Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mark Kirk Talks On NBC-5's City Desk: Will China Cancel the U.S.'s Credit Card? Will Kirk Run for Senate? And Other Stories...

10th District Congressman Mark Kirk spent some time on NBC-5's "City Desk" recently.

In Part One, Kirk discusses the war in Afghanistan and the challenges with the economy, especially the exploding U.S. debt, and whether anyone will continue lending us all the money we need to borrow under President Obama's plan to blow the U.S. debt to the moon.

In Part Two, Kirk talks about his plans for running in 2010; whether that's for his 10th District Congressional seat, the U.S. Senate, or even the governor's mansion, you'll have to watch to see what he says. He also talks about the tax burden we face here in Illinois, drug wars and other fun.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Illinois GOP Not Buying Into Alexi Giannoulias's Newfound Reform Pledge

The Illinois GOP isn't giving wanna-be U.S. Senate contender Alexi Giannoulias any quarter with respect to Alexi's new pledge to forgo donations from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists in his senate quest.

The Illinois GOP released the following this afternoon:

Giannoulias attempts to hide questionable record

In an attempt to hide his record of questionable loans to crime figures and willingness to look the other way on Rod Blagojevich’s flagrant corruption, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announced today that his Senate campaign will refuse donations from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists.

“No amount of phony reform and renewal pledges from Alexi Giannoulias can hide his shameful history of bankrolling mobsters and convicted felons like Tony Rezko,” said ILGOP Spokesman Lance Trover.

The Giannoulias family bank, Broadway bank, made millions of dollars in loans to Tony Rezko as well as Michael Giorango and Boris Stratievsky, convicted felons and reputed mob figures. These loans were made while Alexi Giannoulias was the chief loan officer.

“If Mr. Giannoulias wants to kick off his campaign by talking about reform then he should begin by fully explaining why, throughout the last six years, he loaned millions of dollars to mob figures and endorsed Rod Blagojevich for re-election in 2006,” added Trover.

In addition, Mr. Giannoulias apparently has no problem with unions attempting to “buy a seat at the table”, as he neglected to ban the labor contributions that bankrolled his Illinois Treasurer campaign to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

-To read more about Alexi Giannoulias' questionable record, go to his profile on www.friendsofblago.com

# # #

You can check out the release directly at the IL GOP website here.

Never Mind Consolidating School Districts--For Real Tax Reform, How About Eliminating Townships?

One recent idea to help fill our gargantuan state budget hole (>$12 billion, by some accounts) is to force consolidation of school districts. Not only do I not think this would actually save much money, the political battle to get it done, especially downstate, is going to be a bear.

If you want to bite off a political battle, how about one that could actually have a real impact, if successful? I'm talking, of course, about eliminating the archaic and unnecessary layer of government at the Township level.

This is not my idea, or even a new idea--it's been proposed before (by, among other people, Cook County Commissioner Michael Quigley), but as you can expect, the thousands of people employed at the Township level would have something to say about this. In fact, I am friends with several elected township supervisors, but most of them are retiring or wanting to move up the political ladder anyway, so hopefully they won't hate me for raising this.

In doing some research, I came across a great paper presented last year by David K. Hamilton of Roosevelt University, entitled "Township Government: Essential or Expendable? The Case of Illinois and Cook County." You can download the whole paper here.

The author points out that Township government was developed for a rural society where travel and transportation of goods was slow and inefficient. Many states do not even have townships. In Illinois, it is hard to dispute that every service provided by the Township could not be provided instead (and much more efficiently) at the municipal or county level. Road maintenance, social services, and even tax assessment can all be done at a different level of government, thereby completely eliminating the entire Township government level (unlike consolidating school districts, where you would simply try to get efficiencies of scale by having fewer school districts, at the cost of loss of local control and dubious actual savings).

Townships are horribly inefficient providers of services, incurring incredibly high administrative costs. As just one example, the author points out that "one study found that Thornton Township spent $525,000 to hand out $220,000 in general assistance grants during the 1999-2000 fiscal year. In Palos and Orland townships, the cost of administering general assistance grants exceeded the amount of the grants themselves by 340 percent and 320 percent, respectively." (Hamilton, at 19)(emphasis added).

