Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Good Looking Player

When Harry Caray was calling the Cub games he would see someone on the field he liked and would say, there goes "a good looking player." Well if Harry was with us today he'd no doubt be blogging on Illinois politics. And after Mark Kirk's Monday townhall in Arlington Heights, he'd no doubt be saying about Kirk -- there's a good looking player. Because fortune or fate or someone, maybe Harry himself, was smiling down on Kirk.

Kirk's townhall was about health care and though poorly publicized, drew a substantial crowd. Large enough to attract the broadcast media. Locally, pols have been avoiding these townhalls. The economy has made affordable health care the issue of the moment and there is always a chance a public forum dedicated to that issue could turn into a foodfight. Which no doubt is what the media was hoping for in Arlington Heights. They must have been disappointed though -- both tea-baggers and HCAN showed up but apparently neither was scrapping for a brawl.

Kirk is the beneficiary of the media's misapprehension. An overflow crowd of relatively well-behaved people show up on short notice to see what Mark Kirk has to say about health care. What will the media think? There goes a good looking player.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bean Baggers

Tea Baggers staged a health care protest this weekend outside Congresswoman Melissa Bean's Schaumburg office. Bean has gotten some recent national attention courtesy Michelle Malkin. The protest was organized by FreedomWorks and LaRouchePAC. The crowd was large enough to distract motorists causing a nearby crash. The Daily Herald sent a reporter to cover the event, while observing: Melissa Bean "has not yet decided whether she supports Obama's plan." The Herald fails to mention that President Obama has never actually proposed a specific plan that could either be supported or rejected by legislators. Nor is there a Bill as of yet in Congress. Tis the silly season.

For the true scoop, your LakeCountyEye's special operative worked the crowd of tea baggers and reports a good time was had by all. Ten things overheard:

1) One lump or two?

2) I don't want the government anywhere near my Medicare.

3) Me neither, Mr. Crane.

4) Is this where the line starts to the meth panel?

5) Hello, my name is Pat Brady. Have you ever considered a run for Congress? Excellent health benefits.

6) I am Rowan Atkinson's #1 fan!

7) Have you signed this Melissa Bean nominating petition yet?

8) McSweeney and Greenberg need rides. Anyone?

9) My insurance company won't cover cognitive dissonance.

10) You can give me affordable government health insurance when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Q the Eye/08.21.09

Dear LakeCountyEye,

What does a Lieutenant Governor do?

Golf Links
Dear Mulligan,

They must be serving snow-cones down in Hell today because this question has your LakeCountyEye licked. Do not despair, one does not get to be your LakeCountyEye without being resourceful & well-connected. Your question has been forwarded to various constitutional scholars, Springfield fixtures, political bureau chiefs, bathrobe bloggers, and the guy down the hall who likes to argue politics because he gets all his info from FoxNews. Your LakeCountyEye got a LakeCountyEarFull of opinions and managed to write down ten of them. Which should be more than enough for anyone with their gun-sights trained on the Lieutenant Governor's Mansion.

Herewith are 10 statutory obligations of the office of Illinois Lieutenant Governor:

1) Run for Lieutenant Governor every 4 years.

2) Laugh out loud and call HI-YO when the Governor tells a joke.

3) Two words: Designated Driver.

4) Issue orders to the Sergeant Governor.

5) Wish on every star the Governor was named Rod Blagojevich.

6) Wear the crown, should the reigning Miss America be unable to fulfill her duties.

7) Authorized to perform marriages between legislators when locked in all-night special session.

8) Ex-Governor Parole Officer.

9) Polish the old capitol dome.

10) Not. A. Damned. Thing.

If you are an elected official, or a previously elected official, or just a private citizen under indictment, send your political questions to Q the Eye c/o ...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Penny Wise Pound Foolish

Barney's been looking into his electron microscope, which means he's off on another one of his tangents, this time about the Lake County Board pay raises. Most people are opposed to giving pay raises to elected officials. Barney, which shouldn't surprise me, is in favor of pay raises for elected officials. And substantial ones.

