WBEZ | Judy Baar Topinka http://www.wbez.org/tags/judy-baar-topinka Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Quinn pushes for special election for comptroller http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-pushes-special-election-comptroller-111331 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/topinka_1.png" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he hopes to convince lawmakers to agree to hold a special election in 2016 to replace late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.</p><p>Quinn appointed his budget director, Jerry Stermer, as interim comptroller after Topinka died last month. But Stermer&#39;s term ends when Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes office Jan. 12.</p><p>Rauner has said that whoever he appoints should remain in office the next four years. But Quinn hopes in his last full week of office the special session he called for Thursday will result in lawmakers approving the special election.</p><p>Quinn told reporters Sunday that he hopes lawmakers also will consider succession of statewide officeholders on a larger scale. But lawmakers have said there&#39;s little talk or plans to take up the issue.</p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-pushes-special-election-comptroller-111331 Topinka remembered as honest, tough at memorial http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-remembered-honest-tough-memorial-111250 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/topinka_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>COUNTRYSIDE, Ill. &mdash; Late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has been remembered as a tough, honest leader with a signature sense of humor.</p><p>Crowds filled a union hall in suburban Chicago on Wednesday to pay respects. Individuals included the state&#39;s top leaders, lawmakers, local leaders and Illinoisans who knew her for more than 70 years.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-comptroller-judy-baar-topinka-dies-111213">Judy Baar Topinka in her own words</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Gov. Pat Quinn says Topinka took on tough challenges in life. She was also a former state treasurer, GOP head and lawmaker.</p><p>Portraits of Topinka lined an entrance, along with photos of past campaigns, her family and dogs.</p><p>Former Gov. Jim Thompson says Topinka would have appreciated the bipartisan crowd gathered at the memorial.</p><p>Topinka died last week after suffering complications from a stroke. She had won a second full term in November. A replacement hasn&#39;t yet been named.</p></p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-remembered-honest-tough-memorial-111250 Morning Shift: Remembering Judy Baar Topinka http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2014-12-10/morning-shift-remembering-judy-baar-topinka-111214 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/djwhitelightning1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We remember Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and her legacy that spanned over three decades. And, we get details on what City Council members plan to vote on before the year ends. Plus, it&#39;s our weekly dose of Reclaimed Soul with Vocalo&#39;s Ayana Contreras.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-115/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-115.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-115" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Remembering Judy Baar Topinka " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 08:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2014-12-10/morning-shift-remembering-judy-baar-topinka-111214 Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka dies http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-comptroller-judy-baar-topinka-dies-111213 <p><p>Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, the first woman in Illinois to serve in two state constitutional offices, died early Wednesday, less than 24 hours after having a stroke, according to her office. She was 70.</p><p>She served as state treasurer and comptroller, and had a humor and political style that could pump up&nbsp; Illinois&rsquo; sometimes stuffy political scene.</p><p>&ldquo;I am a Republican. I&rsquo;m also a conservative, but I&rsquo;m not crazy,&rdquo; Topinka told a crowd supporting same-sex marriage last year.</p><p>That style helped her get elected to the state legislature in the 80s.</p><p>She ran statewide in the 90s and became the first female state treasurer, a job by all accounts she valued.</p><p>&ldquo;Judy Baar Topinka was someone who was both financially conservative, but also very reasonable in wanting to make sure that the State of Illinois paid its bills on time,&rdquo; said Laurence Msall, who heads the Civic Federation, a budget watchdog group. He said even in the 90s, Topinka was warning about bad spending and borrowing habits of state government and some of the practices that have earned Illinois its poor financial reputation.</p><p>As she won more elections, Topinka became more involved in the state Republican Party, becoming its chair. In 2004, she led the party to a candidate who would spectacularly lose against Barack Obama for the U-S Senate seat.</p><p>Remember Alan Keyes?