The author concludes,

"Township government was clearly developed for an eighteenth century rural society in which transportation was slow and difficult. If townships were not already in existence, they would not be invented or necessary for twenty-first century government. Most of the country and a number of counties in Illinois provide local government services without the need for townships. The analysis of Cook County townships indicates that township government is an unnecessary, inefficient, and duplicative form of government. Administrative costs are high and services that townships provide are now or can be more efficiently provided by the county and incorporated municipalities. Moreover, eliminating the township would promote better coordination in the delivery of social services and reduce duplication and citizen confusion as to which government to contact for specific services. With one less government involved, there should be a more seamless provision of services. Other township services could readily be provided by other governments. The county or the municipality can readily provide the ombudsman function of the assessor’s office should this function be necessary.

Combining responsibility for unincorporated roads with the county or municipality would make better use of expensive road maintenance equipment and storage facilities. Moreover, it would eliminate the double taxation for municipal residents, who are taxed once for municipal roads and then again for township roads. It would also shift more reliance away from property taxation to other taxes, as the township is much more heavily reliant on property taxes than municipalities and counties. A conservative estimate of the cost savings is at least 50 percent of the more than $80 million spent by townships. It is probable that even greater cost reductions would occur. It is also likely that services would be enhanced with the transfer of functions to other governments." (Hamilton, at 26)(emphasis added).

So, there's a modest proposal for a Monday morning. How about it, Governor Quinn and your cohorts in the General Assembly? If you want to take a firm hand in promoting some real savings (unlike those that might be realized by disrupting school district operations) and some true government reform, this looks like an idea that is ripe for the picking.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Is the "Lying Mayor" of Round Lake At It Again?

Bill Gentes likes to call himself the "Blogging Mayor" of Round Lake (as if doing a blog is so special - believe me, if I can do one, you can do one). But I think "Lying Mayor" is more like it.

In case you missed it in the last election, Gentes was absolutely crushed by now-Senator Dan Duffy in the race to replace retiring long-time Senator Bill Peterson (who is still Vernon Township Supervisor and happens to be up for election this April). Duffy's ground game, especially his voter ID and GOTV programs, were so effective, he didn't even really need the boost undoubtedly provided when the Daily Herald caught Gentes in a lie about his employment status. As we told you last October, Gentes had told the Daily Herald editorial board he was employed, but later admitted he had actually been fired. We figured at the time you could put a fork in Gentes, because he was cooked. We were right.

Now, however, it looks like Gentes may be up to his old tricks. The Daily Herald reports today that Gentes is under fire for allegedly misrepresenting the position of the challenging slate, led by mayoral candidate Jim Dietz, of the "United for Change" party. The issue is whether candidate Susan Triphahn, of the Dietz slate, supports a proposal to spread Special Sevice Area (SSA) fees from one subdivision across the whole town. Gentes claims that Triphahn mentioned the idea publicly in past years, and Gentes calls it the "Dietz-Triphahn tax plan." (You can see the really nasty mailer on Gentes' blog if you care)

Dietz and Triphahn deny the claim, saying they favor only trying to get the particular subdivision (which has had a high foreclosure rate lately) some state and federal grants that would help relieve homeowners of high infrastructure assessments.

I haven't been following the Round Lake race closely, but given Gentes past penchant for lying when it suits him, the notion that he is now twisting and misrepresenting his opponents' positions to play on fears of higher taxes is not too hard to believe, in my opinion.

Joining Gentes on his slate is Cynthia Pruim Haran, who just got done losing to Sally Coffelt for Circuit Court Clerk. What is it with some people that are just so desperate to get into public office that they will run for anything? Ms. Haran might want to choose her company more carefully next time if getting elected is such a big deal to her. I don't think Gentes has much of a future in Lake County politics if he keeps this up.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Doesn't Two-Time L-O-S-E-R Dan Seals Know When to Quit?

Today Roll Call looked at some of the contenders for Mark Kirk's 10th District congressional seat if Kirk decides to go after Roland Burris's U.S. Senate seat in 2010. And looky, looky, a former campaign manager for Dan Seals, two-time congressional wanna-be, basically says Dan has been waiting around this whole time for Kirk to get out of the way, since Seals was not able to come close to beating Kirk in a head-to-head match-up.

Roll Call is subscription-only but the SEIU-front Progress Illinois blog has a story up with an excerpt from the Roll Call article. From what we can see, however, Roll Call made a mistake by listing Seals' profession incorrectly: he's certainly NOT an attorney, and whether he's been gainfully employed at all over the last few years is still unclear. (Of course, considering Seals formerly lied about being a professor at Northwestern University, claiming he's now a lawyer would not surprise me a bit).

The article apparently also notes that Seals would have potential competition from state senators Michael Bond and Susan Garrett. While Garrett once had her eye on the 10th District seat, and Bond is reportedly salivating over the chance to move up the ladder to some higher post, we'll have to see how this develops.

