Daily Dose: Local history, mayoral money, searching for a county auditor, cutting the number of local governments, reaction to Rep. Rose's LINK card bill

Daily Dose: Local history, mayoral money, searching for a county auditor, cutting the number of local governments, reaction to Rep. Rose's LINK card bill

Local history

In 1911, Roy V. Williams and Charles E. Mueller have leased the plant of the People’s Ice Co., which has not been in use for several months, and have formed a partnership to engage in the manufacture of ice. They have begun to overhaul the plant and the production of ice will begin next Monday.

In 1961, state Rep. Peter Granata, the Republican leader of Chicago’s West Side legislators, says he will challenge the University of Illinois’ appropriations. The General Assembly, Granata said, can still block the trustee-approved site of the university’s Chicago campus. “There aren’t going to be any bulldozers in that area for many months, if at all,” Granata told United Press International.

Mayoral money

From yesterday's column ...

Champaign’s Mayor-elect Don Gerard spent $21,400 on his election campaign, state records show. That’s a lot, but it’s not a local record for mayoral campaign spending.
Gerard spent $18,464 between Jan. 1 and March 31, with his biggest expenditures being television advertising ($4,010 with Comcast, $840 on WAND and $3,757 on WCIA) and printing ($3,888). He also had spent $2,154 in the last few months of 2010.
Gerard’s spending falls short of the $30,776 that Marty Smith spent in his 1999 race for mayor against Jerry Schweighart. The winner in that race —
Schweighart — spent $13,467.
Gerard’s spending also is less than the $23,732 Laurel Prussing put up in 2005 to become mayor of Urbana. Also in that race, incumbent Mayor Tod Satterthwaite spent $20,310.
Almost half of the $23,896 in campaign contributions that Gerard received in the last six months came from one source — Joe’s Brewery, a Campustown bar owned by Doug and Bruce Larson. Joe’s Brewery gave $2,000 to Gerard’s campaign in September 2010, plus $4,000 in February and another $6,000 in March.
Although Illinois’ new campaign-disclosure law limits contributions to $10,000 from one source during a campaign cycle, the Larsons skirted the law with the $2,000 contribution in September — four months before the new law went into effect. Thus the $10,000 they donated to Gerard in calendar year 2011 is the maximum allowed under Illinois law.
Other major donors to the Gerard campaign were downstate labor unions, to the tune of $3,050. He got $1,000 from AFSCME Illinois, $500 from Firefighters Local 1260 in Champaign, $500 from Laborers Local 703 in Urbana, $500 from the Southern Central Illinois Laborers in Marion, $300 from Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 149 in Savoy and $250 from the East Central Illinois Building & Construction Trades.

As of this morning (Thursday), Mayor Schweighart has not filed his disclosure report. It's due tomorrow.

But the five other council members with committees — Deb Feinen, Marci Dodds, Karen Foster, Paul Faraci and Gerard — have filed thers.


Who will run for county auditor?

Also from yesterday's column ...

Now that Champaign County voters have throttled a proposal that would have abolished the elected office of Champaign County auditor, local politicos can begin to think about filling the office in the November 2012 election.
The bipartisan proposal to abolish the office — which also had bipartisan opposition — was defeated 57 percent to 43 percent in last Tuesday’s election. It passed in only 23 of 117 county precincts, winning just two of 38 Champaign precincts and none of the 23 in Urbana.
Its greatest support came in generally Republican precincts — winning five Mahomet precincts, two in Tolono and two in Savoy — but also lost in Republican precincts in St. Joseph, Savoy and Rantoul.
Clearly, voters in the county still want to be able to elect their auditor, rather than having the position filled by a county board appointee.
The current auditor, Democrat Tony Fabri, is acknowledged by members of both parties to be in trouble although he may try to run for re-election. It’s a good bet, though, that he won’t go unchallenged in the Democratic primary.
Kevin Sandefur, the Democratic Party’s second vice chairman, said Tuesday that he’s “definitely still interested” in running for the position, whether or not Fabri runs.
“It’s still very early,” he said, “but now that we know that the office will continue to exist, I think there will be a period where everyone surveys the landscape and sees what’s going on out there.”
Sandefur is completing coursework at Parkland College for an associate’s degree in accounting and plans to begin taking online courses through Franklin University in Ohio with the goal of getting a bachelor’s degree in accounting. If his coursework proceeds fast enough, he said, he could take the CPA exam before the general election.
His goal, he acknowledged, may be beyond the auditor’s office, which currently pays $76,745 a year.
“It’s a major effort to undertake if the only reason I am doing this is for the auditor’s election,” he said. “There are other reasons as well.”
Al Klein, the county Democratic Party chief, also said it’s too early to think too hard about the 2012 election.
“Not until Memorial Day, at least,” he said. “But I suspect there are people interested in running. The only thing I’d say is that if you want to run, you shouldn’t be coy.
“Don’t sit and wait until November to make your intentions known.”
Jason Barickman, the county Republican Party chairman, said, “I’m very certain that the Republicans will have a good candidate for the office,” although he acknowledged there are no candidates yet.

