Jacobs' Concerned About Blagojevich's Ability To Govern

By Tom Kocal,

The Java Hut in Savanna hosted a third community forum Wednesday, April 23, with State Senator Mike Jacobs (D-36, Moline). Fourteen guests from Carroll County's 36th District discussed several state and local issues with Jacobs for over 2 hours.

Jacobs said that Illinois is still controlled by its leadership, but is concerned with Governor Rod Blagojevich and his legal problems.

"Fundamentally, it is important that people have trust in its government. This is a problem in Illinois," Jacobs stated. "Illinois government does work, but the governor's legal issues have been a hinderance to getting things done. He has spent $2 million for legal fees. He's had to raise campaign contributions to pay for his defense."

Three weeks ago, Jacobs called for the resignation of the governor because of these legal problems. But a recent poll in the 36th District shows Blagojevich has a pathetic approval rating of 13%.

"I was a fan of the governor in his first few years. I believed in his plans to make Illinois grow and prosper. But with these issues hanging over his head, I am concerned about Blagojevich's ability to govern."

Local issues raised the ire of the Moline senator, including the partially open Thomson Correctional Center, the unfinished Great River Bike Trail, and unfulfilled promises to the City of Savanna.

"Stateville (Correctional Center in Joliet) has been open too long," Jacobs said. "It's too old, and it's unsafe for both the guards and the prisoners. With a state-of-the-art prison like Thomson, there is no need to keep Stateville's old section open."

Jacobs said the older prison in Joliet is "sitting on beautiful, maximum-valued property. Joliet's economy has gone in a different direction, towards tourism, gambling casinos, and such. They don't need the prison anymore."

Jacobs said that Illinois Department of Corrections officials toured the Thomson prison last week, and are anxious to implement a full opening.

"DOC just spent a half million dollars on a 'study' to investigate the prison system. I can't get any information about it, but it may be the reason why the Stateville-Thomson issue is moving so quickly."

Jacobs said the preliminary plan is to start transferring guards and maximum-security prisoners from Stateville to Thomson in July, with the expectation that Thomson will be fully operational by 2010. Jacobs added that the only thing he sees as a possible impediment to this plan is related to the governor's ability to lead, due to his legal problems.

"Spending time in the legislature has become a full-time job," Jacobs complained. "I'd much rather spend time meeting with the people of my district instead of spending 220 days in session like we did last year.

"On the drive up today, I was reminded of how fortunate we are to live in this most beautiful part of the state. Which reminds me of the unfinished Great River Bike Trail." Jacobs said it is one of his high priority goals to see the less than 2-mile unfinished stretch between Savanna and Thomson finally be completed, hopefully this year. He is confident that he will also acquire funding for the proposed Savanna Skateboard Park.

"We're going to make that happen - the skateboard park and the bike path," Jacobs stated.

But, he said, the state is broke.

"One thing is certain: the state won't stay broke. We'll find responsible ways to fund what's needed. Right now, we're $700 million short for this year, and we're adding a mere $1 million to the debt every 15 minutes. We have laws on our books that can't be implemented because of a lack of money.

"Educating our children is a priority. Our state constitution says that 51% of school funding should come from the state. But we're doing too much as state government. We have to figure out what we do best, like educating our kids, and do less, but more effectively.

"I like the zero-based accounting principle. Show me where the tax dollars are being spent, and show me the results. We've got to quit throwing money at problems and demand more accountability from these programs. Citizens are going to have to help lead us as to what is most important to this state.

"I think it would be a good idea to take a whole year and not pass any new laws, and take a long, hard look at the laws we already have in place. We need change, but it's not enough to call for change just for the sake of change. We need to first re-define what changes need to be made - positive changes."

Lawrence Bruckner of Thomson, Republican candidate for State Representative in the 71st District, asked Jacobs his views of a possible Port Authority at a site on the north edge of Thomson, owned by Savanna businessman Scott Sullivan.

"With the access to the river, Rt. 84, and the railroad contiguous to this site, I'd like to meet with Mr. Sullivan," Jacobs said. "A Port Authority may be a key to economic development in Carroll County. I know (Chicago) Mayor Daley wants to get trucks off the highways in Chicago and northeast Illinois. A west-side-of-the-state Port Authority would help to relieve much of the traffic congestion there by transporting more goods up and down the river, truck more from this part of the state, as well as more rail commerce."

County Board member Ron Preston (D-2) asked about the impact a Port Authority could have on the river. "We are considered a 'Sportsman's Paradise.' We don't want to lose that," Preston said.

"Environmental impact is only one of the issues that need to be investigated well before a Port Authority is approved," Jacobs said. "Because once it gets going, traffic will increase dramatically.

"We don't want to scare anyone. People tend to be afraid of what they don't know. That's why we need to learn more about a Port Authority before we actively pursue it."

Carroll County D.A.R.E. director and youth advocate Freddie Preston of rural Savanna voiced her concern with the budget hit to the U of I Extension, which includes county 4-H programs.