</p><p>Two years later, Topinka made the decision to quit her post as treasurer to run for higher office. She ran against Rod Blagojevich for governor. It was an ugly, negative campaign. But after the fact, Topinka said she&rsquo;d felt an obligation to take on Blagojevich.</p><p>&ldquo;I gave up a job I absolutely adored. I loved being state Treasurer,&rdquo; she told WBEZ in January 2009. &ldquo;I was good at it. But he had to be stopped. I thought I could do it and I thought that good would triumph over evil. Obviously it did not.&rdquo;</p><p>Topinka lost that election.</p><p>After Blagojevich was arrested - when she was not a candidate for office - Topinka talked in a way most politicians don&rsquo;t: challenging the voters who went for Blagojevich, who eventually went to prison for corruption.</p><p>&ldquo;It makes us all look like a bunch of bozos,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Not only that we got taken to the cleaners by this guy for four years, but that we were stupid enough to elect him for a second four years. I mean, what does that say about the people of the State of Illinois?&rdquo;</p><p>But she didn&rsquo;t stay away from politics for long. In 2010, Topinka&nbsp; won the race for state comptroller, the person who writes the checks for the government.</p><p>Pat Brady, the former chair of the Illinois Republican Party, said her bounce-back - and moderate politics - should be a model for other Republicans running statewide.</p><p>&ldquo;In Illinois, if you want to win, look at the Judy Baar Topinka model, which is the model that Mark Kirk followed. Somewhat the model that Bruce Rauner followed,&rdquo; Brady said.</p><p>Pat Pavlich says her stands on politics were grounded in her neighborhood life. Pavlich used to be township supervisor for Riverside, Topinka&rsquo;s home community, and she&rsquo;s a long time friend.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know if you&rsquo;re familiar with the Houby Day Parade, but that was a favorite of Judy&rsquo;s. It was a part of her Czech heritage coming out,&rdquo; Pavlich said.</p><p>Pavlich says even in more recent years, when she&rsquo;d need a cane or walker, Topinka couldn&rsquo;t be kept from walking that Houby Day Parade, a festival about mushrooms.</p><p>Topinka had her vices. She smoked. She liked caffeine.</p><p>She also liked polka, and Pavlich says she just liked taking care of people and her beloved dogs. And she thrived on the theater of politics and the responsibility of government.</p><p>There were others interests, too. In the few years she was out of politics, Topinka returned to her early training - journalism - and briefly had her own radio show on a small west suburban-based station, WJJG. She called it The Judy Show.</p><p>And it was all she needed to let that charismatic personality come through.</p><p>Lawmakers who shared the political stage with Topinka spoke warmly of her public and private personality.</p><p>&quot;I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of my friend, Judy Baar Topinka,&quot; Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement. &quot;Judy was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Never without her signature sense of humor, Judy was a force of nature (who) paved the way for countless women in politics.&quot;</p><p>Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, a Republican, called Topinka one of the state&#39;s &quot;all-time greats&quot; and noted her &quot;one-of-a-kind personality (that) brought a smile to everyone she met.&quot;</p><p>Topinka, a Republican and native of the Chicago suburb of Riverside, won a second term last month in a tough race with Democratic challenger Sheila Simon, the former lieutenant governor. She always described herself as someone who knew state government inside and out.</p><p>&quot;I know who makes things run. I know who talks and doesn&#39;t make things run. I know what agencies could be doing that they&#39;re not doing,&quot; she told the AP in 2006. &quot;I&#39;m just a worker bee.&quot;</p><p>Topinka was born in 1944 to William and Lillian Baar, the children of Czech and Slovak immigrants. They lived in Riverside, near Cicero and Berwyn, two blue-collar Chicago suburbs where Eastern European immigrants had built communities. Her mother ran a real estate business while her father was serving in World War II. After the war, she continued to manage the business, turning it into a prominent suburban firm.</p><p>She went to Northwestern University then became a reporter for a suburban Chicago newspaper chain. She married and had a son, Joseph, but divorced in 1981 after 16 years. That year, Topinka began serving in the Illinois House. She says she ran because corrupt officials were ignoring the community&#39;s needs.</p><p>During the comptroller&#39;s campaign, Topinka likened her job to being a &quot;skunk at a picnic&quot; &mdash; a reference to the task of writing checks to a state with a backlog of unpaid bills.</p><p>Topinka seemed to relish doting on people and offering motherly advice. One summer, she spent as much time warning reporters covering a Chicago parade about the dangers of the sun and urging them to wear hats and sun screen as she did talking about politics.