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June 30, 2005

Evans is in

Given the money and image problems created for Rep. Lane Evans when he agreed to pay the Federal Election Commission $185,000 to settle a GOP complaint about money-shuffling, the first question is whether the congressman, whose health already is an issue, will run again.

Evans is running for re-election in 2006, spokesman Steve Vetzner said in an email exhange.

Q: Steve, Has Lane decided whether to run for another term...?
A: Yes, he will be running for re-election.

Me thinks a savage battle looms.

Posted by jcb at 12:47 PM | Comments (4)

June 29, 2005

Evans, Gianulis and money...

Lane Evans doesn't have to say he did anything wrong, but his campaign fund is going to pay $185,000 to settle a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission. John Gianulis doesn't have to say he did anything wrong, but the R.I. County Dem central committee is going to pay $30,000 in the same case.

The settlement announced by the FEC also provides that the 17th District Victory Fund, accused of illegally funneling union money into the Evans campaign, will go out of business and turn over to the FEC whatever funds it had on hand June 9, 2005.

Evans issued a statement decrying the case as "political witch hunt." It said the 17th District Victory Fund did nothing wrong and was created to help counteract large amounts of money the Republican Party was using to try to defeat the congressman in 1998 and 2000. The settlement was being accepted because "it wasn't worth the time and money it would take to conclude it in court."

I know lawyers are costly -- but so is a $215,000 settlement, and dollars don't cover all the cost.

R.I. County GOP chairman Tom Getz, who filed the complaint, said the "fraudulent activities" of the Evans' committees cost the R's the congressional seat.

The Victory Fund was important in the exceedingly expensive campaigns of 1998 and 2000, in both of which Quincy tv news guy Mark Baker came closer than anyone ever has to unseating the long-serving Mr. Evans.

More pertinent is the future The latest FEC filing show Friends of Lane Evans had just $31,000 on hand as of March 31. The settlement money is to be paid in installments, but the congressman seemingly has an uphill battle on the financial front if he runs again.
The Dem central committee seemingly has money problems now, too. It's latest filing indicates it has just slightly more than $10,000 on hand, with big settlement costs to pay.
How much unrest will all this stir among the D troops? Not lots, would be my first guess. Watch the wagons circle around the long-time leaders.

One more observation: The settlement comes nearly five years after the complaint was filed. The time lapse on its face is an indictment of the process. Clearer rules would be a good thing, though every time campaign-finance rules get "clarified" a whole new set of problems are created.

Posted by jcb at 07:09 PM | Comments (0)

Just how safe is your property?

Logan Darrow Clements has been described in the media as a gadfly. "Pain in the arse" is probably closer to the description Supreme Court Justice David Souter would use right now.

Mr. Clements, you see, wants to build a hotel on a site that includes the justice's home in Weare, N. H., and he anticipates the Towne of Weare will condemn the property for him, using eminent domain powers expanded last week by a
Supreme Court ruling
supported by Justice Souter.

However much fun Mr. Clements' stunt turns out to be (the name of the proposed hotel is the "Lost Liberty"), I'm more concerned for the many ordinary folks whose property will be endangered as developers and their often too-willing partners in local goverment test the limits of the new power to take private property in the name of economic development.

Though the court majority (the decision was 5-4) said Connecticut law and precedent permitted New London to condemn unblighted homes to make way for a project proposed by a private, not-for-profit group associated with the city, it is the minority's reasoning that has resonated with an apparently vast majority of every-day people.

Justice Clarence Thomas, with whom I find myself agreeing more often than I would ever have thought possible, said the decision "replaces the Public Use Clause with the Public Purpose clause," a distinction Justice Sandra O"Connor said broadens the public use clause to such a degree as to render is worthless as a check on government land grabs.

The main remaining check we have is local officials, which is kind of scary since -- speaking on a national scale -- so many of them tend to see any "economic development" project as something to be slavishly supported.

A lot of state officials, including Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, are calling for a re-examination of state laws regarding eminent domain to make sure they do not contain the expansive powers permitted in Connecticut. We should pay attention, to make sure the follow-through gets done when the issue slips from the spotlight.

