For state treasurer: Christine Radogno

Voters should be suspicious when the chairman of the Democratic Party in Illinois refuses to endorse the Democratic candidate for state treasurer and further asserts that the candidate may have "connections to the mob."

That's not a good thing. And while Democratic chairman Michael Madigan may have ulterior motives – this could all be about an elaborate power play between Madigan and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who is backing treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias – there have been serious allegations about Giannoulias' family bank and loans it made to a man convicted of federal bookmaking charges and of promoting a prostitution ring.

Police seek help solving computer thefts

Police are repeating warnings to protect laptop computers and asking for help in solving some residential burglaries.

Champaign police crime analyst Gary Spear said there again has been a rash of computer thefts, mostly involving laptops, but also desktop computers in a few cases.

For governor: Judy Baar Topinka

In running for re-election, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is so desperate to dress up his meager list of accomplishments that he even mentions proposals that were shot down by the Legislature, other state officials or the courts.

He boasts of eliminating Illinois' budget deficit even though state Comptroller Dan Hynes says the state is still spending more money than it is taking in. He mentions a discount prescription drug program that the state auditor general declared to be not only remarkably ineffective but a violation of federal law. He talks about a stem cell research program that he snuck into the state budget even after lawmakers indicated that they were uncomfortable with the initiative.

Try a little accountability

Perhaps it's just a myth or a mirage but we're told that in west central Illinois, two candidates for the Legislature have agreed to end a blizzard of negative campaign advertisements after one got a little too personal.

State Rep. Mike Smith, D-Canton, and Republican challenger Daryl Dagit of Pekin said they will personally review all advertising to ensure that there are no more harsh attacks. Dagit ran a television ad with two photos of his opponent – one more than 10 years old and another with a more recent and more weighty Mike Smith – with a voice-over that said, "Mike Smith went to Springfield to change things ... (it) looks like Springfield changed Mike Smith."

Another abuse in legislative scholarship program

Ah, Illinois, a state where even the reformers need reforming.

The latest evidence is the disclosure that one of the biggest populists in the state Legislature, Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, has awarded two of those notoriously abused "legislative scholarships" to the daughter of his biggest individual campaign donor.

Advocates line up behind Illinois' FutureGen bid

A high-powered group of Midwesterners lined up Tuesday behind Illinois' bid to get the $1 billion FutureGen clean coal power plant.

The only thing standing in the way of Illinois' bid – which will go either to a site in Tuscola or one near Mattoon – is Texas.

County board should approve nursing home study

It's not as if the administrator of the Champaign County Nursing Home hasn't advanced his own ideas for cutting costs and increasing revenue at the money-losing facility. Andrew Buffenbarger has offered a number of suggestions this year, but county board members didn't act. So now he's asking the board to undertake an approximately $20,000 study of the nursing home, to be performed by a management consultant.

The board had better say yes this time or the nursing home will be in an even bigger financial hole than it already is. The board is scheduled to act on the proposal tonight.

Champaign has made solid progress toward consent decree

We don't claim to speak for all residents of the Champaign school district but we do believe we speak for most of them who would like to urge U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade to get the school district out from under an expensive consent decree as quickly as possible – ideally in 2009, when the agreement is supposed to expire.

McDade will be in Champaign Thursday for an unusual status hearing on the school district's progress toward reducing the achievement gap and other race-based disparities. And after he's heard the arguments of school officials, teachers and parents, and after he's examined the data they've presented, we hope he is persuaded that the school district has made genuine improvements and is doing all it can as a government entity to do right for African-American children.

State in no position to offer universal health care coverage

Apparently because Illinois government has done such a marvelous job addressing all of the state's constitutionally mandated needs (i.e., funding public schools and higher education, maintaining its infrastructure, funding its pensions), the three candidates for Illinois House in the 103rd District now believe it's time for the state to turn its attention to universal health care.

This, unfortunately, is what happens when political candidates are in the middle of an election campaign and believe the only way to a voter's heart is to promise expansive services from an expansive government.

Television ads can't answer questions about Blagojevich

Last week, political observers in Illinois were all aflutter about the indictment of Tony Rezko, one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's top fundraisers.

But the Associated Press uncovered more disclosures in a second, possibly more damaging investigation of the Blagojevich administration. This one, which U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald publicly acknowledged in a letter to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan last summer, deals with charges of misconduct in hiring and promotion practices. Although no indictments have been handed down in this probe, even the governor's office is investigating the governor's office. In fact, Madigan has accused Blagojevich of possibly "impeding" the federal investigation by paying two Chicago law firms more than $1.3 million in state funds to look into alleged wrongdoing in a number of state agencies. A top state employee's union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has leveled a similar charge.

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