Daily dose: Local history, petition challenges, advice from the Wall Street Journal, strange Blagojevich moments, Beckman says farewell

Daily dose: Local history, petition challenges, advice from the Wall Street Journal, strange Blagojevich moments, Beckman says farewell

Local history

In 1911, two schoolgirls, as good and noble specimens as can be found among the good girls of this city, did a piece of work Saturday that will make somebody happy. They knew a poor family with many children and they went among neighbors and friends and solicited bread, fruits and various other things. They soon opened a stand downtown and within 31/2 hours they had disposed of all their stock and had $10 in cash with which to make Christmas happy for the family.

In 1961, for the fifth straight year, the Champaign County Nursing Home paid its own way, according to a report to the county board from the director of the home. Income was $377,000 and expenses were $368,000, according to George F. Herbert, director of the home. The nursing home opened in 1946 and operated in the red until 1956. Residents of the home who pay their own way contribute $160 monthly, but are given all services and medical attention regardless of whether that sum covers the cost. Presently there are 197 residents in the home, which has a capacity of 203.

Candidate petition challenges

Excerpted from Sunday's News-Gazette column ...

You might have thought that the matchups were set for Illinois’ March 20 primary election. The candidates and their supporters knocked on doors and prowled around events in search of people willing to sign their petitions. Even the least successful of those running for an Illinois Senate seat, for example, got more than 1,000 signatures, no small feat these days when most people want nothing to do with Illinois politics.
Tomorrow, we’ll find if any of those candidates are in danger of being bounced from the ballot anyway.
Illinois’ election laws, which unashamedly discourage election choice, allow anyone to challenge a candidate’s petition on sometimes narrow grounds. At the least, it’s a form of harassment. At the worst, it’s a way to stifle democracy.
John Bambenek, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 52nd District that includes most of Champaign and Vermilion counties, thinks his petitions might be challenged, even though he collected 2,200 signatures, more than twice the number required of Senate candidates.
“I would be pleasantly surprised if I didn’t get a ballot challenge, and I’m not often pleasantly surprised in politics,” said Bambenek.
Two people have reviewed Bambenek’s petitions, according to the State Board of Elections. One of them, Jon Zahm, is a Republican county board member from Henry County who also looked at the petitions of Bambenek’s primary election opponent, Alan Nudo. A staffer with the Illinois Senate Democratic Victory Fund has reviewed Nudo’s petitions, and Springfield resident Jason Bosie has looked at Bambenek’s petitions. The only person to view the petitions of incumbent Democrat Mike Frerichs is Magen Ryan of the Senate Democratic Victory Fund.
Zahm said he has “been involved in petition challenges and petitions defenses over the last 20 years” and represents both himself and clients.
“If I’m going through these petitions and I find something that is interesting, I might approach someone and say, ‘Hey, this is what I found,’” Zahm said.
He declined to explain his interest in the 52nd District race.
“I will say that as a conservative activist and a conservative Republican, I would not do anything to harm John Bambenek,” he said. “But I can’t go into it any more than that.”
Bambenek said the petition challenge process is “all part of the game. As long as you go in knowing it’s part of the game, it doesn’t surprise you and make you dejected.”
But that doesn’t make it right, he added.
“I view our election code as a work of art at trying to limit the influence of the disfavored,” Bambenek said. “As a general rule, we should not put obstacles in front of ballot access except those that are essential, namely are you a registered voter? Are you eligible to run for the office you are running for?
“We like to say that voters get to vote for anyone they want. That’s not really true. You can only pick from who’s on the ballot, and if you control that choice, you limit the voters’ influence.”


Corporate tax deals

From the Wall Street Journal ...

It's not often that the Occupy Wall Street and tea party movements see eye-to-eye, but a tax bill before the Illinois legislature is testing whether left and right can combine to limit corporate tax favoritism.

The proposal would give an estimated $85 million tax exemption to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade and a $15 million annual break to Sears Holding Corp. to mitigate the state's big tax increase earlier this year. It would also vastly expand the earned income tax credit. The bill sailed through the state Senate two weeks ago, but it was crushed in the House in a stunning 99-8 vote later that same day. After intense lobbying by the Merc and Sears, a similar bill will be voted on as early as today.

We feel the companies' pain. In January, the Democratic legislature and Governor Pat Quinn approved a 67% increase in the state's income tax and another increase in the corporate tax that gives the Land of Lincoln the highest business taxes in the Midwest. The Chicago Merc, a major presence in the downtown "Loop" with 2,000 employees, says the tax increase is costing it $50 million this year.

The Merc and Sears have been mumbling about leaving for better tax climes. The Associated Press reports that the financial exchanges pay 6% of Illinois corporate income taxes. Who can blame them for threatening to leave?

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who has quipped that he feels like he is "living next door to the Simpsons," has already persuaded more than a dozen Illinois companies to relocate to the more business-friendly Hoosier State. He holds a ceremony of citizenship when the firms arrive. Indiana is making a big play to lure the Merc to Indianapolis from Chicago, the company's home for more than 100 years.

To keep this corporate out-migration from becoming a stampede, Mr. Quinn has been handing out sweetheart tax waivers to major employers. As we reported on June 9 ("Illinois Tax Firesale"), Governor Quinn has already offered or doled out more than $200 million this year to induce big companies like Motorola Mobility to stay in Illinois. But the spontaneous citizen combustion in recent weeks suggests that Illinois voters are losing patience with carve-outs for the politically powerful.

The better policy would be for the Governor and legislature to admit their blunder and repeal the tax increase on all companies, large and small. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, a free-market research shop, the cost of repealing the Quinn corporate tax increase would be less over 15 years than the cost of the new tax carve-outs. The main reason for Springfield's chronic deficits is excessive pension and health benefits to public employee unions.