</p><p>Those who knew Topinka personally knew a woman with flare. She played the accordion, loved to dance polkas and said about anything that came to mind. She loved her dogs and fed them McDonald&#39;s cheeseburgers. She spoke four languages, English, Czech, Spanish and Polish.</p><p>When she ran for governor in 2006 she told the AP that Illinois is &quot;a miraculously wonderful place to live.&quot;</p><p>But, she said, &quot;I feel it&#39;s being hurt and abused.&quot;</p><p>&quot;If I don&#39;t stop it, I&#39;d be complicit in watching it go down the tubes, and I don&#39;t want to do that,&quot; Topinka said. &quot;So I&#39;m running.&quot;</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/topinkabush.png" title="President Bush is introduced by Republican candidate for Illinois Governor Judy Baar Topinka, left, at a campaign fundraiser at the Drake Hotel, Friday, July 7, 2006, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)" /></div><p>Topinka previously served three terms as Illinois state treasurer, was a former Illinois GOP chairwoman and ran for governor in 2006, losing to now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.</p><p>Topinka was born in 1944 to William and Lillian Baar, the children of Czech and Slovak immigrants. They lived in Riverside, near Cicero and Berwyn, two blue-collar Chicago suburbs where Eastern European immigrants had built communities. Her mother ran a real estate business while her father was serving in World War II. After the war, she continued to manage the business, turning it into a prominent suburban firm.</p><p>She went to Northwestern University then became a reporter for a suburban Chicago newspaper chain. She married and had a son, Joseph, but divorced in 1981 after 16 years. That year, Topinka began serving in the Illinois House. She says she ran because corrupt officials were ignoring the community&#39;s needs.</p><p>During the comptroller&#39;s campaign, Topinka likened her job to being a &quot;skunk at a picnic&quot; &mdash; a reference to the task of writing checks to a state with a backlog of unpaid bills.</p><p>Topinka seemed to relish doting on people and offering motherly advice. One summer, she spent as much time warning reporters covering a Chicago parade about the dangers of the sun and urging them to wear hats and sun screen as she did talking about politics.</p><p>Those who knew Topinka personally knew a woman with flare. She played the accordion, loved to dance polkas and said about anything that came to mind. She loved her dogs and fed them McDonald&#39;s cheeseburgers. She spoke four languages, English, Czech, Spanish and Polish.</p><p>When she ran for governor in 2006 she told the AP that Illinois is &quot;a miraculously wonderful place to live.&quot;</p><p>But, she said, &quot;I feel it&#39;s being hurt and abused.&quot;</p><p>&quot;If I don&#39;t stop it, I&#39;d be complicit in watching it go down the tubes, and I don&#39;t want to do that,&quot; Topinka said. &quot;So I&#39;m running.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Judy Baar Topinka in Her Own Words</span></p><p>If you followed Topinka&#39;s life and career in Illinois you probably have heard her spout off. WBEZ gathered a few of our favorites here.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/180866235&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Topinka remembered</span></p><p>Many in Illinois politics offered their rememberances of Topinka Wednesday morning in statements and on social media</p><p>For Illinios state senator Christin Radogno, a fellow Republican, it was Topinka&rsquo;s refreshingly non-political style that first drew her in years ago:&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I wasn&rsquo;t particularly political at that time at all, but she really struck a cord with me. She was very blunt, honest, but always humorous&mdash;not an angry kind of a person.&nbsp; I mean, we have people who are blunt and honest but that have an angry undertone but she never had that. She definitely struck a cord with me, she was always blunt and honest.&quot;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Early this morning, Illinois lost one of its all-time greats. <a href="https://twitter.com/CompTopinka">@CompTopinka</a> was a tremendous friend, and Diana and I will miss her deeply.</p>&mdash; Bruce Rauner (@BruceRauner) <a href="https://twitter.com/BruceRauner/status/542639529447141376">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Judy Baar Topinka was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Her leadership improved Illinois &amp; paved the way for women in politics.</p>&mdash; Governor Pat Quinn (@GovernorQuinn) <a href="https://twitter.com/GovernorQuinn/status/542664979452022785">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Never without her signature sense of humor, Judy was a force of nature. Today the entire state mourns the loss of one of the greats.</p>&mdash; Governor Pat Quinn (@GovernorQuinn) <a href="https://twitter.com/GovernorQuinn/status/542665109550948352">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Statement from Mayor Emanuel on the passing of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka <a href="http://t.co/t8jTeqDXAp">http://t.co/t8jTeqDXAp</a></p>&mdash; ChicagosMayor (@ChicagosMayor) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChicagosMayor/status/542687348832866304">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>IL politics lost its Polka Queen last night &amp; I lost a friend. Judy Baar Topinka was one of a kind. My prayers go out to her family.