Cullerton on Fox Chicago Sunday today

Illinois Sen. President John Cullerton will join Fox Chicago Sunday later this morning. Cullerton will address the state budget, redistricting, hand gun ownership and other issues.

The station says Cullerton also will be addressing demands from the Chicago Cubs for state help.

More information on Cullerton’s appearance on Fox Chicago Sunday.

FOX Chicago Sunday: Illinois Senate President John Cullerton:

Statehouse press corps objects to exclusive agreement with Trib

The Capitol Fax Blog reports that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made an agreement with the Chicago Tribune granting it exclusive coverage of the historic signing of the Illinois Death Penalty Repeal.

“This was a huge, momentous bill, perhaps the most important legislation that Gov. Pat Quinn will ever sign,” the site said in a note to readers today.

The hand-delivered letter to Quinn from the Illinois Statehouse press corps notes “we object strenuously to your decision to single out one particular news organization to witness and photograph the signing.”

As strange as it sounds, this battle between the press corps and the governor about a major newspaper gaining preferred access is important stuff. Imagine if the governor could always pick and choose. Why not choose the friendliest or most ignorant media in the state to report the news of his doings? Of what happens in a court house, the legislature or any of the government units that extend right here into our neighborhood?

The  battle between the press and politicians cannot be underestimated by the readership of The Bulldog. We often seek the opinion of elected representatives of our Wards and legislative district and offices for answers. And we have often been frustrated by the contempt we find. We have found it difficult in some cases to get simple questions answered, such as the status of municipal construction projects from our alderman.

In the election which just passed, the 47th Ward witnessed a contest between three men who sought public access and welcomed it and one man who depended on money to purchase the office.

On election day he growled at a photographer for this site, snarling “I don’t read that site.”

Overt hostility to the public, in the guise of the press worries us. We worry about our personal safety and the safety of our investment, including our home, as we put ourselves out there to answer questions on your behalf.

But the battle between the press and the politicians happens in surprising places, too.

Here is a recent discussion between Fox News show host Bill O’Reilly and News Host Chris Wallace about an ongoing feud between former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin and O’Reilly.

Yes, it happens everywhere someone demands an answer and someone else wants to lay it on thick or avoid the question. Even in the Fox echo chamber.

The Bulldog has expressed its anger directly to politicians it perceives as attempting to tilt the field towards a particular local publication by giving it access. That is unfair to you, our readers.

When a politician refuses to answer a question, we can deal with it by noting that fact to you. When a politician attempts to use another local publication to advance their message by acing us out of press releases and press events, that is not acceptable to us. It shouldn’t be acceptable to our competition either.

Here are five examples of being stonewalled encountered in the past year by The Bulldog:

  • In April of last year The Bulldog asked for records related to Local School Councils for each of the Ravenswood schools.  Some schools never replied.
  • In April of last year The Bulldog asked the Chicago Public Schools to provide a list of candidates for LSC, including enough information to be able to identify the candidates address and other contact information. CPS refused, holding that the state FOIA law required it to refuse to give that information. Without that information we cannot contact LSC candidates except through the control of the principal. We cannot even identify whether Joe Smith, running for the LSC, is the Joe Smith the child molester or Joe Smith the patron saint of children.
  • The Bulldog has made a series of requests for planning documents related to Clark Park. Although Fran Spielman wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times about a multi-million dollar effort to build a little Wrigley Field west of Lane Stadium, no one, not the alderman, the City Planning Department, the Chicago Park District or the Chicago Public Schools could share any information about the plans for that plot of land. According to all the sources, no plans exist for that plot of vacant land.
  • The Bulldog has made a number of attempts to gain access to documents related to the city acquisition, for $1.4 million, of a plot of land in Lincoln Square. The efforts of The Bulldog did result in a sudden interest in the city in maintaining the land— they cut the grass. And soon enough work began on the land to develop it into a community garden. However no documents relating to the long-term plan for the land has ever been produced by the Alderman or the city departments contacted.
  • The Bulldog asked Ald. Eugene Schulter to provide fax records and telephone records. As explained in our story that Schulter’s chosen replacement as Alderman, Tom O’Donnell, was under investigation, Schulter hid behind a technicality in the law to refuse to give up the records. There was enough evidence to indicate, but not outright prove, the ward office used official resources for political purpose in the aldermanic campaign.
  • There have been other examples too. Salary reports, flooding, pollution, and huge government projects.

Clearly, this has been a challenging year for the politicians who are suddenly under the glare of being visible and for us as we push for answers.

The Bulldog is grateful for the assistance provided to it in the past year by

  • First, with great humility, the public servants of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. We put them under pressure to help us with an important story and they came through. We are so proud of these public servants who helped us help you.
  • the Kent School of Law Center for Open Government,
  • the Online Media Legal Network of Harvard University’s Berkman Center,
  • Executive Director Terry Norton of Kent,
  • Jennifer Klear, an attorney who works closely with us through OMLN.

We encourage you, our readers, to read the entire text of the Capitol Fax Blog post.

We encourage you, our readers, to write to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to tell him this is not acceptable behavior.

We encourage you, our readers, to follow-up with local politicians who attempt to evade our questions by demanding those politicians answer the questions put to them.

This is Sunshine Week in the United States, a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance to you, the readership, of open and transparent government and the freedom of information. There are broad efforts in this country to limit your ability to know information you need to make informed decisions. It happens right here in Ravenswood and continues all the way up the line to the highest levels of this democracy.

It is your government. Demand answers. Tell politicians FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Open Meetings acts should be strengthened.


Steans: State death penalty was flawed

Illinois State Sen. Heather Steans discusses two hot topics in an e-mail blast to constituents this week. First, she notes the signing by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn of the Death Penalty repeal. “I supported the repeal for two primary reasons,” she says.