In the Quad-Cities, Davenport property owners should be able to relax somewhat, given the strong position taken by Mayor Charlie Brooke just a couple of weeks ago. The city council OK'd use of eminent domain powers to condemn land for a sewer easement to benefit a private housing development proposed for an adjoining property. Mayor Brooke vetoed the move, saying that "The exercise of the kingly power of eminent domain or condemnation was one of the ultimate interferences and intrusions of the government into the private lives of its citizens that the founders of our country tried to limit severely."

City attorneys in Moline and Rock Island were quick to say eminent domain is a little used power of last resort.

All that's fine, but the problem is that local officials comprise an ever-changing cast and who knows when and where a property grab will occur.

And they will occur, thanks to the ruling from a Supreme Court that's consistent only in expanding government powers in virtually every realm.

Posted by jcb at 03:25 PM | Comments (2)

June 24, 2005

Grabbing property and power ...

I'm going to be mostly missing in action for a few days. Did want to talk about the Supreme Court's dangerous ruling on government grabbing private property but ran out of time before I got to read the decision.

I'm pretty sure, though, that the logic employed by the majority isn't going to convince me its a good idea to grab a viable, even thriving, neighborhood and hand it over to developers. The court has guaranteed that a good many evil developer/government assaults on the homes of ordinary folks will occur 'round and 'bout the country.

Sort of related ... I'm most all the way through Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, which leaves me bemused by the similarities between politics now and then, when parties first formed. The critical issue was the federal power.

Hamilton, you'll recall, was the leading proponent of central power. As Washington's go-to guy in peace as in war, Hamilton created among other instruments, a central bank, a coast guard and a revenue service that stripped customs money from the states. He worked hard to create a standing army. Most prominent in the party that coalasced against the Hamiltonians was Jefferson, who with his supporters saw all Hamilton's creations as destructive of freedom and property rights.

I suspect even Hamilton would be surprised, shocked, at what his progeny have grown to be.

The politics of the 1790s were, the book reminds, if anything more vicious than today's. The Hamiltonians were convinced that Jefferson intended to import the French revolution to America and institute America's own reign of terror. The Jeffersonians were as convinced that Hamilton intended to use the new national army to subjugate opponents and, in alliance with England, set himself or some English royal on a hereditary throne. Even civil war seemed ever a possibility.

The press made no pretense of anything other than partisanship. Personal attacks, most often made anonymously, were the order of the day. Most prominently, the Hamilton-backed Gazette of the United States did vicious warfare with the National Gazette, the editor of which was on Jefferson's payroll in the state department.

The more things change...

Posted by jcb at 05:27 PM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2005

Davenport -- a hazy state of mind

Let's see .. when last we checked in on Phil Yerington, the Davenport policeman-turned-mayor-turned-policeman had been fired for insubordination and had gone to court to appeal the dismissal.

Now, he's being considered for a newly created "youth coordinator" job in the city parks department, and has the endorsement of City Administrator Craig Malin, who also backed firing Yerington last year. Strange, yes?

An attack of conscience? Yerington's abrupt dismissal from the police department in the midst of a campaign for Scott County sheriff reeked of politics. Mr. Malin, too, was hired as city administrator during Yerington's tenure as mayor.

So, the man hired by Mr. Yerington who then fired Mr. Yerington now wants to re-hire Mr. Yerington, who has a lawsuit pending against the city. (The QCT reported that Mr. Yerington had offered to settle his lawsuit for 88 grand in back pay and attorney's fees, but the city council said no.)

Whatever, Mr. Malin now thinks Mr. Yerington's "background in law enforcement and anti-gang efforts afford him a credibility and perspective, again, that appears unique among applicants" for the new job, which will pay between $48,000 and $61,000 per year.
Some alderpeople say, understandably, that they're confused. Me, too. Some days, Davenport seems just a hazy state of mind.

Posted by jcb at 02:24 PM | Comments (2)

June 22, 2005

Smile, you're on the web

Well, now we know. What happens in Chicago doesn't stay in Chicago -- at least not if you solicit a prostitute.

Mayor Richard Daley, whose city otherwise is caught in one of those recurring waves of corruption convictions,
announced Tuesday the names, addresses and photos of every would-be john caught will be on the web, for the hometown folk and everyone else to see. Hot to get there? OK, OK -- here it is.