</p>&mdash; Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorDurbin/status/542685698244243457">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Saddened on passing of my friend Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, a trailblazer for women. Prayers are with her family</p>&mdash; Dan Rutherford (@RutherfordDan) <a href="https://twitter.com/RutherfordDan/status/542647672667373568">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>One of the great ones, Judy Baar Topinka sure knew how to have fun. <a href="http://t.co/hWEAmSbLSf">pic.twitter.com/hWEAmSbLSf</a></p>&mdash; Chicago City Clerk (@chicityclerk) <a href="https://twitter.com/chicityclerk/status/542687756812828672">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Illinois s lost a great public servant, and Illinoisans lost a champion and a good friend with passing of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.</p>&mdash; Bill Brady (@Bill_Brady) <a href="https://twitter.com/Bill_Brady/status/542679222347911168">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Judy Baar Topinka wasn&#39;t just a trailblazing woman; she was fun. Here, in second-hand duds. And slippers. :) <a href="http://t.co/RbIQx2FtYQ">pic.twitter.com/RbIQx2FtYQ</a></p>&mdash; Amanda Vinicky (@AmandaVinicky) <a href="https://twitter.com/AmandaVinicky/status/542682008481042432">December 10, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></p> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 06:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-comptroller-judy-baar-topinka-dies-111213 Case over lawmaker pay could be 'landmark' http://www.wbez.org/news/case-over-lawmaker-pay-could-be-landmark-108299 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP917659587334.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; Gov. Pat Quinn says a lawsuit over his decision to suspend lawmaker pay for failing to act on the state pension crisis will be a &quot;landmark&quot; case.</p><p>Quinn attended a court hearing Tuesday involving a lawsuit filed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to force Quinn and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue paychecks.</p><p>A Cook County Circuit Court judge set oral arguments for Sept. 18.</p><p>Last month, Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators&#39; pay from the state budget after threatening consequences if they didn&#39;t act on pensions.</p><p>The lawsuit asks the court to decide if Quinn&#39;s line-item veto fully eliminated lawmakers&#39; salaries. If the court upholds Quinn&#39;s amendatory veto, plaintiffs want the court to declare Quinn&#39;s action unconstitutional.</p><p>Quinn says his move is constitutional.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 06 Aug 2013 11:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/case-over-lawmaker-pay-could-be-landmark-108299 Topinka says she must cancel lawmakers’ paychecks - for now http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-says-she-must-cancel-lawmakers%E2%80%99-paychecks-now-108197 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/topinka.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Illinois lawmakers will not be getting their paychecks for the month of August. Illinois&rsquo; comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka, who issues checks for state employees, said Thursday she will not send them out, per Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s veto earlier this month.</p><p dir="ltr">Quinn said neither he nor lawmakers should receive paychecks until the state addresses its $100 billion pension debt and agrees on a compromise to restructure state employees&rsquo; retirement benefits.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We tried to get as much legal guidance on this as possible so that we knew we would be doing the right thing and following the law exactly and not getting tripped up,&rdquo; Topinka said at a news conference Thursday.</p><p dir="ltr">Topinka said there are conflicting legal opinions between her staff, the governor&rsquo;s legal team and the Attorney General&rsquo;s office. But the consensus is that if there is no money appropriated for legislators and the governor, then she can&rsquo;t legally send out the checks. Topinka was critical of the governor&rsquo;s idea to stop the paychecks, but said the best way to resolve the matter is either court action or for the legislature to override the governor&rsquo;s veto of their pay.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is no way to run a government,&rdquo; Topinka said. &ldquo;Threats, blackmail and inertia may good theater, but it makes us look ridiculous and it takes away from our ability to get things done.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Lawmakers typically receive their paychecks at the beginning of each month. August&rsquo;s check is the first skipped check for lawmakers since the governor took action.</p><p dir="ltr">Meantime, after the legislature adjourned without agreeing on a pension compromise in May, a committee of five state representatives and five state senators was formed to try to find a new pension reform plan that could get the support of all parties involved.