Reforms Face Uphill Battle

Illinois has a tradition of inept government, and while some people would like to see changes and reform efforts, the system tends to favor the status quo.  Witness initiatives to add term limits to elected officials.  Both gubernatorial candidates, Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn, support term limits, though Quinn has found that position a little less pleasing now that he’s attempting to win a second term.

But in order to even get such a proposal on the ballot this November, it needs a 3/5 majority from both (heavily Democrat-controlled) legislative houses and approval from the State Board of Elections.  Ask yourself this – how likely are career politicians like Mike Madigan and John Cullerton to let this happen?  After all, they’ve built their fortunes and power base through longevity.  It term limits did make it onto the ballot, polling indicates the voters would support it – but that’s if, if such an initiative can be worded simply enough for everyone to make sense of it.  Anyone who’s voted in Illinois a few times has seen their share of vague and murky language.  Still, if Rauner threw some money behind it, maybe we could get term limits. Continue reading

It would be easy to take shots at  But who needs more of that; plenty of electrons have already been killed in that regard.  How about we bring it a little closer to home for government failure.  Yes, we’re Ron Swanson mode.

  • ITEM – Neighboring school district Riverton cut their elementary school art program this year.
  • ITEM – Springfield class sizes continue to grow and at my kids’ school they’re averaging 27 kids per class.
  • ITEM – Even in the neighboring wealthy school district Chatham, they’re dipping into their funds and considering selling some land assets to fun operations.

For Part II of this exhibition we  go to the highways and byways, where rural roads outside the small town of my youth will soon become nearly impassable.  The combination of bad weather and no repairs in years will turn back the clock to Great Depression-like conditions.  Meanwhile, bridges around Illinois age towards structural failure. Continue reading

Decked Out

Avast!  All hands report to the main deck!

Deck ho!

In Beemsville, we’ll take our home projects just like our Illinois State Government:  large, over budget, inefficient in execution, and behind schedule.  As with state government, the deck project was heavily dependent on others.  Instead of tax dollars, special interests, and the willingness of various banking institutions to lend money, we depended on the help of friends and neighbors and their willingness to lend tools.

Pushing on with this simile, construction and design of the deck depended primarily on the abilities of a behind-the-scenes expert, but was executed by a man of low-to-middling talent who will nonetheless take all credit for the results.  (Wait – I believe I just compared my good friend and carpentry guru, John, to House Speaker Madigan and various gubernatorial chiefs-of-staff.  I owe John an apology.  Wait!  This means I would be Blago or Quinn in this comparison.  I owe myself an apology…)

As with our beloved state government, the original design and framework of this deck was sound and solid but become increasingly half-assed towards the end.  We can only hope it doesn’t suddenly collapse at some point in the near future.

Just like the legislation and budgeting process in Springfield requires many expensive and confusing trips back and forth to the capital, this deck required many expensive and confusing trips back and forth to Menard’s and Lowe’s.  And in the end, though it may seem sturdy or even impressive, it won’t please everyone, and it’s flaws will certainly become apparent over time.

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Guenther for Governor!?!

The news of Athletics Director Ron Guenther’s impending retirement after nearly 20 years has set Illini Nation a-speculatin’ this week.  Who’s next in line?  Why now with no Chancellor in place?  What does this mean for Coaches Zook and Weber?

Word is Guenther may next work for the Big 10 Conference and old pal Jim Delaney,  and he could also continue to assist the UofI with the Assembly Hall renovation project.  But what about another, more intriguing alternative?  Think:  Ronnie the G. as Governor of Illinois…  Is it really such a stretch?  Consider, if you will, the current clown-show and recall the once-and-future felons who’ve recently held the post.  Then consider this humble Top 10 list of Guenther’s qualifications…

  • Ethics.  Guenther has insisted on NCAA compliance since his first days as AD, calling “the integrity component” of his tenure one of his proudest achievements.  The Illini have been squeaky clean for two decades – a contrast from the 60s-80s.  Now consider the ethics of such stalwarts as Mike Madigan, Blago, and Quinn.  The cynics among us might say there’s no place in Illinois politics for ethics and integrity, but we’ll ignore them this time.
  • Fiscal Responsibility.  According to the Venerable One and others, Illini Athletics have operated in the black for many years.  That’s right: Guenther brought in more money than he spent.  Just chew on that one mentally for a moment as you consider Illinois government.  And this as Guenther and the UofI improved the athletics facilities, including several big projects.  Detractors may claim that this is actually a weakness – that Guenther should have splashed around more cash, especially when going after certain coaching positions, but that’s a whole other argument.
  • Building and Infrastructure.  When Guenther arrived in Champaign and yours truly was a wide-eyed undergrad, the first order of business was emergency work on a deteriorating Memorial Stadium.  The state of the stadium was indicative of the rest of the Athletics holdings, which have been consistently upgraded and built the last two decades.  The south end of campus has undergone a transformation.  With the most recent upgrades to the stadium finished, the Red Grange statute completed, alumni go to football games with heads high.  And Guenther did it while operating in the black.  Could he do the same with Illinois roads and building projects?  Continue reading

Jury of his peers?

Jury selection is under way for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (and his hair) in Chicago.  It’s a retrial, as you recall, because in our last go around the defense attorneys managed to convince one weak-minded individual that “she couldn’t be responsible for sending him [Blago] away for that long”.  Never mind about deliberating on the facts of the case separately.