You noted, no doubt, that the unfortunates pictured there are only charged. Guess these days we can't even wait to prove 'em guilty before we start heaping on the humiliation. I'm glad the cops are getting info on arrests online, and would be impressed if they were putting up the full log, instead of picking one relatively small slice. Has the smell of a publicity stunt about it. Or maybe handling the street-walkers is all the mayor's law-enforcement minions have to do.

The feds are taking care of the heavy lifting, in the city's water department and its hired truck program, and wherever. The convictions and resignations are flying, so yeah, great time to put the heat on the johns.

If you want corruption details, check out Clout on Wheels a special report from the Chicago Sun-Times. Or hit Google and search on "hired truck program" Chicago.

Posted by jcb at 08:59 PM | Comments (1)

Time to fix Illinois' gerrrymandering ways

Reapportionment. 2011. Gerrymander.

Bored yet? Yup, I was a'feared of that.

Important topics, though, and they need to be talked about now if there's to be any chance at all of fixing the grossly partisan mess Illinois created when it drew congressional maps after the 2000 census.

Take a look at these two maps, one of Iowa's
congressional districts
, the other of Illinois'.
Though some Iowans complained in 2001 that their new map looked "like something the Texas Legislature would come up with," it's a model of idealistic, sound governance when compared to the bizarre twists and turns of the Illinois districts. The 17th, which includes Rock Island County, is the most bizarre of all.

It was singled out by The Economist when the London-based news magazine reported on the U.S. reapportnment of 2001: ``Weirdly shaped districts like (this) are signs that a crime has been committed," the magazine said.

It also said, ``In a normal democracy, voters choose their representatives. In America, it is rapidly becoming the other way around.''

If that sad trend is to be reversed in the 2011 remap done after the 2010 census, the Illinois Constitution needs to be amended. The process used now doesn't work for anyone except party leaders divvying up the state among themselves.

As matters stand, the remap job falls first to the Legislature, and when it misses its deadline, which is always does, an eight-member commission appointed by legislative leaders takes over. The commission, which by law must have four people from each major party, always deadlocks, at which time a ninth member is added by drawing lots, which gives one party or the other control. Even that didn't settle the issue in 2001, when both the Illinois Supreme Court and a U. S. District Court ended up ruling on the acceptability of the plan.

With all that, we still got a map that looks like a drunken chimp drew it.

The Legislature, if three fifths of lawmakers agree, could propose Constitutional changes to be submitted to voters.

Or, assuming changes in the Article IV remap provisions count as a "structural and procedural subject", voters could force a vote through a petition.

Whichever method is to be used, those many Illinois residents offended by the obvious gerrymandering of the state need to get started. Six years is little enough time for such an effort.

Iowa, incidentally, offers a model worth studying when looking for a new method. The non-partisan Legislative Service Bureau, advised by a Temporary Redistricting Advisory Committee, draws the first map and presents it the Legislature.
While partisan politics cannot be eliminated from the process, Iowa's methodology offers a realistic chance of minimizing outright gerrymandering. The mere shape of the two states' maps demonstrates that.
Anyway, when the Illinois legislative candidates come around asking for your vote, ask them if they this see a problem that needs attention.
Asked often enough, they may. If not, there's always a petition drive, if offended citizens can organize themselves.
John Beydler is news editor at Quad-Cities Online. johnbeyd@qconline.com

Posted by jcb at 10:07 AM | Comments (9)

June 20, 2005

The "bad old days" are still with us

The cruel and arrogant incompetence of officials in Will County -- Joliet and environs -- is one more riff on an old, old theme.

But something thoroughly modern -- DNA testing -- has rescued another would-be victim of derelict officials, exposed their frightening shortcomings and, not so incidentally, raised anew the question whether the state can be trusted with the power to execute people.

Key dates in the sad drama:

-- June 6, 2004: Three-year-old Riley Fox of Wilmington, a small Will County town, disappears and her body is found in a creek. The tot had been sexually assaulted. DNA evidence, vaginal fluids and blood found under her fingernails is gathered. Her father, Kevin, voluntarily supplies a DNA sample to police.