</p><p dir="ltr">They continue to meet in private, but they have not issued a timeframe for when a proposal may be released. Some members of the committee have criticized Quinn for trying to rush the process while they were waiting to find out how different plans and how much money each could save the state.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 26 Jul 2013 08:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-says-she-must-cancel-lawmakers%E2%80%99-paychecks-now-108197 Is Illinois really in a financial mess? New state website makes the case http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-really-financial-mess-new-state-website-makes-case-97849 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//RS5200_AP060608042465_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois taxpayers who want a first-hand look at how the state spends money can now get their fix, or so says Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. On Monday she launched <a href="http://ledger.illinoiscomptroller.com/" target="_blank">The Ledger</a>, a comprehensive online financial database that she says sets a new standard for transparency.</p><p>“Beyond providing the day’s balances and transactions, the site allows taxpayers to inspect state revenues, expenses, contracts and salaries, all without having to move from their home computer,” Topinka said.</p><p>Some of the information taxpayers can access include:</p><ul><li>Daily general funds balances and bond rating information;</li><li>Unpaid bill totals on file at the state comptroller’s office;</li><li>A state contract database providing agreement descriptions, with an option to obtain the document itself;</li><li>A salary database detailing payments to all state employees;</li><li>Revenue and expense database containing all transactions;</li><li>All state financial reports;</li><li>Automatically-generated Freedom of Information Act requests for additional information.</li></ul><p>Topinka hopes the new set of online tools will provide more than just financial data.</p><p>“The object of the exercise is to make everything that we know of in the comptroller’s office public. If we know it, you’ll know it,” Topinka said. “We think it’s the only way we’re going to get the state back on a footing here on integrity and undercut some of this corruption that’s gone on and horseplay. So when you see it, it’ll be for real.”</p></p> Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:24:57 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-really-financial-mess-new-state-website-makes-case-97849 Voting for Blago http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2011-12-09/voting-blago-94777 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-09/AP03011205445.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-09/AP03011205445.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 203px;" title="(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)"><em>How could you people elect Rod Blagojevich?</em></p><p>That was the question from an out of state friend reading about Illinois’ latest embarrassment: our seventh governor to go to jail for corruption, and the second in a row.</p><p>In hindsight, he seems so obviously the wrong choice: so cocky, such a lightweight. His early career depended almost entirely on Ald. Dick Mell, his Dem machine pol father-in-law; he had a congressional tenure with not a single important legislative achievement; and he holds the distinction of being the only Illinois Democrat who voted in favor of war with Iraq in 2002.</p><p>But if Mell was instrumental in his forward movement, I’m going to suggest there was another man almost as important to Blago’s gubernatorial tenure.</p><p>His name? Rolando Cruz.</p><p>You remember him: the 20 year-old gang member who stupidly thought he could make up a story in order to get the reward offered for info on 10 year-old Jeanine Nicarico’s rape and murder and wound up losing more than a decade of his own life in jail, falsely accused of the crime.</p><p>In spite of prosecutorial lies, and even exculpatory DNA evidence, DuPage prosecutors and law enforcement became obsessed with pinning the crime on Cruz and a pair of his friends. But by the time Blago ran for governor in 2002, Cruz had already won a civil suit against his accusers and was on his way to a full pardon from then Governor George Ryan.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-09/AP95110901156.jpg" title="Cruz, right, was freed after spending 12 years on death row for a murder he didn't commit. (AP/Beth A. Keiser)" width="512" height="415"></p><p>In 2002, Blago had won the Democratic primary against former schools czar Paul Vallas and egomaniac Roland Burris (oh the ironies!), and who did he face in the general election? Republican Jim Ryan, the former Illinois attorney general who had prosecuted Cruz.</p><p>By the time of the election, Jim Ryan was trying to have it both ways -- committed to what he had done, yet refusing to take a stand on Cruz’s guilt or innocence as the pardon played out.