AFSCME Local 3549, Jacksonville Correctional Center
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AFSCME issues "fact sheet" on prison
Pontiac Daily Leader on June 12, 2004
AFSCME Council 31, which represents employees of Pontiac Correctional Center, today issued a "Legislative Fact Sheet" on why PCC should be kept open.
The Illinois Senate on May 31 approved a Democratic Party-controlled budget which included funding for Pontiac Correctional Center only through December and then funding for the remainder of the fiscal year for Thomson Correctional Center.
This budget has not been approved by the Illinois House. This budget if approved would mean that PCC would be closed by the end of the year.
"This closure would undermine the safety of prison staff and inmates, and jeopardize important corrections programs. And while some in the Governor's administration claim it would save money, those savings -- which are dubious at best -- would come at too high a cost to DOC and Livingston County," according to AFSCME.
PCC is a maximum-security prison with the primary function of housing DOC's disciplinary segregation population -- inmates whose violent or anti-social behavior requires that they be kept segregated from other prisoners, the union's statement said.
The fact sheet also made the following statements:
In 1996, in an effort to control the increasing violence in the prison system, Pontiac was converted to handle the most aggressive prisoners. Beds, toilets and sinks in segregation cells were embedded in concrete and cell bars were replaced with perforated steel panels. Food hatches were constructed that eliminate the throwing of food or other projectiles. Catwalks were rebuilt to make them fully encased and to provide sight lines to galleries with no blind spots. These changes have decreased assaults by 60 percent, according to AFSCME.
"Thomson was not designated to handle these violent inmates. Upgrading the facility to the Pontiac standard would require significant additional time and expense," states the fact sheet.
AFSCME also addressed the issue of double-celling maximum-security inmates.
"Most states do not double-cell maximum security inmates -- it is a violation of American Correctional Association accreditation standards to do so, Yet at Pontiac, a facility that is supposedly focused on segregation, fully 37 percent of inmates are double- or multi-celled -- most of them inmates in protective custody," according to AFSCME.
Pontiac is one of only three maximum-security facilities remaining in Illinois after the closing of Joliet Correctional Center in 2002. AFSCME said that double-celling is much worse at Illinois' other two maximum-security prisons. At Stateville 87 percent of inmates are double- or multi-celled and 88 percent are double-celled at Menard.
"Double-celling impacts safety. There were inmate deaths in the last nine months in DOC facilities -- as many as in the previous five years. Three were in maximum facilities and were directly liked to double-celling. The solution is not to replace PCC by opening Thomson, but to open Thomson and reduce the double-celling," AFSCME said.
The AFSCME-released information also details budgetary concerns and voices concerns about what would happen to Pontiac's 94-bed mental health unit and if Thomson could be configured in less than six months to take that unit as well as the condemned unit and the orientation unit.

Governor: AFSCME contract will save money
Blagojevich admits junk food tax is under discussion
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
12 June 2004
Gov. Rod Blagojevich insisted Friday that the state will save money from a new contract with union employees, even though it awards double-digit raises over four years.
The governor also acknowledged that a so-called junk food tax is back on the budget bargaining table. This time, he did not flatly say he'd veto it.
A day after the state and its largest union - the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 - reached agreement on a contract, Blagojevich refused to discuss details of the pact, while calling it a good deal for everyone.
"I think you'll find it's an agreement that not only is fair to the men and women who work in state government, but one that is very careful and sensitive with the taxpayers' money," he said. "The state will save money overall over the course of several years."
Legislative sources in contact with union members said the deal includes raises totaling 17 percent over the next four years. However, union employees will have to contribute 4 percent of their salaries to their pensions, reducing the total increase to 13 percent. The state began making the 4 percent pension contribution in lieu of a pay raise in 1991.
Sources said the employees will get a raise of at least 5 percent beginning July 1 but will also start paying 2 percent of their salaries to the pensions. On Jan. 1, the state will take another 2 percent out of checks for pensions, meaning employees will still end up with a net pay raise during a year that the state faces at least a $2.3 billion budget deficit.
The remaining pay raises will be spread out over the final three years of the contract, with the largest increases coming in the later years.
In addition to making pension contributions, employees will have to pay more for health-care and prescription-drug benefits.
Even legislative leaders who met with Blagojevich Friday weren't told how the contract will affect spending in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
"He (Blagojevich) didn't seem to have much detail about it," said Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson of Greenville. "I don't know what the net amount is."
"They were unable to describe what the cost of the AFSCME contract would be," said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. "They (the leaders) asked about the cost, but the administration was unable to provide it."
The administration has said that a 4 percent pension contribution from the 37,000 AFSCME members is worth about $60 million. Each 1 percent increase in salary for those workers costs the state about $15 million.
Asked how much the contract will save the state, Blagojevich said, "Ask me next week."
AFSCME members are in the process of ratifying the contract, which could take two weeks.
Blagojevich and the four legislative leaders met for more than two hours Friday and reported progress in negotiating a fiscal 2005 budget but said much work remains.
"There's some real contentious issues out there still," Watson said. "I think we are still a long way from a decision. The whole issue of spending has not even been addressed."
Instead, talks have focused on revenue hikes needed to balance any budget, including a sales tax on junk food and non-carbonated soft drinks. Two weeks ago, Blagojevich said he would veto any bill that extends the sales tax to beverages such as iced tea and fruit drinks. He did not repeat that pledge Friday, but he did not embrace the tax idea, either.
"It's being discussed. I'm unenthusiastic about it," Blagojevich said.
It's estimated the tax could raise $100 million.
Blagojevich said he had no plans to call lawmakers back into special session to deal with the budget. After the General Assembly missed the May 31 constitutional deadline to pass a budget, the leaders sent rank-and-file members home.
"As long as we are making progress in these discussions I don't see a need for (a special session)," the governor said. "If we get a sense that there isn't good faith going on, that this is about running out the clock and playing games and playing politics, then at the appropriate time I will make that adjustment."
Another negotiating session won't be held until Wednesday. That's the day Madigan plans to have the five House appropriations committees start hearings on how much money is needed to keep basic state services in place after July 1.
"We want to make sure there is no disruption of services in the new fiscal year," Brown said.
Madigan, meanwhile, is responding to Blagojevich's attacks that Madigan and the House are not acting responsibly in the budget debate. Blagojevich has said the overtime session is the result of the House not approving a spending plan he endorsed and that an austerity budget promoted by Madigan will shortchange education and health care.
Madigan sent letters to several newspapers, including The State Journal-Register, saying Blagojevich wants to increase spending by $750 million "without offering a realistic plan by which to pay for it."
"To browbeat lawmakers into signing off on his spendthrift proposal, the governor has elected to cast those who believe that state government must live within its means as the enemies of children and the sick," Madigan wrote.
 

AFSCME, state make a deal
Union members will vote on 4-year contract
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
11 June 2004
Illinois' largest state-employee union reached tentative agreement with Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration on a new four-year contract Thursday, heading off the possibility of a crippling strike this summer.
Neither the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 nor the administration would disclose details of the contract until union members have had a chance to ratify it. However, both sides said the agreement is fair to the 37,000 state workers it covers and is financially responsible for a state facing at least a $2.3 billion budget deficit.
"To the extent the state can afford anything, they can afford this," said AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer. "It would be hard to point at the state contract and say that's where the (budget) problem lies."
"We think the members will be very happy with the contract," Bayer added.
Blagojevich issued a written statement calling the tentative agreement "both fair to state workers and responsible given the state's financial difficulties. We believe the agreement represents progress for union members and the state..."
The tentative contract does not rule out the possibility that layoffs could occur as part of a budget compromise for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
"There are no guarantees against layoffs," Bayer said. "There is still the threat of facilities being closed. We hope the (budget negotiators) will not allow that to happen."
"Layoffs and the contract agreement have nothing to do with each other," said Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch, adding that the administration continues to have no plans to lay off employees.
The often-contentious contract negotiations stretched for months. The administration not only wanted to keep pay raises to a minimum, negotiators wanted state workers to resume contributing 4 percent of their salaries to their pensions. The state assumed those pension payments in 1991 in lieu of a pay raise during another budget crisis.
The current four-year contract, which expires June 30, granted pay raises that compounded are worth 19.3 percent. That includes both cost-of-living and longevity increases.
The tentative agreement was reached about 6 a.m. Thursday after an all-night negotiating session in Peoria.
Bayer said the pace of negotiations picked up about two weeks ago, about the time thousands of state workers held a rally in Springfield to protest their treatment at the hands of the Blagojevich administration. Employees are bitter about layoffs, facility closures and the administration's hard line on contract negotiations.
"It could have been coincidental, but it couldn't have been lost on the administration that our members very much wanted to get the contract settled," Bayer said.
Contract summaries are being prepared and will be distributed to all 85 AFSCME locals. Union representatives will review the contract details with rank-and-file members in the next few days, prior to the membership voting on the pact. Bayer said voting will be completed in a couple of weeks.
The 250-member bargaining committee unanimously recommended the contract, a first for the union, Bayer said. Rank-and-file AFSCME members have never rejected a contract recommended by the bargaining committee.
 

VANDALIA PRISON STILL UNDER DEBATE, BUT DOC PREPARES FOR CLOSURE
BY MATT ADRIAN
FOR THE SOUTHERN
[Thu Jun 10 2004]
SPRINGFIELD -- Vandalia Correctional Center will remain open until the current budget dispute is settled, but the Illinois Department of Corrections is continuing to prepare for the prison's possible closure.
"It is not in the '05 budget and until something definitive happens that's the path we're proceeding down," said Sergio Molina, a DOC spokesman.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich cut the minimum-security prison from his proposed fiscal 2005 budget stating that Illinois needed to make better use of newer facilities. He said the closing Vandalia would save money and help bridge a $2.3 billion deficit. He has since put Pontiac Correctional Center on the chopping block too.
In March, the governor's office sent a letter to city of Vandalia mayor Ricky Gottman stating the administration planned to keep the prison running normally.
"It is the Administration's intent to not begin transferring inmates out of the Vandalia Facility until a final decision has been made regarding the closure," wrote Deputy Chief of Staff Julie Curry. "It is also not our intent to stop the intake of prisoners in the facility."
However, Molina confirmed Thursday that DOC has stopped sending new prisoners to VCC in preparation for a possible closure.
Gottman said the decision is a breach of the agreement made by the governor's office.
"He said there would be no change in day-to-day operations," Gottman said. "No increase in the number of inmates that is a change in day-to-day operations. His office has broken their promise."
 

Illinois workers picket across state for contract
Pressure to cut pay, union says
By Stephen Franklin
Tribune staff reporter
May 18, 2004
To show their displeasure with five-month-old contract talks, hundreds of state employees briefly picketed Monday at state facilities across Illinois.
About 37,000 state workers belong to Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which has been bargaining for a new contract to replace one that expires June 30.
"We are seeing significant pressure from the current administration to effectively reduce employees' pay," said Anders Lindal, a union spokesman in Chicago.
The state, according to Lindal, is asking for an increase in the workers' share of healthcare coverage costs. It also wants to stop paying the workers' share of pension costs, he said.
Under a contract signed in 1991, the union accepted a wage freeze in the first year of the three-year deal, and in exchange, the state agreed to shoulder the cost of the workers' annual contributions toward pension plans, according to union officials. These payments are 4 to 5.5 percent of workers' annual salaries.
In the last contract signed in 2000, workers received a 15 percent pay increase over the four years of the agreement.
State officials said they would not comment on the talks while negotiations are under way. But Becky Carroll, a spokeswoman for the governor's Office of Management and Budget, said that "the budget is designed to instill fiscal discipline in very tough times."
The union's rank and file among state employees has shrunk by about 15 percent since 1991, and much of the decline is linked to job cutbacks and retirements. The average salary for the union's state employees is $41,800 a year, union officials said.

Budget chief assails Ryan-era retirement plan
By Kevin McDermott 
Wednesday, May. 05 2004
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - In a showdown between politics past and present, Gov. Rod
Blagojevich's budget director alleged Wednesday that former Gov. George Ryan's
administration had misled legislators into approving an early retirement
program that could cost $310 million more than expected this year.
The budget director, John Filan, called for a special investigation.
A former Ryan administration official denied the allegation and
suggested that Blagojevich was looking for others to blame because his
administration's budget plan was "falling apart."
At a news conference in Springfield, Filan announced that state-hired actuaries
late last week got to the bottom of a nagging discrepancy in the state's
pension system. He said the experts had confirmed that an early retirement
program approved under Ryan would cost $2.5 billion over 10 years, instead of
the $622 million that was estimated when the Legislature approved it in 2002.
For the next fiscal year, that could translate into a $380 million state
payment to the state's pension systems - instead of the $70 million that had
been anticipated.
"We are confident (that) members of the General Assembly were misled, plain and
simple," Filan said. "If ever there was a poster child for fiscal mismanagement
... this is it."
That program - which encouraged 11,000 state employees to retire early in an
attempt to trim the state payroll - quadrupled its original estimated cost
largely because more people signed on than the Ryan administration publicly had
predicted, Filan said. He also blamed changes in the program that were made
after the original plan was put forward and hundreds of millions of dollars in
what he said were errors in putting the plan together.
Filan called on the state comptroller's office and the Illinois Economic and
Fiscal Commission to investigate why it happened and how it can be avoided in
the future.
"Two billion dollars (off on the cost estimate) doesn't 'just happen,'" Filan
said. "... What we're asking is, what happened, and why?"
When asked whether he believed there was criminal wrongdoing involved, Filan
replied: "I have no idea."
Stephen Schnorf, who was state budget director under Ryan, responded that it
was "an insult" to allege there was any intentional misleading involved in the
approval of the early retirement program. "The numbers we came up with were our
very best estimate," Schnorf said. "There was never any attempt to mislead the
General Assembly."
Schnorf suggested Blagojevich's people were trying to avoid blame because "the
budget he's proposed (this year) is falling apart" at the hands of skeptical
legislators. He acknowledged that the early retirement program ended up costing
more than expected, but said the Blagojevich administration's numbers on the
issue are so "shockingly far apart" from the original estimates that the new
numbers may be suspect.
"Could we have been that far off? ... We could have been off maybe 25 percent
... but 300 percent? There's something that doesn't add up," Schnorf said.
Schnorf also noted the state's current budget crisis would be worse if not for
the early retirement program. "Ask John if he'd rather have the 11,000
employees back," Schnorf said.
Ryan, a Republican, was governor between 1999 and 2003. Blagojevich, a
Democrat, took office in January 2003.
In the fiscal year that starts July 1, the state faces a budget shortfall
estimated at $1.7 billion and blamed largely on the stagnant economy.
Blagojevich's plan for dealing with that shortfall has included business taxes
that are unpopular with many legislators.
 


 Health Alliance given reprieve
State workers' insurance will be rebid

By MARY MASSINGALE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU

3 May 2004

The contracts for state employees' group health insurance will be rebid, after a week of protests of the proposed July 1 dropping of the Health Alliance insurance company.

Michael Rumman, director of the state Department of Central Management Services, refused to say the initial contract-bidding process was flawed, as some critics have contended. However, he said Monday that "a lack of confidence in the process" had persuaded him to start over with the bidding.

"For an issue this important and a contract award this significant, we need the process of selecting vendors to be perceived by all as open, transparent and fair," Rumman said at a Statehouse news conference.

About 300 Health Alliance enrollees rallied in front of the Capitol before Rumman's announcement, urging CMS officials to keep the Urbana-based health insurance provider as a choice for state government workers and retirees.

All current health-care benefits will remain intact while the state rebids the $600 million, five-year contracts, which is expected to take anywhere from 60 days to six months. Beneficiaries will have their annual benefits choice period from late May to mid-June based on current vendors.

When the new contract-bidding process is finished and winners are selected, beneficiaries will have another time period in which to choose their health plan.

However, the state's switch from VSP to Spectera for vision-care needs remains on track for July 1.

Under the original, competitively bid contract awards, Health Alliance - which covers 90,000 state workers and retirees in downstate Illinois - was to be dropped July 1, along with OSF Health Plans and Unicare. UnitedHealthcare and John Deere Health were to be two new managed-care plans that would be offered with existing PersonalCare, HealthLink and HMO Illinois. The state's indemnity plan, Quality Care, also will continue to be offered.

However, Health Alliance, OSF Health Plans and Unicare protested the bidding process that led to the contract awards, saying the state had relied on inaccurate savings projections. The three companies also claim no questions were asked about their provider discounts - a key element in the state's proposed switch from fully insured managed-care plans to self-insured managed care.

Fully insured plans call for the state to pay premiums, and the company pays for any excess claims. Self-insured plans call for the state to pay no premiums but pay for the cost of all claims.

While speaking before the House State Government Administration Committee, Rumman said the state's proposed move toward self-insurance is simply following the private-sector trend, noting that 92 percent of all businesses with at least 20,000 employees use self-insurance because it is more cost-effective.

"We have needed to catch up to the times for a very, very long time," said Rumman.

Any movement to a self-insurance system must be approved by the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission, a bipartisan panel of House and Senate members. The same panel also reviews all contracts for state workers' group health insurance, although Rumman disagreed with the argument that its approval is needed.

Jeffrey Ingrum of Health Alliance said most large, private businesses have financial reserves to dig into when claim costs run higher than projected. The state develops a budget each year, Ingrum said, and could run short of cash if claim costs overshoot projections.

"That's my concern - if they run out of money, that will affect payments and claims to providers," said Ingrum, who serves as chief executive officer of Health Alliance. "And they don't have huge financial reserves to dig into."

A Republican lawmaker on Monday also questioned the "political machinations" behind the awarding of the five winning contracts.

McKinsey & Co. has a one-year, $14 million consulting contract to assess all procurements made by the state, and Rep. Bill Black of Danville hinted that David Wilhelm was somehow involved in the contract award to UnitedHealthcare by speculating about "a very prominent member early on of this administration and the Bill Clinton administration."

Wilhelm is a high-profile political strategist and former Democratic National Committee chairman who managed Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. Wilhelm also is helping Gov. Rod Blagojevich create a new political committee to support legislative candidates.

Rumman later denied any involvement with either Wilhelm or UnitedHealthcare. A spokeswoman for Wilhelm & Conlon Public Strategies - the consulting group that Wilhelm founded but recently left - also denied any connection with UnitedHealthcare or its lobbyist, longtime Springfield Republican Bob Kjellander.

"We don't have a relationship with Kjellander or Springfield Consulting Group," said Heath

State workers' health plans under scrutiny
Dropping three companies sparks criticism

By MARY MASSINGALE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU

28 April 2004

An Urbana lawmaker has requested a special legislative hearing to scrutinize the process used to award state health insurance contracts that eliminated Health Alliance and two other current insurance plans from the choices offered state workers as of July 1.

The contract changes are in part the fallout of the state's decision to become largely self-insured in terms of health insurance offered to 350,000 state workers, retirees and others. The new system should be more cost-effective, according to Paul Sollitto, a deputy director of Central Management Services.

However, executives from the dropped health insurance plans say the new system seems to be designed to generate savings by stretching out payments to clinics and hospitals.

In addition, they said the state appears to have used inaccurate estimates of health costs in the contract process, further endangering the state's already precarious fiscal condition.

"We want to have this hearing so that we can get all of this out in the open and find out what went wrong to get it overturned," said Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana. Health Alliance is based in her legislative district.

Health Alliance, which currently covers 90,000 state workers, retirees and others in downstate Illinois, is one of three state health insurance plans that will not be offered as of July. The others being dropped on July 1 are OSF Health Plans and Unicare.

The changes are due in part to the state's decision to convert its employee group health insurance from mostly fully insured managed-care to self-insured managed-care. Managed-care plans restrict an enrollee to a designated network of doctors, clinics and hospitals. Those plans currently include Health Alliance, OSF Health Plans,Unicare, PersonalCare, HealthLink and HMO Illinois.

Fully insured managed-care plans call for the state to pay companies a premium for future medical costs of enrollees. The insurance company pays any costs beyond the premiums, so the company assumes the risk of any health cost overruns.

Self-insured managed-care plans call for the state to pay no premiums but to pay for all claims, thereby assuming all of the financial risk. The state also pays the insurance companies an administrative fee to process claims.

Of the six managed-care plans listed above, HealthLink already is self-insured managed care.

"Is that the best approach for a financially struggling state?" asked Jeffrey Ingrum, chief executive officer for Urbana-based Health Alliance.

Yes, according to an official with Central Management Services, the state's personnel agency.

"Insurance is an actuarial game," Sollitto said. "The larger the pool of beneficiaries, the smaller the overall cost. The fact that we have such a large base, the risk is minimal" that the state would overshoot its projected costs.

However, others note that under fully insured managed-care plans, payment to doctors, clinics and other providers is required within a certain time. Payment cycles are more lax under self-insured managed-care plans because the health insurance companies only pay the claims at the state's direction, creating a possible cash-flow advantage for the state.

"That may be a possible motivation," said Mark Kuhn, an assistant administrator at Springfield Clinic.

But Sollitto said the state has a timely payment cycle with its own self-insured indemnity plan, Quality Care.

An indemnity plan differs from a managed-care plan in that it charges higher premiums but allows enrollees to pick any doctor and pay usually 20 percent of costs.

Sollitto acknowledged that payment cycles last year for Quality Care were running about 116 days after claims were filed, but he said they have now been chiseled down to about 28 days.

But Ingrum and others questioned how accurate the state's cost projections are for the new self-insured managed-care plans that will go into effect July 1. Health Alliance, OSF Health Plans and Unicare were not awarded contracts, while UnitedHealthcare and John Deere Health will join the other three existing managed-care insurance companies.

Health Alliance and OSF Health Plans have filed protests with CMS over the contract awards, charging that the contract proposals asked only for a per-enrollee monthly cost estimate. But CMS failed to provide any claims data for the cost estimates, Ingrum said, leaving each bidding company to come up with its own.

Jeff Koch with Peoria-based OSF Health Plans said he questions the accuracy of the cost-estimate comparisons.

"We're really asking for information on how they made the decision," Koch said. "We're just as confused as everyone else."

Union officials and lawmakers also share that confusion. The state's three-year contract with 37,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees expires June 30, and the loss of Health Alliance may become an issue.

"We are concerned about the potential disruption in health care service to our members," said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 31. "It's possible that this change may be subject to negotiations."

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has assigned the issue to the State Government Administration Committee, which will meet at 2 p.m. Monday.


Mary Massingale can be reached at 782-6882 or mary.massingale@sj-r.com.


 
 

Ex-Shawnee warden is slain in Kosovo
  By H. Gregory Meyer, Tribune staff reporter. The Associated Press contributed to this report
April 21, 2004
The former warden of Shawnee Correctional Center in southern Illinois was among the two American guards killed by a fellow United Nations policeman from Jordan in a shooting Saturday outside a Kosovo prison, officials said.
Kim Bigley, 47, of Paducah, Ky., had run the Downstate men's prison from January until October 2003, when she was fired by Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration, state corrections officials said.
She and the other American who was killed, Lynn Williams, 48 of Elmont, N.Y., were employees of DynCorp International, a unit of El Segundo, Calif.-based Computer Sciences Corp., which contracts with the State Department to provide police officers in Kosovo, company officials said.
The Jordanian officer opened fire on their group as it left a training session at the prison. He was killed after a 10-minute shootout.
Bigley began her 19-year career with the Illinois Corrections Department as a jail guard in the Jacksonville Correctional Center in 1984, said Dede Short, a department spokeswoman. Bigley became Shawnee's warden in January 2003.
After she was fired last fall, she and several other former Illinois corrections employees filed federal lawsuits against Blagojevich. Bigley alleged she was unfairly yanked for her Republican affiliations and for speaking out on policy issues.
"Since that time, she's been looking for work locally but was unable to find work, so her only option was to accept a position with the private company going to Kosovo," said Scott Schimanski, the Joliet-based attorney who filed the suit on her behalf.
Sergio Molina, a Corrections Department spokesman, said that wardens serve at the pleasure of the governor and his corrections chief and may be relieved of their duties at will.
 

Ryan pal pleads guilty to perjury
The Associated Press
April 21, 2004, 3:32 PM CDT
A former state senator admitted Wednesday that he collected a $60,000 lobbying fee despite doing virtually no work for a year on a job he got through former Gov. George Ryan.
Arthur "Ron'' Swanson, 77, a former Republican state senator from suburban Homer Glen, pleaded guilty to lying to a federal grand jury.
Swanson admitted he falsely claimed that a law firm lobbying for the $800 million expansion of Chicago's McCormick Place convention center told him it was looking for help with the project.
Swanson conceded he also lied when he said an authority official told him the law firm needed his help and again when he testified under oath that he met in Springfield with lawmakers and the firm every two to four weeks.
He was hired to lobby on behalf of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which operates McCormick Place and Navy Pier.
"Contrary to his grand jury testimony, the defendant did not meet with representatives of Firm A but rather had few if any substantive conversations with discussions about MPEA business'' in the first year of his contract, said Swanson's signed, 13-page plea agreement.
It said he "performed virtually no lobbying or consulting work on behalf of MPEA.''
Swanson is a longtime Ryan friend whose son worked in the secretary of state's office under Ryan.
Missing from the document was any agreement to testify as a prosecution witness if Ryan, who is under indictment on racketeering charges along with lobbyist Larry Warner, goes to trial.
Swanson might be able to save himself some time behind bars by cooperating with federal prosecutors. The agreement postpones his sentencing until after any Ryan trial and says that as things stand federal guidelines most likely will call for a sentence of six months to a year.
Prosecutors agreed to drop remaining counts in the indictment, which also charged Swanson with lying about other lobbying, including his contract to help tiny Grayville get a maximum-security prison.
Swanson learned on Feb. 23, 2001, that Ryan had chosen Grayville, the indictment said. It said he then landed a contract on March 2 to lobby for the southern Illinois community. He was paid $50,000 for his services and later lied about the contract before a federal grand jury, the indictment said.
The indictment said Swanson also gave money to a high-ranking official of the governor's office to gamble on a trip to Lake Tahoe, Nev. Prosecutors have not disclosed whether the official was Ryan.

HARD TIME FOR PRISON

RICH MILLER
 07 MARCH 2004

 


During the 2002 campaign, gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich traveled to Vandalia, in southern Illinois, and spoke to a large crowd of union members. Most of those union members worked at the local state prison.

Blagojevich pledged to the prison workers that, if elected governor, "I will never balance the budget on your backs."

Fast-forward to February, 2004. Governor Rod Blagojevich proposes closing the very same Vandalia prison and laying off the hundreds of workers whom he swore to protect during the 2002 campaign. To say that the prison workers feel double-crossed would be putting it mildly.

For years, Department of Corrections employees have been reliable Republican voters. Many of the old-timers obtained their jobs through Republican political connections, and many of the downstate prisons were built in Republican areas.

But a solid year of deep budget cuts and layoffs by Governor George Ryan had soured many prison workers on the Republican Party. When Blagojevich came along, lots of them eagerly volunteered to work on his campaign. Jim Ryan, Blagojevich's Republican opponent, refused to rule out more layoffs in the prison system. The choice was pretty easy.

A couple of weeks ago, hundreds of Vandalia prison workers and their friends and relatives traveled to Springfield to protest the proposed prison closure and object to what has to be the single most spectacular flip-flop by this governor. They repeated the trek last week.

The workers appear to have the facts on their side. It costs the state $23,000 per year to house an inmate at the Vandalia Correctional Center (VCC). The brand-new prison in Lawrence County, where the VCC inmates will be moved, has a per-inmate cost of $25,000. Governor Blagojevich claims he can save $30 million by closing the prison, but prison boosters say it will actually cost the state $32 million to close the prison.

Plus, the prison has a work farm and other industries that generate $2 million a year in profits. The products are used by other state prisons, and the prison workers provide services to local communities. The food and other products produced at VCC won't be replaced when the facility is shuttered.

Only 71 of the 500 or so VCC workers will find jobs at the Lawrence facility. The rest may be out of luck. The local unemployment rate could rise to 13 percent if the prison closes. The workers who will have to move fear they may not be able to sell their homes.

The prison is in Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson's legislative district. The Vandalia Leader Union ran an editorial recently which pointed out that after Sen. Watson refused to cooperate with the governor during last year's spring session, Blagojevich fired the Vandalia warden and had him escorted out of the building under police guard. The warden was a personal friend of Watson's.

The governor claimed not long ago that he had no idea that the Vandalia prison was in Watson's district. Lots of people found that statement a bit hard to swallow, however, including Watson. Plenty of people believe that Blagojevich has proposed closing the prison to either retaliate again for Watson's uncooperative manner, or to force him to the bargaining table and make him put Senate Republican votes on the final budget agreement in exchange for keeping his prison open.

Finding the $30 million to keep Vandalia open won't be easy. The governor's budget proposal woefully underfunds education, and pressure is building to give schools as much as $250 million more. Some of the corporate tax loopholes that he wants to get rid of are proving to be more popular than first assumed, creating another $50 million hole, or thereabouts. If the union which represents state workers refuses, as expected, to give in to his demand that its members pick up their own pension payments, that will blow another $60 million hole in the budget.

Frank Watson is a stubborn man who isn't easily intimidated. Last year, he refused to offer any suggestions during the budget negotiations, and did his best to keep his members from voting for the final product.

But if Watson wants to keep his prison open, he may have no choice but to cooperate this year. The governor's budget is so full of holes that patching just one of them to free up some money for Vandalia won't be enough.

 

Prisons, politics a common mix

Four years ago, then-Gov. George Ryan proudly announced he would build a new prison in poverty-stricken Hopkins Park, just outside his hometown of Kankakee. Today, the construction site is silent, the project abandoned.

Ryan's predecessor, Jim Edgar, used the power of his office to make a similar decision in 1998. He would build a prison in Thomson to create jobs for a region reeling from the closure of a federal Army depot. The prison was built but never opened, a victim of budget cuts.

Now Gov. Rod Blagojevich is the one exercising his power over prisons.

He already reopened one prison shut down by Ryan, and in last week's budget address he called for closing the Vandalia prison - located in the district of one of his most vocal legislative critics - and a juvenile prison in St. Charles.

His announcement launches another round in the highly competitive, and often political, competition for the jobs and tax revenue that accompany state prisons. The communities losing prisons under the governor's proposal are putting together a coalition of local officials, state lawmakers and union leaders in hopes of changing Blagojevich's mind.

Some lawmakers and prison experts are getting fed up.

They argue that decisions about opening and closing prisons - costly decisions that can affect crime rates and inmates' lives for years - should not depend on which town lobbies the hardest or where a governor needs to pick up votes.

"I don't see that this process has any integrity," said Jim Thomas, a criminal justice professor at Northern Illinois University.

One idea floated by Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin, is to set up a commission, much like the federal panel that reviews military bases, to study the state's prison needs and the best ways of meeting them.

The commission would make recommendations on which prisons to close and when to build new ones. Lawmakers could accept or reject the recommendations with some confidence that they were based on solid evidence.

"It takes the politics out of it," said Rauschenberger, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate. "This would raise everybody's level of understanding and assurance."

Blagojevich rejects the idea.

"I'm very much for more accountability, not less, and I don't feel it would be responsible of me to shift my responsibility as governor to avoid making the hard decisions by having a commission," he said.

For years, the state needed new prisons to house the growing number of inmates. Those prisons came to be considered prizes for small towns where factories had shut down and family farms were disappearing. Towns engaged in bidding wars to present the state with the most attractive package of land and infrastructure improvements.

City leaders in Grayville even hired a lobbyist with connections to Ryan. Now federal prosecutors say that lobbyist, Arthur Swanson, knew Ryan had already chosen Grayville when he took the town's $50,000 fee. Swanson is now under indictment.

The huge growth in the prison population - currently 53 percent more than the prisons were designed to hold - began slowing at roughly the same time the state's tax revenues bottomed out about four years ago. The state no longer needed new prisons as badly and couldn't afford its old ones.

Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline, endorses Rauschenberger's concept of an expert panel to make recommendations on future prisons. Jacobs, whose district includes the vacant Thomson prison, says a series of "fiascoes" proves the current system isn't working.

In recent years:

- Edgar ordered the Thomson prison built, but Ryan and now Blagojevich decided the state could not afford to staff it and let it sit empty.

- Ryan awarded a prison to Hopkins Park, but Blagojevich halted construction.

- Ryan decided to close a prison in Vienna but gave in to an intense lobbying campaign and instead shut down the Sheridan prison. Then Blagojevich, following through on a campaign promise, reopened Sheridan as a center for drug-addicted inmates.

Vandalia, a minimum-security prison that opened in 1921 and houses 1,044 inmates, lies in the district of Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville.

Blagojevich said he did not realize that when he decided to recommend closing the prison, but it still led to speculation that he was using the prison for leverage in his legislative battles with Watson.

Corrections Department spokesman Sergio Molina said his agency recommended closing Vandalia because the old prison needs costly improvements - $25 million over the next four years. The prison's annual cost of housing each inmate, $23,647, is the second-lowest of the four prisons in Vandalia's security class.

Likewise, the St. Charles facility has been targeted because it will need $13 million in improvements over the next few years, he said. The residents will be scattered to other facilities, he said, and a youth center in Joliet will become the main processing center for new juvenile inmates.

The average cost per inmate at St. Charles is $52,462, second-lowest among the eight youth centers.

James Coldren, president of the prison watchdog John Howard Association, agreed that "political muscle" should be removed from the prison decision process. But he also says Blagojevich has a reasonable argument against giving up control.

"He's the caretaker of the public's money," Coldren said. "If prisons are built and everything goes haywire, who gets the blame?"

More ex-state employees sue governor

By MIKE RAMSEY
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
21 Feb 2004
CHICAGO - Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich reneged on a promise not to fire productive state workers who were part of the previous Republican administration, a new group of federal lawsuits contends.
Seven former employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections contend they had a binding verbal "contract" with Blagojevich because he publicly said he wouldn't purge holdovers from Gov. George Ryan's tenure if the workers did their jobs.
Instead, the new administration dismissed the seven DOC workers in recent months "with no explanation, no hearing, no reason" so Blagojevich could replace them with political allies, Joliet labor attorney Scott Anthony Schimanski said Friday.
"The story may not be as good, even, if it wasn't for (Blagojevich) making speeches about how things have changed," he said. "In his speeches, he says it's not 'business as usual.'"
At least six of the seven employees were "senior public service administrators" earning salaries ranging from $4,456 per month to $9,705 per month, according to Illinois comptroller records. The seven worked at prisons or offices in central and southern Illinois, and all were considered "at-will" employees with unprotected jobs, meaning they served at the whim of the incumbent governor.
"These people served at the pleasure of the previous administration," Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said. "The law clearly states that a new governor has the right to hire people who share his agenda and goals. We can't imagine the courts will interpret the law differently."
In August, Blagojevich, facing massive budget problems, said state employees shouldn't necessarily fear for their jobs.
"We're not looking to purge state government of different men and women who are hired during Republican administrations," he said. "I would say to the men and women working in state government that if they're doing a job necessary for the public and doing it well, they have nothing to fear from this administration."
Schimanski argues that kind of statement constituted an offer of employment and that his clients accepted.
The civil-rights lawsuits name Blagojevich, Corrections director Roger Walker and his agency and a variety of other parties allegedly involved in the firings. Each ex-employee seeks millions in compensatory and punitive damages.
Schimanski identified the entire group of plaintiffs as Kim Bigley of Kentucky; Dwayne Clark of Carbondale; Sandra Kiddy-Brown of Springfield, brothers Mark and Norman Pierson of Murphysboro; Samuel Riley of Anna; and Thomas Snyder of Taylorville.
The lawsuits were filed in two waves over the past couple of weeks at Chicago's federal courthouse, rather than downstate, where the plaintiffs lived and worked.
"It's well-known that the governor of Illinois lives in Chicago," Schimanski said. "If the governor's going to live in Chicago, he's certainly going to be sued in Chicago."

Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol. com.
 

Vandalia will fight to keep prison
Residents meet to discuss Blagojevich's plan to close facility
 
By BRENDA PROTZ
CORRESPONDENT
 
20 Feb 2004
 
VANDALIA - When Steve Barker began working for the Illinois Department of Corrections more than 23 years ago, he had one goal: to get a job in Vandalia, where he and his family live.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich's announcement Wednesday that he plans to close the prison and work camp in Vandalia, about 80 miles southeast of Springfield, could end Barker's hopes.
Barker, 45, started his career at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro. He then transferred to Taylorville Correctional Center, where he has been for the past 14 years and is now the bureau of identifications supervisor.
He recently learned that the same position was opening up at Vandalia, so he applied for it.
"When you work in your community, it gives you time to be involved, plus being able to be there for your family," he said Thursday. "I am on the road two hours a day, and if something happens, I can't be right there."
Barker was among more than 500 concerned Vandalia-area citizens at an emergency meeting of the Vandalia City Council Wednesday night. They served notice that they aren't going to let the prison go without a fight.
Mayor Ricky Gottman pledged to do whatever possible to retain the more than 500 prison-related jobs.
"We would lose more than $300,000 a year in direct revenue from state taxes in the form of income tax, motor fuel tax and local use tax. We would lose an estimated $350,000 a year due to loss of sales tax revenues due to loss of income and residents," Gottman told the gathering.
He also cited a domino effect of additional job losses through other business failures and loss of revenue to schools.
Beyond the lost jobs and revenue, state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Mulberry Grove, was upset at the manner in which he learned of Blagojevich's plan.
"I'm angry. ... A friend of mine risked his job in the governor's office to call me. He was embarrassed. He wanted me to know what was being said," Stephens said.
"A man would have called and told me himself, but that's not what the governor did."
Stephens said the impact of closing the prison will be felt throughout the state.
"This is important to everybody. This isn't good public policy," he said, adding that the estimated $34 million in savings is misleading.
"These inmates will still need to be watched and fed, no matter where they go."
The prison's clinical supervisor, Arthur Langston, said he and the other employees are just trying to stay positive.
"Everybody is trying to hang together and keep our morale up," he said. "We are just trying to weather the storm and hope it doesn't happen."
Some at Wednesday night's meeting saw the Democratic governor's actions as a personal vendetta against the local senator, Frank Watson, a Greenville Republican. Watson, the Senate minority leader, has been among Blagojevich's most vocal critics.
Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said that wasn't the case. He said the department was told by the governor to see where it could cut corners. One of those corners was to close Vandalia.
"We had to take a look at the age of that facility, plus the capital expenditures," Molina said.
He said Corrections will do whatever it can to help displaced Vandalia employees. By moving inmates to Lawrence Correctional Center in Sumner, he said, 71 more jobs will be created. And between now and July 1, 2005, there could be as many as 850 Corrections jobs elsewhere in the state, Molina said.
But that would mean relocation, and Shannon Metzger is all too familiar with such moves.
Metzger, husband Rick and 3-year-old son Andrew moved to Vandalia after Rick's job as a youth supervisor at Valley View Youth Center in St. Charles ended because the center's closing. Now, the family could be looking at another transfer and another new town.
"He (Blagojevich) has no idea of the impact," she said. "He can't do this to a community like this. It's the livelihood of the whole town. Every citizen will suffer."
Brenda Protz can be reached through the metro desk at 788-1519.
 

John Kerry Gets Backing From AFL-CIO   
Thu Feb 19, 5:54 PM ET 
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Democratic front-runner John Kerry (news - web sites) earned the endorsement of the AFL-CIO Thursday, with the head of organized labor saying "the time has come to unite behind one man, one leader, one candidate."
 

 
 
  
Amid chants of "Kerry! Kerry!," the Massachusetts senator welcomed the support of a formidable ally as he tries to blunt rival John Edwards (news - web sites)' challenges to his position on trade.

"Today we stand united in a common cause and that common cause is not just to defeat George Bush, but it is to put our country back on track, on the road of prosperity, the road of fairness, the road of jobs," Kerry told the crowd.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called Kerry a friend of the working man as he urged labor to stand with one candidate. The AFL-CIO, comprised of 64 unions representing more than 13 million U.S. workers, is planning an unprecedented effort to mobilize their members to vote for Kerry.

In another coup for the Democrat, he was poised to pick up the backing of nine-term Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a leader in the civil rights movement whose support will be crucial in the state's March 2 primary. Georgia has 86 delegates at stake, and Southern-bred Edwards has made it a prime target.

The AFL-CIO endorsement comes as Edwards begins a tour of key political states that have lost manufacturing jobs. He continued his criticism of Kerry for voting for the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement that many workers blame for job losses. Edwards said he opposed NAFTA during his 1998 Senate campaign.

"As Senator Kerry himself has pointed out many times during this campaign, records matter," Edwards said. "I think there is a significant difference between us on this issue."

But Kerry said he and Edwards have the same policy on trade. Both voted for normalized trade relations with China and both want to see labor and environmental standards addressed in trade pacts, he said.

Although Edwards said he would have voted against NAFTA, Kerry said: "He wasn't in the Senate back then. I don't know where he registered his vote, but it wasn't in the Senate."

Kerry will pick up the AFL-CIO's endorsement despite his support for free trade, blamed by the unions for eroding their memberships and sending millions of jobs to other countries. But the unions are eager to show a united front headed into November's election after a bruising primary that used millions of labor dollars and exposed deep cracks in the movement.

In the Democratic primaries this year, those from labor households have made up anywhere from a fourth of the vote to a third of the vote in states such as Delaware, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin with a significant labor presence, according to exit polls.

Those voters tended to support Kerry, by narrow margins in Iowa and Wisconsin, and by a substantial margins from 20 to 40 percentage points in Missouri and Delaware.

The labor vote has been a significant part of the Democratic base, with union members voting for Al Gore (news - web sites) over George Bush by about a 2-to-1 margin in 2000, according to exit polls. Those in labor households made up a quarter of the vote, and they went for Gore by almost as big a margin.

Looking ahead to the general election, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said Kerry has evolved on the issue of trade and has the best chance of beating President Bush (news - web sites).

"He might not be there yet, but I think the more he campaigns, the more he realizes this entire election is going to come down to jobs," Hoffa said in an Associated Press interview Wednesday. "I think he's moving towards that. Everybody evolves."

The Teamsters originally supported Dick Gephardt (news - web sites) for president. But the Missouri congressman dropped out after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses, leaving the Teamsters and 18 other unions that formed the Alliance for Economic Justice with nowhere else to go.

Hoffa said the Teamsters can waver on the trade issue for a candidate with "a total package" who can win in November.
  
 
Edwards gave Kerry a scare in Wisconsin's primary Tuesday after highlighting his opposition to NAFTA and Kerry's vote for it. Edwards plans to continue the criticism as the two head toward upcoming nominating contests in Ohio, New York and Georgia.
Kerry, while in Wisconsin, often faced questions about his support of free trade and the movement of jobs overseas. The trend continued Wednesday in Ohio, which Kerry said has lost 160,000 manufacturing jobs since Bush took office.
___
 

Job cuts, tax hikes
Governor lays out his budget plan
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
19 FEB 2004
Gov. Rod Blagojevich called Wednesday for another round of state job cuts, facility closures and fee and tax increases on business to make up a $1.7 billion deficit in next year's state budget.
Blagojevich's spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 increases expenditures by nearly $1 billion, including a $400 million increase for public elementary and high schools and major hikes to cover health-care services for the poor and state government employees.
But critics contend Blagojevich is also relying on getting more money from Washington, which is far from certain, and is underfunding state pensions.
"This is not a balanced budget. It's more diversion and smoke and mirrors," said Sen. Steve Rauschenberger of Elgin, the Senate Republicans' budget expert.
In a 72-minute speech to a joint session of the General Assembly, Blagojevich said his budget plan was a matter of fairness.
"We are going to have to ask those who for a long time have benefited from the system to give something back, to lead in the shared sacrifice," he said.
Leading that list are Illinois businesses that will pay more in taxes and fees if lawmakers approve Blagojevich's budget. The governor wants to close what he calls tax loopholes to generate $223 million for the state. Among those are depreciation rules that save companies $74 million and foreign tax havens that save $40 million.
As it is, he said 40 large corporations that operate in Illinois pay no state income tax.
"We can't just run around granting tax breaks willy-nilly just because somebody knows the lobbyists for the industries that want them," Blagojevich said.
Business groups and Republican lawmakers said the Democratic governor's plan will cost the state jobs.
"He talked about Management 101, but I don't think he understands Economics 101," said Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson of Greenville. "You have to have a cost of doing business that is competitive or you lose jobs."
"The governor and his allies last year passed $2 billion in new taxes and fees and wage mandates onto Illinois employers," said Kim Clarke Maisch of the National Federation of Independent Business. "For him to come back a few months later and say, 'Wait, it wasn't enough' will set back the Illinois economy further."
Some Democrats countered there is nothing unreasonable about closing the loopholes.
"It's very difficult to vote against the propositions (Blagojevich) has proposed today," said Sen. Vince Demuzio, D-Carlinville.
"If a company is in Illinois and they are making money and they're not paying taxes, if we find a way to tax them, I don't know that they are going to leave the state," said Rep. Gary Hannig of Litchfield, the House Democrats' budget expert.
Blagojevich wants to cut costs by slashing 4,000 more jobs from the state payroll.
About 2,000 of those jobs are vacant and will be wiped off the books, while the other 2,000 would be eliminated by offering an early retirement incentive to a select group of state employees. By cutting the work force below 60,000, Blagojevich hopes to save up to $200 million.
"If a state agency or a state employee can perform two functions for the price of one, then the taxpayers have every right to expect them to do just that," he said. "I believe we can cut down on the state's payroll and still give the people of Illinois the service they expect and the results they deserve."
As contract negotiations continue between the state and its largest employees union, Blagojevich used his speech to warn that "a fair deal for state employees must be weighed against the interests of the people they serve. State government doesn't exist for the benefit of state employees or for the benefit of those of us who are elected to public office."
Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, called those remarks offensive.
"I think he was impugning state employees when he should not have," Bomke said. "Maybe that makes points with the general public, but I took offense to it."
Blagojevich also wants to close some state facilities, including a mental health operation in Tinley Park and a minimum-security prison in Vandalia. Blagojevich said later that he didn't realize the prison is in the Senate district of Watson, one of the governor's leading critics last year.
"I would hate to think he would jeopardize 500 families who depend on income from the Vandalia Correctional Center to target me," Watson said. "I don't think he's that mean-spirited."
Blagojevich's budget relies on additional federal money to pay medical bills for the poor. However, some of the money is contingent on federal approval of a financing scheme in which hospitals tax themselves to pry loose additional federal dollars. Just last week, federal officials said they were going to restrict those kinds of funding schemes.
Rauschenberger said Blagojevich is underfunding state pensions by $500 million in fiscal 2005, a violation of pension funding laws. Rep. Mike Smith, D-Canton, said he believes the pension shortfall is about $200 million.
Under a 1995 law, pension contributions are automatic and set at a level determined by actuaries working for the five state-funded pension systems. However, Blagojevich's budget director, John Filan, said the state is reviewing the accuracy of those determinations.
Blagojevich touted a $400 million increase in funding for public elementary and high schools. He did not specify how the money should be spent, either on general state aid, or for specific programs like transportation and special education. That will be determined later, he said.
Embattled State School Superintendent Robert Schiller said the $400 million increase is "a good start in a tough time."
"You cannot look at $400 million at a time of a deficit and rank that as insubstantial," Schiller said.
Yet, the money goes only so far. Raising the state's guaranteed spending level per pupil by $250 would cost $390 million by itself, Schiller said. That leaves nothing for other education programs, which is why the state board asked for a $650 million spending increase.
Also Wednesday, Blagojevich called for:

Consolidating the departments of Professional Regulation, Financial Institutions, Banks and Real Estate and Insurance into one large agency.
Cutting back on state tourism grants to free up money for other purposes.
Reducing the amount of money to buy parkland in urban areas.
Adding 400 Illinois State Police troopers, as well as parole agents and arson investigators, to the state payroll.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.

 
 

Warden aims to make Dwight model prison
By M.K. Guetersloh
DWIGHT -- When the state prison at Dwight opened in 1930, it was the only women's prison in Illinois and a model for helping inmates become better mothers and better citizens.
More than 70 years later, Alyssa Williams said she wants to put Dwight Correctional Center at the top of the national list of model prisons again when it comes to helping inmates reform, overcome mental health problems and become better parents.
Williams has served as warden of the state's primary female prison for about three months, but she has already started looking at programs that will help inmates and their children. Most of the 1,000 women at the prison will finish their sentences and return to their families, she said.
Parenting classes offered at the prison help new mothers cope with the needs of younger children, Williams said. That program needs to be expanded to help the women take care of their children through the troubling teen years, she said.
Camp Celebration
Camp Celebration is one way the prison helps develop that mother-child bond. Every Saturday in the summer, children participating in Camp Celebration get to spend time at the prison with their mothers while enjoying cookouts and other outdoor activities.
"We are seeing if children can interact with their mothers in a positive environment. It will reduce the likelihood that the children will become offenders," Williams said. "And of course, the mom gets to bond with her child."
Williams said her interest in corrections is a little more focused on children because of her education and early work with juvenile offenders through the Peoria County probation department.
"It's just amazing to see how these kids can change and learn from their past mistakes," Williams said.
Williams' background
Before joining the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2001 as a parole officer in East St. Louis, Williams worked with sex offenders at Western State Hospital near Tacoma, Wash. Williams also worked in clinical services at the Illinois prison system's youth center at Warrenville.
Williams said she was a little apprehensive about taking the job as warden of the state's largest female prison. At 29-years-old, Williams is the youngest warden in Illinois' prisons.
Williams said she received a lot of encouragement from Debbie Denning, deputy director of women and family services for the Department of Corrections.
Working with the staff
"And the staff has been very receptive," she said. Already Williams said she has been working with representatives of the union that represents correctional officers to help address the prison's long-standing understaffing problems.
In recent years, the prison has forced correctional officers to take overtime shifts to cover vacant positions. Williams said earlier retirement offered by the state last year thinned the staff even more at the prison.
"The union has been instrumental in helping me push for more staff, and the department is responding," Williams said. In the coming months, 37 cadets will be assigned to Dwight after their graduation, adding to the prison's staff of about 250 correctional officers, Williams said .

Audit: Illinois could've saved millions
Better utilization of state property could save $2.4 million a year
February 5, 2004
 
 

By DAYNA R. BROWN

of the Journal Star

PEORIA - Millions of Illinois taxpayer dollars might have been saved with a little planning and foresight, a recent state audit shows.
Had the state moved agencies that currently lease property throughout Peoria into the former Zeller Mental Health Center, it could have saved $2.4 million annually.
Instead, officials leased the vacant, state-owned facility to Illinois Central College for $1 a year, and it became home to ICC North.
That transaction and other state property deals were highlighted in an audit of the Department of Central Management Services, which is responsible for the state's space utilization program.
The 132-page document, released Tuesday by the state auditor general, also states CMS has an incomplete and inaccurate listing of state properties.
"Our state management of property has been atrocious," said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, who serves as co-chairman of the legislative audit commission.
The report was generated after questions arose about the leasing of Zeller, which was closed in September 2002 because state officials said it was too expensive to operate. It was leased to ICC two months later.
The auditor recommended that, in the future, CMS conduct a detailed examination of property to determine if it is "excess," which wasn't done for Zeller.
Illinois also should study unoccupied space at state-owned facilities and determine the cost benefit of moving agencies leasing property elsewhere into that available space, the audit states. It also says "the state should receive adequate revenue for the space rented."
Eleven state agencies lease 16 properties in Peoria, totaling 176,498 square feet. The audit shows the Zeller property is more than 200,000 square feet - enough to accommodate all those agencies, though some could not be moved.
The leases range from $8.50 to $17.61 per square foot, while the
cost to operate at Zeller would only be $7 per square foot.
"With the number of vacancies that we have in state properties, we should not be renting other facilities," Mautino said, adding he doesn't know specifics of the Zeller case and couldn't comment on it.
ICC officials still contend the public is getting a good deal.
"It is a great thing for the community and it is a great thing for the college," said Bruce Budde, a vice president at ICC. "We have 2,000 students there. Without our presence (at ICC North), we would be underserving our community."
He also said the $1 amount is misleading because the college pays to operate the facility and has put $3 million into the property.
In addition, not all the state agencies leasing facilities in Peoria - including the Department of Corrections - would be a good fit for the Zeller property, Budde said.
Sen. George Shadid, D-Peoria, who was opposed to ICC moving into Zeller and also serves on the legislative audit commission, would not comment Wednesday.
The audit also talks about inaccurate documentation of state property.
County assessors identified 27,783 parcels of land owned by the state, compared to the 3,091 recorded by CMS. While there were valid reasons for some of the differences, like each piece of right-away may have been counted as a separate parcel, there are still discrepancies, the audit states.
Other properties weren't counted at all. State properties not included on the CMS master list include Jubilee College Historic State Site near Brimfield, the Metamora Courthouse, David Davis Mansion in Bloomington and Bishop Hill in Henry County.
"It's incredible that our state management agency is missing a third of our properties. It has been so lax that the opportunity for waste and abuse is there," Mautino said.
The audit also found property owned by the Illinois Department of Transportation that was purchased many years ago but has not yet been used for roadway. That includes 158 acres IDOT purchased in Peoria County in 1980 for $700,000.
The land was intended as an extension for Illinois Route 6, but remains farmland, said Eric Therkildsen, IDOT program development engineer.
"Fifty acres was for the road and the rest was the remainder of the farm. Why we bought the entire thing, I don't know," said Therkildsen, who wasn't with IDOT at that time.
Mautino said his committee will review the audit in the next couple months.
 

Report cites budget cuts in prison death
 
February 1, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI -- Staff retirements and budget cuts contributed to reduced security at a state prison, where two inmates allegedly killed a third and then hid from authorities for four days, according to a Corrections Department report.
The incident in October prompted an internal review of security at the Missouri State Penitentiary. As a result, the prison reduced its inmate population, reshuffled staff to keep a closer eye on prisoners, and added 16 surveillance cameras, according to the report.
A convicted murderer, Toby Viles, was found dead in the prison ice plant, and his co-workers--convicted murderers Shannon Phillips and Chris Sims--were reported missing. After a search, they were discovered hiding in a stocked compartment under a stairwell less than 10 yards from where Viles' body had been found.
 

State official stops presses on prison paper
Eric Zorn
January 31, 2004
I was looking forward to going to Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet to run a seminar for the staff of a fledgling prison newspaper.
But even before organizers and I could settle on a date for my speech to a literally captive audience, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Roger Walker stopped the presses.
"Our agency has decided that [a newspaper at Stateville] is not a priority at this time," Department of Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said this week.
That decision came as a big disappointment to the inmates who were planning to write the quarterly Stateville Speaks, as well as to Bill Ryan, a director of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the outside-the-walls project coordinator.
"An inmate newspaper would be a tiny baby step providing much-needed education and promoting positive inmate attitudes," Ryan said. "It's far healthier to have inmates interested and working on poetry, essays and book reviews and discussing relevant issues in the prison environment than sitting in a cell all day doing nothing."
Having a publication written and edited by prisoners is not a new idea--they flourish elsewhere and have come and gone at Illinois prisons.
They promote literacy and creativity, skills that will serve the inmates well when they are released, as most will be. And because articles are carefully screened by prison staff before publication, they don't tend to foment trouble or promote unrest.
In fact, an editorial already in the can for the first issue of Stateville Speaks should it ever be published is a vehement anti-drug diatribe that calls users and dealers "sick and misguided; [the prisoners'] enemy. An enemy of self-improvement, an enemy of rehabilitation, an enemy of human dignity."
It was written by Renaldo Hudson, 39, a convicted (and admitted) murderer and former Death Row inmate who came up with the newspaper idea after he oversaw an essay contest that drew 41 entries last summer.
Ryan said Hudson and other inmates thought they had the go-ahead from department officials to start publishing soon. Before the ax fell, Ryan, who lives in Westchester, had arranged for CNN to donate used computers and secured pledges to cover printing expenses.
"Whenever we have inmates in any kind of program, it requires staff supervision," said Molina, explaining why Walker decided not to allow the Stateville Speaks project to proceed. "This is a maximum-security facility. We can't just let inmates walk back and forth to a newspaper office.
"It's not an issue of the content [of the publication]," Molina said. "It's that we have limited resources, and we don't feel that this is how we should be allocating them."
James Coldren Jr., head of the John Howard Association, a prison reform organization headquartered in Chicago, said he was disappointed to learn of the department's decision.
"There are very few opportunities these days for inmates to develop writing skills," Coldren said.
Prison newspapers and newsletters "can relieve tension," Coldren said. "The ability to express thoughts, experiences and feelings to others is psychologically healthy. Yet all [the department officials] seem to think about is possible problems, like who's going to maintain the computers."
Bill Ryan is urging supporters to contact lawmakers in hopes that Gov. Rod Blagojevich will ask department officials to reconsider. If he's successful, I'll be glad to go down and talk to the staff about reporting, punctuation and paragraphs. But I'm sure there's nothing I can tell them about sentences that they don't already know.
- Some 62 percent of online voters this week said they agreed with my Tuesday column and disapproved of CBS' decision to sell Super Bowl advertising time to purveyors of erectile-dysfunction medication such as Viagra, Levitra and Cialis.
However, many female readers simply offered the e-mail equivalent of a derisive chortle and welcomed me and other men to the club of those who are frequently surprised and made uneasy by TV commercials promoting products that relate to their intimate functions.
The analogy is inexact, but I see the point. And if mini-pad manufacturers start advertising during family events such as the Super Bowl, I'll march in the front lines of that protest as well.
- Readers have shared many memories of the recently and dearly departed Magikist lips billboard. I've posted a selection via my Web log at chicagotribune.com/notebook.

Prison program targets drug addicts  
By Sara Burnett Daily Herald Staff Writer
Thu Jan 29, 9:11 AM ET   
 
 
As he greets the new inmates at Sheridan Correctional Center, Warden Michael Rothwell walks among them, explaining how life here will be different from other prisons.
  
You'll be treated with respect, he says.

You'll be treated like a man, he adds.

"I see heads nodding as I talk," Rothwell said Thursday. "They tell me later they've never had a warden talk to them like that."

Rothwell and the other people behind a new drug rehabilitation program at Sheridan hope the changes don't stop there. The program is a kind of "test case" for Gov. Rod Blagojevich and a slew of social service, community and business groups.

The goal is to decrease the state's recidivism rate, or the percentage of people released from prison who re-offend, by providing drug treatment, job training, education and counseling, both in prison and after inmates are released.

At 54 percent, the state's recidivism rate is the highest in Illinois history, said Deanne Benos, the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Corrections and a former policy adviser to the governor.

The first group of 50 prisoners arrived at Sheridan, located about 30 miles southwest of Aurora, Jan. 2. Since then, about 150 others have moved in. The prison can hold 1,300 inmates at a time, and the program is expected to serve 1,700 per year.

Participants who have between six and 24 months of their sentence left may volunteer for the program. It does not accept any sex offenders or murderers.

"We want to be tough on crime, but we have to be smart, too," Benos said. "This is both tough and smart."

The department of corrections estimates it will cost about $48 million per year to run the Sheridan project. That's about $15 million to $18 million more than similar size prisons that don't offer the comprehensive services.

But Benos said studies of similar prison programs in states like New York and Texas show that for every $1 spent, states save $7 by turning out productive members of society rather than people likely to commit more crimes or require other social services.

Blagojevich also hopes to double the number of probation officers working statewide by the time his first term ends, in January of 2007.

At the time he took office, the state had about 370 probation officers. That number fell to 330 after the state offered an early retirement program. Those officers now handle more than 100 clients each, Benos said.

If their caseloads were smaller, she added, they'd be better able to monitor clients and make judgment calls on whether petty offenses should land them back in prison or whether they need more support services.

Corrections officials estimate the total cost of bringing the probation staff up to 740 officers will be about $42.3 million, including $11.4 million in one-time costs like cars and radios.

The president of the John Howard Association, a prison reform group, called the Sheridan project a "true innovation" that could serve as a national model.
  
 
State officials estimate 69 percent of the people in prison today either were convicted of drug-related crimes or committed their crimes while on drugs or to get money for drugs.
 

Dean stumps in Springfield

By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
11 Jan 2004
Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln as he told hundreds of union workers in Springfield on Saturday why he deserves to be the country's next chief executive.
"The biggest lie that people like me tell people like you at election time is: If you vote for me, I'm going to solve all your problems," Dean told members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. "The truth is, the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine.
"Abraham Lincoln said that a government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth," Dean said. "Together, we have the power to take back the White House in 2004. And this is exactly what we're going to do."
Dean, considered the Democratic front-runner, scheduled a brief stop in Springfield so he could speak at AFSCME Council 31's PEOPLE legislative conference at the Hilton Springfield. Union spokesman Anders Lindall estimated more than 700 AFSCME members attended the event.
PEOPLE is the union's acronym for Public Employees Organized to Promote Legislative Equality.
Dean had been campaigning in New Hampshire before flying to Springfield, and he headed to Iowa afterward, said Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31. Those two states are the sites of this year's first presidential contests, with the Iowa caucuses Jan. 19 and the New Hampshire primary election Jan. 27.
Many political observers believe the Democratic presidential nominee already will have been chosen by the time Illinois holds its March 16 primary.
But in introducing the former Vermont governor to the AFSCME crowd Saturday, Bayer said: "We want you to know, Governor Dean, that if you don't have this (nomination) thing wrapped up by March 16, we're going to put the final nail in the coffin and catapult you into the general election here in Illinois."
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents more than 1.4 million members nationwide, endorsed Dean for president last November.
In a speech that lasted about 20 minutes, Dean criticized incumbent President George W. Bush for the tax cuts he pushed through Congress, for not doing enough to preserve and create jobs and for the war in Iraq.
"You cannot trust Republicans with your money," Dean said as the audience applauded.
Then, acknowledging the presence of Republican state Sen. Larry Bomke on the dais, Dean added: "With, of course, the exception of your state senator here, who I know would never have been allowed to sit on this dais if he wasn't a good labor voter."
Bomke, of Springfield, explained later that he was at the AFSCME event to accept a "legislator of the year" award.
"It was uncomfortable being a Republican and being up on the dais" while Dean spoke, Bomke acknowledged.
"I've been a Republican all my life, a strong supporter of George W. Bush," Bomke added. "But I was impressed with Governor Dean. He's very energetic, a lot of charisma, and I think the president will have his work cut out for him. But I'm confident that (Bush will) win the election."
In his speech, however, Dean said he plans to defeat Bush by "bringing new people" into the political process.
"The only way to beat George Bush is to reach out to the 50 percent of Americans who've quit voting because they can't tell the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans anymore, and give them a reason to vote," Dean said.
Earlier Saturday, AFSCME Council 31 endorsed state Sen. Barack Obama of Chicago in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
"We did that based upon the relationship that we've had with him in the years that he's been in the Illinois General Assembly," AFSCME's Bayer said. "He's not only been someone who's voted with us, but he's been someone who has been a spear-carrier for us, who's been a sponsor of our legislation, who has worked to try to garner support among his colleagues on votes that were important to us."

Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292 or Adriana.colindres@sj-r.com

 

Hynes wins Illinois AFL-CIO endorsement
   
 
By Mike Robinson
The Associated Press

January 8, 2004, 11:57 AM CST

ROSEMONT -- In a show of labor support, state Comptroller Dan Hynes won the Illinois AFL-CIO endorsement Thursday for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.

``This is by far the most significant endorsement of this campaign,'' Hynes said at a news conference where he was flanked by AFL-CIO president Margaret Blackshere and other labor leaders.

He said the endorsement would boost his campaign because ``the AFL-CIO knows how to win.''

Delegates streaming out of the meeting said Hynes won a crushing victory.

``I think this was completely anticipated,'' said Henry Tamarin, president of Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Local 1 in Chicago, which supports a rival candidate to Hynes, State Sen. Barack Obama.

Tamarin and other delegates said the key issue put before the meeting was whether to endorse Hynes and that no other contender was offered to the delegates.

Delegates said there were 18 votes against making any endorsement and more than 100 in Hynes' favor.

While the delegates were taking their vote, a huge blowup of a union card issued in 1962 to another candidate in the race, millionaire commodities trader Blair Hull, sat outside the hall. The card was issued by the Cannery Warehousemen, Food Processors, Drivers, and Helpers, Local 679 in Los Gatos, Calif.

The AFL-CIO endorsement means Hynes is going to get a ready-made network of political workers in counties across the state in his race for the nomination in the March 16 primary. It also will mean a fresh infusion of money into his campaign from union treasuries.

Hynes had been working the unions for months and was expected to get the endorsement.

DuPage County electrical worker Pat McCool, who came to observe the meeting, said he supported Hynes ``because he stood up for labor in not allowing people to cheat on the prevailing wage law.''

The law requires nonunion shops to pay union wages if they have state contracts.

Hull met with reporters after the vote and said he expects to get the votes of many rank-and-file union members because he was once one himself and ``I'm one of them.''

``I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth,'' he said. Hull launched his commodities trading company using $25,000 he won at blackjack.

Hull was asked if as a U.S. senator he would vote to repeal the section of federal law that authorizes states to enact right-to-work laws.

``Oh yes, I'm against right-to-work laws,'' Hull replied.

When Hynes was asked the same question at the news conference, he said there were any number of laws on the books that should be reviewed, ``and I'll take a look at that one.''

Dean expected in city Jan. 10
Candidate to speak at AFSCME meeting
By JOHN REYNOLDS
STAFF WRITER
1 Jan 2004
The race for the White House is expected to cut through Springfield next week when Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean comes to town.
Henry Bayer, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, said Wednesday that Dean is expected to speak to the union's legislative conference Jan. 10. The event is not open to the public, but about 500 union members are expected to attend the event at the Hilton Springfield.
"Most of our members haven't seen him in person. This is an opportunity to see him face to face," Bayer said.
Dean, the former governor of Vermont, has been endorsed by AFSCME.
Dean will talk about his candidacy and issues confronting labor, Bayer said.
Many of organized labor's concerns are also shared by the general public, Bayer said. Among issues he cited were improving the economy and helping state and local governments that are feeling the budget crunch.
"In past recessions, the federal government has extended a hand to state and local governments," Bayer said. "This administration has been very stingy about doing that."
Dean is expected to touch on such issues as trade laws, the minimum wage and education.
Bayer said he believes union members will be more active during this campaign than they were four years ago.
An exact time for the Dean event has not yet been finalized.
The legislative conference is an annual event for AFSCME. Union members from around the state will attend the one-day event, where they will lay out the union's legislative agenda for the upcoming year.

