On a sad note the late Henry Hyde
During more than 30 years as a congressman, he represented the people of Illinois with character and dignity _ and always stood for a strong and purposeful America. This fine man believed in the power of freedom, and he was a tireless champion of the weak and forgotten." _ President Bush.

"U.S. Rep. Hyde unequivocally embodied the title of statesman in every sense of the word. His leadership when speaking on the House floor drew attention from each member in the chamber. The clarity of his thoughts, the wisdom of his foresight and the principled values he espoused were unmatched." _ GOP Rep. Peter Roskam, who succeeded Hyde in Congress.

"From his time in the Navy to his long career in the U.S. House of Representatives, Henry Hyde leaves an honored legacy of championing freedom both here at home and abroad. He was the pre-eminent, pro-life champion of our time. Today, we remember the life of a truly great American." _ Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde was a man of great conviction and an eloquent spokesman for the causes he believed in. ... The people of Illinois owe him a great debt of gratitude for the years and years of service to our state." _ Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat.

The governor's attendance at the Chicago Blackhawks game isn't going over well with state lawmakers, and his threats for more special sessions probably won't help the matter.

The governor says he can't vote, so he didn't have to be there. He says he enjoyed watching a game that wasn't rigged, saying that since Madigan didn't vote for the bailout, Madigan probably didn't want the bill to pass.

It is not going to be an early Christmas Holiday down in Springfield

Will CTA be advertised as the viable News Years Eve travel option?
SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- When he announced emergency funding for Chicago-area mass-transit systems earlier this month, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he simply was using money already set aside in the budget for transportation projects.
But that was true only because his administration transferred funds from other construction programs before revealing the bailout, state records show.Of the $27 million Blagojevich provided to keep trains and buses running, $22.4 million originally was going to pay for bricks-and-mortar construction, highways and energy projects around the state.
Blagojevich announced the grant Nov. 2. Aides said it was "existing" money borrowed by selling bonds for rail and mass-transit projects.
Giving it to the Chicago Transit Authority and its suburban sister would not delay construction elsewhere in the state, they said.
But no one seems to know whether that's true.

The Hog with Big Nuts speaksCook County Board President Todd Stroger can't get his budget passed "because he's black," his floor leader angrily charged Tuesday.

Commissioner William Beavers said "if Todd was a white man, he wouldn't have half these problems," further alleging "this is a remake of the Harold Washington days" at City Hall, where racially fueled votes often ended in 29-21 decisions.

"Who's gonna control the county -- white or black -- that's all this is," he said.

Beavers railed on that one of Stroger's top critics, Commissioner Tony Peraica, "hates everybody who's black ... all black elected officials," going on to say Peraica used to beat up black people growing up in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

Peraica and others say the comments are not only untrue, they're born of a desperate frustration that Stroger can't pass a 2 percentage-point sales tax hike or other increases.

"Todd Stroger's credibility -- which has nothing to do with race -- is at a low ebb," Peraica said. "He needs to build up that credibility."

Even Commissioner John Daley, a Stroger ally, was surprised by Beavers' words, defending Peraica. "It's wrong for anyone to play the race card," he added.

Yet, prompted by a reporter's question, Beavers yelled not to forget that he's "the hog with the big nuts and I'm gonna tell you what it is."

Race continued to come up throughout an otherwise uneventful budget hearing, setting an ugly and uncomfortable tone that hasn't been seen in previous budget battles.

A shaken Commissioner Peter Silvestri gave a passionate defense, but Beavers was unswayed.
The attacks were the most noteworthy thing to come from a nine-hour meeting designed to help fill a $239 million budget deficit. About $1 million was cut Tuesday.

Though Stroger wants to pass his $3 billion budget by Friday, even he conceded that's not likely. He said commissioners are "afraid" and need to show "common sense" in approaching the budget.

Fur flying in Springfield......still

Special session ordered
Governor wants answer for Chicago’s mass transit problem

Published Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CHICAGO — Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday ordered state lawmakers to Springfield next week to work on a financial bailout for Chicago-area mass transit, even though he said he may be able to single-handedly find more money to sustain commuter trains and buses.

Also, the Chicago Democrat defended his intent to ignore a legislative rules committee that rejected his plans to expand discounted health care for thousands of Illinois parents and guardians.
Blagojevich said he has called a special session on transit for Nov. 28, after lawmakers spend time with their families over Thanksgiving. He credited his administration for identifying stopgap money for the Chicago Transit Authority and its suburban counterparts, Metra and Pace, earlier this year. He said he may even be able to find more funds on his own but cautioned there are limits.