Of course this was the Team Blago strategy from the get-go:  seek out as much free publicity as humanly possible, thus interfering with a potential jury pool, then attempt to stock the jury with at least a few fools who could be somehow manipulated or .  Now comes round two.  We have one woman who warned the judge about the trial interfering with her tickets to the last Oprah show.  We have a claustrophobic and other characters.   Continue reading

Ryan Shows the Courage to Lead

On one side of Washington, the fringe-right of the GOP is using the budget crisis and Tea-Party momentum as an excuse to cut into those social and cultural programs they don’t like.  The Speaker and others with more practical goals look miserable.  On the other side of town, Harry Reed and the Democrats remain in denial about the consequences of their tax-and-spend antics.  Where’s the President?  Waiting it out like a true politician, hoping to make hay for next year’s election.  He’s certainly not proposing any reforms or worthwhile fiscal policy.

The President’s many admirers in the media like to refer to him as “the grownup in the room”, but it’s a Congressman from Wisconsin who’s showing the moxy and vision we need.  Paul Ryan unveiled a long-term budget plan yesterday.  It’s ambitious.  It cut’s approximately $6 Trillion according to his figures.  And here’s the thing: it addresses the unsustainable burden of Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll recall that Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense Spending comprise the holy trinity responsible for the lion’s share of U.S. spending.  Meanwhile, the rest of the Democrats and Republicans are niggling over cuts to everything else, turning a blind eye to the true fiscal problems.

It’s a bold and risky movie, acknowledged by Ryan as he made the rounds yesterday.  And sure enough, Nancy Pelosi issued a vague statement about ‘starving seniors” while the MSNBC crowd pitched this as the “death of Medicare”.  There are reasons why the politicians don’t want to tackle these entitlements.  Seniors vote and they like their healthcare.  But we have to do this.  We cannot continue down the current path. Continue reading

Some Numbers for the Week

  • 16,000 - the number of votes separating Quinn from Brady for Governor of Illinois out of $3.4 million cast.  If you’re a Republican you have to be frustrated with the margin.  How many of those ballots for Quinn were cast by dead people or were repeat-ballots in Democratic Machine strongholds?  It’s Illinois, so you never know and you never will.
  • Four – the number of Illinois counties Quinn carried in this election.  These include very slim margins in Alexander (Cairo), Jackson (Carbondale), and St. Clair (Metro East), and, oh yeah – Cook County…
  • 19 – the net gain for Republicans in State Legislative chambers (State Houses of Reps and State Senates) across the country.  A statistic you didn’t hear about Tuesday night, but one worth considering.  Before the election, Dems held majorities in about 60% of these state legislatures; now that number is 60% to the GOP.
  • $41 billion – current estimated total budget deficit for California ($19 billion), Illinois ($13 billion), and New York  ($9 billion).  Three states that have been firmly under Democratic control for at least a decade (yes, Arnold notwithstanding), and those deficits rise considerably if you take into consideration their state pension obligations.  Aren’t those entitlement programs grand?  And yet, in Illinois at least, the Dems maintain their stranglehold on state government…

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Prudent Jurisprudence

Blago was in rare form the other day.  After the deadlocked jury could only convict him on one count (lying to to the feds – but hey, he’s a politician and it goes with the job description) causing a mistrial and retrial to come, he stood their and lambasted Patrick Fitzgerald and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, accusing them of “persecution”.  Never mind that he’s now a convicted felon.

He talked of “policemen gunned down in the streets” and “children who can’t play in their front yards”.  Never mind that it was his so-called leadership and political strategy that led Illinois to its current $13 billion deficit, stretching law enforcement across the state to the breaking point, expanding so many’s dependence on government programs that they cannot function without their monthly taxpayer provided checks.

The Tribune’s John Kass provides an excellent take on the immediate Blago reaction, and also lambasts those jurors who want the smoking briefcase and CSI-style resolution in 50 minutes.  As Kass rightly points out, the process of legal prosecution in this country is deeply flawed.  So much of it hinges on jury selection, and how does that work? Continue reading

The Anger of the Ides of March

Like most adults, I understand and accept my burden as a taxpayer in this great country.  It’s part and parcel of being an American.  You may not exercise your right to vote, but by God you’ll pay the taxes.  (Unless you’re poor, in which case you’ll probably do neither…) And yet when mid-March rolls around, the tax forms roll in, the anger starts to set in.  If it weren’t for college basketball, MLS getting started, and the improving weather to temper my mood, I’d probably be a real handful.  So consider, if you will, some of the recent developments to make tax day ever more joyful:

  • Taxpayer-fueled bonuses to Wall Street Executives, most of whom contributed mightily to the recession
  • Tons of government programs that seem to give incentives for  not working and contributing to society
  • The State of Illinois $13 Billion in the hole and the governor playing chicken with the legislature over education dollars
  • If you get a refund check from the IRS, you’ve essentially given them a short-term interest free loan; if you owe them in the end, you can bet your ass they’re charging you interest (just doesn’t seem right, does it?)
  • All levels of government seem to favor creating programs and services to consolidate their hold in power rather than, you know, governing and providing the basics to society (I realize this is a broad statement, but it sure seems that way of late…) Continue reading