John Reynolds can be reached at 788-1524 or john.reynolds@sj-r.com.
 

Boot camp to reopen as work camp
 
 
 
 
MAGGIE BORMAN ,
The Telegraph  12/31/2003
 
 
 
 
WHITE HALL -- A Greene County corrections facility that fell to the budget ax last year is being resurrected this spring -- and will become a work camp to boot.
The former Greene County Impact Incarceration Program facility, commonly called the Greene County Boot Camp, will become an Illinois Department of Corrections Work Camp, less regimentally structured and more focused on public works projects, IDOC spokesman Sergio Molina said.
"It will still house 200 inmates and we anticipate it will be full," he said.
The camp, located between White Hall and Roodhouse in northern Greene County, was victim of the $500 million in budget cuts implemented at the urging of former Gov. George Ryans. The reopening will fulfill a campaign promise made by Ryans successor, Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"I am just very happy that the facility is going to be reopened. It is definitely good news for us and for the area communities," state Sen. Vince Demuzio, D-Carlinville, said.
Opened in March 1993, the boot camp was a 120-day program that used a highly structured and regimented environment that stressed rehabilitation programs in the prison setting and in the community through public works service. The 200-bed facility housed all male first-time non-violent offenders aged 17-29.
The camp will reopen in March or April. Molina said inmates would be those non-violent offenders who must undergo a state screening process to qualify for serving the last segment of their sentence at the work camp. Should inmates not abide by camp regulations, they would be returned to a prison facility for the remainder of their sentence.
Former boot camp inmates provided much-needed service to the area, from sandbagging during the flood of 1993 to shoveling snow at municipal and educational buildings. It was a much-appreciated asset for financially strapped entities. The economically depressed county benefited from having the facility, which had an annual operating budget of $5 million and 73 staff members.
State Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, worked closely with Demuzio to reopen the facility after it was closed in September 2002. He was not available for comment, but White Hall Mayor Harold Brimm said he was thankful for the efforts.
"We are really looking forward to its reopening, as it will mean so much to our local economy as well as for communities in surrounding counties," Brimm said. "I had anticipated it would be reopened -- though I didnt know as what. I didnt think the state would let the facility just sit there empty."
Demuzio said he fully anticipates that Blagojevich will divulge more information regarding the Greene County Work Camp in late January through the economic development meetings he has been having throughout the state. He said he didnt want to usurp the governors announcements.
"I know IDOC is in the process of hiring the 73 staff positions required for the Work Camp, but again those kinds of things need to come from the administration," Demuzio said.

$25M prison hospital proposed for Dixon, Illinois
By Pat Guinane
Tuesday, December 30th, 2003
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SPRINGFIELD The Illinois Department of Corrections is looking for additional bed space in northwestern Illinois, but not at Thomson Correctional Center.
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The dormant maximum-security prison in Carroll County is neither the right shape, nor the right size to accommodate a growing number of inmates who require special medical care because of advancing age or chronic illness.
.
The Department of Corrections, or DOC, would like to build a $25 million hospital at Dixon Correctional Center, about 40 miles southeast of Thomson.
.
A couple of years ago, we came up with the plan to essentially make Dixon Correctional Center the medical facility for the agency and along with that concept was the idea of building a new hospital, DOC spokesman Sergio Molina said.
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The Dixon facility already cares for nearly 2,100 inmates. Of those, about 600 patients require special care because of a physical or mental condition, Molina said. This year the state gave DOC $1.2 million to begin planning a new hospital building that would add nearly 200 beds intended for elderly and infirm inmates now housed at facilities throughout the state.
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Building the new hospital would cost the state about $5 million, with federal grant money accounting for the other $20 million, Molina said.
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Illinois spent more than $140 million to build Thomson Correctional Center, which was completed more than two years ago. But tight budget years have kept lawmakers from finding the money to operate the prison.
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The 1,800-bed facility includes a 200-bed dormitory-style minimum-security wing, but Molina said that section of the prison could not used as a hospital.
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We never envisioned placing inmates that needed chronic care at a place like Thomson, because it doesnt serve that purpose, he said. The guys we would place there are the guys that would be physically able to go out and work in the community.
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The minimum-security wing is essentially barracks-style housing for low-risk inmates to work at the prison or on state road cleanup crews, Molina said.
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The new hospital could take close to two years to build, Molina said. First, the Department of Corrections would have to convince the legislature and the governor to allocate the construction money.
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The head of a Chicago-based prison watchdog group said Tuesday that he supports the expansion, but thinks the state also should consider a compassionate release program to ease the crunch of elderly and chronically ill prisoners.
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Essentially, what we would propose is that at some age maybe 65, maybe 70 you would take a close look at inmates who have served long sentences and are chronically ill or pose no risk to society and you find a way to release them, said James Chip Coldren Jr., president of the John Howard Association.
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Inmates 50 and older still comprise just 3 or 4 percent of the prison population, but their numbers have jumped as the states inmate count grew from about 10,000 to more than 43,000 since the 1970s, according to the Department of Corrections.
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On top of that, a lot of our inmates have not lived very healthy lives, Molina said.
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The proposed facility, which would be built next to the existing hospital, would add dozens of new medical and nursing jobs, Molina said.
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Thomson Correctional Center was expected to create about 750 prison jobs. But first lawmakers have to find at least $50 million a year to run the prison.
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The Department of Correction has entertained outside suitors. Federal officials toured the facility this summer with an eye toward temporary housing for illegal immigrants, but ultimately decided Thomson was too far from Chicago.
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(This story includes reports from The Associated Press.)
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Pat Guinane can be contacted at
.
(217) 789-0865 or
patrick.guinane@lee.net.

Fix allegedly in for prison pick
 
 By KATE CLEMENTS
 THE NEWS-GAZETTE
 December 19, 2003

 
   SPRINGFIELD Shady dealings involving the siting of a maximum-security state prison in Grayville were part of the 91-page federal indictment of former Gov. George Ryan this week.
   It was a prison that Hoopeston officials had fought to have located in their town instead.
   According to the federal indictment, Ryan allegedly notified "Associate 1," who has previously been identified as lobbyist Ron Swanson, that Grayville would be the site for the new prison almost two months before the decision was made public.
   Swanson then obtained a $50,000 contract to lobby for Grayville to be selected as the new prison site, even though he would have known that no lobbying was needed because the city had already been chosen, according to the indictment.
   When Ryan announced the selection of the prison site, he publicly acknowledged the efforts of Swanson's client in promoting Grayville as the best location for the new prison. Federal prosecutors allege that Ryan made the comments at Swanson's request.
   Several towns, including Hoopeston, had competed for the prison in spring 2001 because the $140 million facility was expected to create 350 to 400 construction jobs and employ 750 when it was up and running.
   In his pitch to Department of Corrections officials, then-mayor Bob Ault estimated that 90 percent of Hoopeston residents supported the idea of bringing a prison to the city, which had been hit hard by the closings and downsizing of the canning plants that were its main industry.
   The city suggested the state buy all or part of a 375-acre parcel known as the Stokely farm and build the prison there.
   Hoopeston was named as a finalist in the selection process, and the city felt confident that it was going to get the prison, Ault said in a phone interview Thursday.
   "When I was mayor, I was certainly disappointed in the decision that was made, because Hoopeston met all of the criteria and we made several concessions," Ault said. "But the decision was made by the governor to award it to Grayville, and I guess he had the authority to make that decision."
   The indictment only addresses the period between when the decision was made and when it was announced, but some are now questioning whether the siting was handled fairly from the beginning.
   Department of Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said only that "the selection process was followed," and declined to comment further.
   When asked if he felt that the fix was in all along for Grayville, Ault said he "really didn't know for sure."
   But it may have all ended up for the best, he added.
   "I certainly wouldn't want to be in the position that Grayville is in now," Ault said.
   Gov. Rod Blagojevich halted construction on the prison in April, citing budget cuts.
   The Illinois Department of Corrections now admits the possibility that it may never be completed and is looking at other uses for the site.
   "We're still looking at options of what we can do with that property, whether we continue with the construction for Department of Corrections purposes, or if there is interest from other outside entities," Molina said.
   Grayville actually purchased the land on which the prison was to be located, something Ault said he was pressured to do in Hoopeston.
   "People had urged us to purchase the land and donate it to the state, but we did not concede to that because we would have put the town in debt to pay for the land," he said. "If they decided not to build the prison, we would still have that indebtedness hanging over our heads."
  
You can reach Kate Clements at (217) 782-2486 or via e-mail at kclements@news-gazette.com.
 

Bettendorf company gets contract at empty prison
By Pat Guinane
QCTimes, Wednesday, December 17th, 2003
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SPRINGFIELD The Illinois Department of Corrections has agreed to pay an Iowa firm nearly $23,000 a year to maintain security and fire alarm systems at Thomson Correctional Center, even though the maximum security prison still awaits its first inmate.
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The three-year, $68,000 contract awarded Tuesday to Simplex Grinnel LP in Bettendorf, represents a fraction of what it costs Illinois to keep the northwest Illinois prison in mothballs.
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The $140 million facility originally was scheduled to open about two-and-a-half years ago. It would have boosted the states prison capacity by 1,800 beds and provided about 750 jobs to Carroll County, where unemployment peaks well above the statewide average.
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But when state finances declined, Gov. George Ryan decided the state couldnt afford to open the Thomson prison and spend at least $50 million a year running it.
.
The community feels that he mismanaged the states finances in his last couple years and that with more prudent spending, the money could have been there, said Merrie Jo Enloe, president of the village of 550 residents.
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Earlier this month, a local businessman who expanded his gas station and convenience store to cater to prison-related traffic had to sell his shop, Enloe said. Frustrated townsfolk jokingly suggest that the state might as well convert the prison into a no-frills bed-and-breakfast inn.
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We wanted the first guest to be George Ryan, Enloe said.
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First-year Gov. Rod Blagojevich has not found the funds to open the prison, and the shuttered prison will cost DOC about $800,000 to maintain this year. The state put up another $362,000 this year to help the community make the payments on a sewage treatment plant built to accommodate the prison, DOC spokesman Sergio Molina said.
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The facility faces an uncertain future. Molina said finding the money to open Thomson in the next fiscal year is not out of the question, but there are competitors for the money.
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Earlier this year, the state halted construction of prisons in Hopkins Park near Kankakee and in Grayville, along the states southeastern border. It could be difficult to convince the governor or the legislature to open one prison over another.
.
Outside suitors remain somewhat of an option. Federal immigration officials looking for bed space toured Thomson this summer.
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The issue with them is they need bed space in closer proximity to the city of Chicago, Molina said. So, right now theyre not looking at Thomson.
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Molina said the DOC has had talks with two private firms in correctional industries, and the states of Wisconsin, Alaska and Hawaii appear to be in the market for more prison capacity.
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Generally speaking, there are a number of states that have been looking for bed space to house inmates from their systems, he said. What were going to do is talk to any interested parties and see if Thomson is a viable option.
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Enloe said she has no problem with other states as suitors. However, she is wary of a private firm guarding maximum-security inmates in the community. A private firm also might not offer employment benefits on par with the state.
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Its frustrating, Enloe said. Hope is draining.
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Pat Guinane can be contacted at
.
(217) 789-0865or patrick.guinane@lee.net.
 
 

Early outs hike state costs
$380 million a year for nine years
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
29 Oct 2003
Last year's early retirement program will cost state government an extra $380 million a year for the next nine years, trustees of the State Employees Retirement System were told Tuesday.
The cost of the early retirement program more than doubled the amount of state funding needed for the system to meet its obligations.
"The early retirement incentive cut state employment, but there's a big ticket at the other end," said Robert Knox, executive secretary of the State Retirement Systems. The SRS oversees pension plans for state workers, judges and lawmakers.
Each year the retirement systems must formally notify the governor and General Assembly how much money is needed to meet funding targets.
SERS will need $720 million in state money during the budget year that starts next July 1.
However, most of that is needed to cover the debt added to the system from the early retirement incentive program of late 2002. Had there been no early retirement program, Knox said, the system would need $358 million.
The program was intended to trim the state's payroll of older, higher-paid workers. It allowed eligible workers to purchase five years' worth of pension credits, giving them a boost in their retirement benefits.
The offer proved tremendously popular. Normally, about one-third of eligible employees take advantage of an early retirement program. However, 11,000 of the 22,000 eligible Illinois workers opted for the retirement plan. The huge number of new retirees added about $2.3 billion to the unfunded liability of the State Employee Retirement System, one reason the cost to the state is soaring.
However, the state is saving money on salaries. Those 11,000 employees collectively earned $49 million a month, Knox said. That's $588 million a year in salaries. About 1,000 of those jobs have been refilled, according to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Office of Management and Budget.
How the numbers stack up could affect chances for another early retirement incentive plan to pass the General Assembly. Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, will announce details of a proposed additional round of early retirements Thursday and hopes it will pass the General Assembly during the upcoming fall veto session.
In the meantime, though, Poe wants to review SERS' financial data.
"I think we've got to look at (the numbers)," Poe said. "I don't know how it stacks up."
Poe said he thinks another round of early retirements could save the state $150 million to $200 million. It also would avert any additional layoffs, he said.
Poe said he thinks Blagojevich is planning to lay off large numbers of non-union employees, although he acknowledged that is "speculation on my part."
Poe denied that he's pushing another early retirement plan to bail out Republican state workers who remain on the state payroll after 25 years of GOP governors.
"There's a good chance a lot (of eligible retirees) are Republicans, but I'm just trying to help out people," Poe said.
Blagojevich also has raised the possibility of another early retirement plan as a way to trim the payroll. The option remains on the table for now, said Becky Carroll, spokeswoman for Blagojevich budget director John Filan.
"We are evaluating the SERS findings. We will look at the assumptions they make and just take it from there," Carroll said. "We are going to treat this as we would any budget request."
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

Drug use in state prisons declines

By JOHN O'CONNOR
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
12 Oct 2003
The percentage of inmates testing positive for illegal drugs in state prisons has dropped from nearly 10 percent six years ago to 1.2 percent, according to Department of Corrections figures.
Positive drug tests among guards, parole agents and other employees also have continually dropped since 1998, to less than 1 percent for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
The plummeting numbers follow a Corrections crackdown that began in the mid-1990s with an inmate drug scandal; a zero-tolerance drug policy for employees; and more intensive searches of inmates, visitors and employees, particularly since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"It's working," Corrections director Roger Walker said. "It's manpower-intensive but there has to be a message sent and we have to do it and do it now."
Charles Fasano of the John Howard Association, a prison-watchdog group, was impressed by the steady decline and credited Corrections' tougher stance.
"Even in a fairly tight prison, drugs are still a problem that they had to pay special attention to," Fasano said. "They bought more equipment, they're using dogs more, they're more vigilant about searches."
In the 1997 fiscal year, 9.5 percent of the 7,100 inmates who were tested came up positive for illegal drugs.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 1.2 percent of 45,930 inmates tested - virtually everyone in more than 60 state prisons, juvenile centers and work-release programs - had drugs in their systems.
The crackdown can trace its roots to the infamous videotapes that surfaced in 1996 showing convicted mass-murderer Richard Speck indulging in sex and what appeared to be drugs seemingly at will. The agency, pushed by the General Assembly, enacted new policies and disciplinary measures to reclaim what many said was a system in which inmates had too many privileges.
 

 Prison system hires first guards in months
By JOHN O'CONNOR Associated Press writer
October 4, 2003
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois' prison guards, who say the state budget crisis has only worsened matters for an already understaffed system, will get some relief after the Corrections Department hired its first batch of cadets in nearly two years.
The agency's academy in Springfield is training 110 prison guards who will be assigned to prisons throughout the state in mid-November, along with 28 parole officers, spokesman Sergio Molina said Thursday.
Roughly 250 more cadets and 30 parole officers are scheduled for the next two classes - although the numbers could change slightly - and the department plans to keep training newcomers through May, Molina said.
They can't come soon enough for correctional officers in the state's 36 adult prisons and youth detention centers. Corrections employees worked 661,000 overtime hours last year - the equivalent of 330 more full-time employees working 50 weeks a year.
"They're getting to the point of just being exhausted," said correctional officer Renee Bantista, a union board member at the Dwight prison. "Your alertness isn't there; you're walking around like a zombie."
The department paid $19.3 million in overtime last year, according to agency records. That's down 25 percent from the $25.9 million it paid in the fiscal year that ended in June 2001, but 8 percent more than what was paid in fiscal 2002.
"There's certainly some concern about how many hours our staff put in," Molina said. "That's why the priority has been placed on those front-line positions, to start back-filling some of those vacancies."
Corrections has 13,842 employees, according to the state comptroller. The agency's last cadet class graduated in March 2002, but Molina said there's enough money to have 14,992 by the end of the fiscal year in June.
 

 Large Unions Must Disclose Finances
Fri Oct 3, 6:18 PM ET  
 
By LEIGH STROPE, AP Labor Writer
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration issued new regulations Friday requiring the nation's largest labor unions to disclose details of their finances, including how much they spend on politics and lobbying, gifts, overhead and management.
  
The rules will force national, regional and local unions with income of more than $250,000 to provide much more financial detail in the annual forms they are required to file with the Labor Department (news - web sites). The forms haven't been updated in more than 40 years, administration officials say.

"The current financial disclosure forms that unions file provide little of value to rank-and-file members about their union's finances and operations, and they have failed as an effective deterrent against financial misconduct," said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

The rules take effect next year, though unions will not have to file a report until March 2005.

Organized labor questioned the timing of the announcement on a Friday, several hours after the Labor Department released its largest monthly report, on unemployment.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said the rules were a political attempt to disarm unions headed into next year's elections.

Unions are the traditional political allies of Democrats and mobilize huge numbers of voters for them in elections. Unions and the White House have been at odds since President Bush (news - web sites) assumed office.

"The Bush administration's rules are craftily designed to weaken unions, the strongest advocates for American workers, as our nation prepares for the 2004 elections," Sweeney said in a statement. "The rules target unions and go far beyond what is required of corporations or other not-for-profit organizations."

He said the requirements are overly burdensome for 5,000 labor organizations and will give companies the upper hand in unionizing efforts by disclosing financial details.

Under current rules, large unions can lump together much of their transactions. For example, one form filed with the department said a union spent $62 million on "disbursement of grants to joint projects with state and local affiliates." Another reported $4 million spent on "sundry expenses."

Such broad categories make it easy to hide possible embezzlement and mismanagement, Republicans said.

The new regulations "will give rank-and-file union members better tools to hold union leaders accountable for their actions and better, more understandable information for them to judge the financial health and integrity of their unions," said Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee.

Labor unions fought against the department's initial plan, released in December 2002, and got 30 Republican House members to sign a letter asking the department to start over.

The Labor Department said it received more than 35,000 public comments on the proposal, which led to the exemption of more than 500 smaller unions from filing the most detailed financial report.

The new rule also requires large unions to file a new report for any trusts in which it has a financial interest, and must disclose transactions of $10,000 or more.

Unions also must estimate the proportion of time each officer and employee spends on activities such as representation and politics and lobbying.
 

Walker brings integrity to DOC

By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU

28 Sept 2003
Roger Walker Jr., the former sheriff of Macon County, knows a thing or two about criminals.
"I always felt our job was done once we put them in jail, once they've been sentenced by the courts," Walker says of the three decades he spent working in the sheriff's department. "That was our job and it was done, and who cares what happens after that?
"Well, we should care what happens after that."
Walker also knows about working for a government with troublesome finances. In 2001, because of a tight budget in Macon County, he ended the practice of offering bacon, eggs and other hot breakfasts to jail inmates. Instead, inmates ate bagels and coffee.
State government in Illinois is dealing with a money crunch, too.
"I'm walking into a situation basically like I left, only it's a much larger-scale one, where there's a financial crisis," says Walker, 54. "So I don't have the luxury of being able to have the manpower I'd like to see at all of the facilities. I don't have the money to buy all of the equipment that I think all of the workers should have."
A native of Tennessee who grew up in Decatur, Walker began working for the state less than four months ago.
When he won his race for Macon County sheriff in 1998, he became the first African-American man to be elected sheriff in Illinois. He sailed to a second term in 2002.
Earlier this year, Gov. Rod Blagojevich asked Walker to serve as head of the Department of Corrections. Walker asked the governor if he could wait until June to start his new job because he wanted to make sure his wife, Vergie, would recover from a stem cell transplant needed to treat her bone marrow cancer. Walker said the transplant proved successful. The couple, who celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary in August, have two daughters and three grandchildren. They still live in Decatur.
"We're a pretty religious family, and there's a lot of prayer that went into this whole thing," Walker says.
As head of Corrections, Walker's responsibilities include overseeing the reopening of work camps in Hanna City and Greene County and the reopening of Sheridan Correctional Center in LaSalle County as a drug treatment center. All are expected to happen early next year.
The Department of Corrections also is facing a number of staffing issues triggered at least partly by the state budget situation.
For instance, Blagojevich last spring deleted from the new state budget $17 million that lawmakers had put in to pay for the positions of 230 Corrections captains. The governor said the rank represented an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
In August, the department launched an administrative restructuring plan that eliminated more than 200 captains' posts, though most of those people found other jobs within the agency.
On Sept. 16, about 30 employees at Hill Correctional Center in Knox County held a rally, saying the facility has too many inmates and too few guards. That poses a security risk, the Hill employees said.
"I understand their concerns," says Walker, who has proposed changing the existing scheduling system to try to relieve staffing problems.
Under his proposal, employees no longer would have fixed days off, such as every Saturday and Sunday. Rather, employees would work six days, be off two days, work six days again and be off three days. Then the cycle would repeat.
Such a plan worked in Macon County, he says. So far, however, the state's largest employee union isn't going along with the idea.
"Our local leaders tell us that our members just aren't interested in it," says Henry Bayer, executive director of Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
"Even if it were a good idea - and I don't think it is a good idea, but even if it were - it certainly shouldn't be a priority," Bayer says. "He should be spending his time making sure that critical positions are being filled. He should be spending his time establishing credibility with the employees."
Walker says he wants a chance to give his proposal a test run.
"I can't prove to them how good the schedule would be because they won't let me try it," he says. "That's one thing I haven't gotten accustomed to yet, is dealing with the union. But I've made some strides with them, and I hope that they understand what I'm doing is to help the department and to address some of the problems they see as problems."
Walker says one of his strengths is his people skills, and others seem to agree.
"He's a personable guy, very pleasant," Bayer says.
Jerry Dawson, a 26-year veteran of the Macon County Sheriff's Department and Walker's successor as sheriff, describes his former boss as "very service-oriented" and someone who establishes good rapport with others.
"He came up through the ranks, so he had the respect of the rank-and-file people," Dawson says. "The thing that he's going to bring to that (Corrections) office is integrity. He's very fair."
Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com

 

Death row stays mostly empty
Capital punishment sentences behind average
By JAN DENNIS
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
28 Sept 2003
Just two men are waiting to die in the tiny cells on Illinois' once-empty death row, locked away in a hollow prison gallery that some predict could remain largely vacant years from now.
Death sentences are running well behind the state's average of 11 per year in the decade before former Gov. George Ryan made news worldwide in January by pardoning four condemned prisoners and sparing the lives of 167 others.
Capital punishment opponents hail the decline as a sign that executions are falling out of favor because of the furor over a flawed system that sent 17 men to death row who later were found to be wrongfully convicted.
Some prosecutors around the state acknowledge that death penalty cases probably have been stifled in the aftermath of Illinois' capital punishment debate, but not by a sense of justice.
Instead, they blame new legal requirements intended to safeguard death penalty cases, along with uncertainty over the legislature's ongoing efforts to overhaul the system.
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, credit a reform already on the books that provided more state money for defendants, leveling the financial playing field in death penalty cases.
"When you think about it, it used to be the United States Treasury against some poor little guy who's been charged with a crime. That was part of the unfairness of the whole system. Even upper income people have trouble paying for
their own defense, the costs are so high," Ryan said.
Death sentences dipped from a decade-high 17 in 1996 to just three in 2001, the year after the defense fund was created, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.
"It's not because prosecutors are seeking the death penalty less. It's because defendants now have better resources to get themselves off," said Steve Richards, head of the state appellate defender's death penalty trial assistance division.
Champaign County State's Attorney John Piland, president of the Illinois State's Attorneys Association, said his group fears many of the reforms are a thinly veiled effort to abolish executions.
"Prosecutors have in fact done what I think the abolitionists had hoped they would do, which is to say 'Yes, this case is deserving of the death penalty but because it is so much agony, so much trouble, the ends just aren't worth it,'" said Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons.
Other state's attorneys say they haven't been swayed by the death penalty debate or new Supreme Court rules that require prosecutors to disclose information that may help the defense and allow defense attorneys to interview prosecution witnesses before trial.
"We handle cases the same as we did before the whole clemency issue. We reserve the possibility of pursuing the death penalty for the most heinous cases," said Jerry Lawrence, spokesman for Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine.
Lawyers who help defend potential death penalty clients say their caseloads have changed little since Ryan emptied death row.
Richards and Jeff Howard, capital case coordinator for the Cook County public defender, said their offices are handling about 300 potential death penalty cases.
Howard said Cook County prosecutors have filed notices that they intend to seek the death penalty in more than 100 cases, which he suspects might be a bargaining chip.
"Though prosecutors are saying they are less apt to seek the death penalty, it appears they are still using it as a tool to hold over a defendant's head to bring about a possible plea agreement," Howard said.
Richards said the vast majority of death penalty cases are now settled before trial. Only five cases have gone to a jury this year, and only two ended with a death sentence, he said.
Anti-death penalty groups said they will continue their push to abolish executions as the legislature debates reforms and the Supreme Court considers a lawsuit by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and 10 state's attorneys that would return 32 inmates spared by Ryan to death row. Madigan, who expects a ruling by early next year, said she supports both the death penalty and the reform package that will go back to lawmakers during this fall's veto session.
"The fact is, our system will never be perfect. It's a basic principle that you don't kill innocent people, and once the public sees we can't guarantee that, it will lead to its abolition," said Jane Bohman, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
Ryan, who has been asked to help two European groups propose a United Nations resolution outlawing executions worldwide, said he has become more opposed to the death penalty since leaving office.
"I've pretty much decided that I don't see any purpose in the death penalty. For the most part, I think we would be a better place without it," said Ryan, who denied a 1999 appeal by Andrew Kokoraleis, the last person executed in Illinois.
Prosecutors and victims' families disagree, saying the death penalty is needed for both public safety and to reassure people when crimes shock a community.
"I look at it that it's a reality for an imperfect society. There are some individuals who represent such a risk to public safety. Most animals would be safer and more compliant in society than they are," said Tazewell County State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz.
Jacqui White of Bloomington, whose sister's killer was spared by Ryan's mass clemency order, agreed.
"I don't think it's about vindication or revenge. There's nothing that's ever going to bring her back. The main thing for me was preventing him from hurting someone else in the future," White said.
Coles County State's Attorney Steve Ferguson sent the first killer to Illinois' then-empty death row in February, when 27-year-old Anthony Mertz of Charleston was convicted of murdering Eastern Illinois University student Shannon McNamara in 2001.
Ferguson said he sought the death penalty for the first time in his 11 years as state's attorney because of the cold-blooded nature of the murder and evidence that linked Mertz to another killing two years earlier.
"It's not something that I celebrate, if you will, as a notch in the belt. But I guess what I feel good about is that we made the system work," he said.
Mertz was joined on death row in August by 61-year-old Curtis Thompson of Toulon, convicted in a 2002 shooting spree that killed Stark County deputy Adam Streicher and James and Janet Giesenhagen of Toulon.
 

Arbitrator: DOC captains move OK
Agency's action to fill lieutenant vacancies was within its authority
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
20 Sept  2003
The Illinois Department of Corrections acted within its authority when it allowed some department captains, who were slated for layoff, to fill lieutenants' vacancies, an arbitrator has ruled.
Arbitrator Harvey Nathan's decision, issued this week, was in response to a May 23 grievance filed by Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The grievance was against the state of Illinois and the departments of Corrections and Central Management Services.
The union's grievance contended that by permitting captains to move into lieutenants' vacancies, Corrections was violating its collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME. As a result, AFSCME said, its members were being cheated out of jobs and promotions because the former captains were taking up those slots.
But in his ruling, Nathan found it was "not a violation of the agreement for the employer to decide to open up the long-awaited lieutenant positions so that the displaced captains would have a place to go."
Captains used to be shift supervisors at prisons. But Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying captains represented an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, deleted from the new state budget the $17 million that lawmakers had put in to fund 230 captains' positions.
On Aug. 1, after a one-month delay, Corrections implemented a restructuring plan. Part of the plan involved creating a new post, "shift commander," to describe the employees who supervise prison work shifts.
The restructuring eliminated more than 200 captains' posts, but almost all of those workers landed other jobs within the agency. Some accepted promotions to shift commander. Others accepted demotions to lieutenant or correctional officer at an adult facility or youth supervisor at a juvenile facility.
In the grievance, the union said it didn't receive proper notification of Corrections' plan to lay off captains.
AFSCME asked the arbitrator to rule in its favor and to retroactively offer the lieutenant jobs to qualified bargaining unit employees. AFSCME represents Corrections lieutenants, but it didn't represent captains.
"We're very unhappy, obviously, with the arbitrator's decision," said Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31. "In the view of our attorneys, there's not much we can do about it at this point."
Bayer said the union still has two pending Corrections-related grievances, including one concerning the calculation of seniority for former captains who moved into correctional officer jobs.
Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said the arbitrator's ruling "essentially affirms what we've already done."
"Operationally, it really doesn't change anything," he said.
Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.
 

Exporting U.S. Jobs
An engineered exodus of manufacturing and hi-tech jobs threatens to abolish the American middle class the bulwark of a free society.
 
by William Norman Grigg
September 22, 2003
 

We were middle class," lamented former textile worker Jimmy Bennett in an interview with the Washington Post, before hastily correcting himself: "We still are." Jimmy and his wife Verleen, residents of Kannapolis, North Carolina, were among the nearly 6,500 employees of the Pillowtex towel factory laid off in early August.
Just two years ago, reported the August 9th Washington Post, the Bennetts had bought a modest $100,000 home, "confident their combined wages would continue to support the comfortable lifestyle that had long eluded their parents." Like many of their former colleagues, the Bennetts, who both work part-time at near minimum wage, quickly sold many of their household amenities to get by on roughly half their previous take-home pay.
Thousands of other former Pillowtex workers "are fending off eviction notices, car repossessions and home foreclosures, and making difficult choices about which prescription drugs to skip and which utilities to turn off," reported the Post. "People are turning off cellphones, cutting cable TV, and pleading with creditors," added the August 5th Christian Science Monitor. "Already, 200 have had their water shut off."
The Monitor describes the Pillowtex closing as an event akin to a natural disaster. But it wasnt a destructive caprice of nature that shut down the plant. Rather, as the paper observes, the firm was overwhelmed by "a flood of imports from China." Resulting in the largest one-day layoff in the history of North Carolina, the Pillowtex bankruptcy dramatically exemplifies the devastation being wrought throughout Americas manufacturing economy as our trade deficit with Communist China grows.
As the Monitor reports, "Manufacturing businesses, from electronics to furniture and fishing lures, are closing their doors or moving production to China.... Three members of the presidents cabinet on a cross-country jaunt to promote the Bush economic plan have gotten an earful from angry businesspeople trying to compete with Chinese imports made by workers getting 50 cents an hour."
Charles Bremer of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute points out that as textiles from Communist China and Vietnam flood the American market, "People are moving jobs faster than you can count." In 2008, all import quotas on Chinese textiles will be removed. "At that point," predicts Bremer, "the Chinese will completely dominate the market."
Ironically, at least some of the future textile imports from China will probably be produced on looms from Pillowtexs Kannapolis facility but those looms will be in China, operated by Chinese workers. The August 7th Charlotte Observer reported that "looms and other machinery [from Pillowtex] likely will be removed from plants, packed and shipped to manufacturers in China, Pakistan, and India...."
Manufacturing in Decline
As the erosion of Americas manufacturing base accelerates, communities across the nation are experiencing economic ruin similar to that of Kannapolis.
This summer, 10 plants operated by the Hooker Furniture Corporation were shut down. These factories were shuttered even though the companys profits had grown in recent years "largely by outsourcing to cheaper manufacturers abroad," reported ABC News on August 14th.
"Every time weve asked them to step up, theyve done it," commented Hooker CEO Paul Toms of the employees who lost their jobs. "I feel like weve let these folks down, and I dont know what Id do different.... Its unlike anything Ive seen in my 21 years in the industry. A lot of plants have closed, people have been sent home, and it really has come quicker than anybody expected. I think its hard to say, three, four, five years from now, what will this industry look like domestically."
As with the American textile industry, our furniture industry is being decimated in uneven competition with low-wage nations like Communist China. The Chinese "have millions of people that theyre trying to have employed so its hard to fault them," Toms opines. "But I think that at some point, this country has to think about whats best for us.... You have industries and examples of predatory pricing. Thats the risk we run not just in furniture, but in any industry that were letting leave this country."
Andrew Brod is an economic analyst in Kernersville, North Carolina, where Hooker closed a plant formerly employing hundreds. He told ABC News that many American companies, rather than making capital investments in the U.S., have decided to "funnel investments abroad, many to China itself...." "Some have contracted with Chinese producers, but others have entered into joint ventures to establish new factories [and] to refurbish existing factories," Brod notes.
The closing of the Kernersville Hooker plant is already having a local economic impact. "If I dont work, I cant go out and spend money to shop or buy what I need, so thats going to put somebody else in jeopardy," observed former Hooker employee Mildred Stiles. Rather than being "that trickle-down thing," she continued, "I think its going to be more of a pour-down.... I think its going to hurt everybody concerned." In some economic circles, the phenomenon she describes is called the "race to the bottom" the sudden, rapid decline of an entire population from the middle class to near-subsistence living.
Our nations manufacturing sector has been the gateway to the middle class for untold millions of Americans, resulting in unprecedented national prosperity. What will America look like if manufacturing jobs continue to be outsourced to low-wage foreign competitors? Surveying Kernersvilles grim economic prospects, Brod declares: "In part, the answer to that question is, What sort of America do you see now? Its here already."
Grim portents abound for other manufacturing-dependent communities and for our nation as a whole. An academic study compiled in 2001 for the U.S.-China Security Review Commission and the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission reports: "In the months since the enactment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) legislation with China there has been an escalation of production shifts out of the U.S. and into China.... [B]etween October 1, 2000 and April 30, 2001 more than eighty corporations announced their intentions to shift production to China...." Since 1992, "as many as 760,000 U.S. jobs have been lost due to the U.S.-China trade deficit," with a comparable number of jobs disappearing because of outsourcing to Mexico. "The employment effects of these production shifts go well beyond the individual workers whose jobs were lost," continues the report. "Each time another company shuts down operations and moves work to China, Mexico, or any other country, it has a ripple effect on the wages of every other worker in that industry" in other words, accelerating the "race to the bottom."
The August 25th Financial Times reported that Communist China is "rapidly catching up with the U.S. as the worlds most popular location for foreign investment": Last year, China attracted a record $52.7 billion in foreign investment, "more than any other country." "China has been widely blamed in developed countries for flooding the industrialized world with cheap goods," commented Alan Ruskin of the 4Cast economic consulting group. "But Western investment is largely making this rise in productive capacity possible."
Mercury Marine, the manufacturer of small boat engines and the largest employer in Wisconsins Fond du Lac County, has announced that it "will shift some production to China within the next three years," reported the August 8th Appleton, Wisconsin, Post-Crescent. Five days earlier, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported: "A small group of Mercury Marine employees from China are coming to Fond du Lac to tour the plant but not to take work to China, [company communications manager Steve] Fleming said." But at some American companies, such visits by Chinese employees have foreshadowed outsourcing manufacturing jobs there.
The northwest Indiana town of Valparaiso confronts the prospect of losing a local plant operated by Magnequench, an electronics firm acquired in 1995 by a consortium including Chinese industrial interests. If the plant is moved to China, 225 local residents will lose their jobs. Even more shocking is the fact that the Magnequench facility in Valparaiso "makes 80 percent of rare earth magnets used in smart bombs," according to the Chesterton Tribune.
The erosion of the U.S. industrial base "has enormous national security implications," reported the August 2003 issue of National Defense magazine. "It has made the United States so dependent on foreign countries for critical components and systems that it may have lost its ability to control its supply chains. The United States is becoming dependent on countries such as China, India, Russia, France and Germany for critical weapons technology. Its conceivable that one of these governments could tell its local suppliers not to sell critical components to the United States because they do not agree with U.S. foreign policy."
Writing in the June 2002 issue of Harpers magazine, business analyst Barry Lynn points out that many of Americas premier corporations including key defense-related firms now consider themselves "virtual companies" depending on a complex and widely dispersed network of suppliers around the world. Dell Computer, for example, assembles its computers out of 4,500 parts manufactured in various Asian countries, including Communist China. Dell an important defense contractor maintains an inventory sufficient for only four days production. If its supply line were interrupted for more than 96 hours, Dells Texas plants would cease production.
Simply put, "the U.S. industrial base is being taken apart, piece-by-piece, and relocated to other nations," conclude trade analysts Pat Choate and Edward Miller. "In the process, much of Americas industrial and military production base is being sold to foreign interests, and more importantly a significant portion of it is being physically relocated into other nations, including our most likely strategic rival China."
For more than a century and a half, Americas manufacturing economy attracted hardworking people from around the world eager to become Americans. Manufacturing jobs offered these new arrivals entrée into the middle class and helped them assimilate into our nations civic culture. But as former Treasury Department official Paul Craig Roberts points out, "The loss of high productivity jobs takes away the ladders of upward mobility and wipes out our human capital."
As our manufacturing base is being stripped away, Americans may someday find it necessary to emigrate to find manufacturing jobs. Case in point: A machinist employed for several years at a major Wisconsin-based multinational firm the father of a large family described to The New American how he was told by his employer that within several years he may have to "relocate to China" if he wants to keep his job.
A "Political Thing"
John C. McCoy, owner of Omnitech Technical Associates in Bellingham, Washington, commented to The New American that "China is being set up as the center of global manufacturing. They have a huge supply of cheap labor, cheap power, and very modern production facilities. Many, perhaps even most, of the Chinese-made products being unloaded on our docks and reaching our store shelves are assembled in automated plants, and dropped into shipping boxes without ever being touched by human hands." Many of those ultra-modern Chinese plants have been built by Japanese firms, but others have been built in recent years by U.S.-based multinational corporations.
McCoy, an activist with a group called Save our American Manufacturing (SAM), points out that outsourcing to China has exploded because of a chain reaction. "Once tooling capacity is lost, manufacturing simply has to move," he told The New American. "People running companies in this country generally dont want to go offshore. But once the process got started, it snowballed, because the specialized tooling capacity started to shut down and it takes a long time to re-tool, too long to remain competitive in this globalized economy."
Behind the Decline
McCoy describes our declining manufacturing base as "a political thing," rather than the result of market forces or irresponsible corporate greed. "Present American policy has lost touch with knowledge of how goods are produced," he contends. "America without the capacity to renew and invent products will perish. The most important key to our renewal, apart from the entrepreneurial spirit, is the ability to engineer, and make tooling. Under current trade policy these assets are quickly disappearing, being traded away. And once theyre gone, we may never get them back."
The Communist Chinese regime enjoys an unnatural competitive advantage over American manufacturers because it essentially employs slave labor. That advantage is compounded by our own governments perverse insistence on subsidizing, via the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), the relocation of U.S. corporations to China. The Ex-Im Bank was created by the FDR administration in 1934 for the purpose of encouraging business investment in the Soviet Union. Through Ex-Im, corporate investments in China are subsidized, and any losses incurred are socialized (that is, picked up by U.S. taxpayers) while the profits remain private and legitimate market competition is undermined.
Government-subsidized corporate relocation to China also accelerates the process described by McCoy, in which Beijings manufacturing sector "tools-up" even as ours "tools-down." As the May 1998 issue of Harvard Business Review reported, American companies seeking to do business in China "face many requirements to transfer technology or to export a certain percentage of their products made in China. Controls on foreign exchange keep them from moving funds freely out of the country."
"Every firm that sets up for production in China has to turn over its technology," Jerry Skoff, owner of Badger Metal Tech in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin, pointed out to The New American. "Intellectual property theft by the Chinese is very common. And any investment banker familiar with the Chinese system will tell people preparing to set up over there that they should pad their expenses by at least 40 percent to allow for the graft, bribes, and other payoffs involved in doing business over there." Given the pandemic corruption of the Chinese system, the federal governments role in socializing risks and losses for U.S.-based firms looms even larger.
Many U.S. companies were lured to China by the prospect of a vast, untapped consumer market. But rather than selling goods in China, American companies are exporting goods from there and completing the circuit by sending jobs and plants back to China. Consequently, observed Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro in their 1997 book The Coming Conflict with China, "China has been getting American investment capital and reaping windfall trade surpluses at the same time. As a result, China is one of the leading foreign-exchange-reserve countries in the world a bizarre situation for a poor and developing country."
Beijing benefits greatly from Chinas trade surplus because it can subsidize predatory trade practices such as directing subsidies into various manufacturing fields as a way of underbidding potential American competitors.
In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Jay Bender, owner of Falcon Plastics in Brookings, South Dakota, described "how one of his customers, a manufacturer of fishing lures, has decided to move its production from the U.S. to China.... [The fishing lure manufacturer] asked him to bid on molds to make the plastic bait. He bid $25,000 per mold. That was a competitive price, he said." However, the potential customer found a Chinese source charging $3,000 for each mold. "I cant even buy raw materials for that," Bender observes. "There are two possibilities: Either they are subsidized by the government, or they gave away the molds to get the manufacturing business." To remain in business, Bender has had to lay off nearly one-third of his workforce.
"Were killing ourselves," laments Jerry Skoff. "Bombs are falling, but people arent paying attention. Were being reduced from a manufacturing and hi-tech economy into a service economy and if things continue the way they are, the service sector will eventually go the same direction."
Abolishing the Middle Class
At the end of the process Skoff describes is the eradication of the American middle class derisively referred to as the "bourgeoisie" by Karl Marx. "Were basically liquidating our whole middle class, polarizing people on the two extremes, haves and have-nots," warned Roger Chastain, president of the Milliken & Co. textile firm, in an interview with the Durham Herald. "Well be a third world country."
"It makes me wonder if there is some merit to the conspiracy theory the idea that all of this is part of a deliberate scheme to wipe out the middle class," Jerry Skoff mused to The New American. "The middle class is always a pain in the neck where governments concerned. Its where you find most of the people who complain about taxes, regulations, and other policies. If you wipe them out, you just have the ultra-rich and the poor a perfect arrangement for a dictatorship."

Program could keep youths out of state prison

By RYAN KEITH
 ASSOCIATED PRESS
19 Sept 2003

Each year, hundreds of Illinois teenagers wind up in state prisons for serious and more mundane offenses. It costs the state big money and can lead youngsters to a lifetime of crime.
But state officials and youth advocates want to change that pattern. They are working on a program to offer financial incentives for counties that find alternative ways to discipline juvenile offenders.
Counties would agree to send fewer juveniles to state prisons and instead put them through community-based programs, such as substance abuse treatment or counseling.
In exchange, the counties would receive money for the programs from the state, which could save hundreds of millions of dollars in prison expenses.
"The current financial incentive is to send the kid to the state slammer because the state pays," said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago. "The idea is to see if different decisions would be made about miscreants."
The "Redeploy Illinois" program was approved by lawmakers this spring as state officials looked for ways to reduce spending in tight budget times. If lawmakers approve a change recommended by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the program would get under way next summer.
The idea, modeled after an Ohio program, is to encourage counties to deal with problem children themselves.
"People do best in the communities that they know best," said Paula Wolff of Chicago Metropolis 2020, an advocacy group for the Chicago metropolitan region.
Redeploy Illinois isn't law yet. Blagojevich used his amendatory veto power last month to take out language detailing how the state and counties will share savings.
Supporters say this is one of several details that will be worked out in the coming year.
The juvenile population in the Illinois Department of Corrections has been dropping significantly, from nearly 2,200 inmates in 1999 to about 1,500 last year. A 1999 juvenile reform law helped cut back the numbers, prison officials said, and the overall prison population has been falling, too.
But the total cost of housing those minors has stayed about the same. The state will spend $112 million on youth prisoners this year, prison officials said.
Youth advocates and criminal justice experts say counties have a strong financial incentive to send juveniles to prison.
Putting young criminals in the local jail means the county pays, but shipping them to the Department of Corrections is free for the county. Some minors are sent to prison simply for court-ordered evaluations because their home counties lack the proper facilities.
That means youths who commit nonviolent offenses go to prison when what they need is counseling or treatment for addiction or learning disorders. That can have long-term consequences, advocates say.
"It may actually make them more violent sending them there," Wolff said.
In Ohio, nine counties saw a 42 percent decline in youths sent to state prison in 1994, the initial year of the program. The total number of youths sent to state prisons there since the program went statewide in 1995 dropped from 3,410 to 2,453 in 2001.
Ohio officials say there also has been some cost savings but cannot say yet exactly how much has been saved or diverted to local counties. Ann Liotta, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Youth Services, said many local programs have been started there and the program has been a "wonderful success" in reducing admissions to prison and improving cooperation among state officials and local judges.
Illinois is using the same basic setup and should see the same results, advocates say.
Counties that agree to cut the number of youths they send to state prisons by at least 25 percent would get a share of the money the state government saves on incarceration.
Counties first must get approval from the state Department of Human Services for their plan to reduce juvenile commitments, detailing which offenders could benefit from alternative disciplines and what services or programs could be provided. Juveniles who commit serious felonies still would be sent to prison.
The Department of Corrections estimates Illinois could save more than $235 million over 10 years if 325 youths are dropped from the system with all counties participating.
Even more important, advocates say, is giving local authorities the resources and authority to rehabilitate misbehaving youths.
"Part of the premise is to give the local jurisdictions more oversight," said Chip Coldren, president of the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group. "If you get the right people involved at the right level, kids won't slip through."
Not everyone is convinced. Some critics say they applaud the idea but have problems with its execution.
Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Glen Ellyn, says he's concerned some youths will get off too easily for misdemeanors, such as sex offenses or domestic battery, that should bring prison time.
He also says lawmakers, not local officials, should decide how delinquents are disciplined.
"The legislature should be the body that says these are the alternatives to incarceration," Roskam said.
 

Senate spurns overtime plan
White-collar workers protected; White House threatens veto
  
 
By T. Shawn Taylor, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune senior correspondent William Neikirk contributed to this story
September 11, 2003
The Bush administration's effort to overhaul overtime rules suffered a major setback Wednesday after a divided U.S. Senate approved a measure to block rule changes that would deny many workers overtime pay.
The Republican-led chamber, defying a White House veto threat, voted 54-45 to attach an amendment to a $138 billion spending bill that would prevent the Labor Department from changing white-collar overtime exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
"Senate Democrats, joined by six Republicans, stood with working Americans and took a critical step toward turning back a Bush administration proposal to take overtime pay away from millions of people," said Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) "During these hard economic times, the last thing we should be doing is cutting Americans' pay."
But Wednesday's victory was only the beginning of a process, Daschle said, adding that the overtime debate is far from over.
The White House has threatened to veto the spending bill if the amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), is attached to a compromise bill that has to be worked out among House and Senate members.
If the White House does block the spending bill, it could delay funding of U.S. health, labor and education programs, requiring a temporary spending bill and even more debate on the overtime issue.
Still, Wednesday's vote was hailed as a major--and rare--victory for pro-labor forces over the Bush administration. Critics of the Labor Department's proposed changes to white-collar overtime exemptions say it would strip 8 million workers--including nurses, firefighters and police officers--of overtime pay.
Administration officials deny those claims and have estimated 644,000 workers would lose overtime under the proposal but have said another 1.3 million low-wage workers would gain it.
The Harkin amendment keeps intact the part of the proposal that benefits low-income workers by raising the minimum yearly salary to $22,100 a year for workers to qualify for overtime.
In recent weeks, foes of the plan, which would change overtime eligibility rules in three traditional categories of workers--executive, administrative and professional, have campaigned to defeat the portions they don't like. Groups have organized protest rallies and bombarded members of Congress with e-mail messages to persuade lawmakers to block the new rules even before the Labor Department issues its final version.
"America's working men and women have won a tremendous victory," said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest union federation, which ran television ads in three states--Maine, Ohio and Missouri--in the past week to drum up support for the Harkin amendment.
House approval
Although the Senate vote represents a blow to the Labor Department's effort, it remains to be seen whether it will effectively block attempts to update the act, the Depression-era law that spells out which workers are eligible for overtime pay.
An attempt earlier this summer in the House to attach an identical amendment to the U.S. health, labor and education appropriations bill was narrowly defeated on a vote of 213-210. The Senate action means that a conference of members from both chambers will have to scramble to work out a compromise bill before Congress adjourns in late October.
Traditionally, the appropriations bill is supposed to be wrapped up by Oct. 1, or the start of the fiscal year for those departments.
Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said the department plans to continue to update the overtime rules, done at the behest of employer groups who have complained for years that the current rules are confusing and antiquated. However, because of the Senate action, it is unlikely that any changes will go into effect by early next year as originally planned.
"The department's proposed reforms are long overdue. Unclear regulations hurt workers because the department's investigators find it difficult to fully enforce the current regulations, employers don't know what their responsibilities are, and workers don't know their rights," said Chao.
`Fuzzy science' alleged
Some employer groups on Wednesday expressed outrage over the Senate vote and urged Congress to allow the department to complete its regulatory process before trying to block it.
"Supporters of the Harkin amendment showed that they were more interested in supporting labor unions than in supporting workers," said Tracy Mullin, president and chief executive of the National Retail Federation.
In recent months, opponents and supporters have wrangled over the number of low-income workers who would benefit.
"The maximum it could be is 737,000. That's all the white-collar workers there are who are making less than $22,100 [a year] who are salaried and working more than 40 hours a week," said Ross Eisenbrey, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute, who accused the Labor Department of including blue-collar workers in its calculations to inflate the number to 1.3 million.
Supporters of the Bush plan say opponents are the ones inflating the numbers. Lawrence Lorber, an attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, accused the institute of using "fuzzy science" to arrive at its figure of 8 million workers who would lose overtime pay.
"It was unfortunate because I think [the Senate vote] was based on some misunderstanding as to the real impact of these proposed regulations," Lorber said. "The regulatory process should have gone forward."

Corrections settles labor dispute

By JOHN O'CONNOR
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
10 Sept 2003
While state government wrestles with a budget deficit, the Illinois Department of Corrections must pay $4.5 million to settle a dispute with parole agents who were kept on call around the clock for nearly a year.
The settlement between the state and the agents' union is less than half what an arbitrator said the agents deserved, but more than double what the department offered.
The dispute began in July 2000 when Corrections ordered about 200 parole agents to carry pagers and respond when called - even if they were on vacation - or face discipline.
The agents argued that put them on "standby" status, entitling them under their contract to four hours' pay for each day on standby.
The order stood from July 25, 2000, until June 11, 2001, during the tenure of former Gov. George Ryan. The directive wasn't lifted until six weeks after an arbitrator ruled in May 2001 that Corrections had to pay. Had the department rescinded the order upon the arbitrator's decision, the state could have saved nearly $550,000.
"It was real arrogance," said Mike Newman, associate director of the agents' union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "The contract language was clear, and the Ryan administration should have known better."
The agency must pay $2.25 million by the end of 2003 and the rest between July 1 and Dec. 31 next year.
Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina did not know where the department would get the money, but said it could pay "without jeopardizing the operations of the agency."
In the May 2001 ruling, the arbitrator said the department should pay $9.5 million. Corrections then offered to pay $2 million.
A circuit court later overturned the arbitrator's ruling on appeal, saying an award should consider the state's ability to pay and how much time agents actually worked. The issue returned to the arbitrator, who directed the two sides to negotiate.
Molina could not explain Corrections' decision to settle and didn't know how many parole agents would get money. The state had fewer than 200 when the order took effect and about 340 a year later.
If 300 agents evenly divided the settlement money, each would get $15,000. All affected agents also will get a compensatory day off for each month they were on standby.
 

State's fifth private jail nearly ready
 
 
 
By Kit Miniclier, Denver Post Staff Writer
31 Aug 2003
Colorado's fifth private prison will open in Brush in September with the arrival of 90 female inmates from Wyoming, officials have confirmed.
The concept of running prisons for profit is controversial, but cost-conscious federal, state and local officials are increasingly turning to the private sector to finance, design, build and operate prisons.
Colorado's other private, for- profit prisons - in Burlington, Walsenburg, Las Animas and Olney Springs - are owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America.
Two more private, for-profit prison facilities, in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, are in the design stage. They are intended to provide therapeutic treatment for adult parole violators to return them to society, said Alison Morgan of the Colorado Department of Corrections.

GRW Corp., named after founder Gil R. Wright, is opening the Brush facility, city officials and Morgan confirmed. The company has four prisons in Kansas, Illinois and Texas.
It is taking over an empty private prison site with a capacity of 250 inmates. GRW vice president Dick Mills says the company may eventually add another 500 beds.
The facility, formerly known as High Plains Youth Center, housed troubled youth. Colorado closed it in April 1998 after a 13-year-old inmate committed suicide and allegations of physical and sexual abuse surfaced. It was run by Denver-based Rebound Corp.

 
Officials remain mum on details of prison attack
By M.K. Guetersloh
Pontiac bureau chief
Saturday, August 23, 2003
PONTIAC -- Prison officials are still investigating how two Pontiac Correctional Center inmates chipped their way through a concrete block wall and attacked the two inmates in the neighboring cell.
One inmate was taken to OSF Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center following the early Thursday morning attack. He remained hospitalized Friday, according to Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild.
The inmate has been transferred to another hospital, but Fairchild would not release the name of the inmate or say where he is hospitalized.
The names of the other inmates involved in the incident are also not being released, Fairchild said. He added that the names may become public record if charges are filed against the inmates.
Fairchild would not say when the investigation may conclude.
A tactical unit was called to remove the inmates from their cells Thursday after the incident.
The inmates involved in the incident were in the prison's disciplinary segregation unit, which houses virtually all of Pontiac's inmates. Inmates often are sent to Pontiac's unit because they have violated rules at other state prisons.
At Pontiac, a men's maximum-security prison, the inmates are locked in their cells 23 1/2 hours a day.
When an inmate violates the rules at Pontiac, the prison system still has alternatives for further discipline, including transferring the inmate to the stricter, more remote Tamms Correctional Center, the state's super-maximum prison in Southern Illinois, Fairchild said.
"Inmates can see the loss of good conduct credit, and there is always the possibility of facing administrative review to go to Tamms," Fairchild said.
Fairchild said he would not comment on the size of the hole is the inmates created. He also will not comment on how the hole was made.
"Once our investigation is completed, we will look at any procedures that may not have been followed and if we need to put more procedures in place," Fairchild said.
 

Officers charged
Fri, Aug 22, 2003
CHICAGO (AP) Federal authorities have accused three Illinois correctional officers of providing drugs to inmates at the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, and one of the officers is charged with having sex with inmates.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced the charges Thursday against former guards Robert Goodner, Tanya Flowers and Steven King.
The announcement followed a joint investigation by the FBI, Illinois State Police and Department of Corrections.
"It violates the security of the facility," Fitzgerald said of the alleged collusion between guards and inmates.
"We want people involved with gangs and drugs to be in jail, but not as employees," he said.
A fourth defendant not working at the prison is accused of supplying drugs to one of the guards. All four are from Chicago.
Goodner, 28, was arrested last December. Prosecutors charged him with smuggling cocaine, heroin and marijuana to nine inmates, six of them imprisoned for murder. He's also charged with fraud for denying his membership in the Gangster Disciples street gang on his job application, and for breaking prison rules by supplying a camera and cellular phone to an inmate, according to prosecutors.
Goodner is jailed without bail at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. His attorney did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.
Flowers, 32, is charged with engaging in sex with inmates on various occasions in 2001 and 2002 while another inmate acted as a lookout. The U.S. attorney's office also charged her with smuggling for allegedly bringing marijuana to one of the inmates and agreeing to handle crack cocaine for Goodner in December 2002, after Goodner was secretly cooperating with authorities.
Flowers is free on her own recognizance and remained for a time on the job at the prison to work as an informant for authorities after her January arrest, according to her attorney, Steven Hunter.
"She went through some difficult emotional times that caused her to make some poor choices," Hunter said Thursday.
 

AARP: Get parolees out of nursing homes
Corrections places medically needy inmates after release

By MARY MASSINGALE
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

03Aug 2003

As she prepares her agenda for next year's legislative session, Donna Ginther of AARP lists one issue as a top priority: Getting paroled prison inmates out of Illinois nursing homes.
"I can just imagine paying a ton of money to keep Grandma in a nursing home next to a convicted felon," said Ginther, who serves as a lobbyist for the senior advocacy group.

Although little publicized, the Illinois Department of Corrections has been paroling "medically needy" inmates into nursing homes for years. The department, which is required by law to release inmates once they've completed their sentences, places ex-prisoners who are not able to care for themselves and have no family willing to take them in into long-term care facilities. The inmates' care is paid for by Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

A DOC spokesman said the program averages 20 to 50 parolees on any given day.

"What's the difference with these guys the day before they go off parole and the day they do?" said DOC spokesman Brian Fairchild. "The bottom line is if they are dangerous, we wouldn't recommend that they be placed there."

But an advocate for nursing home residents questioned the medical needs of the parolees and the screening process that places the inmates.

"The guy who's dying of cancer, I don't have a problem with," said Wendy Meltzer, executive director of the Chicago-based Illinois Citizens for Better Care. "It's the 29-year-old psychotic I'm arguing about."

Fairchild said the average age of the 33 parolees currently in nursing homes is in the 60s, although the ages range from 30 to 80. Of the 33, 25 suffer from physical problems as diverse as cancer, paralysis, glaucoma, blindness, Parkinson's disease, hepatitis C and HIV. The remaining eight parolees suffer from mental illnesses primarily caused by lifelong substance abuse, Fairchild said. They have been placed in nursing homes with special wards for mental illness.

The inmates' offenses cover the gamut of the criminal spectrum, according to Fairchild, including minor drug offenses, armed robbery and murder, although no murderers are currently in nursing homes.

The screening process used to determine placement involves officials from the Departments of Corrections, Aging and Human Services. Fairchild said a nursing home is selected for its ability to serve the parolees' needs and its closeness to family members.

Fairchild declined to give specific locations, citing the confidentiality of parolee cases, as well as federal rules on the privacy of health information.

However, of the 33 current parolees, 20 are in 14 nursing homes in the Cook and Will county area. Seven inmates are housed in three homes located in the northern part of the state, extending from Bloomington to Rockford. Five parolees are staying in four homes in the central region of the state, extending from Quincy to Danville and south to Hillsboro. The remaining inmate is in a home near the Metro East area.

Both Ginther and Meltzer say parolees with health problems should be housed in a separate facility, away from the elderly.

"We're putting strong, young parolees known to be violent in with the frail elderly," Ginther said.

Fairchild said he knew of no reported incident in which a parolee in a nursing home had attacked a resident. However, the agency just started compiling statistics on inmates paroled to nursing homes slightly more than a year ago.

A well-publicized 2001 incident in a Cahokia nursing home in which a 44-year-old mentally ill patient sexually assaulted a 78-year-old female resident did not involve a parolee, said Department of Public Health spokeswoman Tammy Leonard.

However, it was during that investigation that Public Health found four unsupervised parolees in the nursing home - the first time the agency learned of the DOC practice, Leonard said. Public Health investigators also discovered some of the inmates had been convicted of sexual assault. Fairchild said sex offenders are no longer eligible for the nursing home parole program.

Public Health surveyors are now given a list of parolees during the nursing home's annual inspection to check that inmates are getting proper care and supervision. If a parolee's actions cause a nursing home to be cited by Public Health, the facility administrator is responsible for correcting the problem - even if that means removing the parolee.

Leonard said a nursing home can turn away any potential resident only if it can prove it cannot serve the resident's needs. With Illinois nursing homes running at about 83 percent occupancy, Meltzer said she doubts any nursing home administrator would turn away a parolee.

"They'll take anybody they can get," Meltzer said.

Public Health regulations do not require nursing home administrators to tell the public about the criminal background of any patient. However, Fairchild said administrators and residents can get rid of a troublemaking parolee simply by calling the Department of Corrections.

If ex-inmates violate their parole in any way - including walking away from the nursing home - they are returned to prison. Although no violations had been reported within the last year, Fairchild said, inmates who had violated parole in the past were removed from the nursing homes and placed in prison infirmaries.

He advised concerned family members to check the names of any suspected residents with the Department of Corrections' Web site (www.idoc.state.il.us).

Meltzer said she finds little comfort in his advice.

"Do you really want to mix parolees in a hallway with your mother?" she said.

Mary Massingale can be reached at 782-6882 or mary.massingale@sj-r.com.

 

Most DOC captains land new posts
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
02Aug 2003
 
The Illinois Department of Corrections eliminated more than 200 captains' jobs Friday, but nearly all of those employees have landed different positions at the agency.
Still, the administrative restructuring "absolutely" will save the state money, Corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild said. He couldn't provide an estimate.
"There will be less bureaucracy in that structure, and that will result in savings," he said.
The reorganization at Corrections was triggered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich's decision to remove from the budget about $17 million that would have paid the captains. Blagojevich said the captains represented an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
In the new administrative setup, the former job ranks of unit superintendent, major and captain no longer exist. The department created a new title, shift commander, to describe employees who supervise prison work shifts.
There are 111 shift commanders. Previously, captains served as shift supervisors at prisons.
The restructuring originally was to start July 1, when the state's new fiscal year began, but it was postponed by a month.
Of the 216 captains who were subject to layoffs, all but eight found other Corrections jobs, Fairchild said.
One ex-captain, Austin Randolph, was
promoted to assistant warden at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Fairchild said.
Fifty-four former captains accepted promotions to shift commander, and 153 other former captains accepted demotions to various positions. Of those 153, 83 moved into lieutenant jobs, 65 into correctional officer jobs and five into youth supervisor jobs at the state's juvenile facilities.
Eight other former captains were offered positions within the department, but they opted for layoff, Fairchild said.
Corrections' restructuring has drawn criticism from Local 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that represents prison workers.
"Our members are very angry at the administration for doing this," said Henry Bayer, executive director of the union local.
Union members believe their contract with the state is being violated, Bayer said. Also, union members are being cheated out of jobs and promotions because the former captains have moved into positions that should have gone to AFSCME members, he said.
AFSCME filed a grievance to protest the movement of Corrections captains into lieutenants' vacancies. The union represents lieutenants, but it didn't represent captains.
The grievance is headed to arbitration Aug. 18, Bayer said.
He also criticized the new Corrections setup for failing to include a sufficient number of shift commanders.
Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.
 

White stops raises, overtime
Union may take secretary of state to court
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
31 July 2003
 
 
Secretary of State Jesse White has frozen salaries for thousands of his workers and eliminated overtime to compensate for budget cuts made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Additional spending reductions are coming and could result in the layoff of as many as 250 people, along with the closing of up to 10 secretary of state facilities, according to union representatives apprised of the plan.
However, White spokesman Dave Druker said Wednesday that no one in the office had yet been laid off nor had any facilities been closed. Though likely, the layoffs and closures probably wont happen until fall, he said.
The cost-cutting measures implemented by White up to now already are bringing threats of a lawsuit from the Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents about 2,300 of Whites 3,450 employees.
The SEIU members were supposed to receive a 4 percent pay raise July 1 as part of their contract with the secretary of state. White eliminated that raise, as well as raises for workers belonging to the Fraternal Order of Police and the Teamsters and cost-of-living adjustments for non-union employees.
They (Whites office) indicated that it is their belief that due to the nature of the cuts, they were required to implement the pay freeze, said SEIU Local 73 president Christine Boardman. We dont necessarily concur. These are not the most highly compensated people.
Boardman said the union could be in court as early as next week trying to force payment of the raises. The union contends that White cannot unilaterally eliminate a contractual pay hike.
Druker said the office had little choice but to cancel raises in the face of Blagojevichs budget cuts.
At this point, we dont see any other options unless the money is restored, Druker said. My understanding is we have the authority to withhold those pay increases for lack of resources.
Lawmakers could intervene during their veto session in No-
vember if they vote to restore to Whites budget the money Blagojevich cut. If that doesnt happen, Druker said, another 2 percent pay hike for SEIU workers scheduled for Jan. 1 will be canceled.
Overtime pay for all secretary of state employees also was eliminated. Much of the overtime was paid to union workers in drivers license facilities who served customers beyond normal hours.
The previous policy was if a person was in line at closing time, we would take care of them, Boardman said.
Thats not going to happen any longer. Instead, facility managers will give warning to customers that the office is closing at quitting time regardless of who is in line. At one Chicago facility last week, 100 people were forced to come back another day.
Its going to be a huge inconvenience for the public, Boardman said.
Druker said the office knows of only the one instance in which a large number of customers were turned away.
As for further belt-tightening, Boardman said she was told by Whites staff that up to 250 people will be laid off and 10 facilities closed as additional spending reductions are implemented.
White has said all along that layoffs and facility closures will be necessary, Druker noted, adding that both the layoffs and closures are still under review.
My guess is we are still a little ways off on that, he said. At a minimum, we are looking well into the fall.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

State employees no longer monitoring television newscasts
Springfield (AP)
 30 July 2003
Prison workers will no longer be required to videotape and review television newscasts.
  Gov. Rod Blagojevich drew criticism last week for using state employees with the Corrections Department to monitor daily news brodcasts.
Blagojevich spokesman Cheryle Jackson said on Monday that the work has been reassigned to a network of voluteers.
Blagojevich's office said the practice helps him keep track of different issues in different areas of the state. But critics contended that paying state employeesto watch television was a waste of resources at a time when agencies are dealing with budget cuts.
The corrections Department has lost more than 3,000 employees to layoffs and early retirement in roughly a year.
Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said employees at five sites had been taping and reviewing newscasts. He said they were informed of the change on Friday.

