Brady addresses state's woeful pension mess, how about others?

Illinois' gubernatorial primary election is two months away, but so far only one candidate has dared to bring up the issue that is a bigger threat to the state's future than any other – its enormous pension obligation.

While Gov. Rod Blagojevich claims to be too busy governing than to even debate his Democratic primary opponent, Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington at least has the courage to take on the 800-pound gorilla menacing the state's future budgets.

Governor takes on Washington, as he takes its money

The consensus of observers, Democrat and Republican, was that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's speech Wednesday was more about the state of his campaign than about the state of the state. And which campaign? Is Blagojevich running for governor of Illinois or president of the United States? In his 39-minute speech, Blagojevich referred to Washington, the Bush administration or the federal government 22 times.

Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, noted that Blagojevich "seemed to be much more concerned about things going on in Washington than things going on here in Illinois."

C-U, university natural choice to host IHSA events

The Champaign-Urbana community got some great news this past week when the Illinois High School Association decided to keep playing its championship football games at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium for the next five years.

At the same time, the IHSA created the possibility of additional good news locally by deciding to expand its playoff system from two to four classes for five major sports – three for girls and two for boys. Starting with the 2007-08 school year, some of those additional championship events – boys' and girls' basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball – will have to be played somewhere, and UI and community leaders already have expressed the desire to have the UI campus expand its host role.

School board bond issue vote will face a skeptical public

The Champaign school board will decide Tuesday night what is for now the $64 million question. Are board members – and the school district – really ready to undertake $64 million of various construction projects around Champaign and Savoy? Are they fully prepared to go to the voters on March 21 and ask for a property tax increase to finance a construction bond issue?

It doesn't appear so.

Governor's hardly running in the March primary election

Politicians – you've just got to love 'em. They can say or do anything, no matter how implausible or hypocritical, without batting an eye.

The latest example of that kind of turnabout comes from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the uber-politician who's running, er, make that standing, for re-election. After three years of relentless politicking, fundraising and self-promoting, to almost the complete exclusion of devoting real attention to the duties of his office, Blagojevich has decided he just "is not going to get involved in all of that politics" by campaigning for the upcoming March Democratic Party primary or even responding to issues raised by his opponent, former Chicago Alderman Edwin Eisendrath.

Champaign library beat clock on construction cost increases

After several aborted attempts to plan and build a structure to replace the deservedly maligned Champaign Public Library that is not yet 30 years old, things are finally looking up for the city's library board, and the library administration and staff.

Construction is under way on a new library triple the size of the existing facility, the work done so far is on time and – best of all – construction bids on the project have come in under estimates.

The city of big shoulders and even bigger dreams

It doesn't hurt to dream, but no one should get too excited about Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's proposal to host the 2016 Summer Olympics and the possible use of University of Illinois facilities in a Chicago bid.

Last week, in one of his famous impromptu press conferences, Daley mentioned how a Chicago Olympics might make use of existing facilities away from Chicago.

Stewart learned about telling truth the hard way

Maybe celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart knew she was on thin ice legally when she decided not to wait to serve a brief prison sentence before exhausting the appeal of her conviction for lying to federal investigators.

If so, Stewart was right. Last week, a federal appeals court in New York unanimously affirmed her conviction. Since she has completed her sentence (five months in prison and five months of home confinement), the outcome of her appeal was essentially an academic exercise.

Blagojevich's switch welcome on tougher mercury pollution rules

One would hate to think that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was playing politics with something as important as public health and air pollution, but what other conclusion can be drawn from the governor's sudden, but welcome, flip-flop on cutting mercury emissions from Illinois power plants?

With great fanfare, Blagojevich announced last week that he supports a rule reducing mercury emissions from the state's 22 coal-fired power plants by an average of 90 percent by June 30, 2009. Mercury is a neurotoxin found in the air that then settles in lakes, rivers and streams, contaminating fish and the people who eat them. Mercury exposure can cause brain and neurological damage. That's why many states, including Illinois, warn consumers to limit their intake of fish.

Alito confirmation process could become nasty

Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito began today in Washington, D.C., and they're likely to turn into another political mud-wrestling contest.

It doesn't have to be that way, and it wasn't that way when Senate Republicans scrutinized and approved President Clinton's two liberal high court nominees – Stephen Breyer and Ruth Ginsburg. But some Senate Democrats showed in previous hearings involving the nomination of current Chief Justice John Roberts that they're looking for any excuse – no matter how shallow – to vote against President Bush's nominees to the high court.