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They Run for the Money

  Have you noticed how quickly Illinois politicians move when it comes to raising taxes or fees?

  Take the Illinois Tollway Authority, for example, and how speedily it "closed" this week's decision to nearly double the rates drivers pay to use the system's highways.

  Board Chairman Paula Wolfe reminded me that her members had considered a toll increase to fund a $12 billion capital program since early 2010. 

  But public hearings on the 87.5% proposed hike did not begin until August 18th and the series of 15 sessions were crammed into the next five days ending on August 23rd.

  Incredibly, the Board met  two days later on the morning of August 25th to "vote" its approval of the 15-year program as if the members had given any real study or consideration to the public testimony, most of which was orchestrated by self-interested labor unions and roadbuilders.

  While covering what critics called the "done deal" at the Tollway's palatial Downers Grove headquarters, I could not help but think of the Chicago Public School Board's decision a day earlier to approve a "maximum-allowed" increase in the city property tax.

  On August 5th, only one week after Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Chicagoans were being "nickeled and dimed" by taxers, the CPS Board appointed by the Mayor proposed raising property taxes.  The new levy would cost the owner of an average home ($250,000) an additional $84 a year.  The increase would generate $150 million dollars of the district's projected $712 million deficit.

  Taxpayers barely had a chance to see the CPS budget on line, let alone on paper, before public hearings were scheduled five days later on August 10th, 11th and 12th. 

  Emanuel's Board voted and approved the tax increase unanimously August 24th. 


  The Tollway Authority and Chicago School Board may have learned from the "clinic" Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the democratic legislative leaders held earlier this year on "the need for speed".

  Remember last January when the General Assembly reconvened for its "lame duck" session? 

  In a scant 48 hours ending before dawn on Jan. 12th, the democratic-controlled House and Senate had raised the Illinois corporate and personal income tax rates only hours before new members could be seated.  The next day, January 13th, the Governor signed the bill, which was retroactive to January 1st.


  Taxpayers never knew what hit 'em.

   Keep in mind that high-speed taxation is happening in Illinois as newly-elected state and city "reform" politicians use the word "transparent" to describe their new modus operandi.

  Its transparent, all right.

  Taxpayers should see right through it.




The Invisible Black Mayor

  Here's something Chicago's African-American political and community leaders should consider in their quest to find a "viable" black candidate to run for mayor next year:

  Perhaps there is no one who could or should run in 2011.

  There are many black political, business and community leaders qualified to run the 5th floor of Chicago City Hall.   But could their community's best choice next year not be an African-American? 

  Think about it...

  All the African-American aldermen to whom I've spoken are not willing to give up their current jobs and risk a run for Mayor.  Most of them will seek re-election in 2011. 

  And for the past decade, the vast majority did not exactly distinguish themselves in the city council.  Most simply rubber-stamped the agenda of Mayor Richard M. Daley who the Chicago Tribune reports has an all-time low approval rating.

  And since 2003, during Daley's last two terms, the Mayor has not appointed African Americans to the highest-profile positions in his government that might have provided the basis for a citywide candidacy.   Remember, there has not been a black Chicago Public Schools CEO since 1995 and no African-American Police Superintendent since 2003.

  How about a candidate picked from the Congressional Delegation?

  Danny Davis:  Too old.

  Bobby Rush:   Health issues.

  Jesse Jackson, Jr.:  Issues.

   Former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, at 63 years old, has proclaimed her candidacy for 2011.  She's trying to resurrect a career in elective politics that most thought ended 12 years ago.   I'm sure her people are busy circulating petitions but if what she's done "on the street" so far is any indication of her campaign's energy level....

   Chicago's black political leadership can only blame itself for not developing a new generation of leaders.

   The Cook County Board might have been a springboard for a mayoral candidate but look there and see ancient African-American members Jerry Butler, Earlene Collins and William Beavers.   The younger Robert Steele is obviously not a healthy man and Brenda Sims is...well...Brenda Sims.

  State Senators James Meeks and Rickey "Hollywood" Hendon would like to be mayor.  But Meeks' viability is questioned by many in "the black caucus" because of his stated intent to continue as head pastor of the Salem Baptist Church.   The conventional wisdom is that the "secular" community (perhaps the majority of city residents) would never vote for a minister/mayor or mayor/minister.

  Hendon's appeal beyond the African-American community is questioned by many black leaders.

  How about Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers?

  Larry who?

  Rogers is intelligent, personable, well-groomed and financially independent.  But I doubt he has the coin for enough media to make Larry Rogers a citywide, household name in barely four months.

  Ditto for the younger members of the city's African-American delegation to Springfield. 

  The very real chance that there might not be a viable black candidate for mayor is seemingly lost on the group of elected and community leaders conducting this weekend's forum at Bethel AME Church at 4440 South Michigan Avenue.

   The Chicago Coalition for Mayor has invited only potential African-American candidates to appear at the event which is open to the public.

   The Coalition is taking a huge risk.

   There's a chance that the best mayor for Chicago's African-American community in 2011 might come in some other shade.