Maintaining gov's vanity
Rich Miller
27 July 2003
In yet another example of how obsessed Governor Rod Blagojevich is about his public image, even during "the worst fiscal crisis in the state's history," the governor is requiring state employees to videotape and review local TV news broadcasts about him seven days a week on state time.
In one instance, a prison psychologist was ordered by his warden to review the tapes "for any news casts concerning Governor Blagojevich."
A source gave me a May 14th memorandum from the warden of the East Moline Correctional Center, Ian Oliver, which spelled out the duties for Dr. Keith Frainey. I published the contents of the memo last week in my newsletter, and several media outlets picked it up. A few papers outright stole it (including the Chicago Sun-Times), not identifying the original publication at all, and many didn't get the whole story, so here it is.
Dr. Frainey was informed in the memo that newscasts were currently being taped for Quad Cities channels 4, 6, 8 and 18. According to the memo, channels 4, 6, and 8 "are taped at 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm, and 10:00 pm." Channel 18 "is taped at 9:00 pm." That would be at least five hours of news broadcasts every day, seven days per week.
"Mr. Frainey has been appointed to review these tapes on a daily basis for any news casts concerning Governor Blagojevich," the warden wrote. "Where there is information on a tape complete the attached form and route the tape to the Warden's Office by 9:15 am."
Two prison counselors, Mike Weaver and Jeff O'Brien, "have been appointed as back ups," according to the memo.
Their union complained about the new duties, and the orders were changed. Management personnel are now taping the broadcasts.
Blagojevich spokesperson Cheryle Jackson defended the videotaping, although she did agree that requiring a psychologist to review at least five hours of TV newscasts every morning was probably not the right move.
Despite the specific wording of the DoC memo about tracking TV stories "concerning Governor Blagojevich," Jackson denied that state employees were being used to monitor broadcasts solely about the governor. The employees are looking for coverage about all state agencies, she insisted.
Jackson also reasoned that using state employees and several VCR's and televisions in each facility to monitor the broadcasts actually saves the state money because video clipping services charge "thousands of dollars a month." The governor, she said, "is trying to do more with less." The other option, of course, would be to not tape the programs at all - something Jackson never mentioned.
Jackson claimed that the Department of Corrections "already monitors their media around the state. So, we thought we would partner with Corrections to monitor the coverage."
A spokesperson for Corrections confirmed the department has checked its own coverage "for years," but, when pressed, admitted it was not a daily, ongoing project. Broadcasts were taped usually when the department knew a story would appear, the spokesperson said. The practice of daily monitoring started since the governor took office.
So, why is the governor's office doing this? Jackson explained that they were just following normal business practices. "Any company does this," she said.
Jackson also claimed the video clips give the governor's office "one means of knowing what state agencies are doing, what's getting covered."
"When the media raises an issue, sometimes it's the first we're learning of it," Jackson said, adding the videos are "sometimes a wealth of information for us."
Jackson also pointed out that the state has collected newspaper clippings on a daily basis "for eons." Those duties are handled by the Illinois Information Service.
Jackson said she didn't think it was unreasonable for someone in an agency's public relations office to monitor the broadcasts. But not every regional state office has a PR person, and the current East Moline monitoring is not being handled by a public relations person, according to the department.
Jackson did not know offhand how many state offices or state employees were monitoring news broadcasts seven days per week, but Illinois has several downstate TV markets besides the Quad Cities and Quincy. Rockford, Peoria, Metro East (via St. Louis), Carbondale, Decatur, Springfield, Bloomington and Champaign all have television stations. And then there's Chicago.
The governor said recently that he was hiring auditors to find waste in government and get rid of excess employees. Their first recommendation should be to stop using state workers to puff up the governor's vanity.
 

Governor defends using prison staff to tape news
 
BY CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporter
 
 
July 25, 2003
 

Responding to criticism from Republicans over his use of state prison workers to tape television news broadcasts, Gov. Blagojevich on Thursday defended the move as an exercise in good government.
"This is another example of changing the way business is done," Blagojevich said on Chicago's Near West Side after signing legislation that bolsters funding for preschool programs. "This is a way of bringing government outside of the closed rooms in Springfield and understanding what communities are facing."
Republican lawmakers have blasted the initiative in light of the state Corrections Department recently losing nearly 2,500 workers to layoffs and early retirements. The Democratic governor, they say, has no business asking prison employees around the state to tape newscasts and then send the tapes to the governor's office.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents prison workers, also lit into the governor.
"I always thought the job of corrections was to watch inmates, not to watch TV," Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, told the Associated Press.
Blagojevich dismissed the criticism, noting he isn't the first governor to pay attention to television newscasts around the state.
"We've expanded what previous administrations have done without costing the taxpayers any money," he said. "It's part of asking people to multitask so you can do more with less. . . . We're downsizing government; they're doing more than just the traditional job description."
 
 
 

 
 

Governor OKs most of budget
Rushville prison funds in $221 million cut

4 July 2003
By Doug Finke
State Capitol Bureau

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed most of the state budget into law Thursday, but not before slicing more than $221 million from it, including money to open a prison in Rushville.

Blagojevich slashed more than $48 million from Secretary of State Jesse Whites budget and nearly $2.5 million from Treasurer Judy Baar Topinkas budget. The cuts are deeper than White and Topinka were willing to accept earlier this week when Blagojevich demanded that they make reductions.

The administration had previously announced many of the other cuts Blagojevich made Thursday. They include eliminating money to give judges, lawmakers and top state officials pay raises and eliminating money for Department of Corrections captains positions. Blagojevich also plans to cut, but not eliminate, funding for regional superintendents of education, although he did not act on education funding legislation Thursday.

However, Blagojevich also made a number of new cuts Thursday, including $20 million for state employ-

-ee health insurance, about $22 million in Department of Human Services grants, $6 million in student assistance grants and $5.3 million in grants from the Department of Public Health.

Many difficult decisions had to be made because of the fiscal mess I inherited, Blagojevich said in a press release announcing the budget action.

But some of those decisions were harshly criticized Thursday. White said Blagojevich reneged on a promise made at a Tuesday meeting not to cut his budget by more than 3 percent.

We left the meeting with the understanding it would be a 3 percent decrease, White said. I dont like people bargaining with me in bad faith. This is the first time Ive ever been treated this way.

Blagojevich eliminated a $27 million increase White was supposed to receive and then cut an additional 7.5 percent of what was left. White said he already had talked with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, and has been assured they will restore the money during the General Assemblys fall veto session.

Topinkas budget also was cut 7.5 percent, even though she told Blagojevich the office could only absorb a 3 percent reduction.

We dug down deep for the 3 percent, said Topinka spokeswoman Carolyn Barry Frost. He accepted that, and then he turned around and changed his mind. Hes not a man of honor and hes not a man of his word.

The deeper cuts could very well mean layoffs and service cuts, Frost said.

Hes going to put hardworking people out of work because of his pork projects, Frost said, referring to member initiative grants the governor awarded last week.

Blagojevich spokesman Tom Schafer said the only grants the governor awarded last week involved bond money that could not be used to pay employee salaries.

Attorney General Lisa Madigans budget was only cut by 3 percent because she successfully argued that her office is involved with public safety issues. Comptroller Dan Hynes previously agreed to a 7.5 percent reduction.

Blagojevich cut $7.3 million that was supposed to pay for opening a Department of Corrections youth center in Rushville and to reopen a work camp in Paris. Money to reopen work camps in Hanna City and Greene County and to turn the Sheridan Correctional Center into a drug treatment facility is still in the budget.

Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said the money Blagojevich cut would have enabled the youth center to open in April and employ 275 people, a potentially huge impact for the area.

I am not going to give up on it, Sullivan said. We will get it open.

Henry Bayer, executive director of Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the union will push lawmakers to restore funding for the Paris work camp.

I thought we had an agreement (with Blagojevich) to reopen all three, Bayer said.

Schafer said many of the cuts involved money the General Assembly added at the last minute. He said the Department of Central Management Services assured the governor that the $20 million for state employee health insurance wasnt immediately needed to pay bills.

Blagojevich has yet to sign the budget for elementary and secondary education, which contains money for regional superintendents of schools. He is expected to sign it Monday.

Blagojevich originally wanted to eliminate money to pay the salaries of all 45 regional superintendents. However, lawmakers balked at the idea and restored $17 million. Blagojevich plans to cut that to $11 million.

The governor wants the regional superintendents to develop a plan to eliminate half of their jobs. The next election for regional superintendents is in 2006.

P.E. Cross, president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, said members of the organization agree with the governors plan, although they understand it comes with a price.

I would say there will be some cutbacks in some services, Cross said. We realize the dilemma of the state on the fiscal side.

Blagojevich also has yet to act on the capital budget, which pays for state building projects. Lawmakers added some of those projects - such as prisons at Grayville and Hopkins Park - even though Blagojevich wasnt in favor of them.

Schafer said it is too early to say whether Blagojevich will veto those projects. Many of the budget cuts Blagojevich made Thursday involved money that lawmakers added above what Blagojevich requested.

The legislature put too much money in the budget, above and beyond what the governor requested, Schafer said.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

 
 
Trading Away Jobs and Liberty
Though billed as a boon to the U.S., the General Agreement on Trade in Services will, in reality, wreak havoc on our economy, sovereignty, and way of life.
by William F. Jasper
June 30, 2003

Outsourcing," "offshoring," "human resource realignment," "training your replacement." These are words that send chills through millions of workers in IT ("information technology") and other hi-tech industries. They also send waves of anger and depression. In the tragic case of Kevin Flanagan, they are being blamed for his suicide. For months, the 41-year-old Silicon Valley software programmer had been anticipating a layoff announcement from his employer, Bank of America.
"He knew that Bank of America was sending jobs overseas," Contra Costa Times reporter Ellen Lee wrote in a May 13th article. "He had seen his friends and coworkers leave until only he and one other person remained on the last project Flanagan worked on." On the April afternoon after he had been told his job was terminated, Kevin Flanagan went outside and shot himself dead in the parking lot of the Bank of Americas Concord Technology Center.
Most of the newly displaced hi-tech American workers will not react in as extreme a manner as Kevin Flanagan, but the devastating economic, social, geo-political, and psychological impacts of this developing trend will prove to be huge.
Hundreds of thousands of American IT workers have lost their jobs in the past several years to foreign replacements through the L-1 visa loophole, or the similar H-1B visa program. American software engineers, computer designers, technicians, electrical engineers, and other hi-tech employees are feeling the downside of globalization. These professionals who invested in education and thought they had secure futures in the tech and service industries have had a rude awakening. They have been getting pink slips and joining the unemployment lines, along with auto workers, steel workers, assembly-line workers, loggers, and other low-tech workers. They are being replaced by low-wage workers on computer terminals working from India, Pakistan, and China.
Starting in the 1970s and accelerating in the 1980s and 90s, millions of American blue-collar manufacturing and resource industry jobs were lost as U.S. companies relocated factories to cheap labor markets like Mexico and Communist China. Now the white collar jobs are on the line. Analysts are predicting that millions of these high-end jobs will vanish from America in the next several years. A study by Forrester Research Inc. predicts that at least 3.3 million white-collar jobs and $136 billion in wages will shift from the U.S. to low-cost countries by 2015. However, if the so-called free trade onslaught of the Clinton and Bush administrations is allowed to continue, the devastating impact could be even greater than that, and could occur much sooner.
The Coming FTAs
Congressman John Mica (R-Fla.) has introduced legislation to rein in the L-1 visa program, which currently allows U.S. companies to transfer foreign employees from overseas branches or subsidiaries to the United States and then contract them out to replace American workers. But Rep. Micas legislative effort and others like it may have negligible impact if the multitude of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) now being completed by the Bush administration go into effect.
On May 6th, President Bush signed the Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which (if approved by Congress) would allow an unlimited number of "temporary" workers from Singapore to enter the United States. The new Singapore FTA states: "A party shall not: (a) as a condition for temporary entry [of intra-company transferees] require labor certification tests or other procedures of similar effect; or (b) impose or maintain any numerical restriction relating to temporary entry."
"Even before Congress can get around to curbing the abuses of the L-1 visa program, the administration is already looking for ways around any limits that might be set on the number of low-wage high tech workers who can be brought into the country," charged Dan Stein, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in a June 2nd news release. "The language of the Singapore FTA, if it is replicated in trade agreements with other countries, will institutionalize the abuses that have been widely reported" in the major media, Mr. Stein cautioned. "Control over employment-based visas will effectively be taken out of the hands of the peoples elected representatives," he noted, and transferred to corporate executives and foreign politicians in Singapore, Bangalore, Lahore, and Beijing.
As the history of the H-1B and L-1 programs has shown, many of these temporary workers overstay their visas and join the already massive pool of illegal aliens competing with U.S. citizens for a dwindling job base. The Singapore FTA would also impact U.S. employment by accelerating the trend of "outsourcing" and "offshoring" jobs currently held by American workers.
On June 6th, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick signed a similar FTA with Chile, on behalf of the United States. A June 6th news release from Zoellicks office states: "The agreement offers new access [to Chilean markets] for U.S. banks, insurance companies, telecommunications companies, securities firms, express delivery companies, and professionals." But what the release doesnt say is that this wont translate into jobs and prosperity for American workers. The "U.S." corporations that will be doing business in Chile will use an increasingly international labor force working by telephone and computer modem from Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
GATS Targets Everyone
Other bilateral and regional agreements are pending. One of the most far-reaching multilateral trade agreements now under negotiation, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), threatens to swell the tide of foreign workers to our shores and greatly speed up job outsourcing. Every bit as important as the job and immigration dynamic, however, is the GATS threat to our national sovereignty and our system of constitutional federalism. GATS will subject the U.S. to innumerable charges of trade restriction violations that arbitrators appointed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) will adjudicate. Thousands of federal, state, and local laws and regulations will become "illegal" under the GATS regime.
GATSs potential impact on the states is enormous. Under the U.S. constitutional system, the national government in Washington, D.C., is narrowly restricted to the exercise of specific, delegated powers having to do primarily with national defense, diplomacy, international trade, postal service, patents, etc. The individual states, on the other hand, reserved to themselves the vast majority of governmental powers concerning criminal and civil law, commercial relations, contracts, business regulation, professional standards and licensing, etc. Each of our 50 states enacts its own laws and regulations governing these matters. Since the Civil War, the federal government has been encroaching, unconstitutionally, on more and more of these states rights. Now, the internationalists in the Bush administration are preparing to take this process to the global level, positioning the WTO to encroach on the states authority to an incredible degree.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services will affect virtually all service industries and service jobs, which means virtually all American businesses and jobs. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which takes the lead in negotiating trade agreements, provides this answer to its own question, "What are services?":
Services are what most Americans do for a living. Service industries account for nearly 80 percent of U.S. employment and GDP. U.S. exports of commercial services (i.e., excluding military and government) were $246 billion in 1998, supporting over 4 million services and manufacturing jobs in the United States.
GATS targets all of these service industries, including insurance, banking, legal services, accounting, engineering, teaching, real estate, tourism, consulting, energy distribution, transportation, telecommunications, courier and postal services, and much, much more.
Most state laws governing these industries and professions are certain to come under concerted attack from member nations of the WTO. In fact, secret negotiation documents leaked from the European Union show that the EU is angling to have the Bush administration force the state governments in the U.S. to eliminate those laws that the Europeans consider to be unacceptably "discriminatory."
Concerning accounting, auditing and bookkeeping services, the EUs executive branch, the European Commission (EC), calls for opening U.S. markets by striking down many state laws. For instance, the leaked EC proposals say, in typical bureaucratese: "Obligation of establishing an in-state office in several States. EC Request: Remove this requirement." In identical bureaucratese, the EU/EC politicians call for removal of state residency requirements.
Similar proposals hold for engineering services. The EU objects to: "In-state residency requirement in Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia." Again, the EC bureaucrats say: "Remove this requirement."
The same goes for insurance services: "All States require in-State residency for surplus lines brokers and agents. EC Request: Eliminate this restriction."
Likewise, the EU insurance proposals call for removal of state laws requiring "U.S. citizenship and residency for members of the board and incorporators."
The EU objects that our incredibly lax immigration standards are too onerous, claiming: "Difficulties are experienced as a result of the length of time to process H1B visas." The EU complains that state governments unfairly restrict foreign acquisition of land, specifically calling for removal of "restrictions on ownership or purchase of land by non-US citizens in South Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida, Wyoming and Mississippi." Likewise it wants to see an end to "restrictions on purchase of public lands by non-US citizens in Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana and Oregon."
The European GATS negotiators call for eliminating state laws requiring U.S. citizenship for real estate brokers and take the U.S. to task for not removing state regulations concerning land surveying, aerial surveying, aerial map-making, printing and publishing, translation services, marine dredging, distribution of alcoholic beverages and military equipment, distribution of drinking water, waste water management, solid waste management, and a myriad of other services.
You can be sure that once these sectors are penetrated, GATS will be expanded to cover all other service jobs and professions: doctors, nurses, dentists, medical and dental technicians, anesthesiologists, veterinarians, chiropractors, beauticians, architects, teachers, financial planners, electricians, stock brokers, etc. All state laws concerning regulation and certification of these professions will be up for challenge in the WTO.
GATS is an especially dangerous agreement because it is not a single fixed document; it is an open-ended, ongoing process that commits the U.S. and all other 146 member nations of the WTO to a continuous progression of negotiation and revision. Thousands of invisible WTO/GATS negotiators are ever-busily rewriting state and national laws in secrecy. Although WTO and UN internationalists pretend to favor complete openness in government and are fond of using terms like "transparency" and "accountability," GATS demonstrates the complete hollowness of their claims. Each round of GATS has been conducted in secret negotiation sessions that last for years, and the documents that have emerged are couched in deceptive, ambiguous verbiage.
Federal System Under Attack
The EU has proven itself very aggressive in using the WTO to challenge U.S. laws and policies in the past. That history, together with the leaked EU proposals for GATS, provides plenty of warning that the Europeans will use all of their weight in the WTO to attack state and local laws that impede their penetration of our markets.
Of course, the EU proposals to their U.S. counterparts that the state laws and requirements in question be "removed," "eliminated," or "harmonized" show, at best, an ignorance of the constitutional division of powers between our national and state governments. The White House, even with the agreement of Congress, cannot constitutionally force the states to yield on these matters. To do so would be nothing less than blatant usurpation. The only way legally to effect the EUs proposals under GATS would be through deliberately amending the U.S. Constitution to transfer those state powers to the national government.
However, because the U.S. is already a signatory to earlier GATS agreements and commitments, the avid globalists in the U.S. argue that we are bound to conform to developing international trade standards, even if they conflict with our constitutional law.
They point, for instance, to the WTO "Disciplines on Domestic Regulation in the Accountancy Sector," adopted in December 1998. Paragraph 2 of that agreement holds that WTO member nations "shall ensure" that measures relating to "licensing requirements and procedures, technical standards and qualification requirements and procedures are not prepared, adopted or applied with a view to or with the effect of creating unnecessary barriers to trade." Members also agreed to ensure that "such measures are not more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill a legitimate objective." How will the WTO interpret "not more trade-restrictive than necessary" in relation to our state laws? We do not know, but there is a strong likelihood that it would not be favorable to our states. What are "legitimate objectives?" According to the WTO, they are: "The protection of the consumers (which includes all users of accounting services and the public generally), the quality of the service, professional competence, and the integrity of the profession." But, again, the interpretation will be decided by WTO one-worlders.
Some state legislatures and legislators are expressing concern, albeit belatedly, over the looming threat GATS poses to their authority. In a March 24, 2003 letter to Robert Zoellick, President Bushs U.S. Trade Representative, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) noted that it "supports international trade agreements that generate jobs and economic growth in our communities, provided that the agreements respect the constitutional and traditional authority of state and local governments." The NCSL said it is concerned that negotiations are proceeding under GATS "without a full understanding of the impact of GATS on state and local authority."
The NCSL letter noted that there are problems with conflicting and ambiguous definitions. It said: "GATS covers government-provided services if the services are commercial or if they are procured with a view to commercial resale. The WTO Secretariat has taken the position that merely charging ratepayers for a service is all it takes to make the service commercial, regardless of whether the charge is for a profit." The NCSL letter then asks: "Is there any unambiguous interpretation of which public services are commercial and which are not?"
While announcing again its support for international trade liberalization, the NCSL specified that trade agreements "must first be harmonized with traditional American law and values of Constitutional federalism." "Great care must be exercised," it continued, "to protect state laws and authority from unjustified challenges that will predictably result from the broad language of trade agreements."
Twenty-six Democrat members of the California legislature signed a March 28th letter to Mr. Zoellick expressing many of the same concerns. "This far reaching trade agreement of the WTO could have profound implications for our state and municipal lawmaking authority, specifically on our ability to fulfill our obligations and our authority to govern, legislate and regulate for the benefit of our communities and for the broader public interest," the letter stated. Among those signing the letter were Senate Majority Leader Don Perata, Senate Majority Whip Richard Alarcon, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, and lesbian activist Senator Sheila Kuehl.
The fact that some of the signers represent the most liberal-left elements of the Democrat Party does not negate the legitimacy of their concerns and objections. Undoubtedly, many of them oppose GATS simply for partisan reasons. However, taking their letter at face value, they are at least expressing the kinds of concerns that Republicans, who claim to be guardians of the Constitution, should be making. "The GATS is of particular concern to us because of its massive scope and the lack of clarity as to the extent to which it will apply to state and local laws," said the Democrat legislators. Their letter continued:
According to the text, the only services exempted would be those services "supplied in the exercise of governmental authority," defined as "any service which is supplied neither on a commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service providers." These are critical terms that remain undefined and could be interpreted by a dispute panel in a way that renders the exemption meaningless.
In fact, under an enforced regime contemplated by GATS, a great many state powers would be rendered meaningless. GATS is one of many WTO agreements in the process of battering down the remnants of national sovereignty and merging all nations into one global economic and political system that veteran globalists refer to as a "new world order." The ultimate goal of these one-world Insiders is world government under their control. The principal brain center of the world-government advocates is Pratt House, the New York City headquarters of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Nearly 30 years ago, in April 1974, a now-famous essay entitled "The Hard Road to World Order" appeared in the CFR journal Foreign Affairs. It was penned by Columbia University professor and veteran State Department official Richard N. Gardner, who most recently served in the Clinton administration.
Gardner told his fellow one-worlders that "instant world government" is an illusion because Americans would not accept an open assault on their constitutional system. The globalists, he said, must continue to labor for the piecemeal creation of an all-powerful superstate. It must be built gradually, piece by piece, brick by brick, he said:
In short, the "house of world order" will have to be built from the bottom up rather than from the top down. It will look like a great "booming, buzzing confusion," to use William James famous description of reality, but an end run around national sovereignty, eroding it piece by piece, will accomplish much more than the old-fashioned frontal assault.
Gardner suggested luring all nations into a variety of technological, economic, and political entanglements which would gradually be strengthened until they formed a genuine world government. The first three institutions Gardner pointed to for this purpose were the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). In 1995, GATT was transformed into the WTO, with greatly expanded status and powers. The Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs, and well-placed CFR members in business, finance, the media and government have provided the key leadership in advancing the GATT/WTO in this march toward "world order" and continue to lead the push for GATS and the proliferating entangling agreements misleadingly called Free Trade Agreements.
Sowing Confusion
As with the WTO itself, the most visible, vocal opponents of GATS are leaders of the hardcore Marxoid left. Global Trade Watch, led by veteran agitators Ralph Nader and Lori Wallach, is in the vanguard of the controlled opposition. This means that they put on a show of opposing the WTO to keep any real, principled constitutionalists from gaining the fore and exposing the real agenda behind the WTO/GATS agenda. Nader and Wallach are shills for the CFR globalists. Global Trade Watch is funded by the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and other CFR-dominated tax-exempt foundations. They are joined in this ruse by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Institute for Policy Studies, and other far-left bastions of radicalism, who, likewise, are generously funded by the same Establishment sources.
The Marxist rhetoric, radical appearance, and often violent demonstrations of these leftists tend to make the one-world champions of the WTO appear more reasonable, respectable, and centrist by comparison. This image contrast is repeatedly reinforced by a continuous parade of CFR-sponsored economists, forecasters, business leaders, brain trusts, and Republican leaders with impressive-sounding "research" that seems to show that what we need is more hair of the dog that bit us. We must simply enact more and more "Free Trade Agreements," while simultaneously yielding more and more authority to the WTO and sending more and more jobs overseas, claim these "enlightened" voices, when courting the American business community.
This is the essence of the message delivered to U.S. corporate leaders in an influential 2003 report from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a CFR corporate member. Entitled The Cusp of a Revolution: How offshoring will transform the financial services industry, the Deloitte report tells CEOs that they had better get their companies aboard the offshore express before they miss out completely on this "transformational" opportunity and are left in the dust.
"The shifting of activities to lower-cost locations," it claims, "ignites the possibility of transforming the structure of the financial-services industry. Indeed, it offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reduce significantly the operating costs of the majority of financial institutions." According to the report, "$356 billion of cost for the global financial-services industry will be relocated offshore within the next five years. We calculate that this will translate into a bottom-line annual cost savings of $138 billion (or $1.4 billion each) for the worlds top 100 financial-services companies by 2008."
Estimating that 13 million people are employed in financial services jobs in "mature industrial economies," the Deloitte analysis predicts a "potential movement of up to two million jobs" offshore. Cusp of a Revolution notes: "In 5 years GE Capital has offshored 11,000 positions to India and is now considering the impact of commercializing their offshore capabilities on their competitive advantage."
"Only a minority of financial institutions yet have offshore operations," says the Deloitte report. It continues: "Momentum has built rapidly within the industry, however, and we estimate that nearly three-of-four major financial institutions will be offshore within two years."
"It is essential to catch the wave of offshoring because the benefits are potentially transformational," says the much-quoted report. "As offshoring gathers momentum, so the types of functions will expand to include all types of business processes." "Those institutions currently offshore," says Deloitte, "particularly investment banks and insurers, will lead the shift to full-service offshoring."
If the CFR cabal dominating the White House, Congress, and the media have their way, GATS and the multiplying FTAs will lead to offshoring virtually all of Americas productive capacity and, with it, our rapidly disappearing prosperity, freedom, and independence.
Besides the recently signed FTAs with Chile and Singapore, the Bush administration is nearing completion on bilateral FTAs with Morocco and Australia. It also plans to complete two regional FTAs by years end: the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and El Salvador; and the South African Customs Union with South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Then there is the big granddaddy of the regional FTAs, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), involving 34 nations of North and South America and the Caribbean, scheduled for completion by 2005. Over the coming weeks and months, President Bush will be sending these agreements to Congress for a "fast track" up-or-down vote. By late 2004 the administration also plans to have completed negotiations on GATS. If we allow these agreements to be adopted and implemented, the United States will be headed on the fast track to self-demolition and oblivion, from world superpower to Third World has-been, a mere cog in the new one-world imperium.
Relatively little organized opposition to these schemes has materialized, except for that led by the left-wing anti-globalization forces. Most Republicans and conservative, patriotic Americans, still enamored of President Bush, have bought into the nonsensical arguments of the administration that these FTAs are the ticket to ever-expanding prosperity.
But that is changing rapidly, as more and more Americans are feeling the harsh reality of the planned "new world order" or are beginning to see the writing on the wall concerning their own jobs, businesses, and professions. By attacking virtually every segment of society simultaneously, the one-worlders may be miscalculating; they risk awakening, angering, and activating an immense resistance involving Americans from all socio-economic backgrounds and every walk of life. These newly awakened Americans can be reached and organized into a formidable force to upset the subversive globalist agenda and preserve our independence. But we have no time to waste.

 


Corrections delays job reorganization
Adriana Collindres
State Journal Register
27 June 2003
The Illinois Department of Corrections is delaying by a month a plan to reorganize its administrative setup at state prisons, in part by Y getting rid of more than 200 cap
tains' jobs, officials said Thursday.
The reorganization plan now will take effect Aug. l, instead of Tuesday as originally scheduled. The state's new fisca[ year begins Tuesday.
'We felt it was a responsible
course of action to delay this process for a month so that we can ensure, in fairness to everyone involved, that this process is done Without any wrinkles," said Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina. "The issue is we want to ensure that
we dot our i's and cross our t's."
Molina cited two reasons for the decision. The department wanted
to be sure it was giving proper notification to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union representing prison workers, he said. In addition,
he said, the department still is in the process of identifying who Will fill 65 "shift commander" positions.  In one component to the restructuring plan, the department intends
to create the new title of "shift commander" to describe employees who supervise prison work shifts. There Will be about 110 shift commanders, and existing job ranks of unit superintendent, major and captain will be abolished, Molina
said earlier this week.
", At present, captains are the shift supervisors of prisons.' But Gov.. Rod Blagojevich has said captains represent an unneeded layer of bureaucracy and that he would trim from the new state budget the $17 million that lawmakers put in for 230 captains' positions.
The department of Corrections has said that some of the captains
could move into shift commander  positions while others could fill 122 vacant lieutenant positions or get laid off.
The Department of Central Man
agement Services, which provides
personnel services to state agencies,on Wednesday notified the affected Corrections workers to stay on the job until they're told otherwise, Molina said.
In a letter to Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Local 31, Corrections Director Roger Walker
Jr. said the agency's reorganization effort has made it "imperative for us to revise the captain layoff plan."
"Consequently, we have asked CMS to rescind the original layoff plan that was to be effective July 1, 2003," added Walker's letter, which was dated Wednesday. "Please accept this  as a formal notice that DOC intends to layoff the captains effective August 1, 2003."
Bayer said Thursday that his
 union continues to believe the department's reorganization plan has
 some deficiencies."
 For instance, he said, it doesn't.
 provide for a sufficient number of
 shift commanders.
 Bayer also said the department is
making a mistake by offering lieu- " tenant positions to captains. The
union has filed a grievance on that
topic. AFSCME represents Corrections lieutenants, but not captains.
Bayer said he thinks the department's change in plans was prompted by procedural error.
 "They're required to give us a notice," he said of department officials.
 "They had never officially notified
  us that they were laying off captains
 and they were going to be putting
 captains in our bargaining unit."
 He said he hopes DOC officials
 use the month-long delay to "re- think their whole plan."
 The governor's office is aware
 that the Department of Corrections
 is postponing the reorganization
 plan, said Blagojevich spokesman
 Tom Schafer. The reorganization process  is
 Not stopping, he said. "It's Just being put off another month to  make sure everything is done correctly."
Molina said the delay would  have a "negligible" financial impact, and Schafer said the state still
would see the same cost savings by
eliminating the  captains jobs.
Adriana Collindres can be reached
at 782-6292 or
adriana.colindres@sj-r.com .

Prison positions changing
Corrections reacts to loss of captains
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
25 June 2003
Spurred by the elimination of more than 200 captains' positions next month, the Illinois Department of Corrections is revamping its administrative setup at state prisons.
"This is restructuring, streamlining," said agency spokesman Sergio Molina, who added that officials still are working on specifics of the plan.
About 110 people will serve as shift supervisors at prison facilities, he said. They likely will be called "shift commanders," and the existing job ranks of unit superintendent, major and captain will be abolished, Molina said. More than 30 department employees are unit superintendents and about 40 are majors, he said.
At present, captains serve as shift supervisors at the prisons.
But Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying the captains represent an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, sought to take away the funding for their positions. Lawmakers tried to save the captains' jobs by adding $17 million to the budget for the fiscal year that starts Tuesday, but Blagojevich said this month that he would use his line-item veto power to eliminate money for the 230 positions.
Molina said employees who hold captains' positions could fill about 65 of the shift commander spots, depending on each worker's qualifications. The pay for shift commanders hasn't been determined.
Henry Bayer, who heads the largest state employees union, believes the restructuring plan will "save some money, but the savings won't be as big as it looked on first blush," when the governor announced he was eliminating captains' positions.
Molina said there would be substantial savings, but he couldn't pinpoint how much.
Bayer's union, Local 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has filed a grievance to protest the movement of some DOC captains into 122 lieutenants' vacancies. Lieutenants are represented by AFSCME, but captains aren't.
While no captains have moved into lieutenants' positions yet, the Department of Corrections has identified which captains would fill those slots, Molina said. That's subject to change, however, because some of the captains slated to be laid off or moved into lieutenants' positions could qualify for shift commander jobs, he said.
After the new fiscal year starts, Molina said, the department expects to hire at least 1,300 "front-line staff," mostly correctional officers who deal directly with prison inmates.
"This reorganization of the bureaucracy is placing the emphasis right where it needs to be - on front-line staff," he said.
Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.
 

Statehouse INSIDER

BY DOUG FINKE
22 June 2003 
A memo issued by Department of Corrections Director ROGER WALKER JR. has some employees pretty upset. Its just what is needed in a department where employees are already on edge over budget cutbacks.
Dated June 12, the memo states all correspondence or phone calls received from state legislators and staff, congressional offices and staff and constitutional officers and staff should be directed to the Office of Intergovernmental Relations ... If contacted by a legislator directly, you should immediately notify the Intergovernmental Operations Office for direction on handling. NO IDOC EMPLOYEE should be corresponding with the above offices as an employee of IDOC without first notifying the Office of Intergovernmental Relations.
Some employees are taking that as a gag order, particularly captains who are lobbying to keep their jobs. However, Corrections spokesman BRIAN FAIRCHILD said the memo is just reiterating a longstanding DOC policy thats meant to ensure accurate information is passed along to other government officials.
 

Governor gets 30 patronage jobs

By MIKE RAMSEY
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
20 JUNE 2003
CHICAGO - Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Democratic administration can fill 30 more upper-level state positions - or fire the current job-holders - for purely political reasons.
The Illinois Civil Service Commission voted 5-0 Thursday to classify the jobs as exempt from protections against patronage. Since March, two months after Blagojevich took office, the panel has authorized at least 88 of the so-called "4d(3)" positions - a reference to an exemption in the personnel code - at the request of the governor's agencies.
The latest bundle of patronage jobs is spread across 10 departments and is a mix of existing and newly created positions. Many are vacant.
Among the positions are an Illinois State Fair adviser for the agriculture secretary, an inspector general and assistants for the administration, and two newly hired "special advocates" who will design a prescription drug-buying club for seniors.
Blagojevich campaigned for office by condemning political cronyism and oversized government, but spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the positions coming up for classification have been part of a larger streamlining - not an attempt to stack the payroll.
"Overall, there's still going to be a reduction in state head count," she said. "It would be misleading to (suggest) the governor is throwing all these positions into state government."
Most of the 51,000 employees in state agencies are hired under a_code that bars political considerations and stipulates levels of merit and fitness. The number of exempt employees serving "at the will" of the governor or his Cabinet increased to 475 with Thursday's vote by the Civil Service Commission, according to the Department of Central Management Services.
Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said she generally agrees with the concept of patronage - up to a point.
"There is a role for these kinds of jobs in certain positions, ensuring that you do have like-minded people and creating a team you can manage, but it really is a question of how far it goes," Canary said.
Ottenhoff said Blagojevich's administration likely will submit more requests to the Civil Service Commission as the state government restructuring continues. She noted that Blagojevich is the first Democrat to occupy the Executive Mansion since the late 1970s, and his staff is sorting through "three generations of Republican administrations."
The Civil Service Commission currently has a 3-2 Republican edge, but chairman George Richards of Danville said partisan interests aren't a factor in decision-making. The commission will approve re-classifications on the advice of agency officials and staff review, he said.
Five requested job-status changes were withdrawn or tabled Thursday.
Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com.
 

Candidate for the union members
By George F. Will
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT
Thursday, June 12, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Time was, presidential nominations were dispensed by kingmakers in smoke-filled rooms. Today smoking is a scarlet sin and the democratization of the nominating process supposedly has made kingmakers extinct.
Not quite. Meet Gerald McEntee.
The yearnings of Democratic presidential candidates are focused on the leader of the 1.4 million members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. McEntee says "it is going to be hard" in 2004 -- it was impossible in 1992 -- for the entire AFL-CIO to get the required two-thirds of its federated unions to agree to endorse a candidate before the first nominating event, the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses.
But "by late September, early October" AFSCME will, he says, endorse a candidate by itself, as it did in 1992. That year most AFL-CIO leaders lost their liberal hearts to Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and his prairie populism. McEntee kept his eye on the prize -- electability -- and AFSCME endorsed Bill Clinton early.
Two-thirds support of a particular candidate by AFSCME's leadership is not required, but McEntee says that as a practical matter "damn near" two-thirds will be required. And achieved. That will resonate, beginning in Iowa, where AFSCME represents 28,000 workers, second only to the teachers union. In 2000 just 61,000 voters participated in the Iowa Democratic caucuses hotly contested by Al Gore and Bill Bradley.
First elected in 1981, McEntee is in his sixth four-year term leading the largest of the public employee unions, which are responsible for most of the growth sector of organized labor. In 1955 America's population was about 166 million, the civilian work force was 54.2 million and union membership was 17.9 million, which was 33 percent of the work force. Today the population is about 290 million, the civilian work force is about 122 million and union membership is 16.1 million, which is 13.2 percent of the work force. Last year union membership declined 280,000, largely because of layoffs in such heavily unionized industries as airlines, hotels and steel.
But 37.5 percent of government workers today are union members. In 1956 there were 915,000 unionized government workers. Today there are nearly 7.4 million. Public employee unions are government organized as an interest group. They want more government, and more of government to be susceptible to unionization. So they have a perennial interest in electing Democrats, and an especially intense interest in defeating the current president, whose tax cuts are impediments to government growth. And, as he showed in the organization of the new Department of Homeland Security, he is not bashful about limiting the powers of organized labor.
"No access!" McEntee exclaims, referring to what he says labor experienced from the White House during the 12 years of the Reagan-Bush presidencies, 1981-1993. He says he entered the White House only once -- when Lech Walesa, leader of Poland's Solidarity labor movement, was honored and insisted that American labor leaders be present.
So McEntee is spoiling for a fight. In 1992 union households cast 19 percent of the presidential vote. But lately, thanks to aggressive voter-turnout operations that Republicans successfully emulated in 2002, voting by union households has risen rapidly: In 2000, union households delivered about 26 percent of the turnout.
How does McEntee think Bush can be beaten? "You have to get him partially or altogether out of the bubble he's been in since 9/11." Meaning? "You have to have a campaign that is somewhat aggressive on the issue (of terrorism), that shakes him (Bush) out of his hammock."
McEntee thinks John Kerry has the advantage of a distinguished war record. However, McEntee ruefully remembers that George McGovern was not protected by his fine World War II record: "I was treasurer of McGovern's Pennsylvania campaign, and we raised $400."
Dick Gephardt may have an advantage -- with McEntee, if not with the Democratic nominating electorate's antiwar activists -- because he burnished his national security credentials by helping to write and pass the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. And McEntee notes that Gephardt, who won the 1988 caucuses, "has cooked pancakes in everybody's kitchen" there.
Recently, McEntee says, "I was driving on Pennsylvania Avenue, past the Ronald Reagan Building, and I thought, 'Where are you now that we really need you?' Bad as he (Reagan) was for our people, this crowd is way out there." The blunt-speaking McEntee, more perhaps than any other person, will pick the candidate for expelling "this crowd."
 
 
 

DOC union: Displaced captains shouldn't get 1st shot at jobs
 

BY JOHN O'CONNOR
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
6 June 2003
 SPRINGFIELD(AP) A union contends the state Corrections Department is breaking the rules by offering first crack at openings for prison lieutenants to captains who are about to be laid off.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says hundreds of its members have passed the lieutenant's test and are in line for the jobs.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is cutting $17 million from the proposed budget to eliminate 219 captains' positions.
Corrections Department spokesman Sergio Molina said Thursday the agency got permission within the last month to fill 122 vacant lieutenant's spots union jobs with a rank just below captain and offered them all to captains, who are not part of the union.
"There are over 700 people who have passed the exam and are on the eligibility list" for lieutenant, AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer said. "They shouldn't be offering these positions to people outside the bargaining unit, irrespective of their qualifications."
Bayer said some captains have never worked as lieutenants or even passed the exam.
Hundreds of union members were laid off last year when two prisons and several work camps closed to save money. More than 100 have not been called back, Bayer said.
AFSCME filed a grievance with the agency last week.
Corrections is following personnel rules in allowing the latest laid-off workers the opportunity to take a lower rank, Molina said. Conversely, the laid-off guards can't be recalled to a promotion a correctional officer could not return as a lieutenant, he said.
Blagojevich said last week he wanted captains eliminated as an "unnecessary, bloated bureaucracy." The Democrat, who took $376,000 in contributions from AFSCME for last fall's campaign, dismissed the union's complaints as political sour grapes.
"Evidently they're concerned that most of these captains happen to be Republicans and that they shouldn't be hired," Blagojevich said. "They should be able to reapply for other positions in state government and we don't care what political party they come from."
Captains take unmbrage at Blagojevich's characterzation of them as bureaucrats. They say they are necessary to keep prisons safe and that people taking over for them won't have the same experience.

Governor cuts back budget by $22 million
Pay raises, prison captains take first hits from vetoes
By DOUG FINKE and MIKE RAMSEY
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
CHICAGO - Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday cut $22 million from the state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, including money for judges' and lawmakers' pay raises and to retain Department of Corrections captains.
The spending reduction represents only a tiny amount of the $53 billion state budget approved by lawmakers last week. However, the symbolic value of cutting raises for state officials is enormous.
"Now is not the time for a pay raise," Blagojevich said at a Chicago news conference. "We cannot afford it, and I cannot ask the taxpayers to pay for it."
Lawmakers included nearly $800,000 in the budget to cover 2.8 percent cost-of-living pay raises for themselves, the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer, attorney general and auditor general, along with Cabinet directors and their top aides.
The money was added even though nonunion employees under Blagojevich's control have had their salaries frozen and must begin contributing 4 percent of their wages to their pension plan.
Had the pay raises gone through, Blagojevich would have made $154,910. Base salaries for lawmakers would have risen to $59,232, although most of them earn much more through stipends paid for holding leadership posts or committee chairmanships.
Last month, Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, said lawmakers wanted a pay raise after giving up a 3.8 percent cost-of-living increase last year. At the same time, Jones wasn't surprised the governor killed the raises, according to Jones' spokeswoman, Cindy Davidsmeyer.
Although lawmakers will have a chance to restore the money later this year, "I don't think anyone is proposing that," Davidsmeyer said.
Under the Illinois Constitution, the governor can either reduce or outright eliminate spending sent to him by the General Assembly. He is not allowed to increase spending. Lawmakers can later vote to restore the money cut by the governor, usually in the fall veto session.
Blagojevich also cut $3.7 million to cover a cost-of-living increase for state judges. Earlier this year, the judges threatened to sue because a raise they were scheduled to receive was rejected by lawmakers. Refusing them a pay increase violated the constitutional separation of powers, according to the Illinois Judges Association.
I hope they understand that this is not a year that we can afford to give them a pay raise, Blagojevich said. At a time when we are asking almost everyone to share in the sacrifice of solving the fiscal crisis, I dont see how we can approve a pay raise for judges that totals nearly $4 million.
Judge Ann Jorgensen, president of the Judges Association, did not return phone calls seeking comment about Blagojevichs action.
The governor also eliminated funding to save the jobs of more than 200 Corrections captains. Blagojevich called for getting rid of the captains jobs when he introduced his budget in April. He said the captains represent a needless layer of bureaucracy.
Lawmakers, though, added $17 million to the budget to save the captains jobs.
In good conscience I cannot let that decision stand, Blagojevich said. The public expects us to do more with less. I cannot ask them to cover the cost of middle management we just dont need.
Word of the veto stunned Brian Kane, a captain at the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg.
This is a big letdown after 18 years of service, Kane said. I thought loyalty counted for something. I dont know what my future is going to hold.
Kane believes the state wont save as much money as it thinks because captains are salaried and work overtime without additional compensation. Without the captains, nonsalaried workers will have to put in longer hours with overtime pay, Kane said.
Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, agrees.
I think in the long run, its going to cost them a lot more, Poe said. Id be willing to vote for an override, but Im afraid theyll already have their people in place.
Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said 122 of the departments 219 captains already have been offered positions as lieutenant.
Generally speaking, they will be taking a pay cut to move to lieutenants, Molina said, adding that the remaining captains can apply for other vacant jobs in the department.
Wednesdays spending cuts will not be the last, according to Blagojevich, who said, I fully anticipate and expect there will be more announcements along these lines.
The governor said he hasnt decided if he will veto money included in the budget to complete construction of prisons at Hopkins Park and Grayville. He said he is not persuaded at all by claims the state will have to pay $40 million to pull out of the two construction projects.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com and Mike Ramsey at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com.

Budget Proposal includes funds for prison projects
 
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
The proposed state budget that lawmakers sent to Gov.Rod Blagojevich includes money to resume two prison construction projects being overseen by central Illinois firms.
Blagojevich, however, already
has indicated he probably would trim parts of the budget, so it's un certain which items will befunded in the final version of the spending plan that covers the fiscal year beginning July 1.
For now, though, the budget contains $126 millIon to pay for construction costs at a new maximum
security prison in Grayville and $78
million for construction costs at the
new women's prison in Hopkins
Park.
Williams Bros. Construction of Peoria Heights is general contractor for the Grayville prison in southern Illinois, and River City Construction Co. of East Peoria is general contractor for the Hopkins Park facility, near Kankakee.
Because of the state budget crisis, Blagojevich halted the prison construction in mid-April. That disrupted business for Williams Bros.,
River City and dozens of subcontractors, and some employees were laid off.

Governor to veto some pay raises

  
 
By Maura Kelly
Associated Press Writer

June 4, 2003, 3:02 PM CDT

Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Wednesday he will veto pay raises for the state's constitutional officers, agency directors, judges and lawmakers as part of $22 million in cuts to the state budget just approved by the General Assembly.

Blagojevich also said he will cut money, put in the budget over his objection, that would continue to fund more than 200 captains' jobs in the state Department of Corrections.

Blagojevich said he was making the line item vetoes to the $52 billion budget lawmakers passed late Saturday because tough choices are still needed to make sure the state's roughly $5 billion deficit is erased.

"In these difficult times when state agencies are being consolidated, when the number of state personnel is being reduced, in short, when others are being asked to sacrifice, this is not the time to give pay raises to the governor, the lieutenant governor, to the constitutional officers, to the men and women of the General Assembly or to the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court or the Circuit Court judges,'' Blagojevich said.

If lawmakers do not override the governor's cuts, the money will be put in the state's rainy day fund.

The governor said he will continue to review the budget for additional spending cuts.

"I fully anticipate and expect there will be more announcements along these lines,'' Blagojevich said.

The budget included $791,000 for pay raises for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer, auditor general, agency directors, assistant agency directors and all 177 lawmakers.

The raises were to take effect automatically because lawmakers did not pass a bill to reject them.

A 2.8-percent raise, based on the inflation rate, would have boosted the governor's salary to $154,910. State representatives and senators would have been paid a base pay of $59,232.

Lawmakers also would have received increases in the stipends they get for extra duties, ranging from $9,017 for committee chairman to $24,043 for legislative leaders such as the Senate president and the House speaker.

Sen. Patrick Welch (D-Peru), an appropriations committee chairman, said he wasn't surprised by the governor's decision to veto raises.

"With the budget problems that we had it was not a good idea to include them in the bill, but the bill came up so late that we didn't want to redraft that part of the legislation,'' he said. "Many of us encouraged the governor to veto that part of the legislation.''

Last year, lawmakers rejected cost-of-living raises for themselves and some judges, prompting judges to threaten to file a lawsuit. Pay raises for judges were approved this year by lawmakers. Blagojevich said the judicial raises would cost $3.7 million.

DuPage County Circuit Judge Ann Jorgensen, who is president of the Illinois Judges Association, declined to comment until she had more information about the governor's decision to cancel the raises.

Judges have said the state constitution prohibits anyone from reducing a judge's salary while he or she is in office. A cost-of-living increase is considered part of a judge's salary, not a raise, said Cook County Circuit Judge Stuart Nudelman, immediate past president of judges association.

The raises Blagojevich vetoed would have boosted a Supreme Court judge's salary to $168,538; an Appellate Court judge's salary to $158,624; a Circuit Court judge's salary to $145,558; and an associate judge's salary to $135,645.

The governor said the corrections department captains can reapply for lower paying jobs in the department, which are open because of early retirements.

"The public expects us to do more with less. I cannot ask them to cover the cost of middle management we just don't need,'' Blagojevich said.

AN OPEN LETTER TO IDOC DIRECTOR ROGER WALKER
 
3 June 2003
Dear Director Walker,
We are pleased that at long last DOC has new leadership. AFSCME looks forward to working constructively with you to bring stability to a Department which has been in turmoil as a result of actions taken by the previous administration and by your predecessor, Donnie Snyder.
The disruption included an attempt to deny DOC employees the improved pension that the Union had fought so hard to negotiate; an attempt to eliminate all Sergeant, Maintenance Craftsman, and Leisure Activity Specialists; an initiative to privatize dietary and commissary services; and attempts, partly successful, to close DOC prisons, juvenile centers, work camps, and adult transition centers.
The new administration has taken some positive steps to rebuild DOC: the elimination of a number of superfluous deputy director positions; the plan1 to reopen Sheridan; and the recall of many laid off employees.
However, that positive direction has run into a roadblock as the result of DOC's decision to offer lieutenant positions--for which AFSCME members have worked so hard to qualify--to captains.
For many years DOC had complete discretion in selecting candidates for both captain and lieutenant positions. Too often selection for those jobs was made on the basis of politics and favoritism. It took the union a long time to pressure the State into permitting our members to be chosen for lieutenant positions based upon their ability to pass an exam, and on their years of service with DOC.
Now, those who've qualified for the lieutenant positions through that route and have been waiting patiently for promotional opportunities are being forced to stan1d by and watch as those jobs are offered to many of the people who rose to the ranks of management through the very political process that we fought so hard to eliminate.
In addition, the timing of these offerings is very suspicious. For months we have been urging DOC to recall our laid off members and to fill the hundreds of jobs which remain vacant. We were told that there are budget constraints (we do recognize that there are) and that filling positions would take time. In the meantime, more than 100 of our members remain on layoff, and more than 500 are in temporary assignments. Yet as soon as the captains became subject to layoff, scores of lieutenant positions popped open.
Whatever the motivation, bypassing employees who've worked hard and played by the rules is causing immense damage to departmental morale. It is crucial that you act quickly to redress this situation and make sure that all lieutenant positions are filled only by bargaining unit employees who have contractual rights to them. There are correctional officer vacancies that could be made available to captains to avert their layoffs.
Our Union has always worked hard to improve prison safety. We were the first to call attention to the problems with gangs and call for a get-tough policy, and we initiated legislation to ban cell coverings. It was the union that first advocated for limits on inmate property and movement, and for the requirement that inmates wear uniforms.
These measures enhanced institutional security immeasurably, but the improvements that have
been made are now jeopardized both by the extreme shortage of staff and by the friction that has been unnecessarily created by the manner in which the lieutenant positions have been offered, a friction not lost on the inmate population.
DOC faces big challenges, challenges that can only be met if both the Department's leadership and employees work together. For its part the Union is ready to work with you. We urge you to act immediately to fill the hundreds of vacant frontline positions and to restore fairness to DOC's filling of vacancies policy so that we can1move this Department forward, beginning today.
AFSCME COUNCIL 31
 
 


 

GOVERNOR MIGHT STILL CUT PRISON CAPTAINS
BY MATT ADRIAN
FOR THE SOUTHERN
Mon Jun 02 2003
 
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he might use his amendatory veto powers to remove 218 Department of Corrections captain positions that lawmakers included in next year's budget.
Blagojevich had redlined the jobs as a way to pare costs and fill a $5 billion budget hole.
"We were able to find ways to streamline government, consolidate state agencies, reduce the headcount in personnel, make government more accountable ... eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy or hard-to-justify bureaucracy, and these positions could very well fit that description," Blagojevich said. "If that is the case after we review the legislation and the budget then I'll act appropriately."
The captains lobbied heavily to get their jobs replaced in the fiscal 2004 budget. As state employees, the 218 captains are allowed to apply for other positions within state government. As a result, the administration is allowing many of the captains to apply for 114 lieutenant positions open throughout the state prison system.
Allen Arbeiter, a captain at the Du Quoin Work Camp, said he has been offered a lieutenant position, but if he accepts he will lose 22 years of seniority.
"There will be guys with five or six years in with more seniority than me," Arbeiter said. "It's a hard pill to swallow, but it's better than being unemployed."
Arbeiter said he and other captains are concerned that eliminating their positions will remove a level of frontline workers.
"It's going to get someone hurt," Arbeiter said.

 
 
The administration's move has been met with resistance by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the union that represents most of the state's prison workers.
AFSCME argues that the lieutenant positions should be filled by union members, especially the more than 100 laid-off prison workers who lost their jobs after cuts in the state's current budget. The union filed a contract grievance against the state last week.
217-789-0865
 

 Governor expects to trim budget
Critics: More cuts still may not help spending plan
2 June 2003
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
Barely an hour after the Illinois General Assembly passed the last pieces of next year's state budget, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he probably will veto parts of the spending plan sent to him by lawmakers.
However, critics said even cuts might not be enough to save a spending plan they believe relies on overly optimistic estimates of how much revenue the state expects to collect next year. If those critics are right, lawmakers could be back in Springfield in a matter of months making even deeper cuts or raising additional taxes.
"They may be able to cobble through and get us into January," said Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin, the Senate Republican budget negotiator. "This budget does not (make it through) a full year."
Lawmakers sent to Blagojevich a $53-billion-plus spending plan balanced with hundreds of fee increases, business tax hikes and one-time revenues such as the sale of the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago and the sale of an unused riverboat casino license.
The spending plan largely mirrors the budget plan proposed by Blagojevich in April. It provides additional money for education but leaves many state jobs vacant, trims money for universities and makes cuts to human services programs.
Lawmakers voted to restore some of the human service cuts and to add about $180 million to public elementary and high schools.
Although balanced on paper, the budget still may be cut before Blagojevich signs it into law.
"We haven't decided on what, if anything, I'll veto, although I do suspect some vetoes are likely," Blagojevich said at a news conference early Sunday. "I think we have an opportunity to even pare down this budget some more."
Blagojevich didn't say what spending he might veto, but the likely targets include money lawmakers added in the last couple of weeks to restore cuts Blagojevich called for in the budget he proposed in April. That could include money to save the jobs of 200 Department of Corrections captains and salaries for regional superintendents of education.
"We eliminated layers of unnecessary bureaucracy or hard-to-justify bureaucracy," Blagojevich said when asked whether he would cut the Corrections' captains. "These positions could very well fit that description. If that's the case after we review the budget, then I'll act appropriately."
During a private meeting last week, Blagojevich told Senate Democrats he likely will veto the money lawmakers reinstated to pay salaries of regional school superintendents.
Blagojevich also vowed to hold the line on lawmakers' pet projects that were included in a $10 billion capital projects bill the General Assembly hurriedly passed just before adjournment. The budget includes $4 billion worth of new projects and $6 billion continued from previous years.
At least $200 million and possibly more than $300 million is included in that budget in lump sums for projects to be identified later. The widely criticized pool of money for lawmaker projects known as member initiatives was also budgeted as a lump sum in the budget passed a year ago, with the actual projects only identified months later.
Although project money is included in the capital budget, it cannot be spent until the governor signs off on it. Blagojevich insisted Sunday that he will only approve about $450 million worth of projects that were carried over from previous state budgets - at least for now.
"I've said consistently we're not going to fund anything beyond the $450 million we allotted," Blagojevich said. "If there is more than that, it will be considered in the second year."
Included in the capital budget is $7 million to remodel part of the closed Lincoln Developmental Center into cottages for residents being moved into community-based care. Blagojevich budget director John Filan said the new state budget also includes up to $5 million to pay salaries for staffers at the remodeled facility. It will not reopen until January at the earliest.
Lawmakers rushed to approve the capital-spending budget before the midnight Saturday adjournment deadline. After then, Republican votes were needed to approve bills, increasing their bargaining power.
In the Senate, Democrats began debating the bill on the Senate floor without first holding the customary committee hearing. When Republicans complained, the majority Democrats cut off debate and rammed the bill through just before the deadline. Republicans stormed off the floor, and the Democrats adjourned for the spring shortly after.
"To have it crammed down our throat in typical Chicago-style politics sets a precedent, I think, for the future sessions that is not going to be good," said Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville.
Those strained relations between Republicans and Democrats could make it more difficult for the General Assembly to fix the budget if it starts unraveling a few months into the budget year that starts July 1. More than a few lawmakers believe there is a strong possibility that a repair job is going to be needed.
"This is a budget that's very fragile," Watson said. "It's built on revenue sources that are questionable at best. I think there's a real possibility we'll see this come crumbling down like a house of cards."
The budget assumes the state will be able to sell an unused casino license for $350 million, even though Illinois has the highest casino taxes in the nation. It also assumes the state will collect at least $230 million from the sale of the Thompson Center state office building in downtown Chicago, along with the toll highway headquarters in Downers Grove and some Elgin Mental Health Center property.
Many lawmakers don't think the state will collect that money. Moreover, they aren't even convinced that the fee hikes and business taxes will produce as much money as anticipated.
"In a year like this, with the structure of the budget the way it is, there's a real good possibility we'll be back (to fix it) just because all of those things have to happen," said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley. "If two or three of these major components fall apart, we end up $400 million to $500 million short."
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.

 
 
 
 

Captains' fate rests with veto pen

Monday, June 2, 2003

By Kurt Erickson Statehouse bureau chief

SPRINGFIELD -- The jobs of more than 200 prison captains remain in limbo despite the General Assembly's approval of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's $52 billion budget late Saturday. Blagojevich, in comments after the budget was passed, said he may take his veto pen to the massive document in search of ways to pare down spending that was added in the waning days of the spring legislative session.

The $17 million that would fund the captains' salaries could be among the cuts.

"Some vetoes are likely," Blagojevich said.

"These are the hard choices we have to make."

In his efforts to cut government spending, Blagojevich announced earlier this year that he was eliminating the captains as a way to "streamline bureaucracy" in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He also cut deputy director positions in hopes of saving several million more dollars in state spending.

Last month, he sent layoff notices to the 217 non-union workers telling them they would be out of work on June 30.

At Pontiac Correctional Center, nine captains would be cut. At Dwight Correctional Center, 10 positions would be slashed. At the two state prisons in Lincoln, a total of nine workers would lose their jobs.

The captains, dressed in their uniforms, kept a vigil at the Statehouse for much of last week and watched as the House and Senate inserted $17 million into the budget to restore their positions.

Blagojevich, who is expected to sign the budget in the coming weeks, said the captains, if they are vetoed out of the budget, would be welcome to reapply for any openings within the prison system.


 


Budget makes good on promise
BY CHRIS TERRY
JACKSONVILLE JOURNAL-COURIER
June 2, 2003
Roodhouse resident Frank Hopkins attended more than 1,500 graduation ceremonies at the Greene County Boot Camp before it closed late last year.
But With the approval Saturday night of the state's 2004 fiscal year budget, Mr. Hopkins, on behalf of the North Greene Chamber of Commerce, Will get a chance to present even more
plaques to graduates of the boot camp sometime in the near future.
Part of the state's budget included $3 million to reopen work camps in Greene County and Hanna City and an
additional $5million to open the Illinois
Youth Center in Rushville.
"We're elated down here," said Mr.
Hopkins, who helped organize rallies in
support of reopening the facility and testified about the facilities advantages
before the State Government Administration Committee in February. "People are calling me to find out more, but 1 don't know any more right now. I just know that the boot camp is going to
"
reopen.
White Hall Mayor Harold Brimm was first asked about the camp's reopening at church Sunday morning. Though he couldn't provide an answer then, he inquired shortly after return
ing home from church.
"I'm sure glad to hear this because we've lost a lot of revenue," Mayor Brimm said. "1 had a strong feeling that this was going to happen because (Gov. Rod Blagojevich) made that promise to the people of Greene County. I didnt
know for sure, but I just had a good feeling."
State Rep. Jim Watson, R.
Jacksonville, said the facility will be phased into a complete reopening by January.
The Rushville facility is scheduled to open in the last quarter of the 2004 fiscal year, state Sen.
John Sullivan, D-Rushville, Said.
Once it is opened, the Illinois Youth Center will be among the top employers in western Illinois, Sen. Sullivan said, providing
about 275 jobs. Former Gov.,
George H. Ryan awarded the $34 million, 288 bed facility to
Rushville in December 1999, but its opening was delayed because of the state's budget deficit
Rushville Mayor Ronald Shepherd said his only hope is
the juvenille prison hires local residents rather than transfers from other facilities.
"The opening of this is long anticipated," said Mayor Shepherd.. "Hopefully, it's going to have an upswing in the job market of the area, which has lost a lot of big companies recently."
However, state Sen. Vince Demuzio, D-Carlinville, cautioned that until. the governor signs into law the bill enacting the measures, House Bill 2700, anything can happen.
"I would hope that there's room for this project to go forward'" said Sen. Demuzio. "I
think it's a good one, and we will work with the governor anyway we can to facilitate the opening."

 

 

 

AFSCME upset by DOC move
 By Adriana Colindres
 State Capitol Bureau
May 30, 2003
 
Representatives of the largest state employee union are crying foul over the possible movement of some Department of Corrections captains into lieutenants' posts.
That would unfairly take jobs away from
 some current lieutenants, who are mem
bers, of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said
Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31.
"We have over 100 members who have been on layoff for 10 months who have no health insurance, and we have been trying to get the governor to post the positions for the people to come back to work," Bayer said. "So far, they've been dragging their feet in doing that, yet last week, they turned
around on a dime and offered positions that
belong to our members to captains who the governor has claimed to layoff."
Bayer has Written a letter to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, expressing the union's opposition to what Bayer described as a Corrections move to grant "an unknown number" of lieutenant positions to captains. The action last week "thwarted the contractual rights of AFSCME members" in the depart
Ment, he said.
 "The union also has filed a grievance with
the Department of Central Management Services, state government's personnel agency, Bayer said..
At present, " the captains aren't members of a union. But they are seeking to become
represented by Laborers' International
Union of North America.
Bayer and roughly 80 AFSCME mem
bers went to the second floor of the state Capitol Thursday morning, hoping to meet with the governor. After being told he wasn't in, Bayer and other AFSCME officials instead spoke with Julie Curry, Blagojevich's deputy chief of staff for economic development and labor.
"We laid out to her our outrage and con
cerns about the actions that have been
taken in the Department of "Corrections," Bayer said.
, He told union members that the gover
nor's office said it would set up a meeting next week between the union and new Corrections Director Roger Walker.
"Our hope is that the new director will have a sense of fairness and that he will reverse these decisions.," Bayer said.
Blagojevich's budget proposal called for cutting the funding .for Corrections captains' jobs. The House Senate restored
that funding in budget bills they passed and sent to the governor last week. Also last week,Walker said he would copsider sug
gestions that the outgoing captains be re
hired at a lesser rank.
Blagojevich said later Thursday that the
union "doesn't appreciate the fact" that the captains' contract says they must be given a chance to reapply for other positions with the state.
"Evidently, they're concerned that most of these captains happen to be Republicans and that they shouldn't be hired," the governor added. "In those cases where we've decided to downsize by reducing bureau
cracy and needless waste, if contracts and
rules provide that those same employees can reapply, they should be able to reapply for other positions in state government, and we don't. care what political party they come from."
While Bayer and the others met Thursday, with AFSCME members waiting outside the governor's office, about 15 uniformed Corrections captains also stood nearby.
The captains are lobbying policymakers
about the importance. of keeping their jobs
in the state budget, said Matthew Bradbury,
a captain at Western Illinois Correctional  Center in Mount Sterling.
"We're the highest-ranking staff  that are
there. 24 hours a day, seven days a week,"
he said. 
"It's unfortunate we can't get on the
same page and work together (with AF
SCME) toward a common goal, "Bradbury said.  " The common goal is everybody
keeps their jobs." '
Doug Finke and Mary Massingale of the State Capitol Bureau contributed to this report. AdrianaColindrescan be reached at 782-6292 or
adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.

May 27, 2003
VIA FACSIMILE
The Honorable Rod Blagojevich
Governor of Illinois
207 State House
Springfield IL  62706 
Dear Governor Blagojevich: 
I am writing to express the union's strong objection to actions taken last week by the Illinois Department of Corrections which granted an unknown number of lieutenant positions to DOC captains and thwarted the contractual rights of AFSCME members in DOC. 
The timing of DOC's action is highly suspect. From the day you were inaugurated, the union has been pressing this administration to fill badly needed front line vacant positions.  Time and again we were told that first DOC had to request that positions be filled before the Governor's office would grant permission for the filling of any vacancy. 
At times the process seemed interminable and although a number of our laid off members were recalled to work, we still have more than 100 members who are in their tenth month on layoff without health insurance. 
While we were counseled by the Department to be patient, DOC turned around on a dime when captain's jobs were in jeopardy to find places for them. If, indeed, these positions are so critical to fill, why did DOC wait until the captains received layoff notices to fill them? 
Many hard-working AFSCME members have been waiting for years for the opportunity to fill the positions which are now being offered to captains.  In order to qualify for a lieutenant position our members have studied for and passed the appropriate tests.  Most of these captains have never taken the lieutenant test.  Indeed, some have even taken it and flunked, only to be made captains because of their political connections.  Now DOC proposes to bring them into lieutenant positions through the back door.
 