One thing is probably pretty certain: if Seals does run, he'll have some tough questions to answer about just what he's been doing for the last four years that qualifies him to be a congressman besides dogging Mark Kirk. As we've said here time and time again, simply running for Congress doesn't qualify you to be a congressman. If Seals has done so much as joined Rotary in the last couple years, I haven't heard about it, and he's no more qualified now than he was when he lost in 2006 and 2008.

While I have no idea what GOP hopeful would eventually emerge to try to replace Mark if he runs for the senate, wouldn't it be a scream if Seals lost THREE times?

TA's end take on this: If Seals doesn't have the 'testicular virility' to run again for the 10th District unless Mark Kirk ISN'T the opponent, what does that say about what kind of a man Seals is? For anyone who is left behind in the 10th while Mark Kirk goes off to represent Illinois (if that happens), it's still an important issue that we'll be following closely here.

Senate Buzz Surrounds Mark Kirk; Meanwhile, Kirk Targets Illegals With Gang Ties

The buzz over Roland Burris's senate seat just won't stop, and Mark Kirk has the attention of the national Republicans as one of the top contenders on the GOP side.

But meanwhile, closer to home, the News-Sun reports on new legislation that is being proposed by Kirk to make it easier to deport illegal aliens that are members of gangs:

"While most gang members are American citizens, we are seeing the rise of transnational drug gangs that are bringing new levels of violence and criminal activity to our communities," Kirk said at a Chicago news conference attended by various community leaders, including Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran.

Kirk proposed the Alien Gang Removal Act, which would amend federal immigration law to include membership in a street gang as a disqualifying criterion for entry into the United States. The legislation also creates new grounds for deportation after a member of an officially designated criminal gang is found to have been convicted of any felonies or criminal misdemeanors involving weapons, ammunition, child pornography or illegal narcotics.

Seems to me like Kirk is looking pretty senatorial lately. I keep bugging the Congressman for the scoop on his senate plans, so I will let everyone know the moment anyone tells me anything...(!)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another Lake County Petition Scandal: The Dead Will Rise Again!

As we reported some time ago, the petitions of former Antioch Township assessor candidate Eugene Kryczka were alleged to contain false signatures (including at least two dead people) by his opponent, incumbent assessor Heather Kufalk-Marotta. After being accused of falsifying his petitions, Kryczka dropped out of the race. But, taking yourself out of contention generally doesn't impede criminal investigations of election fraud, so the Lake County State's Attorney's office eventually caught up to Kryczka.

Kryczka surrendered to officials last Friday after a warrant charging him with perjury was issued Thursday. The Pioneer Press reported that Kryczka admitted to submitting 50 fraudulent signatures on 28 petitions.

What is it with Lake County Democrats that they simply can't fill out a petition without trying to pull the wool over voters' eyes???

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New GOP Leaders: Tim Stratton

With another segment in our occasion series of new and fresh GOP leaders, today we focus on Timothy Stratton, who ran against State Rep. Karen May in the 58th Legislative District in 2008.

Tim is an elected Park District Commissioner and is a public finance attorney with Ice Miller LLP, where he works with municipalities, park and forest preserve districts on finance issues. Tim has also served as a community college trustee where he fought to reign in health care costs and implemented cost saving health care measures.

Tim is a dedicated conservationist who believes we must protect open space and believes the private sector must be part of the solution. Tim also believes we must reduce the tax burden on residents and focus on eliminating the rampant wasteful spending and inefficiencies in our government. Today, more than ever Illinois needs principled leadership with financial understanding and skill.

As noted above, Tim ran for State Representative in the 58th District against Karen May. Although Tim came up short in 2008, he was able to develop a strong volunteer network and his message of honest government, fiscal discipline and integrity resonated with the voters. Even in the Obama wave that engulfed the state, Tim won more votes than any recent challenger to liberal democrat Karen May.

Tim maintains his campaign website at www.timforillinois.com and has already declared his intention to run for the Illinois House in 2010. Keep an eye out for Tim Stratton as he fights to make Lake County and the 10th Congressional District a better place and join him in his fight to clean up Illinois!

Tim is going to have some real ammunition this time around. See below for a recent press release from the IL GOP regarding Karen May's support of the Todd Stroger tax increases:

Karen May Continues Her Support of Todd Stroger
May Votes Against Legislation to Repeal Stroger Tax Increase

3/11/09: (Springfield) Last February, Todd Stroger and Democrats on the Cook County Board took historic action by approving a 1% sales tax increase that more than doubled Cook County’s sales tax and catapulted taxpayers to be faced with the nation’s highest sales tax. One year later, Democrat legislators, like Karen May, continue to support the tax increase by voting against Republican legislation that would repeal the onerous tax hike.