First, Illinois’ system has been flawed. 20 men have been exonerated from their convictions, she says.

Second, it is a very expensive system, the Senator says.

Steans also reports that she doesn’t believe the actions that have happened in Wisconsin will happen here. “We have a strong record on collaboration across the aisle.”

Read Sen. Steans weekly e-mail blast.


$6 billion woman; short term appointment deciding vote on taxes, death penalty

Kathleen C Moore, a retired school teacher from Lincoln Park, was appointed by 11th legislative district Democratic committeemen to fill the term of John Fritchey late last year. During her short term in office Moore voted on more than twenty bills. Her votes include being the deciding vote on both a $6 billion increase in personal income taxes and a moratorium on the Illinois death penalty.

The appointment of Moore was made despite Ann Williams’ (D-Hamlin Park) election to the post in the November 2010 election. Williams was sworn in as the 11th District state legislator on January 12th.

Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D- Boys Town) told The Bulldog Moore was one of many people considered by the committeemen to replace Fritchey. “Ann Williams was unavailable to be seated,” Feigenholtz said.

Feigenholtz said Moore has “been an active member of the community for a long time.” She said, “the Moore’s have lived in Lincoln Park for decades and are active members of St. Clement’s Church.”

The 11th district became open on December 28th following the resignation of John Fritchey (D- DePaul West). Fritchey was elected to the Cook County Board in the election. Fritchey was sworn into his county board seat on December 6th.

Under Illinois law, committeemen of the party that won the seat meet to consider filling the vacancy. The committeemen vote on a replacement with their vote weighted according to the vote of the winning candidate.

In this case, the committee used the weight from Fritchey’s unopposed 2008 run. If they had been replacing Ann Williams, they would have used the 2010 election returns.

Committeemen in 11th District

Committeeman/woman Weight Percentage
1st Ward Jesse Ruben Juarez 178 0.46%
32nd Ward John Fritchey 13,752 35.42%
33rd Ward Richard Mell 1,723 4.44%
40th Ward Patrick O’Connor 992 2.56%
43rd Ward Michele Smith 4,444 11.45%
44th Ward Thomas Tunney 4,997 12.87%
47th Ward Eugene Schulter 12,738 32.81%
TOTAL 38,824

According to Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, the committeemen choose Moore because Williams’ vote for the tax increase was not certain. “There were questions about how she would vote if a tax plan was on the lame-duck agenda.” Shaw wrote on the BGA site Williams claims that local Democratic leaders, including Fritchey and Senate President John Cullerton, wanted her commitment to support the tax hike before arranging for her to be sworn in.”

Fritchey responded to Shaw’s post “at NO time did I ever pressure, or even ask, Ann Williams to vote for an income tax hike.” (Emphasis from original response).

Fritchey said in his response to Shaw he told Williams she should accept an early appointment. “I told her my position was not predicated on how she would vote on any issue, including an income tax vote.”

“Ann Williams informed me that she did not want to be appointed early,” Fritchey wrote.

Fritchey took aim at Williams saying “being a legislator entails making both hard votes and easy votes. Williams’ decision to avoid… those votes any sooner than she had to was a decision made solely by her.”

A person claiming to be Moore entered an on-line discussion regarding Moore’s appointment to say “how did I get appointed in the first place? We have been personal friends of the Cullertons for 35 years. Through John we know Sara Feigenholtz, who suggested my name to one of the Ward Committeemen…”

Feigenholtz did not disagree with that statement when it was read to her Friday. However the identity of the on-line person could not be confirmed Friday.

The biography page on the Illinois General Assembly did not include any contact information or even a picture of Kathleen Moore. A staffer in the majority office said they had no contact information for Moore. Credit: State of Illinois

Moore and her husband Thomas Moore, an attorney at Anderson & Moore, PC, are prolific political contributors. Searches of Illinois and federal records show $32,688 in contributions by the couple since 1996. IL Senate President John Cullerton’s (D-Ravenswood Manor) campaign received $2,250 from the couple. Though they are not recorded as having contributed to Cullerton since 2000. Feigenholtz’s campaign received $550 for a federal campaign and $750 for a state campaign.

The committeemen would have been familiar with the Moore’s too. Patrick O’Connor noted receipts of $1,000 for a federal campaign, Fritchey received a $1,000 for his federal campaign.

According to Fritchey, the committee voted unanimously to select Moore.

Shaw says Moore wasn’t happy with the tax increase but didn’t see there was any other choice. Shaw says she admits to not having seen the bill, a press release, a fact sheet, list of cuts, streamlining or accountability measures as of last Sunday. Moore approved the $6 billion bill Tuesday sending the bill to a rare midnight session of the Senate.

Time was of the essence as the new legislature would be sworn in at noon Wednesday. Shaw notes Williams would have had a hard time supporting the tax bill in its present form.

Moore was an unknown in Springfield. Although she was listed as the state rep on the Wicker Park/ Bucktown Chamber of Commerce page, no photo of her was posted on the legislative web site. A staffer from the house majority party said they had no way to contact her. “I never had any contact information for her,” a person there told The Bulldog.

An attempt was made to contact all the persons named in this post by telephone or e-mail, except for Jesse Ruben Juarez and Andy Shaw. A message was passed to Moore through an acquaintance.

Michele Smith, Patrick O’Connor, Richard Mell and Thomas Tunney are running for aldermen of their wards, respectively. Eugene Schulter bowed out of the race in the 47th Ward on Monday.

Certification p1 for Kathleen Moore. Click for full size.

Certification p2 for Kathleen Moore. Click for full size.

Certification p3 for Kathleen Moore. The Notary Public on this document also signed the document. Click for full size.

Certification p4 for Kathleen Moore. Click for full size.

Certification p5 for Kathleen Moore. Click for full size.