May 27, 2003
Page Two
If DOC had followed appropriate procedures, then the lieutenant positions would have been posted and current qualified employees -- mainly sergeants or correctional officers -- would have filled them.  Other correctional officer positions are on tap to be filled in the coming weeks and those could have been made available to the captains once all employees had an opportunity to bid on available positions.
That's how the situation could have been -- and still can be -- handled fairly.  The actions taken by DOC are an insult to every hard-working front line staff person and I urge you to reverse them immediately.
Sincerely,
 
Henry Bayer
Executive Director 
/ls(5766)
cc: Julie Curry
 

higgins35022ab.gif

Jacksonville budget in HB2700 for FY2003

30                  JACKSONVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER
31      For Personal Services ........................ $ 21,375,200
32      For Employee Retirement Contributions
33       Paid by Employer ............................    1,160,200
34      For Student, Member and Inmate Compensation ..      410,000
 
                            -85-     SDS093 00032 AWM 00032 a
 1      For State Contributions to State
 2       Employees' Retirement System ................    2,743,700
 3      For State Contributions to
 4       Social Security .............................    1,603,000
 5      For Contractual Services .....................    3,442,400
 6      For Travel ...................................       20,000
 7      For Travel and Allowance for Committed,
 8       Paroled and Discharged Prisoners ............       40,000
 9      For Commodities ..............................    2,716,000
10      For Printing .................................       26,600
11      For Equipment ................................      153,500
12      For Telecommunications Services ..............       72,900
13      For Operation of Auto Equipment ..............      167,100
14      For the Greene County Impact
15       Incarceration Program .......................    2,578,650
16        Total                                         $36,509,250

State Senate approves spending plan
Stage set for House to pass budget, sent it to governor
May 23, 2003
By DOUG FINKE
 
SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Senate approved major portions of the state budget Thursday, setting the stage for the House to approve them today and send them to Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
But even as the spending plan was being approved, Blagojevich and the four legislative leaders were still struggling to figure out how to pay for it. It now appears the state will dip further into special purpose funds to underwrite the budget, something likely to anger the interest groups who benefit from those funds.
Senators approved budgets for elementary and high schools, universities, human services and a host of other agencies Thursday night. While money for some programs was cut, the budget plan crafted by the Democrats preserved 2.8 percent cost-of-living increases for state lawmakers.
The Senate education budget added $97 million for public elementary and high schools above what Blagojevich called for in his budget plan. State School Superintendent Robert Schiller said the plan puts more money into districts with large numbers of poverty students. The change means only a "handful" of school districts will lose money, unlike the more than 300 districts that lost money under Blagojevich's original budget.
"The losses range from less than $263 to a high of $164,000," Schiller said.
Those losses will be made up with $5.2 million in transition money contained in the budget.
Regional school superintendent salaries are restored in the Senate budget.
The budget the Senate approved includes money to open the youth center in Rushville and work camps at Hanna City and Greene County that were closed this year because of the budget crunch. Money to reopen Sheridan Correctional Center as a drug treatment center is also in the budget, as is money to complete construction of the Hopkins Park correctional center.
However, the budget does not include money to reopen a portion of Lincoln Developmental Center.
The Senate budget bills include $17 million to continue the rank of captain at the Department of Corrections. Blagojevich wants to eliminate the captains' positions, and 30-day layoff notices were sent to the captains this week.
The captains' salaries were included in the same bill that gives lawmakers a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase, making it difficult for them to vote against the bill even if they didn't want to raise their own salaries.
Several Republicans complained they were being asked to vote for spending bills when it's unclear how the state will pay for all of the spending. Blagojevich has called for a wide range of fee increases, closing so-called "tax loopholes" and tapping into special-purpose funds to balance the budget. So far, lawmakers haven't approved any of those, and some of Blagojevich's ideas are running into stiff opposition.
"This is a house of cards, and it will come tumbling down and we will be back here," said Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville.
The Senate passed the brunt of the budget Thursday and is expected to deal with the rest today.
Earlier Thursday, Blagojevich and the four legislative leaders met face to face for nearly three hours to talk about the revenue hikes Blagojevich needs to balance the budget.
"We had a good productive day," Blagojevich said after the meeting.
Blagojevich conceded that he and lawmakers could be $300 million to $700 million apart, based on how much lawmakers want to spend and how reluctant they are to raise fees. At least two revenue ideas floated by Blagojevich - eliminating tax breaks on out-of-state natural gas purchases and on equipment used by trucking companies, airlines and railroads in Illinois - are facing stiff opposition from lawmakers.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said special purpose state funds may be asked to shoulder more of the budget-balancing burden. Those funds usually get their money from fees assessed on professions or industries. The funds then pay for programs that benefit those industries or professions.
Blagojevich said those funds should pay a 5 percent fee to cover the cost of the state providing bookkeeping and other administrative services. Now, though, the four leaders are thinking of assessing those funds a 6 percent or 7 percent administrative fee.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has indicated the House will begin voting on fee increases next week after the Memorial Day weekend. The Senate will not vote on them until after the House approves them.
Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn their spring session May 31.
 
 

Blagojevich recognizes Lewis as 2003 Correctional Officer of Year
Proclaims May 4-10, 2003 Correctional Officer Week in Illinois
9 May 2003
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today recognized Pontiac Correctional Center officer Ed Lewis as the 2003 Correctional Officer of the Year and thanked all corrections staff for the important work they do in protecting the public from danger. He also declared May 4-10 as Correctional Officer week in Illinois in appreciation for the important public service they provide the citizens of Illinois.
"The uniformed staff who make our Illinois prison system a model for the rest of the nation are dedicated, hard working public servants who deserve our thanks and praise," said Blagojevich. "Without their daily sacrifices, commitment and fair treatment of prison inmates, we would not be able to live our lives in the safety and comfort we all enjoy."
Nominations for this year's award come from officers recognized at each of the Department of Corrections 26 state prisons and eight juvenile centers. The top officer is selected from the facility nominees and presented with a $500 savings bond, membership in the American Correctional Association and given the opportunity to address those present for the award. The nominees are judged on leadership, initiative, professionalism and service to their community and career.
This year's winner has served as an officer at Pontiac since September 1994. Officer Lewis became squad leader of the Pontiac Tactical Unit for emergency response inside the prison in 1995. He has also served as class counselor at the Corrections Training Academy and has represented the agency at career night programs for high school students.
Officer Lewis is working toward a college degree in criminal justice with an emphasis on business administration. He coaches football in the local youth league and displays steady leadership skills in his volunteer work and career at the prison.
Other facility nominees include
Big Muddy River Correctional Center - Monty Clark, Correctional Officer;
Centralia Correctional Center - Rodney L. Schaeffer, Correctional Officer;
Danville Correctional Center - Jamie Hernandez, Correctional Officer;
Decatur Correctional Center - Tony Coleman, Correctional Officer;
Dixon Correctional Center - Brett Melton, Correctional Officer;
Dwight Correctional Center - Brenda Lillard, Correctional Officer;
East Moline Correctional Center - Tim Jackson, Correctional Officer;
Graham Correctional Center - Jesse Busby, Correctional Officer;
Hill Correctional Center - Phillip J. Brooks, Correctional Officer;
Illinois River Correctional Center - Steven Smith, Correctional Officer;
Jacksonville Correctional Center - Patrick Clarey, Correctional Officer;
Lawrence Correctional Center - Rachel Nielsen, Correctional Officer;
Lincoln Correctional Center - Rod Morgan, Correctional Sergeant;
Logan Correctional Center - Kimberly Riggins, Correctional Officer;
Menard Correctional Center - Gary Rednour, Correctional Officer;
Pinckneyville Correctional Center - James N. Scott, Correctional Officer;
Pontiac Correctional Center - Ed Lewis, Correctional Officer;
Robinson Correctional Center - Jon Williams, Correctional Officer;
Shawnee Correctional Center - Kurtis "Todd" Hunter, Correctional Officer;
Stateville Correctional Center - Clifford Brewer, Correctional Officer;
Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center - Marvin Bateman, Correctional Officer;
Tamms Correctional Center - Albert Wehrheim, Correctional Officer;
Taylorville Correctional Center - Bryan Carlock, Correctional Sergeant;
Vandalia Correctional Center - Mark Pyle, Correctional Officer;
Vienna Correctional Center, Dixon Springs IIP - Max Nance, Correctional Officer;
Western Illinois Correctional Center - Tim Megginson, Correctional Officer;
IYC - Chicago; Sandra Binion, Youth Supervisor II; IYC - Harrisburg - Eugenia Newlin, Youth Supervisor II; IYC - Joliet - Charlie Jordan, Youth Supervisor III; IYC - Kewanee - Ted Phillips, Youth Supervisor II; IYC - Murphysboro - Jeff Coleman, Youth Supervisor III; IYC - Pere Marquette - Shawn Wiser, Youth Supervisor II; IYC - St. Charles - Bruce Cavins, Youth Supervisor II; IYC - Warrenville - Orlando Salazar, Youth Supervisor II.
 

Union urges state not to cut corrections budget funds
Department officials say funding, staff are sufficient
by Maggie Borman
Jacksonville Journal-Courier
07 May 2003
SPRINGFIELD - Officials with the Illinois Department of Corrections and the largest union representing state employees said that it is imparitive that the legislators not cut the department's General Revenue Fund allocation of $1.3 billion any further.
"It is critical that legislators understand how dire the situation is in Illinois correctional facilities," Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, testified at an appropriations hearing in Springfield last week. "Early retirement has decimated the front-line ranks in state prisons, even as the inmate population is on the rise again. There is a crying need for more bed space and more staff. It has become an issue of safety."
Mr. Bayer, who was flanked by more than 100 uniformed correctional officers from facilities throughout the state, said legislators also must come up with a plan to fund shuttered corrections facilities.
 The budget reopens Sheridan Correctional Center, but not the Illinois Youth Center at Valley View, the work/boot camps in Greene County, Paris or Hanna City, or the 'halfway house' adult transitional centers that have been closed," he said. "Reopening these components of the system would go a long way toward easing overcrowded conditions and reducing the pressure on other facilities."
While reopening all the closed facilities had been a promise made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the bleak reality of a $5 billion budget deficit makes it unlikely he can keep that promise.
Although Greene County residents and Department of Corrections staff, as well as state Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, and Illinois Senate Majority Leader Vince Demuzio, D-Carlinville, had tried to keep the Greene County Impact Incarceration Program open, the boot camp was closed by the state last September. Located between White Hall and Roodhouse, the 200-bed facility, which opened in 1993 and housed non-violent male first-time offenders, has remained shuttered.
 The Department of Corrections said the prison population is down to approximately 43,250 inmates, compared to the all-time high of 46,700, and that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Department of Corrections' proposed budget addresses many of the department's needs.
  "I don't want to downplay how important it is to have adequate staff in our facilities," Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild said, "but the 2004 budget takes care of those concerns."The fiscal year 2004 corrections budget proposed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich of nearly $1.3 billion is up from fiscal year 2003's $1.2 billion budget and includes $23.8 million to reopen the Sheridan Facility in January 2004. The corrections budget also allocates $6 million to parole expansion, Mr. Fairchild said, including 60 new parole agents and four additional parole supervisors.  The expansion will help support the governor's newly launched "Operation Spotlight" program that tightens parole supervision. The budget also assumes a $16 million reduction in administrative costs that will be found by not filling vacant administrative positions and targeting reductions of management employees in the department.
  "So, the good news is the streamlining of bureaucracy at DOC while providing front-line staff at the facilities," Mr. Fairchild said. "The budget will allow DOC to add staff at facilities throughout the state by redirecting the savings from early retirement and less management layers. We don't have exact numbers yet, but there will be an increase in front-line staff."
  While some legislators have questioned the logic of attempting to reopen shuttered facilities, given the state's budget crisis, others questioned the sense in allowing the buildings to remain vacant and serving no purpose.
  The Department of Corrections is trying to find alternative uses for the facilities. "While everything is tentative right now, we are in discussions wih Homeland Security on options on how best to use the bed space available," Mr. Fairchild said. "Though I can't say how many of the closed facilities would be used, they did mention they would like to look at facilities closer to Chicago, such as Joliet, a 640-bed site, and having a new reception and classification facility housed in the Stateville facility."
  AFSCME regional director Buddy Maupin, of AFSCME's Marion field office, said the governor's budget reflected some of the union's concerns for maintaining prison security through front-line staffing, cutting bureaucracy and drug abuse treatment programs for inmates. Yet, he said he feels the budget glass remains only half-full:
  "Our testimony on the budget is that it's a mixed bag, and that reopening of closed facilities is a budget area that needs improvement."
Maggie Borman can reached at maggieborman@hotmail.com

Corrections lays off 20; eight in central office
By Bernard Schoenburg
Political Writer
State Journal Register
03 May 2003
 
The Illinois Department of Corrections has cut 20 jobs in a money-saving move, spokesman Sergio Molina said Friday.
Eight of the people worked at the department's central office complex in Springfield and were informed Thursday, Molina said.
One of them is Jack Pecoraro, the chief of administrative services who was paid $112,248 annually. Pecoraro had been head of the Secretary of State Police for a time when George Ryan was secretary of state. Pecoraro moved to Corrections during Ryan's term as governor, Molina said.
Pecoraro was serving a four-year term, but the position was abolished.
"We're streamlining the bureaucracy," Molina said, adding that the layoffs do not affect jobs with direct contact with inmates. "The emphasis and priority is on front-line staff."
The employees will remain on the payroll until the end of May, he said.
"This is the layer of bureaucracy that the governor has been talking about at the Department of Corrections," said Tom Schafer, spokesman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich. "In the budget speech, the governor talked about how there were five layers of bureaucracy and not enough people that are handling the actual work with the inmates. He obviously agrees that we do need to replace some of the correctional guards, so there most likely will be increases in many positions.
 "But as far as the upper-level administration, he felt it was top-heavy."
  Acting director Don Snyder is running the department. Blagojevich on Thursday announced his choice for a new director -- Macon County Sheriff Roger Walker Jr. -- who is expected to take over in June and whose job is subject to Senate confirmation.
  A list issued by Corrections of the departing employees included one retirement. Molina said Edward Green decided to retire from his job as assistant deputy director in a region of southern Illinois.
  Other Springfield-based employees on the layoff list include executive secretaries Linda Kane and Debra Stout; human resource assistants John Garry and Barbara Workman; executive secretary Mary J. Heard; administrative assistant Sharlyn McBride; and Rick Oakley, commander of a special operations team designed to respond to emergencies.
  Corrections will continue to have emergency responders, Molina said.
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com

Blagojevich picks prisons chief
     
 
The Associated Press

May 1, 2003, 10:45 AM CDT

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has picked Macon County Sheriff Roger Walker Jr. to run the state prison system, administration sources said Thursday.

Blagojevich scheduled a news conference in Decatur for Thursday afternoon to announce his nominee.

Walker would be the Democratic governor's second appointee as director of the Corrections Department. The first, Ernesto Velasco, stepped aside amid allegations of systematic beatings of prisoners at the Cook County Jail while he was administrator there.

Walker, the first black man elected sheriff in Illinois, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Walker, 54, has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years. He joined the Macon County Sheriff's Department in 1971 as a deputy and has twice been elected sheriff, the first time in 1998.

He also served on Blagojevich's transition team, working on the committee handling crime and safety issues.

Velasco resigned seven weeks after Blagojevich named him to the post. The governor initially hailed the Mexican immigrant as an example of the American dream of reaching the top through hard work.

But he put the appointment on hold after the Chicago Tribune reported allegations of prisoners being mistreated. Velasco later stepped aside, saying he did not want the controversy over his appointment to distract from the department's work.

Walker prompted complaints from Macon County inmates in 2001 when he cut back on the number of hot meals served at the jail. Walker, saying a tight budget left him no choice, began serving just one hot meal a day.

Inmates complained that he was starving them, but Walker said the meals met all state nutrition guidelines

State police vehicles outnumber officers
Governor freezing purchases to save $8.5 million
By PAT GUINANE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
28 April 2003

From a 1951 Ford Del Rio wagon to a dozen 2003 Chevy Impalas, Illinois State Police have 2,429 vehicles, or enough to draw the attention of a new governor facing a big budget deficit.
The state police do not need more cars than officers, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said in unveiling his fiscal 2004 spending plan two weeks ago.
He listed the size of the agency's fleet among examples of bureaucratic inefficiency that include high-priced real estate for state agency offices, overspending on items ranging from computers to windshield washer fluid and the Department of Corrections' airplane.
"The kind of waste I just described may be hard to find," the governor said. "But it's easy to cut."
Blagojevich's proposed budget includes no money for new police vehicles in the fiscal year that begins July 1, meaning state police will have to continue to use current vehicles while odometers continue to roll forward.
"Public safety is not going to be affected," said Master Sgt. Rick Hector, a state police spokesman. "Like all other state agencies right now, we're all having to tighten our belts and make do with what we have."
Blagojevich expects a freeze on new vehicle purchases and improved management to slash roughly $8.5 million from next year's bottom line.
But for the state police fleet, that could actually mean a significant reduction. For instance, the agency had 2,461 vehicles when the governor's budget was put together. Since then, 32 vehicles have been lost to attrition, Hector said.
Some are totaled in crashes, and others simply reach a point where they are beyond repair, he explained.
Although the governor already has canceled a $2 million state purchase of 124 passenger vehicles, Blagojevich spokesman Tom Schafer said vital transportation needs will be met.
"The governor has not banned the purchase of state vehicles entirely," Schafer said. "If they have a request for a particular vehicle or vehicles, those are things that the governor's office is reviewing. There's no outright ban."
With 361 more vehicles than officers, the state police would appear to be an obvious place to cut. But the numbers alone are misleading, the agency says, as only about 2,000 of its vehicles are on the front line. The rest are mostly backup patrol cars, along with training and utility vehicles.
The average odometer reading of a state police car is 83,555 miles.
The 21 state police districts keep in reserve 263 vehicles, or a little more than 10 percent of the fleet - a tactic Larry Trent, the agency's new director, explained to state senators earlier this month.
"It's not unusual for cars to be in the shop," Trent said. "For instance, in District 11 (the Metro East area), which has over 100 troopers, it's not unusual, on any given week, for six or seven cars to be in the shop. So you're going to necessitate another six or seven cars available, at least, for a district that size."
The state police assign 49 vehicles to administrators, have 156 support vehicles - mostly vans and trucks - and allot 25 cars to its cadet training facility in Pawnee.
For patrol, the state police rely on just a few models.
Until the mid-1990s, the Chevrolet Caprice was the most popular patrol car for the state and a number of other police agencies. But the model was discontinued in 1997, steering police purchases to the Ford Crown Victoria and the Chevy Impala.
At 1,213 and 193 cars, respectively, those two models are the most popular among the state police, followed by the 132 Caprices still in use and 110 Dodge Intrepids the agency deploys.
There are also a small number of Pontiacs, Plymouths and Oldsmobiles among other makes in the mix, and even a Lexus or two. Most of the more exotic models were confiscated in drug busts and are used for undercover work, Hector said.
The fleet has a bit of muscle, too, with troopers in 23 Chevy Camaros and 15 Ford Mustangs patrolling for speeders.
"They have been very successful," Hector said. "Most people, when they see a marked squad, pretty much behave. But when they see a car like a Mustang or a Camaro out there, they just don't even think (of) that being a squad."
At least one state police vehicle is for show only. With just under 80,000 miles logged, the 52-year-old Del Rio is merely a display car for events such as the Illinois State Fair.
Pat Guinane can be reached at 782-6883 or patrick.guinane@sj-r.com.
 

DOC audit: Gun records sloppy
 Ag manager found on Corrections payroll
 
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
24 April 2003
The Illinois Department of Corrections failed to keep proper track of all its weapons and had on its payroll a manager with a different agency, state auditors said Wednesday.
Responding to the report from Auditor General William Holland, Corrections officials said they were taking steps to eliminate such problems.
Auditors said one weapon on the department's inventory listing couldn't be located. In addition, they said, Corrections did not properly identify where more than a dozen other weapons were.
"Failure to account for all weapons of the department increases the risk that an unauthorized individual could gain access to a firearm and leaves the department and the state exposed to a risk of liability," Holland said in the audit covering a two-year period ending June 30, 2002.
Corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild said the agency has tightened procedures for keeping tabs on its firearms.
"It's very important to be accountable for those weapons," he said.
Lapses usually are the result of an employee forgetting to fill out paperwork that would take a weapon off the department's inventory, Fairchild said.
In a separate finding, auditors identified an employee, Lynnette Jones, who was on the Corrections payroll but working for the Department of Agriculture. Jones had been executive assistant to Corrections Director Donald Snyder, Fairchild said.
Agriculture spokesman Jeff Squibb said Jones had been the agency's personnel director but that she is no longer there.
When Jones moved to Agriculture, Corrections wanted to retain her expertise on drug-testing and other issues, Fairchild said.
Auditors said an intergovernmental agreement specified that while Jones would stay on the Corrections payroll, Agriculture would repay Corrections for her salary and benefits. From March 2001 to June 30, 2002, Corrections paid her $136,562, the audit said, while Agriculture reimbursed Corrections about $130,000.
However, Corrections officials couldn't provide any documentation that she had spent time on agency-related issues, auditors said.
"A state agency should only pay the salary and benefits of employees from whom they received services," the auditor general's report said.
Fairchild said much of Jones' work for Corrections was done over the telephone.
"Could we have documented that better? Yes," he said. "Will we in the future? Yes."
Auditors also criticized Corrections for failing to:

Notify the proper authorities about two juveniles who escaped from the department's custody.
Seek reimbursement from inmates to cover their incarceration costs, as state law allows.
Report the value of state housing benefits as employees' income, which is required by state law and federal regulation.
Update the addresses of all discharged sex offenders in its Offender Tracking System.
Meanwhile, overcrowding remains an issue, according to auditors' findings. On average, Corrections facilities exceed their rated total capacity by about 30 percent.
Designed for a total capacity of 34,987, the facilities housed an average total population of 45,455 at the time of the audits.
Fairchild said the existing prison population is about 43,200, a marked decrease from its high point of 46,500 two years ago.
"Nobody can really explain it," he said of the drop.
The inmate decline puts the department in a better position to deal with budget cuts that include suspending construction on two prisons, Fairchild said.
The auditor general also released almost 40 reports of individual Corrections facilities Wednesday.
At Lincoln Correctional Center, auditors said, more than $2.6 million improperly was used to pay food costs at other correctional facilities, with more than $2.3 million diverted to Logan Correctional Center, also in Lincoln, and $270,000 for the Concordia Training Academy.
Auditors criticized the practice of paying expenditures at other correctional facilities, saying it "distorts operating statistics and circumvents the appropriation control of the legislature."
At Taylorville Correctional Center, auditors said a former timekeeper boosted her pay by more than $1,800 because she inappropriately had access to the records on which her pay was based. The center recovered the money from the employee.
Many of the audits revealed no serious problems at individual facilities. Those include Jacksonville Correctional Center and Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro.
 

Audit finds Correctional Industries overpaid Pana warehouse owners
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
24 April 2003
Illinois prison officials paid more than $53,000 to the owners of a Pana warehouse even though the payments weren't part of their lease agreement, an audit shows.
The report released Wednesday by Auditor General William Holland's office also noted that the Department of Corrections' Correctional Industries had spent nearly $1.2 million on a computer system that isn't operational five years after work on it began.
Auditors said Correctional Industries should not have made $53,000 in additional payments for the warehouse it leases near Pana, in southeastern Christian County. The payments included $46,800 for installation of a security system, even though the original lease called for the warehouse owners to install it, and $6,200 for three months' back rent on space not included in the lease. Corrections Industries used the space but did not initially pay rent for it.
Corrections officials defended the security-system purchase, saying it was never supposed to be provided by the warehouse owners. However, the agency said it will try to recover the $6,200 in extra rent payments if it is determined they were improperly made.
"We're working to see if that was done correctly," said Corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild. "There is no argument we used the space."
Auditors again criticized the warehouse lease itself because Corrections has never shown it to be cost-effective. When the state initially rented the former Essex Wire plant in 2000, agreeing to a 10-year, $4 million lease, it was owned by Springfield developers Robert Egizii, Dennis Polk and John Pruitt. The three and businesses they owned contributed more than $66,000 to the campaign fund of Gov. George Ryan.
All three denied that the contributions had played any role in the warehouse lease. However, critics contend the bid specifications for the warehouse space were written so narrowly by Corrections that only the Pana building qualified.
The warehouse deal is an example of Correctional Industries not weighing the costs and benefits of its operations, auditors said, also citing the doll-making operation at the Lincoln Correctional Center.
Correctional Industries - which teaches job skills to inmates - decided to start producing rag-style dolls that could be sold at craft shows and bazaars, auditors said. But while 850 dolls were made, only 296 were sold, at a loss of $5,887. The doll-making operation will be discontinued.
Fairchild said Corrections is "willing in some cases to take some kind of hit" in developing new industries programs.
"They wanted to give more (work) assignments to women at Lincoln," he said. "It looked like this might work."
Auditors also criticized a plan for inmates at the Vienna Correctional Center to train wild horses brought in from the West and turn them over to the federal government. Although Correctional Industries said it had produced a cost/benefit analysis for the idea, auditors said there was no paperwork to prove it.
Fairchild said the department pulled the plug on the program before it began.
Auditors found that the Correctional Industries computer management system was projected to cost $770,000 five years ago. The state has spent more than $1.1 million, and it is only partially working.
Fairchild blamed the delay on lack of funds and staff shortages caused by early retirement.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

Union state employees escape cuts - so far
 
By RICH FREDERICK
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
12 April 2003
SPRINGFIELD - In his proposed budget, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is asking non-union state employees to forgo pay raises and wants managers to start contributing to their pensions. Could union employees be next?
Under Blagojevich's plan, state government will not offer merit pay increases to non-union employees this year, saving an estimated $14.2 million. Managers also would be asked to begin contributing 4 percent of their salaries to their pensions, saving an estimated $28.4 million because state government now pays that contribution.
At a briefing Tuesday, budget director John Filan told reporters that a pension-contribution requirement would be used as a starting point in negotiating the state's next contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer said it is too early to start negotiations but indicated the union would not accept members contributing to their own pensions without larger pay increases.
"We negotiate at the bargaining table, not with Mr. Filan," Bayer said. "Mr. Filan hasn't been around state government that long and doesn't know the history of it. I'm sure once he learns the history of how that happened, he will forgo that position."
AFCSME's current contract with the state runs through June 30, 2004. Under that contract, employees are guaranteed a 4 percent raise on July 1 and continue to have their pension contributions picked up by the state. Bayer said negotiations for the next contract are scheduled to begin in December.
Union employees make up about 70 percent of the state work force. Last year, former Gov. George Ryan asked AFSCME employees to forgo a pay raise to help balance the state budget. AFSCME rejected Ryan's request and, in turn, the governor shuttered a number of facilities that employed mainly union members, such as Zeller Mental Health Center in Peoria.
Critics say union employees should have been asked to make a sacrifice to balance the budget, considering that nearly everybody else was.
"Sacrifices do have to be made in this situation, but I don't think it's fair to ask some to sacrifice and not others," said Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville.
Watson said Blagojevich's failure to ask the unions for help might be his way of paying back "political IOUs." Blagojevich received more than $1.1 million in campaign contributions from unions representing state employees in 2001-02.
Political scientist Kent Redfield said union workers were spared in the budget because Blagojevich might have wanted to avoid the hassle of reopening contracts, preferring instead to deal with organized labor in next year's budget and at the bargaining table.
"It is extremely difficult task to reopen a contract, and we're in a situation where that is not a viable option. He was able to finesse his way through it this year," said Redfield, associate director of the Institute for Legislative Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Redfield said that Blagojevich's treatment of union employee in the budget does not mean he will be soft in negotiating the next contract.
"He's not going to jeopardize the state budget or his political future by giving extravagant rates to the unions. The real question is if he will restore the cuts for merit employees if we are in a better financial situation next year," he said.
Rich Frederick can be reached at 544-2819 or richard.frederick@sj-r.com.
 

Governor's plan to fix budget may fall short
Savings could be less than forecast
By Rick Pearson and Ray Long, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter Diane Rado contributed to this report
April 12, 2003
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich's controversial plan to sell state buildings and halt construction on a new women's prison could yield far less in savings than he is counting on to help dig his government out of a multibillion-dollar budget hole, state officials acknowledged Friday.
In the budget he delivered to lawmakers earlier in the week, the new Democratic governor estimated he could generate $200 million in a deal that would sell the state's showcase Thompson Center office building in Chicago's Loop, then possibly lease it back.
He also said $30 million could be realized by selling the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's headquarters in Downers Grove, and forecast $76.3 million in savings by halting construction of the partly built prison in the impoverished Kankakee County community of Hopkins Park.
But supporters of the prison, as well as one of its major contractors, said the state is contractually obligated to reimburse construction firms for materials, potential lost profits and manpower costs if it stops the work. They estimated the price for all that could total more than $40 million, cutting the governor's projected savings by more than half.
Tollway officials, meanwhile, said state law precludes Blagojevich from using proceeds from the sale of their headquarters for anything other than tollway business, meaning he would have to get the law changed to use the money to help defray the budget deficit.
Critics of the Thompson Center sale proposal said the value of such a deal could be undercut because the state may have to continue making payments on bonds used to finance construction of the building in 1985.
In another potential setback to the governor's budget plans, his administration agreed Friday to reinstate $65 million it had planned to cut from a state subsidy to the Chicago teachers pension fund.
The planned subsidy cut took some local officials by surprise and strained relations between the governor's office and the Chicago Public Schools. Restoration of the money came as both sides blamed the cut on a "mutual miscommunication," but the move means Blagojevich will be forced to find money to pay for it from other places in a state budget plan that is extremely tight.
Prison work already started
Former Gov. George Ryan broke ground on the Hopkins Park prison in September, and $13 million has already been spent. The facility, which had been scheduled to open in early 2005, was designed to house 1,800 female inmates.
Blagojevich spokesman Tom Schafer acknowledged Friday that "there are contractual obligations we would have to meet if, indeed, we did close the project down." But Schafer said administration officials were reviewing the contract and it was premature to estimate the ultimate costs of putting the project on ice.
"There may be things we would have to pay such as company overhead, profits, equipment and supplies, and even the potential loss of work since [the contractors] took this job on," Schafer said. "There are a number of costs that would be associated with [a shutdown], but we're not prepared to give a dollar amount on what that might be."
In his budget message, Blagojevich called for a suspension of the project rather than an outright abandonment, and some officials suggested the distinction could lessen the costs to the state.
But Jim Barr, president of River City Construction of East Peoria, one of the prime construction contractors on the project, said various engineering, architectural and construction firms associated with the project have put the tab "in excess of $40 million ... to pay for everything that's been done and close out all of the subs and suppliers.
"It would be a considerable process to terminate all of our subcontractors and actually do the right thing by all the people who are involved," Barr said. "I'm hopeful the state will find this is not a good economic move and go on and built it. I don't blame them for looking for ways to save taxpayers' money. I'm for that. But I don't see how this could make any sense."
State Rep. Phil Novak (D-Bradley), whose district includes the project, said "too much dirt has been turned" on the prison to shut down construction.
"I understand [the Blagojevich administration is] trying to be creative and save money," Novak said. "And I think there are many things in his budget that I support. But stopping a project that's already started ... will probably end up costing the state more than it would save."
Taking aim at `Taj Mahal'
The tollway building that the governor wants to put on the block, built in 1992 for $25.6 million, has been widely attacked as an opulent "Taj Mahal" that symbolizes bureaucratic waste. But critics of any sale contend that proceeds from such a transaction would belong to tollway bondholders and could not now be tapped for general use by the state.
Bruce P. Weisenthal, an attorney with the Chicago firm of Schiff Hardin & Waite and the bond counsel for the tollway, said state law governing the toll highway authority "currently does not contain language that would enable the authority to transfer money ... to the [state's] general revenue fund."
On the other hand, state Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston), a frequent tollway critic, said he believes precedent exists for turning over tollway dollars to the state's general checkbook because some properties used for tollway construction were paid from general revenues.
Blagojevich's budget also contemplates an outright sale of the Thompson Center or a deal that would allow the state to lease back the facility over time. But some lawmakers have privately questioned whether the administration would derive the $200 million in profits that it estimates would come from the transaction.
Threat of double payments
The facility cost $172 million to build, but bonds used to finance it were to be retired over 20 to 25 years, legislators said. That could mean the state would have to pay off bonds associated with the structure before it could sell it, reducing the government's take from any sale. Or, in the case of a lease-back arrangement, the state could be making two payments on the building at the same time--one to retire bond debt for its construction and another for rent.
One administration scenario calls for the state to sell the building for at least $200 million and pay a total of $300 million in lease payments over as many as 20 years before regaining title to the structure.
Blagojevich aides said some estimates have placed the structure's value at far greater than $200 million. But the administration of Republican Gov. Jim Edgar took a look at such a sale in 1991 and found it would not be cost effective.
One former Edgar aide said that although the structure contains nearly 1 million square feet of space, only 25 percent of it is usable because of its unique shape and its sizable 16-story atrium. The Edgar aide, who asked not to be identified, said one real estate official at the time estimated its value at only about $40 million.
Blagojevich aides, however, defended the $200 million figure for the Thompson Center as a "conservative" estimate based on a consultant's study that examined the structure's Loop location and the value of downtown rental properties.

 
 

Inmate to go from Death Row to altar

    
 

March 23, 2003

JOLIET -- Word from Stateville Correctional Center has it that recently pardoned Death Row inmate Stanley Howard is planning to wed one of the activists who worked to save his life.

Joan Parkin of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty confirmed that she and Howard will be married May 18. Though they have known each other for four years, Parkin said true love struck "like a thunderbolt" last year and Howard popped the question Oct. 13.

They kept it a secret for fear it would affect his case, but with his pardon signed and sealed for two months and the date fast approaching, word slipped.

Howard, who remains imprisoned on a sexual assault conviction, plans to ask prison officials to let him make the trip to the Will County clerk's office for the wedding.

 

Statehouse INSIDER
Doug Finke
23 Mar 2003

The biggest Illinois political story of the week was nearly buried under wall-to-wall coverage of the war in Iraq. The same day the war began, a federal jury found SCOTT FAWELL guilty of all the corruption charges filed against him. It didn't take long for people to start thinking great thoughts about what this will mean for the state. A defense attorney said the verdict means the days of blurring the line between political and government activities could be over. Others said the conviction might spur new ethics reforms in Illinois.
Would that it were so.
Big predictions of change also were made after the feds got convictions in the Management Services of Illinois scandal. Defense attorney PATRICK TUITE said: "It's going to shut (Springfield) down. The lobbyists are going to be running scared."
Federal prosecutor RICHARD COX said, "We hope it turns business on its head. The verdicts represent the public's unwillingness to tolerate influence-peddling and government-for-sale tactics."
For the record, those statements were made in 1997 - just as Fawell was cooking up his plan to get GEORGE RYAN elected governor. That plan included having the state pay for campaign workers and stealing state equipment for the campaign. Such much for convictions bringing reform.

Run Fawell's name through spell check on some word processing programs (it doesn't work on Microsoft Word), and the options you're given include "farewell," "fallen" and "flawed." Eerie, isn't it?
Ryan was spotted Friday in the state comptroller's office on Adams Street in Springfield. It's the place where state checks are printed and distributed. Turns out Ryan was arranging direct deposit of his state pension check. Shucks, we thought maybe he was there to complain about not getting money he is due - like about a zillion other Illinoisans.
This had to be the worst nightmare for state prison workers. The infamous DONNIE SNYDER is back as director of the Department of Corrections. Most people thought Snyder was gone after Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH was elected. Well, he was finished as director, but he stayed in the agency as a budget guy. Then Blagojevich's nominee for Correction's director, ERNESTO VELASCO, withdrew his name after reports surfaced of mass beatings at the Cook County jail while he was director there. Voila, Blagojevich appoints Snyder as acting director. How convenient that Snyder was still available.
Prison workers are livid. If Snyder isn't the most detested director in Illinois history, he is close, because he laid off guards, closed prisons and tried to privatize some prison jobs. Just when prison workers thought they were finally rid of the guy, he's baaaaack.
AFSCME, the union that represents prison guards and other state employees, is angry. It endorsed Blagojevich and gave him a ton of money. It has yet to see any return on its investment -and now it once again has to deal with Snyder.
Blagojevich insists Snyder's reappointment is only temporary. If he wants to keep peace with AFSCME, he'd better be telling the truth.

Blagojevich constantly sings the praises of small businesses and how much he wants to help them. His lieutenant governor, PAT QUINN, recently criticized state incentives given to large companies. So it surprised some people when Blagojevich showed up in Bloomington to take credit for the $22 million in tax incentives given to that cottage industry known as Mitsubishi Motors. Mitsubishi is expanding and will create 300 new jobs. That means the state will spend a little more than $73,000 for each new job.
It pays to be flexible.

The House last week approved Blagojevich's plan for issuing bonds to support state pensions - something he said is crucial to balancing the budget. The governor was so excited he decided to hold a news conference outside his office on the Capitol's second floor. The backdrop for the conference was the glass doors that lead to the office reception area. Before the news conference started, a loyal staffer came out and spritzed glass cleaner on the doors so they would look just right for the TV cameras. You didn't see that attention to PR detail with Ryan, or JIM EDGAR or JIM THOMPSON.
These guys may or may not balance the budget, but they'll look good trying.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.

 

Risky State Business
Rich Miller
23 Mar 2003
You may have heard that Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to "refinance" some state debt, which will supposedly free up $1.9 billion to help close the state's massive $4.8 billion budget deficit.
But the media coverage of this plan has been ill-informed, at best, mainly because the governor has done a good job of obfuscating the issue.
The editor of the respected Pensions & Investments newspaper penned a column last week slamming the bond proposal as "ridiculousness." She also criticized Illinois reporters for not realizing that the governor's use of the term "refinancing" is incorrect.
What's going on here? It's complicated, but stay with me a minute. Blagojevich says he is refinancing debt. The "debt" in question is money the state is required to pay into the pension system in years to come. That's not technically "debt," so it can't actually be refinanced. But Blagojevich insists that future obligations are a form of debt. Anyway, the governor claims that by borrowing $10 billion now at six percent interest and then investing it and praying for an eight percent return, he can repay the bonds, and make a few bucks on the deal.
But, this is where it gets weird. The governor wants to "book" all of the profits right away. This means all of the profit that was supposed to be made off of the $10 billion in investments over the course of the 30-year bonds will be realized immediately. How does he do this? By instantly spending $1.9 billion of that $10 billion before it has earned a nickel in interest. If this sounds to you like some Enron scheme, well, you're not far off the mark.
A few of Enron's ideas worked, however, so this might, too, but there is concern that it could have a negative effect on the state's bond rating, and there's plenty of worry about what could happen if the state invests in the wrong stocks and loses a lot of the cash.
The House passed the bond bill last week. The proposal required a three-fifths vote to pass, so it needed a bipartisan majority and several Republicans supported the Democratic governor.
The big problem may be in the Senate, where the Republicans appear to be balking at supporting the plan. The Senate Repubs are saying publicly that they want to wait and see what the governor's budget looks like first. Privately, they say they may only agree to a drastically scaled-back, $3 billion proposal this year, and maybe another $3 billion next year.
Adding fuel to the fire could be Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, who told the Legislative Audit Commission last week that she had several concerns about the proposal and indicated that she may not support it. Topinka has talked to several rating agencies and public finance experts who tell her that the proposal is risky. The treasurer would reportedly like to see Blagojevich cut the budget much further before he moves his bond bill. Topinka is a former state Senator, and she still has a lot of influence with Senate Republicans, who could use her for political cover if she ends up opposing the legislation.
But here's the real bottom line, and the main reason why so many House Republicans climbed on board last week. Without this borrowing plan, the state will be forced to make a huge pension payment in a few months and then several more next fiscal year with money that the government simply doesn't have. So, either the state borrows now, or it uses money that would otherwise go to schools, roads, public safety and human services to make those pension payments. Or it raises taxes on business. The state could also change the law to skip a few pension payments, but the governor has said he won't ever do that and it's doubtful that the conservative Senate Republicans would agree to such an idea. And they definitely won't go for a tax hike on their friends in the business lobby.
This should be a fascinating game to watch. Every tax-eating group imaginable is currently ginning up thousands of phone calls and letters to legislators. The media has so far taken a liking to the borrowing idea, so the editorial pages could turn against any obstructionists. And, of course, there's always the gubernatorial threat of losing local projects and jobs if anyone says "No." Let the fun begin.

 

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Snyder resumes Department of Correction position
By Beth Coldwell
March 20, 2003
Over the weekend, Donnie Snyder of Pittsfield stepped back into his former position as Illinois Department of Corrections director. Over the weekend, Donnie Snyder of Pittsfield stepped back into his former position as Illinois Department of Corrections director after the resignation of Ernesto Velasco who was appointed to the position by Gov. Rod Blagojevich less than two months ago.
"Any time the governor asks you to serve, you do it," Snyder said, adding that his tenure in the position will be "indefinite." Snyder directed the department under the administration of former Gov. George Ryan. After Velasco was appointed to the post, Snyder was named deputy director of the department and assisted in the transition. He said he had planned to continue in the deputy director position until last week when Blagojevich asked him to return to the top post.
Velasco sent a three-paragraph letter of resignation to the governor Friday afternoon in response to a flurry of allegations that inmates had suffered brutality at the hands of guards during Velasco's tenure as Cook County jail administrator in 2000.
The letter of resignation reads:
"I am writing today to request that you accept my resignation as Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. My deep and unyielding respect for the Department of Corrections and its vital mission requires that I resign, so that the public issues surrounding my appointment do not overshadow the department's mandate.
"Keeping Illinois' correctional facilities secure, effective and efficient is an integral component of state government. We cannot allow anything to stand in the way of accomplishing those goals.
"I respectfully request that you accept my letter of resignation. I appreciate your support throughout this trying process."
 

 

Prisons leader resigns; governor takes heat over replacement choice
15 Mar 2003
SPRINGFIELD A labor union ally criticized Gov. Rod Blagojevich for re-appointing Donald Snyder director of the Illinois Department of Corrections to replace Ernesto Velasco, who quit the post Friday.
Velasco announced his resignation in a late-afternoon news release. His nomination ran into trouble after a Chicago newspaper reported that Velasco had failed to investigate allegations of inmate beatings at the Cook County Jail. Velasco headed the jail before Blagojevich made him the acting director of the Corrections Department.

My deep and unyielding respect for the Department of Corrections and its vital mission requires that I resign so that the public issues surrounding my appointment do not overshadow the departments mandate, Velasco said.
Blagojevich touted Velasco as an American success story while announcing his appointment in February. Velasco immigrated to the United States from Mexico at age 13.
But the governor expressed no remorse for Velascos resignation Friday. Today I accepted Mr. Velascos resignation. We are working actively to appoint a new director as quickly as possible, Blagojevich said.
Spokesmen for Blagojevich would not accept telephone calls seeking further comment. The news release did not indicate who would replace Velasco.
Henry Bayer, the executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said administration officials spoke to him about Snyders appointment.
They said they appointed Donnie Snyder as a temporary director, but we think that was an error in judgment and a move in the wrong direction, Bayer said.
He noted that Blagojevich campaigned against the policies Snyder pursued under former Gov. George Ryan.
It was on his watch that all of the facilities were closed. It was on his watch that the privatization initiatives were taken, Bayer said. It was under his watch that the number of administrative positions increased and it became top-heavy.
Bayer said the agency needs permanent leadership to replace thousands of guards who have left because of early-retirement incentives and layoffs.
Snyder also was criticized during his tenure for using a state airplane and an official car to attend political and private events.
Velasco is the second high-ranking member of the Blagojevich administration to depart this month. Deputy Gov. Doug Scofield announced his resignation March 3, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Richard Goldstein can be contacted at (217) 782-4043 or richard.goldstein@lee.net.
 

Velasco resigns
By John O'Connor
Associated Press Writer
March 14, 2003, 4:39 PM CST
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Ernesto Velasco, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's nominee to run the state Corrections Department, resigned today amid allegations of brutality during his tenure as director of the Cook County jail.
Velasco's resignation letter said he was stepping down so that the scandal didn't engulf the state prison system and its mission.
"My deep and unyielding respect for the Department of Corrections and its vital mission requires that I resign so that the public issues surrounding my appointment do not overshadow the department's mandate," Velasco wrote in his letter to the governor.
An aide to Blagojevich said the governor did not ask for Velasco's resignation, but that he offered it on his own.
The aide said no one had been named to replace Velasco. Former Corrections Director Donald Snyder, who currently is deputy director overseeing the agency's budget, declined comment.
Blagojevich put Velasco's nomination on hold last month, saying he wanted more information about the brutality allegations.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Cook County Jail guards beat and terrorized inmates in a maximum security unit on a night four years ago and then filed false paperwork to cover up the alleged rampage.
Inmates, sheriff's sources and internal documents said guards, clad in riot gear and accompanied by four guard dogs without muzzles, ransacked inmates' cells.
According to those making the allegations, the guards then ordered about 400 prisoners to strip and had them line up against jail walls. Prisoners were struck with batons for not moving fast enough or for looking away from the wall, and some were ordered to lie down where they say they were stomped and kicked.
Velasco, 50, of Chicago, was named director of the Corrections Department on Feb. 4, less than two weeks after he retired as executive director of the jail. He held the post for seven years.
He denied knowing anything about the alleged violence.
Velasco, who was appointed to the state post at a salary of $127,570, told an Illinois House committee that he later heard about the incident and turned the information over to the jail's investigative unit.
"They initiated the investigation, and I never heard back from them again," Velasco told lawmakers. "I did not check into what was taking place during the investigation because it is not the policy of the director's office to interfere with the investigation."
Another of Blagojevich's appointments, which must be confirmed by the Senate, has been criticized as well. Sal Diaz allegedly was fired from the state Department of Children and Family Services for "job abandonment" in 1992.
Diaz, who Blagojevich appointed to head the DCFS child protection unit, said he thought the department had accepted his resignation in 1992.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, suggested Friday that people named to state cabinet posts are too closely scrutinized. Cullerton was unaware of Velasco's resignation, but said cabinet appointments largely are public-service minded and do not make such large salaries that justify the media inspection they undergo.

Blagojevich 'dreams big'
Outlines proposals on slim budget
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
14 mar 2003
Gov. Rod Blagojevich used his first State of the State speech Wednesday to outline what he called an ambitious agenda for Illinois that nonetheless carries a bargain-basement price tag.
Blagojevich said he wants to create a prescription drug program for senior citizens, expand health-care programs for the poor, reopen the closed Sheridan Correctional Center, make preschool available to every child and provide business incentives, all at a cost of $88 million to the state.
The governor also called for an increase in the minimum wage, passage of a pay-equity law in Illinois and for parents to be given more time off from their jobs to attend school activities.
"They (the public) want us to be a state that once again dreams big dreams and tries daring solutions," Blagojevich said at the close of his 45-minute speech. "If we can be as bold as the history that carried us here and as big as the future ahead of us, I believe we will be able to dream big dreams again."
Before addressing the General Assembly, the Chicago Democrat said he would not dwell on the state budget and its $5 billion deficit because he plans to deliver a budget speech April 9. But he acknowledged that the budget crisis limited what he could propose in his State of the State.
"The budget crisis is forcing us to temper our agenda," Blagojevich said. "... It won't be easy to balance the budget. It won't be easy to make progress on these tough issues, but we will."
He also addressed the state's financial situation in another portion of his speech: "In an ideal world, preschool for every child would begin tomorrow," Blagojevich said. "But an ideal world doesn't operate on a $5 billion budget deficit."
Although several ideas Blagojevich outlined Wednesday will cost state government money, he did not indicate how they'll fit into a budget hemorrhaging red ink. That was not lost on lawmakers who eventually will have to vote on a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
"If someone was listening at home without worrying about the costs, without worrying about the specifics, they'd say, 'Oh, that sounds good,"' said House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego. "The bottom line is, we need to see specific details of the proposals and the cost."
"I was wanting today to hear some substance," said Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson of Greenville. "I was wanting to see a governor take the lead in a very troubling time in this state, and I don't know that we saw that."
It wasn't just Republicans who found the speech lacking.
"I think he sounded more like he was on the campaign trail," said Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline. "I think he has to move beyond the campaign speech. Some of the programs he wants to institute, I don't see how we can do them for $88 million."
Some lawmakers have characterized the Blagojevich administration so far as one of confusion, lack of focus and disorganization. Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, said Blagojevich's speech should put those concerns to rest.
"The speech indicates he is well-focused," Jones said. "He focused on the critical issues that need to be addressed, taking into consideration the serious fiscal problems we have."
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, refuses to speak to reporters from large print-news organizations, including The State Journal-Register, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. He continued that practice Wednesday.
"He's got other things to do with his time," Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.
The costliest initiative Blagojevich outlined Wednesday was the nearly $25 million he wants to spend to begin phasing in a universal preschool program, though the state cannot afford to offer preschool to all students at this time, he said.
Next on the list was $24 million to reopen the Sheridan Correctional Center, which was closed last year for budget reasons. Blagojevich wants the prison converted to a specialized center to treat drug offenders, to open in January 2004.
Expanding enrollment in the KidCare and FamilyCare health programs for the poor will cost another $24 million, according to the governor's office. Blagojevich eventually wants to enroll an additional 20,000 kids and 300,000 adults, but it will take three years to reach those goals.
Blagojevich proposed programs that will assist in the development of small businesses and the creation of jobs, while also calling for Illinois to increase its minimum wage beyond that required by the federal government.
"A person working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year should not live in poverty," he said.
However, business groups contend that raising the minimum wage will cost the state jobs in the long run.
"Business owners have only one option if they can't afford higher wages. They have to let people go," said Kim Maisch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Another Blagojevich proposal - requiring that businesses give parents up to three days of unpaid leave to attend school functions - is hard on small businesses, Maisch added.
Blagojevich said the state employees under his control will immediately qualify for unpaid leave to attend school functions.
As expected, Blagojevich also said he will work to lower seniors' prescription drug costs.
"The phrase 'sticker shock' doesn't begin to describe what so many people feel when they go to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled," he said.
Blagojevich created a new administration position to focus on negotiating a better price for drugs purchased by the state. That negotiating power will be used to help seniors obtain their drugs at a lower cost.
Among the other initiatives he mentioned Wednesday, Blagojevich proposed hiring more parole agents and creating $5,000 scholarships for teachers willing to work for five years in areas of the state where there is a shortage of teachers. The scholarships also would be available to teachers willing to specialize in certain subjects where shortages exist.
---
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

Blagojevich's proposals
 
The Associated Press
14 mar 2003
A list of some of the promises Gov. Rod Blagojevich made in his first State of the State address, along with details and estimated first-year costs if available:

EDUCATION

Make preschool available to all children, starting with 25,000 "at-risk" children within three years - $24.9 million.
Give $5,000 annual scholarships to college students who agree to spend five years teaching in needy areas - $4.1 million.
Sign a proclamation calling for all schools to adopt national PTA standards for parental involvement.
Create an Internet system for parents to monitor their children's school performance.
BUSINESS

Pass legislation to create a $200 million, privately funded "Illinois Opportunity Fund" to invest in business.
Open six "entrepreneurship centers" around the state, with the first opening in two months - $1 million. They would dole out $1.8 million worth of business planning grants.
Raise the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, up from $5.15.
CRIME

Double the number of parole agents - from 370 to 740 - over the next four years and tighten the supervision of parolees - $6 million.
Gradually reopen the shuttered Sheridan prison as a drug offender rehabilitation facility - $24 million.
HEALTH

Negotiate better prices for the prescription drugs purchased by various state agencies.
Work with lawmakers to let senior citizens buy prescription drugs through a single "buying club" that should get better prices.
Work with Congress to add 50,000 senior citizens into the "Circuit Breaker" program that provides free drugs to the poor and have the program cover all types of drugs.
Expand the KidCare health program by 20,000 children - $3.8 million.
The Associated Press
 

Prison reopening: Sheridan to treat drug offenders
 
By SCOTT REEDER SNG Springfield Bureau Chief
13 mar 2003
 
SPRINGFIELD Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced today that he will reopen Sheridan Correctional Center in January as a facility designed to treat drug offenders.
What we are trying to do is end the revolving door of people coming and going from prison, said Blagojevichs press secretary Tom Schafer.
The prison will reopen with a budget nearly double its previous level, he said.
Although the prison has a capacity of 974, it will likely treat 1,500 to 2,000 per year because of the relatively short sentences served by drug offenders.
But what will set this drug program apart from other prison treatment programs is that it will be geared toward treating the inmates drug habit from the time he enters the prison system until well after he is released into society.
There will be a wide range of treatment options available to inmates at Sheridan. There are similar programs on a smaller scale at prisons across the state. But this is the first time an entire prison has been set aside just for treating drug offenders, Schafer said.
Most of those treated there will be people convicted of felony drug possession, he said.
Inmates will receive medical treatment in Sheridan and then will undergo an intensive parole in which they must undergo frequent drug tests and will receive more intense supervision than other parolees. They will be identified as candidates for treatment shortly after they enter the prison system.
The prison will have an annual budget of $50 million. The previous annual budget for the prison was about $28 million.
Just how the state would pay for the facility while facing a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall remains to be seen.
Schafer said the governor will give the specifics on that when he delivers his budget address in April.
Blagojevich promised to reopen the prison, closed by former Gov. George Ryan, during the gubernatorial campaign last year. Ryan closed it as part of overall budget cuts.
The prison employed more than 400 people. The new facility is expected to employ about 450.
Schafer said the governor wants to make the prison a national model. He added there arent really any comparable programs in the United States.
Often people commit crimes because they are involved with drugs. Then they end up in prison. Once they are out of prison they are back on drugs and committing crimes. Then they go back to prison. We want to stop that revolving door, he said.

p03072003030703toon.jpg

Abolishing the Middle Class

Your Job May Be Next! - The New American - March 10, 2003
Hello and welcome to Review of the News Online. I'm William Norman Grigg, Senior Editor for The New American magazine -- an affiliated publication of the John Birch Society.
In a moment of stunning candor 24 years ago, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker stated: "The standard of living of the average American has to decline. I don't think you can escape that." It's difficult to find a more average couple than Jimmy and Verleen Bennett of Kannapolis, North Carolina, who -- along with nearly 6,500 employees of the Pillowtex towel factory -- were laid off in early August.
Just two years ago, reported the August 9th Washington Post, the Bennetts had bought a modest $100,000 home, "confident their combined wages would continue to support the comfortable lifestyle that had long eluded their parents." Now the couple, each of whom is working a part-time job at near minimum wage, is conducting a triage of household amenities in order to get by on roughly half their previous take-home pay. "We were middle class," Jimmy Bennett commented to the Post, before hastily correcting himself: "We still are."
Thousands of former Pillowtex workers who had struggled their way into the middle class "are fending off eviction notices, car repossessions and home foreclosures, and making difficult choices about which prescription drugs to skip and which utilities to turn off," reports the Post. "People are turning off cellphones, cutting cable TV, and pleading with creditors," adds the August 5th Christian Science Monitor. "Already, 200 have had their water shut off."
The Monitor describes the Pillowtex closing as an event akin to a natural disaster. But it wasn't a destructive caprice of nature that shut down the plant; rather, as the paper observes, it was overwhelmed by "a flood of imports from China." The Pillowtex bankruptcy, which led to the largest one-day layoff in the history of North Carolina, is a particularly dramatic example of the devastation being wrought throughout America's manufacturing economy as our trade deficit with Communist China grows.
As the Monitor reports, "Manufacturing businesses, from electronics to furniture and fishing lures, are closing their doors or moving production to China. Three members of the president's cabinet on a cross-country jaunt to promote the Bush economic plan have gotten an earful from angry businesspeople trying to compete with Chinese imports made by workers getting 50 cents an hour."
In an interview with the paper, Jay Bender, owner of Falcon Plastics in Brookings, South Dakota, described "how one of his customers, a manufacturer of fishing lures, has decided to move its production from the U.S. to China. [The fishing lure manufacturer] asked him to bid on molds to make the plastic bait. He bid $25,000 per mold. `That was a competitive price,' he said." However, the potential customer found a Chinese source charging $3,000 for each mold. "I can't even buy raw materials for that," Bender observes. "There are two possibilities: Either they are subsidized by the government, or they gave away the molds to get the manufacturing business." In order to remain in business, Bender has had to lay off nearly one-third of his workforce.
As Charles Bremer of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute points out, as textiles from Communist China and Vietnam flood the American market, "People are moving jobs faster than you can count." In 2008, all import quotas will be removed. "At that point," predicts Bremer, "the Chinese will completely dominate the market."
Ironically, at least some of the future textile imports from China will probably be produced on looms from Pillowtex's Kannapolis facility -- but those looms will be in China, operated by Chinese workers. The August 7th Charlotte Observer reported that "looms and other machinery [from Pillowtex] likely will be removed from plants, packed and shipped to manufacturers in China, Pakistan, and India."
As operator of a manufacturing economy based on what must be considered slave labor, the Communist Chinese regime enjoys an unnatural competitive advantage over American manufacturers. That advantage is compounded by our own government's perverse insistence on subsidizing, via the Export-Import Bank, the relocation of U.S. corporations to China. The Ex-Im Bank was created by the FDR regime in 1934 for the purpose of encouraging business investment in the Soviet Union. Through Ex-Im, corporate investments in China are subsidized, and any losses incurred are socialized while the profits remain private and legitimate market competition is undermined.
American corporate migration to China was originally touted as a way to exploit a huge potential market. However, as the May 1998 issue of Harvard Business Review reported, American companies seeking to do business in China "face many requirements to transfer technology or to export a certain percentage of their products made in China. Controls on foreign exchange keep them from moving funds freely out of the country."
Rather than selling goods in China, American companies are exporting goods from there -- and completing the circuit by sending jobs and plants back to China. As a result, observed Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro in their 1997 book The Coming Conflict with China, "China has been getting American investment capital and reaping windfall trade surpluses at the same time. As a result, China is one of the leading foreign-exchange-reserve countries in the world a bizarre situation for a poor and developing country."
Beijing's bulging trade surplus is being invested in a military build-up intended to make Communist China the dominant global power by the middle of this century. A perfect
illustration of this process -- exporting jobs, importing Chinese goods, fattening Beijing's trade surplus, and building up the People's Liberation Army -- can be seen in the case of the Magnequench facility in Valparaiso, Indiana. That plant, notes the Chesterton Tribune, produces "80 percent of the rare-earth magnets used in the production of smart bombs" for the U.S. military. Purchased in 1995 by a consortium including Chinese interests, the plant is scheduled to be relocated to China -- at a cost of 225 local jobs and the transfer of sensitive bomb-making technology.
It's not just manufacturing jobs -- including key defense-related jobs -- that are being sent overseas. In the March 10th issue of The New American, Senior Editor William F. Jasper described the incredible scene that transpired just before last Christmas at Dell Computer's Austin corporate campus. Without fanfare, Dell senior vice president Jeff Clarke told the hundreds of assembled employees -- most of whom were engineers and high-level administrative employees -- that Dell "was announcing new personnel `attrition goals' of 10 percent per year, about double the normal attrition rate. These positions would not be filled in the United States, Clarke explained. They would be
filled by new hires in India, China, and other countries where Dell is shifting business."
This dreadful announcement had been foreshadowed in 2000, when the computer giant opened its China Design Centre in the Peoples Republic of China. Shortly thereafter, Dell began to bring Red Chinese personnel to Austin for training, and to send American employees on four-to-six-month visits to China to train personnel there. Some Dell employees, thinking they spoke in jest, referred to that process as "training our replacements."
Indeed, our federal government has been training foreign replacement workers for a long time. Through the H-1B and L-1 visa programs, the feds have brought over a million foreign workers -- most of them in high-tech fields -- to work here. This has helped other countries (particularly China) develop a workforce that can compete with our own in terms of skills, while severely underbidding it in terms of price.
What we are seeing is the deliberate, systematic eradication of the American middle class as our standard of living is "harmonized" with that of other nations in the global economy. The middle class -- derisively referred to as the "bourgeoise" by Karl Marx -- is the foundation of a free society, and the chief impediment to the creation of the Total State. Hence the escalating campaign for the middle class's abolition.
Thank you for listening. Please join us again next time.
This has been Review of the News Online from The John Birch Society. For more information about what you can do to preserve our freedoms, call: 1-800-JBS-USA1.
 

 

Vacation buildup limited
Large payouts to state retirees prompts action
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
6 Mar 2003
Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday moved to limit the amount of unused vacation time some of his employees can accumulate and cash in when they leave their state jobs.
However, Blagojevich acknowledged there is probably no way to reduce the stockpile of unused vacation days already amassed by thousands of state workers who will redeem them for substantial cash payments.
The governor issued an executive order that non-union employees under his control can accumulate no more than five unused vacation days. Any vacation time accrued beyond that will simply be lost. An estimated 3,000 employees are covered by the order.
"The message is simple: Vacation time is intended for vacations," Blagojevich said at a Statehouse news conference. "There will be no stockpiling of unused time."
He took the step because of large cash payouts made to hundreds of state workers who left their jobs last year. Blagojevich produced a list of 140 employees who collected checks of $50,000 or more for unused vacation and sick time, saying they had "gamed" the system.
"I am requesting a full investigation of all personnel who sought and received extraordinarily high payouts," he said. "We will explore what, if any, remedies are available on behalf of the taxpayers."
Blagojevich said that could range from repayment to unspecified disciplinary action. However, he acknowledged that the payments apparently did not violate state law.
"They may not have violated a specific statute, but there could be an intent and spirit that underlies the law," the governor said. "That may be our legal remedy."
Blagojevich also noted that some of the 140 employees on the list returned to government jobs. For example, Kevin Wright, formerly Gov. George Ryan's deputy chief of staff, quit one day, collected his unused sick and vacation money, and returned to work the next day as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission.
Of the 140 people on the list, Blagojevich said he knows of 14 who have returned to state jobs. An undetermined number are on 75-day contracts, which allows state agencies to retain key retirees for a short time to ease the transition to a new employee.
One of them is Dave Mizeur, deputy director of finance for the Lottery.
Mizeur retired Dec. 31 but is working at the Lottery until April, said spokeswoman Ann Plohr. Mizeur was the center of controversy in 1991 when he resigned from the Lottery and was rehired for the same job five days later. That enabled him to collect $20,000 in unused sick and vacation time.
A law was then passed that requires repayment of the benefit if a state worker returns to the full-time payroll within 30 days.
The governor's order does not apply to union workers under his control, but he said the state may bargain with them on that point.
The leader of the largest state employee union, Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said accumulating large amounts of vacation time isn't a problem facing union workers.
"The only problem I'm aware of is my members can't get (vacation time off) when they ask for it because the state operates so short-staffed," AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said. "Our members want the time off. Never have I heard of our members lining their pockets like that."
State workers are paid for up to two years' worth of unused vacation time and for half the unused sick days earned between 1984 and 1998. They no longer accumulate unused sick days.
Blagojevich complained that some of the people on his list collected for more than two years' worth of vacation time - a practice allowed if a supervisor agrees to it.
Although employees under Blagojevich's control will not be able to amass large amounts of vacation time, those already sitting on substantial unused vacation days will be allowed to keep them.
"I don't know that we have any legal remedy in terms of going back to those who have already accrued their vacation time," Blagojevich said.
Below is a list from Gov. Rod Blagojevich of people who took retirement payouts of $50,000 or more from the state.