Suzi Schmidt, Lake County Board Chairwoman, has made a big deal over giving her pay raise back to the county treasurer. What gets lost in the fanfare is that since Schmidt is County Chair her salary is something north of $80,000 while the rest of the Board makes $40,000. This puts Schmidt in a far better position, financially, to say no to a raise.

The common perception is theirs is a part-time job and Board members don't deserve a pay raise. The reality is Board meetings are scheduled at irregular and inconvenient times that make it difficult if not impossible for a Board member to hold a 9 to 5 job. As a matter of fact most Lake County Board members are either unemployed or self-employed.

I don't intend to single out the County Board. You see the same thing occurring in all units of government, village boards, township boards, school boards, etc. Wherever the seat is under-compensated, more often than not the person occupying the seat is someone with the wealth or the means to do so.

This shouldn't be a cause for concern except the purpose of these these boards are to manage taxpayer dollars. In many cases considerably large amounts of taxpayer dollars. The natural question to ask is -- just who are this purality of wealthy or well-connected people who perform as under-paid public servants and manage substantial chunks of our taxpayer dollars?
• Wealthy individuals who stand to financially benefit from government transactions.

• Friends or representatives of wealthy individuals who stand to financially benefit from government transactions.

• Representatives of special interests who stand to financially benefit from government transactions.

• Spouses or children of any of the above.
Go look up the bios of some of the Lake County Board members. You may be surprised -- or unsurprised as the case may be.

I'm not saying anything illegal is going on behind the scenes. (I'm also naive if I think laws are never broken.) However it's always better to know in advance how, when and where large parcels of money are to be moved around. That's how small fortunes can turn into bigger fortunes.

The purpose of a Democracy is a self-governing citizenry. When those citizens are diverse and ordinary people they can be expected to govern in the interests of everyone, and not just in the interests of a fortunate few. However, if ordinary people do not get the financial support to govern, then do not expect ordinary people to step forward to govern. When that happens, the special interests fill the vacuum. And Democracy blurs over into Oligarchy.

There's that old phrase, penny wise and pound foolish. That's what's playing out with the County Board pay-raise melodrama. The voters are being encouraged by elected officials like Suzi Schmidt, and others, to be penny wise and expect low salaries for our elected officials. Which all but guarantees the foxes will continue to govern the henhouses.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dollars and NanoCents

While researching another piece, your LakeCountyEye was examining the Lake County budget. And stumbled on this graphic at the County Website that shows how the County tax dollar is divided up.

It has all the slices one expects to find in something like this: School, City, Fire, Township, Forest Preserve, Parks, etc. (Aren't Forest Preserves and Parks the same thing?) Schools get more than 2/3 of the pie, no surprise. Lake County government gets only 7% which is surprising. Presumably this covers roads, medical services, sheriff, etc.

Since your LakeCountyEye happened to be examining County Board pay raises, the natural question arose, what portion of the dollar bill covers these? The Daily Herald recently estimated Board Chair Suzi Schmidt's pay raise at roughly $1600. Lake County Government estimates its 2009 Budget tops $500,000,000 -- a half billion dollars.

According to your LakeCountyEye's solar powered abacus, the raise represents 0.000032% of the annual County budget. That's a lot of zeroes. A quick Fourier Transform on the numbers reveal the raise is a 1/312500 slice out of the budget.

Naturally your LakeCountyEye wanted to see what 1/312500th of a dollar bill looked like. The LakeCountyEye graphics department was willing to assist but cautioned at the current resolution 1/312500 would not be visible to the naked eye. "Then can you magnify the image?" asked your LakeCountyEye. "Piece of cake" replied the LakeCountyEye graphics department.

Here is the dollar bill at 2X and 4X magnifications ...

Neither of which are sufficient.

At some higher magnifications ...

If you were hoping to see what portion of a dollar represents the County Board pay raises, there is still a long way to go. Although 16X reminds your LakeCountyEye ... of the LakeCountyEye.

Clearly more massive firepower was called for. The LakeCountyEye graphics department offered to perform a fractal regression on the image ...