Meanwhile, taxes are killing jobs. In another study, the Illinois Policy Institute finds that Illinois was enjoying a jobs recovery until the tax hike passed this year. Then the job numbers headed south in a hurry, and payrolls shrunk by 89,000 in the six months following the revenue grab. The Illinois jobless rate is 10.1%, well above the 8.6% national rate.

No doubt losing the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and to a lesser extent Sears would damage the economic prestige of the Windy City and the entire state. Mr. Quinn and his Democratic colleagues pretended that their midnight tax hike in January wouldn't injure the state's economy.

This is what tax increasers always say. Nearly every day they are being proven wrong, and we hope the citizens who helped to bring down the special-interest tax bill two weeks ago remember who put the state in this fix in the first place.

Rod Blagojevich’s strangest moments

From the Daily Herald ...

Even before Rod Blagojevich was impeached, convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison, making Illinois the butt of late-night TV jokes, the former governor’s antics raised eyebrows in the state capitol. Here are some of the more outrageous moments of his years in office:

* May 2004: While playing catch in his office, Blagojevich gets a ball stuck in a chandelier. He later tells reporters he had to stand on his desk and poke at the ball with a flagpole to knock it loose. Blagojevich also is known to show up late for meetings and public events so he can play videogames with his daughters.

* May 1, 2004: Habitually late for events, Blagojevich severely damages his reputation among lawmakers by showing up late to the funeral of one of the state Senate’s most respected members, Sen. Vince Demuzio of Carlinville.

* Aug. 11, 2006: Carrying his young daughter like a shield, Blagojevich tries to avoid answering questions from a gaggle of reporters at the State Fair. The girl eventually breaks into tears, and Patti Blagojevich later writes a letter to the editor criticizing the media.

* May 10, 2007: A major Blagojevich tax proposal fails in the Illinois House, 0-107. Blagojevich insists the flop still amounts to “an up day” for him.

* July 17, 2007: Illinois House approves a resolution urging the hands-off governor to stop flying home to Chicago each evening and stay at Capitol to get some work done. Later, at trial, an aide testifies that he rarely showed up at his office and was known to hide in the bathroom.

* Dec. 8, 2008: Blagojevich announces investigators are welcome to bug his telephones because he has done nothing wrong. He is arrested the next day, largely on the strength of evidence gained from bugging his phones.

* Jan. 26, 2009: Blagojevich skips his impeachment trial to do a round of appearances on shows like “The View” and “Today.” He compares himself to the hero of a Frank Capra movie and a cowboy in the hands of a lynch mob and says he takes solace from thinking of Nelson Mandela and other imprisoned leaders.

* June 2009: Desperate for money, Blagojevich’s wife takes part in a reality TV show where her activities include eating a tarantula. Blagojevich later appears himself on “The Celebrity Apprentice” and reveals to the world that he can’t operate a computer.

* December 2008-January 2009: Blagojevich’s arrest and impeachment prompts him into an orgy of literary allusions. He compares himself to the main character of the story “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” and repeatedly cites poems by Tennyson and Kipling.

* Aug. 7, 2009: After being tossed out of office, he picks up a much-needed paycheck by showing up at a Chicago party and briefly singing a tune by his hero, Elvis Presley.

Copyright © 2011 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.


Beckman's Toledo farewell

From the Toloedo Blade ...

Tim Beckman was back in Toledo on Sunday for his final farewell to the University of Toledo.
On Friday, the Rockets’ head coach left the school to accept the same position at the University of Illinois after agreeing to a contract that will pay him $9 million over five years.

Following an afternoon news conference at UT’s Larimer Athletic Complex, Beckman headed downtown for the Rockets’ senior banquet at the Grand Plaza Hotel, formerly the Crowne Plaza Hotel, despite a strong message from the team’s seniors that he was not welcome.

Shortly after Beckman met with the Rockets on Friday morning, UT’s 20 seniors held a vote to determine whether their former coach should be allowed to attend their team banquet. The majority of the seniors opted against extending him an invitation to the annual event.

“That was the consensus vote the other day, and he [still] just showed up,” UT senior cornerback Desmond Marrow said. “It was like I saw a ghost when he walked in. It was kind of an awkward moment, but I wish him well with everything.”

Earlier in the day, Beckman told a group of reporters that he was still undecided on whether he would attend the banquet.

“I don’t want to take anything from those kids,” Beckman said. “I know there’s people that I want to say good-bye to, especially families — moms and dads — so that they understand the importance of the relationships we’ve built with them.”

Beckman said he spoke with UT athletic director Mike O’Brien and interim coach Matt Campbell to help him make his decision and ultimately ended up making a brief appearance at the banquet. According to those in attendance, Beckman gave a brief speech — during which his voice quivered several times — and then left well before the event’s conclusion.

“I think it was a very classy move by him, just to show that he was sticking to his word,” UT senior running back Adonis Thomas said. “He said that he would come back and give us words of encouragement.

“I really didn’t expect him to come, but ... it just shows how much love he has for this senior class. Just because he accepted a new job, he didn’t really forget about us and turn his back on us. I really respected that.”

Although Beckman did not address the media after leaving the team banquet, he did talk earlier Sunday about his decision not to tell his players and coaches about his involvement with Illinois on Thursday when reports first surfaced about his impending departure.

“I wasn’t allowed to talk about it,” Beckman said. “I hadn’t even interviewed on [Illinois’] campus yet. There’s protocol that has to be served anytime you get a job. I wasn’t officially offered the job, so I could not make a remark on that job.”




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