and upbeat mood. Pretty much the only damper was the Governor's unfortunate decision to announce his AV of the pay-to-play bill, (a story for another day), on a day when Illinois Democrats were set to shine. His proposal, besides being unconstitutional, simply took attention away from where it really should be today. No real surprise there. Below is a photo of Dan Hynes, who did a nice job, as well as one of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who was also well received. Other speakers included the Speaker, Mayor Daley, Jan Schakowsky and Dennis Gannon. Bobby Rush also received a standing ovation when he showed up this morning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good Dem, Bad Dem

After three years of trying to block the pay to play ban, Governor Blagojevich nevertheless now finds it sitting on his desk, staring at him, all but begging him to sign it. So as the clock continues to run down on the Governor's time period in which to act, the burning question is NOW WHAT?

I'm guessing that I know part of the answer (read below), but first, a quick refresher.

HB824, formerly HB1, addresses one issue and does so very well. It is the product of countless negotiations between countless parties and simply put, would end pay to play in Illinois. The bill passed both chambers unanimously, is supported by almost 90% of Illinoisans (what the other 10% are thinking is simply beyond me), and has been hailed by every editorial board across the state.

So intent was the Legislature that the bill be signed into law as is, that the linchpin of the final negotiations was an agreement that both chambers would move to override any partial or total veto of the bill.

But 'so what', says the one-man Legislature called Rod. The Governor has indicated repeatedly that he intends to 'improve' the bill.

Never mind that he has had 6 years to pursue any semblance of a reform agenda (but hasn't), he wants to use this bill as an vehicle of change.

Never mind that if the Governor was sincere about severing the ties between campaign contributions and the awarding of state contracts, he could have followed the lead of every other constitutional officer in the state and ended the practice by Executive Order (but hasn't again).

He wants to improve the bill now. Um, okay.

Let me be clear, as I have said in the past, there are plenty of issues that still need to be addressed by the General Assembly. Rep. Osterman has a bill pending that would implement limits on campaign contributions. Sen. Raoul has legislation addressing the issue of funding of judicial elections. I have a bill pending that would provide for increased lobbyist disclosures and reforms. To assist with the passage of these bills, the Governor's office has done, well, nothing.

But next week, buckle your seatbelts and get ready for the return of...The Reformer! With one fell swoop, Governor DoRight is going to show the Legislature and the rest of the state how to clean up state government. (And I'm sure that along the way, the Governor (the man that has taken almost $500,000 from the payday loan industry, making him their number one beneficiary by a mile) will trot out the bunk that I (the recipient of a Leadership Award from the Monsignor Egan Campaign for Payday Loan Reform) am a paid lobbyist for the payday loan industry. For the record, the fact is that I performed legal work as a land use attorney to establish a pawn shop in Little Village, a project that had support from the local community. Details, details.)

But if I'm right about what's coming, here's the part that really adds insult to injury. There is little to no doubt that the Governor is going to AV the bill. And there is little to no doubt that his actions will result in widespread criticism. So what do you do if you're the Governor?

I'm guessing that you AV the bill while everybody is focused on the Democratic Convention, while most of the major political reporters who are familiar with the story are half a country away, and while stories of Barack's nomination are taking up most of the media space. I'll even predict a Thursday or even Friday announcement of his action, so as to provide for maximum story burial potential, under the shadow of Barack's acceptance speech.

So while many Illinois Democrats hope to ride Barack's coattails, it looks like the Governor will try to hide behind them. It may be a good political move, but a profile in courage it isn't.

And Who's the Elitist?

In the hyperfast media campaign environment that we now live, Barack's campaign wasted no time going up on the air to blast McCain for not knowing how many houses he owns. (Must be nice) In case you haven't seen it, here's the ad. I think it's pretty damn good.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bad News for News

Rich Miller has been giving continued coverage of the ongoing financial difficulties that have been facing a number of newspapers in our state, (and around the country for that matter). The latest rounds of cuts were laid out by Rich in a post today:
The Rockford Register Star laid off 13 employees and closed its Statehouse office today, dumping bureau chief Aaron Chambers, who is generally considered one of the best reporters under the dome...
The Champaign News-Gazette closed its bureau earlier this year, putting Kate Clements Cohorst out of a job. The Tribune eliminated one of its Statehouse positions on Friday, laying off the incredibly hard-working Jeff Meitrodt, who was recruited from New Orleans not long ago. And, as of yet, the AP has not filled the vacancy created when Ryan Keith was hired by the State Journal-Register.
I'm not inclined to get into a discourse about the changing nature of news media and of the means by which the public consumes news these days, but I do want to point out a bigger issue in play here.

My first reaction to these specific cuts is that they are bad for newspaper readers because Chambers and Meitrodt are both professionals and very good reporters. But my broader response is that these types of cuts are actually a bad thing for those interested in good government in Illinois.

In most every other state that I have occasion to visit, newspaper coverage of state government surpasses that in Illinois. Let me be clear, by 'surpasses', I don't mean in terms of quality. We have, and have had, very good reporters covering what goes on in state government. Rather, I mean that other states tend to have broader and deeper coverage of what transpires in their statehouses. The reason is straightforward enough - more reporters = more coverage.