Anderson, Gary Board of Education $56,703
Darlington, Larry Board of Investments $90,421
Krehbiel, Dale Central Management Services $57,675
Schwarz, Robert Central Management Services $60,310
Weatherford, Glenn Central Management Services $53,069
Murphy, Michael Central Management Services $59,455
Seiple, Stephen Central Management Services $61,818
Carlson, Richard Comp Health Insurance $55,071
Anitow, Rodney Corrections $64,093
Barnett, Paul Corrections $52,829
Castro, John Corrections $60,655
Cooper, Keith Corrections $57,991
Dobucki, Kenneth Corrections $50,378
Finne, Bruce Corrections $54,280
Hartwig, Jack Corrections $56,833
Hopkins, Dennis Corrections $50,489
Jockisch, Diane Corrections $56,602
McVicar, Richard Corrections $61,189
Oleary, Michael Corrections $62,790
Page, James Corrections $61,879
Schnepel, David Corrections $50,767
Scillia, Anthony Corrections $51,254
Springborn, Jerome Corrections $56,734
Beaver, Frank DCCA $61,685
O'Brien, James DCCA $57,417
Pescitelli, Dennis DCCA $57,451
Rinehart, Eric DCCA $53,879
Smit, Bart DCCA $50,658
Buhrmann, Jeff DCFS $54,616
Conlee, G Virginia DCFS $52,125
Hayes, Douglas DCFS $88,330
Jacob, Norman DCFS $53,847
Bukowski, Judith Human Services $54,864
Choi, Sung Human Services $54,426
Christ, Thomas Human Services $52,224
Chun, Yang Human Services $65,898
Cohanim, Sirous Human Services $62,802
Cole, Ronald Human Services $59,288
Davidson, Doris Human Services $73,920
Deboice, Mary Human Services $50,498
Deeb, Carlos Human Services $76,480
Donkin, James Human Services $69,011
El-Daief, Felix Human Services$65,093
Eldaief, Fouzia Human Services $66,177
Gouttama, Raymond Human Services $50,507
Grzonka, Glenn Human Services $51,495
Jacobs, William Human Services $54,883
Kang, Eugene Human Services $65,827
Kotter, Kenneth Human Services $65,703
Kruckeberg, Karl Human Services $60,469
Langston, Mary Ann Human Services $87,407
Larson, Michael Human Services $52,077
Martin, Charles Human Services $64,832
Maxson, Joel Human Services $56,497
Maxson, Karan Human Services $55,226
Milone, Marjorie Human Services $66,485
Muniz, Kathleen Human Services $50,198
Nelson, James Human Services $66,858
Peterson, David Human Services $68,098
Steiner, Leigh Human Services $68,381
Sugay, Elena Human Services $50,260
Umbrait, D Scott Human Services $51,271
Valenti, Randale Human Services $63,693
Adorjan, Richard IDOT $71,285
Bartelsmeyer, Karl IDOT $61,714
Beard, Dohn IDOT $56,222
Campbell, David IDOT $52,806
Cooper, Stephen IDOT $52,278
Cunningham, Jerry IDOT $54,228
Englund, Dean IDOT $50,741
Gould, Gary IDOT $55,974
Harper, Glenn IDOT $51,869
Hodgson, Robert IDOT $50,508
Jereb, James IDOT $61,686
Kabbes, Ronald IDOT $50,073
McMillan, Kenneth IDOT $50,402
McMurray, Darrell IDOT $54,160
Rippel, Michael IDOT $52,173
Rocke, Roger IDOT $54,478
Rollings, Robert IDOT $50,002
Saranzelli, Ray IDOT $53,123
Schindel, Stephen IDOT $62,424
Shaffer, Thomas IDOT $51,368
Siekmann, Thomas IDOT $50,711
Sunley, William IDOT $54,671
Virtue, Jerry IDOT $54,338
Blaauw, Russell Employment Security $50,347
Dennis, Herbert Employment Security $57,918
Janssen, James EPA $51,984
Kanerva, Roger EPA $55,055
Lawler, Dennis EPA $54,790
Rogers, Kenneth EPA $51,618
Williams, Dan Fire Marshal $55,480
Ford, Diane Governor $70,462
Herndon, Thomas Governor $68,490
Wright, Kevin Governor $57,008
Demarco, Nancy Guard & Ad Commission $60,596
Farrell, David Illinois Commerce Commission $50,367
Myers, Thomas Illinois Commerce Commission $50,334
Rieman, Gary Illinois Student Asst. Commission $70,212
Becker, John Insurance $52,695
Dutcher, Arnold Insurance $71,170
Gorski, Anthony Insurance $64,756
Weistart, James Insurance $58,396
Mory, Michael Judges' Retirement System $68,381
Mizeur, David Lottery $56,802
Allison, Melvin Natural Resources $57,395
Clark, Bruce Natural Resources $50,390
Matsko, Louis Natural Resources $56,872
England, Stephen Nuclear Safety $57,907
Appl, Arthur Jr. Office of Banks & Real Estate $62,017
Barrett, Edward Office of Banks & Real Estate $52,875
Hasselbring, John Professional Regulation $50,877
Aslaksen, Theron Public Aid $57,033
Byrnes, Timothy Public Aid $55,374
Handy, Lynn Public Aid $53,989
Hill, Gordon Public Aid $59,775
Miller, Robert Jr. Public Aid $54,499
Oconnell, James Public Aid $53,463
Fish, Wayne Public Health $52,266
Mudgett, Clinton Public Health $68,394
Andrew, William Revenue $57,757
Conlon, James Revenue $51,801
Donnelly, Thomas Revenue $53,186
Hermsmeyer, David Revenue $53,734
Myers, Delbert Revenue $55,668
Scaduto, Michael Revenue $56,911
Schwab, Mark Revenue $50,378
Tapscott, Robert Revenue $63,720
Bencik, Robert State Police $50,710
Cook, Bobby State Police $50,368
Finley, James State Police $63,982
Frame, Charles State Police $61,418
King, JohnState Police $51,642
Kresl, EdwardState Police $61,694
Meduga, JohnState Police$58,931
Pruett, Gail State Police $59,517
Sandrin, Jack State Police $55,087
Sayset, Dale State Police $55,556
Scott, David State Police $50,752
Sievers, Diana State Police $56,926
Derobertis, Richard Toll Highway $58,475
Jannite, Nicholas Toll Highway $55,147
Stavola, Michael Toll Highway $58,549
Bullerman, Donald Veterans' Affairs $52,406

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.

 

Lawmakers, Blagojevich clashing
Governor criticized for keeping mum
By Associated Press
News wire service
6 Mar 2003
SPRINGFIELD -- After proving his political skills by winning the state's highest office, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is learning the hard way that being chief executive is an entirely different challenge.
The state's budget deficit is larger than he expected. He has struggled to put together his team of advisers and state agency heads.
A key aide has quit, and scandal has engulfed his nominee to run the Corrections Department.
"I think that there is an understandable feeling that it's a ship adrift somewhat," said Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, a Blagojevich supporter. "But I would rather be adrift than maintain a course that's going to land you on the rocks."
Some legislators, including Democrats who now run the Legislature, have also complained that Blagojevich is irritating them by keeping quiet about his plans on everything from appointments to the budget.
Lawmakers and political analysts say it's too early to grade Blagojevich's job performance.
"It's been a little rough, but I think it shouldn't be too much of a surprise because he's got absolutely no executive experience," said Chris Mooney, director of the Legislative Studies Center at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "He's coming in as a legislator and that's it."
The Chicago Democrat announced at his Jan. 13 inauguration that the state budget deficit was approaching $5 billion -- about twice what Blagojevich had expected.
Then he asked lawmakers for a two-month delay in his proposal for a new state budget, and they agreed.
Since then, lawmakers have complained Blagojevich -- himself a former state lawmaker and congressman -- has told them little about how he plans to address the deficit.
"I think that everyone's a little bit antsy because the budget address isn't coming until April 9th," said Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline.
And lawmakers are starting to get agitated about their lack of input on Blagojevich's decisions, Jacobs said.
"It's a matter of frustration," he said. "I understand where he's coming from and it's a little bit difficult, but yet at the same time we're looking to help him in any way we can and we stand ready to do that."
Republicans have offered him the authority to make large spending cuts in the current budget, but Blagojevich has stayed silent on their idea.
Blagojevich has also been forced to backtrack or clarify his positions on taxes, his plans for this year's deficit and more.
"This is not campaigning. This is not jogging. It's not talking about Elvis," said Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton. "It's about the governance of an enormous state operation."
Roskam said Republicans are ready to work with Blagojevich to solve the state's problems, but he needs to reach out to them.
"So far it's been government by press release, and now is the time to move beyond that," Roskam said.
Blagojevich has also been slow to appoint his Cabinet of state agency directors. Four months after winning the election, he has named only 15 of 26 positions.
Black Chicago Democrats blasted Blagojevich last month for not adequately considering their suggestions on personnel moves.
Downstate lawmakers complained privately that his appointees are almost entirely from the Chicago area.
Last week, the Senate postponed the approval of Jack Lavin as head of the state commerce agency, a response to Blagojevich freezing money for lawmakers' projects.
This week, a top aide, Deputy Governor Doug Scofield, decided to leave, saying he wants to spend more time with his family.
His replacement is a 29-year-old aide to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an appointment some legislators questioned.
"I think that somebody who is an outsider, somebody that's 29 years old is going to have hurdles that a person experienced with Illinois government wouldn't have," Fritchey said.
The new governor "needs to make sure that he does not alienate his own party in the Legislature to the extent that he's going to have difficulty getting things done," said Mike Lawrence, an aide to former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. Lawrence now teaches at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
But the new governor said Wednesday he will not follow the lead of his predecessor, Republican George Ryan.
Blagojevich criticized Ryan for saying "Yes" to everything.
Blagojevich also said he will work with the Legislature but expects disagreements.
"If there wasn't struggle, I wouldn't be doing my job right now," he said.

House bill inspired by ICC/Zeller deal
Legislation would limit state leasing
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
of Copley News Service
March 6, 2003
SPRINGFIELD - A House committee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would make it more difficult for state government to enter into agreements such as the one allowing Illinois Central College to lease the former Zeller Mental Health Center property in Peoria.
House Bill 221, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ricca Slone of Peoria Heights, cleared the House State Government Administration Committee on a 9-0 vote.
Zeller, 5407 N. University St. in Peoria, was a public psychiatric hospital until the state's budget problems led to its closure last September. The ICC board voted in November to lease the 63-acre Zeller property from the state for $1 a year. The agreement may last as long as 20 years.
Slone and some other Peoria-area lawmakers who want Zeller to reopen have criticized the state's lease arrangement with ICC as overly generous.
If her bill eventually becomes law, it would require an appraisal of property that has an annual fair market rental value of at least $10 per square foot.
It also would reduce the amount of discretion that the state's Central Management Services director has in making lease deals. CMS is the agency that manages state property.
Certain requirements would have to be met before CMS could lease any property for less than 60 percent of its fair market rental value.
In addition, the CMS director would have to explain in writing his or her reasons for leasing any property at a lower rate. Anyone who violates those conditions could be prosecuted for a misdemeanor.
State Rep. Mike Smith, a Canton Democrat who is a member of the House committee, referred to the ICC/Zeller lease as a "questionable agreement that was done at the 11th hour of the previous (Gov. George Ryan) administration." Slone's bill would provide needed safeguards, he said.
While the bill was inspired by the ICC/Zeller deal, it would not alter that agreement.
The proposal now goes to the House floor.
The House passed similar legislation earlier this year as the previous session of the General Assembly was drawing to a close. But that measure never came up in the Senate before the session ended.
To become law, HB221 would have to win approval in the House, Senate and from the governor

Governor pushes for minimum wage hike
By John Chase and Ray Long, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter Christi Parsons contributed to this report
March 6, 2003
Moving forward on a long-held campaign pledge, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Wednesday he supports boosting the minimum wage by $1.35 to $6.50 an hour, despite arguments it will force some businesses out of the state or discourage others from moving in.
Instead, the Democratic governor said he is backing legislation that is pending in Springfield because he thinks it will be good for the business community.
"It will help men and women who work hard, and help those businesses grow. If you've got a happy workforce, a workforce that feels like it's being treated fairly by business, big or small, they'll do better for you," the governor said during a stop in Springfield. "Treat your workers and your employees well, and you'll get more productivity."
But business leaders, many of whom were in Springfield Wednesday lobbying against a pair of bills increasing the minimum wage, said they remain opposed to the measures. They said they fear it will make Illinois less attractive to businesses and may encourage some to move elsewhere.
David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which split from the Republican Party last year when it endorsed Blagojevich for governor, said if Blagojevich wants to raise the minimum wage, he should lobby in Washington for a nationwide increase.
"We think it will cost jobs and hurt business at a time when businesses are losing money," Vite said. "This is a federal issue, not a state issue."
In backing a minimum wage increase, the governor said he supports giving restaurants, hotels and other businesses whose employees rely heavily on tips a 40 percent "tip credit" on the minimum wage so those businesses aren't hit too hard by the hike.
Currently, those businesses receive the credit on the $5.15 minimum wage, meaning they are only asked to pay waitresses and waiters $3.09 an hour, allowing the employees to augment their pay through tips. If the minimum wage were increased, restaurant wait and bus staff, hotel bellhops and the other "tipped employees" in Illinois would be eligible for $3.90 an hour, plus tips.
The tip credit has become an issue because a bill pending in the state Senate slashes the credit while increasing the minimum wage, a development that would cause restaurants to pay their wait staffs $6.50 an hour plus tips, more than double the current rate.
"I don't believe anyone in the business community ever believed that the government would require a 100 percent increase in the cost of labor for tipped employees," Vite said. "That will put many restaurants out of business and increase the costs of prepared food served in restaurants for every customer in the state of Illinois."
The governor's support for increasing the minimum wage for employees across Illinois came as he also tweaked the rules for state employees by signing an order limiting vacation pay for 3,000 non-union political appointees and vowed to consider similar changes for another 40,000 state union workers.
Political appointees can now carry over only five unused vacation days from one year to the next, instead of being allowed to carry more than two years' worth of vacation days. When employees quit or retire, they are paid for unused vacation.
The move comes after the governor said 140 state employees under former Gov. George Ryan recently left their jobs and received lump-sum payments between $50,000 and $90,000 in unused vacation pay. The governor said he is exploring ways to recoup those payments.
While his order only covers a fraction of state employees, Blagojevich said he may propose similar limits for all state employees, a move that would require renegotiating the collective bargaining agreement that regulates 40,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which supported Blagojevich's candidacy.
"Everything's on the table [except] cutting health care, education and public protection," the governor said.
But Henry Bayer, the union's executive director, said there is no evidence any union personnel have abused vacation pay.
"This is not an abuse by our workers," Bayer said.
 

Governor to probe stockpiling of vacation pay
BY SCOTT FORNEK AND TIM NOVAK POLITICAL REPORTERS 
 
March 5, 2003
 
 
 

In what his aides are calling "a clear break from the past," Gov. Blagojevich plans to launch an investigation today into top state bureaucrats who got "astronomical" cash payouts for stockpiled vacation time during the waning days of the Ryan administration.
The governor is also planning to issue a ban on the practice in his own administration, signing an order that would impose sharp limits on all of his estimated 500 political appointees. They will only be able to carry over five unused vacation days from one year to the next.
The change would parallel what many private sector businesses do and essentially end the longstanding practice of state bureaucrats turning huge amount of unused days into cash bonanzas at retirement time.
"Use it or lose it," said a senior administration official who requested anonymity.
The moves, which Blagojevich's aides dubbed a "new tough standard," come in response to a Chicago Sun-Times story on Sunday that revealed that nearly 13,000 state employees collected almost $145 million for their unused vacation and sick days when they quit between last August and January.
"The governor himself felt--I think, like any other reader-- greatly concerned by it and realized that it is further evidence of the kind of change that needs to be brought to state government," the official said. "The old ways of using the state government to one's own advantage, rather than to serve the public, have to come to an end."
It's not clear how much money the moves will save the state, which owes at least $380 million to more than 60,000 state workers for unused sick days amassed between 1984 and 1998 and any unused vacation days.
Each year state employees get 10 to 25 days of vacation, three personal days, a dozen paid holidays and 12 sick days.
Currently, the state allows all 60,000 employees to carry over two years' worth of vacation days, but they can build up more with the bosses' approval. When they quit, they are paid cash for any they did not use.
They used to receive cash for half of their unused sick days, but the state ultimately decided that was too costly. Now when they retire, state workers are paid for half of the sick days they did not use between 1984 and 1998--when the practice was stopped. Any unused sick days after that time are just added to the employee's length of service, boosting their pensions slightly.
Blagojevich's ban only applies to the non-union employees under his control. Any changes in the personnel code for the rest of the state workers would require a change in state law.
"And we might be looking at that,'' the official said.
The aide insisted forbidding the practice among political appointees is not just window dressing.
"It certainly goes beyond symbolism," the official said. "It is a clear break from the past. The lion's share of people who attempted to manipulate the system and exploit it to their advantage come from that class of people. ... The most glaring examples of people abusing the system really came from this pool under the Ryan administration."
Former Gov. George Ryan's deputy chief of staff, Kevin Wright, collected $57,008 last Aug. 31 when he quit the state payroll for a day to cash in 92 unused vacation days and 31 sick days that he accumulated over 22 years.
Wright returned to the state payroll the next day to serve as Ryan's chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, earning a salary of $117,136. When Blagojevich took over, he stripped Wright of the top spot on the commission, leaving him as a $99,414 member
Wright defends his action, arguing he was so busy he never was able to take the time off. He was among 153 state employees who each collected at least $50,000 for their unused vacation and sick days. There is no indication any of them broke any laws or violated any rules.
But Blagojevich today will order a probe of the "lion's share" of them.
"We'll ... take a look at who received what we consider extraordinary payouts and determine what types of steps led to these astronomical payouts and determine what recourse we have, perhaps in terms of disciplinary action," the official said. "We want to be able to follow up and check whether the conduct itself is actionable."
Blagojevich has had some trouble with state legislators who gripe he is leaving them out of the loop and taking too long to assemble a Cabinet. But the official argued that the latest measures show the governor is making good on his campaign pledge to clean up state government.
"This is a continuation of work that we have initiated since the opening hours of our administration," the official said.

Rod's rough ride
 
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND SCOTT FORNEK POLITICAL REPORTERS 
 
 
March 4, 2003
 

One of Gov. Blagojevich's most trusted aides stunned the Illinois political world Monday by announcing he is quitting--a move that fueled concerns from fellow Democrats that the six-week-old administration is adrift.
Deputy Gov. Doug Scofield said he is leaving because the 80-hour weeks left him no time to see his wife and two young children, not because of any internal dissension in the governor's office.
"I'm not going quickly or immediately, but honestly there is nothing else to it than that," Scofield said.
But his departure comes amid criticism that the governor has neglected to reach out to legislators, ignored members of his own party, failed to provide lawmakers a budget blueprint and dragged his feet on assembling a cabinet.
"There are a lot of us wondering what the hell is going on," said one senior Democratic state senator. "What people will pick up from this is disorganization. That's not a good signal at this point."
Scofield, 37, has been with Blagojevich since the final days of last year's Democratic primary. During the campaign, he was communications director, talking to reporters and crafting Blagojevich's successful message. Since the inauguration, he has served as deputy governor, a $129,996-a-year job that focuses more on shaping policy. He was considered the equal of chief of staff Lon Monk.
Scofield said he and the governor had been discussing the move for weeks, but the sudden announcement left political insiders scratching their heads.
"You couldn't have told me anything that would surprise me more," said Matt Ryan, who managed rival gubernatorial nominee Paul Vallas' campaign. "I thought Doug was emerging as a real star."
Blagojevich has been under fire from Democrats for leaving them out since he took office in January. Last month, a group of West Side Democrats complained that not only did the governor fail to seek their input on people he was appointing, but his staff did not even return their telephone calls.
Last Wednesday, Blagojevich unveiled a complicated budget plan to borrow up to $10 billion--but he irked legislators from both parties by failing to answer their questions about it. Then two days later, Senate Democrats put the appointment of Blagojevich's commerce chief, Jack Lavin, on hold after delivering Lavin a tongue-lashing for Blagojevich's move to freeze hundreds of legislators' pet construction projects.
"They are not permitting us by these activities to work with them," said a senior Republican legislative staffer.
Scofield had a hand in a pair of embarrassments two weeks ago involving the governor's efforts to craft a state budget. Scofield said Blagojevich was optimistic the state could count on revenues from the stalled 10th casino license, contradicting what budget director John Filan told lawmakers in private meetings two days earlier.
Scofield also said Blagojevich intended to carry over a significant chunk of the state's $1.2 billion budget deficit this year into the next year's budget--an incorrect assertion that Blagojevich himself had to correct a day later.
Blagojevich and his supporters dismiss the criticisms as the gripes of politicians uncomfortable with the governor's efforts to change business as usual in Springfield. They argue that Scofield is just a man who wants to be with his kids, and they reject the notion the administration is in disarray.
"Oh come on," said Chris Kelly, who was Blagojevich's campaign finance chairman. "That's not the case at all. ... I'm not in the government. I don't work in government, but my take is very direct. I think Doug has a commitment to two young children, and he realized he couldn't do both."
Scofield is planning to build up a public relations firm, created in 1999, with his wife, Melanie. He and Blagojevich said Scofield will continue to serve as an adviser in the governor's "kitchen cabinet."
"It's hard to give up a position like this," Scofield said. "But again, I don't think I'm giving up the ear of the governor. I think I will still have it in a way in which I can still be constructive and hopefully a little more flexible."
Blagojevich said, "I am sorry to see him go, but I will continue to work very closely with him, and I respect his decision to put his family first."
Despite the secrecy surrounding Scofield's exit, Blagojevich has already lined up a replacement who will star t next Monday: a special assistant to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bradley Tusk said he was approached about the job a couple of weeks ago by John Wyma, who was Blagojevich's campaign political director. Wyma was chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), when Tusk was Schumer's communications director.
The senior Democratic state senator questioned bringing in a New Yorker to replace Scofield, who is from Downstate Freeport.
"To replace him with a guy from New York?" the senator said. "That's part of the story here, too. I don't understand that."
Tusk dismissed those concerns, saying he is "a fairly quick study" who offers "a new perspective."
A Brooklyn native, Tusk, 29, said his job with Bloomberg is similar to the one he will perform for Blagojevich: turning campaign promises into government policy and dealing with reporters. Tusk graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1999.

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Governor vows jail probe
Former director's promotion on hold
 
By Steve Mills and Ray Long, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporters Mickey Ciokajlo, Kate McCann and Christi Parsons contributed to this report
February 28, 2003
Gov. Rod Blagojevich put a hold Thursday on the appointment of Ernesto "Ernie" Velasco to head the state prison system, saying he was "very troubled" by allegations that guards terrorized scores of inmates at Cook County Jail in 1999 while Velasco was in charge.
"We're getting to the bottom of it," Blagojevich said at a news conference. "We're simply not going to proceed until we feel comfortable we have enough information to move forward or whatever the other alternative might be."
County Commissioners Mike Quigley and Peter Silvestri also took aim at Sheriff Michael Sheahan, calling for an outside monitor to investigate the office and for the sheriff to explain what happened that night at the jail.
Blagojevich said he summoned Velasco to a meeting with his staff Thursday morning after the Tribune reported allegations that the sheriff's elite Special Operations Response Team (SORT) beat inmates in February 1999 and falsified reports to cover up the incident.
Velasco's Friday confirmation hearing was delayed at least a week after the governor's office contacted Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) and members of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee.
Velasco met with Blagojevich's chief of staff, Lon Monk, and Deputy Gov. Doug Scofield, who asked Velasco to "detail what he knew and how he handled the situation," said Tom Schafer, the governor's spokesman.
Schafer said the governor's office intended to do additional investigation of Velasco's role "to make sure we understand what happened."
"He's given his explanation of the circumstances, and now the governor's staff is going to be looking into the case, reviewing the lawsuit and other facts," he said. "The governor has directed his staff to look into the case as well as the facts surrounding the allegations."
Velasco started work Monday pending approval by the Senate. He declined to comment to reporters. He was questioned late Thursday by a House appropriations committee, where he had been scheduled to discuss the Department of Corrections budget.
He said he had been notified of the allegations and assigned investigators to look into them. But he said he never checked to determine the outcome of the investigation, even though the sheriff's Internal Affairs Division probe took more than three years to complete.
"When I have been made aware that those instances have taken place under my watch, I moved aggressively against them to the point that we have suspended them, we have terminated them and we have charged people criminally," Velasco said.
The internal affairs report, obtained by the Tribune, found that about 40 members of SORT invaded the maximum-security Division 9 of the jail for the sole purpose of beating and terrorizing inmates, particularly gang members.
"No report was given to me. I didn't question the fact that no report was given to me because I assumed the investigation was still ongoing," Velasco told the committee.
"I want to make one thing clear. The internal affairs unit did not report to me. My function was to notify them in writing of an allegation . . . on such and such date and we would request an investigation to be conducted on those allegations. . . . That unit reports to the inspector general's office from downtown."
Velasco's explanation brought a strong response.
"Something is wrong here," said Rep. Lovana Jones, (D-Chicago). "You were aware of what the allegations were, and you gave it to someone to investigate. But you never got the result of the investigation?
"I would think you would want to know or try to find out what was the result of it, so if there was some impropriety that you could move quickly to make sure it didn't happen again. . . . I have a big problem with that."
The internal affairs inquiry sustained findings of violations against two superintendents, a lieutenant, two sergeants and one officer for filing false reports, some to cover up the incident. Four canine officers were cited for bringing guard dogs without muzzles into the cells, a violation of jail procedures.
According to the internal affairs report, seven jail paramedics, including a supervisor, refused to give medical care to some inmates, failed to write reports about some inmates who were treated and "impeded" the investigation by refusing to be interviewed--another charge Blagojevich said left him troubled.
"Anytime there's allegations people have been denied medical help, no matter who they are, that's not right," he said.
A spokeswoman for Sheahan said all the officers have denied taking part in any brutality. The office's inspector general, which evaluated the internal affairs report, sustained findings of violations of operating procedures against five current officers and one former officer since the Tribune being making inquiries about the incident about two weeks ago. The inspector general found no evidence of brutality, the spokeswoman said. Jail medical authorities also denied wrongdoing.
Quigley, who has closely monitored the sheriff's office in his five years on the County Board, released a draft report Thursday on alleged misconduct by sheriff's personnel and called for an independent outside monitor to investigate the office.
"In the end, it is a continued practice reflecting a system that condones excessive force, in some cases recommends it, and has absolutely no checks and balances to correct mistakes or avoid them in the first place," he said. "Clearly, internal affairs is whatever the sheriff wants it to be, rather than a semi-independent body that investigates and has some teeth to it."
Sheriff's spokeswoman Sally Daly said oversight already was provided by the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group that monitors jail conditions and complaints. Daly also said that the consulting firm KPMG completed a report about excessive force in the jail in July and, as a result, a new general order was implemented and new training procedures were put in place.
Silvestri, who chairs the county's litigation subcommittee, said Sheahan should make the 50-page report by the internal affairs division available to commissioners and explain what happened.
 
 
 
 
 

Former guards allege 2nd mass beating
Suit says 5 inmates were shackled first
 
By Maurice Possley and Steve Mills
Tribune staff reporters
 
February 28, 2003
Seventeen months after a team of 40 guards at Cook County Jail allegedly terrorized and beat inmates, another group of guards punched and kicked five other inmates while they were shackled, according to two former jail guards.
The two former guards allege they received death threats from other guards and were harassed into resigning this month after they refused to cover up the July 29, 2000, beatings.
Breaking what he said was a code of silence and testifying under oath as part of a lawsuit brought by the five inmates, former guard Roger Fairley, 37, said the shackled inmates were dragged and shoved into a windowless room where they were beaten after a disturbance in which several guards were injured.
"I saw them hitting them with elbows, stomping on their faces and heads, kicking them in the face," Fairley testified. "I yelled at them to stop because what I saw was too violent. But they didn't."
Jail officials say the disturbance in the special incarceration unit, where the most dangerous inmates are held, was triggered by one of the inmates, former El Rukn gang leader Nathson Fields, who sought to provoke a fight with guards in hope of filing a brutality lawsuit.
The inmates contend that during a shakedown for contraband and weapons, guards began tossing all of their belongings out of their cells, then forced them to run a gantlet of officers who punched them. That touched off a brawl that ended with the handcuffing and shackling of the five inmates and then the alleged beating.
The Cook County sheriff's Internal Affairs Division ruled that the claims of the inmates and the guards were "inconclusive," a middle finding between sustained and exonerated. Other guards who have been deposed so far have denied the beating.
On Thursday, the Tribune disclosed an internal sheriff's report on February 1999 allegations by 49 inmates who said that they were kicked, stomped and beaten and that jail officials sought to cover it up by filing false reports.
Ten jail officers, including a superintendent, a lieutenant and the head of the jail's elite Special Operations Response Team (SORT), violated jail rules, according to the report. Sheriff's officials said the office's inspector general examined the report and sustained violations against five officers and one former officer, but found no evidence of excessive force.
Both alleged beatings occurred when Ernesto Velasco was the jail director. On Thursday, Gov. Rod Blagojevich put on hold Velasco's appointment to head the state Department of Corrections.
Abuse illegal and costly
Charles Fasano, director of the Prisons and Jails Program for the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group, said that besides being illegal and immoral, excessive force against inmates is "a very dangerous practice. It's bad management."
Fasano said brutality costs the county millions in legal settlements and raises the volatility level in the jail.
"There is a fine line that everybody has to walk," he said. "It doesn't mean you cater to the inmate. But you don't start abusing them.
"Even if the guy has struck an officer, it does not justify hitting him later. You can defend yourself, but once you have restrained him, then you cease using offensive moves against him. And they're trained how to do that.
"If a guy is handcuffed and shackled, staff ought to be able to restrain them. If he's writhing around and not hurting anyone, you get the necessary number of staff and you pin him down."
Fasano said determining the truth behind such allegations is difficult because "these things are very complicated. The inmates say one thing. The staff says another. And the truth might be somewhere in the middle."
The five inmates--Fields, Andre Crawford, Luis Sanchez, James Scott and Edward Mitchell--were all awaiting trial for murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Crawford, who has been charged in a series of rapes and slayings in the Englewood neighborhood. Scott is accused of killing Chicago Police Officer John Knight in 1999.
When the disturbance erupted, Fairley said, he was summoned from another tier in the cellblock to help.
"I heard screaming. I heard people hitting each other, flesh upon flesh," he testified. "I saw blood splattered all over the doors, all over the walls, all over the piles of garbage and the floor of the corridor. A lot of blood."
When the fight ended, the five inmates were handcuffed and four were shackled at the ankles and put in an area known as the "pump room." Fairley said he went to the doorway. The four guards, he said, were "jumping in the air, coming down on their heads with their knees. I saw them kicking them in every part of their bodies with all their might."
Fairley testified in the deposition that one guard kicked Mitchell so hard that Mitchell's body "completely lifted off the floor and he flew into the wall." Mitchell was not shackled at the ankles because one leg was in a cast.
The beating was still going on when a nurse arrived, Fairley said.
"She put her hand over her mouth because she couldn't believe what she was seeing, so she starting yelling at the officers to stop . . . but they didn't," he said.
`They stomped us'
In a telephone interview, Fields said the beatings were sparked by a complaint he wrote to the Cook County state's attorney's office and the FBI about the alleged beating of another inmate.
Fields said that after he complained, two jail officers told him, "Anybody who don't like what happened, we'll send you to the hospital."
Fields said the guards "beat us like we were savage animals. They beat us down to the ground. They stomped us, kicked us in the face."
During the alleged beating in the pump room, Fairley recalled, a lieutenant arrived and said, "They want to hurt my officers? . . . They deserve to die."
Richard Gackowski, 37, another guard and a friend of Fairley's, testified in a separate deposition that the lieutenant later told him that before the inmates were cuffed, he had grabbed Mitchell, the inmate who had a cast on his leg.
"He stated to me that he grabbed inmate Mitchell's good leg and did everything he could--twisted it, jumped on it, hit it--did whatever he could to get that leg to snap," Gackowski said. "And it just wouldn't snap and he laughed about it. He thought it was funny."
Fairley said the beating stopped only when a guard in the hallway yelled that a ranking supervisor was en route to the scene. The inmates were then taken to hospitals for treatment and returned to the jail. Several guards also were treated for injuries, Fairley said.
One guard, Adrian Molina, who later was promoted to the SORT unit, testified in a deposition that Fields began fighting with him. "The first two punches I didn't strike him back," Molina testified, "but once he started to punch me, I started to defend myself, so I started swinging back at him."
Guards allegedly pressured
Fairley said that in the months after the beating, he was the target of harassment from co-workers because he had yelled for it to stop. Guards called him "social worker, inmate lover and [that] ever since I got married, I can't fight anymore," Fairley testified. "And [that] I wouldn't be there to watch anybody's back if something happened."
He said he considered reporting the beating but did not "because it's a complicated situation when you work in a jail. If you report other officers doing wrong, you can end up getting hurt by those officers."
Fairley testified that complaints about harassment to Internal Affairs were pointless because "the complaint will come right back to the department for an investigation and then everybody knows you made the complaint."
When guards assigned to the division began to get notices of deposition, Fairley said, other guards began pressuring him to cooperate in the cover-up.
Gackowski said he became the target of harassment because he is a friend of Fairley's. Guards made cooing noises over their hand-held radios "because he was a stool pigeon," Gackowski testified.
The final straw for both men occurred recently when a guard approached Gackowski and said Fairley was "a weak link in the chain" and weak links had to be "buried," Gackowski said.
On Feb. 3 both men requested transfers out of the jail facility to other work for the sheriff's office. When the requests were refused, they resigned the following day. Fairley had been a guard for eight years, Gackowski seven. Both said neither had been cited for any infraction more serious than being a few minutes late for work.
"I wouldn't be part of the boys' club, and neither would Roger," Gackowski said. "We wouldn't go along with the status quo--brutality."
 
 
 

Sheahan's cesspool
February 28, 2003
There's only one thing more outrageous than reports that a select squad of 40 Cook County Jail guards systematically beat, kicked, stomped and terrorized inmates with unmuzzled dogs one night in 1999.
It's that the allegations come as no surprise.
Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan's operation is out of control. His undisciplined sheriff's and correctional staff have been caught up in so many incidents of brutality, wrongdoing, falsification of reports and otherwise inappropriate behavior that the only way to count them is by the number of taxpayer dollars that are shelled out in their wake for legal settlements.
Sheahan refuses to learn from past mistakes. He refuses to fix serious, life-threatening problems that are stunningly obvious to everyone but him and his legion of lapdogs.
He has created a culture that places politics above integrity, that rewards animal behavior with ambivalence or, worse, promotion. He operates with virtually no oversight. And largely because he has focused so much attention on amassing a powerful political fiefdom, voters inexplicably tolerate him. It must stop now.
In Thursday's Tribune, reporters Steve Mills and Maurice Possley detailed not only the alleged Feb. 24, 1999, beatings of at least 49 inmates, but also the efforts by Sheahan's staff to delay a subsequent report by the sheriff's own Internal Affairs Division, falsify records and deny the incident ever occurred.
The Tribune article was based on documents from Internal Affairs, along with sheriff sources and prisoner interviews.
Sheahan's spokeswoman offered this response: "I can tell you that the inspector general has found that there is no evidence to sustain or corroborate allegations of excessive force."
The investigation of the officers isn't over, it goes now to the acting executive director of the jail. But all indications are that nothing will come of this but a few slaps on the wrist.
This process has dragged on for four years without resolution. A three-year statute of limitations on criminal charges has expired.
The Tribune reported last year that since 1998, lawyers representing Sheahan's office have been unusually busy. In that time, they recommended settling at least 35 lawsuits that accused deputies of brutality, figuring that based on the evidence it was unlikely the sheriff would win those cases in court.
The Cook County Board has had to shell out millions in civil settlements and attorneys' fees defending county correctional officers and sheriff's police for their on- and off-duty antics. One case: In 2001, the county paid $6.8 million to settle a class action lawsuit on behalf of 2,600 female inmates who were forced to undergo unauthorized and humiliating strip searches in jail.
"Less than half of all the incidents that occur ever have Internal Affairs reports done," said Cook County Board Commissioner Michael Quigley, a longtime critic of Sheahan. "And when they are done they're either delayed or never acted upon. And the people involved are never punished, but very often promoted."
Why? Because the sheriff's office knows it can get away with it. In the past, Cook County Board members have made it a shameful custom to pant approvingly whenever Sheahan appeared before them. Hopefully such repugnant obsequiousness will abate with the more reform-minded board members elected last year.
Sheahan can't fix his own shop. It's time to bring in a special prosecutor or the U.S. attorney to investigate, and time to create an independent commission to recommend reforms at the sheriff's office.
 

 


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State nomination halted due to reports of jail beatings
 
 
The Associated Press
February 27, 2003, 4:49 PM CST
 
Gov. Rod Blagojevich asked Senate President Emil Jones today to halt proceedings on the nomination of Ernesto Velasco to head the Illinois Department Corrections after allegations were reported of brutality by guards while Velasco was director of Cook County Jail.
"We are alarmed and troubled," Blagojevich said of the reports that appeared today in the Chicago Tribune. "Were simply not going to proceed until we feel we have enough information," he said at a press conference.
The governor added that his chief of staff, Lon Monk, met with Velasco today in Springfield to talk about the allegations. Blagojevich said he himself could not be present because he was traveling to Chicago at the time.
Blagojevich said that he did not yet know what was said at the meeting between Velasco and his chief of staff.

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Ryan locked Blagojevich out on 40 appointments
 
Administrators resigned, were rehired to start new four-year terms
 
By JOHN OCONNOR
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
27 Feb 2003
With time running out on their jobs, 40 top-level state administrators got a gift last fall from their boss, retiring Gov. George Ryan - theyll keep their paychecks well into 2006.
A paperwork shuffle locked the highly paid employees into jobs through most of the new governors term, according to an Associated Press analysis of state records.
That leaves Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich with little control over jobs his aides say were limited to four-year terms specifically so a new governor could choose his own people.
Very cynically, these people were trying to protect each other, protect their own jobs, Blagojevich spokesman Billy Weinberg said.
The 40 Ryan employees were in jobs with four-year terms due to expire after the new governor took office in January - half of them within the first six months. Blagojevich could have replaced the employees when their terms expired.
But late last summer, the employees tendered their resignations, although they never actually stopped working. Then Ryan appointed them to brand-new terms - in most cases within five days, according to records compiled by Blagojevich's office.
The average salary of those who restarted the clock on their terms is $80,500, according to state comptroller records. More than half are in the departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture. The rest are from nine other agencies. Twenty-five of the 40 have contributed a total of nearly $40,000 to Republican political campaigns, including $23,300 to Ryan.
Each new term carried a four-month probationary period during which the employees could be fired for any reason. But the new terms all started by Sept. 13 - exactly four months before Blagojevich was sworn in.
Ryan also used other maneuvers to help friends and loyal workers before leaving office. He appointed dozens of staff members and defeated politicians to positions in state agencies or on commissions. He got rules and job descriptions changed to immunize many more employees from Blagojevich pink slips.
Among his first acts as governor, Blagojevich fired more than 60 people he said Ryan had appointed illegally.
But his staff does not know whether Blagojevich can do anything to reverse the 40 term adjustments. Mary Lee Leahy, the Springfield lawyer Blagojevich hired last month to review state jobs for their necessity, is studying the matter.
Leahy said she thought rules had prohibited changing terms before they expire, contrary to what happened with the 40 Ryan staffers.
Most of the employees contacted did not return telephone messages or refused to speak to The Associated Press.
However, Richard Robinson, an $87,500 administrator for the Department of Human Services, said he and others at the agency needed to stay to help with the transition to a new governor and fill a void left by 3,000 DHS employees who took early retirement.
Robinson's transition assistance will be lengthy. His readjusted term runs through Aug. 31, 2006.
Human Services spokesman Tom Green gave a different answer when asked why the adjustment was made. "The answer is, to obtain a new four-year term," Green said.
Agency spokesmen said the orders for the adjusted terms came from the top.
"The governor's office, at the time, instructed us to do this," Department of Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said.
Diane Hurrelbrink, a $102,700-a-year Corrections Department administrator, said she thought her extension was because of agency reorganization, but added "I wasn't allowed to ask questions." Molina said reorganization didn't play a role.
Agriculture Department spokesman John Herath, who is paid $52,300, said he learned about his new term only after it had been arranged.
"I'm here to do the job, day-in, day-out," Herath said. "If somebody doesn't think I'm doing the job, they can challenge that and show me the door."

 

Man First to Death Row Since Clemency
Thursday, 27-Feb-2003     
Story from JIM PAUL, Associated Press Writer
CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) -- A man sentenced to death for killing a college student became the first inmate on the state's death row since former Gov. George Ryan emptied it last month by granting clemency to all 167 condemned inmates.
The conviction against Anthony B. Mertz was automatically appealed after he was sentenced Wednesday. Judge Dale A. Cini formally pronounced the sentence Thursday and set an execution date of May 5.
The execution will be delayed, though, because of the appeal and because a moratorium Ryan imposed has not been lifted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The governor wants make sure the system is reformed before executions resume, spokesman Tom Schafer said.
Mertz, 26, was convicted for the June 2001 rape and murder of Shannon McNamara, 21, a student at Eastern Illinois University who lived in an off-campus apartment across the street from Mertz.
Mertz's trial began days after Ryan commuted all of Illinois' death sentences to life in prison. Ryan cited problems with how death sentences are carried out in a state where 17 condemned inmates in recent years had been cleared.
Mertz's attorneys said they thought the jury's decision signaled a backlash against Ryan's decision.
"It's like 'We're going to show Gov. Ryan. We're going to fill up that death row again,'" said attorney Paula Phillips.
His attorneys asked jurors to spare Mertz's life because of his bad childhood and an adult life of alcohol and drug abuse that led to his criminal acts.
During the penalty hearing, prosecution witnesses testified Mertz had said he also killed another woman in Charleston in 1999.
Prosecutor Steve Ferguson said he wasn't celebrating the death sentence but felt it was the right decision.
"I feel the system triumphed," he said. "We felt this was a case that was appropriate for the death penalty."
 

Union membership drops to new low
 
February 26, 2003
BY LEIGH STROPE 
 
 
 
 

HOLLYWOOD, Fla.--Union membership dropped last year to the lowest level in almost two decades as manufacturing companies hemorrhaged traditional union jobs faster than organizers could build new membership in other areas.
Some 13.2 percent of America's work force belonged to unions in 2002, down from 13.4 percent in 2001, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.
''Weaker union membership numbers are grim news for the entire nation,'' said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. He said unions increase productivity, economic stability and workers' economic status.
The rate of union membership has dropped steadily since the data first was recorded in 1983, when 20.1 percent of the work force belonged to a union. In fact, the annual rate has never increased in the 19 years since.
Labor Department economists used new methods in compiling this year's data, and adjusted the 2001 statistics according to the revised system to show the real 0.2 percent drop. Previous years were not reassessed.
Union leaders in Florida this week for the AFL-CIO's winter executive council meeting countered with a new labor-financed poll that found half of respondents saying they would join a union if given the chance.
Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, the largest AFL-CIO affiliate with 1.5 million workers, suggested that in an era of corporate scandals workers ''see unions as a positive voice against corporate greed.''
Transportation had the highest rate of unionized workers in the private sector, at almost 24 percent. But that industry along with hotels and tourism has been heavily battered since the 2001 terrorist attacks, accounting for some of the union decline, Sweeney said.
The nation's factories have lost 1.9 million jobs in the last two years. The AFL-CIO's industrial unions say the job losses are reaching crisis levels, and have joined forces to increase their political and lobbying power.
The labor movement sees potential for growth in some of the AFL-CIO's largest affiliate unions--SEIU, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees.
SEIU is having success in California by organizing home health care workers, and janitors across the country. AFSCME is organizing government workers at all levels across the country, including Los Angeles County psychiatric social workers. HERE is focusing on immigrant workers.
''The big challenge is whether these labor leaders can think outside the box to figure out a way to pull in people,'' said Thomas Geoghegan, a labor lawyer and author of the book, Which Side are You On? Trying to be for Labor When it's Flat on its Back

Blagojevich directs agencies to cut budgets
 
February 24, 2003
BY MAURA KELLY ASSOCIATED PRESS 
 

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday directed state agencies and departments to cut administrative costs by an average of 10 percent to help control a nearly $5 billion budget deficit.
The governor also wants to review up to $1.7 billion in spending for those agencies and departments. The money would be placed in reserve until the state's Bureau of Budget can look over the expenditures to decide if they are necessary.
"We will determine which services, programs and personnel are essential to serve the needs of the people or are the result of spending that has gone unchecked, unjustified or unquestioned for too long," Blagojevich said during a news conference at the James R. Thompson Center.
Also, Blagojevich said he will cut his own administrative budget by 15 percent, as will Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and the Bureau of the Budget.
"Addressing this $5 billion budget deficit requires shared sacrifice. No one should be immune," the governor said.
Blagojevich said cutting 10 percent from about 30 agencies under his control could save up to $31 million from the current fiscal year budget. The cuts also could save $125 million in the budget for the next fiscal year.
The governor directed agencies and departments to reserve for review about 8 percent of their operations budget for this fiscal year; 5 percent of the state grants they administer; and 10 percent of capital improvement funds.
Grants that cover education for kindergarten through grade 12, health care and public safety will be exempt from the reserve, Blagojevich said.
 
 
 
 
 

Blagojevich fires prisons official
Furor over aide's parole testimony for mob hit man
 
By Christi Parsons
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 11, 2003
SPRINGFIELD -- The second-ranking official at the
Department of Corrections was dismissed Monday, two
months after he was accused of giving his implicit
approval to a request from an underling to testify at
the parole hearing of a mob hit man.
George DeTella, the department's associate director,
was dismissed after aides to Gov. Rod Blagojevich
determined he "did not have a role to play in this
administration."
"The position is intended to be occupied by someone
who serves at the pleasure and with the confidence of
the governor," Blagojevich spokesman Billy Weinberg
said. "George DeTella did not meet the standard."
The dismissal comes two months after a controversy
erupted over the decision by an agency official to
testify in support of the parole request of a Chicago
mob figure.
Ron Matrisciano, an assistant deputy director of the
department, testified in support of the parole request
of Harry Aleman, who is serving 100 to 300 years for
the 1972 murder of a Teamsters official.
According to department officials, Matrisciano claimed
DeTella had OKd his approval to his decision to appear
before the Prisoner Review Board, which has since
denied Aleman's release.
According to an agency spokesman, Matrisciano asked or
told DeTella he wanted to testify on behalf of Aleman
and DeTella told him he would have to do that on
personal time.
DeTella said Monday that Matrisciano had mentioned the
idea in passing and that he had not stood in the way
because he didn't believe it was his right or duty to
do so.
"I didn't give him permission," DeTella said. "Ron had
told me, and he told several other people, he was
going to speak on behalf of an inmate. I told him I
didn't think it was a good idea--not for this inmate,
but for any inmate."
But DeTella said he didn't know of any department
policy that would preclude such testimony, as long as
Matrisciano didn't do it on state time and made it
clear he was not appearing as a department
representative.
Weinberg acknowledged the governor's office was aware
of the Matrisciano incident but declined to say
whether it had anything to do with the decision to
dismiss DeTella.
DeTella said he was informed that his "services
weren't needed anymore."
DeTella has served as a warden and as an assistant
director during a lengthy career at the agency.

Blagojevich names director of Department of Corrections
 Velasco is first Latino ever selected for the position
Feb 4, 2003
CHICAGOGov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced on Tuesday his selection of the individual who will lead the states Department of Corrections.
Ernesto Velasco, who served as director of the Cook County jail system, was chosen by the governor today to serve as director of the department which has the second-most employees in state government.
Velasco represents the first member of the Latino community ever appointed to the position.
I am proud to have selected for this position someone who will serve as an inspirational leader to all of those employeesand to people across the state, Blagojevich said.
The governor cited Velascos impressive life-story, which he said should serve as an inspiration to people across Illinois. He pointed out that Velasco came to Chicago as a 13 year-old immigrant from Mexico, with his mother and sister.
His is an immigrants story, Blagojevich said.
The governor added that Velascos story reminded him of his fathers own experience coming to the United States.
It is marked by the realization that hard work and dedication are the keys to success, he said.
Velsaco attended St. Romans grammar school and graduated from Harrison High School on Chicagos near southwest side.
Velasco began his career with the Cook County Sheriffs office in 1972 and worked his way up through the ranks.
He began as a correctional officer, and thenthrough hard-work and skill-- rose through the ranks to become a correctional sergeant in1978 and earn higher promotions: a lieutenant in 1980, captain in 1984, chief in 1985 and then superintendent in 1989.
In 1994, he was named assistant executive director for programs and special units.
Finally, in 1996, Velasco was named director of the Cook County Jail. There, he oversaw a staff of 3,000 and an inmate population of more than 11,000.
Velasco was the first Latino to be appointed to that position, and the first-ever employee of the county department of corrections to rise through the ranks to the position of director.
During his tenure at the jail, the facility received exemplary ratings. The American Correctional Association gave the jail a 98 percent score on non-mandatory standardsand perfect 100 percent on mandatory ratings. It is one of the largest county facilities in the country to receive such accreditation.
There, he supported the county jails Life Learning programan innovative approach that offered job-skills, assistance with emotional and personal problems, reading and writing skills to detainees.
While working for the county, Velasco continued to take several courses to enhance his management skills. He attended classes at Northwesterns Kellogg School of Management; through the U.S. Dept. of Justice; and John Marshall Law School.
He and his wife Sandra are the proud parents of two grown daughters.
Sandra and Velascos mother, Maria Elena, were scheduled to join him at the press conference this morning.

 

 
 

Ryan pardons don't stop at Death Row
150 got clemency for other offenses
By Christi Parsons and Steve Mills
Tribune staff reporters
January 26, 2003
SPRINGFIELD -- For 50 years, Rev. Oscar Walden has been trying to convince people that he is innocent of raping a woman in a vacant lot near Altgeld Gardens in 1952.
On Friday, state officials officially notified him that former Gov. George Ryan believed him and, in his final days in office, granted the 71-year-old minister a pardon based on innocence of the crime.
"It's the news I've been waiting for 50 years," Walden said Friday. "I've been waiting for my prayers to be answered, believing all the time that it was going to happen."
The pardon came in a batch of more than 150 grants of clemency for non-capital offenses filed by Ryan in the final two months of his term. They were overshadowed by his decision in his final days in office to empty Death Row by commuting death sentences for 167 inmates because he believed they had been convicted by a flawed capital justice system.
In contrast, Ryan's predecessor, Jim Edgar, issued 19 pardons during his last year in office and commuted the sentence of another convict. Edgar denied another 159 clemency petitions.
Ryan's reasons for granting clemency to people convicted of lesser crimes are less clear. He provided no detailed explanations in papers filed with the state's Prisoner Review Board, the agency that oversees pardon applications. In fact, Ryan filed so many clemencies on his way out the door that the board is only now sorting through the last of the paperwork and notifying some of the recipients.
On the final list are the names of several non-Death Row inmates serving time for murder, for whom Ryan issued either full pardons or reduced sentences. He also pardoned dozens of people convicted of sex offenses, assault and battery, and smaller crimes ranging from drug possession to shoplifting.
As with all of the clemencies, the decision-making process is enigmatic. The state constitution grants the governor sweeping power to grant pardons, doesn't require him to hew to any particular standard, explain decisions or even follow the recommendations of the board. Efforts to reach Ryan and his aides to shed light were unsuccessful.
But board officials assume that in many cases Ryan simply rubber-stamped their recommendations because of the volume of the workload.
"The board looks at the severity of the crime, the criminal history, what they've done with their lives since and the reason they want the pardon," said Ken Tupy, the board's legal counsel. "It's pretty clear that the board and the governor believe a pardon is warranted if the person committed an offense 20 years ago, had a law-abiding life after that and needed a pardon to get a job."
`Act of forgiveness'
A pardon not expressly based on innocence doesn't clear a person's record, but as an "official act of forgiveness" it does make some employers feel better about hiring someone, Tupy said. In one such case, Ryan pardoned Robert Martinez of Chicago who was about to lose his position in the Illinois National Guard because superiors found out he was convicted of burglary in the 1980s.
"He was young and made some bad decisions," Tupy said. "Now he just wants to continue to serve his community."
Karen Flock, 42, sought to erase two old convictions that had hampered her ability to get a job and provide for her three children. The first conviction was about 20 years old and occurred after she bought beer for an underaged friend.
The second conviction stemmed from a burglary about a decade later. Some friends committed a burglary; Flock said she was in a car outside and had no idea what they were doing.
She said she had lost jobs after background checks were done.
"My children need stability, and I needed to better myself," said Flock, who has been working as a school lunchroom attendant. "This was the only way."
Board members say recommendations from potential employers and character witnesses are helpful to a petitioner, but they deny that it makes any difference if a request comes from someone who is politically connected.
Chris Pucinski, who lives in the Edgebrook neighborhood, said he's not aware of anyone making calls on his behalf and was surprised to learn of the grant from a reporter on Friday.
"Far out," said Pucinski, the brother of former Republican Cook County Clerk Aurelia Pucinski, whom Ryan installed in his Cabinet in the waning months of his administration.
Chris Pucinski, 45, was arrested in 1976 after he sold a packet of cocaine to an undercover police officer. He was arrested again in 1988 on a cocaine charge. The pardon applies to both cases.
Pucinski said he applied for the pardon himself after researching the issue on the Internet and telephoning the Prisoner Review Board. He said that as far as he knew he did not receive assistance from relatives, though his last name is well known in political circles.
"If she helped me," he said of his sister, "I don't know about it. But I'm pretty sure this was all me."
Another pardon was granted to Darryl Robinson of Chicago Heights, who was convicted of shooting his mother's abusive husband in 1976 and got 3 years' probation. Robinson, who was 25 at the time, said he shot Walter Mosby after the man beat Robinson's mother to a bloody pulp with a basketball trophy.
Robinson's defense attorney argued that he had acted in self-defense, but the trial court judge ruled the jury couldn't hear evidence of years of violence that family members say Mosby wreaked upon the Robinson children.
Not actual killer
Also notified of his pardon last week was Daniel O'Reilly, convicted in 1991 for his part in a shooting death during a drug dispute. Attorneys argued that O'Reilly got a higher-than-average sentence for someone who was not the actual killer.
Ryan reduced O'Reilly's sentence from 38 years in prison to 24. He is serving his term at the Dixon Correctional Center.
But in the 50-year-old case of Walden, the petitioner has been straight for years. He has been asking for a pardon based on innocence for a decade and isn't sure why it came through now.
As in the other cases, Ryan did not say why he was pardoning Walden, a black man accused of raping a white woman in pre-civil rights era Chicago. He merely filed a memo granting clemency and ordering the cleansing of Walden's criminal record.
Walden confessed to the crime but maintained the confession had been beaten and tortured out of him by police. He also said police forced him to apologize to the victim before he was charged, and she immediately after identified him as the perpetrator. He was paroled in 1965.
This was actually the second pardon received for the same conviction by Walden. The first was granted in 1978 by then-Gov. James Thompson, though it technically did not declare Walden innocent or expunge the conviction from his records.
In the meantime Walden, who went on to work as an AME minister and to teach criminal justice at Chicago State University, has continued to try to clear his name, something that Ryan's pardon formally does.
"When I was doing those 14 years in prison, every time the phone would ring I thought it was somebody saying, `Oscar, get ready to go home,'" he said. "Now that it has happened, it's almost unbelievable."
But some other attorneys who represent newly pardoned clients think they know exactly why their clients were successful. Downstate resident Joy Brown's sentence was reduced from 6 years in prison to 3, and she is now expected to get out of prison in January of next year. Brown had been convicted of throwing hot grease on her ex-husband, something she says she did after he attacked her in her house.
"She thanks Gov. Ryan and the Lord," said Brown's attorney Margaret Byrne, "though not necessarily in that order."
 

Will County Jail hires new warden
Ex-state prisons official gets post
By Karen Mellen
Tribune staff reporter
January 25, 2003
A retired top-ranking official with the Illinois Department of Corrections on Friday was named warden of Will County Jail in Joliet, taking over a facility beset by overcrowding and administrative problems.
Michael O'Leary, 53, will start his job Monday. He will be paid $91,500 a year. In December, he retired from a 29-year career with the Corrections Department, where his last position was deputy bureau chief of field operations.
O'Leary also has served as warden of Stateville Correctional Center, adult division assistant director and acting deputy director responsible for overseeing the administration of 27 adult facilities.
Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas, who wooed O'Leary out of retirement, acknowledged Friday that he reneged on a campaign promise to promote from within the Sheriff's Office.
"I see this as an opportunity for the sheriff's department and the county, and to save the taxpayers money," Kaupas said.
O'Leary's experience in working on prison expansions will help officials with a proposal to add to the jail in Joliet, Kaupas said.
Will County officials are trying to find money for a jail expansion.
The average daily inmate population at the jail is 445, but the maximum capacity is 332.
O'Leary said he is looking forward to the challenge of learning about county jails.
"The heart of it is safety and security," he said.
Kaupas said many administrative problems at the jail have been corrected, such as an instance in which an inmate was not released on time. But he emphasized that overcrowding is a great concern, and he looks to O'Leary to help with that.
"He's light years ahead of us," Kaupas said.
 

Statehouse INSIDER
 
BY DOUG FINKE
19 Jan 2003
 
Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH has been in office for a whole week now, and he's beginning to get a taste what life is like in the capital city. Like how it takes next to nothing for a rumor to get started among state employees and how, once started, virtually nothing will stop it.
The hot one last week was that either 150 or 300 people would be fired on Friday. Blagojevich's people denied it, but a measly denial from the people at the top isn't enough to stop the mighty state-worker rumor mill. That fact seemed to surprise some of the Blagojevich people. Hah, they haven't seen anything yet. The rumor mill is going to get worse before it gets better, what with all of the budget cuts in the offing.
Still, there is a grain of truth to the rumors about people being fired. Blagojevich himself said more people were going to go, people that the new administration would describe as cronies of former Gov. GEORGE RYAN. In addition, agency directors from the Ryan years and their top aides obviously will be losing their jobs.
So at some point the rumor that more workers are losing their jobs will come true - just like the rumor about early retirement came true last spring after four years in the mill.

Here's how crazy the rumor situation around state government has gotten.
Last week, an employee at a state agency was spotted leaving work carrying a couple of cardboard boxes. Within minutes, the rumor was all over the agency that the employee had been fired as part of the Democrats' big purge.
In fact, the employee had permission to take the empty boxes for use at home.

Here's another one, folks. The deadline for early retirement has not been secretly extended until the end of June. The deadline was December. It was set in law and would require an act of the General Assembly to change. The General Assembly hasn't been in town, ergo the deadline hasn't changed.
Geez, we thought all those early retirements were slashing the work force so much that state workers wouldn't have time to gossip. Guess we were wrong.

Blagojevich could help limit those rumors and the apparently rampant paranoia if he is so inclined. He could try being a little more specific about what he has in mind for the budget and state workers. So far, though, we have his budget director, JOHN FILAN, saying everything is being considered for cuts except education, public safety and health care. That leaves room to scare the daylights out of a lot of people.
Ryan, the former governor, commuted the sentences of all death row inmates last week. He wants people to believe he did it as a matter of principle. Wouldn't it be easier for people (especially the victims' families) to believe that if Ryan had shown similar principle in other parts of his public life?
By the way, Ryan was given credit for showing up at Monday's inauguration and for even applauding during portions of Blagojevich's speech. Allow us to set the record straight here. Yes, Ryan did applaud a couple of times. But that was at near the beginning of the speech. As Blagojevich continued and started railing about a "system of corruption," the clapping pretty much ended.

 

p01162003011603toon.jpg

How fast will death row fill again?
May not take long to put at least one inmate in
 
By CHRIS DETTRO
STAFF WRITER
16 Jan 2003
For Christopher Parker of Chicago and William Buck of Rockford, the timing could have been better.
Parker, 29, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 4 after being convicted last summer of the murder on Dec. 31, 1997, of his girlfriend's 2-year-old son from a previous relationship. Cook County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Buck, 20, is watching as a jury is selected in Lake County for his trial for first-degree murder in the August 2001 shooting death of Kevin Rice, a Rockford police detective and investigator with the city's gang unit. Winnebago County prosecutors also are seeking death for Buck.
If either or both receives the death penalty, one will have the dubious distinction of being the first person sentenced to death in Illinois since George Ryan's commutation of the sentences of all 167 pprisoners then on death row.
Parker and Buck could have the new death row all to themselves, although probably not for long.
"Death row is emptying out this week, but it will probably fill up again," Illinois Prisoner Review Board chairman Craig Findley of Jacksonville said after Ryan's announcement Saturday.
But at what pace?
Cook County has 50 capital cases "in the pipeline" at some stage, and another 10 to 15 cases are believed to be pending in the remainder of the state's 102 counties.
Four men were sentenced to death in Illinois in 2002 - two in Cook County and two downstate - according to the state appellate defender's office. Among them were Dale Lash, 40, who was sentenced Nov. 13 to die for the 1999 murder of Lori Hayes, 25, of Auburn; and Daniel Raines, 31, of Carlinville, who was sentenced to die by a Macon County jury Nov. 14 after being convicted of killing Vermilion County deputy sheriff Sgt. Myron Deckard in 2001.
Raines and Lash were the final two defendants added to death row before Ryan's commutation.
According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, only one person was sentenced to death in Illinois in 2001.
In the years prior to 2001, however, the number of death sentences ranged from nine in 1981-82 to 20 in 1995-96.
Illinois has sentenced 289 people to die since the death penalty was reinstated in the state in 1977. Of those, however, only 12 were executed.
Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions in early 2000 while appointing a special commission to recommend reforms in the state's capital punishment system. The panel came up with 85 recommendations, some of which have been included in new Supreme Court rules governing capital cases.
The next death penalty case to be heard in Sangamon County likely will be a change-of-venue case from Peoria County. Jarvis Neely, 19, is accused of shooting Peoria police officer Donan "Jim" Faulkner in September 2001. Neely's trial is scheduled for June 30.
The next Sangamon County capital case won't be tried until late this year, at the earliest.
In that case, authorities are seeking death for Dennis "DJ" Scott, 20, of the 300 block of South Walnut Street, who is charged with killing three people and wounding a fourth in anger over a DVD player he believed had been stolen from him.
Authorities say Scott and another man forced their way into an upstairs apartment at 5241/2 S. State St. on Oct. 21, 2001, and shot Margaret "Sue" Maledy, 43; Sabrina Cole, 22; and Maledy's sons, Eric Widner, 22, and Adam Widner, 20. Eric Widner, who was shot in the face, survived and was able to drive to a nearby convenience store to seek help.
Ollie V. Davis, 19, of White City Boulevard also is charged with first-degree murder in the case, but prosecutors are seeking the death penalty only against Scott.
Chris Dettro can be reached at 788-1510 or chris.dettro@sj-r.com.
 

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Inmate's time off Death Row may be short
60 capital cases still in pipeline
 
 
By Jeff Coen, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter John Keilman contributed to this report
January 14, 2003
Serial-killing suspect Andrew Urdiales was one of the condemned prisoners spared by last weekend's mass commutation of death sentences, but a Downstate prosecutor said Monday he is committed to putting him back on Death Row.
Police and prosecutors in two states have accused Urdiales of killing eight women and dumping their bodies in lakes, rivers or California deserts. Urdiales, 37, was convicted last year in Cook County of killing two women whose bodies were found in Wolf Lake and was sentenced to die in September.
In April, Urdiales is scheduled to stand trial in Pontiac, Ill., in the slaying of Cassandra Corum, 21, of Hammond, whose body was found in the Vermilion River more than six years ago. Livingston County State's Atty. Thomas Brown said he will seek the death penalty.
"It was not a hard decision," Brown said Monday. "This man is a serial killer."
Cook County prosecutors who tried Urdiales for the 1996 stabbing and shooting deaths of Lynn Huber, 22, of Chicago and Lori Uylaki, 25, of Hammond routinely used the case during last fall's clemency hearings as a prime example of why capital punishment is needed in Illinois.
They even brought a former juror to his hearing to express the horror she felt at hearing the details of how Urdiales picked up his victims and drove them to secluded areas to rape and kill them. The jury also heard testimony on how Urdiales mocked one of the women, saying her cries for mercy were straight out of a slasher movie.
"Andrew Urdiales isn't out of the woods yet," said Cook County Assistant State's Atty. Michael Hood.
Two Cook County cases may provide the first new Death Row inmate.
Christopher Parker, 29, was convicted in July of the 1998 fatal beating of his 2-year-old son, Joshua Sandifer. Parker, of Chicago, could be sentenced Feb. 4.
Michael Key, 24, was convicted of the 1999 murder of a transgendered female named Beretta Williams, prosecutors said. Key was found eligible for death by a judge last week and could be sentenced as soon as Feb. 28.
Meanwhile, state prison officials said Monday no Death Row prisoners have been moved to new cells. Department of Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said plans are being finalized to move inmates in the Pontiac and Menard prisons to maximum-security areas at Menard and Stateville Correctional Center, but it could be a week before that begins.
The four women on Death Row at Dwight Correctional Center may not change cells at all, officials said.
Statewide, there are more than 60 capital cases in the pipeline for which prosecutors have declared their intention to seek the death penalty. About 50 of the cases are in Cook County.
In Will County, prosecutors are seeking death for Brian Nelson, who is accused of killing his former girlfriend and three other people in Custer Park last year. State's Atty. Jeff Tomczak said Nelson's trial probably will start in the fall.
In Kane County, there are three pending capital cases.
Avery Binion and Willie Buckhana have been convicted but not sentenced for their roles in a 1999 triple homicide in Elgin. State's Atty. Meg Gorecki also is seeking death for Cayce Williams of Elgin, who is accused of killing his girlfriend's 20-month-old daughter in 1997. He has yet to be tried.
Van Richards, an Elgin lawyer representing Binion, said his client is scheduled to be sentenced April 1. Richards said last week he hadn't thought out a legal strategy to pursue in the case of a blanket commutation, but said he believed it would be unfair for Binion to receive the death penalty after a mass clemency had been granted.
"Obviously, the law would be treating very differently people convicted after the commutation," he said.
Challenges to commutation
There could be some legal wrangling left on a handful of the 164 death sentences commuted by former Gov. George Ryan. After the announcement Saturday, Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine promised to pursue any legal avenue to challenge the commutation of the death sentences to life in prison without parole.
Public defenders said they expect challenges in 12 cases where Ryan commuted death sentences vacated by higher courts in Illinois, meaning those inmates now face a maximum sentence of life in prison when they are resentenced. Prosecutors may argue that the governor did not have the ability to commute the sentence of an inmate who technically wasn't under a sentence.
Rob Warden of Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions has said that challenge is expected.
"They certainly will say, how do you commute a sentence when there is no sentence," he said.
"That's the one sliver we may have," said Bernie Murray, chief of criminal prosecutions in the Cook County state's attorney's office.
Urdiales, 38, is on Death Row at Menard Correctional Center near Chester.
The break in the Urdiales case came when a prostitute told Chicago police a man had tried to blindfold her and drive her to Wolf Lake. Urdiales had been arrested and charged with possessing a handgun after quarreling with a prostitute, and the gun was linked to the slayings of Uylaki, Huber and Corum by ballistics testing.
Urdiales allegedly confessed to the slayings and raised an insanity defense, his defense lawyers arguing he believed the CIA was ordering him to kill through a transmitter in his head.
He also is charged with five slayings in California.
During his trial, a woman who said she narrowly missed becoming a ninth victim told jurors she escaped from the trunk of his car in Riverside, Calif. A defense psychiatrist, trying to convince jurors of Urdiales' insanity, told them he once had complained that his victim's cries were from "a `Friday the 13th' movie."
Reforms in Urdiales case
Assistant State's Atty. Jim McKay, who led the prosecution, said Urdiales was given the benefit of new reforms ordered by the Illinois Supreme Court, including the right to depose the state's witnesses. Five experienced defense lawyers worked on his case and used the capital litigation fund to hire experts to testify for him.
"Gov. Ryan said that the system is broken, but it's just ignorant to say that in the Andrew Urdiales case," McKay said.
Prosecutors were critical of the defense's handling of Urdiales' post-conviction motions, too, as his lawyers sought clemency before filing for a new trial.
McKay has taken issue with defense lawyers' "ignoring" Urdiales' automatic appeals to argue for clemency for him.
"And now we know why," he said Monday.
Phil Mullane, supervisor of the homicide task force for the public defender's office, said Monday the goal was to save Urdiales' life.
"We were right, and they were wrong," he said, adding that his office is providing documents and background to the defense attorney handling Urdiales' Livingston County case, who could not be reached for comment Monday.
 