“My message to the General Assembly is very simple: Let’s get something done,” the governor said during a news conference at his Loop office. “I’m running out of options where I can unilaterally bail out the CTA and stave off what could become a terrible situation for riders.”

Blagojevich and legislative leaders have met privately to discuss mass transit and a capital construction program that the minority Republican Party has demanded in return. But the negotiations have been a bust, in part because of policy disagreements over how to raise the transit dollars. Blagojevich has promised to veto a proposed increase in the regional sales tax that is earmarked for the transit agencies and instead backs a plan that would tap into a portion of the state sales tax from gasoline purchases.

Also holding back progress on transit and capital has been the personality conflict between Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat who favors the regional sales tax hike.

Representatives for two of the legislative leaders said Monday they had not seen the governor’s formal proclamation for the special session and offered little comment. But House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego said it’s worth having lawmakers take another stab at mass transit and a capital program.

“There’s no question we need to finalize both mass transit and capital,” said Cross, who advocates a “modest” transit-fare increase over the governor’s objections. “If (the special session) aids in the process, then I’m supportive of it.”

The capital construction projects linked to transit assistance would be financed through a gambling expansion in Illinois; leaders have not agreed on the scope beyond the creation of a Chicago land-based casino.

If new state dollars don’t arrive soon, the cash-strapped CTA has prepared a “doomsday” plan to cut service and raise fares in January. The measures would have political ramifications for Blagojevich and legislative leaders, who had all spring and summer to hammer out a solution. The governor called several special sessions earlier this year as he and lawmakers feuded over a state budget.

The Blagojevich administration has moved ahead with emergency plans to expand the state’s Family Care medical program, in defiance of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. JCAR last week rejected the measure, which would offer discounted medical care to nearly 150,000 adult Illinoisans through looser income restrictions.

Blagojevich on Monday said the rules committee, which comprises six Democrats and six Republicans, does not have constitutional power over his office.

“Where is it written that a handful of legislators — 12 of them — can tell the executive branch what it’s going to do when it comes to administering the executive branch?” the governor said.

“I’m a stickler and proponent of JCAR and the legislative process,” Cross, the House GOP leader, countered. “I respect (the governor’s) argument and advocacy for the executive branch. I’m also protective of the legislative branch. We have a different view on it.”

With the Cook County Board less than two weeks from its Nov. 30 deadline to pass a budget, a key commissioner is proposing five new taxes today.

Cook County sues itself in budget war
(Crain’s) — In a bizarre twist to Cook County’s budget woes, the county’s public defender on Tuesday announced that he is suing County Board President Todd Stroger in a bid to get needed funding for the office.

A suit filed by Public Defender Edwin Burnette contends that the office is unable to fulfill its constitutional task to represent the indigent because of layoffs, hiring freezes and other steps ordered by Mr. Stroger and the board. It asks a third unit of county government — a circuit court — to order the reinstatement and reimbursement of all office personnel, and to mandate other actions to ensure “the independence and autonomy of the office.”

An attorney for Mr. Stroger and the co-defendants in the case, presidential chief of staff Lance Tyson and comptroller Joseph Fratto, termed the lawsuit "ridiculous."
Burt Odelson said if the public defender doesn't like his budget, "he should have come to the board like the state's attorney did and lobby" for more money.
Something Lance Tyson calls ridiculous
"You don't file lawsuits to ask for more appropriations," Mr. Odelson said. "That's not the way our democracy is based."
Last year, when Mr. Stroger unveiled proposed double-digit spending cuts throughout county government, Mr. Burnette said his office would be able to comply. Mr. Burnette was appointed public defender by Mr. Stroger’s father, John Stroger, who left office two years ago after suffering a stroke.
But Mr. Burnette then “did not recognize the full consequences of Mr. Stroger’s game plan on his office,” his attorney, William Hooks, said at a press conference announcing the suit.
The suit contends that a staff of about 435 assistant public defenders is handling 126,474 felony cases for approximately 112,000 poor people accused of crimes, giving it a workload 60% above national standards. While the office budget has been cut 26% in the past three years, Mr. Stroger has hired or promoted friends and political supporters for jobs paying $200,000 or more, Mr. Hooks said.