"I'm concerned how the 500 members of the Jo-Carroll Extension and 4-H will be affected by this extreme cut in funding," Preston told Jacobs. "4-H is a great kid's program. It's not just ag-related projects, like some people think. They learn things like photography and developing their communications skills, and there are learning opportunities for adults, like the Master Gardener program. It is unacceptable to cut funding for programs that result in such a good return on our investment."

Board member Preston wondered if curbing misappropriated farm subsidies could help the cause.

"Why should subsidies go to farmers that admit they had their best year ever, but still got a $20,000 government check because the state was classified as a 'drought area'? The drought didn't affect them, but they still got paid."

"When the economy is good, no one seems to take notice," Jacobs told the audience. "When it's bad people start to care."

Jacobs said that he doesn't agree with the governor trying to make up for the budgetary shortfall by cutting farm programs. "Ethanol and the corn market have been a boon to the farm economy in Illinois. Agriculture is what drives the Illinois economy."

Britney Long of Thomson agrees that misused farm subsidies are a problem, but added, "Farming is a gamble. Farmers produce food that feeds the world. If you want people to stay in farming, they need assistance."

"It's a gamble for every small business in Carroll County, too," Freddie added.

"We need to find a healthy balance," Jacobs said.

Jack Kroemer of Mt. Carroll discussed some of the issues faced by the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation. Kroemer serves on the Campbell Center Board of Directors.

"Our location is a tough sell to developers who say, 'There isn't much to do in this area.' It's not a centralized location. Yes, part of Carroll County's problem is its location," Kroemer said, "but that could also be considered its strength. You can still walk down beautiful, quiet, tree-lined brick streets in an historic area."

Jacobs hopes to see marketing efforts mirror the areas strengths. "We have some beautiful structures that we need to preserve in this district, and Campbell Center is certainly one of them. But what do you do with some of them? What types of businesses can you attract to renovate and utilize them? We need state and federal dollars, and I urge you to stay in touch with Sen. Durbin, who has been active in seeking federal assistance for Campbell Center."

Jacobs mentioned attracting organizations such as Living Lands and Waters, a not-for-profit environmental organization founded by Quad Cities native Chad Pregracke. Campbell Center and its college campus atmosphere is well-suited for seminars and educational workshops for organizations like Pregracke's.

"You've got to go after niche markets like that," Jacobs said. "There are plenty of people looking for what Campbell Center and Carroll County have to offer."


The Governor's legal problems include allegations of cronyism and patronage

- On December 30, 2005, it was reported that a leasing deal reached for occupants of the remodeled Illinois Tollway oasis has come under investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. This is in addition to other investigations in the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Children and Family Services. Investigations into other programs related to Illinois' Tollway System, specifically the delivery of I-Pass transponders, have also been announced. - On June 30, 2006, it was revealed that state Attorney General Lisa Madigan had received a letter from United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, stating that Fitzgerald is looking into "very serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" in the Blagojevich administration, and thanking Madigan for turning over her office's investigation to the federal authorities. Madigan later stated that she could not endorse Blagojevich because of her office's role in the investigation.

- In September 2006, it was revealed that Blagojevich had accepted a $1,500 check from Mike Ascaridis, whom the governor described as one of his closest friends, in 2003. The check was given two weeks after Ascaridis' wife, Beverly, received a state job at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Mrs. Ascaridis received this appointment despite having failed a state hiring exam. Blagojevich initially asserted that the check was written as a birthday gift to his oldest daughter. He then later said it was a gift for his younger daughter's christening.U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI  are investigating the matter.

- On October 2, 2006, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a company that contributed close to $120,000 to Blagojevich's 2002 gubernatorial campaign won a no-bid contract. Even though the contract was awarded by the Illinois' Capital Development Board, the board still reports to the Governor.

- On October 11, 2006, Blagojevich fundraiser Antoin Rezko was indicted for participation in a scheme to obtain kickbacks from investment firms seeking business from the state teachers' pension system. Friends of Blagojevich also accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution from the Elevator Constructors Local 2 PAC fund on July 23, 2003. In return, the IUEC received several board positions on the Illinois Elevator Safety Board. In addition, the governor's wife, Patricia Blagojevich, was a business partner of indicted fundraiser Antoin Rezko for at least a decade. In 2004, she received over $38,000 in real estate commissions from him.

- In October 2006, it was revealed that Patricia Blagojevich, a licensed real estate broker, earned $113,700 in commissions from Anita and Amrish Mahajan. These were the only commissions earned by Patricia Blagojevich this year. Anita Mahajan owns a urinalysis company that holds a no-bid contract with the state Department of Children and Family Services. Amrish Mahajan is president of a bank that has two requests pending before state regulators to acquire two out-of-state banks.

- On November 27, 2006, a day after the indictment of lawyer Milberg Weiss, "Friends of Blagojevich" returned a $10,000 contribution his campaign received from Milberg Weiss, records show that Blagojevich has not returned another $40,000 from Melvyn Weiss and other lawyers in Weiss' firm. Weiss paid $5,000 toward lodging, meals and entertainment for Blagojevich and others with him during the December 2003 trip to New York.

(Source: www.zimbio.com)

Go back to Prairie Advocate