</p><p>The Cruz case was no small detail. It dominated<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-10-06/news/0210060377_1_hernandez-appeal-prosecutions-jeanine-nicarico"> headlines, debates</a>. It even prompted the Nicarico family to send a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-10-01/news/0210010146_1_nicaricos-prosecution-rolando-cruz">letter</a> to the <em>Tribune </em>asking Jim Ryan to man up and say in public what he continued to tell them in private: that he believed Cruz was involved.</p><p>Blago could not have asked for a better candidate to run against.</p><p>Jim Ryan looked <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-09-29/news/0209290332_1_george-ryan-cook-county-case">overzealous, incapable of admitting a mistake, willing to do anything</a> -- even send innocent men to die -- in order to get ahead politically.&nbsp;</p><p>And, perhaps not surprisingly, when Blago rolled up the winning votes, many came from Latino and African-American communities where Jim Ryan struck the most fear.</p><p>And in 2006?</p><p>By then, Blago was already under investigation for corruption by Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan. Edwin Eisendrath ran against him in the primary but he had no chance: Blagojevich was backed by the entire Dem establishment (except Madigan), including then Senator Barack Obama -- in spite of the fact that by then the governor was feuding with practically every single Democrat in Illinois. (An aside: everybody in the president’s inner circle, with the single exception of David Axelrod, who never supported Blago, backed Blagojevich both times.)</p><p>But in 2006, it looked like Blago would get a real challenger: Judy Baar Topinka, a RINO if there ever was one. She was personally popular, had a bunch of progressive positions, and though she had done some ethically questionable things, she wasn’t under investigation and seemed far cleaner than Blago by this point.</p><p>But then she named DuPage County state’s attorney Joe Birkett, a Jim Ryan lieutenant and <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-09-24/news/0209240301_1_capital-case-attorney-tragedy-for-political-gain">another of the Cruz innocence deniers</a>, to her ticket and that eliminated Baar Topinka for a whole lot of people.</p><p>How disgusted were voters in 2006 with both Blago and the GOP ticket?</p><p>Rich Whitney, the Green Party candidate, got an impressive 10+ percent of the votes -- a position that allowed the Greens to become <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_Green_Party">one of three legally established parties</a> in the state.</p><p>So how could we elect a doofus like Rod Blagojevich?</p><p>We were, believe it or not, voting for the lesser evil -- both times.</p></p> Fri, 09 Dec 2011 19:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2011-12-09/voting-blago-94777 Plan to merge Illinois treasurer and comptroller stalled in legislature http://www.wbez.org/story/plan-merge-illinois-treasurer-and-comptroller-stalled-legislature-92018 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-15/AP110818030147.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The plan to merge the Illinois treasurer and comptroller's office is stuck in the state House of Representatives. Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, both Republicans, say combining their offices will save millions of dollars. Topinka blamed Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan for stalling the plan.</p><p>"There are ways to save money, which in this case are perfectly harmless, they wouldn't affect anybody's pocketbook, but we would have the extra 12 million," Topinka said. "That would sure help."</p><p>Madigan's spokesman says the proposal needs more safeguards. Illinois used to have one fiscal office, the state auditor, but a scandal in the 1950's caused constitutional drafters to split the office to prevent future problems.</p></p> Thu, 15 Sep 2011 12:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/plan-merge-illinois-treasurer-and-comptroller-stalled-legislature-92018 Politicians react to Blagojevich verdict http://www.wbez.org/story/politicians-react-blagojevich-verdict-88411 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Pat Brady:</strong></p><p><strong>Illinois Republican Party Chairman</strong></p><p>“I'm glad that the verdict is finally in on Rod Blagojevich. However this closes only one chapter of Democrat corruption in Illinois. Illinois Democratic politicians who now try everything they can to hide their past support of Rod Blagojevich should look themselves in the mirror and remind themselves that little has changed since the day Blagojevich was arrested.</p><p>“Our current governor (Pat Quinn) has appointed lame duck legislators to high paid positions after they changed their views and voted for late night tax hikes. The Speaker of the Illinois House (and state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan) is partner in a law firm that has reaped millions in appealing tax assessments in a relationship that even Forrest Claypool (now a member of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Administration) said ‘has caused our taxes to go up and the level of faith in government to go down.’”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>John Cullerton:</strong></p><p><strong>Statement from Illinois Senate President John Cullerton:</strong></p><p>"Once again, the former governor's pattern of dishonesty has been confirmed. I thank the jury for its public service. Just as it was sad but necessary for the Senate to remove him from office, today is another sad event for Illinois. I would hope that this verdict would further allow us as a state to move on and ahead."