100X is either a cataract in George's eye or the Federal deficit.

"Aren't these pay raises so slight that the Benjamin needs to be magnified something on the order of 300,000 times?" your LakeCountyEye asked. "I'll dust off the LakeCountyEye electron microscope" replied the LakeCountyEye graphics department ...

Paydirt. The money-shot is at 320000X. The LakeCountyEye graphics department was nice enough to photoshop in the word QUARKS. That indicates the portion of the County Budget that covers Board Chair Suzi Schmidt's $1600 pay raise.
Whew, seems a long way to go for a trifling whit. But your LakeCountyEye now has some nifty images that can juice up any boring webpage, even that Lake County page over here. Your LakeCountyEye is prepared to be a good citizen and can donate the images to the County free of charge. A definite plus come election time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Q the Eye/08.15.09

Dear LakeCountyEye,

I have a big election ahead for what everyone thought was an open seat. Well the jackass who was vacating the seat changed his mind -- he wants to keep it now and I have to run against an incumbent all of a sudden. No one told me I would have to do any campaigning in 2010 to win. Why can't we do like they do things in England? When you're queen over here, you're queen for life!

Up Schmidt Creek
Dear Washed Up,

Did you say campaign in 2010? Heck if you're not campaigning already now, you might as well serve notice to your jackass opponent that you plan to sit this one out. But your LakeCountyEye knows firsthand what a sad sack'o'sweat campaigning can be. Odious parades, knocking on doors, dialing for dollars, talking to obtuse voters, who needs it? It all makes that constitutional monarchy look good by comparison.

Elections are about perceptions more than anything else so what you need to do is master the art of the political grandstand. You could do worse than follow the lead of one enterprising politician recently seen up on a highhorse and saying No Thanks to a scheduled pay raise. The pol in question told the Daily Herald that ...
"I wanted to make sure the employees knew (the raises could be returned)," said Suzi Schmidt, the panel's leader since 2000. "I've never played politics with my county-board chairmanship, and I don't intend to do it now." The annual salary for nearly every county board member this year is $39,370. Schmidt will collect about $80,000, plus extra stipends, because she's the chairwoman.
If you try this yourself, make sure everyone knows about your magnanimity. It doesn't hurt to send out a press release ...
“I hear from residents nearly every day asking what we are doing to tighten our belt, just as they are doing. That’s why I am not taking a wage increase and I have encouraged other County Board members to do the same,” Chairman Schmidt said.
County Board Members Give Back Their Raises
... nor does it hurt to post same on your government website.

Now you're probably thinking that pay raises don't just conveniently fall out of the sky. And your LakeCountyEye knows all too well they do not. So you have to admire this pol -- who had the pay raise scheduled all along. The pol, according to the Herald, green-lit the raise a year in advance:
"We have to live, too," said Suzi Schmidt, whose annual salary would increase to $81,890 by 2010 under the plan. Schmidt also stands to receive a new $3,000 annual stipend for her work as liquor commissioner if the plan passes.
Party on!

Would you rather be making like your jackass opponent, shaking hands and kissing babies for the next 15 months? Or would you rather surf through the election poolside sipping at that strawberry piƱa colada? A couple of well timed political grandstands like this one is all you need.

If you are an elected official, or a previously elected official, or just a private citizen under indictment, send your political questions to Q the Eye c/o ...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fact Checking

If one needs to catch up in a hurry, one could do worse than consult the excellent CapitolFaxBlog and TeamAmerica blogs. So it was to your LakeCountyEye's surprise to see a shout-out while reading TeamAmerica today. The shout-out was directed toward fellow scribbler Redtail, who had some trenchant observations on the Dick Keller kerfuffle here. Redtail speculates that TeamAmerica had some advance notice about Michael Waller's ongoing investigation of the Coroner.

