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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 June 8, 2005 08:47 PM


I'm curious, jcb, are you down with the fact that politics here in The Peoples Republic of Rock Island County is in the hands of a few incestous elite, and that we are ruled by a cruel Commissar, or do you yearn for true democracy? I subscribe to your newspaper, and I assume they do not want to offend anyone. But has anyone in your organization considered what might happen if one political party had total control for decades? Has anyone at the Dispatch/Argus thought to check out the county courthouse for corruption? Is it the watchdog press, or the lapdog press? I think I know the answer.

Posted by: paladin at June 9, 2005 03:25 PM

Here's what you do. Watch the paper for any reporter whose stuff shows signs of intelligence. Drop that reporter an anonymous (but verifiable) clue to follow... and something may happen.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 10, 2005 04:44 PM

Are Illinois politics more corrupt than the general rule for states?

Posted by: Anon at June 13, 2005 02:59 PM

Corruption in state government is hardly unique to Illinois, though the state is usually held to be among the big boys in the field, along with Louisiana, Texas and New Jersey.

Googling on some some combination of these terms -- "state government" corruption indicted officials -- will turn up a long list of stories about indicted officials in many states. It's a bi-partisan practice, too.

The Better Government Association put together an integrity index that ranks states by efforts to control corruption. Illinois was 41st.

The Center for Public Integrity has an ongoing project entitled Our Private Legislatures that tracks conflicts of interest about legislators in all 50 states. Searchable databases make it easy to check your lawmakers.

-- jcb

Posted by: John Beydler at June 14, 2005 11:07 AM

Thanks all, for the information. Thanks to gerrymandering, we in the 17th District are assured Lane Evans will be our representative, even if he can't string a coherent sentence together. Such is life in the Peoples Republic. I know we'll all be shocked when the hand-wringing begins about why so many people tune out of politics----NoDuH!, as my son would say.

What I was more curious about, jcb, is what happens to local news coverage of our Democrat overlords when the overwhelming majority of your subscribers are Dems? Personally, I don't think the Dispatch is biased, except in a business Republican sort of way. But considering the recent puff piece about Denny Jacobs when he "retired", and bestowed the mantle of governance on his son, with the permission of Commissar Gianulis, of course,I wonder if financial considerations color the political coverage in the Dispatch/Argus? I'll certainly understand if you don't want to comment.

Posted by: paladin at June 15, 2005 03:25 PM

Let's see, Paladin ... in the most recent round of elections, the highest profile, most hotly contested race was for mayor of Moline. The D/A endorsed the Republican Don Welvaert.

In last fall's general election, the most hotly contested, highest profile race was for President of the U. S. The D/A endorsed the Republican George Bush.

But, hey, never let the facts stand in the way of a pet theory.

You are right, though, about the gerrymandering. A quick look at a map of Illinois Congressional Districts is enough to give a person eye strain, and our 17th District is the worst of the lot by far. The swath of Sangamon County included in the 17th as it swoops over to include Decatur is so thin it doesn't even show on the map.

The motivation behind the bizarre boundaries was less to guarantee us a Democrat reprsentative than it was to get big clusters of likely Democratic voters out the 18th and 19th Districts, thus making them safely Republican. Officials of both parties were complicit in that arrangement.

The way we go about redistricting in Illinois needs to be fixed, taken out of the hands of legislators and turned over to statistical geeks armed with computers and a willingness to take seriously the notion that districts be "compact and contiguous."

Such changes would require amending the state constitution. But, hey, that would require serious engagement in the process, rather than anonymous rants about "peoples republics" and "commissars".

Posted by: john beyder at June 15, 2005 11:33 PM

Thank Gaia straw men don't scare me, otherwise, I would have died of fright reading your above comment....and such defensiveness, tsk!tsk! I'm assuming it was just the late hour and not your reading comprehension skills that led you to put straw men in my mouth. I didn't accuse the Dispatch of bias, I was only wondering what the effect would be, if any, on a newspaper in a predominately Democrat (or Republican, for that matter) area. If you read closely, you'll see I said I didn't think the Dispatch was biased (don't know about the Argus, don't they print the same news?).

As for gerrymandering, I did not say it was a Dem only thing, I know both parties do it to the detriment of democracy, IMO, and I agree we need to adopt the Iowa plan with a non-partisan commission drawing the lines. But since the Blues are in total control of our Blue State, I'll expect donkeys to fly before the Constitution is amended.

I hope you will overlook my "peoples republic" hyperbole in the future, it is how I cope with living in an area I consider to have a totally broken political system----it's nothing personal. I am also interested in the press and how it operates, and I hope you will be able to fill in some of the blanks. Have you seen this article by someone who was a magazine writer, then spent 3 years with a newspaper, then returned to the magazine to write about his experiences? http://www.milwaukeemagazine.com/062005/beast.html
I'm just curious, not critical.