-- Oct. 28, 2004: Faced with mounting criticism over the failure to solve the murder, Will County Sheriff's deputies haul in Kevin Fox and question him for 14 and a half hours, after which they announce they've obtained a confession. State's Attorney Jeff Tomczak, days away from an election in which he faces a tough challenge, says he's charging Mr. Fox with his daughter's murder and will seek the death penalty.

-- Oct. 30, 2004: Kevin Fox recants his confession, saying it was obtained by threats and intimidation, and that he was denied a request to call his father, so that his father could contact a lawyer.
-- Nov. 2, 2004: Mr. Tomczak is defeated in his bid for re-election.

-- Nov. 10, 2004: Mr Fox files a federal lawsuit against various county officials alleging they botched the investigation and violated his civil rights.

There the matter rested, more or less, until last week when DNA evidence collected at the crime scene was FINALLY tested. Lo and behold, it didn't come from Kevin Fox. Charges against him were dismissed, officials did what they could do cover their butts and re-opened the investigation.

There's an endless list of questions to be asked.

Most pressing, why wasn't the DNA evidence tested immediately? With a rapist/kid killer on the loose wasn't it imperative to know ASAP whether Mr. Fox was involved? (A family member is always suspect No. 1, it seems.)

Why, four months later, was Mr. Fox charged, with the DNA evidence STILL untested?

And, of course, why did Mr. Fox give police a statement apparently implicating himself in the murder? The answer in his case and a great many others in which DNA evidence has cleared "confessed killers," apparently is that just about anyone will confess to just about anything after 14-plus hours in a room with a bunch of cops determined to extract an admission of guilt.

Former Gov. George Ryan recognized that truth when he decided before leaving office to commute every death sentence pending in Illinois. Now we know that false confessions are not something from the "bad old days." They'll exist as long as we have incompetent cops and politically ambitious prosecutors, and human nature guarantees we'll have those forever.

Mr. Fox's lawsuit against the county is pending.

For more information visit kevinfoxisinnocent.com.

Posted by jcb at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2005

Did Michael do it?

I'm a simple man so I don't get it.

I don't understand the profit to a civil society in further hassling Michael Schaivo, as Flordia Gov. Jeb Bush is doing.
Mr. Bush wants to investigate how long it took Michael to call 911 in the wee morning hours of Feb. 25, 1990, when Terri collapsed into the 15-year death so recently ended.

Seems like the call was made at 5:40 a.m., but Michael said on television 13 years later he'd made the call about 5 -- and testified in a medical malpractice trial in 1992, two years after the fact, that he'd made the call about 4:30 a.m. Note here "trial", as in an examination of the facts of who did what when, from the hallway where Terri collaped through the emegency room to which the paramedics rushed her to the long death from which the doctors couldn't save her.

Note next that, at trial's conclusion, the doctors paid off. No fault of any sort attached to Michael, who has been consistent in saying he immediately called 911 when he found Terri collapsed in a hallway.

But Mr. Bush, who fought to the last trench in the cruel effort to keep Terri alive, sees the need for an "investigation." He thinks we need to subject poor Michael Schaivo to an additional kicking.

I don't get it, but then, I am a simple man.

I sure hope all those 24-hour "news" stations don't take a stab at creating a "Did Michael Do It?" story, since we don't need more mindless clutter. But that's probably hoping for too much sanity.

Like I said, I don't see the profit to a civil society.

Posted by jcb at 11:34 PM | Comments (1)

June 16, 2005

Just stuff

This and that ...

Iowa's Charles Grassley, who as chairman of the Senate's Finance Committee is a key player in the great what-to-do-about-Social-Security debate, is said to be ready to recommend that the age at which full benefits are available be gradually raised to 69 over the next 20 years or so.

That seems a lot more sensible plan than telling young people to divert their Social Security payments into the stock market and hope for the best. We're already changing the full-benefit age, long set at 65. For people born after 1960, it's now at 65 years and six months and eventually will reach 67.

What's two more years to the coming generation, given increases in longevity and health improvements likely to arise as the marriage between genetics and medicine is further consumated? Some exemptions may need to be made for people in brutal physical-labor jobs, but the desk-sitters would have little room to complain if working an extra couple of years saved the kids and grandkids the crushing financial load now projected if nothing is done.