A TeamAmerica post from July 6 had prompted Redtail to say ...
If you read the entire post and between the lines, it's hard not to suspect that TeamAmerica was tipped off in advance about the investigation.
TeamAmerica not surprisingly begged to differ here, on Monday ...
Of course, LakeCountyEye implies that Team America was tipped off about the investigation when he wrote this post, and knew then that there was more to Keller's announcement than met the eye. While TA's sources are many, I will also say that it was a pretty darn obvious conclusion from the circumstances and TA's research into Keller's fundraising record that raising money was never something that he spent a lot of time on, which LakeCountyEye fails to mention.
He said, she said? Your LakeCountyEye decided some sniffing around was in order.

The TeamAmerica post in question here is ostensibly about Keller's early July announcement that he won't be seeking re-election in 2012. Keller mentioned his poor fundraising efforts as the reason for the decision. TeamAmerica was rightly suspicious of the excuse. Everyone knows Keller has been an indifferent fundraiser, and your LakeCountyEye doesn't think anyone really believed Keller's explanation.

An obvious conclusion to make & end of story? Well, first take a look at the title of that TeamAmerica post:
Do Dead Men Have Tales to Tell? Lake County Coroner Richard Keller's Decision Not to Seek Re-election Should Raise Questions
Which dead men might TeamAmerica be slyly referring to?

TeamAmerica says ...
Something here smells like a corpse the coroner forgot to put back into the freezer for a few days. TA suspects there is much more than just a re-evaluation of Keller's life priorities behind this decision.
A corpse -- who mentioned anything about a corpse? No one as of July 6.

There are also some interesting comments from the peanut gallery. The prolific Anonymous has this to share:
It seems clear that Keller is in trouble and trying to get out. My guess is that he stays in office until Terry "Dead Guy" Link can appoint a successor - maybe "Sneaky" Pete Couvall, his bankrupt sidekick.
A dead guy? Pray tell us more!

TeamAmerica replies ...
In the wake of any scandal that forced Keller to resign, that would probably be a boost to the GOP candidate for the office, not to mention Republicans Willard Helander, Mark Curran, and Bob Skidmore, who are all also up for election in 2010(I forget if Roycelee Wood is up this cycle; I think she might be). If Keller and the Dems were smart, he would exit sooner rather than later to allow as much time as possible for any taint to pass, and get the new person settled in. Of course, this is all assuming there is some scandal brewing just beneath the surface...
Now Keller could have privately decided to retire in 2012 for a raft of reasons. Why would one assume that Keller was in trouble -- that some scandal was brewing just beneath the surface?

To another commenter TeamAmerica says ...
Bottom line: Let's give Keller a few weeks and see what happens. Perhaps we'll be seeing some more announcements soon...
And we wait a few weeks and mirabile dictu we see some more announcements! Your LakeCountyEye's magic crystal ball is in total awe of TeamAmerica.

Finally, TeamAmerica confides to another commenter:
let's put it this way: Leaving aside the fact that Keller's fundraising history does not support a claim that it was too much of a burden to deal with every four years, I have other sources for my suspicion that it's not the whole story. Nothing I can print (yet). But give it a few weeks and let's see if anything develops. Perhaps I'm wrong. But we shall see.
And see we shall.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Safety in Numbers

Fresh back from vacationing in the Hamptons, your LakeCountyEye has been attempting to catch up on current events.

The News-Sun last week was all over the Dick Keller kerfuffle:
Lake County Republican Chairman Dan Venturi of Lake Villa said the situation "is not being driven by politics," adding that "from a party standpoint, I can tell you that we haven't been involved in it at all. "We're about as far out of the political cycle as you can possibly be. If this had come out last October, I can see people saying that, but it's three years until the next election," Venturi said.
Your LakeCountyEye is no math major, but isn't the next election in 2010? One year (and change) until the next election? Certainly Keller would have been slated for re-election in 2012, but he declared last month that he's not running again.

2012 looks to be a big presidential election. And 2012 is the year of redistricting. But call your LakeCountyEye sentimental, the 2010 election ought to count for something. The Lake County Republicans seem to think so, according to the News-Sun they're already campaigning for 2010. The County-wide quadrille of Helander, Skidmore, Curran & Wood are running collectively as the Republican Leadership Team. (Your LakeCountyEye hopes not a ton of money was spent on that particular nom de plume.)

