...just left $153 million on the table:
Chicago and CTA officials have only themselves to blame for forfeiting a $153 million federal grant pegged to help ease traffic gridlock, U.S. transportation officials said Thursday.
The fumble marks a major setback in efforts to improve mobility in the nation's second most congested region. It means Chicago will be forced to put on hold a promising plan that would use bus-only lanes, special quick-boarding stations and high-tech traffic signals until city officials can try for funding from Barack Obama's administration.
Mayor Richard Daley insisted his administration was not responsible for the loss of the $153 million. "We did everything possible," Daley said at an event with CTA officials. He accused federal officials of being inflexible by refusing to extend a deadline to meet the requirements of the grant, which was considered a shoo-in since last spring when U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters signed an agreement with the mayor.
"Chicago waited too long to get their application submitted in full," said Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration.
One of the fundamental omissions was that city and CTA officials failed to conduct an adequate number of public meetings, officials said.
The grant was contingent on the city's 2008 approval of congestion-pricing for parking meters, the lease of its parking meter system and related requirements.
At least it's warmer here than in Alaska, where some areas haven't had temperatures above -35°C in more than a week. (It's -50°C in Northway right now, for instance.)
The soon-to-be ex-governor of Illinois got one step closer to getting thrown out this morning:
The Illinois House impeachment committee has drafted a report calling for the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The report could still be amended when the committee meets later today. But it is expected to be sent to the full House, which would then take up impeachment of the governor.
In the 69-page report, committee members noted that the governor refused to testify and rebut any of the allegations involving his conduct or the federal criminal charges surrounding his arrest at his home Dec. 9.
It could hit the Illinois Senate before the end of the month.
Via reader TW, The Onion on Apple's latest innovation.
This short, from Ball State University graduate Jaron Henrie-McCrea, won the 2005 Student Academy Award in the Experimental category:
No details yet, but it looks like "Tombstone" will get to sit after all.
Update: OK, not quite, but either the Majority Leader blundered today, or he blundered yesterday. It's not easy to tell.
I have gone on the record in my opinion that both Roland Burris and Rod Blagojevich are unqualified hacks not fit for public office. I've further gone on the record saying Blagojevich should not have appointed anyone to fill Obama's U.S. Senate seat after being arrested for corruption last month, and that anyone accepting such an appointment would remove all doubt as to the appointee's vanity, stupidity, and lack of qualification for the office.
The sad fact is, though, nothing has persuaded me that either the U.S. or Illinois constitutions can undo what the only governor we have has done. Though the Burris appointment offends every inkling of public duty that I have, and though I wish a speedy and bi-partisan impeachement upon the governor's ass, I can't escape the idiocy that has befallen my beloved state. So I'm with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): seat the idiot already. (Though I don't agree with Feinstein's implication that "seasoned and experienced" are necessarily qualifications for office.)
On the other hand, given the enormous Karmic shifting that allowed the (probably) only clean politician in Chicago to become President of the U.S., I suppose Illinois is in for quite a beating. Just look at history: we produced Grant and fostered Lincoln, which was balanced by the unbelievable corruptness of Grant's administration and the scandals that led to the entire world (except the U.S.) observing May 1st as Labor Day in observance of the Haymarket riots just a few years later. Let's not even talk about The Jungle, yes?
My bottom line: If Burris wants to end his political life (and carve another line into his tomb) as U.S. Senator, fine. But let's get some actual contenders running in the 2010 Democratic primary (like, for instance, my law school classmate Lisa Madigan), and let's get Pat Quinn into the Governor's Mansion, before even Hugo Chavez thinks we're incorrigible.
Via Paul Krugman, imagine what would have happened had the Greedy Old Party (GOP) succeeded in pushing through Social Security privitization. But why imagine? We can just look at Italy:
Italy did for retirement financing what President George W. Bush couldn’t do in the U.S.: It privatized part of its social security system. The timing couldn't have been worse.
The global market meltdown has created losses for those who agreed to shift their contributions from a government severance payment plan to private funds meant to yield higher returns. Anger is rising both at the state, which promoted the change, and money managers such as UniCredit SpA and Arca Previdenza, which stood to profit.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's administration is now considering ways to compensate as many as 1.2 million people who made the switch, giving up a fixed return for private plans linked to financial markets. It's also letting people delay redemptions on retirement funds to avoid losses after Italy's benchmark stock index fell 50 percent in 2008, destroying €300 billion ($423 billion) in wealth.
Oops. Keep in mind, a lot of people got rich on the program: the people selling the investments.
On a much smaller scale, let's keep this example of privatizing a necessary government function in mind when the Chicago street parking privatization blows up in scandal a few years from now.
Even though the final vote count in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race put Franken 225 votes ahead last night, incumbent Norm Coleman asked the state Supreme Court for one last chance to count an additional 900 ballots. Today the court said, unanimously, "bugger off, you right prat." OK, they were more polite than that:
The record before us with respect to petitioners' motion demonstrates that local election officials have acted diligently and in accordance with our orders, and together with the candidates have agreed upon more than 900 rejected absentee ballots, which have now been opened and counted by the Secretary of State's office.
Because the parties and the respective counties have not agreed as to any of these additional ballots, the merits of this dispute (and any other disputes with respect to absentee ballots) are the proper subjects of an election contest under Minn. Stat. ch. 209.
In other words, Franken won, you already agreed to the procedure that solidified his win, and anyway your term expired last night so pack it in and go back to Long Island, you sodding wanker.
Again, I may be editorializing here...
In related news, the best governor Illinois has will not be going to Washington to help his own Mr. Smith get past the Capitol police tomorrow. Can't think why not.
The Senate adjourned Friday after playing "work-to-rule" to prevent the President from making recess appointments for almost two years:
Among the many standoffs between congressional Democrats and Bush, the issue of interim appointments was one -- possibly the only one -- where Democrats truly had the upper hand under the Constitution.
Earlier this decade, annoyed that Senate Democrats were stalling his nominees to the appeals courts, Bush used his so-called recess appointment authority to name controversial selections such as Charles Pickering and William Pryor to the federal bench when Congress was on one of its many breaks. Such appointees get to serve out the remainder of the year in which they were appointed and until the end of the congressional session the following year.
So with the session never legally in recess, the President couldn't make recess appointments. QED.
The 111th Congress opens tomorrow, and Thursday, Barack Obama will be certified the next President.
The Minnesota Canvassing Board is expected tomorrow to declare Democrat Al Franken the winner of the state's U.S. Senate election by a margin of 225 votes:
It took only an hour Saturday afternoon for election officials to count 933 absentee ballots that all sides had agreed were wrongly rejected. Franken won 52 percent of them and Coleman captured 33 percent (the rest went to other candidates or cast no vote in the Senate race). It was a surprisingly muscular margin that was reflected in the glum looks of Coleman staffers and the satisfied appearance of Franken's staff.
Franken started the day with an unofficial lead of 49 votes. He achieved a net gain of 176 votes on Saturday.
Republican Norm Coleman vowed to fight on, even though other Senators have already accepted Franken's victory.
That, I believe, is 59, once future Illinois Governor Pat Quinn appoints a Democrat to Obama's seat.