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Prisons gird for shift of inmates off Death Row
 
By John Keilman
Tribune staff reporter
January 12, 2003
Illinois' Death Row will be empty within a week, its former tenants beginning new and changed lives in maximum-security cells.
Department of Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said that in a few days, male inmates whose sentences were commuted from death will leave their cells in Pontiac and Menard prisons for maximum-security wings in Stateville and Menard.
The state's four condemned women in Dwight Correctional Center also will be put into maximum security, but because there are so few, it is not clear whether they'll change cells, Molina said.
The switch from Death Row to the general population will bring changes to the inmates' lives, not all of them pleasant. They no longer will have a cell to themselves. They also will have to give up one of the two document boxes they were allowed to keep in their Death Row cells.
However, maximum-security inmates can leave their cells to have lunch and dinner in a dining hall. They can attend classes and get jobs that will earn them money for the prison commissary.
Molina added that through good behavior, some prisoners might win transfers to less harsh facilities, though lifers usually are confined to maximum-security prisons.
Some prison staffers worry about what will happen when Death Row inmates return to the general population. At October clemency hearings for Roosevelt Lucas and Ike Easley--who were maximum-security inmates when they killed a top Pontiac prison official in 1987--corrections officers argued that letting the men off Death Row would guarantee future violence.
"I can't see taking a chance of letting [Lucas] back in a general population," said Capt. David Knight. "I'm very confident that if this man were let anywhere near people, he would not hesitate to take another life."
Molina downplayed that concern.
"That potential [for violence] exists every day of the week, whether or not you have Death Row people assimilated into general population," he said.
Molina said it isn't clear what will happen to the cells on Death Row once they're empty. Capital punishment still is legal in Illinois and dozens of cases in the state may yet end in a death sentence.
But with 156 prisoners vacating Death Row within days, Molina said, "We'll have to decide what we would have for a setup."
 

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Ryan delivers slap in the face
SJ-R Opinion
12 Jan 2003
 
Gov. George Ryan proved at least one thing on Saturday afternoon with his anti-death-penalty speech and the commutation of all current Illinois death sentences. Ryan did not want to be governor of Illinois; he wanted to be king.
Were George Ryan king, he could have outlawed the death penalty in Illinois. But the fact is that Ryan is merely governor, for another day anyway. So what he was able to do was commute the sentences of the 167 people who now sit on death row. Most will now serve life in prison without the chance for parole.
But lets not be confused by all the applause from death-penalty abolitionists - Ryan did not outlaw the death penalty. In fact, the way he went about the commutation will likely make it even more difficult to pass the reforms so badly needed in Illinois capital punishment system.
The anti-death-penalty advocates who made up the audience at Northwestern University on Saturday loudly cheered Ryans courage. But Ryan didnt really display any courage. What does he have to lose? His political life is over; in fact, he may soon be indicted by federal prosecutors for the massive corruption in the secretary of states office while he headed it.
What Ryan displayed on Saturday was bad judgment.
Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error - error in determining guilt and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die, said Ryan in defending his decision.
Ryan deemed the states death penalty system arbitrary and capricious - and therefore immoral. Yet, he also defended his decision by saying, I am not prepared to take the risk that we may execute an innocent person
Which is it, governor - the immorality of the death penalty or concerns that innocent people sit on death row?
The first question is certainly open for debate. We would not be at all opposed to a referendum on whether Illinois should continue to be a death penalty state. There are strong arguments on both sides of the capital punishment issue.
We are strongly opposed, however, to one man - even if he is governor - attempting to decide such an important matter, especially when he does not have the moral or legal authority to do so.
The concern over innocence is a sham on Ryans part. The vast majority of those who petitioned for clemency did not contest their guilt. Likewise, a moratorium on using the death sentence is in place, and incoming Gov. Rod Blagojevich has unequivocally said he would keep that moratorium in place while individual cases are studied and reforms are worked on.
The governor deserves the praise he has received for working to reform the death-penalty system in Illinois. The blue-ribbon commission he organized developed a lengthy and worthy list of recommended reforms. We understand his frustration at not getting these reforms implemented by the end of his term.
However, that is not justification for blanket clemency. There can be no justification to commute sentences for monsters, such as Dale Lash or the Chicago-area man and woman who killed a pregnant woman, her 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son because they wanted the womans baby, which they cut from her womb.
Rather than continue to work for reforms, Ryan took the easy way out. He made no attempt to discern between some of the most evil people imaginable and the small number who may have legitimate reasons to challenge their sentences. Cook County States Attorney Dick Devine may have said it best: Yes, the system is broken and the governor broke it today. Ryans actions are a slap in the face to not only the victims families but to all those involved in the judicial system.

Prisons gird for shift of inmates off Death Row
 
By John Keilman
Tribune staff reporter
January 12, 2003
Illinois' Death Row will be empty within a week, its former tenants beginning new and changed lives in maximum-security cells.
Department of Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said that in a few days, male inmates whose sentences were commuted from death will leave their cells in Pontiac and Menard prisons for maximum-security wings in Stateville and Menard.
The state's four condemned women in Dwight Correctional Center also will be put into maximum security, but because there are so few, it is not clear whether they'll change cells, Molina said.
The switch from Death Row to the general population will bring changes to the inmates' lives, not all of them pleasant. They no longer will have a cell to themselves. They also will have to give up one of the two document boxes they were allowed to keep in their Death Row cells.
However, maximum-security inmates can leave their cells to have lunch and dinner in a dining hall. They can attend classes and get jobs that will earn them money for the prison commissary.
Molina added that through good behavior, some prisoners might win transfers to less harsh facilities, though lifers usually are confined to maximum-security prisons.
Some prison staffers worry about what will happen when Death Row inmates return to the general population. At October clemency hearings for Roosevelt Lucas and Ike Easley--who were maximum-security inmates when they killed a top Pontiac prison official in 1987--corrections officers argued that letting the men off Death Row would guarantee future violence.
"I can't see taking a chance of letting [Lucas] back in a general population," said Capt. David Knight. "I'm very confident that if this man were let anywhere near people, he would not hesitate to take another life."
Molina downplayed that concern.
"That potential [for violence] exists every day of the week, whether or not you have Death Row people assimilated into general population," he said.
Molina said it isn't clear what will happen to the cells on Death Row once they're empty. Capital punishment still is legal in Illinois and dozens of cases in the state may yet end in a death sentence.
But with 156 prisoners vacating Death Row within days, Molina said, "We'll have to decide what we would have for a setup."

Clemency for all
Ryan commutes 164 death sentences to life in prison without parole. `There is no honorable way to kill,' he says.
 
 
By Maurice Possley and Steve Mills
Tribune staff reporters
January 12, 2003
Declaring the state's capital punishment system "haunted by the demon of error" and citing the state legislature's failure to reform it, Gov. George Ryan on Saturday commuted the sentences of every inmate on Illinois' Death Row.
With two days left as governor, Ryan issued a blanket commutation that converted every death sentence to life in prison without parole--164 inmates, including four women.
"Because the Illinois death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious--and therefore immoral--I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death," Ryan said, borrowing the words of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. "I won't stand for it. ... I had to act."
Ryan placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000 after 13 Death Row inmates were exonerated and following the Tribune series "The Failure of the Death Penalty in Illinois," which exposed serious flaws. Ryan said his three-year examination of the state's death penalty system had only raised new alarms over errors in determining guilt and errors in determining "who among the guilty deserves to die."
He called the number of exonerated inmates--a total that grew to 17 when he pardoned four men from Death Row on Friday on the basis of actual innocence--"an absolute embarrassment" and "a catastrophic failure."
"The facts I have seen in reviewing each and every one of these cases raised questions not only about the innocence of people on Death Row, but about the fairness of the death penalty system as a whole," Ryan told a cheering audience at Northwestern University's School of Law that included six exonerated former Death Row inmates.
"The Illinois capital punishment system is broken. It has taken innocent men to a hair's breadth escape from their unjust execution."
Ryan, whose power to commute and pardon is immune from challenge, responded to critics--whose ranks include Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich, who called it a mistake, and Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine.
"Prosecutors in Illinois have the ultimate commutation power, a power that is exercised every day," he said. "They decide who will be subject to the death penalty, who will get a plea deal or even who may get a complete pass on prosecution. By what objective standards do they make these decisions? We do not know, they are not public."
The death penalty was handed out differently, Ryan said, depending on where people lived in Illinois, who their prosecutor was, who their defense lawyer was, how poor they were and what race they were.
"Prosecutors across our state continue to deny that our death penalty system is broken--or they say if there is a problem it is really a small one and we can fix it somehow, someday," Ryan said.
He said he found it difficult to believe the system could be repaired when "not a single one" of the reforms urged by his Capital Punishment Commission has been adopted by the legislature.
"These reforms would not have created a perfect system, but they would have dramatically reduced the chance for error," he said. "I don't know how many more systemic flaws we need to uncover before [the legislature] would be spurred to action."
Ryan acknowledged his decision to commute the sentences of all Death Row prisoners "will draw ridicule, scorn and anger from many ... Even if the exercise of my power becomes my burden, I will bear it. ... I sought this office, and even in my final days of holding it, I can't shrink from the obligations to justice and fairness that it demands. ... I'm going to sleep well tonight knowing I made the right decision."
In all, Ryan commuted 164 death sentences to life without parole. On Friday he pardoned four Death Row inmates, resulting in the release of three. Another three Death Row inmates had their sentences shortened to 40-year terms.
After his speech, during interviews with reporters, Ryan said he hoped his action would spark increased examination of the death penalty in other states.
"If it's this bad in Illinois, it's probably just as bad across the country," he said.
Ryan commuted the terms of three Death Row inmates--Mario Flores, Montell Johnson and William Franklin--to 40-year prison terms.
Ryan's blanket commutation caps a remarkable ideological journey for a beleaguered governor. The Republican entered the governor's office a staunch supporter of capital punishment. As a state legislator in 1977, he voted in favor of reinstating the death penalty. When he departs the office Monday, still hounded by an unrelated corruption scandal, Ryan will leave behind a vacant Death Row.
Though other governors have taken sweeping clemency actions before him, experts said Ryan's decision compares in scale only with the U.S. Supreme Court's 1972 overturning of the death penalty, which reduced hundreds of death sentences to life.
What effect his decision may have on the debate over capital punishment nationally remains to be seen, but Ryan sealed his place as a hero of the anti-death penalty movement, drawing support from leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
But the extraordinary move also prompted outrage and anguish from prosecutors and some murder victims' families, who received letters from Ryan on Saturday morning telling them what he was about to do.
"I am not prepared to take the risk that we may execute an innocent person," Ryan wrote in the letters sent by overnight mail.
Devine called the decision "stunningly disrespectful to the hundreds of families who lost their loved ones to these Death Row murderers." With his choice, Devine said, Ryan had "once again ripped open the emotional scabs of these grieving families."
Peoria County State's Atty. Kevin Lyons said Ryan is "in hate with" justice.
"It was so offensive for him to compare himself to Lincoln and say, `I am a friend to these men on Death Row,'" Lyons said. "My reply is, yes, your excellency, you certainly are. Now go home before you make any more friends who are murdering the good people of Illinois."
Some family members and friends of murder victims said they believed Ryan was merely trying to shift attention away from the corruption scandal that has plagued his administration and led to criminal charges against top aides.
"I just think it's political tactics," said Helen Sophie Rajca of Bolingbrook, whose two brothers were shot and stabbed to death in 1979.
In his speech, Ryan acknowledged the anger of the victims' families. Ryan had listened to their gripping stories and pleas in recent months and had at one point told family members he was leaning away from a blanket commutation. During the more than hourlong speech, he struggled to retain his composure when he told the story of family friend Stephen Small from Kankakee, whose killer also got his sentence commuted.
Death Row may be empty, but there are more than 60 capital cases in the pipeline in Illinois where prosecutors have formally declared their intention to seek the death penalty, the vast majority in the Chicago area.
In dozens of other cases, defendants are technically eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have yet to signal their intentions.
In Cook County, there are an estimated 50 pending capital cases. There are three capital cases in Kane and one in Will County. In DuPage, prosecutors are considering the death penalty in six cases.
In Coles County, a death penalty trial will begin next month for Anthony Mertz. He is accused of strangling Shannon McNamara, an Eastern Illinois University student.
Incoming Att. Gen. Lisa Madigan said she still believed capital punishment was appropriate for heinous crimes, and said she hoped the governor's decision would not delay or derail the reform process.
She said she planned to review the lawsuit her predecessor, Jim Ryan, has filed in an effort to scuttle commutations received by those who did not sign clemency petitions, or whose death sentences have been tossed out by the courts.
"I will meet with the lawyers in the attorney general's office and reach out to State's Atty. Devine very soon to decide our next step in that case," she said through a spokeswoman.
At the Mexican Consulate, relatives of Flores, Juan Caballero and Gabriel Solache--the three Mexican nationals on Death Row--gathered to express their appreciation.
"This has been a very difficult week for us. We heard [Mario] was going to be pardoned, then we heard the opposite. But it is great just to know he is not going to be executed. We are really grateful," said Ana Flores, Mario's sister.
Carlos Sada, Mexico's general consul in Chicago, hailed the announcement as a victory for Mexico, which has 54 nationals in Death Row in the U.S., making Mexico the country with the largest number of foreign nationals among condemned prisoners in this country.
Asked if he considered that he had saved many lives, Ryan told a reporter, "I never thought about that. ... My goal was to improve a broken system in Illinois."
After the commission made recommendations that were not implemented, "the next logical step is if you can't fix it ... repair or repeal. You can't repeal it. Politically, it's impossible to do. So we had to do the next best thing we could, and that's what we did today. We commuted the sentences, there's a clean slate for the new governor to come in. ... And he's got a new General Assembly coming in."
Former Illinois Chief Justice Moses Harrison II, who dissented in every death penalty case during the end of his term on the court, called Ryan's action a courageous step. "He indicated a long time ago that he was aware the system was broken," said Harrison. "Once he did that, why, then there was only one thing he could do."
 

Man, wife found dead at Hillsboro prison
Both correctional officers at facility
 
By NANCY SLEPICKA and JOHN REYNOLDS
29 Dec 2002
 
HILLSBORO - A Graham Correctional Center officer apparently killed his estranged wife, also a security officer, and then turned the gun on himself early Saturday morning at the prison.
The bodies of Joseph L. Koches, 35, of Hillsboro and Helen M. Koches, 39, of Springfield were found by another correctional officer about 6 a.m. inside the gatehouse, just outside the main entrance to the prison, according to Corrections officials.
Both died of gunshot wounds to the head, said Montgomery County Coroner Rick Broaddus.
Department of Corrections officials confirmed the identities of the slain guards and said the deaths were being treated as a murder-suicide but provided few other details about what happened.
Joe Koches was assigned to the prison armory, according to sources familiar with the prison, and called a superior officer and asked to be relieved about 5:15 a.m. He then allegedly went to the gatehouse where Helen worked but didn't return.
The first sign of a problem apparently came about 45 minutes later when dietary workers arriving for work couldn't get into the facility, sources said. The employees reportedly could see Helen Koches slumped over her check station and assumed she was asleep. A tower guard was said to have been notified, and he called the shift commander, who sent a sergeant to investigate.
The sergeant reportedly found the Kocheses, who were pronounced dead at the scene, according to Broaddus.
Sergio Molina, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said neither would have carried a weapon as part of their normal duties. He declined to speculate on where the weapon came from.
After the incident, the prison was immediately put on lockdown, and it is expected to remain that way throughout the weekend.
Molina said the lockdown status was implemented to make it easier for correctional employees to do their jobs in the wake of the shooting.
"Obviously, this is a tragic incident to take place anywhere," Molina said. "We want our staff to be able to concentrate. ... (The lockdown) slows things down until we can get back to some normalcy."
Molina added that counselors are available for employees.
"We have a counseling staff on site. They will continue to be available to talk to staff if they so desire," Molina said.
Joe Koches had worked at the prison since September 1992, and Helen since May 1996, according to Corrections officials.
The Department of Corrections, Illinois State Police and the Montgomery County Coroner's Office are investigating the shooting.
An autopsy will be performed Monday in Springfield, and an inquest will be held.
Nancy Slepicka can be reached through the metro desk at 788-1519 and John Reynolds at 788-1524 or john.reynolds@sj-r.com.
 
 

Statehouse INSIDER
 
BY DOUG FINKE
08 Dec 2002
It didn't get a whole lot of attention, but that $200 million spending bill pushed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees went exactly nowhere in the legislature's fall veto session.
If you recall, AFSCME made a big deal out of trying to restore cuts imposed by lawmakers last spring, including closure of the Lincoln Developmental Center in Lincoln, Zeller Mental Health Center in Peoria and Sheridan Correctional Center near Ottawa.
AFSCME held news conferences and rallies and did all sorts of things to drum up publicity for spending more money on state employees. There's just one problem. The state is just about broke, and everyone seems to know that except for AFSCME.
Gov.-elect ROD BLAGOJEVICH knows it, and he asked House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN to sit on the bill, even though it contains mostly Blagojevich campaign promises. This is part of the new Blagojevich who - now that he's safely elected - is talking more about shared pain than restoring cuts.
It will be fun watching this saga unfold next spring - Blagojevich the new fiscal conservative vs. a pro-spending union that claims to have helped put him in power.

It's just not going to be the same around the Capitol without Senate President JAMES "PATE" PHILIP, R-Wood Dale.
Retiring after 34 years in the General Assembly, Philip is the politician who boldly spoke where few people spoke before. Some of those comments were viewed as sexist, racist and a few other "ists."
The thing about Philip is that he never changed. His notorious comment about minorities lacking a strong work ethic was made in 1994. It generated a firestorm of criticism. And how has that affected the December 2002 version of Philip? You be the judge.
"When you criticize minorities, whether you are right or wrong, their reaction is it is a racist remark," Philip said last week. "You ever think I might be right about what I was suggesting? It's not a racist remark. I just disagree with them."

Then there's Philip on the idea of a state-backed loan for nearly bankrupt United Airlines. Gov. GEORGE RYAN cooked up the idea even though the state isn't in much better financial shape than the airline, and even though the airline didn't ask the state for help.
Now, the usual position of Republican lawmakers and business interests is that the government should butt out of business unless it has contracts, tax cuts, bailouts or other lucrative goodies to offer, in which case government is more than welcome. Philip travels to a slightly different drummer.
"I don't think government ought to bail out any business. It's against my philosophy," Philip said. "If you can't make it in the real world, do something else."
Ryan's argument is that 18,000 jobs are at stake, which justifies the state's involvement. Tough, said Philip.
"I'm sorry about those people," he said. "It's a terrible thing, but that's life."

There's a resolution floating around the General Assembly that would rename the Waterways Building in Springfield for retired state Supreme Court Justice BEN MILLER. The old Waterways Building was remodeled to become offices of the Fourth District Appellate Court, which covers central Illinois. The resolution also would name a building in Chicago for the late former Justice MICHAEL BILANDIC.
The resolution was all set for a vote in the Senate, the final act necessary to name the buildings. And then, no vote.
It turns out Philip wants to add one more item to the list. He wants to name Pyramid State Park near DuQuoin after Gov. Ryan. The argument is that Ryan's open lands trust program enabled the park to nearly double in size, making it the largest state park in existence.
Here's where it gets fun. Some Democrats insist the reason the Senate didn't act on the resolution last week was because of expected complaints about naming anything after George Ryan. Instead, the resolution will be zipped through in early January, when lawmakers return for a couple of days before the newly elected people takeover.
Philip's office said the delay was because the House left town earlier than expected last week. Since the House must also approve the resolution, the decision was made to just wait until everyone comes back to town Jan. 6.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

1,000 state layoffs delayed
Judge acts at request of Blagojevich
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
07 DEC 2002

A St. Clair County judge has indefinitely postponed the layoff of nearly 1,000 state workers after Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich wrote a letter asking that they be delayed.
Had the ruling not been issued, most of those employees would have been out of a job by mid-January, according to the Department of Central Management Services, state government's personnel agency.
In a letter that was read to Judge Alexis Otis-Lewis in a Belleville courtroom, Blagojevich asked that an injunction currently preventing the layoffs be extended until after he takes office. Otis-Lewis agreed to a 90-day extension. Blagojevich takes office Jan. 14.
The ruling will keep hundreds of Department of Corrections sergeants, maintenance workers and leisure-time specialists on the job for at least a while longer. Also affected are workers at mental health facilities in Elgin and Rockford as well as some Department of Children and Family Services employees in Cook County.
The ruling was issued Thursday in a lawsuit filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 to stop layoffs that were part of last spring's budget cuts.
In his letter, Blagojevich said an injunction preventing the layoffs should be extended "because circumstances have changed greatly since the layoff plan was adopted last spring." The Chicago Democrat said there are now more than 1,500 vacancies in Corrections and that further staff reductions would pose a threat to public safety.
Also, Blagojevich said many more state workers are expected to take early retirement than had been estimated.
"As a result, most, if not all, of the anticipated reduction in work-force levels could be achieved through attrition rather than through mandated layoffs," Blagojevich said.
Blagojevich spokesman Billy Weinberg said Friday the ruling buys more time for employees about to lose their jobs and for the incoming administration to assess the state's financial problems.
"I don't think it necessarily points to any specific action (by Blagojevich)," Weinberg said. "It allows us more time to assess how much personnel levels will change as a result of early retirement."
CMS spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said the state did not object to the extension.
"The state was prepared to agree because the governor-elect requested the continuation," Pardonnet said, noting that the current administration doesn't want to make any decisions that would hamstring the new governor's ability to deal with budget problems.
AFSCME spokesman Mark Samuels acknowledged that the issues raised by Blagojevich in his letter are identical to those made by the union when fighting the budget cuts. However, he said the letter was written by Blagojevich, not AFSCME.
The state was ready to deliver layoff materials to all 1,000 workers before the ruling was handed down Thursday.
During the General Assembly's just-concluded fall veto session, AFSCME pushed a $200 million supplemental spending bill that would have restored many of the budget cuts made last spring, particularly those affecting state employees.
However, at Blagojevich's request, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, prevented the bill from coming to a vote and possibly passing, which would have added to the state's budget deficit.
Weinberg said Blagojevich's decision to write the letter was not an attempt to mollify the union.
"The two have no connection," he said.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.

Watson to lead Senate GOP

 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
6 Dec 2002
Senate Republicans selected a downstater as their new leader Thursday, ending a decades-long lock by the Chicago suburbs on the top GOP posts in the General Assembly.
The selection of Sen. Frank Watson of Greenville also means not one official from Republican powerhouse DuPage County holds a top spot in state government.
In a secret ballot the Senate GOP cast behind closed doors, Watson defeated Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale. A third candidate, Sen. Steve Rauschenberger of Elgin, withdrew his name before the meeting when he realized he could not muster the votes to win.
Dillard said he views the vote as something of a backlash against DuPage County, which has dominated state Republican politics for years.
"There was clearly a message by some that they wanted a change from DuPage County," Dillard said. "It was not a plus to be from DuPage County."
Watson, 57, said there was no backlash.
"I don't believe so at all," he said. "I don't think this was a parochial vote. The support I had came from throughout all the members of this caucus. It wasn't a united effort by downstaters to take over control of the caucus."
The last year has been terrible for DuPage County's role in state politics. Attorney General Jim Ryan, the county's former state's attorney, lost the race for governor. Current DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett lost the race for attorney general.
House Republican Leader Lee Daniels of Elmhurst gave up chairmanship of the state Republican Party in the wake of a federal investigation into allegations that House GOP staff performed campaign work on state time. The state party chairman now is Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, who lives in suburban Cook County.
With his support dwindling, Daniels then opted to retire as House Republican leader after 20 years. Rep. Tom Cross from Oswego, in Kendall County, replaced him.
On Wednesday, Senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale, announced he is retiring early next year. Philip served as leader of the Senate GOP for 21 years, longer than anyone else.
"I don't look at myself as downstate," said Watson, whose home is about 50 miles east of St. Louis. "I think the membership of this caucus feels comfortable with what I have done as a leader."
Watson is an assistant majority leader to Philip now.
Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, praised Watson's selection.
"It is not bad having a downstater as a leader for a change," Bomke said. "Perceptually, at least in my area, DuPage County has been running the state. I don't believe that is the case, but people believe that."
Watson called himself a "social and fiscal conservative" and pledged Senate Republicans will work with Democratic Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich up to a point.
"I think as a caucus we will reach out to the new governor," Watson said. "We will be with him when we can. We will tell him when he's wrong."
Senate Republicans will do that as the minority party. When the new General Assembly is sworn in next month, Republicans will have 26 seats in the Senate compared with 32 now. Democrats will have 32 seats, and there is one independent.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

Grundy County judge says state
can't privatize prison dietary
 
December 5, 2002
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 (AFSCME) was responsible for filing the suit. In brief, the union charged that DOC's proposed action violated the state's Private Correctional Facility Moratorium Act, which bans privatization of security functions in Illinois prisons.
DOC had argued that dietary was not a security function, but Judge Peterson agreed with AFSCME that dietary is at the nexus of a security interest.
Peterson did say DOC could seek outside vendors to fulfill its commissary functions, which was also at issue in the lawsuit.
The state has not published a request for proposals (RFP) to privatize the commissary jobs, however, and DOC has said its commissary plan will not involve the use of non-state workers inside the prisons.
"This was an important victory," said AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer. "We felt strongly that privatizing dietary services in prison kitchens where inmates have access to knives and other potential weapons would have posed a great risk to prison security and to our members. We're very pleased the judge has ruled this way."
 

Supplemental appropriation bill stalled
as Speaker refuses to call it for a vote
 
 
December 5, 2002
Madigan held up the bill throughout the first week of the veto session when legislators and the press all expected it to be called, putting the word out that he was holding it in the hope of making Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich take a position on the measure.
Then when the two met this week Madigan maneuvered Blagojevich, with whom he has been feuding since the onset of the campaign season, into taking a stand on the supplemental. Unfortunately, Blagojevich played right into the speaker's hands and stated publicly that he was requesting that the bill not be called for a vote at this time. The governor-elect went on to state that he is still committed to restoring the jobs and service cuts that have been made, but that he wants the opportunity to do so in the context of developing his own fiscal program for state government.
The union intends to hold him to that commitment when he assumes office.
We also know, of course, that the state is facing a drastic budget crisiswith a shortfall as high as $4 billion. But the supplemental only costs a fraction of that$155 millionand could be funded by temporary borrowing until a full budget solution is crafted.
When the General Assembly returns in January, Council 31 will be there, too pressing again for passage of the supplementalso that jobs can be immediately restored. Without such action, AFSCME members will have to wait for adoption of a new budgetwhich won't go into effect until July 1. Even if that budget does include the restorations, many members will by then have been on layoff for as much as a yearwith unemployment benefits expired and families in dire straights. That's why we continue to believe that jobs and services need to be restoredand they need to be restored soon!
 

Philip ending 35-year legislative career
 

 

BY DAVE MCKINNEY SUN-TIMES SPRINGFIELD BUREAU
 5 Dec 2002
 
 
 

SPRINGFIELD--Illinois Senate President James "Pate" Philip announced late Wednesday that he will retire after serving nearly 22 years as the Senate's top Republican.
Philip said he made his decision over the Thanksgiving holiday and informed his fellow Senate Republicans during a meeting at a Springfield hotel Wednesday evening.
"I've been here long enough,'' he said afterward. "I'm 72. It's time to go.''
Philip, of Wood Dale, said the fact Republicans lost the offices of governor and attorney general in November factored in his decision to step down.
Democrats also took control of the Senate, ending 10 years of Republican rule. Democratic leader Emil Jones of Chicago is poised to take over as Senate president.
Philip first took office in 1967 as a state representative and was appointed to the Senate to fill a vacant seat in 1981. He has led the Senate as its president since 1993 and will remain through the veto session.
After being elected to a two-year term Nov. 5, Philip was to have been sworn in Jan. 8. He said he is searching for a successor from DuPage County.
Philip's imminent departure creates a leadership void. At least three of his subordinates have expressed a desire to take his place: Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin) and Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville). A leadership vote is set for sometime next week.
Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), lamented Philip's decision to move on.
"That will be the end of a significant era,'' Brown said. "Pate has been a very dominant force in Illinois politics in the Legislature for quite a number of years."
Jones' spokeswoman Cindy Davidsmeyer said Jones "was shocked by the decision. He thought Pate would stay around and certainly wishes him well.''
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Ryan seeks state help for UAL
 
 
December 4, 2002
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND TAMMY WILLIAMSON Staff Reporters 
 
 
 
 

SPRINGFIELD--Gov. Ryan urged top state lawmakers Tuesday to loan $200 million to financially strapped United Airlines, but the Senate's top Republican ridiculed the idea at a time when the state's treasury is bleeding red ink of its own.
Ryan wants the state to back the loan, which would be contingent on the airline getting a $1.8 billion federal loan guarantee. But he stopped short of putting taxpayers directly on the hook if United defaulted on repayment. That risk would fall on investors.
The governor said it is important for the state to lend its moral and financial help to assist United win the federal loan guarantee, particularly since the jobs of 18,000 Illinois-based United employees could be at risk if the airline collapses.
"They're a major Illinois corporation. We do everything we can to bring corporations here. We should do everything we can to save companies when they come here and to help them while they're here," Ryan said. "That's what we're trying to do."
The guarantee would help United borrow $2 billion to avert bankruptcy. A decision about the guarantee is expected any day from a special federal panel, but first the airline's mechanics must approve wage cuts in a critical union vote Thursday.
Ryan's lending scheme would involve going to the Legislature this week to authorize loans from the Illinois Development Finance Authority, a little-known state entity that issues business loans. Ryan concocted the idea, a move the airline praised.
"We're grateful the governor has reached out to us, and we'll work with him in any way that makes sense in order to come to some kind of loan assistance that makes sense for United and for the state," United spokesman Rich Nelson said.
But American Airlines, United's chief rival at O'Hare Airport, began a feverish lobbying pitch against the plan and picked up a powerful ally in Senate President James "Pate" Philip (R-Wood Dale). He questioned the wisdom of using state resources during a budget crunch to bail out a company that he believes has been poorly run.
"There are a lot of serious financial problems with schools, with the budget, probably $2, $3, $5 billion short for 2003. Where's the money coming from? In the real world, the banking community wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. I just think it's a bad idea," Philip said.
"If you can't make it, get out of business. I'm sorry about those people," Philip continued, referring to the carrier's employees. "It's a terrible thing. But that's life. And believe me, someone will pick up that airline and run it right. I mean, they've had five CEOs in the last five years. They had $850 million (in federal funds) after 9/11. Where did that go?"
Philip's arguments were bolstered Tuesday by the disclosure that a top bond-rating agency, Moody's Investors Services, had revised its outlook downward on the state's financial health during the next six months. The move was based on declining sales tax revenues and the prospect of the legislature restoring $200 million in Ryan budget cuts without identifying a way to pay for them, Ryan's administration said.
Ryan's United proposal won backing from Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich.
"Rod does believe the state should look at every possible thing for helping United," spokesman Doug Scofield said. "This package is one good option, so I think Rod is pleased to see some action on this issue and, as governor, will make keeping United a major employer in our state a top priority."
There would be no strings attached to the money, so United could use it to pay for day-to-day operating expenses or cover payments on other outstanding debts, legislative leaders briefed on the plan said. Ryan has proposed putting the state's "moral obligation" behind the bonds that would be issued on United's behalf. That is different from putting the state's full faith and credit behind the borrowing because the state would not be forced to repay the loans should United default.
A Moody's analyst said Ryan's approach appeared unusual but doubted a default by United on any state-backed loans would worsen the state's credit rating.
Moody's analyst Timothy Blake said he wasn't aware of Ryan's proposal to issue bonds on behalf of United, though he said the idea "sounds a little different" than what states usually issue moral obligation bonds for.
"States use the moral obligation technique for economic development frequently, normally to spur the growth of small business or attract new business," Blake said.
The state's overall debt figures into what rating credit agencies give to Illinois--the higher the rating, the lower the state's borrowing costs for public works projects. But the $200 million amount is just a fraction of the state's overall $13 billion of debt, and in the worst-case scenario of a default, "I don't think that would change our rating," Blake said.
Moody's put the state's Build Illinois bonds, backed by state sales taxes, on what it calls "negative outlook," which means it could lower the bond's credit rating of Aa2 in the next 18 months if the state's sales tax collections continue to slow.
"Negative outlook indicates that they are under an unusual amount of stress for their rating category," Blake explained.
Legislators are scheduled to go home for the year on Thursday, leaving little time to win support in the General Assembly for the borrowing plan. Since Philip controls the Senate, he could singlehandedly block the idea from surfacing in his legislative chamber.

United to lay off 352 more pilots
 
 
 

United Airlines announced plans Tuesday to lay off another 352 pilots over the next two months as part of its plan to decrease its flying schedule next year.
The company said it will cut 220 pilots' jobs on Jan. 6 and another 132 on Feb. 7, reducing its current total of 8,600 pilots by an additional 4 percent.
The actions will increase the number of pilots laid off to 1,196 from cost-saving measures the carrier announced last month, and 9,000 employees in all. United currently has about 83,000 employees.
Meanwhile, CEO Glenn Tilton Tuesday announced plans to eliminate eight top executives, and give the 36 remaining executives, including Tilton, an 11-percent pay cut. United also plans to forgo the remaining executives' scheduled 2002 merit pay increases and incentive payments. The move saves a combined $60 million.
Pilots' union spokesman Herb Hunter said the layoffs had been anticipated since the latest schedule reduction.
 

Pork spending picks up speed
1 DEC 2002
SPRINGFIELD (AP) Amid a growing budget crisis, state lawmakers tried in the months before the fall election to push through at least $215 million worth of their own favorite projects, asking for money for everything from a dog pound to golf course pathways.
Between July and mid-November, House and Senate members asked for $17 million more in taxpayer-funded pork barrel grants money set aside for lawmakers' pet projects than they did in the previous 12 months, according to state records.
Lawmakers defend the member initiatives as a way to fund deserving programs in their districts. But their efforts to have come as fiscal experts project a $3 billion budget shortfall by next summer.
And because Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich has made it clear he is a lot less sympathetic to such spending than outgoing Gov. George Ryan, lawmakers are scrambling to beat the clock.
Cindi Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform is among the critics of the member initiatives.
"There's a large number of requests, at the same time there is an election," she said. "It's less about the merits of any particular project than it is about, 'Where's the engine that's driving our priorities?"'
Within the Legislature, there is concern about the initiatives as well.
"What's missing is the General Assembly right now is the bipartisan leadership resolve to take the responsibility to freeze member initiatives," said Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin. "Individual members are under this perverse pressure. 'If I've got $300,000 left and I don't spend it, how do I explain that"' to constituents?
Lawmakers from both parties have been warned if they don't use their pork allotments, they could lose them. That message apparently has been received.
Rep. Tim Osmond, R-Antioch, for example, has asked for $25,000 to build all-weather pathways at a Zion golf course. Sen. Adeline Geo-Karis, R-Zion, wants $35,000 to build a dog pound in Zion.
Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Litchfield, has in recent months asked for grants of $100,000 each to build or repair running tracks at four high schools in his district in central Illinois.
 

Blagojevich targets state panels
 
By MIKE RAMSEY
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
27 Nov 2002
 
CHICAGO - State commissions and boards with paid political appointees are the targets of a cost-cutting initiative launched Tuesday by Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich.
Blagojevich said he has formed a task force to study the possible abolition or restructuring of more than 350 state panels to which the governor appoints at least one person.
Of particular interest are the 20 panels that collectively pay 150 appointees $6.7 million each year, Blagojevich said.
"I expect to learn that some of the commissions and boards can be eliminated. I expect to learn that some can be consolidated," Blagojevich said at a news conference in Chicago. "I'm sure that some can get by with fewer members, and I believe almost all of them can function with smaller salaries. We will decide on a case-by-case basis."
The Democrat's announcement comes as he prepares to inherit a daunting state budget crisis and as retiring Republican Gov. George Ryan asks the GOP-controlled Senate next week to lock in several political allies to paid posts, some for several years.
Ryan on Tuesday refused Blagojevich's request to withdraw the list, which includes state Sen. Laura Kent Donahue, R-Quincy. Donahue will make nearly $80,000 in annual pay as a member of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
Ryan also wished Blagojevich good luck in trying to downsize boards and commissions. In the early days of his own administration, Ryan said he could only get lawmakers to agree to cut or reorganize roughly 60 of 100 panels his experts focused on.
"We tried to cut more, and he can have an opportunity to do that when he gets to be governor," Ryan told reporters during an appearance at the James R. Thompson Center. "We'll be glad to share our study with him that we did when we went in."
Among the paid appointees serv-ing on state boards or commissions is former Peoria mayor Jim Maloof, who said he is open-minded about Blagojevich's proposal to streamline the panels.
Maloof, a successful real-estate broker, has served for six years on the Illinois Human Rights Commission and makes $38,000 annually. His workload includes researching discrimination cases and attending up to 24 hearings a year in Springfield and Chicago, he said.
"Since the state is in such budget constraints, maybe they ought to evaluate how much the commission members are being paid, including ours," Maloof said. "I would willingly take a cut in my pay to help the state."
Unlike Maloof's part-time job on behalf of the state, some appointments carry full-time responsibilities with considerably more stress and work. Members on the Prisoner Review Board include former Tazewell County sheriff James Donahue and Craig Findley of Jacksonville; each makes $72,950 in base annual salary.
Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday, but the board's Springfield-based attorney, Ken Tupy, said duties for the panelists include traveling to state prisons to research inmate histories, holding quarterly clemency hearings and setting conditions for the release of offenders. The Prisoner Review Board's clemency caseload spiked this year with the recent, highly publicized series of hearings for death row inmates.
"The clemency (hearings) are a small portion of what we actually do," Tupy said. "Because of the seriousness of the death penalty cases, we got a lot of attention recently."
Blagojevich suggested that some appointees who are independently wealthy may be willing to waive salaries altogether in the interest of public service.
Case in point: former state Sen. Bill Marovitz, a Chicago Democrat on the Pollution Control Board who pulls in $90,000 annually from that appointment.
Blagojevich noted that Marovitz is an attorney and developer and "has the whole Playboy thing going" - a reference to Marovitz's marriage to Playboy Enterprises CEO Christie Hefner.
Marovitz said he doesn't currently practice law and denied he is as well-off as the governor-elect seems to think. But he agreed to "abide by whatever" Blagojevich's task force recommends.
"If the task force comes back and says, 'We don't think that any boards or commissions should be compensated,' I still want to serve my state and I still want to serve the people," said Marovitz, who also has an unpaid seat on the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. "If that's what they feel is best for the state of Illinois, so be it."
Chairing Blagojevich's volunteer task force are former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon; John Rogers Jr., founder of the Chicago-based Ariel Capital Management Corp.; and Paula Wolff, who worked for the administrations of former Govs. Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar.
"As a barnacle in state government, I can attest to the fact that these boards and commissions grow and shrink," said Wolff, currently executive director of Chicago Metropolis 2020. "The salaries rise and fall over time, and they absolutely need to be scrutinized carefully."
The group is expected to submit a report to Blagojevich before the end of December.
The governor-elect said he hopes the task force can recommend ways to reduce board and commission costs by at least one-third but acknowledged that such savings would hardly dent a potential state budget deficit of $2 billion or more.
Blagojevich, a congressman from Chicago's northwest side, takes office Jan. 13.
Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com.
 

Ex-inmates sent to live with elderly
Nursing homes take in parolees
 
By David Heinzmann
Tribune staff reporter
November 24, 2002
 
In dozens of nursing homes across the state, elderly people are living side by side with recently paroled inmates--among them 10 convicted murderers and eight sex offenders--who were placed into the mostly geriatric homes by the Illinois Department of Corrections.
State officials and nursing home operators say the practice is legitimate, and that ex-cons cannot be denied nursing care just because they have violent criminal records.
But advocates for patients say the state is repeating past sins of dumping inappropriate people--especially mentally ill patients--in nursing homes in order to get the federal government to help pay for their care.
Nursing home administrators say they are aware which residents are parolees, but they typically place no special restrictions on them. Nor do they advise other patients, their families or visitors that convicted murderers, rapists and armed robbers may be living down the hall.
"These are people that nobody in their right mind would want in a nursing home," said Wendy Meltzer, staff attorney for Illinois Citizens for Better Care. "You certainly wouldn't want them living next to your mother. ... How can anybody say the screening is being done appropriately?"
At least a dozen of the approximately 150 inmates who have been paroled into nursing homes since 1999 have been sent back to prison for parole violations committed while in nursing homes, state records show.
Corrections officials said except for one parolee who sexually assaulted a woman at a southern Illinois nursing home, none of the violations was for harming other nursing home residents.
State officials from the Department of Public Health to Gov. George Ryan say that the only way to judge whether individual parolees pose a threat to nursing home neighbors is to watch them once they've moved in.
Of particular concern to advocates are the 17 parolees for whom mental illness is the primary reason for nursing care. Only four of the 17 are in nursing homes classified by the state as "institutions for mental diseases," according to state records.
In recent years, federal health care authorities have repeatedly sanctioned Illinois officials and the nursing home industry here for inappropriately mixing younger, mentally ill people with elderly nursing home patients.
Accompanying a trend of more diverse long-term care options for seniors--including assisted-living and in-home health care--nursing home operators across the state found themselves with numerous empty beds. Many responded by throwing open their doors to younger, mostly mentally ill people who qualify for public aid.
Legislative action
In 1999, Illinois passed legislation intended to stop state agencies from warehousing mentally ill people in nursing homes that were not equipped to handle them.
The following December, a 78-year-old resident at a southern Illinois nursing home was sexually assaulted by a mentally ill parolee who was also a patient there.
Department of Public Health spokeswoman Jena Welliever said there has not been an incident of a parolee attacking an elderly patient since the December 2000 assault in Cahokia. That incident prompted state officials to pay closer attention to parolees entering nursing homes, to try to screen out the ones whose recent histories in prison suggested they might act out violently.
"There has been a little bit more involvement with the agencies working together to ensure that all the individuals who enter nursing homes are getting the best possible care," Welliever said.
But advocates for the elderly worry that crimes may be going unreported.
"It poses an incredible threat, especially for seniors suffering from dementia," said Donna Ginther, a Springfield lobbyist for AARP. "They're the least able to defend themselves. And they are the least able to report incidents when they occur."
Meltzer and Ginther say Illinois officials' unwillingness to create a more appropriate place for parolees who need long-term care unfairly jeopardizes the elderly nursing home population.
Under state law, the Corrections Department is required to help all parolees find a place to live after their release from prison. That extends to placement in a nursing home, if the parolee is in need of nursing care, corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild said.
The Department of Public Health is then responsible for screening the parolees to ensure they need long-term nursing care.
Admissions policies
But it is up the nursing homes to determine whether a parolee is suitable for admission, Fairchild said. Corrections officials assume that parolees would not be accepted by a nursing home that was not prepared to handle them, he said.
"The facility administrators are the people who are responsible under the statute," he said. "Department of Corrections doesn't have anything to do with that."
Corrections officials always inform nursing home administrators about parolees' pasts, Fairchild said.
"We do provide detailed information so that decisions can be informed decisions," Fairchild said. "I'm not saying we don't worry there's a problem. But I can say we're aware of it, and we're doing the best we can to stay on top of it."
Illinois is not alone in placing parolees in nursing homes. Texas prison officials said they routinely do so. The state contracts with the University of Texas Medical Branch to handle the nursing home placements, said Larry Todd, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
But other states say they would place parolees in a nursing home only as a last resort. Wisconsin officials said they do so rarely. And in Ohio, there are seven parolees whom the state has placed in a single nursing home, state corrections officials said.
"We do it on a very, very rare occasion," said Ohio corrections spokeswoman Andrea Dean. "It has to be verified by a physician that they need to be in a nursing home, and it has to be a last resort, meaning no family member can take them."
Parolees with mental health or medical needs are guided into community social services, rather than nursing homes, she said.
Administrative decisions
In a written statement, Gov. Ryan said the state must trust the nursing homes' administrators to decide whether parolees are appropriate for their facilities.
"We rely on the nursing homes to make honest assessments as to whether or not they are able to handle the individual's needs without compromising the care of others in the facility," Ryan said. "We have watched the situation closely, and there are instances where the facilities have either overestimated their ability to meet the needs of care or have not taken full advantage of the state's screening procedures. It has never been our policy to force any facility to take a patient for whom they cannot give proper care."
Once parolees are admitted, however, it can be difficult for administrators to expel them.
Boulevard Care Center, 3405 S. Michigan Ave., was overruled by the Illinois Department of Public Health in its attempt to remove two convicted sex offenders in their 40s from the nursing home in June 2001. Boulevard officials said they did not know the men had criminal pasts when they were admitted to the home, attorney Meyer Magence said.
Boulevard officials argued that "their criminal records should have been sufficient evidence that they posed a risk to others" at the nursing home, according to the Public Health Department's ruling in the case. But a department hearing officer ruled that the men could stay because they had not done any harm at the home, according to the written decision.
Despite the failed attempt to expel those parolees, Boulevard has welcomed more ex-cons than any other nursing home. Since 1999, the South Side home has taken in 15 parolees, nine of whom were sex offenders. Until recently, Boulevard had the most parolees of any nursing home in Illinois. State records showed six paroled men living at Boulevard, including five convicted of sexual offenses. One of the five was convicted of murder and rape, according to corrections records.
Corrections officials confirmed Friday that within the last two weeks, four parolees were removed from Boulevard at the home's request. Fairchild declined to discuss the reasons for the moves, saying it would violate the confidentiality of the parolees' medical records. But in at least one of the cases, the parolee was moved because Boulevard was deemed an inappropriate placement for the type of care needed, he said.
Geriatric focus
Boulevard administrator Kevin Meals did not return calls Friday. But he said in an earlier interview that the home was geared toward geriatric residents, and that he would not accept people who were not appropriate for such a setting. However, when questioned about parolees listed as Boulevard residents, Meals said he was not aware of them all. He also said the nursing home's policy was not to admit anyone under 50, although state records showed two parolees living there--including one sex offender--in their 40s.
"Actually, I am in the process of removing some people who don't fit the criteria," he said. "I don't have personal knowledge of every person admitted to the facility."
State records show Boulevard is co-owned by Sherman Ray and Eric Rothner. Both have interests in several of the nursing homes that accept parolees. Inmates have been paroled to five of the 12 nursing homes in which Ray has a significant ownership interest. Rothner is partial owner of 17 nursing homes, 10 of which have accepted inmates.
Problem with patients
Ray and Rothner also own Hillcrest Healthcare Center, a Joliet nursing home that housed two mentally ill patients who checked themselves out on a day pass in February 2001 and murdered a man they met in a bar.
Hillcrest was nearly shut down by federal Medicaid administrators, who criticized the home for accepting dangerous mentally ill patients without having plans in place to care for them.
"There is in fact a real problem in Illinois because there is insufficient housing for people of all ages with mental illness," said Ginther. "But the solution is not to put them in with a vulnerable population.
"Are they notifying families who are bringing their children to visit? Or families whose 16-year-old daughter applies for a part-time job at the nursing home?"
Meals and other nursing home administrators said no, they aren't. And the administrator of one Northwest Side nursing home said he saw no reason to treat parolees differently from his elderly residents.
"I don't even keep track. We don't make any distinctions," said Henry Mermelstein, the administrator of Central Nursing Home. But Mermelstein also said he would not hesitate to alert authorities to a violation of parole, as he had to do last month with a parolee who was sent back to the Dixon Correctional Center for reasons Mermelstein would not disclose.
"If we have any problems--even a little bit--out he goes," Mermelstein said of a schizophrenic convicted murderer in his early 40s currently living at the home.
The presence of middle-age or younger sex offenders in nursing homes is especially troubling to Meltzer, who often advises people searching for nursing home care.
"Now, on top of everything else, I have to think about telling people that they might want to take a look at the state's registered sex offender list to see who's living at their nursing home," she said.


Dead On Arrival
 
RICH MILLER
NOVEMBER 22, 2002
 
Every legislative session has its own feel, and its own rhythm. This fall's veto session feels like death - in more ways than one.
One should never predict anything about what could happen in a veto session, but nothing big seems to be moving or percolating this fall.
No secret tax hikes or gaming expansions have been floated yet. No last minute stadium deals are being planned. It's pretty dead out there.
"We don't have enough lame ducks to do anything big," complained one smooth operator last week about the lack of activity. Hugely controversial bills often require the support of legislators who will be out of a job in a few weeks and might be tempted to trade their votes for some financial security. But, evidently, too many incumbents are coming back next year to do anything major this fall.
A friend of mine was able to book a room at the favorite hotel of every connected Statehouse insider, the Renaissance, Tuesday night at 7:30. When the usually booked-solid Ren has rooms on a veto session night, that's a pretty sure sign of legislative inactivity.
Plus, the Republicans are rightly reticent to help Governor-elect Rod Blagojevich out of his no new taxes pledge. Why should they stick their necks out for stuff they usually oppose anyway, like higher taxes and more gambling, for the first Democratic governor in 26 years, who also made a whole bunch of completely unrealistic campaign promises?
Then there's the almost funereal atmosphere of legislative Republicans and those whose livelihoods have depended upon GOP control of the governor's mansion all these years. When veto session ends, so does all significant Republican influence for at least two years, although Governor-elect Blagojevich sent a strong message with his appointment of former Republican governor-turned-mega-lobbyist Jim Thompson to his transition team that bigtime GOP insiders are still welcome at the feeding trough - as long as they bring their checkbooks.
The end of veto session will also mean the end of House Republican Leader Lee Daniels' career as a bigshot. This could also very well be Senate President Pate Philip's last veto session. And, of course, one of the most prolific Republican wheeler-dealers in Illinois history, Governor George Ryan, is taking his final bow this fall.
The newly proposed death penalty reforms round out our little trifecta of doom. This bill will most likely pass, but it has to do with death, so it fits our theme. The proposal, which is backed by key Senate Republicans, would ban the execution of the mentally retarded and allow appellate courts to toss convictions for reasons of "fundamental justice." Governor Ryan seems to be focusing on this legislation to secure his legacy, rather than increasing revenues to keep his pet state programs in place. Going out with something virtuous like death penalty reform is much more likely to get him in the history books than ending his career with one final and gigantic broken campaign promise.
There are a few fun things brewing in Springfield, but you have to look pretty close to see them.
For instance, in what could be the first shot in a four-year battle between House Speaker Michael Madigan and Governor-elect Blagojevich, the House is expected to pass a huge supplemental appropriations bill next week.
The bill essentially restores all the cuts made to the budget last spring. It is strongly backed by AFSCME and several human service groups.
Senate President Pate Philip has told the other legislative leaders and the governor that he is not committed to either killing or passing the bill. And the governor reportedly said in a private budget meeting that he might not veto the bill if it landed on his desk.
If Pate wants to play a bit of hardball, he could pass the bill next month, just before the new General Assembly and the new governor are sworn in. If Governor Ryan takes no action, the bill would still be alive for 30 days. Governor Rod would then have the choice of either signing or vetoing a bill that's literally chock-full of solemn campaign promises to reopen state facilities. If he signs the bill, he can't possibly find the money to pay for it. If he vetoes the bill, he will break a major campaign pledge within a month of taking office.
Sources say G-Rod could probably stop Madigan from running the bill if he picks up the phone and asks. The Speaker decided to hold off on passing the bill last week to give Blago some time to think. But if Blagojevich doesn't call, the Speaker will likely run the thing.
 

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Defeated candidates get state jobs
Gov. Ryan appoints positions to fellow GOPs
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
23 Nov 2002
State Sen. Laura Kent Donohue and state Rep. Ann Zickus lost their re-election bids this month, but both will get new jobs at higher salaries thanks to a fellow Republican, Gov. George Ryan.
Donahue, of Quincy, was appointed to a post on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. The job pays $79,799, an increase from the $75,158 in salary and stipends she receives as a legislator.
If approved by the Illinois Senate, Donahue will serve a term that starts Jan. 9 and runs to July 1, 2004. Donahue's term as a senator officially ends Jan. 8. She will fill a position on the board that was held by Janis Cellini, sister of Republican power broker Bill Cellini of Springfield.
Zickus, of Palos Hills, was named to a $93,308 a year job as deputy commissioner in the Office of Banks and Real Estate. Zickus currently makes $66,390 as a representative. The term of her new job runs from Jan. 1, 2003, to Jan. 31, 2004.
Zickus and Donahue join a lengthy list of Republican lawmakers who have obtained other state jobs after leaving the General Assembly through retirement or defeat at the polls. Among the others are Rep. Andrea Moore of Libertyville, Rep. Tom Ryder of Jerseyville, Sen. Robert Madigan of Lincoln and Sen. Thomas Walsh of LaGrange Park.
Ryan on Friday also appointed Joseph Hannon of Chicago to a term on the Educational Labor Relations Board at a salary of $79,799. He currently earns $108,912 as interim director of the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. He will replace Mary Ann Louderback on the board.
Hannon took over DCCA after the former director, Pam McDonough, was named to an $88,641-a-year job on the Illinois Labor Relations Board, Local Panel.
In addition, the governor named Mark Warnsing of Divernon to a $72,950 post on the Prisoner Review Board. Warnsing is Ryan's deputy chief legal counsel at a salary of $89,000 a year. Ryan previously appointed his chief legal counsel, Diane Ford, to a $101,790 job on the Illinois Industrial Commission. She earns $121,680 as chief legal counsel.
While McDonough, Hannon, Ford and Warnsing all will earn less in their new posts, the appointments guarantee them jobs after Ryan leaves office Jan. 13.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

Budget deficit now $585 million
New proposals call for more state spending
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
21 Nov 2001

The current state budget now faces a $585 million deficit, which may force additional cuts, lawmakers were warned Wednesday.
Nevertheless, the Statehouse again was filled Wednesday with proposals to add even more spending, including discussion of an improved pension plan for top state officials.
The General Assembly's Economic and Fiscal Commission told legislators that tax collections continue to lag far behind what was expected when the fiscal 2003 state budget was put together last spring. The commission - which makes financial forecasts for the General Assembly - says it now thinks the state will collect only $415 million more in tax revenue this year, down from the $800 million it estimated last spring.
The problem for legislators is that they put together a budget that assumed $1 billion more in taxes would be collected this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2003.
"We're going to have to look for additional places to cut," said Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, who co-chairs the commission.
Welch also said Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich should execute a plan to borrow against Illinois' billions of dollars in future tobacco settlement funds, which would give the state enough cash to minimize additional cuts.
The commission's other co-chair, Rep. Terry Parke, R-Hoffman Estates, said additional budget cuts will have to be examined.
"I think that's realistic, and I think we're going to have to do that," Parke said.
Gov. George Ryan has ordered state agencies to identify $250 million in cuts that can be implemented, if needed, before he leaves office in January.
The commission report also said that the state could face a potential $2 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2003.
It is forecasting continued anemic tax collections and sharply rising costs for such expenses as state employee health insurance and health care for the poor. Since the state must have a budget that's balanced on paper, lawmakers are faced with raising taxes or making even more extensive spending reductions.
Blagojevich has vowed not to raise taxes to balance the budget. Welch, though, said more revenue could be collected by repealing tax breaks passed previously.
"There's a lot of questions about some of the tax breaks that were given out, (such as) tuition tax credits for rich individuals sending their kids to private schools," Welch said.
The doom-and-gloom budget forecasts haven't diminished talk of ways state government can spend more money.
When Ryan and the four legislative leaders met Tuesday, they discussed a possible pension-improvement plan for state officials. Sources said one of the proposals revived an old idea of moving legislative staffers from the State Employees Retirement System into the much more lucrative General Assembly Retirement System.
Senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale, said Wednesday that the pension bill under discussion "would encompass about everything you can think of."
"It was floated by the administration," said Philip, adding that he didn't think it was a good idea to improve pensions while in the middle of a budget crunch.
Asked if there was agreement to act on a pension bill during the fall veto session, Philip said, "None that I can remember."
Ryan spokesman Ray Serati said pension proposals always come up.
"It came up at the (Tuesday) meeting. There were some things kicked around," Serati said. "There's no bill that we are aware of."
Also Wednesday, home care workers rallied at the Capitol to demand restoration of a 2 percent cost-of-living increase they were promised. The COLA was eliminated as part of the budget cuts implemented last spring.
AARP, a lobbying group representing older citizens, also rallied to restore cuts made in Medicaid funding.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

AFSCME activists rock' the rotunda
in huge show of support for budget bill
 
SNov 19, 2002
AFSCME's "Rock the Rotunda" Rally followed an earlier press conference that detailed prison overcrowding and understaffing, skyrocketing medical assistance and Food Stamp caseloads in the Department of Human Services, and serious problems with the state's ability to care for the severely mentally ill and developmentally disabled.
AFSCME members were in town lobbying for a supplemental appropriation bill that would reopen correctional facilities, mental health centers and residential facilities for the developmentally disabled, while restoring direct care workers' cost-of-living pay increases. The measure would fund a reversal of all layoffs to date and scheduled layoffs in DOC, DHS, DCFS, DOR and other agencies.
Facilities affected so far by Ryan's budget cuts have included IYC Valley View, Sheridan, Zeller Mental Health Center, Lincoln Developmental Center, eight DHS Community Operations offices, the Paris, Greene, and Hanna City Work Camps, four ATCs, and the Alton MHC Civil Unit. The state's remaining correctional facilities are operating at short-staffing levels, too, threatening the safety of employees and inmates alike.
AFSCME's support for House Bill 6306 and Senate Bill 2429 comes even as Gov. Ryan is asking state agencies under his direct control to find another 2 percent to trim from their budgets.
"The worst possible course of action to follow is more layoffs, which only contribute to the economy's downward spiral, and cause more damage to essential state services," Bayer told the cheering crowd. "An estimated 70,000 of your friends and neighbors lost their jobs in the year ending June 30 alone. And with a July-September unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, compared to a national rate of 5.7 percent, things haven't improved: The Illinois jobless rate now ranks fourth in the nation.
"More layoffs are not the answer. Government investment is the time-tested and proven answer and a supplemental appropriation stands as a good, small, government investment," he said.
Joining Bayer and AFSCME Deputy Director Roberta Lynch as speakers at the rally were Harriet Baker from United Cerebral Palsy of Will County, Rick Depratt from Danville Correctional Center, Sheridan Correctional Center's Rob Fanti, and Marion Murphy, a Chicago caseworker with the Department of Human Services.
Elected officials included state Sen.-elect James Meeks of Chicago, Downstate state Sen. Larry Woolard, and state Rep. Frank Mautino.
Bayer testified Monday before a House appropriations committee in support of the bill.
The committee approved the measure by a 16-1 margin, with only state Rep. Carole Pankau, R-Roselle, voting against it. It now goes to a vote of the full House.

General Assembly revisits issues
Budget, death penalty reform on veto session agenda
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
18 Nov 2002
If state lawmakers returning to Springfield this week for the start of the veto session have a sense of deja vu, they can be forgiven.
When lawmakers were last in Springfield in June, the state was in the middle of a budget crisis, and a plan to reform the death penalty system in Illinois faced an uncertain future in the legislature.
Five months later, the state is in the middle of a budget crisis, and a plan to reform the death penalty system faces an uncertain future in the legislature. Both issues will top the agenda as the six-day veto session gets under way Tuesday.
Lawmakers also will have a chance to override Gov. George Ryan on bills he vetoed or altered, including legislation creating a medical district in Springfield.
Despite the state's continuing financial problems, efforts will be made to restore many of the budget cuts enacted by the General Assembly last spring.
The House Appropriations-Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing today on a bill to restore $153 million of the cuts.
House Bill 6306 would restore money to the Lincoln Developmental Center, the Greene County work camp and three other institutions. The legislation is being pushed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which represented employees at all of those facilities.
"The union asked me to introduce the bill in an effort to try to keep the issue alive," said Rep. Gary Hannig, D-Mount Olive, the bill's sponsor. "I hope people recognize that closing the facilities and laying off employees was a difficult decision to make."
At the same time, Hannig, the House Democrats' chief budget negotiator, acknowledged it will be difficult to restore the money during the veto session, when bills such as that need a super-majority to pass.
"Some question where we will go after the committee," Hannig said. "All we are trying to do is revisit the issue. I hope it wouldn't be (giving people) a false hope."
AFSCME plans a rally in Springfield on Tuesday to promote passage of the bill. However, the rally will be held against a backdrop of ever-worsening financial news.
Ryan has asked state agencies to identify an additional $250 million worth of potential cuts that can be made to the already austere budget. Ryan said the action was necessary because state revenues are falling below the amounts the state expected to collect when the budget was pieced together last spring.
Moreover, the General Assembly's own financial forecasters are expected to revise their revenue estimates downward when they meet Wednesday. That would indicate the state's budget is in even worse shape than when Ryan ordered agencies to study additional cuts.
Even if the spending bill gets out of the House, it would probably be killed in the Senate. The Republican-controlled Senate took the lead in enacting the budget cuts last spring, making it unlikely senators will vote to reverse the cuts after an election. Republicans will control the chamber until newly elected lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 8. Democrats won a majority in the Senate in the November elections.
Lawmakers also will have a chance to vote on death penalty reforms sought by Ryan. A special committee Ryan formed to evaluate the death penalty system recommended more than 80 changes it believes could reduce the chances an innocent person could be put to death in Illinois. Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions after 13 death row inmates were exonerated of the crimes for which they faced the death penalty.
The report was delivered to lawmakers late in the spring session, giving them an excuse not to act on the recommendations before a crucial election. Over the summer, though, Ryan used his amendatory veto powers to add many of the reforms to House Bill 2085, an anti-terrorism bill. If lawmakers want the anti-terrorism bill to become law, they will have to vote on the death penalty reforms Ryan added.
Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, introduced Ryan's reform measures in the Senate last spring. He thinks Ryan personally will lobby legislators to adopt the reforms during the veto session.
"I think he will convey to the members that this is very personal to him, that it's time to move and it's the right thing to do," Dillard said. "He still has a lot of friends in the General Assembly who will accede to the personal request of the governor. I don't think there's anybody who questions the governor is correct that the system is broken and needs to be fixed."
Passing the death penalty reforms will be a priority of Ryan's during the veto session, said spokesman Dennis Culloton.
"He certainly would like to see the legislature tackle this issue," Culloton said. "The system is in the same broken state that it was when the commission made its recommendations."
Ryan vetoed or rewrote about two dozen of the bills sent to him last spring. During the veto session, legislators will have a chance to override Ryan's actions.
Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said he will try to override Ryan's rewrite of a bill creating a medical district in Springfield. Originally, Senate Bill 2117 created a 16-member board to oversee the district. Ryan, though, said a board that large is unwieldy and changed the bill to make it a seven-member board. The change also meant that some of the interest groups guaranteed a seat on the 16-member board were no longer guaranteed representation.
Bomke said he met with Springfield Mayor Karen Hasara and neighborhood groups affected by the district and has decided to try to restore the 16-member board.
"From the beginning, both Karen and I made a commitment to the neighborhood groups that we would not move a bill unless the neighborhood groups agreed to it," Bomke said. The interested parties all along had been for the larger board."
The tactic carries some risk. If the General Assembly fails to override Ryan, the bill will die, leaving supporters of the district to try again next spring.
Although the veto session is supposed to focus on bills vetoed by the governor, new legislation also can be considered. Observers think it is likely the General Assembly could pass legislation sweetening pensions - particularly for lawmakers who will be leaving office in January. The gambling industry is expected to lobby lawmakers to repeal a gambling tax hike passed last spring as well.
Doug Finke can be reached at _788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

State unemployment fund being depleted
Illinois may have to borrow money to cover benefits
 
By TIM LANDIS
BUSINESS EDITOR
17 Nov 2002
A projected $1.3 billion deficit in Illinois' unemployment insurance trust fund this year - the largest in more than a decade - will deplete the fund by next spring and force state borrowing to cover benefits for laid-off workers.
While there are no immediate plans to raise payroll taxes or to limit jobless benefits, a report issued late last month to an advisory panel of the Illinois Department of Employment Security warned that deficits could continue through at least 2006.
The borrowed money also would have to be paid back with interest to the federal government at a time when the state already faces a budget shortfall that, by some estimates, could hit $2 billion by next summer.
"Trust fund insolvency does not threaten benefits. But we would actually exhaust our reserves (next year) and be in a situation where we'll need to borrow," Jon Gingrich, budget director for the Department of Employment Security in Chicago, said last week.
Only one other state, Texas, is faced with the prospect of borrowing to pay unemployment benefits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Recession and rising unemployment began to drain the fund's surplus early last year with benefits paid to workers exceeding revenues from employer taxes by $860 million in 2001.
As a result, what was a record $2 billion surplus in 2000 is expected to drop to $500 million at the end of this year and to fall $214 million into the red next spring. Projections are that the fund will finish 2003 with a deficit of at least $349 million.
The deficit is projected to peak at more than $500 million in 2004 before gradually improving in 2005.
"It's good to save up when the times are good, so it's there to be draw down when times are bad. The system is set up to build up a balance," Gingrich said. "The unemployment rate goes up, and the trust fund goes down. To some extent, we're seeing a repeat of a historical pattern."
The latest economic downtown put unusual pressure on the system through a combination of unemployment rates that have remained above 5 percent since February 2001 and steadily rising unemployment checks.
IDES reported last week that state unemployment jumped to 6.7 percent in October from 6.3 percent in September.
Average weekly benefits, expected to top $250 this year, also are adjusted based on weekly wages, while unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers are not. Higher unemployment also means employers are collecting taxes on fewer workers, while paying out increasing benefits.
"Over a one- or two-year period, it's not a big deal, but over the long haul, you cannot make up the difference. Whatever your tax level and whatever your benefit levels, they need to be in balance, and they are not," Gingrich said.
Employers pay into the state fund - which is administered by the federal government - based on a complex tax-rate formula that is computed from their layoff history. The more frequent the job cuts, the higher the rate.
The tax applies only to the first $9,000 of an employee's wages. The Illinois rate also is capped at 6.8 percent for 2002, but is expected to rise to 7.2 percent in 2003.
Companies also pay into a separate fund under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act - money that can then be borrowed by states if the regular trust fund is depleted. But that money must be paid back with interest.
Neither can interest payments be made from trust-fund receipts, meaning the payments would have to come from general revenue or some other state source.
"I appreciate the fact that we have people on unemployment, and they are having a difficult time making it. But it's incumbent on business and labor to sit down with open minds to see how in the short term we can stabilize revenues and potentially limit benefits," said Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, and a member of the state unemployment-insurance advisory board.
"We want to avoid having all taxpayers paying for the shortfall, which would be the case if the interest payments come out of general revenue funds," he said.
The Department of Employment Security estimates interest payments would total $3.6 million next year, but would rise to $28 million in 2004 and would peak at $34 million in 2005, barring changes to the system or unexpected improvement in the economy.
"Because of the precipitous nature of this drop in the trust fund, I expect the legislature and the new administration will require business and labor to begin discussions of this as soon as possible," Baise said.
It was as a result of a similar situation following the recession of the early 1980s - the last time Illinois was forced to borrow - that then-Gov. James R. Thompson, a Republican, and leaders in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly set up an "agreed bill" process to handle changes in unemployment insurance.
Essentially, the two sides agreed to negotiate changes to the system before submitting legislation to the General Assembly.
Baise said business would fight any effort to raise overall payroll taxes, though he acknowledged the political dynamics changed after Democrats won control of the governor's office and the General Assembly in this month's elections.
"We are fearful in the business community that, potentially, the labor community could force their will through the General Assembly," he said.
But the field director for the Illinois AFL-CIO pointed out it was then-Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican, and a Republican-controlled legislature in 1995 that cut maximum unemployment insurance tax rates levied on employers.
Erica Hade also said it has been roughly two decades since the $9,000 limit on taxable wages has been revised.
"From our perspective, it was the tax cut (in 1995) that put us in this position. Workers got nothing, and business got a tax break," Hade said. "They took out the money in good times anyway, which we believe made this bankruptcy come quicker."
Hade said the labor group has not yet decided whether to seek meetings through the agreed bill process. But, regardless of which party controls the governor's office and the legislature, she said it is clear new revenue is needed.
"We're concerned about the system. We don't want to penalize business for what happened in the past, we just want a fair process. But from our point of view, they (business) have more responsibility here," she said.
Justin Marks of the National Conference of State Legislatures said an infusion of federal dollars early this year helped most states bring unemployment insurance funds back into balance, at least temporarily. But he said slow economic recovery could force other states to borrow.
"A lot of them were at that point, but they've been able to put it off a little longer," Marks said.
There are "speed bumps" written into the Illinois law that would require a one-year increase in employer taxes and a one-year cut in unemployment benefits in 2004 if the current fund balance does not improve.
But Gingrich said, based on current forecasts, the deficits would only be reduced, not eliminated if the safeguards are triggered.
Gingrich pointed out that trust-fund projections are only as good as the economic forecasts used to estimate tax revenue, unemployment levels and benefit payments. But barring an unexpectedly strong rebound in the Illinois economy, he said, the trust fund will become insolvent early next year.
The agency outlined several possibilities if the fund continues to run deficits - an employer tax surcharge, benefit limits, federal tax penalties and interest payments - but did not offer specific remedies.
"Suffice it to say, we've advised the folks who do make the policy decisions of the situation. It's an extremely high on our priority list to get attention on the system," Gingrich said.
Tim Landis can be reached at 788-1536 or tim.landis@sj-r.com.
 