The whole topic is somewhat academic to me. I'm good to go at age 65, if I choose. Which I won't, since I'm determined that whatever debt gets passed on to my children won't include a pile of college loans. Since I got started on the kid business later in life, I'll have to be in harness well past 65 to meet that goal -- and will need the Social Security check by the time the last degree gets handed out.


This one should be a no-brainer: Rep. Lane Evans of Rock Island and Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama are sponsoring special legislation that would save Diana Engstrom, 25, from being deported to her native Kosovo.

That's where she met Todd Engstrom, a Galva native training members of the U. N. peace-keeping forces. They later married but he was killed in Iraq before she had established U. S. residency and citizenship. She's living in southern Illinois, keeping her promise to Mr. Engrstrom that she'd rear his 12-year-old from a previous relationship. The immigration people are graciously permitting her to stay in the U. S. until the vote on the special legislation.

To repeat: It's a no-brainer.


Missouri's getting carried away with that "show-me" stuff. Starting July 1, everyone who goes for a new or renewed driver's license will have to prove they're "lawfully present" in the U. S.

More bureaucracy; more hassle. More "war on terror" nonsense.

``There's stories throughout the Web of cases where these terrorists have legal identification from somewhere,'' declared Sen. Jon Dolan, the Republican who pushed through the legislation.
There are also stories throughout the Web of cases where legislators got elected apparently without the blessing of two brain cells to rub together.

Posted by jcb at 11:51 AM | Comments (3)

June 13, 2005

Brush piles, chess and politics...

Nice weekend.

My wife spent most of Saturday attacking the brush wall next to the alley, making room for flowers. So I spent most of Sunday shredding. That crap's hard on an aging man.

Lots of nice mulch, though.

What time I didn't spend sweating in the sun was devoted to re-establishing contact with the U. S. Chess Federation, which recently transferred headquarters from New York to Tennessee and did a major systems overhaul even as. Service to affiliates like the Q-C's Illowa CC has, aaah, suffered.

Thanks to email and helpful people, our problems got fixed and we understand all about their new systems. Tidied up another little corner.

Out in the bigger world, Iowa-side folks are all abuzz with who's gonna run, or not, for what. Davenport Daily Politics is keeping track, getting up links to candidate websites as they surface.

The city put up a helpful slide show on options for repairing the falling-down stone wall along River Drive from the Village eastward, along with
a comment card

Job half done. The form is print-fillout-mail; why can't it be an online form like the police have for reporting crime?

Davenport's been making good use of the web in communicating with the citizenry, but lags in some basics -- employee directory/contact info being one.

The city has a new IS guy. Maybe the problems will get fixed even as the good things multiply.

In Illinois, House Republican leader Tom Cross will be in Moline later this month for a fund-raiser for Steve Haring, who ran 55-45 against Rep. Mike Boland in 2004.

The GOP seems to be serious about the 71st District seat, whether the D is Boland or somebody else.

Posted by jcb at 09:17 PM | Comments (1)

June 10, 2005

Small wins count, too

Every little win for common sense in the misbegotten "war on drugs" is precious, so here's a round of applause for the Dubuque school board, which voted this week to ban drug dogs from the district's schools.

Parent Rebecca Nolan told the board that, "To present to our kids that they have no rights is disgusting."

Oh,that more parents felt that way and were willing to speak up.

Posted by jcb at 02:21 PM | Comments (4)

June 08, 2005

The new senator harshly assesses law-making

The Illinois Q-C's new state senator didn't wait long to start beating his gums.

His fellows in the Senate 'act like sheep.'

He's tired of hearing 'the speaker wants this'; House Speaker Mike Madigan ought 'to run his own House and let us run the Senate.'

The budget process is 'appalling.'

The state is 'highly mismanaged.'

Seemingly impolitic declarations all, coming from the most junior member of the Legislature. While Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, seems comfortable enough making them, he did say he sent a letter of apology to other senators after the 'sheep' outburst on the Senate floor. 'I said I was sorry. They're not sheep. I'm the sheep,' he said.

He also offered Speaker Madigan an apology. 'He called to say `thank you' for supporting a couple of bills he was interested in. I apologized to him. He said not to worry about it, that it's best to say what you think.'

The senator's end-of-session outburst , whatever else it portends, did establish that former Sen. Denny Jacobs' penchant for truth-telling at inconvenient times has jumped to the next generation. The senators, Mr. Jacobs included, often are sheep; 'appalling' and 'mismanaged' were good word choices.