It's possible Venturi is locked in like a laser guided missile on the 2012 election. And oblivious that four of his top candidates are running as a team in 2010. Does that mean there is no plan in the works to run his people against a party of corruption in 2010 -- against the party of Blagojevich and Burris and Keller? And there really is nothing political lurking behind the Keller kerfuffle?

If that's so your LakeCountyEye is on record saying Dan Venturi has missed a bet.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

He Said, She Said

The circus that steamrolled Lake County Coroner Dr Richard Keller has pitched its stakes on both the MSM and the blogosphere this week. A lot of high profile players, like Michael Waller, Terry Link, Dan Venturi, have jumped in with their talking points. Adding to the circus atmosphere is a partisan troll who has been predictably showing up on this blog demanding Keller's scalp.

The odd thing, to me at least, is the both the timing and the source of the story. Steve Vaughn, who was being treated for drug addiction, died on Dec 3 of last year. Now eight months later we're all talking about the investigation. What happened between then and now?

Investigations obviously take time, but this investigation is far from complete. The press is usually not notified when an investigation is in progress for obvious reasons. When the press does learn about an on-going investigation it's because someone leaked it. The investigation is being conducted by Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller. Who leaked the Keller investigation and why?

According to the News-Sun:
State's Attorney Michael Waller said his office began investigating Vaughn's death in February at the request of Vaughn's family.
But according to another News-Sun story on the same day, the deceased's mother
said she is unsure who initiated the investigation into her son's death, but said investigators from the Lake County State's Attorney's Office told her they were looking into an increase in heroin and methadone deaths.
Did the Vaughn family contact Waller's office? Or did the State's Attorney contact the Vaughn family?

As reported in the News-Sun Keller maintains it's all a political witch-hunt. Keller announced last month that he did not plan to seek re-election in 2012. And Keller admitted to the News-Sun that the investigation contributed to his decision. Was Keller coerced? Or worse, was the threat of an investigation in some way an occasion for political blackmail?

Keller's announcement last month was also noticed by the partisan blog TeamAmerica:
Something here smells like a corpse the coroner forgot to put back into the freezer for a few days. TA suspects there is much more than just a re-evaluation of Keller's life priorities behind this decision.
Do Dead Men Have Tales to Tell?
Lake County Coroner Richard Keller's Decision Not to Seek Re-election Should Raise Questions
If you read the entire post and between the lines, it's hard not to suspect that TeamAmerica was tipped off in advance about the investigation.

According to the News-Sun, the State's Attorney says he is just doing his job:
Waller, a Republican who has served as state's attorney for nearly 20 years, denied that the investigation had anything to do with politics, saying his office is merely investigating what they're tasked to do. He said it may take some time before his office comes to any conclusion.
Stay tuned, I'm sure we haven't heard the end of this one.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

No Sign of Illegal Voter Registration at the McHenry County Fair

I haven't visited the McHenry County Fair, which is open through Sunday. But judging from the photos on Cal Skinner's Mchenry County Blog, there is no indication that an illegal voter registration operation is being conducted at the McHenry Fair in either the Republican or Democratic booths. We will keep you apprised of any new developments, if warranted.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Register Here to Vote + Vote Republican

Thanks go out to another sharp-eyed shutter-bug. We now have some more photos of the Lake County Republican's illegal voter registration operation at this year's County Fair. Click the photos to see a full image.

The message here must be:
Register Here to Vote and Vote Republican

The registration form.

And in case you don't know who to vote for,
there are some easy-to-see reminders on the back wall.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Republicans Shut Down
Illegal Voter Registration Operation
at the Lake County Fair

The story was broken on this blog here about the Lake County Republican illegal voter registration operation at the County Fair this week. This sort of operation is specifically prohibited by Illinois Law and the State Board of Elections:
Political parties having certified civic organization status must NOT conduct voter registration activities at political functions. Voter registration activities must be organized as separate and distinct functions by all organizations. Any type of electioneering or campaigning while conducting voter registration activities is STRICTLY PROHIBITED.
State Board of Elections Guidelines

Lake County Clerk Willard Helander, the controlling authority over voter registration, was present at the Fair and at the Republican booth. Helander refused to recognize the operation was illegal. Helander's rationale was since "Motor Voter" forms were distributed, it did not qualify as voter registration activity. All this despite the fact that a sign in the Republican booth clearly says:
New photos of the operation became available to us and are being publicly released here for the first time.