More cuts
Governor instructs agencies to slash $250 million more
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
14 Nov 2002
As state government continues to drown in a sea of red ink, Gov. George Ryan is asking agencies to identify another $250 million to slash on top of budget cuts last spring.
In a memo to state agencies and boards and commissions under the governor's control, Ryan's budget staff asked each office to plan to cut 2 percent of their general revenue spending. General revenues come primarily from income and sales taxes.
Education budgets are not affected, because they are outside the governor's control.
The budget-cutting options are supposed to be submitted to the Bureau of the Budget by Monday, a day before the General Assembly returns to Springfield for the fall veto session. Budget office spokeswoman Julie Dutton said that does not necessarily mean some or all of the cuts will be imposed.
"This is information gathering," Dutton said Wednesday. "We want to get our information in, assess it and make a determination."
Ryan, who will be replaced as governor by Rod Blagojevich in January, decided to ask for the proposed cuts because state revenues continue to lag behind projections. In the first three months of the state's budget year, revenues were $81 million lower than expected. Because of that, the Bureau of the Budget changed its estimates for the year and now believes the state will collect $200 million less than originally thought.
The problem is that the budget passed last spring was based on projections at the time.
If Ryan decides to implement the cuts, he can do it without legislative approval, Dutton said. It is similar to the approach Ryan took last year when he ordered agencies to put 2 percent of their budgets in reserve after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The state subsequently was forced to make even larger cuts to balance the budget.
Some agencies such as the departments of Human Services and Corrections sustained heavy cuts last spring that resulted in facility closures and hundreds of layoffs. Spokesmen for those agencies were vague about how additional spending reductions could be made.
"Right now, we are looking at what our options would be," said DHS spokesman Reginald Marsh. "It could be across-the-board (cuts), it could be facilities (closing). We can't say at this point."
"We have our best people taking a look at it," said Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina, adding that the agency is not considering an inmate early-release option "at this point."
Two prisons, along with several work camps and boot camps, were closed this year, costing more than 600 jobs. Corrections wants to cut an additional 900 positions, but the layoffs are on hold pending the outcome of two lawsuits filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said Ryan could avoid any further cuts by having the state borrow against future tobacco settlement proceeds. The General Assembly last spring granted the governor authority to borrow the money, but Ryan has expressed doubts about the wisdom of borrowing to pay day-to-day expenses.
"Clearly, he should use the authority he has because they've already made more cuts than the state can endure," Bayer said.
Even if the governor doesn't want to borrow money, he shouldn't make further cuts, Bayer added.
"He's only going to be here for 60 more days," Bayer said. "If he's not going to fix the problem, he shouldn't make it worse."
Ryan has said he will not push for any additional tax hikes during the fall session. Lawmakers increased tobacco and gambling taxes last spring.
At the same time, he has said he doesn't see how to avoid tax hikes in the future if lawmakers don't want to make steep spending cuts. Blagojevich has pledged not to raise income or sales taxes to balance the budget.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@j-r.com.
 

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Ex-governor to help Blagojevich transition
 
By John McCormick
Tribune staff reporter
November 11, 2002, 3:17 PM CST
Rod Blagojevich today announced his gubernatorial transition team headed by senior campaign advisor David Wilhelm, with former Republican Gov. James R. Thompson in a key advisory role.
Blagojevich's choice of Thompson as co-chairman, with Illinois Federation of Labor President Margaret Blackshere, of a 26-member transition advisory board provides a measure of bipartisanship as the governor-elect prepares to take office in January.
The board will advise Blagojevich's 14-member transition team led by Wilhelm, former head of the Democratic National Committee, it was announced at an afternoon news conference in downtown Chicago.
Asked why he had agreed to work with the incoming Democratic governor, Thompson said, "When the governor of your state asks you to help, the answer is yes, without regard to partisanship or politics."
Thompson's election in 1976 marked the beginning of the GOP's 26-year control of the governor's office {ndash} a string finally broken by Blagojevich's victory last week. The former governor noted the budget situation Blagojevich faces "probably is the toughest budget problem any Illinois governor has ever to faced."
Blagojevich agreed, saying, "As we all know, we're approaching a very difficult period in state government." As a gesture toward helping the state in its time of fiscal austerity, he said he would not accept $250,000 in state transition funds previously budgeted and would pay the cost out of his campaign funds.
Wilhelm will serve as director of the transition team. His deputy director will be state Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago).
The advisory board's vice chairs will be former Illinois attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Roland Burris, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), state Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) and Mary Lee Leahy, a Springfield attorney.

Budget woes face Blagojevich
 
November 11, 2002
BY DAVID ROEDER BUSINESS REPORTER 
 
 
 
 

Congratulations, Mr. Blagojevich. After you've counted your bodyguards and admired the artwork in the governor's mansion, you'll want to concentrate on a rip-roaring budgetary crisis.
It got scant attention during the campaign, but the state's fiscal health is dire. How dire invites partisan conjecture backed by convenient assumptions, but this much is known:
Gov. Ryan's budget office has warned of a gap of more than $2 billion for fiscal 2004, which starts in July, and a $250 million shortfall for the current one, which already has seen mid-year trimming and tax increases.
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And a non-partisan, high-level group has given the governor-elect a report saying the gap is $2.6 billion for fiscal '04 and $750 million for the present year.
"It is a big mess, and it is much more serious than people think right now,'' said Dave Schulz, director of the Infrastructure Technology Institute at Northwestern University, a former Chicago budget chief and a member of the panel that submitted its report to Blagojevich. The group worked with Chicago Metropolis 2020, a coalition of civic and business leaders.
What's the problem? It's as if the state were a laborer whose hours were cut just as his health-insurance premiums skyrocketed.
Medicaid and health-care costs are rising at double-digit annual percentages. Sharon Gist Gilliam, another ex-budget chief for the city who served on the panel, said the trend hurt the state in two ways: Outlays for Medicaid reimbursements soared just as the state confronted higher costs for its own workers' health coverage.
On the revenue side, state coffers have been drained by a lengthy quasi-recession. Describe the economy as you will, but in the last fiscal year, it reduced revenues by $700 million, the first year-to-year period in which revenues declined since 1955.
Income and sales taxes are the biggest revenue sources for ongoing state operations, and both are susceptible to slowdowns in the economy.
As a case in point, the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission, a legislative agency, said October's revenue was off by $71 million, or 5 percent, from the same month last year. The commission warned that just to reach budgetary targets, key revenue sources will have to show a year-to-year increase of from 6 percent to more than 10 percent between now and July.
Schulz argued that the situation only gets worse. The state has offered employees an early-retirement incentive, and the budget office estimates 7,300 will take it by yearend. Other experts said the total could escalate to 10,000, some 12 percent of the state's work force, causing disruptions in critical services.
"I'm a transportation-oriented guy, and I know that some offices Downstate will lose all their senior road project managers,'' Schulz said.
Some argue that the state's problems are overstated in the context of a $52.5 billion budget. Gilliam contended Illinois is still faring better than other states, especially California.
But the Illinois shortfall is concentrated on the state's $22.3 billion general fund, which contains the expenses for day-to-day services. Other funds have specialized purposes, such as bond payments or road projects.
"So the problem is really more like a 10 percent hole in the budget,'' Schulz said.
Candidate Blagojevich ruled out increases in the personal income or sales taxes. To cobble together his seven-percentage-point victory margin over Republican Jim Ryan last Tuesday, Blagojevich promised about $800 million in new spending.
But post-campaign reality offers a distasteful menu of program cuts, perhaps seasoned with higher taxes on businesses. Springfield insiders already are speculating on the chances of higher "sin'' taxes on cigarettes and liquor, a stopgap that legislators used last spring.
Douglas Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said Blagojevich will be faced with a "brain drain'' in state government amid the retirements and the partisan changeover. "The Democrats face an exceptionally steep learning curve,'' he said.
They'll have to be quick studies. Blagojevich will be inaugurated in mid-January and will have to propose his first budget to the General Assembly about a month later.

It's transition time and big changes could be in the air
 
By DANA HEUPEL
STATEHOUSE EDITOR
11 Nov 2002
Welcome to the state capital, Chicago Democrats.
Of course, I mean Gov.-elect Rod Blagojevich, Lt. Gov.-elect Pat Quinn, Attorney General-elect Lisa Madigan, re-elected Secretary of State Jesse White, re-elected Comptroller Dan Hynes, House Speaker Michael Madigan and presumed soon-to-be-elected Senate President Emil Jones.
And Mayor Richie Daley and First Father-In-Law Ald. Dick Mell and a whole roster of players to be named later.
I know most of you have been in Springfield before in various capacities, but things have changed over the last several days.
First off, you can't buy a donkey lapel pin anywhere in town. Elephant ones, though, are readily available and marked down. Democratic yard signs have sprouted all over, except in front of those homes that sport newly erected for-sale placards.
And around the Capitol and nearby state office buildings, longtime state employees - especially the well-dressed ones - can be heard softly practicing the mantra: "Da Mare is over dere in Chi-caw-go."
Ah, yes, it's transition time, and paranoia is in the air.
Can't-sleep-for-worrying Scenario No. 1: You're going to move state government up to the city by the lake - if not physically, then symbolically.
All the good jobs here are going to disappear. Youse elected guys are never going to be around. You'll be absentee landlords to vacant limestone ruins.
No computer contracts. No consultant work. Nobody home except a secretary here and there to answer the phones when those few downstate Democrats call.
The legislature, when it does meet here, will deal mostly with toll highways and O'Hare expansion and Rosemont casinos and more funding for Chicago public schools.
No Christmas parties or trick-or-treating at the Executive Mansion. Nobody for reporters to talk to except for disconnected voices on phones at the Thompson Center.
Nobody to gossip about. Nobody important to bump into at the Jewel-Osco.
Gov.-elect Blagojevich promises this nightmare won't happen. Then again, he promises a lot of things. That doesn't necessarily calm the transition turmoil.
Can't-sleep Scenario No. 2: You're going to bring all your cronies down here and take all the good jobs.
Springfield becomes Chi-caw-go Sout'. Every Statehouse office holds some big-city ward heeler's brother-in-law in a Blackhawks jacket.
Three-flats sprout up everywhere. Chicago-style hot dogs and pop become the lunch of choice. You can't find a horseshoe and a sody anywhere.
Nor can you buy a baseball glove in the sporting goods stores - 16-inch-softball leagues take over the diamonds at the city parks.
Terrible miscommunications occur when state Rep. Gary Forby of Benton questions a transplanted assistant agency director at a legislative committee hearing. Each thinks the other is speaking a different language.
There could be an upside to this second scenario, though. A Taste of Chicago - even if by-invitation-only - might return downtown, and the House of Blues tent could reappear at the Illinois State Fair.
Why ya so worried, you ask? We know what you think about us down here in the capital city. We've heard the Springpatch references.
And over the past couple of months, we've endured your endless TV ads promising, promising to "clean up Springfield."
Well, you nearly swept the statewide elections, and now you're going to be in charge. Of the House and the Senate. Of every statewide elected office except one. (And even re-elected Republican state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka comes from da burbs over dere in Riverside, and her flamboyant public persona seems more like that of a free-spirited Democrat.)
You inherit a state budget in shambles. Corruption investigations continue. Voters' faith in the integrity of state officials is lower than the dust on a downstate coal miner's boots.
And, quite frankly, your party's history of ethical hygiene in the Windy City doesn't inspire much hope.
So here's your broom, you newly elected Chicago Democrats. Have at it.
And good luck. For the next four years, the heat's on you.
Dana Heupel is Statehouse editor for Copley Illinois newspapers. He can be reached at 788-1518 or dana.heupel@sj-r.com.

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AFSCME members help propel Blagojevich
to victory and Pate' Phillip to defeat
 
November 6, 2002
In statewide races, AFSCME endorsees captured five of the six constitutional offices. Council 31 also played a pivotal role in victorious state Senate races that will end Republican James "Pate" Philip's rule as Senate president in January. AFSCME members participated heavily in the campaign of Susan Garrett, who toppled District 29 incumbent and Philip confidant state Sen. Kathleen Parker. And in District 47, AFSCME was credited with playing a key role in John Sullivan's upset victory over incumbent state Sen. Laura Kent Donahue, another strong Philip ally.
AFSCME members were also the key to victory for the Rev. James Meeks, who unseated long-time District 15 state Sen. Bill Shaw. In his role as mayor of Dolton, Shaw had tried to run roughshod over the rights of AFSCME members who work for the village.
By virtue of the new Democratic majority when the General Assembly organizes in January, current Minority Leader Emil Jones of Chicago is expected to become president of the Senate.
Union members were also active in state House races all across Illinois that helped expand the Democratic majority in the lower chamber.
AFSCME-backed U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin soared to victory, as did all but one of the union's endorsed congressional candidates. In a hard-fought contest between two incumbents in the new 19th Congressional District, David Phelps lost to John Shimkus.
"We face a long, hard road after four years of George Ryan," said AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer. "Restoring state services and the jobs they represent is not going to be easy in this economic climate. But we intend to work closely with the new administration to find solutions to Illinois' revenue problems, and expect to participate fully in the decision-making process as budget priorities are realigned."
 

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Blagojevich wins
First Democrat elected Illinois governor in 30 years
 
BY MIKE RAMSEY
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
6 Nov 2002

CHICAGO - Democrat Rod Blagojevich sailed to victory in the race for Illinois governor Tuesday.
With 65 percent of the precincts counted from across the state, Blagojevich, a Chicago congressman, had 57 percent of the ballots cast. Republican Jim Ryan, a two-term attorney general, trailed with 40 percent of the votes.
The 45-year-old Blagojevich, a virtual unknown a year ago, had been solidly ahead in most public-opinion polls conducted since he and Ryan cleared competitive primaries in March. During the primary and general elections, Blagojevich raised an estimated $24.5 million in campaign cash - well ahead of his Republican opponent's estimated take of $13.3 million.
Blagojevich becomes the first Democrat in 30 years to capture the governor's mansion.
"It really shows the power of a good organization, a lot of money and a really smart campaign," Kent Redfield, a political scientist at University of Illinois-Springfield, said as early returns showed Blagojevich well ahead. "They stuck to their themes and went out and did all of the necessary things - the air war and the ground war."
Ryan, 56, of Elmhurst, was hampered by scandals surrounding his party, including the federal licenses-for-bribes case that hounded Republican Gov. George Ryan, no relation, and owner of Grab-a-Java drive-through coffee shop in the capital city, who described himself as an independent who is "a bit cynical," chose Blagojevich because he is "not Mr. Ryan."
Jim Ryan, Lazare said, "had a golden opportunity for many years to clean out the secretary of state mess, and he just sat there and did nothing, and I'm just sick and tired of this corruption. This is the most corrupt state north of the Mason/Dixon line."
That sounds a lot like the argument Blagojevich made when he said, over and over and over again, that Jim Ryan "didn't lift a finger" to fight the corruption that grew in the secretary of state's office under George Ryan (who, of course, has been charged with no wrongdoing).
So what if Jim Ryan repeatedly said the feds were investigating, and he didn't want to step on their toes? And so what if he got others in law enforcement to back up his view.
So what, as Ryan argued, if the Democratic state ticket was all from Chicago? It's time for a change, and change there will be.
Blagojevich was little known outside his Chicago congressional district two years ago. But he made all the right moves. He got going early, got union support, paid attention to the whole state in the primary, and started collecting lots of money last year, said Chris Mooney, director of the Institute for Legislative Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
He also got lucky, Mooney said, when former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., both decided not to run for governor. And his two Democratic primary opponents, Roland Burris and Paul Vallas, took parts of the Chicago-area vote and let Blagojevich win with a big push downstate.
And, said Mooney, Jim Ryan started out with two strikes against him - the biggest being the George Ryan scandals.
"Jim Ryan had a harmonic convergence of problems before he ever filed the papers to run," Mooney said. The fact that his last name is the same as that of the governor, Mooney said, was "really icing on the cake."
The mere number of years Republicans have been in control made the "time-for-a-change argument" more potent, Mooney added.
Durbin also said Blagojevich's aggressive primary "really was extraordinary in that it focused on downstate. Who would have guessed that a Chicagoan from that background would win the race downstate?"
Blagojevich's father-in-law is a Chicago alderman and ward boss. But Jim Ryan, the results showed, couldn't parlay that into a winning issue.
Durbin added that the grueling primary race that Jim Ryan had to win took its toll. Millions of dollars were spent as Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood and state Sen. Patrick O'Malley bashed Jim Ryan on some of the same themes later used by Blagojevich, including the botched prosecution of Rolando Cruz.
"We took a poll right after the primary where he won, and found his negatives to be higher than his positives," Durbin said of Jim Ryan. "They had taken a toll on him."
Ryan had joked about that trend on Monday, as he started a state fly-around and really thought he had a chance to make it a fight on Tuesday.
He joked that Edgar has higher popularity numbers than Jim Ryan and Blagojevich put together.
"I used to be popular like that," Ryan said. "See what happens when you spend $23 million?"
And something else happened this time, as Blagojevich raised at least a million more than that amount. He got elected governor.
Republicans argued during the campaign that Blagojevich seemed to be prematurely measuring the Executive Mansion windows for new curtains.
Well, it's time for him to get the tape measure - and for Springfield to welcome back a former state representative and current congressman as the state's new leader.
As he makes his way to Springfield, Blagojevich, along with Attorney General-elect Lisa Madigan, could begin a change in the local political landscape.
Sangamon County Democratic chairman Tim Timoney said 750 get-out-the-vote volunteers Tuesday helped Springfield send the message that "we are sick and tired of 26 years of Republican rule." Yet Republicans won most contested Sangamon County races Tuesday and gave an easy majority to Jim Ryan in the governor's race.
Timoney said the GOP has had more than two decades to solidify its Springfield base.
"Well, that base is about ready to evaporate for the Republican Party. The tide's turning to the Democratic Party."
Now, that would be change.
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.
 

Democrat Sullivan unseats Sen. Donahue

By JAYETTE BOLINSKI and KRISTY HESSMAN
STAFF WRITERS
6 Nov 2002

Democrat John Sullivan of Rushville unseated 20-year state Sen. Laura Kent Donahue, R-Quincy, in west-central Illinois' 47th District Tuesday.

Tuesday was the first time in 10 years that Donahue had faced an opponent.

Sullivan, a livestock auctioneer, said he thought Donahue wasn't working as hard in the Senate as he would have liked.

Totals from all counties except Brown early today showed Sullivan leading Donahue by 1,922 votes, 32,316 to 30,394.

The district includes all or parts of Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Mason McDonough, Schuyler, Scott and Warren counties.

Sullivan said his campaign was a grass-roots effort in which he literally knocked on thousands of doors to get his name out to voters.

His past experience includes working for Meals on Wheels, Humanitarian Effort for Local People and a parent-teacher organization.

During Donahue's tenure in the Senate, she helped pass laws that provide a toll-free number for seniors to reach information about public and private discount programs in their area.

Sullivan said cheaper prescription drugs for seniors and education funding are key issues in his district.

"I want to be hard-working, honest and treat people with respect," he said before the election.

97th House District

State Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, defeated Steve Pohlman of Jerseyville in nearly complete election returns from the 97th House District.

With 92 percent of the precincts counted, Watson had 61 percent of the vote to Pohlman's 39 percent.

"We're happy. I realize that it was a team effort. I had a lot of good people in all the counties that helped," said Watson, who has served in the House since December, when he was appointed to replace Tom Ryder, R-Jerseyville.

Ryder resigned to take a position with the Illinois Community College Board.

Watson, 37, has said his priorities in the House would be the state budget and education.

"Everything stems from the budget. It is the starting point for everything, so that is the key. If we want to get the Greene County boot camp open, we have to figure out a way to work it into this budget," he said.

Pohlman, 40, was making his first run at state office. Watson commended Pohlman for running "a good, clean race."

"This is one of the few races that did not get ugly. I think that's a good sign for this entire district," Watson said. "I certainly want to extend a hand and hope that, should these numbers hold, that I would like to work with him as much as possible."

The 97th District includes all or parts of Jersey, Calhoun, Greene, Morgan, Pike, Macoupin and Madison counties.

94th House District

Incumbent state Rep. Rich Myers, R-Colchester, defeated Democratic candidate Jon Mummert in the new 94th House District.

This is the second time the two candidates have run against each other and the second time Myers came out ahead. In the 2000 election, Mummert lost by 6,000 votes.

This time, the farmer and carpenter from Browning was able to cut the margin in half, trailing by a little more than 3,000 votes. Final, unofficial tallies showed Myers winning by 20,252 votes to Mummert's 17,004.

Mummert said he decided to run again because he believed Myers wasn't addressing issues like education and workers' rights.

Myers, also a former farmer, has been in the House for eight years.

He said his biggest accomplishment during that time was securing $4 million in planning money for a performing arts center for Western Illinois University, Myers' alma mater.

Myers also has supported expansion of the state's circuit-breaker program, which gives property tax breaks and price breaks on certain prescription drugs to low-income seniors and others.

Both candidates said they see shrinking education funding as one of the biggest concerns in their district.

44th Senate District

Bill Brady, the incumbent Republican state senator who proposes phasing out the State Board of Education, was winning his bid for the 44th District seat, according to early election results.

With 69 percent of the precincts counted, Brady had 62 percent of the votes.

Brady, 41, was finishing the term of retiring Sen. John Maitland. A member of the Illinois House from 1993 to 2000, Brady defeated former Democratic state Rep. Gerald Bradley, 75. Both are from Bloomington.

Brady said his campaign was based on grass-roots efforts and traditional values.

"The track record I ran on -- traditional Illinois values - I think resonates well with the voters," he said. "I will continue to fight for what they believe in."

Brady proposes phasing out the State Board of Education and replacing it with a Cabinet-level director of education who would be appointed by and report to the governor. He said Attorney General Jim Ryan, who lost his bid for governor Tuesday night, had indicated he would support such a plan.

"I haven't discussed it with Rod Blagojevich. It is going to take Democratic support. I still think it's the right thing to do," Brady said.

He also has said that if elected he will propose a resolution requiring a super-majority vote for any project needing state money over a "reasonable amount."

The 44th Senate District includes eastern Sangamon County, all of DeWitt County and parts of Tazewell, McLean, Logan, Macon and Christian counties.

Jayette Bolinski and Kristy Hessman can be reached at 788-1530 or jayette.bolinski@sj-r.com and kristy.hessman@sj-r.com.

 

Madigan beats Birkett
Topinka the only Republican to win election to statewide office
 
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
6 NOV 2002

The bitter battle for Illinois attorney general finally drew to a close Tuesday night, with unofficial election results showing that state Sen. Lisa Madigan will become the first woman to serve as the state's chief legal officer.
Republican challenger Joe Birkett delivered his televised concession speech about 10:50 p.m., saying he had called Madigan and told her, "You're a prosecutor now."
In her victory speech, Madigan, D-Chicago, said her election means "change is on the way" for retirees, senior citizens and Illinois families. She said her office will fight against discrimination, corrupt corporations and dishonest public officials.
Madigan also congratulated Birkett on "a hard-fought campaign," telling his supporters: "You can count on me to serve all the people of Illinois."
With votes counted in 97 percent of Illinois' precincts, Madigan was leading Birkett 50 percent to 47 percent. Libertarian candidate Gary Shilts of Montgomery had 3 percent.
In other lower-ballot races for statewide office, the Democratic incumbents for secretary of state and comptroller breezed to victory, while the GOP incumbent for treasurer managed to hang on despite a tough challenge. Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka was the only statewide Republican candidate to win Tuesday night.
That position will offer opportunities, as well as challenges, said Topinka. Republicans will have to get together soon to figure out their next move, she said.
"It maybe gets a little new blood into the system," Topinka added. "In every lemon, there is lemonade."
The high-profile, contentious race for attorney general drew attention largely because of someone whose name wasn't even on the statewide ballot: House Speaker Michael Madigan, Lisa Madigan's adoptive father.
For months, Birkett and Madigan spent much of their time on the campaign trail tossing barbs at one another.
Birkett targeted Madigan's lack of experience as a prosecutor and accused her powerful father of strong-arm tactics aimed at getting his daughter elected. Lisa Madigan claimed Birkett bore some responsibility for the prosecution of Rolando Cruz, a former death row inmate who eventually was cleared of the 1983 murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico.
And each candidate responded that the other side's criticism was unfair.
Madigan said most of the attorney general's duties concern civil law, rather than criminal law, and that she is independent of her father.
Birkett said he had spent less than a year as lead prosecutor on Cruz's third trial in 1995, and he said he is the person who ordered DNA tests that helped lead to Cruz's exoneration.
When not attacking one another, Madigan and Birkett focused on their widely dissimilar visions of how they would run the attorney general's office.
Birkett said he would expand the criminal-law duties, and Madigan said she would focus on social and consumer issues, such as protecting the elderly from scams.
They also differed on the issue of abortion. Madigan supports a woman's access to abortion. Birkett opposes abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother, but he said he would uphold existing laws allowing abortion.
Both candidates supported the death penalty, but they disagreed on whether Illinois should end the existing moratorium on executions. Birkett said Illinois should resume executions because the Illinois Supreme Court already has enacted some reforms to the state's capital punishment system.
Madigan and Birkett generally agreed on some issues. For example, both offered plans to combat domestic violence and deal with corruption in government.
The 36-year-old Madigan was elected state senator in 1998. She was a civil attorney for Sachnoff & Weaver, a Chicago firm, from 1994 to 1998. A graduate of Georgetown University, Madigan earned a law degree from Loyola University.
Birkett, 47, of Wheaton, has been DuPage County state's attorney since 1996 and has been a prosecutor for 21 years.
The attorney general oversees a staff of almost 800 and a yearly budget of $70 million.
In another statewide race, incumbent Secretary of State Jesse White, a Chicago Democrat, declared victory over GOP challenger Kris O'Rourke Cohn of Rockford. He was leading, 69-29 percent with 91 percent of precincts counted. Libertarian candidate Matt Beauchamp had 2 percent.
White's win makes him the fourth consecutive Illinois secretary of state to be elected to two terms. The others were Democrat Alan Dixon, who later became a U.S. senator, and Republicans Jim Edgar and George Ryan - both of whom used the secretary of state's office as a springboard to the governor's office. White has said he will not seek that office.
The secretary of state's office deals with a variety of responsibilities, including driver's licenses, license plates and the state library.
Incumbent Comptroller Dan Hynes, 34, of Chicago declared victory over Republican challenger Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell, a 35-year-old Wilmette resident. With 91 percent of precincts counted, Hynes led Ramsdell 64-32 percent. Libertarian candidate Julie Fox had 4 percent.
Hynes attributed his win to his four-year record of accomplishment in office. Ramsdell said he called Hynes to concede and to "wish him the best."
The comptroller is the state's chief fiscal officer.
In the race for state treasurer, Topinka fended off Democrat Tom Dart. With 91 percent of precincts counted, Topinka had collected 54 percent to 44 percent for Dart. Libertarian candidate Rhys Read had 2 percent.
Topinka, 58, of Riverside, was the first woman to be elected state treasurer in Illinois when she won in 1994. The former state legislator was elected to a second term in 1998 and is the first Illinoisan to be elected to three. Dart, 40, of Chicago, is a state representative and a former Cook County assistant state's attorney.
The treasurer is the state's chief investment officer.
Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.
 

Democrats win Senate and lock on legislature
 
By Ray Long and Christi Parsons
Tribune staff reporters
November 6, 2002
In a major power shift, Democrats on Tuesday claimed control of the Illinois Senate--and with it the entire General Assembly--for the first time in 10 years.
"We look forward to grand times," said Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones of Chicago. "We look forward to doing great things for the people of the state of Illinois."
Senate Democrats racked up a series of critical victories Tuesday, ending the reign of Senate President James "Pate" Philip, the DuPage County stalwart who won the chamber's top job a decade ago.
"With a Democratic sweep at the top of the ticket, it's tough," said Patty Schuh, Philip's spokeswoman.
Senate Democrats capitalized on a big year for their party's entire ticket, as they won the governorship and both houses for the first time since a Watergate-era election booted Republicans out of office en masse.
They also benefited from new district boundaries tilted to favor Democrats and a public weary of Republican scandals.
Jones' aides maintained his Democratic caucus had captured at least 32 of the 59 seats necessary to control the Senate and hoped to build on that total as votes rolled in throughout the state. A series of races were being tallied late Tuesday, but Philip aides predicted they would end up with 25 or 26 seats. They currently hold a 32-27 edge.
In one of the more intriguing contests, incumbent Democratic Sen. William Shaw, the Dolton mayor, lost to Rev. James Meeks, a Chicago Democrat running as an independent. Thornton Police Chief Phillip Arnold Jr., a Republican, also ran.
Meeks pledged to support Jones for president of the Senate. Despite being a lifetime Democrat, Meeks said he plans to function as an independent and vote issue by issue "with the group whose interests match those of my constituents."
In the House, Speaker Michael Madigan's Democratic majority was never threatened since his party won the right last year to redraw the legislative districts. Democrats already hold a 62-56 majority in the House, and Republicans figured they had lost three or four more seats in this election.
"Now you're going to have two chambers interested in solving problems," said Steve Brown, Madigan's spokesman. "Too often we've seen Republicans in the Senate put a brick on everything from the House, just because it was from the House."
A Democratic takeover portends a major shift in politics and policies of state government. The changes are likely to come at the hands of trial lawyers, organized labor and other traditional Democratic interests that have labored to bring the new leadership to power.
New day for some initiatives
The election could usher in a new day for all sorts of initiatives that have faltered in the Republican-led Senate in recent years, such as an increase in the minimum wage and a rewrite of state law to make it easier for injured workers to collect damages from their employers. A Democratic Senate likely will push for annual increases in the minimum level of spending per student in public schools.
Previously guaranteed a quiet death in the upper chamber, measures as diverse as gay rights and tax breaks for the poor stand a much better chance of advancing. The Chicago Teachers Union, which lost bargaining rights over a variety of issues when Republicans enacted a sweeping school reform package in the mid-1990s, will have a chance to recover.
And Mayor Richard Daley's suggestion of pushing for a special casino for Chicago may come into play although both candidates for governor went into Election Day wary of the idea.
"It'll be a new kind of Senate," said Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, the Elgin Republican who fought off a challenger but will lose his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. "We'll have a new group who has to learn the ropes. They come in at a time of great financial difficulty. So I hope they'll take a collaborative approach [with Republicans]."
The toughest problem for Springfield politicians will be how to plug a yawning budget gap that could grow to $2.5 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. A deficit that size in a $50 billion-plus budget will bring legions of people into the Statehouse to pressure lawmakers to raise taxes rather than cut services and jobs.
Yet legislative issues that come with a big price tag will be difficult because both candidates for governor pledged the budget crisis could be resolved without a rise in sales or income taxes.
Even going into the election, prominent Democrats confident of winning one-party control were talking about a moderate agenda rather than costly far-reaching changes or anything that could give GOP a rallying point in 2004.
With the Supreme Court already firmly Democratic, the party would be in position to pass its bills, get them signed and, if its laws are challenged, have them heard by jurists more inclined to lend a sympathetic ear.
Republicans won the right to tilt the districts in their favor 10 years earlier, a move that paved the way for Philip to take charge of the Senate. But House Republicans were able to win the House for only one two-year term, in 1994, when a nationwide GOP tide swept Newt Gingrich and Lee Daniels into the speakerships, respectively, of the U.S. Congress and Illinois House.
In the marquee Senate race, Rep. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) beat incumbent Sen. Kathy Parker (R-Northbrook).
"It was a big Democrat year," Parker said. "We were running in more difficult districts because they were new. We did everything we could. We cannot control the top" of the ticket.
Cicero race
In a Cicero area face-off for an open seat, Democrat Martin Sandoval of Chicago beat Republican Roberto Garcia of Cicero.
Among the tighter Senate races outside the Chicago area, Republican Dale Risinger, a former transportation official from Peoria, beat Democratic Knox County State's Atty. Paul Mangieri of Galesburg.
The closest race still hanging late Tuesday featured two Champaign residents, Republican Rep. Rick Winkel and Democrat and former Mayor Dan McCollum.
Going against the trend, Democratic Sen. Bill O'Daniel of Mt. Vernon lost to Republican Rep. John Jones, also of Mt. Vernon.
Incumbent GOP Sen. Laura Donahue of Quincy lost to Democrat John M. Sullivan of Rushville.
In the House, Rep. Bob Bugielski, a Chicago Democrat, lost to Rep. Michael McAuliffe, the only House Republican from Chicago, in a contentious Northwest Side battle.
Rep. Elizabeth Coulson (R-Glenview) beat Democrat Pat Hughes of Wilmette. Rep. Anne Zickus (R-Palos Hills) lost to Chicago Democrat Kevin Joyce, the son of former Chicago lawmaker and Daley confidant Jeremiah Joyce of Chicago.
In North Shore races, Democrat Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook beat Republican Mary Childers of Des Plaines, and Democratic Rep. Karen May of Highland Park beat Republican Marc Brown of Deerfield.
 

Blagojevich elected Illinois governor
Associated Press
November 5, 2002, 8:47 PM CST
Democratic U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich ended Republicans quarter-century hold on the Illinois governors mansion Tuesday, beating an opponent who spent the campaign in the shadow of the scandal-ridden GOP incumbent
Blagojevich beat Republican Jim Ryan, a two-term state attorney general and former DuPage County states attorney.
With 45 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results, Blagojevich had 62 percent and Ryan had 36 percent.
David Wilhelm, Blagojevichs campaign manager, did not claim victory early in the evening but said he was comfortable with the lead.
``Its telling us that we have every reason to be confident as we enter the vote counting stage, Wilhelm said.
Ryans campaign was not ready to concede the race based on early returns, which were dominated by Chicago and the Cook County suburbs.
``Its not over yet by any stretch, said Ryan adviser Steve Culliton.
Democrats scored an early victory as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin cruised to re-election, swamping underfunded Republican state Rep. Jim Durkin.

Union flier has wrong Ryan
 
October 30, 2002
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND SCOTT FORNEK STAFF REPORTERS  
 

 

 

 


Jim Ryan ought to be thankful his last name isn't Nixon.

In what is either a classic political dirty trick or an honest "technical error," the state AFL-CIO sent out thousands of fliers this week touting Democrat Rod Blagojevich's record over that of Ryan, his Republican rival.

But instead of Attorney General Jim Ryan's name and photograph, the pamphlet featured Gov. George Ryan's face and name. That's right--the unpopular, scandal-scarred Republican incumbent that the GOP wishes would hide in the basement until Nov. 6.

"I don't think anyone seriously believes this is an honest mistake," fumed Dan Curry, a spokesman for the attorney general. "This has been the entire campaign by the Democrats and Rod Blagojevich--to cynically confuse the public about Jim Ryan and George Ryan. Now they've been caught."

The state AFL-CIO insists it was a "technical error" made by the California firm that produced the piece.

"It is a mistake, an error by a vendor, and it's nothing more than that," said Margaret Blackshere, president of the labor organization. "I can assure you it was not purposeful. That's not the kind of tricks the AFL-CIO tries to play. If we were trying to be sneaky, one would assume we'd have done it on a much broader scale."

The pamphlet went to at least 10,000 union households in the southern half of the state. It posed the question, "Who will stand up for us as governor?" Blagojevich's picture, name and positions are outlined beneath that headline on one side, while a picture of the lame-duck governor, his name and Jim Ryan's position on labor issues are laid on the other side.

Blackshere said a union member informed her of the error Tuesday, and she immediately recorded a telephone message meant to correct the mistake for the union households targeted by the mailer. She said the piece was paid for and sent out by the national AFL-CIO, which intends to seek reimbursement for the misstep from the production company.

Kevin Mack, vice president of Winning Directions, the San Francisco firm that produced the mailer, said an artist typed "Ryan" and "Illinois" in their computerized library of photographs, and George Ryan's picture came up. He said during proofreading the gaffe "just fell through the cracks."

"If we really wanted to inflict damage, we could have used Jim Ryan's picture with the governor's record," Mack said.

Blagojevich spokesman Doug Scofield rejected Ryan's charge of a deliberate disinformation campaign.

"He doesn't give voters enough credit," Scofield said. "People don't confuse Jim Ryan and George Ryan. They connect Jim Ryan and George Ryan. And they see years of failed leadership and stagnation and status quo."
 


 

Easy to read governor's lips
 
Ryan believes state can't go on without tax hike
 
By Christi Parsons and Dan Mihalopoulos, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporters David Mendell, John Chase and Ray Long contributed to this report
October 29, 2002
SPRINGFIELD -- Rejecting no-new-taxes pledges by the candidates vying to succeed him, outgoing Gov. George Ryan said Monday that Illinois can't solve its budget mess without raising one tax or another.
"I would guess that if the State of Illinois is going to function at any level of service, there's going to have to be some new revenue some place," the governor said.
The governor said he won't push for a tax hike in the veto session and said he couldn't imagine any members of the General Assembly would be keen on the idea. But, he said, "I'm always available to talk to them if they are."
George Ryan had previously scoffed at promises made by Republican candidate for governor Jim Ryan and Democratic contender Rod Blagojevich to veto any attempt to increase taxes to ease the fiscal crisis.
Meanwhile, Jim Ryan, who has been battling with the incumbent GOP governor, sought to associate himself more closely with a Republican who has his popularity intact. Jim Ryan said if he is elected governor, he would name former Gov. Jim Edgar to head his transition team.
"I'm trying to send a message to voters, and there is nobody better to show the kind of people I want around me than Jim Edgar," Jim Ryan said in a seven-city flyaround that included stops in Rockford, Springfield, Peoria and Carbondale.
For his part, Blagojevich traveled through Downstate to assure voters he would not raise the cost of a Firearm Owner's Identification Card, although he had supported such a move while in the General Assembly.
"The opposition has been very good at distorting my record, suggesting that I would raise the price of a FOID card," Blagojevich told a group of 150 supporters outside the Pike County Courthouse in Pittsfield. "That is just not the case. I will not raise the price of a FOID card--not one dime, not one nickel."
In the race for attorney general, Democrat Lisa Madigan vowed to oppose attempts to privatize the commissary and dietary units in state prisons. On a Downstate campaign swing with leaders of a public employees union, Madigan also said she would fight a new contract that uses a private firm to pick up out-of-state parole violators.
Those positions placed Madigan squarely on the side of the union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and her announcement came just weeks after AFSCME donated $45,000 to her campaign.
Madigan's Republican rival, Joe Birkett, also opposes privatization efforts in the prison system, a spokesman said, even though his campaign has received $1,300 in contributions from Aramark, a private company vying to provide commissary services at state prisons.

Madigan: Privatizing prison jobs is illegal
 
By BERNARD SCHOENBURG
POLITICAL WRITER
28 Oct 2002

Democratic attorney general candidate Lisa Madigan says she thinks it is illegal for the state to have a private company transport prisoners.
Madigan, a state senator from Chicago, also said she would co-sponsor a supplemental appropriation in the General Assembly to restore recent cuts in services and jobs that will result in prison closures and the loss of 1,000 union positions. She said she didn't know how large that appropriation would be.
"While revenues are down in the state, we can't risk the safety or our prison employees or our communities," she said.
Madigan made the statements at the Springfield headquarters of Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union, which represents tens of thousands of workers statewide, endorsed her in September and made the announcement Monday.
Madigan is running against Republican DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett in the Nov. 5 election. Accompanied by state workers including a food service supervisor at Jacksonville Correctional Center and a parole officer from Springfield, Madigan said she thinks state law prohibits privatization of prison jobs because of the security risk.
Buddy Maupin of Marion, regional AFSCME director for correctional employees statewide, said the endorsement of Madigan is based on her views and record, and is "absolutely not" related to the position held by her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Maupin said he expects legal action soon against a state five-year contract for $1.75 million with a Nashville company, TransCor America, for interstate transport of Illinois prisoners.
Meanwhile, Birkett on Monday called on Madigan to return more than $175,000 in contributions received from city of Chicago and Cook County workers over the past three years. His campaign pointed to $50,000 that came to Madigan since July 1 from government workers who live within Mike Madigan's 13th Ward in Chicago.
"The Madigans will stop at nothing," Birkett said in a news release. "Muscling cops and working men and women is standard politics to them."
"It's ridiculous," responded Mike Noonan, campaign manager for Lisa Madigan. "Every single person has given this money of their own free will because Lisa grew up there and they support her."
 

Steve Schnorf to head Department of Central Management Services
 
By DEAN OLSEN
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
20 Sept 2002
 
Gov. George Ryan's budget director, Steve Schnorf, will return to the state Department of Central Management Services as its leader Oct. 1, replacing Michael Schwartz, who is retiring, Ryan announced Thursday.
As director of Ryan's Bureau of the Budget, Schnorf, 57, had the high-profile task of unveiling and explaining to legislators and the news media the many cuts the governor needed to make in state spending this past year as state revenues plummeted during the recession.
Schwartz, 50, of Springfield, plans to retire at the end of September for health reasons.
Schnorf, also a Springfield resident, has served as director of the Bureau of the Budget since 1997, after being appointed by then-Gov. Jim Edgar. From 1991 to 1994, Schnorf was Edgar's director of CMS, the state agency that handles labor union contracts and provides many personnel services to state workers.
"It's important to have someone over there," Ryan spokesman Ray Serati said.
The change will be a lateral move for Schnorf, Serati said. Schnorf currently earns slightly more than $120,000. His salary at CMS will be comparable, Serati said. Schnorf was Edgar's senior assistant and director of policy from December 1994 to November 1997.
Mike Colsch, who now is deputy budget director, will serve as interim director of the Bureau of the Budget. The Springfield resident has been deputy director since 1994.
Dean Olsen can be reached at 782-6883 or dean.olsen@sj-r.com.

Poll finds only one statewide race is close
Birkett, Madigan in statistical tie for attorney general
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
20 Sept 2002
DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, a Republican, holds a slim lead over Democratic state Sen. Lisa Madigan in the race for Illinois attorney general, a new Copley News Service poll shows.
The poll also found that incumbents in races for treasurer, secretary of state and comptroller hold substantial leads over their challengers - a result aided by the fact that at least two-thirds of those polled say they've never heard of the challengers.
The power of incumbency also carried over to the U.S. Senate race, where Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield leads state Rep. James Durkin, R-Westchester, by more a than 2-1 margin.
Conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, the poll questioned 621 people who said they regularly vote in state elections. The poll was conducted Saturday through Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In the race for attorney general, 45 percent that featured Durbin and Durkin. The poll shows that they are not. Durbin held 57 to 28 percent lead, with 15 percent undecided. Durbin was ahead of Durkin in every area of the state, including the GOP-heavy collar counties.
"We learned in the primary not to put too much faith in the polls," said Durkin campaign manager Brock Willeford. Durkin trailed most polls before winning the March primary.
Durbin spokeswoman Stacey Zolt said the poll will have no affect on Durbin.
"He wakes up every morning as if he's 10 points behind," Zolt said. "He does not take his support for granted."
The Libertarian Party is also fielding candidates for U.S. Senate, secretary of state, treasurer and comptroller. They were not included in the poll.
Steven Burgauer is the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate. Other Libertarian candidates include Rhys Read for treasurer, Gary Shilts for attorney general and Julie Fox for comptroller.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 
 

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Poll: Blagojevich far ahead
But Jim Ryan gains when name confusion is cleared up
 
By BERNARD SCHOENBURG
POLITICAL WRITER
19 Sept 2002

What's in a name? Perhaps 6 percentage points, a poll done for Copley Illinois newspapers suggests.
The poll of 621 registered voters who said they regularly cast ballots in state elections showed that Democrat Rod Blagojevich had an 11-point lead over Republican Jim Ryan in the race for governor.
But a follow-up question, clarifying that Jim Ryan is the state's attorney general and is not related to Gov. George Ryan, resulted in Blagojevich's lead dropping to five points.
"Name confusion between the GOP nominee and incumbent Republican Gov. George Ryan is clearly having an impact," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, which conducted the poll Saturday through Tuesday.
The Democrats came out ahead 49-38, with 13 percent undecided, when respondents were asked: "If the 2002 election for governor and lieutenant governor were held today, would you vote for the Democratic ticket of Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn or the Republican ticket of Jim Ryan and Carl Hawkinson?"
But the statewide numbers closed to 47 percent for Blagojevich, 42 percent for Ryan and 11 percent undecided after the follow-up question: "Jim Ryan, the Republican candidate for governor this year, has been the Illinois attorney general for the past eight years. He is not related to incumbent Republican Governor George Ryan. Knowing that information, I would like to ask you again ... would you vote for Jim Ryan, the Republican, or Rod Blagojevich, the Democrat?"
The poll, which was done by telephone, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points when the full sample is counted. Those interviewed included 305 men and 316 women. Four out of five respondents were white, 14 percent were black and 6 percent fit in other categories.
There will be four candidates for governor on the Nov. 5 ballot. The Mason-Dixon poll did not include names of Cal Skinner, a Libertarian from McHenry County, or Marisellis Brown, an independent from Danville.
In the original head-to-head question, Blagojevich led Jim Ryan in three of five areas of the state. He had a 63-26 advantage in the Chicago/Cook County region, a 45-36 lead in northwest Illinois, and a 46-36 lead in the 36 counties in the southern part of the state.
In 42 central Illinois counties, including Sangamon, Peoria, Logan and Knox, Ryan led 48-38. In eight counties surrounding Cook County, including DuPage, McHenry, Lake, Will, Kankakee, Kane, Grundy and Kendall, Ryan led 52-38.
Men favored Blagojevich by a 46-42 margin, while women backed the Democrat 53-34. Whites were evenly split, with 43 percent for each candidate, while African-Americans polled favored Blagojevich over Ryan 85-7 .
"This continues a string of successes we've seen throughout this campaign," said Blagojevich spokesman Billy Weinberg. He also said the campaign would have no problem if confusion ends over which Ryan is the challenger.
"Whether or not people identify the Republican candidate in 2002 as Jim Ryan or George Ryan, we have substantial information on that candidate demonstrating why he is unfit to lead the state of Illinois," Weinberg said. "We in fact welcome the chance to shed greater light on Jim Ryan's failures as attorney general, DuPage County prosecutor and his inability to address issues that affect people."
Dan Curry, spokesman for Jim Ryan, said Republicans have said all along that people would focus on the contest after the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and that the poll numbers would tighten.
The poll showed Ryan "significantly closer" to Blagojevich than other recent polls, he said, indicating that people are "sorting out the records and the rhetoric."
With four debates and more high-profile campaigning on the way, Curry said, voters will "prefer a career prosecutor who's put both Republicans and Democrats in prison over the inexperienced (son-in-law) of a Chicago ward boss." Blagojevich, a former state representative and member of Congress, is married to the daughter of a Chicago alderman.
In a separate poll question, less than a third of respondents said that the governor's problems would steer them away from voting for Republicans on Nov. 5.

Hearing on privatization ends;
judge wants arguments briefed

September 17, 2002

Peterson began hearing AFSCME's legal argument against Ryan's plan to privatize prison dietary and commissary functions last week.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the Illinois Department of Corrections from entering into a contract with a private vendor remains in effect.

Government attorneys had earlier argued unsuccessfully that the TRO should be lifted because of an emergency situation. They had maintained that the FY03 budget enacted by the General Assembly was based on the assumption that these services would be privatized, and that significantly less money had been appropriated than is required to have them provided by DOC employees.

Peterson rejected that argument.

 


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Blagojevich news event takes twist
Says he used marijuana twice when younger
 
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
State Capitol Bureau
17 SEPT 2002
 
U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic nominee for governor, called a Monday news conference to tout a business group's endorsement, but the event took an unexpected twist when he admitted to having used marijuana twice.
He said he had smoked marijuana on two occasions when he was "college-age" but never experimented with other illicit drugs. He said he wasn't sure whether he had inhaled when he smoked marijuana.
"I just don't know," said Blagojevich, who added that he doesn't smoke and that he jogs regularly. "I did it twice, and I was so inept at it that I don't know if I did or didn't" inhale.
"I never liked the smell of it, but it was a smell that we all - of our generation - are very familiar with," said the 45-year-old Blagojevich.
Dan Curry, a spokesman for Attorney General Jim Ryan, Blagojevich's Republican opponent, said the 56-year-old Ryan "has not smoked any pot or used any illegal drugs of any type."
Blagojevich was asked about illegal drugs during the question-and-answer portion of a Statehouse news conference meant to focus on his endorsement from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which has backed Republicans in the past two gubernatorial campaigns.
He called the business group's endorsement "a big step forward" and suggested it was a sign of the kind of governor he would be if elected Nov. 5.
"The idea that if labor is for you, business should be against you, and if business is for you, labor should be against you, I think is tired and old and fails to realize that we're all in this together," Blagojevich said. "My goal as governor is to bring people together so we can grow our economy and create jobs."
Jim Ryan has collected endorsements from other business-related groups in the state, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.
Ryan's campaign said the Republican was being snubbed by the retailers because of his crusade against violent "M-rated" video games and for cracking down on gasoline stations that increased fuel prices immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Jim Ryan hasn't been afraid to ruffle feathers ... if he's in pursuit of doing what he feels is right," Curry said. "That's the way he'll operate as governor."
During a Chicago news conference about Blagojevich's IRMA endorsement, a disagreement unfolded between the Democrat and the retail group's president, David Vite.
Vite said his group chose to endorse Blagojevich over Ryan partly because the Democrat would "work with us on issues like M-rated videos." Jim Ryan, as attorney general, waged a campaign two years ago to pressure stores to stop selling the often-violent video games or to ask young people for identification to make sure they're at least 17 before selling.
"We disagreed with the philosophy of (Ryan), and we don't get the impression from Congressman Blagojevich that he would use the powers of his office to put more regulatory structure around retailers' ability to serve their customers," Vite said.
"This is the first I've heard of this issue," Blagojevich said when asked about his stance on M-rated video games. "It seems to me that this would be an appropriate place where there should be some regulation."
Blagojevich said he likes the idea of checking the age of minors seeking to buy the video games and advocates putting public pressure on retailers who deal in ultraviolent material.
He noted that he and the retailers association have other policy disagreements, such as his support for raising the minimum wage.
On another subject, Blagojevich said Monday at the Springfield news conference that the issue of reopening Lincoln Developmental Center needs a lot of study.
There are different challenges there, specifically, than at some of the other facilities that have closed recently. Gov. George Ryans decision to shut the facility down was not done in a thoughtful way, he said.
Later, Blagojevich said he isnt backpedaling on his previous comments that he would reopen LDC if elected governor.
Im not hedging. I want to reopen it. But theres issues of care and treatment, he said. I want to reopen it, but the question is how do you do it and how do you provide the right kind of services.
Copley News Service reporter Mike Ramsey also contributed to this story. Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com. Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com.

Death row inmate objects to petition
 
By Steve Silverman
Pantagraph staff
13 SEPT 2002
 
PONTIAC -- Convicted killer Anthony Hall has spent the past 19 years fighting for his life, but now he's objecting to a request that Gov. George Ryan commute his death sentence for the 1983 slaying of a prison food service supervisor.
Last week, Hall filed court papers seeking to nullify a clemency petition filed on his behalf by the University of Chicago MacArthur Justice Center. He said he didn't consent to the petition, and contends appeals and constitutional challenges to his murder conviction and death sentence "could viably be argued moot" if Ryan commutes his sentence to life in prison.
"I humbly request that no application for Executive Clemency be considered by the Illinois (Prisoner) Review Board nor by the Governor of Illinois in reference to Mr. Anthony Hall," Hall wrote.
Hall, 43, cites state law requiring clemency applications have "written consent of the defendant, unless the defendant, because of mental or physical condition, is incapable of asserting his or her own claim."
In 1985, Hall was convicted and sentenced to die for the fatal stabbing of Pontiac Correctional Center food service supervisor Frieda King.
A federal appeals court upheld Hall's conviction in 1997, but ordered a new sentencing hearing because his attorneys failed to investigate two potential witnesses or advise him that one juror's objections could have saved him from the death penalty.
A McLean County jury re-sentenced Hall to death in 1998.
Hall states that he didn't give authorization or implied consent for anyone to seek clemency on his behalf.
MacArthur Justice Center Director Locke Bowman could not be reached for comment.
About 160 clemency petitions are pending with the state Prisoner Review Board. Gov. George Ryan, who halted executions in 2000 after 13 death row inmates were found to have been wrongly convicted, has said he wants the board's input before deciding whether to commute death sentences to life in prison.
Last week, Ryan said he expects to commute death sentences "for everybody or for nobody" before leaving office in January.
Hall's former attorney, Charles Schiedel of the State Appellate Defender's office, said some death row inmates had reservations about seeking clemency because they feared commutations would nullify their pending appeals. He said he doesn't believe appeals that allege wrongful convictions would be affected by commutation.
"I personally believe that's an unwarranted concern," he said.
However, Schiedel said appeals that specifically challenge the validity of the death penalty could be rendered moot by the governor granting relief from execution.
Schiedel wouldn't comment specifically on the case because he longer represents Hall. Hall's current attorney, Jon Stromsta of Chicago, could not be reached for comment.

Gun rights group won't back Ryan
 
By Rick Pearson and Ray Long, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporters Susan Kuczka and Christi Parsons contributed to this report
September 13, 2002
 
The Illinois State Rifle Association said Thursday it would not endorse a candidate for governor in the Nov. 5 election, a move that is a blow to Republican Jim Ryan's campaign against Democratic gun-control supporter Rod Blagojevich.
In a statement, the gun-owners rights group said it was "unfortunate that the major political parties could not field a candidate worthy of support."
Sources in Ryan's campaign said the group wanted him to support legislation that would allow gun owners to carry a concealed firearm and measures that would repeal the right of larger municipalities to outlaw the possession of guns. Ryan has long opposed those measures.
Still, Ryan had hoped to secure the endorsement of the group, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, given Blagojevich's background in the Illinois House and Congress where he has sponsored several gun-control measures.
The group did make some endorsements in the general election, favoring Republican DuPage County State's Atty. Joe Birkett over his Democratic rival for attorney general, state Sen. Lisa Madigan. It also backed incumbent Republican treasurer Judy Baar Topinka.
Talk is cheap: Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said he will participate in three broadcast debates with Republican challenger state Rep. Jim Durkin, including two on one day.
Durkin, Durbin's vastly underfunded opponent, said he would participate in the three head-to-head meetings scheduled for Oct. 8 in Chicago and Oct. 13 in Chicago and Champaign. But Durkin also said he believed the state "deserves more than three debates because of its size."
Durbin's campaign, however, said it took part in three debates in the Democrat's initial Senate campaign six years ago. "I'm hopeful that the forums we've chosen will reach voters across the state," Durbin said in a statement.
Complaint Department: The Illinois Republican Party filed a complaint with the state's Judicial Inquiry Board, asking it to review $50,000 in contributions made to Democratic attorney general candidate Lisa Madigan by the sons of Cook County Judge Sheldon Harris. The judge received help for his election campaign from Madigan's father, state Democratic chairman and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Lisa Madigan, who on Thursday received the backing of the environmentalist Sierra Club of Illinois, said "absolutely not" when asked if she believed any illegality had occurred in relation to the contribution.
Her spokeswoman, Melissa Merz, also said an attempt this week by the FBI to speak to the judge was "in no way related to Lisa Madigan or her campaign." FBI agents visited the judge in his chambers Monday, one of his attorneys has said. But the judge said he has not talked to federal authorities. Federal officials would not discuss the matter.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Board of Elections voted unanimously to dismiss a complaint filed by Democratic operative Joe Novak against the Tribune and Birkett, citing no justifiable grounds.
Novak, a top strategist for Democrat Glenn Poshard's failed 1998 campaign for governor who also has ties to U.S. Rep. William Lipinski and former Chicago Ald. Edward Vrdolyak, alleged that Tribune articles about Lisa Madigan were the result of collusion between the newspaper and Birkett and should be disclosed as campaign contributions.
Steve Sandvoss, the hearing examiner as well as counsel over campaign disclosure issues for the state elections panel, said Novak was "mixing apples and oranges" by trying to treat legitimate news articles as campaign donations.
 

2 protesting Pontiac inmates resume eating
 
By Aamer Madhani
Tribune staff reporter
September 13, 2002
Two Pontiac Correctional Center inmates who had said they wanted to starve themselves to death to protest prison conditions may do so, a Downstate judge said this week, lifting a temporary order that had allowed prison officials to force-feed the inmates.
But the ruling is moot because the inmates have started eating again, an Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman said Thursday.
Livingston County Circuit Judge Harold Frobish refused a request by the Illinois attorney general's office Wednesday to continue his temporary order. Last week, Frobish ruled that John Barrell, 39, and Leon Snipes, 41, who reside in the prison's segregation units and spend 23 1/2 hours a day in solitary confinement, could "choose to die in these circumstances rather than live this way."
The judge stayed that order until Wednesday and said the state could force-feed the men in the meantime while the attorney general's office decided whether to appeal.
But on Thursday, Barrell and Snipes had eaten the meals served to them and had not indicated imminent plans of beginning a hunger strike, said corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild.
"No one is trying to starve themselves to death," he said. "If it becomes an issue, we would contact our legal counsel and go from there."
Scott Mulford, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said that if the men decided to begin their hunger strike, Department of Correction officials would be prohibited from force-feeding them to keep them alive.
Barrell, convicted of armed violence in Franklin County in 1991, and Snipes, convicted of criminal sexual assault in Kankakee County, have gone on sporadic hunger strikes in the past, Fairchild said.
Both men are facing prison sentences of at least 30 years and have said they would rather die than endure their current state.
Mulford said the state has not decided whether to appeal Frobish's decision.
Robert Ellington-Snipes, the half-brother of Snipes, said he is trying to arrange a meeting with his brother so he can ask him not to starve himself to death. Ellington-Snipes said the confinement his brother is facing is inhumane.
 

Poll shows Blagojevich could win
 
By Kurt Erickson
Statehouse bureau chief
13 SEPT 2002
SPRINGFIELD -- A new poll shows that Illinois may be headed toward electing its first Democratic governor in three decades.
With less than two months to go before the Nov. 5 election, a sampling of 599 likely voters taken on Sept. 8-10 shows that 52 percent would vote for Democratic U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich.
Republican Attorney General Jim Ryan, who is struggling to overcome voter confusion about his last name, would receive 36 percent of the vote in the poll. It was conducted for The Pantagraph and WEEK TV of Peoria by Research 2000 of Rockville, Md.
The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, also showed that:
Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin continues to hold a commanding lead over his little-known challenger, state Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Westchester.
The race for attorney general is in a statistical dead heat.
And, education continues to be the top issue on the minds of voters.
Blagojevich's lead mirrors surveys taken in recent weeks that show Jim Ryan struggling to differentiate himself from scandal-plagued Gov. George Ryan. The two are not related.
Recently, Jim Ryan's campaign issued a statement urging newspapers and broadcasters to make sure voters do not confuse the two-term attorney general with the governor, who is leaving office in January after one term.
A spokesman for Jim Ryan's campaign said the poll may have showed a tighter race had pollsters attempted to make sure respondents were not confused by the name issue.
"If you eliminate the name confusion, the margin will be a lot closer," said Jim Ryan spokesman Dan Curry. "I think, as we get closer to the election, this confusion will lessen."
Asked their opinion of Jim Ryan, just 38 percent of the respondents had a favorable feeling toward the attorney general, compared to 46 percent for Blagojevich.
The poll also showed the Chicago congressman is topping Jim Ryan in almost every geographical area of the state. In Republican-rich Central Illinois, the Research 2000 results give Blagojevich a 52-33 advantage. In Cook County, Blagojevich's home turf, respondents favored the congressman by a 60-29 margin.
Only in the collar counties of Chicago, where Jim Ryan -- an Elmhurst resident -- once served as a county prosecutor, did he surpass Blagojevich, registering a 50-43 lead.
The Blagojevich campaign said the polls are another indication that voters are ready for a change in Springfield. If Blagojevich is elected, he would become the first Democrat to reside in the governor's mansion since Dan Walker served a single term in the 1970s.
"Certainly, Congressman Blagojevich is not taking his lead for granted," said campaign spokesman Doug Scofield. "What the polls show is an enthusiastic response to the congressman's message."
In the race for control of the U.S. Senate, meanwhile, Illinois appears to a safe lock for the Democrats, who are hanging on to a one-seat majority.
The poll shows that the well-funded Durbin is favored over Durkin by a 56-35 advantage. Durkin, a former assistant county prosecutor and member of the Illinois General Assembly since 1995, also is battling to get his message out: The poll showed 14 percent of the respondents don't know who he is.
In the race for attorney general, state Sen. Lisa Madigan, D-Chicago, held a 41-40 lead over DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett. With nearly 20 percent of the respondents saying they were undecided and the results within the margin of error, the race may hinge on who has the bigger advertising budget.
Madigan, the daughter of House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, has a large lead in fund raising. But, both have been criticized for accepting questionable campaign dollars.
Though ethics has become a dominant theme in this year's election, poll respondents continued to list education as their top issue. Second in priority is the economy, followed by taxes and state spending.
The honesty and integrity of a candidate was the fourth most important issue, the poll said

First pension checks late for state's early retirees

By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
11 SEPT 2002


State workers taking advantage of early retirement are waiting longer than usual for their first pension checks to arrive, a pension official acknowledged Tuesday.

And the delays could be even longer for people who retire at the end of December, when the vast majority of early retirees are expected to leave their jobs.

"At this point, knowing what we know, they'd better plan on (waiting) two months," said Michael Mory, executive secretary of the State Employees Retirement System. "It would be prudent for people to plan ahead."

In other words, Mory said, people planning to take early retirement should make sure they have access to sufficient funds to cover their expenses until the initial pension checks arrive.

Even if they're not part of the incentive program, retiring state workers can expect to wait four to six weeks for their first pension checks. For early retirees, the wait is now eight to 10 weeks.

The added time is mostly due to delays by state agencies in processing unused sick and vacation days. Under the early retirement program passed this year in an effort to ease the state's budget crunch, the cash value of those unused days is first applied to the cost of buying early retirement pension credits. If anything is left over, it is given to the worker as a lump sum.

Until SERS gets those records from state agencies, it can't finish the work needed to get a retiring employee's initial pension check in the mail. Mory said SERS still hasn't received information about unused sick and vacation time for some people who retired Aug. 1 - the earliest date to use early retirement.