One final thing, I know the layout of the front page isn't your job, but don't you think it would have been interesting to pair the excellent article about Lance Cpl. Skovronski this morning with the refusal of our Senator Durbin to back down from his statements comparing actions of our soldiers at Gitmo to Nazis, Soviet gulags and "mad regimes" like Pol Pot's? Hey, enquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: paladin at June 16, 2005 12:30 PM

Hey Dispatch---thanks for taking my advice about the layout of your front page this a.m. ;-)

Posted by: paladin at June 17, 2005 12:27 PM

Well, it was bound to happen. Somebody got to snooping into how Chicago treats their prisoners compared with the conditions at Gitmo. Make no mistake---Chicago is Democrats. Some say Durbin should clean up his own back yard before he criticizes Gitmo. Nah!http://www.law.uchicago.edu/news/snyder-prison.html Think of the irony----prisoners are more at risk in Chicago than at Gitmo!

Posted by: paladin at June 17, 2005 01:54 PM

Has anyone at the Dispatch/Argus bothered to ask state/local Dems what they think of Durbin's comments? We know the head Dem, Hillary Clinton took a pass. But what about Obama, Lane Evans, Denny's boy, Boland, those Dems flying under the radar---the Circuit Clerk, the County Board (except the lone Republican), the Treasurer, the Recorder, etc. etc. Make them come out of their hidey-holes and take a stand---make them work for their votes, especially since most were unopposed in '02. If the press doesn't hold our elected officials accountable, who will? We want to know where they stand----for mindless partisanship or for the people. Many in our area are in the National Guard and with the Arsenal and go to Iraq, and it seems many of our people have been killed overseas----the Democrats need to stand and deliver or be scorned and defeated, even if gerrymandering makes it impossible. My challenge to D/A---ask our Democrat overlords what they think of Durbin's comments.

Posted by: paladin at June 18, 2005 01:45 PM

The D/A can do what it wants, but I'm not interested in hassling the county recorder or whoever about something Dick Durbin said, which, incidentally, wasn't that Marines are Nazis, as the baldest distortion would have it.

(Here's his entire statement, for anyone interested in the full context.)

I got no intention of helping shuffle the pea around; the issue is what's going on at Guantanamo Bay, not the senator's clumsy characterization. Looks like, too, we may manage to stay on topic despite the vicious little attempts to divert attention.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is holding hearings on the way we run the Guantanamo prison. He's characterized it as "a crazy quilt."

The news stories on Wednesday mostly didn't even mention Durbin's remarks. The AP story concentrated on Republican criticisms of the Guantanmo operation. Most of those speaking up are talking about an "image problem" but some, like Specter are going further. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, a GOP guy, too, called the prison "dysfunctional" and said "It's hurting the war effort."

That's the issue.

By Thursday, though, the papers and airwaves were full of of nothing but Durbin criticism. No thanks, I'm not interested in changing the subject. If you want to know what the county clerk or whoever thinks about it all, you call him right up and ask him.

Posted by: John Beydler at June 19, 2005 12:40 AM

There's just so much wrong here. The FBI report was about ALLEGATIONS (not facts) about what happened at Gitmo, and further, one of the "torture" items was that rap music was played at extreme levels----if it's true, how may of us have been subjected to "torture", and let's not even get into Christine Arquillare (sp). When the level of "torture" is set so low that most of us have to endure "torture" why should we take Durbin seriously? Doesn't Dick know that Trent Lott lost his leadership position for less by waxing nostalgic over a KKKer?

Our local Democrats, who see it as their birthright to suck on the public teat for perpetuity, don't feel they need to be held accountable to the masses, and it appears some in the press back them up. How sad, and how typical----don't want to rock the boat, now do you?

One last thing, if Durbin was truly concerned about "torture" he should look in his own back yard. The highest rates of police coerced false confesssions was in Chicago. Unfortunately, those in charge of the Chicago police force are Democrats, and of course Durbin can't criticize his own kind, even if they in his own back yard. Durbin will only use the bully pulpit to condemn our military and GWB---on Chicago his is silent. I guess Durbin is only concerned about Middle Eastern detainees, not Chicago detainees----how can we take Durbin seriously?

Posted by: paladin at June 19, 2005 05:24 PM

I am an avid reader of "the insidedope," and I thought I had met the stupidest bloggers on the Internet (Maybesomeday, Diehard), but you "paladine" have taken things to a whole new level.

Only in the Quad Cities could someone have such a crabed view life. Get over yourself paladine!

In a few months you'll have your chance to vote against Big Mike Jacobs, but I think you will be one of the few, as Senator Mike Jacobs is getting the job done for our area!

See you on election day "Paladine," as I look forward to being part of the team that proves you wrong!

Posted by: thetruth at June 23, 2005 12:21 PM