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>David Morrison: </strong></p><p><strong>Deputy Director, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform </strong></p><p>“The jury today has ratified the sense of millions of Illinoisans, that Rod Blagojevich was a pox on Illinois' political system. His conviction also serves as a warning that no one is above the law and that anyone today thinking of abusing the public trust for their private benefit should consider the very real consequences. The jury today made clear that criminal acts are not "just politics." Blagojevich, and many of his advisors and staff, are facing serious prison time, financial penalties, and separation from their families and friends.</p><p>“Illinois has taken great strides to ensure that the next scandal will not follow the&nbsp;Blagojevich blueprint. Today's laws make it much harder to commit yesterday's actions. But preventing tomorrow's scandals require more vigilance. Voters must accountability from candidates. Officeholders must stand ready to call out their wavering colleagues. Staffers must understand the risks they take when they follow criminal orders. Reform is possible, one step at a time, and Illinois has a long road ahead.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Dan Rutherford: </strong></p><p><strong>Illinois State Treasurer</strong></p><p>“The guilty verdict against former Governor Rod Blagojevich closes a long, embarrassing chapter for the citizens of Illinois. He deserves everything he’s going to get.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Judy Baar Topinka:</strong></p><p><strong>Illinois Comptroller </strong></p><p>"I am heartened by the Jury's verdict against Rod Blagojevich, and pleased to see justice after many months of waiting. But make no mistake: this is nothing to celebrate. Through his unconscionable behavior and reckless leadership, Blagojevich inflicted damage on Illinois that will take years, if not generations, to repair. He broke the public trust and mismanaged dollars with a zeal that was unique even in our storied state.</p><p>"I find his behavior reprehensible and am personally pleased to see him held responsible. But more important, I hope that today's verdict delivers a reminder that elected leaders serve the public, not the other way around - and they will be held accountable, even if it takes a while.</p><p>“While I look forward to turning the page on Blagojevich, I hope that the lessons learned from his prosecution live on. Ironically, it would prove to be his greatest contribution to our state."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Adam Kinzinger:</strong></p><p><strong>Republican U.S. Representative</strong></p><p>“Rod Blagojevich never seemed to understand the difference between serving the public and serving his personal self interests. The evidence presented and verdict confirms that he was found guilty of seventeen of the twenty counts including wire fraud, attempted extortion and attempting to sell President Obama's old Senate seat, but far worse, he abused and shattered public trust. The shame and national embarrassment Blagojevich cast onto our state has only created further financial bearing.&nbsp;</p><p>"I applaud the U.S. Attorney’s office for their hard work, dedication and effort to see to it that justice has somewhat been served.&nbsp; Unfortunately, Blagojevich's verdict and punishment will not restore statewide, much less nationwide certainty in Illinois.&nbsp; We must now move beyond Rod Blagojevich and turn our focus toward working together to rebuild Illinois.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Jeff Schoenberg:</strong></p><p><strong>Senator, 9th District, Assistant Majority Leader</strong></p><p>"With this guilty verdict, Illinois has now been shamed once again as its second consecutive chief executive has failed its citizens in the most fundamental way possible. We must all redouble our efforts to restore confidence and integrity to Illinois government."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Dick Durbin:</strong></p><p><strong>Democratic U.S. Senator </strong></p><p>“I hope today’s verdict finally draws this sad and sordid chapter in Illinois history to a close.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Bill Brady:</strong></p><p><strong>State Senator, Bloomington</strong></p><p>“I believe our state will grow stronger as a result of the conviction of Rod Blagojevich today.&nbsp; Rod Blagojevich abused the office of Governor and made every attempt to capitalize on his public office for personal and political benefit.</p><p>“His overwhelming conviction today should serve as yet another reminder that public officials are in office to serve the public and not their own personal interests and ambitions.&nbsp; We have made some progress in ending pay-to-play politics in Illinois, but the decision today underscores the need for us in government to continue our work to earn the trust and confidence of our citizens.”</p></p> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 21:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/politicians-react-blagojevich-verdict-88411