On Tuesday, Democrat Karen May voted in lock-step with Chicago Democrat leaders in opposing House Republican legislation that would have repealed the Cook County tax hike by rolling back the sales tax by 1%.

The House Republican legislation would have rolled the sales tax back by 1%. The measure also instituted key reforms, including requiring any new tax increase to be approved by popular referendum.

“Democrat Karen May’s continued support of Todd Stroger and his tax increases is hurting Cook County families and small businesses,” said Pat Brady, Republican National Committeeman. “During a time when families are struggling and small businesses are on the brink of collapse, it’s hard to fathom why Karen May is supporting Todd Stroger and his tax increase that is funding excessive spending and waste in Cook County.”

Karen May voted against House Bill 3948 on Tuesday. The Republican-sponsored legislation would roll back the current Cook County home rule sales tax by 1% within 30 days, which is the rate it was before the tax hike was voted upon late before the budget deadline Feb. 29, 2008. The bill would also require any future proposed increases to be approved by popular referendum.

Since the Stroger Tax Increase, Chicago has held the title of the single highest sales tax in the nation at 10.25 %. Comparatively, New York City and Los Angeles are both below 8.5 %. The tax took effect July 1.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lake County Young Republicans Off and Running

It's been a busy week, so we have some catching up to do. This past Tuesday, the four-month old Lake County Young Republicans group, led by Collin Corbett, adopted its constitution and became official. About 40 people attended the meeting at Lake County GOP Headquarters in Libertyville, which included not only local YR members, but also representatives of many State and Lake County Republican Groups.

Among the groups represented who came to express their support and enthusiasm for the new group were the Lake County Republican Central Committee (represented by TA's alter-ego, LCRCC vice-chairman Larry Falbe), the Republican Assembly of Lake County (represented by RALC President Ray True), the Lake County Republican Federation (represented by Executive Director Ant Simonian), the DuPage County Young Republicans, the Will County Young Republicans, the Illinois Republican Party, and several other groups.

Among the other comments, I noted that the fact that many different Republican groups had come to support the fledgling new group was a great example of cooperation in a party that too often has been known for infighting and self-destructive behavior. Hopefully this is the beginning of a better spirit of pulling together than we have had in this party in years past.

The YR group has really hit Lake County by storm, including hosting a recent forum to discuss the impeachment proceedings against former Governor Rod Blagojevich. They will also be having a St. Patrick's Day event at 6 p.m. at Cubby Bear North, 21661 Milwaukee Ave, Lincolnshire, IL.

The YRs also had nominations from the floor for officers, which will be held open for a few more days if anyone else is interested. You can get more information by e-mailing the group at lakecountyyrs@gmail.com, and you can also find them on Facebook.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mark Kirk Makes Good on "No Earmark" Pledge

Earmarks are like the weather; everyone complains about it, no one does anything about it, so the old saying goes.

Well, at least one member of Congress is sticking to his pledge of "no earmarks." As the Daily Herald reports this morning, here is the wrap-up of the earmarks requested by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle:

Melissa Bean, 8th Dist. (D): $4.1 million
Bill Foster, 14th Dist. (D): $3.1 million
Peter Roskam, 6th Dist. (R): $2.7 million
Jan Schakowsky, 9th Dist (D): $2 million
Judy Biggert, 13th Dist. (R): $0
Mark Kirk, 10th Dist. (R): $0

So, there you have it. At least a few congresscritters, including our own Mark Kirk, are serious when it comes to holding the line on government spending and trying to end the practice of allowing congressmen to personally dole out millions of our tax dollars for projects they personally deem 'worthy'.

But what about President Barack Obama, who also campaigned on a pledge to end earmarks? Oh, the new back-breaking budget he's proposed contains almost 8,000 more earmarks (worth $5.5 billion) than he said he would support while he was campaigning, which was none. The Chicago Tribune's estimate is a bit higher, citing an 'odoriferous' 8,570 earmarks for a total of $7.7 billion.

The Tribune also reports that even traditionally free-spending members of Obama's own party are gagging a little on the size of the spending and borrowing called for in this bill. Obama calls the earmarks a holdover from the prior administration (oh, where have we heard "blame Bush" before?), but some are not buying it:

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said Obama's position was not good enough. He wants the president to veto the bill. In an interview, Bayh said that killing the bill would give Obama a chance to show he is serious about stamping out earmarks.