This could be very interesting ... reducing the number of local governments

From The State Journal-Register ...

On a partisan vote, the Illinois Senate Executive Committee Wednesday approved a bill designed to cut down on the number of local governments in Illinois.

Senate Bill 173 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Sponsoring Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, said the legislation is patterned on the federal government’s method of reducing the number of military bases. It calls for formation of an eight-member commission that would review all units of local government and recommend 250 of them a year for elimination or consolidation. The entire list would then be given to the General Assembly, which could vote to accept or reject the list in its entirety.

“We have the largest number of units of local government in the United States,” Link said. “It is a burden on the property tax.”

Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government, ranging from cities and counties to library and drainage districts. Pennsylvania is second with about 4,870 units.

Timothy Bramlet, representing the Township Officials of Illinois, said the proposed system would take decisions out of the hands of local residents.

“Five unelected people can determine the fate of thousands of elected officials around the state,” he said. “It usurps your authority and power and the voters’ authority and power.”

Bramlet said it might be better to form a commission to study how best to reduce the number of local governments. Link rejected that idea.

“I’m tired of studies. We’ve taken a forest down with all of the studies we’ve done,” Link said.

Under the bill, each of the four legislative leaders would appoint two members of the commission. Link said that would ensure that any recommendation to consolidate or eliminate a government unit has bipartisan support.

Once the list is prepared, lawmakers would not be allowed to tinker with it. They could vote only to accept all of the recommendations or reject them.


Editorial reaction to Rep. Chapin Rose's LINK card bil

From The State Journal-Register ...

It’s hard to believe it’s been 35 years since Ronald Reagan, in his 1976 presidential campaign, introduced the mythical Cadillac-driving welfare queen into the American lexicon.

Yet Reagan’s icon of uncontrolled, unrepentant fraud — who actually was a grossly exaggerated version of a real case prosecuted in Cook County — remains very much alive in American pop culture. She seems to emerge with a vengeance whenever politicians need a convenient means of proving themselves tough on government fraud.

She popped up again in the Illinois House on Tuesday, not driving a Cadillac necessarily, but using a state-issued Link card to commit fraud at the grocery store checkout counter and, thus, live the high life courtesy of state government.

So argued proponents of a bill that passed the House on a 64-48 vote that, if adopted by the Senate and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, would require the Department of Human Services to study the cost of making Link cards into photo IDs bearing the picture of the cards’ holders. This was a pared-down version of the original bill, which would have required photos on Link cards. DHS has estimated switching to a photo card system will cost up to $4 million.

Let’s be clear here: Neither the state nor the federal government should turn a blind eye to fraud in programs that are meant to provide food for the state’s poorest families. And, really, asking DHS to come up with a firm cost for implementing a photo ID system is not an outrageous or costly demand.

But this effort troubles us two ways. First, it’s an answer in search of a problem. Its sponsor, Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, offered some very general figures about welfare fraud nationally that he said translated to $750 million in welfare fraud (not specifically food stamp fraud) in Illinois.


Kristen McQueary column on Rose's bill

From The Southtown Star ...

I’m going to give the 10 Southland opponents of House Bill 161 the benefit of the doubt.

They voted against legislation Tuesday aimed at fighting fraud in the state’s food stamp program, which is distributed on plastic Link cards.

Obviously, those 14 legislators haven’t heard from many of you, as I have, about abuses in the system.

Several columns I wrote on the subject spurred dozens of emails, letters and phone calls from readers with firsthand knowledge of the broken system.

I heard from grocery clerks, gas station attendants, state workers, sales associates and even cardholders themselves who described numerous loopholes within the Link program.

The bill that passed the House 64-48, without the support of 14 area lawmakers, requires the Department of Human Services to study options for placing photos on Link cards. That way, cardholders can’t trade them or sell them for cash, which is one of the problems. Currently, the cards can be transferred to whomever.








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