The State Board of Elections strictly prohibits campaigning or electioneering while conducting voter registration. In the photo below, the campaign yardsigns belong to:
  • Willard Helander
  • Mark Curran
  • Robert Skidmore
  • JoAnn Osmond
  • Dan Duffy
  • Sandy Cole
  • Ed Sullivan Jr
  • Dan Sugrue
  • Mark Kirk

Also photos of Suzi Schmidt appear above in two places, identifying her as a candidate for the State Senate.

The illegal voter registration operation held by the Republican Party stretched from July 28 until August 2 at the Lake County Fair. The operation was shut down at the close of the 2009 County Fair.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Q the Eye/08.01.09

Dear LakeCountyEye,

I have a big election ahead in 2010 and need to remind the voters every chance I get that I serve in the armed forces. My handlers have me tweeting all about it and these go on my election website. But some gossipy reporter found out and now my c/o is all over me for campaigning & disclosing my location while on active duty and all sorts of other stupid nitpicky stuff. Do you know how totally boring it is to be confined to your top secret Pentagon office all day and expected to stay out of everyone's business? I'm all a-twitter now, with anchors awaiting.

About 15 Minutes Ago from ARPANET
Dear Tweety,

Your LakeCountyEye salutes the men and women who serve in our armed services. Their sacrifice & bravery is the foundation that our democracy rests on. These men & women in uniform, past & present, are the reason ours is a time where the free exchange of ideas is not only tolerated but vital to our way of life. And your LakeCountyEye is committed to helping anyone in our armed forces regardless of rank or title. It doesn't matter if you're a rear admiral or just a buck private or even a goldbrick marking time to pad out a thin resume.

Your LakeCountyEye confesses not being able to quite figure out Twitter-mania, but was able to find a News-Sun story similar to yours, and a textbook example of how not to go about damage control. In that risible report, the serviceman/pol tweeted thusly ...
On duty @ the Pentagon's National Military Command Center. All is currently (relatively) quiet. Honor 2 be back w/ my fellow Navy colleagues
... only to be outed the following week by the Capitol Fax Blog.

One dunderhead on the pol's staff came up with this lame excuse: His boss ...
did not post while on duty. In situations when he is unable to use Twitter, (i.e. while on reserve duty) a staff member posts a preapproved tweet.
Um, so your boss pre-Tweets a bunch of messages and loads them into the Walkman. And after he is out of town & on duty a staffer clicks the send button. Really? Your LakeCountyEye is reminded of another laughable claim made by another Congressman: that he read the entire Cap & Trade Bill on the night before the vote. These guys must think we're all a bunch of unvarnished maroons or something.

But your LakeCountyEye digresses. Seriously, what you need to do is contact a journalist you know with an exclusive. Tell the reporter you're a principal player in one of Dick Cheney's secret off-the-books operations, so off-the-books that no one in the Obama administration knows anything about it. And you can't divulge any details -- drop some phrases like shadow government and extraordinary rendition and Turkish prison -- but the whole Twitter thing was a planned subterfuge to misinform the enemy. Be sure to get the reporter to agree this is all off the record and not for attribution and deep background. This guarantees the story will leak quicker than a cup of hot Starbucks on the 4th of July. And problem solved!

Now you're probably wondering just who is going to believe a cock & bull story like that? Your LakeCountyEye hazards to guess -- anyone gullible enough to believe that the messages were merely pre-written tweets posted later on by some unnamed staff member?

If you are an elected official, or a previously elected official, or just a private citizen under indictment, send your political questions to Q the Eye c/o ...