Phil Pash’s Up & Down The Rock

Has It Started? Isn’t this interesting—Chicago Mayor Richie Daley is seeking to increase the cost of an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card to $25 per year, according to a report in the Peoria Journal Star?

The state currently charges $5 for a five-year card, and Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he is against any FOID increase. While campaigning last fall, Blago promised he would not seek an increase in FOID charges.

Well, he’s not, but Daley apparently is. Daley, well known as an anti-gunner, was Blago’s campaign chairman last fall, and many expressed reservations at the time that Daley would have too much say in running state government. The Peoria paper said the FOID increase was part of a package of gun-control bills announced Feb. 13.

Is this the official start of the old shell game? In NSSF Reports, a regular report to members and associates of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Patrick O’Malley of the Federal Capital Communications Corp. specifically mentioned Blago.

“As a former state senator, Blagojevich not only voted for a number of anti-gun measures, but also proudly sponsored bans on broad categories of firearms,” O’Malley said. “Now he’s telling people he’s always supported the Second Amendment.”

Federal Capital Communications Corp. is a Washington-based firm spearheading voter education efforts for the Heritage Fund, which focuses on educating gun-owning voters. O’Malley and Jim Baker, former director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, are partners in Federal.

The Heritage Fund bankrolled a campaign called “Vote Your Sport” for the 2000 election and again last fall. According to Heritage Fund, sportsmen turned out in record numbers for last fall’s midterm elections and helped NRA-endorsed candidates to victory after victory in House, Senate and governors’ races across the country, as well as in a host of local contests.

Except in Illinois, where Blago and the Democrats gained control of everything—some of it probably as a backlash against Republican George Ryan.

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It’s A Big Hole: State Budget Director John Filan says the size of the hole in which the George Ryan administration left us Illinoisans is $4.8 billion for fiscal years 2003 and 2004. He presented a specific and detailed analysis of the deficit, which revealed how years of unsound fiscal decisions led to the crisis.

Words used by Filan included, “Illinois is facing its worst fiscal crisis ever,” and, “This monumental fiscal problem is real and must be dealt with in order to turn our state’s economic ship around.”

Typically for Illinois, where everything always is political, the Republicans left to clean up after Ryan don’t think it’s that bad, maybe somewhere around $3.5 billion. What’s another billion to Illinois taxpayers, who seemingly get clobbered every time they stick their heads out of their holes to see if the coast is clear?

The Republicans need to go to meetings for Over-spenders Anonymous, stand up and take responsibility for their part of the mess, apologize and then grab a shovel and help us dig out. Of course, they didn’t do it alone; the Democrats didn’t say no to the reckless spending.

But the Republicans are in denial because they still don’t want to admit to themselves that one of their own pretty well damaged this state financially and in the realm of criminal justice after a long string of at least good Republican governors. It’s true, though, ‘ol George’s legacy was leaving us stuck in a giant dung heap.

Let’s get on with fixing the problem and not get bogged down in arguing over the size of it. It’s big … OK?

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Spoils System Lives On: While on the subject of the state in which I was born (and do love, though I am cynical about its politics and politicians), I grow weary of national stories that point out our flaws to the rest of the country.

Recently I found an Associated Press story that talked about political patronage and how the “spoils system” still was alive in Illinois despite three U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1976, 1990 and 1996 that severely limit using party loyalty as a litmus test for government jobs and contracts.

Said Harvey Grossman, a Chicago lawyer who argued one of the Supreme Court cases:

“I don’t believe that patronage has ever died. Politics has such a tainted reputation in this state that people just believe that it’s part and parcel of the process.”

He’s absolutely right.

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Now Feel Good: Cool stuff about Illinois comes from a review of the state’s 2001 vital statistics collected by the Illinois Department of Public Health. More than a half million vital record events are logged each year as mandated by state statutes and federal uniform data collection requirements and, in 2001, included 184,022 births, 104,858 deaths, 89,469 marriages and 37,294 divorces.

In order, Emily, Hannah, Jessica, Grace and Madison were the favorite names for newborn girls in Illinois while Jacob, Michael, Matthew, Daniel and Nicholas topped the list for boys.

Other “birth” statistics included the largest baby (13 pounds, 12 ounces), the day most births occurred (July 17, 654), the day with the fewest births (Dec. 25, 291), the month with the most births (August, 16,321), the month with the fewest births (February, 13,974), the oldest mother (54) and the oldest father (83).

The oldest groom was 94 and the oldest bride was 95. The month with the most marriages was June with 10,262, and the month with the least number of marriages was January with 4,196.

The most deaths occurred on Jan. 1 (355) and the fewest deaths were recorded on July 26 (226). March had the most deaths of any month (9,499) while September had the fewest (8,368). The oldest man to die in 2001 was 108 years old, the oldest woman was 112.

The month with the most divorces was May (3,430) and the month with the least was September (2,634). The oldest man divorced was 92, the oldest woman divorcee was 88.

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The Geneseo Fly-Over: Have you heard about the flap surrounding the Geneseo fly-over? Geneseo is a city of about 6,400 south of us. Years ago, they had some great high school football teams down there. The Maple Leafs, if my memory is, correct.

Anyway, Major Whitney Sieben of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing, on his way from Denver to an Air National Guard base in Springfield, made four low-flying passes and performed loops and barrel rolls over Geneseo in his F-15 jet as a tribute to his grandmother, who lives in Geneseo.

He “buzzed” the city. Ever heard an F-15 or any jet fighter for that matter come in for a low pass? It tends to get your attention. And it got the attention of the folks in Geneseo, many of whom were alarmed and flooded police with at least 100 phone calls.

For brief parts of his fly-over, he was joined by a smaller, private airplane piloted by his uncle, state Sen. Todd Sieben.

The major said he had permission from air traffic control to deviate from his flight plan. “I had an extra 10 minutes of fuel, so I decided to fly down around my hometown,” he said

Both the FAA and the military are investigating the incident, said FAA spokesman Elizabeth Isham Cory, formerly of Rockford.

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Leave ‘Em Laughing: The good news—Canada has offered to help the U.S. in the war on terrorism. The Canadians have pledged two battleships, 6,000 troops and 10 jet fighters.

The bad news—With the current exchange rate, that comes out to two canoes, a Mountie and a couple of flying squirrels. No mention of moose.

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