"We have to wait for the agencies to forward information about the lump sums," Mory said. "I don't know what we do about it."

If the past is any indication, there'll be even longer delays. Mory estimates that 70 percent of state workers planning to retire early will leave their jobs Dec. 31, the last day they can. When an early retirement plan was offered to state workers in 1991, 70 percent left on the last day.

That means, Mory said, that state agencies and SERS are facing a huge paperwork increase later this year, even beyond what they are coping with now.

About 20,000 state workers are eligible for early retirement, and Mory said he still anticipates about 7,500 will take it.

"We're not really upping the estimates," Mory said, despite some reports that indicated otherwise.

About 1,100 people retired Aug. 1, and another estimated 1,000 left Sept. 1. About 600 people have filed so far to retire in December.

In all, some 3,600 applications to retire have been filed, although people can still change their minds after filing.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.


 

Next governor stuck with leftovers
Job probation reduced from six months to 30 days
 
By MIKE RAMSEY and DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
11 SEPT 2002
CHICAGO - Republican Gov. George Ryan on Tuesday won the ability to lock in several political appointments for the next four years, even though a new administration will take over in January.
Ryan's proposal to cut the probationary period for "term appointments" from six months to 30 days effectively passed the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, or JCAR, with the help of four Republican panel members. A Democratic attempt to forbid the new policy failed 5-4 on a partisan vote; it needed seven votes to succeed.
Critics of the rule change say it will allow the lame-duck Ryan to award lucrative state jobs to cronies and protect them from being ousted by the next governor. Ryan has argued that the shorter probation period will encourage experienced state workers to fill vacancies created by senior officials who are taking advantage of early retirement incentives.
Ryan spokesman Dennis Culloton predicted the governor will fill only about 20 vacancies within roughly 650 potential slots. The openings include an engineer in the Illinois Department of Transportation and a "key manager" who would oversee the disbursement of social services funds, he said.
"We're just trying to make sure government continues to function over the next several months," Culloton said.
Democrats, who stand to win the Executive Mansion in the Nov. 5 election for the first time in three decades, countered that state agencies currently have the flexibility to fill positions on an interim basis. They see patronage motives at the heart of Ryan's plan.
"I think that it's just a crass move ... and that it's contrary to the public interest," said state Sen. Lisa Madigan, D-Chicago, a JCAR member who's running for Illinois attorney general.
Both gubernatorial candidates also criticized the rule change.
"This is a blatant attempt by the current administration to protect highly paid, highly political government officials from being replaced by the next governor," Blagojevich said in a written statement.
Jim Ryan spokesman Dan Curry said Ryan will reverse Tuesday's action if he's elected. If the outgoing governor uses the new policy, he should limit new appointments "to only those appointments that are absolutely necessary," Curry added.
All members of the JCAR panel, Republicans included, approved an objection to the rule change before the stronger opposition measure was introduced. The objection, however, is non-binding to the state Department of Central Management Services, the agency that will draft the new policy.
"We would respond to the objection, but I think that the intent of the rule changes would remain intact," CMS spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.
The rule change also will remove requirements that the political appointees come from an existing list of qualified candidates. The list currently offers preference to veterans.
Appointees must have two years of experience in state government.
Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com and Doug Finke at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.
 

Statehouse INSIDER
 
BY DOUG FINKE
STAFF WRITER
08 Sept 2002
Attorney General JIM RYAN, the Republican candidate for governor, is in a bit of a pickle.
Polls show that some people out there in voter land still confuse him with GEORGE RYAN, the scandal-plagued governor who is not running for re-election. More sympathetic we could not be.
Because of this confusion, Jim Ryan has to publicly draw attention to the fact that he is a separate person, as he did last week when he asked newspapers to take greater steps to emphasize that Jim and George are two different Ryans.
But when Jim Ryan does this, it elicits a surly response from George Ryan, who's developed gossamer skin lately. After Jim Ryan's letter to newspapers was published, George Ryan said: "Jim Ryan's been a lousy candidate. Jim Ryan has been attorney general for eight years. If he hasn't distinguished himself now, he probably never will."
Yes, these tirades help to underscore that there are two completely different Ryans in Illinois politics. But it can't help to have a Republican governor (even this one) calling the Republican candidate for governor a "lousy candidate," can it? Truly a pickle.

You know what's really scary about all of this?
After all of news coverage devoted to the official activities of the Ryans during the eight years they've held statewide office at the same time, after all of the news coverage of the scandals surrounding George Ryan, after all of the news coverage of the governor's race in which it should be clear to anyone over the age of 6 that that George Ryan and Jim Ryan are not the same person, after all of that, there are still uninformed dolts who think the Ryans are the same person. Worse, these uninformed dolts will be allowed to vote.
Do us all a favor. If you can't be bothered to learn even that little bit about public officials who can wield great power over your lives, just stay home on Election Day.

A press release arrived Friday from U.S. Rep. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, D-Chicago, the Democratic candidate for governor.
"Blagojevich to attend commemorative joint session of Congress in New York City on Friday," the release was headlined.
Guess it counts as news nowadays when Blagojevich attends a session of Congress.

Democratic political operative JOE NOVAK is upset with some news coverage of this year's campaigns. What sets him apart from the million or so other people who feel the same way is that he's taking his complaint to the state Board of Elections.
Novak feels that the Chicago Tribune is biased in favor of Republican attorney general candidate JOE BIRKETT and against Democrat LISA MADIGAN. Novak contends that the Tribune is doing this in collusion with the Birkett campaign. If we follow this correctly, Novak believes the Tribune is publishing negative stories about Madigan that Birkett can then use in TV and radio ads and in campaign brochures.
Since the Birkett campaign benefits from these stories, they should be reported as in-kind contributions on campaign disclosure reports, Novak says. Finally, Novak says the Tribune should register as a political action committee because of its active support and opposition of political candidates.
Novak, incidentally, was GLENN POSHARD's campaign manager in 1998. He's long felt the Tribune was soft on the burgeoning licenses-for-bribes scandal back then and that it cost Poshard dearly.
Altogether, this whole thing is a novel publicity gimmick. We'd guess this complaint has as much chance of success as George Ryan has of winning another election. However, if Novak wins this, does it mean that Blagojevich will have to report George Ryan's comments about Jim Ryan as in-kind contributions?

Republican secretary of state candidate KRISTINE O'ROURKE COHN is on something called her "Lose the Wait" tour in which she will visit all secretary of state facilities in Illinois. It's part of her campaign pledge to eliminate long waits at drivers' license facilities.
Last week, Cohn scheduled a visit to a facility in Bradley. She showed up late. Cohn didn't show up just a little late, she was a full 90 minutes late, according to the Kankakee newspaper reporter kept waiting to cover the "Lose the Wait" tour.
Care to guess what part of Cohn's visit the newspaper focused on?
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com

Corrections Employee Accidentally Shoots Self

 

5 Sept 2002

SPRINGFIELD An Illinois Department of Corrections employee was injured Wednesday when a handgun discharged in a Corrections office.

Department spokesman Sergio Molina said the employee, whom he would not name, was shot about 10 a.m. in an office at the department's main campus on Springfield's east side.

Corrections employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, told THE ASSOCIATED PRESS the injured man was Capt. Cecil Polley, a member of the agency's elite Special Operations Response Team.

Hospital officials said Polley was taken into surgery for a gunshot wound Wednesday afternoon. He was still in surgery at 9 p.m.

Corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild would not describe the injury, other than to say it was a superficial "flesh wound." A call to Polley's home was unanswered.

Molina said he didn't know how the incident occurred but that agency officials would investigate it. He said he did not know how long the investigation would last.

"It's going to take as long as the investigator takes to ask questions of and discuss it with the people he needs to discuss it with," Molina said.

The incident occurred on the second floor of Conkle Hall, which houses offices for the special operations team, the planning and research division and the grants division, among others.

Conkle Hall's first floor contains classrooms for the agency's training academy, which readies cadets to be prison guards.


 


Governor signs off on strict gift ban

Bribe scandal, `election fear' tied to passage

By RAY LONG

Tribune staff reporter

August 29, 2002

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. George Ryan approved a bill Wednesday to ban state and local government employees from soliciting campaign contributions from people or businesses they regulate, a measure proponents maintained would have discouraged the types of crimes committed in the licenses-for-bribes scandal.

The law also set a $100 limit on the value of gifts that public officials can receive.

It was the last bill Ryan signed out of a batch of 348 sent to him during the General Assembly's spring session.

Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) called the solicitation ban a "common sense" approach that will apply to state inspectors and other employees whose duties include everything from oversight of barbershops to commercial driver's licenses.

"If this law were in place, it is likely that the secretary of state's licenses-for-bribes scandal could have been averted or there would have been many fewer individuals headed toward jail," said Dillard, a sponsor in the upper chamber.

Federal prosecutors have charged 57 people and convicted 46 in the Operation Safe Road scandal, which unfolded at the secretary of state's office when Ryan ran it and raised at least $170,000 in bribes that wound up in his campaign fund.

The solicitation ban was first championed by Democrat Patrick Quinn, who lost to Ryan in the 1994 race for secretary of state.

Now Quinn is running for lieutenant governor, a job Ryan once held.

Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago), who pushed the bill through the House several times only to see it die in the Senate, said a powerful force that helped win passage in both chambers this year was "election fear."

"A lot of legislators did not want to go back to their districts without doing something to address the scandals that have been dominating the headlines," Fritchey said. "It's a bright day for reform, but it's unfortunate that it took a complete loss of faith in state government for us to get this passed."

Ryan and other statewide officials have issued executive orders that put in place similar bans on the solicitation of campaign contributions, but lawmakers pushed to ensure such bans now will have the force of law. A violation is punishable by up to a year in jail.

The new law also will apply to local government workers, Dillard said.

"In a city, an elevator inspector cannot solicit contributions from the owner of a big downtown high rise," Dillard said.

The gift limit of $100 is a response to confusion in the state's gift ban act, which had prohibited accepting gifts of anything beyond "nominal" value.

It is aimed partly at lobbyists, who are well-known gift givers, but it has a broader reach that puts the limits on most people seeking official actions from public officials.

The new law sets the limit for state officials and provides guidelines for local governments, Dillard said.

Boy upset by bids for clemency
 
August 29, 2002
BY DAVE MCKINNEY SUN-TIMES SPRINGFIELD BUREAU
 
 

There is probably no 8-year-old boy in Illinois more upset right now with Gov. Ryan than Jordan Evans.
Just before turning 2, Jordan was present when his pregnant mother, Debra Evans, and her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, were murdered in the family's Addison apartment in 1995. His mother's nearly full-term fetus was cut from her body and kidnapped along with his 8-year-old brother, Joshua, whose body was recovered later in a Maywood alley.
Jordan was found unharmed in the apartment, and his infant brother, Elijah, was later rescued by police. Now Jordan knows that two of the people convicted and sentenced to death for the gruesome crimes against his family--Jacqueline Annette Williams and Fedell Caffey--want the governor to spare them from execution.
"He's very upset about it," said Jordan's grandfather and guardian, Sam Evans. "He said, 'What can we do? I'll talk to the president. Let me talk to somebody.' I let him know in this case, it wouldn't be the president; it would be the governor. He said, 'I'll talk to him, too. I'll tell him they wouldn't let my mom live, so why should he let them live?' "
In clemency petitions newly filed with the Prisoner Review Board, Williams and Caffey argued they should not be executed by the state because they were convicted and sentenced under a criminal justice system that Ryan has described as deeply flawed.
Since spring, the governor has openly hinted that he might be willing to reduce the death sentences of all 160 Death Row inmates to life in prison because of his concerns that there may be other innocent people beyond the 13 former Death Row inmates who have been exonerated.
Ryan's logic, however, confounds Sam Evans, who lives with Jordan and Elijah near the southeastern Illinois town of Lawrenceville, 230 miles south of Chicago.
"Why do we have the jury system? Why do we have the system we have if you're going to have a man who happens to be governor, and he can, with a twist of his pen, change the whole thing? I totally disagree with that," said Evans, who said he believes the governor's interest in the issue is partly designed to divert attention from the licenses-for-bribes scandal.
"He couldn't have come up with a better thing to change the focus, to get them off his back," Evans said.
Evans has sought a face-to-face meeting with the governor but so far has gotten no response. If the governor would meet with him, Evans said an Eagles club in his town has offered to sponsor his trip to Springfield.
"He has just kind of blown all of us off," Evans said. "I was going to go up to DuPage County and get some of the more gruesome pictures of my daughter and my grandkids to show them to the governor and ask him, if they were his daughter and grandkids, would he still feel the same way?" Evans said.
"If they'd been given the death penalty, would he want them to be free of that? In his heart, I just can't believe he would."
Ryan spokesman Dennis Culloton said the governor has empathy for the Evans family but has no record of any request for a meeting. Regardless, Culloton said Ryan would prefer that families express their concerns directly to the Prisoner Review Board.
"In terms of meeting with the families of victims, the governor is not planning on doing that at this point," he said. "Mr. Evans has been through an absolute parent's nightmare and a grandparent's nightmare and is entitled to express his opinion whenever and wherever he wishes. The governor respects that."
Culloton said it is a "cheap shot" to assert that the governor's interest in capital punishment is merely a diversion from his other problems. "His whole tackling of the capital punishment system has not been because of his concern for heinous criminals. It's been because of his concerns that the system has made so many errors almost to create greater tragedies 13 times," Ryan's aide said.
In justifying why they should have their death sentences set aside, Williams and Caffey said they were convicted and sentenced without benefit of several criminal justice reforms proposed by a Ryan-appointed commission on the death penalty.
Williams, who is black, contended she was represented by an inexperienced attorney, judged by an all-white jury not polled about their views on racial issues, was not videotaped during her encounters with police and received a harsher sentence than another participant in the crimes.
Caffey argued that his jury was not given proper instructions on how to weigh eyewitness testimony, the death sentence and statements Joshua Evans made implicating him before the boy was killed, among other things.
DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, whose office prosecuted the pair, said he will fight to keep Williams and Caffey on Death Row and added that Ryan would be abusing his pardon power if he commutes their sentences. "This is one of the most heinous displays of violence I've seen in my lifetime," said Birkett, the GOP nominee for attorney general.
As the debate swirls out of his reach, Jordan Evans doesn't remember as much about the killings as he once did, his grandfather said.
"Jordan asked me, 'Grandpa, do you think my mom would be mad because I don't remember all the stuff when she was killed?' I just let him know that his mom would be glad he don't need to carry that around with him."

Privatization arguments postponed
until Wed., Sept. 11, in Grundy County
August 26, 2002
THE GOVERNOR'S ATTORNEYS unsuccessfully argued that the TRO should be lifted because of an emergency situation. They had maintained that the FY03 budget enacted by the General Assembly was based on the assumption that these services would be privatized, and that significantly less money had been appropriated than is required to have them provided by DOC employees.
Full arguments on Gov. Ryan's privatization plan begin in Judge Peterson's courtroom Wed., Sept. 11. 
 
 
 

Governor vetoes higher costs for prison goodies
 
24 Aug 2002
 
Springfield(AP) - Gov. George Ryan says prison inmates should not be charged more for their cigarettes and snacks.
   Ryan vetoed a bill Friday that would have raised prices on items sold at prison commisaries. It allowed an extra 35 percent charge on tobacco products and 25 percent on all other products. Most of the profits would have been used to pay wages and benefits for commisary and cafeteria employees.  
     But Ryan plans to hire private companies to handle those duties. He says the extra money won't be needed to pay them.
  The state's main government- employee union is challenging Ryan's plan to privatize prison jobs.
   Lawmakers could override Ryan's veto.

Ryan gives another legislator high-paying job
 
By Kurt Erickson
Statehouse bureau chief
23 August 2002
 
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. George Ryan has quietly appointed yet another soon-to-retire Republican lawmaker to a lucrative position in state government. Just a month after handing a more than $100,000 per year post to one GOP senator who was poised to leave office, the governor nominated state Sen. Walter Dudycz, R-Chicago, to become executive director of the Illinois Racing Board. The move, like at least one other Ryan appointment, could provide a significant boost to Dudycz's taxpayer-paid pension. Dudycz, a 52-year-old former police detective, was set to leave office in January after 17 years because his legislative district was redrawn to favor the election of a Democrat. With the appointment, which takes effect Sept. 1, Dudycz's salary at the horse racing regulatory board will exceed $103,000 -- a more than $25,000 raise from his salary as an assistant majority leader in the Senate. The appointment is just the latest in a string of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Ryan in the waning days of his scandal-plagued administration. In July he appointed former state Sen. Thomas Walsh, R-Westchester, to a seat on the Illinois Labor Relations Board. State Sen. Robert Madigan, R-Lincoln, received a significant pension boost by serving for one year on the Illinois Industrial Commission -- a position he vacated July 5. His replacement on that board will be Ryan's top lawyer, Diane Ford. Another top Ryan staffer, legislative affairs director Michael P. Madigan, will move to the Labor Relations Board when Ryan leaves office in January. Like the Ford appointment, the lack of a formal announcement of Dudycz's hiring stands in contrast to the last time Ryan appointed a racing board director. Just three years ago, Ryan issued a glowing press release announcing the appointment of Jack L. Kubik to head the board. "Jack Kubik is an experienced legislator and businessman," Ryan said at the time. "I look forward to working with him and using his vast experience to help make Illinois racing strong and vibrant." This time, however, the governor issued no formal statement. Even some Senate Republican staff members were unaware of Dudycz's departure when contacted Thursday morning. The governor, through spokesman Ray Serati, had this to say about Dudycz: "He brings a broad wealth of experience to this position. He was in the legislature, so that should help. He has expertise in detective work, so that should help." The racing board signed off on Dudycz's hiring in a special meeting in Chicago on Wednesday, said interim executive director Mark Laino. Dudycz did not return telephone messages left at his Chicago legislative office.
 

Ex-Ryan aide tapping friends for cash
 
August 23, 2002
BY TIM NOVAK AND STEVE WARMBIR STAFF REPORTERS  
 
Gov. Ryan's former top aide, Scott Fawell, has mailed letters to state workers, lobbyists and friends asking them to help pay his legal bills so he can fight charges that he illegally used state resources to elect Ryan governor.
Fawell is trying to raise money for his defense fund at the same time the governor's friends are trying to amass a defense fund to help Ryan pay legal bills from the on-going federal investigation that has snared Fawell and other Ryan cronies. Ryan has not been charged, but his campaign fund, Citizens for Ryan, is charged with racketeering.
"I'll give George money, but I won't give Fawell any,'' said one lobbyist who got Fawell's letter asking for a $1,000 donation. Others got letters asking for $250.
In Fawell's letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, he says he cannot afford his growing legal bills. Fawell was indicted in April, and his wife filed for divorce a few days later.
Since his indictment, Fawell has been on a paid leave of absence from his $195,000-a-year job as the CEO of the agency that runs McCormick Place and Navy Pier.
"As you know, in America you are presumed innocent of a crime until proven guilty,'' Fawell wrote in the letter. "I have found myself facing the greatest challenge of my life proving those words. In order to prove my innocence I need the best legal representation I can afford. The government has an unlimited budget--our tax dollars--but I don't.
"I have already expended over $150,000 of my own money, but this will not begin to pay my expenses. I unfortunately do not have the means to continue to fight this battle without the help of my friends. It is only with your assistance and generosity that I will be able to pursue this battle. I am asking for your contribution of $1,000 to pursue this goal. Friends of mine will be hosting an evening of cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at Tavern on Rush, 1031 Rush St. on Tuesday, Sept. 17 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
"I hope I can count on your participation. It is only with the support, friendship and understanding of those around you that make tough times like these just a little more bearable.''
Fawell's attorney Edward Genson declined to comment on the letter.
Fawell is charged with using state employees and equipment for Ryan's campaign for governor four years ago. Fawell and the governor's campaign fund are set to go on trial in November.

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Birkett calls for debate with Madigan
Republican challenges opponent for attorney general on issue of public corruption
 
By MIKE RAMSEY
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
22 Aug 2002
 
CHICAGO - Joe Birkett, the Republican nominee for Illinois attorney general, on Wednesday demanded a debate with his Democratic opponent, Lisa Madigan, on a single subject: public corruption.
Meanwhile, Jim Ryan, the GOP candidate for governor, continued crying foul over the Fraternal Order of Police's endorsement of Democrat Rod Blagojevich.
The organization, representing 34,000 officers, this week also snubbed Birkett, the state's attorney of DuPage County, in favor of Madigan, a state senator from Chicago.
"My opponent doesn't have any experience investigating or prosecuting public corruption cases - zero experience," Birkett said in issuing the debate challenge. "It's important that the public understands who is the experienced prosecutor in this race."
Birkett's toss of the gauntlet comes as Madigan faces questions about how she would respond to corruption allegations against her powerful father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, if she became the state's top legal officer. The elder Madigan faces federal inquiries into how he has directed some public funds and used his influence.
Lisa Madigan's campaign last week suggested a broader series of debates with Birkett. Melissa Merz, a spokeswoman for Madigan, stopped short of endorsing Birkett's single-issue format and noted the Republican isn't immune from the type of scandals that have hit the GOP harder this election cycle.
The biggest albatross for Republicans is the continuing federal investigation of graft that occurred within the secretary of state's office under Gov. George Ryan in the 1990s. Birkett previously hired political consultant Roger Stanley, who is among people indicted in the case, Merz said in a written statement.
"Senator Madigan is planning to discuss ethics and public corruption in every debate and public appearance she does with Joe Birkett," she said.
Both Birkett and Madigan have suggested similar anti-corruption plans for the attorney general's office, including creation of a special division to fight wrongdoing by officials and a program to educate state workers about ethics.
Like Madigan, Birkett wants to debate multiple times before the Nov. 5 election.
Also Wednesday, Jim Ryan received a standing ovation for a speech to the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police semiannual meeting in suburban Rosemont. That was a better reception than the one he got a day earlier from the FOP.
Ryan again dismissed the latter group's endorsement of Blagojevich, calling it a "transparent" deal between the Democratic congressman from Chicago and union bosses.
"I've had so many calls from police officers apologizing," said Ryan, a former DuPage County prosecutor who is finishing his second term as attorney general. "I tell them, 'You don't have to apologize.' This is politics as usual in Illinois. This is what you expect."
FOP officials deny Ryan's charge, as did Blagojevich spokesman Billy Weinberg, who said the attorney general's remarks insulted police officers.
"I think it shows a tremendous lack of judgment and really a lapse in responsibility from the state's chief law enforcement officer," Weinberg said.
Also speaking before the police chiefs were Birkett and the GOP candidates for U.S. Senate and Illinois secretary of state, Jim Durkin and Kristine O'Rourke Cohn, respectively. Democratic candidates were invited, too, but only Lisa Madigan appeared before the group, according to George Koertge, executive administrator of the IACP.
The IACP, which has 810 active members, doesn't endorse political candidates, he said.
Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com.
 

Blagojevich wants some control of Democratic effort
 
Bernard Schoenburg
22 Aug 2002
 
The Democratic Party of Illinois, under the leadership of chairman MICHAEL MADIGAN, is trying to set up a coordinated campaign operation to work on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts. The party's candidate for governor says he backs the idea in principle.
But, added U.S. Rep. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, he wants to make sure his campaign has some control over the effort before it donates funds.
"The money isn't the biggest issue by any means," Blagojevich said in Springfield this week. "In fact, it's probably the least important issue. It's the role that our campaign will have in the coordinated campaign to have some input on the substance, the message of the campaign, and the operation of the campaign."
The effort "has to have input from all the different campaigns, and it cannot be an abdication of our campaign to some other campaign. ... Wish us luck. I'm cautiously optimistic."
Could this be another example of a less-than-warm-and-fuzzy relationship between Blagojevich and Madigan, who clearly wants his daughter, state Sen. LISA MADIGAN, to be the next attorney general?
You be the judge.
At the Illinois State Fair last week, Madigan and Blagojevich traded barbs about Madigan's role in funneling $300,000 to a Springfield livestock show - which Madigan said was good economic development, and Blagojevich labeled pork. But Blagojevich also praised the statewide effort to be put together by Madigan.
Blagojevich also said the party would stand behind its leader - unlike state Republicans recently.
"We're going to have the best darn coordinated campaign in the history of Illinois," Blagojevich said.
Madigan spokesman STEVE BROWN said the coordinated effort will be paid for by the campaigns of statewide candidates, though he would not say how much is being asked of each.
"The message will be, 'Vote for Democrats,'" Brown said. "Why should there be any problem?"
"As with any campaign," Brown also said, "People are trying to do it with the least contribution possible."
Campaign sources say that the party wants $200,000 from the Blagojevich camp and the deal was close to getting done.
Meanwhile, there are various offices in the state where Democratic candidates are working out of the same buildings. U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN and statewide candidates Blagojevich, Secretary of State JESSE WHITE, and treasurer candidate TOM DART all have space in an old house in the 2900 block of South Koke Mill Road in Springfield. Durbin also has space in a downtown Chicago building where Dart and Lisa Madigan have campaign space, and Durbin helped DuPage County Democrats open a converted beauty salon in Lombard as a headquarters for local and statewide candidates this week.
Oblinger praises Bomke
CARL OBLINGER, the longtime Republican who switched to the Democratic Party to run for the Illinois House in the 100th District, has put some of his bipartisanship in writing.
In a news release issued last week, after Gov. GEORGE RYAN had named three new members to the Health Facilities Planning Board, which ultimately voted to close the Lincoln Developmental Center, Oblinger objected to the governor's "stacking the deck" against the facility.
But he also had some praise for Republican state Sen. LARRY BOMKE, R-Springfield, in the process.
"The key to the long-term survival of the center should be determined by a new governor and legislature, not by a lame-duck governor and his friends," Oblinger said. "I will be a voice for the patients of the Lincoln Developmental Center and their families in that new legislature."
The next line of the news release is: "'This should not be a partisan issue,' said Oblinger, as he praised Republican Sen. Larry Bomke's ongoing efforts to save the center."
"I was surprised at it," DON TRACY, the Democratic Springfield lawyer running against Bomke in the new 50th Senate District, said of Oblinger's praise of the Republican. "I mean, we're emphasizing party unity. But LDC is a difficult issue, and there are unusual alliances all around."
Oblinger says he's for Tracy, who he said can provide "good, professional representation." But on LDC, he said, Bomke has shown "a lot of courage."
"When credit is due, it's due," Oblinger said.
Bomke has been a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to keep LDC open. Tracy said he called for mediation instead as a better way to achieve a resolution.
"The governor decided to downsize it, and Larry sued, and now it's closed," Tracy said, referring to the decision by the health facilities board to close LDC. "It sure seems like there's all-out war between a Republican senator and a Republican governor
"Senators are there to work solutions out," Tracy said. He thinks Bomke was ill-prepared to defend the center when its funding was debated on the Senate floor.
Bomke said all other efforts were exhausted before the suit went to court.
"It would have been closed months ago had we not filed the lawsuit," Bomke said.
Tracy also noted the center is not in Bomke's current district. But Bomke has said parents of LDC residents are in his district.
RICH BRAUER of Petersburg, Oblinger's opponent in the new 100th House District, said he has met with Bomke to discuss LDC and didn't agree with the governor's placing three new people on the health planning board. But he said the closure is a dead issue.
"Now, what are we going to do to replace it?" Brauer asked, noting the millions of dollars the facility has meant to the Lincoln economy.
Condolences
It's been a very sad week in The State Journal-Register newsroom, where we feel as if we've lost a family member.
JOHN FARGO, 55, died Saturday in a lawn mowing accident. His wife, CHARLYN, the energetic agribusiness editor of the newspaper, was still working hard covering the Illinois State Fair at the time.
They have a great 12-year-old daughter, KATIE, who could be seen last week tooling around the fair with her mom. This is all so unbelievable.
John Fargo was memorialized at the funeral service Wednesday as a loving husband and father and a strongly religious man who willingly and quietly took on burdens to help others. Our hearts go out to the Fargo family.
Memorial contributions can be made to an educational fund for Katie, in care of Calvary Temple, 1730 W. Jefferson St., Springfield 62702; or to the church.
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or Bernard.Schoenburg@sj-r.com.

Jim Ryan scorns FOP's backing of Blagojevich
 
August 21, 2002
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND SCOTT FORNEK SUN-TIMES STAFF REPORTERS  
 
SPRINGFIELD--The state's largest police organization is run by a Republican, and the majority of its members surveyed favored Republican Jim Ryan for governor.
Yet, the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police embraced rival Democrat Rod Blagojevich Tuesday.
That show of support from the 34,000-member group prompted ridicule from the Ryan campaign and represented a discouraging setback for him, given his career in law enforcement spans more than two decades.
The state FOP hasn't endorsed a Democrat for governor since 1990, but did so this year its leaders said because the Chicago congressman had a "vision" and "fire in the belly" that Ryan lacked.
"Rod Blagojevich spoke clearly and as a man with a vision,'' said Ted Street, president of the state FOP and a Republican.
The leadership committee that chose Blagojevich also was swayed by polls showing Blagojevich well ahead of Ryan and concerns that Ryan had "not given close attention" to the licenses-for-bribes scandal that blew up in the secretary of state's office when led by Gov. George Ryan, Street said.
If elected governor, Blagojevich promised the group he would hire 1,000 police officers statewide, outfit more police departments with life-safety equipment like bulletproof vests and enhance pension benefits. Blagojevich said his program could cost as much as $35 million and be paid for by "reprioritizing spending" in state government.
Jim Ryan had been banking on the state FOP's support to underscore his law-and-order credentials and to interrupt the procession of big-name endorsements that have gone Blagojevich's way all summer long.
"This is a charade," Ryan spokesman Dan Curry said. "This is a hollow endorsement engineered by the leaders of the union."
In response, Blagojevich accused Ryan of showing "disrespect" to police officers and noted a different tune from the attorney general, who was backed by the state FOP in last spring's Republican primaries.
"This is just another typical one-note response by Jim Ryan, another sour note. He will evidently continue to sing the blues when these endorsements don't go his way," Blagojevich said.
Street confirmed that the state FOP, which he stressed is a professional organization and not a union, polled its 17 districts across the state, and six of the nine that responded supported Ryan. While Street said that isn't enough to say with certainty all rank-and-file cops support Ryan, the Republican contended he and not Blagojevich is their favorite.
Ryan was not the only career prosecutor with ambitions for higher office to get snubbed Tuesday. The organization also endorsed Democrat Lisa Madigan for attorney general over DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett. Street praised Birkett's credentials but said one of several considerations in endorsing Madigan was a concern that pro-police legislation might get sidetracked in the Illinois House under her father, Speaker Michael Madigan.
"That was a consideration," Street said, adding that neither he nor the organization felt threatened in any way by the speaker or his staff.

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High hopes as Democrats rally
But some worry a little about overconfidence
 
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
21 Aug 2002
 
A day after Illinois Republicans assembled in Springfield and exposed lingering intraparty divisions, the state's Democrats sought to overcome their own differences and convey the image of a cohesive party that, they say, is destined for a November sweep.
At "Democrat Day" events at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and the Illinois State Fair, an energized corps of party loyalists rooted for the statewide ticket, led by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich. Illinois hasn't elected a Democratic governor since 1972.
"Get one of these out of your closet and get ready for a clean sweep!" said state Democratic Party chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan as he waved a broom during a rally on the fairgrounds.
"It's going to be a clean sweep, top to bottom," said Comptroller Dan Hynes, who is seeking re-election.
Others warned that while Republican scandals are giving Democrats their best chance in years, they shouldn't take a Nov. 5 victory for granted.
"It's easy for us to become complacent and say we have it made," said Secretary of State Jesse White, who is running for re-election. "We don't want to fall short of the mark when it comes to this election."
Pat Quinn, Blagojevich's running mate for lieutenant governor, said complacency isn't likely to be a problem for Illinois Democrats this year.
"I think when you've lost seven straight elections and you haven't elected a governor in 30 years, it's hard to be complacent," Quinn said. "It's important, I think, to have an agenda of issues that you really believe in and you're committed to and you're going to execute if you're elected."
Blagojevich's main opponent in the governor's race is Republican Jim Ryan, the state attorney general. Both are looking to succeed GOP Gov. George Ryan, whose four years have been stained by scandals that took place in the secretary of state's office when he was in charge there.
George Ryan and Jim Ryan aren't related.
At the Democratic rally, Blagojevich mocked Jim Ryan for "trying to suggest that he is the agent for change."
"Well, it ain't change if you replace one Ryan with another Ryan," said Blagojevich, a Chicago congressman. "You want to know what change is? Elect a guy with a name like Blagojevich. That's change."
When contacted later, Jim Ryan spokesman Dan Curry said, "What the people of Illinois are craving for is a new style of leadership. It's not a new political party. It's a change in the character of our leadership."
Curry said the question is whether Ryan or Blagojevich, whom he called "the inexperienced son-in-law of a Chicago ward boss," can do the better job. Blagojevich's father-in-law is Chicago Ald. Dick Mell.
Blagojevich peppered his remarks Thursday with references to singer Elvis Presley and his hits. Presley died 25 years ago today.
"It's been 30 years since we've elected a governor of our party. Thirty years," he said. "Thirty years ago, Elvis was alive and he was doing Vegas. For 30 years, we've been singing 'Heartbreak Hotel,' but when we win in November, the Republicans will be singing 'All Shook Up.'"
"We are going to shake up a system that serves itself instead of the people," Blagojevich added.
Democrats throughout Illinois are single-minded in their efforts to regain the Executive Mansion and other posts, Blagojevich said.
"There will be differences from time to time. It's family squabbles," he said. "But the priorities, the big-picture stuff is what matters, and that's what unites all of us."
On issues such as education and the economy, "there is no disagreement," he added. "Our party speaks as one."
U.S. Sen. John Edwards, a North Carolina Democrat who is considered a possible presidential candidate in 2004, was among the speakers at Thursday's Democratic rally. He criticized President Bush and praised fellow senator Durbin.
Durbin told fairgoers that the warm, sunny weather on Democrat Day at the fair was more favorable than Wednesday's dreary weather on Republican Day.
"What a difference a day makes," Durbin said, singing the opening line of a 1950s tune.
Wednesday was dark, gray and dismal, he said, comparing the Republican event to a funeral. In contrast, he said, Thursday was "a political birthday" for Democrats.
"God knew the difference between Republicans and Democrats," Durbin said. "Let's go get 'em."
Curry, the Ryan spokesman, had a different view of Wednesday's weather at Republican Day.
"By the end of the day it was sunny, and that's exactly what's going to happen in this election," he said.
Adriana Colindres can be reached at 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.
 

Union defends Blagojevich endorsement
 
By BERNARD SCHOENBURG
POLITICAL WRITER
21 Aug 2002
 
Fraternal Order of Police leaders said Tuesday their group's endorsement of Democrat Rod Blagojevich for governor wasn't unanimous, but they bristled at accusations from the camp of Republican candidate Jim Ryan that they are "union bosses" who sold out their members.
"That's disrespectful, and it's wrong," Blagojevich said at a Statehouse news conference to announce the backing of the law enforcement group, which has more than 34,000 members. "People who put their lives on the line every day to protect us and protect our families and protect our communities deserve better than insults from Jim Ryan."
Some member organizations of the state FOP are union groups, state president Ted Street said, but other statewide members are not in any union. He called the statewide FOP lodge a professional organization, not a union.
Ryan spokesman Dan Curry said the endorsement indicates that "all that is good about law enforcement succumbed to all that is bad about union bosses."
The FOP endorsed the Democratic statewide ticket, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield and all six candidates for state constitutional office - including state Sen. Lisa Madigan of Chicago over Republican Joseph Birkett, the DuPage County state's attorney, for attorney general.
Asked whether the group was concerned that it might not get legislation through the Illinois House, where Madigan's father, Michael, is speaker, if she were not endorsed, Street said her father's post "was a consideration."
"That factor was one of several factors, but not the predominant factor, in my decision-making," Street said, adding that no promises or threats were made about legislation.
Melissa Merz, spokeswoman for Lisa Madigan, said that while Birkett has worked with police, "today's endorsement ... shows that the people who know Joe Birkett the best have chosen to support Senator Madigan as Illinois' next attorney general."
Curry said both Lisa Madigan and Blagojevich have little law enforcement experience. Both, he said, "are the products of a Chicago machine that is manipulating organized labor leadership to produce illogical endorsements."
Street acknowledged that Ryan does have some support among the FOP's rank-and-file.
Unscientific polls were taken of members in nine of the FOP's 17 statewide regions of the group, Street said, and in six of those regions, majorities backed Ryan. Two of the three groups where polling showed support for Blagojevich were the Chicago FOP and Illinois State Police, he said.
"Polling is only one element of the endorsement procedure," Street said.
While he said either Blagojevich or Ryan would probably make a good governor, he also said Blagojevich presented more detailed plans.
Some FOP officials thought Ryan's message "was unclear and not definitive," and some were concerned that Ryan had not been aggressive in investigating allegations of corruption in state government, Street said.
The fact that Blagojevich is leading in most polls was "only one of maybe two dozen criteria that we considered," Street added.
Blagojevich's plans include establishing a grant program to let local police departments hire 1,000 new officers. He also wants to improve access to life-saving equipment such as bulletproof vests and ensure adequate pensions. He estimated the cost of those improvements at $20 million to $35 million annually and said he could cut wasteful spending to pay for them.
Blagojevich said he favors keeping the moratorium on the death penalty for the time being. Street said his group opposes the moratorium, but that is not one of the organization's top priorities.
In the new 19th Congressional District, the FOP endorsed U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, over U.S. Rep. David Phelps, D-Eldorado.
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.
 

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Grundy judge upholds TRO
barring privatization bids
August 19, 2002
THE GOVERNOR'S ATTORNEYS unsuccessfully argued that the TRO should be lifted because of an emergency situation. They had maintained that the FY03 budget enacted by the General Assembly was based on the assumption that these services would be privatized, and that significantly less money had been appropriated than is required to have them provided by DOC employees.
Full arguments on Gov. Ryan's privatization plan begin in Judge Peterson's courtroom Tuesday, Aug. 27.

World of difference between GOP, Democrats at fair
 
BY BERNARD SCHOENBURG
POLITICAL COLOMNIST
17 Aug 2002

Despite the clear swipe that Illinois Democratic Party Chairman MICHAEL MADIGAN took at gubernatorial candidate ROD BLAGOJEVICH last week when talking to reporters, it was clear that, from the perspective of the rank-and-file, Democrat Day was a whole lot more fun than Republican Day at this year's Illinois State Fair.
The crowd for the Democrats at the director's lawn was huge, the talk of a sweep in November seemed to build on itself, and the candidates spoke with confidence.
"I've been coming out here for 25 years," said GARY BUDD, Springfield Township supervisor. "I've never seen it this big."
So when state Sen. VINCE DEMUZIO, D-Carlinville, acting as emcee, introduced appellate Justice SUE MYERSCOUGH as the next member of the U.S. Supreme Court, well, it fit in with the enthusiasm.
Actually, she's in the hunt for a seat on the Illinois high court, taking on incumbent Republican Justice RITA GARMAN.
And when U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN likened Republican Day to a political funeral, and Democrat Day to a "political birthday," with good weather for the latter resulting because "God knows the difference between Republicans and Democrats," it was a stretch people seemed to like to hear.
Madigan's swipe at Blagojevich, saying he could talk about Blagojevich's "indiscretions" but won't, raised eyebrows but yielded no specifics. Madigan was getting back at Blagojevich for badmouthing Madigan. The message? Don't mess with the speaker.
Republicans were in a much more somber mood, and what better way to get there than to have embattled Gov. GEORGE RYAN tell everyone within earshot what a great record he has. Among other things, the licenses-for-bribes scandal allegedly perpetrated by his buddies and top aides, the governor said, is stuff nobody should care about. After all, it involves the secretary of state's office, Ryan said, not the governor's office.
Good try.
But Republican candidates - other than Comptroller candidate THOMAS RAMSDELLL, who had to work at his law practice in Chicago - made a valiant effort to try to look forward, not back. And JIM RYAN showed some of the spirit of his days as a champion amateur boxer, trying to hold the troops together.
"What happens in the early rounds of a fight doesn't matter much," he said. "That's when there's all the calculation, and people kind of dancing and feeling each other out. I'll tell you when it matters. It matters in the later rounds. That's when people take off the gloves. That's when you come out of the corners, plant your feet and fight back."
Crunch time is coming.
Questionable language
It's understandable that MARGARET BLACKSHERE, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, is enthusiastic about the Democratic ticket. And I try not to be a prude. But at the Democrat Day rally at the state fair, with perhaps 1,000 people, including a bunch of young kids, in attendance, she probably didn't need bad language to get her point across.
"Don't believe the bulls---," she said from the platform in her speech. "This is a dream ticket."
"I think it fires up the troops," said AFL-CIO spokesman BILL LOOBY. "She's a forceful speaker, and she wanted to use forceful words."
But Blackshere is also a former kindergarten teacher. She might consider finding a use for one of those little bars of soap that Republican secretary of state candidate KRIS COHN has been handing out.
Lucky for some in the crowd at the Democratic event, the sound system didn't seem to generate enough volume to reach all in attendance.
Help for Blagojevich
The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association held a fund-raiser for Blagojevich last week at the group's Springfield headquarters, drawing a good crowd.
ITLA executive director JIM COLLINS estimated that 200 to 250 people attended. Ticket prices ranged from $100 to $1,000.
The group, Collins said, "has never had an opportunity, at least in recent history, to have a rapport with the governor." The incumbent and two previous Republican officeholders, he said, "pretty much had a closed-door policy" in connection with the group.
"We feel that Rod will have an open ear to our issues. His record in Washington and Springfield has been supportive of us. He is a lawyer, which is important also.
"Obviously, (Jim) Ryan is, too, but we're just excited to have an opportunity to have a relationship with a governor of the state of Illinois who will listen to us on the issues that concern us."
One of those issues is the re-enactment of the Structural Work Act, or scaffolding act, which Blagojevich is for and Ryan is against. While the business lobby says the act would hurt the business climate, Collins said that climate is affected by many things.
"I find it hard to believe that the Structural Work Act would be at the top of the list (of things) affecting the business climate," he said. "They ought to look at corporate responsibility and things like that before they even start thinking about the Structural Work Act in Illinois."
The act provides avenues of compensation for injuries outside regular worker's compensation. Labor folks say it's not duplicative, but business types say it can lead to costly and frivolous lawsuits.
Who'll do the job?
Food for thought comes from part of a CBS 2 poll aired last week on WBBM-TV in Chicago. It asked which of the candidates for Illinois governor is best suited to clean up corruption in Illinois state government.
The results: Jim Ryan, 29 percent; Rod Blagojevich, 39 percent; CAL SKINNER (the Libertarian candidate), 4 percent; someone else, 24 percent; and not sure, 5 percent.
The poll of 1,250 adult respondents (at least the people answering the automated calls were supposed to be adults) was done by Survey USA. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.
Evans raises funds
U.S. Rep. LANE EVANS, D-Rock Island, grossed about $45,000 last weekend at a fund-raiser billed as the second annual Democratic Unity Dinner.
Statewide candidates at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for the event included U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN, attorney general candidate LISA MADIGAN, Comptroller DAN HYNES and treasurer candidate TOM DART, said JEREMIAH POSEDEL, Evans' campaign manager.
BLAIR HULL of Chicago, who intends to run for U.S. Senate in 2004, also had a good turnout at his hospitality suite before the main event, Posedel said.
Included in the entertainment was a six- or seven-minute videotape that contained a section on the ethical troubles of the GOP. It referred to news articles from across the state and reportedly contained a frowning picture of Gov. Ryan and pictures of members of the statewide GOP slate with computer-generated frowns in place of their real mouths, Posedel said.
"Everyone I talked to said it was in good humor," Posedel said.
"Obviously, I wasn't there," responded BRAD GOODRICH, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party. "But it sounds like curious humor to me."
Meanwhile, Posedel said a poll taken for the Evans campaign found some high-level Democrats in good shape in the new 17th Congressional District.
The poll, done by Cooper and Secrest June 24-25, showed Blagojevich with a 51-31 percent advantage over Jim Ryan, with 18 percent undecided, in the race for governor. In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Durbin held a 55-25 lead over Republican JIM DURKIN.
However, Durkin said the 17th is a Democratic area. So with Durbin in the 50s, he said, "we're holding our own. ... It's going to be a very fluid election. October is when it's going to count."
Live callers interviewed 504 likely voters. Posedel did not give numbers in Evans' race against Republican PETE CALDERONE of Galesburg. Calderone and Durkin were among Republicans at the GOP state fair rally.
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.

 

Blagojevich, Madigan clash on expo money

 

By BERNARD SCHOENBURG
POLITICAL WRITER
16 Aug 2002
 
An unfettered show of unity that Democrats might have exhibited during their designated day at the Illinois State Fair was marred a bit Thursday as state party chairman Michael Madigan and gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich clashed on funding for a Springfield livestock show.
Madigan also spoke of unidentified "indiscretions" on the part of Blagojevich.
Blagojevich, a congressman from Chicago, said that $300,000 Madigan included in the state budget for the International Livestock Exposition was a "misplaced priority" and a "product of arrogance."
Madigan portrayed the livestock show as an economic development tool that Springfield Mayor Karen Hasara had sought, and on Thursday, he distributed to reporters copies of the pro-show letter he received from Hasara on May 8.
"I'm not an arrogant person," said Madigan, who is House speaker as well as party leader. "Clearly, I occupy a position where I could be arrogant if I wanted to be, but I strive not to be."
He called the differing views of the livestock show a "legitimate difference of opinion between Blagojevich and I."
"Now," Madigan added, "I don't plan to get into any criticism of Blagojevich. I could do that. I could talk about his indiscretions. But I'm not going to do that because I believe in solidarity within the political party."
Madigan would not elaborate on what he meant by "indiscretions."
Blagojevich and his wife made their way to the Democratic County Chairman's Association breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel as reporters were talking to Madigan.
"I have no idea," Blagojevich said when asked what Madigan might mean. "I don't know what he's talking about. I'm the first one to admit that I'm not perfect, and . . . I'm sure somebody could make a case about that, but the bigger issue here is that we're a party that's united, and there are differences even between leaders of our political party, but they're not deep rooted or deep seated."
"I didn't think he was arrogant," Blagojevich added. "What I said was that that misplaced priority (the money for the livestock show) was a product of arrogance. There's a difference."
He said the $300,000 was a misplaced priority at a time "when we're cutting spending for schools, we're cutting spending for health care, we're cutting spending on public-protection issues."
"If I were governor, I'd veto that," Blagojevich said of the money for the show. He said at another point that he would veto it "if we're in a budget crisis."
The $300,000 is to be used for prizes at the series of horse shows and other events, which is promoted by Springfield lawyer John Narmont, who went to Notre Dame with Madigan. Narmont said next year's International Livestock Exposition will last five weeks at the state fairgrounds, going from late March through all of April.
In her letter to Madigan, Hasara quoted a figure of $2.7 million in economic impact on Springfield's local economy, not counting surrounding areas.
"In addition to the economic impact, the Expo provides an incredible variety of events, most of which could only be held at the Illinois State Fairgrounds," the letter states. "For this reason, it is an excellent way to showcase the versatility of one of the best fairgrounds in the country."
Narmont donated $200 to Hasara's campaign in January, but he and the mayor's chief of staff, Brian McFadden, said the donation had nothing to do with the letter.
Narmont called himself merely the "catalyst" for the show, adding, "I don't make any money off of it." His wife is part owner of a food stand on the fairgrounds, which he said donates food and drinks to judges and volunteers. While the stand makes some money during the show, it's about a break-even business year-around, he said.
Madigan and Narmont both said they know each other from college but do not socialize. And Madigan stressed that the livestock show got state funding for about 10 years before he ever became involved about a decade ago.
Last spring, the $300,000 was taken out of the Department of Agriculture budget, but Madigan used member initiative money to restore the amount through funding that goes to the Springfield Convention & Visitor's Bureau.
Madigan compared the appropriation with $2 million for Arlington Racecourse, which he said was directed there by Republicans.
Brian Reardon of the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs said that $2 million was announced in December because of the Oct. 26 running of the Breeder's Cup at the suburban Chicago facility. Of the amount, $1 million was for the Woodfield tourism bureau, and $500,000 a year for two years goes to the track for improvements. The money comes from a fund administered by the agency and backed by hotel-motel taxes, he said.
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.

 

Board votes to close LDC
Center's backers plan appeal
 
By MIKE RAMSEY
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
16 Aug 2002
CHICAGO - The closing of Lincoln Developmental Center drew nearer Thursday with a state panel's endorsement of the plan.
Nonetheless, an attorney for opponents was expected to file a legal challenge in hopes of stopping the transfer of about 150 remaining LDC clients to other facilities.
The Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board unanimously approved a proposal by the state Department of Human Services to shutter the troubled center for developmentally disabled adults, as directed by Gov. George Ryan.
Melissa Wright, assistant director of Human Service's office of developmental disabilities, told board members that LDC has been in danger of losing its Medicaid certification 10 times since 1998 and has a history of neglecting severely retarded residents who need constant supervision.
"No other (state) facility comes anywhere near those kinds of statistics. Client protection has been the biggest problem," said Wright, who cited a string of accidental deaths at LDC.
Ryan has cut state funds to LDC after Aug. 31, a factor that also may have influenced the board. The legislature could restore funding to the Lincoln facility but it won't meet until November's veto session.
"Given the level of funding currently available at Lincoln, it is not an option to keep Lincoln open pending that action," John Stevens, legal counsel to the Bureau of the Budget, told the board during a nearly hourlong exchange.
Such financial arguments have no place in the panel's deliberations, according to the union representing LDC workers. Anne Irving, public policy director for Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the Health Facility Planning Board's primary mission is to "figure out whether (services are) needed or not," not whether there's adequate funding for them.
An attorney for the union is expected to file an appeal in Logan County Circuit Court today and request that LDC be ordered to remain open pending a decision in the legal challenge, she said.
"It will be a matter of getting into court as quickly as we can," Irving said.
More than 40 supporters of LDC - many of them relatives of residents - attended the 9 a.m. board meeting after traveling to Chicago in a chartered bus from central Illinois. They contend the facility has provided good care and are worried that shifting patients to other locations will traumatize them.
Wright outlined the procedures DHS uses with input from guardians.
"It was cut and dried before we got here," complained 65-year-old Ron Gregory of Bloomington, whose son, Brian, lived at LDC for 10 years until recently. "(We came) in the hope that maybe these people or the board have been able to stand up to the governor and independently say, 'We have to do the right thing and keep LDC open.'
"But they couldn't stand on their own feet and act independently. They're puppets of the governor."
Ryan appointed three new members to the board this week amid speculation he was stacking the panel to do his bidding. The trio of newcomers, Phil Bradley of Springfield, Linda Root of Champaign and Clarence Nagelvoort of Chicago, voted "yes" with all of the other members.
The regulators were limited Thursday to asking questions of the petitioners - in this case DHS representatives - but received an official packet before the meeting that included opposition aired at public hearings. Some family members of LDC residents sought to skirt the tight restrictions by sending letters to board members, although such "ex parte" communications are illegal.
William Marovitz, a former state senator from Chicago who sits on the board, said he had read the letters out of respect for the families. He dismissed one official's warning that the letter-writing campaign would be investigated.
"I'm sure (the families) didn't have legal counsel," Marovitz said later. "I don't fault them one bit."
Board members did not disclose the reasons for their votes at the public meeting. For his part, Marovitz said he had relied on the official packet material and Wright's "thorough" description of how DHS will handle transfers of LDC residents.
Also Thursday, the board approved plans to close a 60-bed unit at Singer Developmental Center in Rockford and the George A. Zeller Mental Health Center in Peoria. Zeller became one of the casualties of the state's cash-strapped budget.
Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or cnsramsey@aol.com.
 

J. Ryan stuck in the middle
Our Opinion
State Journal Register
16 Aug 2002
 
THE ILLINOIS State Fair has long been known as a terrific source of fun, thrills and excitement.
But it's usually the Grandstand and the carnival midway, not the Republican tent, that provide the entertainment.
THE BEST sideshow this year came on Wednesday - Governor's Day at the fair - as past and would-be governors discussed how best to keep a Republican in the Executive Mansion without making too big a deal of the fact that there is one there now.
Gov. George Ryan, whose official title at this point might as well include the phrase "who has not been charged with any wrongdoing," told a meeting of the Republican State Central Committee on Wednesday that Republican candidates in this year's election, most notably gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan, should stand on their record of "30 years of solid Republican leadership" and the economic gains it fostered.
Unfortunately, it also fostered more than 40 indictments in the federal investigation dubbed Operation Safe Road, the focus of which is corruption in the secretary of state's office under George Ryan.
FORMER GOVERNORS Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar, meanwhile, used Governor's Day to urge GOP candidates to look to the future and run based on what they will do if elected, not what has happened in the past. This from governors whose terms filled 22 of the 26 consecutive years of Republican governors in Illinois. Were it not for George Ryan's current troubles, they likely could have counseled Jim Ryan to rely heavily on the Republican legacy they helped build.
Jim Ryan is caught in the middle of all this, and never was that more clearly illustrated than on Wednesday, a day the Republicans had given the unintentionally ironic label of "unity rally."
"People want a change in leadership. They're angry, and you can't blame them. They're tired of the misconduct and all of the corruption," Jim Ryan told supporters.
RYAN'S OPPONENT, Rod Blagojevich, has been saying largely the same thing, except that he and Democrats statewide believe the best way to end the corruption is to oust the party that was in charge when it occurred.
Jim Ryan has done his best to distance himself from the governor's administration. He has called for Gov. Ryan's resignation or, barring that, an explanation from the governor of his role in the activities described in the Operation Safe Road documents.
He has been very vocal in his criticism of Gov. Ryan, accusing the governor last month of leaving the Republican Party through his decision-making as governor. The Jim Ryan camp even invoked the hallowed names of Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and George W. Bush to emphasize its belief that George Ryan has strayed far from his Republican heritage.
BUT WEDNESDAY in Springfield - at the state fair and at the Republican State Central Committee meeting at the Hilton - was proof that as long as George Ryan remains in office, and continues to implicitly speak in his own defense whenever microphones are present, Jim Ryan and the Republicans are going to have to answer for him.
Jim Ryan already failed to get a resignation from the governor. Perhaps a muzzle would be just as effective.
 

Prison's closing greeted with tears
 
By JONATHAN BILYK Staff Writer
15 Aug 2002
 
SHERIDAN As the line of men in nondescript yellow jump suits disappeared slowly into the waiting bus, Department of Corrections Maj. Al Renkosik chuckled.
Its amazing, he said. We run transfers three or four times a week, and weve never had staff turn out to watch it before.
But this is history.
Shortly after 8:30 a.m. today, the last two busloads of inmates left the Sheridan Correctional Center for the final time, transporting the jails remaining inmates to new cells at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.
Renkosik said 88 prisoners transferred today, accounting for the last of the nearly 1,600 inmates that were once imprisoned there.
Many staffers turned out to view the procession. Tears were clearly visible in the eyes of several who watched the last bus drive away.
Its a sad, sad day, said Joseph Fox, a vocational instructor at Sheridan for 18 years.
Tomorrow at 7 a.m., when security officers lock the front gate for perhaps the last time, nearly all of the prisons 436 employees will lose their jobs, victims of state budget cuts.
As the prisoners and their escort left the grounds, several officers busily loaded boxes into trucks.
Others walked the hallways lined with stacks of boxes outside barren offices, saying goodbye to both friends and buildings they knew so well.
Its strange walking the halls right now, said Renkosik. Theyre so quiet.
Several nurses in the medical office chose to commit their goodbyes to ink and paper, stuffing the sheets into a time capsule.
This is a very emotional day for all of us, said nurse Marge Clauson, who grew up in Newark and has worked at the facility for 13 months. This has been here my whole life. When you think of Sheridan, you think of the prison.
But with the sadness, others, like Sandy Stephenitch, an office assistant at Sheridan for two and a half years and five-year DOC veteran, voiced hope for the facilitys future.
All of this is so unnecessary, she said.
When this gets reversed, Ill be back.
 

Jim Ryan rallies the GOP crowd on Republican Day at the state fair
 
By BERNARD SCHOENBURG
15 Aug 2002
 
He's not known as a fiery speaker, but Republican gubernatorial candidate JIM RYAN gave a hint Wednesday that he might be learning to better package his message.
At a speech on the Director's Lawn at the Illinois State Fair, where he hosted a lunch on Republican Day, Ryan talked about character, what he's done in office, and then launched a well-written attack on Democratic candidate ROD BLAGOJEVICH.
"Rod Blagojevich, unfortunately, tells people what they want to hear," Ryan said. He then went into a series of issues in which he alleged that Blagojevich has changed positions or not performed as promised. And after each such vignette, he said, "Different day, different audience, different Rod."
This prompted some - but not tremendous - cheers, as the party faithful still seemed, as a group, a bit shell-shocked by problems that have eaten up the summer. But it did give those seeking some tough rhetoric a bit of what they wanted.
Ryan included Blagojevich's changed views on gun laws, which are significantly more toward gun-owners' rights than they have been at times in his political past, and Blagojevich's missed votes in Congress during this campaign season. He also said Blagojevich talks about campaign finance reform but "ignores the existing laws," an apparent reference to not listing on his recent campaign finance report covering the first six months of the year occupations and employers of many large donors.
And while Ryan noted that he made a choice during the primary and picked state Sen. CARL HAWKINSON of Galesburg, Blagojevich didn't choose among primary candidates for lieutenant governor.
"My opponent ducked and dodged and failed to lead, and he ended up with PAT QUINN," Ryan said.
Quinn, a former state treasurer, won a three-way primary.
And in addition to noting the Chicago homes of all statewide Democratic candidates for state offices, Ryan warned of ominous results if Democrats take over all main branches of Illinois government - harkening back to problems he said resulted from a similar circumstance when DAN WALKER was governor in the 1970s.
"We developed a reputation ... as anti-business. We lost jobs. We lost opportunities," he said.
BILLY WEINBERG, spokesman for Blagojevich, said the campaign has made a good-faith effort to comply with disclosure laws, filing about six amended reports. He said Jim Ryan is "sounding like a broken record" and "grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to diminish Rod Blagojevich's record," while obscuring his own failure to investigate scandals.
Blagojevich will get his chance to shine today - Democrat Day - at the fair.
Gov. Ryan touts record
While he wasn't a part of the official Republican rally at the GOP's tent Wednesday, Gov. GEORGE RYAN hasn't been shy during this state fair about promoting himself.
That legacy thing just won't go away.
He appeared Wednesday morning before the Republican State Central Committee at the Hilton Springfield, leaving each member with a booklet, more than 50 pages long, spelling out his accomplishments in office.
"I told them they ought to be talking about the Republican record, the 30 years of government in Illinois, why this state's in the great shape that it is, because we do have a great record," he said afterward.
A day earlier, on Agriculture Day at the fair, Ryan used a rally to list his accomplishments and to be lauded by farm groups happy with things including an agreement hammered out on regulation of big hog operations and his efforts to open markets in Cuba.
Super-voiced ORIEN SAMUELSON, the WGN radio farm broadcasting guru, joined in the high praise, suggesting that after he's out of office, Ryan would make a good ambassador to Cuba. The governor basked in the good talk, though he pooh-poohed the ambassador thing.
Samuelson had spent the night before as a guest of the governor at the Executive Mansion. "It's an honor to be invited," he said.
At Tuesday's rally, printed signs saying "Thank You, Gov. Ryan!" were displayed by some of those gathered. DAVE URBANEK, the governor's communications director, said he and other friends of the governor personally paid for the signs.
Ryan also remains feisty as ever in dealing with reporters. At the Hilton Wednesday, he noted that there's been a lot in the media about "pork" from the government - while he lauds all the good that Illinois FIRST has done, pumping billions into the economy.
So he turned the argument on reporters, some of whom work at the Statehouse pressroom, which is space the state provides.
"You guys are so critical about everything else that's spent, and then you stand there with your both hands out taking it all," he said. He said for-profit groups using the space should pay, "or we ought to put a not-for-profit operation in those spaces."
One reporter said that back in the 1970s, there was talk of rent payments, and then-Gov. JIM THOMPSON wouldn't hear of it.
"Yeah, well he was running for re-election," Ryan said. "I'm not."
He said he might seek to move legislation on the idea, but "I don't know if I can find anybody with the political courage to take you guys on."
Ryan missed the Republican rally Wednesday to travel to the Chicago area to mark the death of a friend. He asked MARY JO ARNDT, a member of the Republican National Committee from Lombard, to speak on his behalf, and she went over many of his accomplishments as well.
The message isn't getting to everybody. A CBS 2 Chicago poll that aired on WBBM-TV Wednesday night showed that 33 percent of respondents think the governor should serve out his term, 61 percent said he should resign, and 6 percent weren't sure. The poll of 1,250 people was done with the wonders of automation, as a recorded voice asked respondents to hit touch-tones to answer questions. The polling firm used was Survey USA.
Madigan on Madigan
The governor also was critical of state Sen. LISA MADIGAN, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, for her comments this week, saying that if needed, she would investigate people including her father, House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, if there were allegations of corruption.
"As a father, it probably hurt," Ryan said of her comments. "She could have said, you know, 'My father, I love him to death. He's a great guy. I can't believe he'd do anything wrong. But if he did, I'd step aside and bring in a private investigator or a special prosecutor. I wouldn't have anything to do with it. But he's my dad.' I just think that she kind of got caught off guard."
"It goes without saying that she loves her father very much," MELISSA MERZ, spokeswoman for Lisa Madigan, said later. "This has nothing to do with their relationship. Any allegation of misuse of state funds is a serious one and should be investigated." Options for such an investigation would include giving the case to career prosecutors in the office or a special prosecutor, Merz said.
"This is not about family and it's not about loyalty," Merz said. "She was very clear when she stated he should be treated the same as everyone else."
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540 or Bernard.Schoenburg@sj-r.

Discord at unity rally
Governor urges GOP to run on its record
 
By DOUG FINKE
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
15 aUG 2002
Gov. George Ryan said Wednesday Republican candidates should quit scandal mongering and start talking about the good things he and others in the party have done the past 30 years.
Republican Attorney General Jim Ryan, who is running to succeed George Ryan as governor, said people want a change from the way government has operated because they are sick of broken promises and scandals.
And two former Republican governors, James Thompson and Jim Edgar, said the party's candidates are going nowhere this fall if the focus continues to be on George rather than Jim Ryan.
By the way, Republicans called their day at the Illinois State Fair Wednesday a "unity rally."
GOP faithful from around the state braved the rain and gathered in Springfield, attempting to encourage the troops and smooth over some of the tensions created in the past few weeks.
During that time, Jim Ryan has said the governor should explain his role in the licenses-for-bribes scandal or resign, and House Republican Leader Lee Daniels of Elmhurst was forced to step aside as state party chairman after allegations surfaced that House staffers performed political work on state time.
It didn't take long Wednesday to see just how divided the party continues to be.
During a private meeting Wednesday morning of the Republican State Central Committee at the Hilton Springfield, Gov. Ryan said they were wrong to oust Daniels and that they should be talking about the good things he and other Republicans have done.
"I told them they ought to be talking about 30 years of solid Republican leadership in the state that's put us in the kind of shape that we're in," the governor said. "It's created jobs, economic development and kept our economy fairly stable."
Asked by reporters if Jim Ryan and other Republican candidates are scandal mongering by pledging to clean up government, George Ryan said, "Yes, absolutely. And I said that here today."
"The governor is entitled to his opinion," Jim Ryan responded after he addressed the committee about 15 minutes later. "People want a change in leadership. They're angry, and you can't blame them. They're tired of the misconduct and all of the corruption."
Unfortunately for the Republicans, that's the same theme being used by the Democrats, who are telling voters the best way to ensure change is to avoid electing anymore Ryans or Republicans. That leaves Jim Ryan the ticklish job of campaigning on the character issue without reminding people why it's important this year.
"I think the Republican candidates would best serve themselves if they would quit all of this infighting and criticizing and carping and talk about what they will do if they are elected," Thompson said.
Edgar said the GOP has to move the campaign's focus away from Gov. Ryan.
"I think there is still too much focus on the past," Edgar said. "I don't think Gov. Ryan is the issue here. I said that's a message they have to get out. George Ryan is not a candidate."
Thompson said that's particularly true of Jim Ryan.
"He's got to get across the message that he's Jim Ryan the attorney general running for governor, he's not George Ryan the governor," Thompson said. "But it should stop there. The best thing for you to do is tell the people of Illinois who you are and what you will do for them. That's what they'll vote for. They won't vote for this other stuff."
Thompson made the comment standing outside the Republican tent at the state fairgrounds. The tent featured large photos of Illinois Republican candidates as well as President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Missing were pictures of George Ryan.
"I don't understand that," Thompson said of the omission. "I think we should stop and acknowledge every once in a while that he's been a damn fine governor."
However, in a speech to a sparse gathering in front of the Republican tent, Jim Ryan again maintained that people have lost faith in state government - a government that's been led by a Republican governor for the past 26 years.
"People are angry. Many of them are angry, frankly, because there have been a lot of broken promises," Ryan said. "Too many people have lost trust in government."
Ryan also touched on a new campaign theme - fear of Chicago Democrats controlling all of state government.
"The state is at risk because the entire state Democratic ticket comes from only one place, Chicago," he said, adding, "As governor, I will not pit one part of our state against another."
Still, Ryan said Democrats have a majority on the Illinois Supreme Court and likely will control both chambers in the General Assembly after the Nov. 5 election.
"The Supreme Court, the legislature and now Chicago Democrats want the executive branch of government," Ryan said. "There's more to this state than the city of Chicago. There are 101 counties."
Billy Weinberg, spokesman for Democrat gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich, said Ryan is pitting areas of the state against one another.
"Jim Ryan is someone who very carefully gives out contradictory messages depending on where he is in Illinois," Weinberg said. "Rod is committed to represent all of the people of Illinois. We do not follow the Jim