Wow, almost $8 billion worth of pork. How's that for "change"? No thanks, we'll take Mark Kirk's brand of leadership by example any day.

SB 600 Update: For those of you who continually fret over how the state Republican party chooses its leaders, here's State Senator Chris Lauzen's plea for all of us to call Democratic senators and beg them to help Mr. Lauzen. His posting includes the phone numbers for our beloved Lake County state senators Terry Link and Michael Bond.

Sure, Mr. Lauzen. TA is going to call Terry Link and ask him for a favor for YOU? Hahahahahahahaha!!!! Right. Let me know how that SB600 thing works out for you at the next state convention.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sen. Murphy's Special Election Plan Appears DOA

State Senator Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) proposed a plan for an immediate special election to replace Senator Roland Burris, but that plan now appears dead after it was killed by Dems in subcommittee. The Daily Herald has a good overview.

"I think they've made it pretty clear that the guys in charge down here don't want to have a special election," Murphy said. "Unfortunately it seems that Governor Blagojevich's enablers are still enabling his final act."

Pretty sad. Once again, the people of Illinois get the shaft... all brought to you by... Illinois Democrats!

Well, the one bright spot in all this is that voters may actually remember come ballot time that the Illinois Dems allowed goofy ex-governor Blagojevich to put the state in this ridiculous position in the first place. They own this mess, and we the voters cannot forget.

We're also looking forward to an absolutely bruising primary between State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Roland Burris. Anyone who thought Burris was going to go quietly was obviously dead wrong, and the recent muzzling of new guv Pat Quinn at the behest of African-American politicians indicates to me that Alexi is going to have a real inter-party battle to contend with.

What's the toughest part about covering Illinois politics? Learning to spell names like Blagojevich and Giannoulias without having to look them up each time.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Has Obama Messed With the Wrong Guy?

An interesting thing happened on the way to President Barack Obama's strategy to paint commentator Rush Limbaugh as the face of the GOP--assumedly because Limbaugh's positions are quite extreme sometimes, and Obama thought he would be a wonderful straw man to set up as the national GOP tries to coalesce behind a leader (whether or not it will be new RNC Chairman Michael Steele remains to be seen).

Rush fought back.

Leaving aside the fact that Obama has done more for Rush's career than Rush himself could ever hope to, Rush has called out Obama and challenged him to a debate. Fox News reports:

"I am offering President Obama to come on this program -- without staffers, without a TelePrompTer, without note cards -- to debate me on the issues. Let's talk about free markets versus government control. Let's talk about nationalizing health care and raising taxes on small business...

"Let's talk about the New Deal versus Reaganomics,'' Limbaugh said today. "Let's talk about closing Guantanamo Bay, and let's talk about sending $900 million to Hamas. Let's talk about illegal immigration and the lawlessness on the borders. Let's talk about massive deficits and the destroying of opportunities of future generations...

" The president yesterday suggested "we're getting to the point where profits and earnings ratios are approaching that point where you want to invest." Uh, Mr. President? There is no "profits and earnings" ratio. It's "price and earnings" ratio. He's the president of the United States. He doesn't know anything about the stock market. He's admitted it before. Let's talk about it anyway.

"Just come on this program,'' Limbaugh says to Obama. "Let's have a little debate..."


Also- people are starting to wake up to the fact that Obama's "soak the rich" plan is going to hit a lot of charitable organizations that rely on the generous donations of the wealthy to do a lot of good stuff. Oh, but don't worry, says Team Obama- improving the economy by redistributing wealth to the poor will eventually help charities. It is just me, or does this sound like trickle-down economics for charities???

Being a boater myself, I remember what happened when the "luxury tax" idea made in into tax policy. Oh, yeah, go get those rich folks!!! Great idea!!! The only problem was, the successful individuals who bought all those boats stopped buying them, putting the middle class people who made the boats out of work.

Sound familiar? Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Alexi Explores Senate Run

Not much time to post today (it's nice to be busy in this economy), but it's worth noting that State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias announced an exploratory committee today for a 2010 Senate bid. It looks like he will almost certainly face Senator Roland Burris in a primary, since Burris seems to be dug in. Given the recent (if a bit late) support from some segments of the African-American community, Alexi may have quite a fight on his hands. It's no coincidence that Alexi offers LOTS of pix with him and African-Americans on his new website.

Wonder what Mark Kirk thinks of all this...?

Use this as an Alexi/Roland/Mark (and throw in Jan Schakowski if you like) open thread.