Prompting his caustic new guy's view of lawmaking was the state budget. This year, as in all years, a handful of legislative leaders huddled with the gov and then delivered a 300-page document and demanded a vote within hours.

Surely he wasn't surprised? He knows better than most that's the way it's done. No, he wasn't surprised; except at how different it felt 'when you're the guy who's got the push the green or red button.'

He voted for the budget though he's still unsure, he said, whose numbers are right on the long-term impact of cutting back payments into state pension funds, and using the money to meet current expenses. His father said it would prove costly; the governor's people argued reforms passed this year would save enough to make it a wash.

What he knows for sure, he said, is that the pension issue will be back. He's no doubt right. Social Security, private pension funds, government pension funds ... all are in crisis to some degree or another . Given the attention those laws will be getting, it'd be good if the new senator's grasp of the numbers improves.

He seems pleased enough with his first session. The highly visible 'move Casino Rock Island bill' was a gimme, but we at least know now he can handle the gimmes. He's more pleased with, and takes partial credit for, the fact that the Casino Rock Island was exempted from a 'hold harmless' clause in a new gambling tax bill. Rates were cut from 70 percent to 50 percent, with the provision that the boats pay at least as much as this year. Boats with fewer than a million customers -- Rock Island -- won't have to make up the difference if they fall short.

Politically, he keeps up on the speculation about State Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, who may run against him in the Democrats' senatorial primary, or run for re-election to the House or maybe go for state treasurer. He said it'd be best for the party if Boland defended his House seat against what's likely to be a serious challenge for Steve Haring, who ran strongly in 2004 despite being an unknown in the Q-C, where the bulk of the district's population resides. In the end, though, he's indifferent. 'Mike will do what Mike's gonna do.'

At one point, talking politics, the phrase 'If I run...' slipped in.

Is there any doubt about that? 'You know, things aren't always what they seem.' He says he took a 50 percent cut to go to the Senate; his wife went from full-time to part-time work so she could take up on the parenting slack created by his long absences in Springfield. He's unenthusiastic about part-time work selling real estate or insurance or whatever.

Despite such doubts and the controversy surrounding his appointment to his father's seat, he's sure to run. It's clear he enjoyed the work, for the most part. Rookie fumbles in a couple of cases aside, he got through the session without handing prospective opponents anything major to work with. Besides, he's a Jacobs and a Jacobs been running since Jesus was a little boy.

John Beydler is news editor at Quad-Cities Online. email johnbeyd@qconline.com.

Posted by jcb at 08:47 PM | Comments (13)

June 06, 2005

The pot ruling

When I find myself disagreeing with a ruling from the U. S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas are most always in the majority I think blew it.

Not so in the medical marijuana decision handed down today. Both those court conservatives joined in Justice Sandra O'Connor's dissent to the ruling that held federal drug laws override California's statue permitting people to grow, possess and use marijuana if a doctor prescribes it.

The case, of course, had nothing to do with the medical merits of marijuana, but was argued over how much power the federal government can claim under the commerce clause in the Constitution.

The majority said the federal power to regulate interstate commerce extends to the California medical marijuana law even though the marijuana in question never enters into interstate commerce.

The minority said extending the commerce clause to intrastate dealings gives the federal government virtually unlimited power in areas previously reserved to state authority.

The practical impact on people using marijuana may be minimal, since California law enforcement officials are likely to abide by state law. One would hope that the feds have something better to do than track down and harass people whose doctors have prescribed marijuana.

Posted by jcb at 01:40 PM | Comments (4)

June 02, 2005

Just call me Dr. Pangloss

Remember your Voltaire?

More specifically, Dr. Pangloss from Candide?

Dr. Pangloss is the guy who, whatever the trials and tribulations of life, forever saw himself as inhabiting "the best of all possible worlds."

Today, in the wake of the Davenport city council's hasty approval of the deal with the Isle of Capri to remake the riverfront, I'm taking the Panglossian view, just as seven of the 10 alderpeople did.

What could possibly be better than a 10-story hotel built in a floodplain that is otherwise being cleared of long-time businesses?