What does this have to do with good government? It all has to do with the 'sunshine is the best disinfectant' theory. The more information that the general public has access to about what transpires in government, the less likely it is that egregious actions will take place. (Not impossible mind you, but less likely)

One example that comes to mind is Cook County government. When I was growing up, (heck, until not that long ago), most people had no idea who their county commissioners were, let along what they did. But as the media started spending more time covering county government, and the impact that it had on peoples' daily lives and pocketbooks, people started paying more attention to what was going on in county government - and who was responsible for it. The result is that elected officials, now cognizant that their votes would be subject to public scrutiny, have had to be more mindful of how they were voting. The change won't come overnight, the recent Cook County sales tax hike makes that clear. But without a window for the public to look through, the change likely wouldn't come at all.

Now of course, public officials should be doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing - in theory. But the reality is that many of them become increasingly complacent if able to operate outside of the public spotlight, and that this complacency often leads to less than optimal governance from the standpoint of doing what is in the best interest of the public.

I would have to imagine that there is a study out there somewhere that tries to correlate the amount of news coverage of units of government with some type of objective measure as to the integrity and performance those units of government.

But I don't need a study to tell me that if there was ever a statehouse that could use some sunshine, Illinois is it.

So do your part for good government, go buy a newspaper.

Monday, August 11, 2008

RIP Black Moses

Here's a song that stands the test of time from an artist who will do the same.

Not a lot of Oscar winners who could sing like that and also bench press 350lbs.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Party with a Purpose

I can't do this for all of the requests that I receive, but this promises to be a very good event. Plus, they will be auctioning of limited editions of the print above (created especially for this event) and selling a limited number of posters of it as well. I don't know about you, but I think that this is the best Obama poster that I have seen and one that is very likely to become a collectible.

Chairs: Benjamin & Charlotte Henning

Invite You To An Evening With:

Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias
Congressman Bill Foster

State Representative John Fritchey
Alderman Vi Daley
Alderman Brendan Reilly
Alderman Tom Tunney
Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley

Benefiting the Obama Victory Fund and featuring the photographic works of Chicago native Will Byington & the delicacies of Executive Chef Jordan Spritz of Jordan’s Food of Distinction.

Saturday, August 16, 2008
Frame Factory - 1809 W. Webster Ave., Chicago
Host Reception 7:00 - 7:30 p.m.
General Reception 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.

Silent Auction 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Featuring a special framed limited edition signed and numbered print by Will Byington

100% of all proceeds from the silent auction will go to the Obama Victory Fund

Host: Write/Raise $1000 - Host and General Reception
Co-Host: Write/Raise $500 - Host and General Reception
Individual: $100 - General Reception

RSVP by Wednesday August 13th, 2008
RSVP and contribute here.

For more information, or to become a Host, please contact Benjamin Henning at 443-315-3068 or

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Paris Strikes Back

We have some heady stuff coming up over the next week, so let's grab a little levity while we can. At the risk of posting yet another video on the blog, here we go:

By now, most of you have seen and heard about the McCain attack ad that uses images of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (and subtle references to Hitler) in an effort to take a jab at the celebrity status of Barack. You can read my previous comments about the petty ad here.

Well, suffice it to say Ms. Hilton is having none of it. Not only does she let McCain have it between the eyes, she puts both candidates on notice that she is a force to be reckoned with.

What You Want - Updated

(UPDATE: I've always liked to think that I'm smart enough to know when other people know better. So when people whom I know and trust tell me that a blog post, no matter how well-intentioned, may be somewhat over the top, and those same people have a pretty high threshold for material that may be deemed improper by others, I'll take their advice.)

So I'm not sure that it's the most appropriate way to advance the cause of supporting a constitutional convention, but it's definitely one of the most creative:
(Warning/Disclaimer: Some people may find the audio inappropriate/offensive/not suitable for playing at work/or something else along those lines)
(If you want to see the video that was previously embedded in this post, you can go here.)

Given that the proponents don't have anywhere near the dollars as do the opponents, building a grassroots base is going to be key to the effort. So we can likely expect to see more things like this one (well, maybe not quite like this one) to get the issue onto people's front burners.

Stormy Weather

It's not often that you hear tornado sirens going off in my neighborhood, or anywhere in the city for that matter. In fact, tonight is the first time in ages that I remember them going off in Chicago. But sure enough, I'm out running errands with our daughter in my wife's car when the skies open up. Nothing like being in Office Depot when the roof starts leaking in 3 or 4 places at once, and you hear one of the employees say to another one, "I'm getting out of here".

What seemed to be just another bad storm took a turn for the worse as we returned to our block to find a nice-size portion of the roof of the loft building around the corner from us laying in the middle of the street. The roofing had bent a streetlight down on such an angle that it looked like a table lamp. A number of the neighbors were milling about, some out of curiosity, and some because their apartments were leaking like sieves.

Some of the neighbors were looking at what used to be the biggest tree on the block, which was now split in two, with half of the once-mighty tree burying somebody's car.

Yep, there's a car underneath that tree. You know how I know?

It's my car. Yes, a lovely summer night indeed. That's what I get for taking her car instead of mine.

But in the big picture, nobody in the neighborhood got hurt, and after seeing what has happened in other parts of the state time and time again, if this is the worst weather-related damage that we have to deal with, I'll gladly take it. If nothing else, it makes for a good story.