Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cautious Comfort or Challenging Campaign?

A young friend has a dillema and I thought the political junkies on this site might have some thoughts. Here's the question:

I was recently approached with an opportunity to work full-time on a Congressional primary campaign for the next six months. The candidate is running against an incumbent Congressman. He appears to be quite well known in the district, and it could be a winnable campaign for him. I have done a little research on this gentleman and while he seems to have an interest in transportation, I’m not sure where he stands on other issues and I don’t know if he’s someone I could even support.

I don’t know a thing about running a campaign. I've never worked on a campaign, let alone volunteered on a campaign before. My political experience is limited to voting in the general election - I’ve never even voted in a primary election. And because I was called about this while I was at work, I wasn't able to ask the important questions - how much money, can I still have a life, what would the work be like, what happens if he loses, what happens if he wins, what will I do on a daily basis, why would he want to hire someone with zero campaign experience, etc. My knee-jerk reaction would be to stay in my happy little guaranteed 40 hour a week bubble, but I wonder if this might be a good risk to take at this point in my life. I'm in my mid-twenties and not challenged or well paid at my current job. Any thoughts/advice/suggestions anyone might have are appreciated.

So what do you think? Should she stay with cautious comfort or risk a challenging campaign?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iraq Summer, Chicago Dems Deceive 10th CD Voters

SEIU members and one of the buses outside the hotel.

I got a robo-call yesterday that sounded like it came from Mark Kirk, inviting me to a town-hall meeting in Northbrook, that he would be at - only the call wasn't from Kirk, and the meeting certainly was not a town hall. I found out when I got there that it was a war protest rally hosted by a group Iraq Summer and Rep. Jan Schakowsky who represents the north side of Chicago. I called Kirk's office today and was told that the Congressman's office did not send out the robo-calls and he had never accepted any invitation to appear at the rally.

The whole rally seemed to be a staged political event - and that's fair enough. But call it what it is. This wasn't any kind of town hall meeting for the 10th CD. The hotel was packed with people from outside the district. I counted at least 3 buses and tons of City of Chicago car stickers. When asked, the guys from SEIU didn't even know what the rally was for. People were trying to get petitions signed for Tenth District democratic primary candidates Jay Footlik and Dan Seals but weren't having much luck since most of the people they were asking to sign happily said they were from Jan's district.

I tried to get in the room but was denied because the organizers had booked a room that was too small. Maybe they packed it with the folks they bused in so folks from the district could not attend. And there certainly wasn't any town hall dialogue about the war - a man in the crowd that could not get into the room tried to ask Jan a question and was shouted down by the activists. I was able to get a program and found out that in addition to the anti-war activists and Rep. Schakowsky there was a singer/songwriter and the president of Citizens Action slated to speak.

I'm all for discussing the war and the best way to end it - without leaving an even worse mess. But this was no discussion it was a political ploy by Chicago Democrats trying to expand their reach. Mark Kirk had a real Town Hall meeting in Palatine last week where he listened to the views of actual 10th district voters - see here. I have nothing against Chicagoans since I used to be one, and I am a life-long democrat, but the deceptive political tactics tried by some Chicago dems last night just don't sit well. I hope Seals and Footlik don't plan on using these type of events to get their message out - they can't win by only speaking to people who can't even vote for them.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere

Storms finally over, BP backs down, and Blago takes a hit on flood protection veto

Its been some week for water. First the good news - BP has announced that it will back down on its plans to dump new contaminants in Lake Michigan:

It is a good step in the right direction, but we need to keep an eye out - the pledge is not legally binding and the broken permit process needs to be fixed.

On the bad news side - relentless rain and storms have caused floods, power outages and downed trees. The power outages only excaberated the flooding problem especially along the north shore where no power often meant no pumps. For communities along the DesPlaines river flooding was a real concern but it looked like Gurnee learned a good lesson from the 2004 flooding and got ahead of the game. Here's a quick round-up:

The sun is out today and the outlook is dry for the next couple of days so that could help - but lordy my grass needs to be cut!

And finally, Governor Blagojevich headed out for fly-arounds and photo-ops of flood damage the day after vetoing several flood control projects. His promises for help rang hollow:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Congressman Mark Kirk Hosts Lively Town Hall Meeting

I headed out west for a town-hall style meeting held by Congressman Mark Kirk in Palatine last night to see american democracy in action. Nearly 150 people attended, including local republican and democratic party regulars, some anti-war protesters, ordinary citizens and bona fide heroes.

Kirk started the meeting by recognizing some of those heroes - including the sons of a deceased WWII veteran who stormed the beach at Normandy and a Libertyville surgeon who joined the Army Reserve in support of his son who is serving in the Marines. Kirk then provided a “Washington update” on a wide range of issues from the war in Iraq, to protecting Lake Michigan to improving transportation. He did a good job outlining his positions, but he wowed me in the Q&A session.

I am a fan of Mark Kirk – think he is smart, hardworking and genuinely concerned about the people he represents. Too often though we only get to see him in superficial TV sound-bites. Last night we got to see his depth, his intelligence and his character. He answered every question in a lively and generally civil discussion of issues.