What could possibly be better than giving a casino $7 million in property taxes that otherwise would flow into the city's general fund?

What could possibly be better than giving a casino $5.1 million in gambling taxes that otherwise would support social service agencies, schools and other community causes?

What could possibly be better than putting some $3 million of city income at risk by agreeing to re-negotiate a parking ramp lease 12 years short of its stated life span?

What could possibly be better than accepting responsibility for an old and failing hotel?

What could possibly be better than any of these things? Nothing, of course. Not in this best of all possible worlds.

Posted by jcb at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Let's wallow in Watergate one more time

So, one more time ... let's WALLOW IN WATERGATE!

That phrase won't mean much to most people under 50 or so. It has been nearly 32 years since President Richard Nixon said in July of 1973, "Let others wallow in Watergate -- we are going to do our job."

Fortunately for the rule of law in our country, others, including a pair of Quad-Citians, did indeed continue to "wallow in Watergate." (More on those two in a moment.)

The "wallowing" led in July, 1974, to the judiciary committee of the House of Represenatives voting articles of impeachment against Nixon. A few days later, a delegation of Congressmen led by a grim-faced Barry Goldwater, the conservative Republican senator from Arizona, marched to the White House to inform Mr. Nixon that the full House was certain to approve the articles of impeachment and that, just as certainly, the Senate would convict him of obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress.

On Aug. 9, Mr. Nixon resigned the presidency, ending the drama that had started June 17, 1972, when five burglars were caught inside Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate Office Complex in Washington, D. C.

Well, almost ending the drama. There's been one loose thread hanging all these years. Finally, it's gone. Mark Felt, now 91, ending years of denial, came clean this week: He's "Deep Throat," the legendary confidential source that fed Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein the information critical to keeping them on the trail that led to Nixon's impeachment and resignation. The No. 3 guy at the FBI at the time, Mr. Felt was long a leading contender in the never-ending speculation about the identity of the Post's tipster.

Old Nixon loyalists immediately condemned Mr. Felt. Patrick Buchanan, a Nixon speechwriter, said Mr. Felt "behaved treacherously." Others condemned him for "sneaking around" talking to reporters rather than confronting Nixon directly, or for not resigning and going public with information about the massive cover-up surrounding the break-in.

Perhaps he should have. But remembering the times, his course is easy to understand. His boss, acting FBI director L. Patrick Gray, had resigned after admitting he had destroyed evidence at the behest of Nixon's aides. Top White House staffers, including lawyers, were resigning and being indicted. The Watergate burglars all had CIA ties. Given the atmosphere and the continuing top-level attempts to squelch the investigation, who can really fault Mr. Felt for deciding to stay in place and feed info to reporters on the sly?

In the Quad-Cities, interest in the unfolding drama was perhaps even more intense than elsewhere in the nation. Both Quad-Cities area Congressmen, Edward Mezvinksy of Davenport and Tom Railsback of Moline, were members of the House Judiciary Committee. Of the two, Mr. Railsback played the more critical role. Though he was a Republican, like Mr. Nixon, he asked hard questions during the judiciary committee hearings and in the end was one of six GOP committee members who voted with the 21 Democrats in favor of impeachment.

The vote cast Mr. Railsback into disfavor with many conservative Republicans in the district, but he had always enjoyed strong bipartisan support and readily won re-election in 1974-76-78 and '80. In 1982, though, long-memoried Republicans attacked from the right and conservative State Sen. Ken McMillan defeated Railsback in the Republican primary.

The Democrats, as was their wont, had put up another throw-away candidate in 1982 -- this time an unknown young public aid lawyer from Rock Island named Lane Evans. Suddenly, instead of being the next lamb led to the Railsback slaughter, Mr. Evans was a viable candidate. He beat Mr. McMillan and is still in Congress 23 years later, to some degree a living legacy of "wallowing in Watergate."

The Democrat Mr. Mezvinsky, incidentally, was defeated by Jim Leach in the 1976 elections, moved to Pennsylvania, where he married a Congresswoman, ran unsuccessfully for several offices and eventually ended up in prison for defrauding investors of some $10 million in varous schemes.

John Beydler is news editor at Quad-Cities Online. email johnbeyd@qconline.com

Posted by jcb at 11:01 AM | Comments (7)