Bernard Schoenburg: Black tells governor to ‘govern’

Bernard Schoenburg

State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, has a sense of humor but also is respected.

And as his party’s House floor leader since 1991, Black has had plenty of opportunity to express himself.

He did just that Friday with a little lecture to Gov. Rod Blagojevich from the floor of the House after representatives approved a compromise budget that has been criticized by the governor — who has dragged legislators through weeks of overtime as he has tried to salvage something he can point to as his in the state budget.

And, in my opinion, Black spoke for Democrats as well as Republicans.

“Please, stop the theatrics,” Black said. “Learn to govern. Pay attention. Sign the bills you need to sign, and come back with your agenda and try again next year. That is what compromise is all about.”

Black said he’s been almost embarrassed to be a legislator this summer, and the public is “just about fed up with what has gone on over here.” But he thanked House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, for his ability to “stay on task,” and he also thanked House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, for keeping House Republicans moving in the same direction.

“But , Governor,” Black concluded, “govern.”

A whole lot of people wonder if that will ever be on the agenda of Blagojevich, who was absent during much of the spring.

Black’s comments Friday came after Madigan told House members — to big cheers — that he wanted them to ignore Blagojevich’s calls for yet more special sessions Saturday and today.

The word “irrelevant” has been used on and off during the session to describe the governor, but the power of his office has kept him in the game. But Friday’s action left Blagojevich mighty close to being the disregarded screamer many lawmakers and voters see him as.

Black a day earlier had displayed a life preserver at his desk.

“The ship of state is sinking,” he explained. “The governor obviously hasn’t read the book about the Titanic. ... He is steering us toward icebergs and we’re going to sink.”

Black last week announced that he won’t seek another term in 2008. He said he might even leave office early if an appointment before the next election would help the GOP keep his seat.

“I love the process,” he said, even though he thinks it could be made better if, for example, lawmakers had more time to examine budget bills before votes are cast.

Black is one of the good ones, and a character at that. It’s not goodbye yet, but when he leaves the House, he’ll sure be missed.

Controversial views

The Springfield Jewish Community Relations Council is calling the views of Vic Roberts of Taylorville, a 74-year-old retired coal miner who is seeking the Green Party nomination for Congress in the 19th District, “very troubling.”

In a letter to officials of the national and Illinois Green parties, George Sisk, chairman of the council, said that Roberts, who wants the 19th seat now held by Republican Rep.  John Shimkus of Collinsville, said the organization can’t imagine that the party would want to endorse Roberts, given his rhetoric.

“Mr. Roberts states numerous times that ‘the Federal Reserve Bank System is in the hands of a few elite Wall Street bankers, global financiers, and multinational industrialists, who have organized their immense wealth into a global financial mafia commonly called the New World Order,’” Sisk wrote. “The above terms have been used over the years by individuals to refer to Jewish control of world finance, the media, the U.S. government and industry, in general.”

He said his group finds the views expressed on www.vicroberts.net, the campaign Web site, “very disturbing and offensive.”

Sisk was alerted to Roberts’ views because he recently happened to be behind Roberts in line at the Meijer store in Springfield.

“The line was moving slowly,” Sisk said, so he got to hear a lot of what Roberts said. He later looked up the Web site.

Patrick Kelly, the Illinois Green Party’s media coordinator in Chicago, said Roberts had sought the endorsement of the Green Party in his region, but was unsuccessful. A party candidate must have support “from members within their respective districts to be eligible for endorsement at the state level, and therefore Mr. Roberts,not having the support of the members/locals in his district, is not endorsed by the state party,” Kelly told me by e-mail.

“The Illinois Green Party will continue to fight for social justice, equality, global and personal responsibility, and respect for diversity, values that we share with the Jewish Community Relations Council,” Kelly said. “We take their concerns seriously. ..”

Roberts flatly denied any anti-Semitism on his part.

“I dare anyone to actually go and read what I’ve got to say,” Roberts told me. The reason he mentioned Alan Greenspan, for example, is not because he’s Jewish, but because he used to head the Federal Reserve, Roberts said.

He also said Sisk is “doing me a great favor” by alerting more people to the campaign.

Roberts also said that he and his wife were joined by about 13 other Greens in Thursday’s Illinois State Fair parade, so if he doesn’t have organizational support, he’s got the backing of individuals.

The Green Party, of course, is now on the same footing as Democratic and Republican parties in the 2008 election because Green candidate Rich Whitney got more than 5 percent for governor in 2006. That means signature requirements to get on a Green primary ballot are the same as for candidates from the other major parties.

Democrats’ plans

Sangamon County Democrats have a $20-per-person pre-Governor’s Day fund-raiser at Boone’s Uptown Grille, 301 W. Edwards, from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday.

Tim Timoney, chairman of the Sangamon County party, said the function has become an annual event for the party, and all statewide elected officials and county chairmen from across the state are invited.

However, the Democratic Party of Illinois isn’t planning an afternoon rally at the fair on Wednesday, as it has held in some years past. So apparently if there is a rally, it will be up to the governor’s campaign to coordinate it.

“I think we wrote him a letter the other day to that effect,” said Steve Brown spokesman for Madigan, who also chairs state Democrats.

Brown did say the Democratic State Central Committee would meet at the Statehouse Inn Wednesday to consider an endorsement of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for president.

Blakely leads IAMG board

Jerrie Blakely, a former resident of Springfield who now lives in Chicago, is the new board chair of the Illinois Association of Minorities in Government.

The IAMG has had some tough times recently, including not renewing the contract of its past executive director, Roy Wiliams Jr., this summer.

“We’ve got some young, dynamic board members that are willing to take this organization further,” Blakely, who is retired from the Illinois Department of Transportation, told me last week. She and others have been doing work in the Springfield office, and said the organization plans to bring on a temporary administrator to continue day-to-day duties. There are no plans to hire an executive director until at least January.

Carol Watson, the former board chairwoman, remains on the board but had too many commitments to continue in the top spot. She is still a state worker in Chicago.

“We’re OK now,” Blakely said. “We’re out of the red. ... And we are still continuing advocacy work.” She said retirees with backgrounds in equal employment opportunity and civil rights have been volunteering their services.

Romney son to visit

Craig Romney, one of the five adult sons of presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, will represent his father at the Illinois State Fair on Republican Day — Thursday — as the Republican Party of Illinois conducts a straw poll in the race. Another Romney son — Josh — visited Springfield in late June.

Thompson fundraiser

A minimum $10-per-person fundraiser is going on from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Monday at Floyd’s Thirst Parlor, 210 S. Fifth St., to help pay uncovered medical costs of Pat Thompson, a mother of four on the road to recovery from cancer surgery. One of her four kids is Annie Thompson, a press aide to the governor. As a flier announcing the event says: “Come on out and see how great she looks!”

Condolences

Condolences to those who knew Earl Struck, former president and CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, who had also been a lobbyist for the Illinois Farm Bureau. He died Aug. 7 at his Springfield home at age 63, the victim of an inoperable brain tumor.

“Earl was a true gentleman,” said former state Sen. Duane Noland of Blue Mound, who took over the job when Struck retired from the electric cooperatives association 11/2 years ago. “Especially at the Capitol, your word is your bond. If Earl Struck told you it was so, you could take it to the bank.”

Struck was a past speaker of the Third House, an association of lobbyists, Noland said. And in the “electric cooperative family” spread across many states, Noland said, there has been a “phenomenal outpouring of love and support” for Struck and his wife, Sherry, who survives. She is a former personal secretary to then-Gov. Jim Edgar. Struck, Noland said, exhibited “class and character” in his role as a lobbyist.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.