Mr. Hooks said the office must be kept separate from normal budget give-and-take because it has a unique, specified role that cannot legally be shortchanged.
Mr. Burnette did not attend the press conference, but Mr. Hooks was accompanied by the head of the union local that represents most office workers and which joined in the suit.
Kulmeet Galhotra, president of AFSCME Local 3315, said the office “has not hired a new attorney since June, 2006.” While about a dozen laid-off lawyers were recalled to work, attrition has cut the number of assistant public defenders from 465 at the beginning of last year to 430 to 440 now, Mr. Galhotra said.
Mr. Burnette said the court has named him a special Cook County state’s attorney in the case. That means his fees will be paid by the public until the case is resolved

Maldonado the deciding vote
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and his staff spent the weekend trying to persuade the county's 27 other elected officials to stand with him Monday in support of his controversial plan to raise taxes to finance county government operations.
He got six.
But even those six weren't biting when asked if their position means they support Stroger's plan to hike the sales, gasoline and parking taxes to raise about $890 million by 2009.
Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, State's Attorney Richard Devine, Recorder Gene Moore and a representative of Sheriff Tom Dart would only say they support finding some way to balance the budget so they don't have to cut any more from their offices.

Also standing behind Stroger were county Commissioners Jerry Butler (D-Chicago) and Deborah Sims (D-Chicago).
Most of the county board has been adamant that Stroger's tax plan won't fly, but Stroger is standing firm on it, especially his proposal to hike the county portion of the sales tax by 2 percentage points - from .75 percent to 2.75 percent.

Stroger challenged his critics to either "do what's right" and "pay the piper" or come up with a tax plan of their own.
A swing vote on Stroger's tax plan comes from Commissioner Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago), who is against the sales tax hike.

We don't need any distractions, ....well any more on the County Board
With the next County Budget fasting approaching,....and no the State still has no budget passed......we don't need any more problems on this County Board, this may prolong the next budget because now we will have to deal with political agendas
State's attorney race turns allies to rivals

November 17, 2007
By Abdon M. Pallasch , Sun-Times News Group
A few years ago, Cook County Commissioners Larry Suffredin and Tony Peraica were on the same team, fighting the administration of county board President John Stroger.
Now, they're slinging verbal arrows at each other as they run for state's attorney.

At a forum Friday for state's attorney candidates at the Union League Club in Chicago, Peraica (R-Riverside) quoted Suffredin as telling Democratic Party leaders, "if we don't get our act together, we're going to hand this office over to Tony Peraica, which would be the worst possible thing in the world that could happen to us.'"

As the laughter in the room died down, Peraica said to Suffredin, "Did I quote you correctly?" Suffredin (D-Evanston) nodded.
"Larry and I disagree on a lot of things, but we agree on that point," Peraica said.
"I would bring the kind of independence to this office that would not kowtow to any power, Democratic or Republican."
Not right, Suffredin said, describing Peraica as having "flawed judgment" and saying that he doesn't "trust him to be a fair person."

Peraica shot back to Suffredin, "He was one of the first to support Todd Stroger (for county board president), so talk about flawed judgment."
Suffredin shouted that he would support Stroger again if Peraica were the opponent.

Part of the reason Suffredin said he's running for county prosecutor is because "there is a belief that justice is not equal, that decisions made in Winnetka are not the same ones made in Robbins or in Maywood or in South Chicago or in Englewood."

First Assistant State's Attorney Bob Milan, who's running against Suffredin in the Feb. 5 Democratic primary election, was angered by that insinuation.
"How dare you allege that assistant state's attorneys in this office treat anyone differently in Robbins than they do in Winnetka," Milan told Suffredin.

"That's outrageous. ... You don't know what you were talking about because you were never one of us. So talk about what you know."
The six Democratic and two Republican candidates had varied opinions about whether Cook County prosecutors look the other way regarding Chicago police brutality.
Democrat Tommy Brewer said he is not convinced police brutality is a thing of the past.
The candidates split evenly about whether Chicago aldermen should get the names of police officers who have an inordinate number of complaints against them.

Suffredin, Peraica, Brewer, and Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) said they should. Milan, Ald. Tom Allen (38th), Chief Deputy State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and attorney Ed Barren disagreed, saying it could unfairly tarnish good officers' reputations.

A little clue that the Peotone airport issue is not dead. This is one of Jesse Jackson Jr's pet projects

With the Interstate 355 extension complete, could the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority be ready to take on another?