The war in Iraq was a big concern with the anti-war folks asking some hard questions. Kirk was able to communicate the complex and difficult issues surrounding the war, and provided his unique perspective as an active member of the Naval Reserve and a veteran of the first gulf war. He clearly understands the sacrifice we ask of those who serve and the hard reality of war. His plan for moving forward centers on developing a working political solution while winding down the military action in a way that protects our troops and supporters in Iraq while making sure we do not have to fight a third Iraqi war.

The war discussion provided two of the most moving moments of the evening. Three mothers of wounded Iraq war veterans presented Kirk with a folded American flag to serve as a reminder of the wounded and fallen. They asked that he use the flag as a touchstone and a guide, particularly on the war issue. From the look on Congressman Kirk’s face during the presentation, it is clear that concern for those he called “his brothers and sisters in service to our country” is deep and abiding as is the compassion he has for their families.

At the end of the evening a gentleman rose to thank the congressman for his support of the persecuted Christian minorities in Iraq. He said that he did not believe that we should have entered the war at first, but now is thankful we did because we lifted decades of oppression. He believes we need to finish what we have begun to ensure that the kind of oppression he and his family lived with will not return.

There were other questions asked and answered and differing opinions offered. There was a bit of partisanship from audience members on both side of the aisle. Some folks held up signs and Kirk even introduced the green party candidate when he stood to ask some questions. Our elected congressman had a conversation with the people he represents, the ones who voted for him and those who clearly did not. He listened to what everyone had to say and spoke honestly and from the heart about the most important issues of the day - and that's worth driving in the rain for.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Waukegan Officials Say No to $24 Million Federal Dollars to Clean Up Harbor.

The EPA had pledged to provide $24 million of the $36 million dollars needed to clean up the pcps in Waukegan Harbor. Lake County was going to provide $5 million, the state another $4 million, leaving Waukegan’s share of the bill at $3 million dollars. Under the agreed upon plan, Waukegan would provide 8 percent of the total costs to restore some of the last undeveloped Lake Michigan front property in Illinois. Waukegan would gain the greatest from the plan, tapping new investments, creating new jobs and revitalizing the town and the region.

But Waukegan doesn’t want to sign the standard EPA agreement. They have added contingencies to the EPA agreement to get rid of the existing businesses currently on the Lake. The EPA doesn’t do local zoning – their job is restoration. It is Waukegan City officials who are not doing their job turning down $33 million dollars that could greatly improve the lives of the people who live in Waukegan. Call or e-mail them to tell them that they should be doing their job and working to make Waukegan better for everyone who lives here.

MayorRichard H. Hyde(847) 599-2510

Sam Cunningham (847) 249-8075
John Balen(847)
Greg Moisio(847)
Tony Figueroa(847)
Edith Newsome(847)
Larry TenPas(847)
Pat Needham(847)
Richard Larsen(847)
Rafael Rivera(847)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hungry in the Northern Burbs

At heart, I’m a city girl. Raised in a small upstate NY town, I moved to Brooklyn at 17 and then Chicago in the late 80s. My husband loves the city too, but he works in the north suburbs with an unbearable reverse commute. Five years ago we moved to the suburbs. I like a lot of things about living here – old trees, privacy, big, affordable master bedroom suites. But I miss the city’s restaurants – the local diners, little Italian restaurants and neighborhood gems. There are thousands of restaurants in the north suburbs but too many of them are parts of big chains. I prefer dishes served up by local cooks and chefs. I’ve found a few - Country Kitchen in Highland Park for breakfast, the Firkin in Libertyville for eclectic dinners and Louie’s in Waukegan for old school character. I’m sure there are more. Please tell me what I am missing! What are your favorite local restaurants and what makes them so special?

Question: Can Moderates Hold Suburban House Seats?

The main stream media doesn’t like the political middle very much. Unless there is a scandal, the middle is boring. Too much detail and complexity and grunt work and compromise and not enough flash. The action is at the far right and the far left, with their true believers and Kos and O’Reilly, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. It’s where gotcha reigns and dialogue is more about proving “them” wrong than creating workable solutions to common problems. Spit and spew in support of uncompromising positions makes good TV, lights up the blogosphere, and drives political coverage and political discourse further and further to the fringe.

But here in Chicago’s northern suburbs the middle seems to be holding firm at least at the congressional level. Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL10) and Melissa Bean (D-IL8) are both hard-working moderate representatives, more like each other than the extremes of either party. Kirk has taken hits from the far right for his pro-choice position, and strengthening of environmental regulations, Bean has angered the far left with her fiscal conservatism and support of free trade agreements. I like and have voted for both in my suburban wanderings and am glad to see them working together on important regional issues like protecting Lake Michigan and improving transportation.

Bean faces a primary challenger and Kirk will most likely face an opponent in the general election. It is apparent that each of these challengers will come from the far left. How much of a challenge do you think the fringe will mount and what do the moderates need to do to win?