The tollway authority's board today will begin preliminary discussions about extending I-355 south once again - this time between interstates 80 and 57. The $738 million extension between I-55 and I-80 opened Monday.

Jim Roolf, a board member representing Will County, plans to ask the tollway authority's staff to start researching the cost and possible route for a new toll road that could eventually connect to the proposed south suburban airport near Peotone.

In case any one is wondering about the skyway fund.

Alnaqib said that the CCV has a small business fund, which can fund businesses up to $1 million. This money is from the Chicago Skyway deal.

Chicago City Council OK's nearly $6B budget

November 13, 2007
The Chicago City Council today approved Mayor Richard Daley's $5.9 billion budget, including an $86 million property tax increase, the largest during Daley's time in office.

Daley scaled back his proposed property tax increase from $108 million after protests from aldermen and angry taxpayers.

The council's 37-to-13 vote was a change from past budgets, when Daley's plan has passed overwhelmingly. The 2008 plan, effective Jan. 1, calls for $275 million in increased fees, fines and taxes.

For example, along with the higher property tax rate, the city has approved a higher tax rate - to 8 percent from 6 percent - for transactions such as DVD rentals and car leases, which officials say translates into $24 million for the city. A monthly surcharge for 911 calls will also double to $2.50, generating $48 million.

Increases in water and sewer rates will generate $64.7 million, with the average homeowner paying about $45 more a year.

The city will also raise fines on parking violations and the price of city stickers for large vehicles to $120 from $90, expected to raise $6.2 million.

At Tuesday's meeting, aldermen cut a proposed tax on bottled water to 5 cents a bottle from 10 cents a bottle.

Veterans Parkway, opens Veterans day

Veterans Memorial Tollway Opens In Western Suburbs
Rafael Romo LEMONT, Ill. (CBS) ― The morning commute will get quite an upgrade for people living in the western suburbs.

CBS 2's Rafael Romo reports that the new I-355 extention, dubbed the Veterans Memorial Tollway officially opens Sunday, and links I-55 to I-80.

As part of the opening festivities, people can bike or run along the I-355 extension on Sunday. That will only be for one day, however, because on Monday cars will be flying along the interstate.

The dozens of cyclists who helped open the new extension on Sunday were delighted to be among the first to ride along the new stretch of tollway.

"There's a lot of people in New Lenox, Tinley Park, Orland Park, Homer, that are always taking side streets to get north to get to Schaumburg or the western suburbs. Having this is going to alleviate a lot of that pressure," said one man who rode on the Veterans Memorial Tollway Sunday with his family.

The 12.5-mile extension of the I-355 Tollway connects I-55 through Will County to I-80. It was built as part of the Tollway's congestion relief program to reduce travel time between the southwestern and western suburbs.

Cyclist Teresa Dory said, "It's really neat to be able to ride on it for the first time and we're very excited about … being able to get places a lot quicker and having it be more accessible and hope that business comes down this way."

The Veterans Memorial Tollway took three years to complete at a cost of $730 million. Officials said they expect about 54,000 daily commuters.

The official opening ceremony will be held Sunday afternoon, hosted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
I man have to check this one out, but is it like the Elgin-O'hare Expressway that neither goes to Elgin or O'Hare?

November 8th, 13 years later.....

What a coincidence
You see, while Ryan’s first day in prison is Nov. 8, Scott and Janet Willis also began serving a prison sentence of sorts 13 years earlier, also on Nov. 8. You will remember that the Willis’ children burned up in the couple’s mini-van after a taillight assembly fell off a tractor-trailer truck being operated by an unqualified driver. The Willis family was following the truck and the taillight assembly ruptured the fuel tank, causing the vehicle to burst into flames. The Willis’ ‘prison’ began on Nov. 8, 1994, as they stood helplessly by a Wisconsin highway and watched their six children, Ben, Joseph, Samuel, Hank, Elizabeth and Peter burn up.

It was later learned that the driver, Ricardo Guzman, was given a license only because his boss, Gonzalo Mendosa, had paid a secretary of state employee to ‘fix’ as many as 80 licenses in exchange for a hefty contribution to Ryan’s campaign.

Throughout this lingering cesspool of corruption, the Willis children have been totally ignored by Ryan and his cronies. Ryan’s million dollar law team worked overtime to make sure the names of those children — once again their names are Ben, Joseph, Samuel, Hank, Elizabeth and Peter — were never mentioned. In fact, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer blocked Willis from testifying at the corruption trial after Ryan’s lawyers argued that the fatalities had no direct bearing on the charges against Ryan.

Pardon me for bringing this up again, but it does not take a great leap of imagination for me to say unequivocally that it was George Ryan himself, through his license-for-bribe scheme, who put an unqualified driver like Guzman behind the wheel.

And I also remember reading the story about how Scott Willis approached Ryan after his children had died to ask him why he had quashed the investigation and sealed the records on the fatal crash. Instead of offering comfort and compassion to a grieving father, Ryan dressed Willis down verbally and then spun and walked away from him.

There will be those who will dismiss Ryan’s first full day in prison on Nov. 8 and the death of the Willis children on Nov. 8 as pure coincidence and happenstance, however, I don’t see it that way.

Instead, I think those dates were supposed to fall exactly the way they did, so that the legacy of a corrupt, no-conscience, backroom-dealing politico like George Ryan can be more readily and easily defined.

Camp Oxford for Ryan

The Chicago Bears are off this week, last weekend it was pretty sad that they lost, but as I was out and about last Sunday after the game, I realized the Bears have the best fans. Everyone will still in Bears attire, even though they lost, people put on their Bears stuff and gear up for the game, it is really an event people look forward to, many people arrange thier schedules around Bear games.

On Senate Bill 1429, supposedly this will help the State collect more sales revenue, but at what other problems will it create? How will the ST (State Tax forms, filled out monthly) change? Will this give tax incentives for businesses who want to come in to an area? What will be the incentives? Will areas want big businesses now if they will not reap the sales benefits but the added traffic, police needed, and things that will not be offset by the tax benefits? Will some areas have budget problems now, especially now that they rely on sales tax revenue? What will the accounting nightmares be for, the cities, villages, counties, businesses, and the State? Will this really streamline things for the State? This is also supposed to affect on-line sales and mail order sales, so you will be taxed on these purchases, always.

Senate bill 1429 Senate Bill 1429, which would shift the state’s method of issuing sales tax revenue from a “point of sales” to “destination” source.

Under S.B. 1429, the money would go to the municipality in which the product was delivered. So S.B. 1429 would have little impact on bedroom communities, where mom-and-pop retailers and coffee shops reign. But in towns like Elmhurst, which is home to some massive distributors like McMaster-Carr Supply Co., it could spell the loss of millions of dollars every year.

The idea behind S.B. 1429 is to allow Illinois to join the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, a national endeavor to create a simpler and more fair sales and use tax system. One of the program’s biggest draws is its aim to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar businesses, which pay sales tax, and the Internet and catalogue companies, which do not.

So far, 21 states have signed up for the program. If 30 states join, there is an understanding that the federal government will enact legislation to allow states to collect tax on online and mail-order transactions, said Dave Bennet, executive director of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.

“There are no guarantees, obviously,” said Bennet. “Even if Illinois does change, who knows when that legislation may go into effect.”
A requisite of joining the project is to distribute sales tax according to the destination of the sale.

Bennet is working to make Chicago-area municipal leaders aware of potential local impacts of S.B. 1429. Although state officials plan to create a $20 million mitigation fund to aide municipalities negatively affected by the bill, Bennet said it may not be enough.

“The message we’re receiving is that the mitigation plan being considered is inadequate,” he said. “The way it’s set up, it would be an annual fund and it would increase at CPI level each year. But again, is it enough? I don’t know. One of the problems right now is we can’t really determine that.”

“It helps in that the state will collect tax presently not collected. The mom-and-pop retailer that pay bills and then tries to make a living will be on equal footing,” he said.

Governors wife is an opportunist
Gov. Rod Blagojevich's wife received a commission from a 2005 condo sale involving a man who later won $10 million in no-bid state contracts - again showing how the governor appears to benefit from those seeking state business, according to a published report.
The seller was Mark Wight, who owns an architecture firm that won three new contracts with the state toll highway authority; the buyer was John Wyma, Wight's tollway lobbyist who has worked closely with the governor for years, the Chicago Tribune reported in its Sunday editions.
Patti Blagojevich, who has a home-based real estate business, had been looking for a property for Wyma for months, but he and Wight found each other without her help.
Wight said he decided to pay a commission on the sale of the $650,000 property to Patti Blagojevich anyway after it became clear to him that Wyma had been working with an agent.
"I had always intended to pay a commission to an agent, regardless of who that agent was," Wight said in a written response. "I later learned that John was working with Patti Blagojevich."

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