Bernard Schoenburg: Hare finds it tough to reach Blagojevich

Bernard Schoenburg

Like lots of folks, U.S. Rep. PHIL HARE, D-Rock Island, is worried that unless a capital projects bill is passed by the Illinois General Assembly, billions in federal matching dollars for highways and bridges will be lost.

To express that view, Hare told me in a visit to Springfield Friday, he has tried to contact Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH many times.

“Well, I haven’t talked to the governor,” Hare said. “I’ve sent three letters and made a number of calls.”

How many times did he call?

“Eighteen times,” he said.

He initially estimated those calls were made over the last four or five months, but when asked again, he said they may stretch back to last February.

He said other colleagues, including U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill., and state Rep. GARY HANNIG, D-Litchfield, know the stakes and also are hoping for a resolution.

“I said to one person, why don’t they just build a ring and have a battle royal?” he said.

In fairness to Blagojevich, he said, there was an offer of a meeting just last Monday – on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Hare said he got two hours’ notice that the governor would be in Moline on a fly-around to promote free transit rides for seniors. Hare had a prior commitment in Quincy and couldn’t make it.

Hare said a former employee now works for the Blagojevich administration, so he hopes communication will improve.

“I’m not angry because I didn’t get my calls returned,” Hare said. But he is worried that as the clock ticks toward loss of federal funds, people still are traveling on dangerous roads that should be updated.

REBECCA RAUSCH, spokeswoman for the governor, said Blagojevich is “as interested in a capital bill as the congressman is.”

“During the Moline stop, and others Monday, the governor reiterated his support for capital. In fact, it's becoming even more urgent as the economy slows down,” she said.

“We've been working with three of the four leaders on a capital program for many months,” she said. “And our hope is that the Speaker (House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN) will also be committed to passing a plan.”


Just in case you thought Blagojevich would miss the opportunity to self-promote, here’s how the automated voice on one of the two state hotlines set up for people 65 and over to pre-register for free bus rides: “If you are calling regarding the governor’s seniors ride free plan for mass transit, please press 1…”

The Spanish translation also includes mention of the plan of the “gobernador.”

Oh, and one of the two telephone numbers the governor’s office wants people to call for information also happens to be the existing 800 number for the child support hotline, run by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Nothing like backing legislators into a corner, making them accept your out-of-the-blue surprise, then taking the credit for yourself as existing state phone lines probably get jammed. But what else would anyone have expected from this governor?

RUTH IGOE, spokeswoman for HFS, said that after the senior helpline was overwhelmed by the “tremendous” response, HFS got involved to provide backup.

“We've been able to manage existing state call center resources to meet the demand,” she said. “Seniors calling about other programs or parents who have child support questions can still get the help they need.”

OK, for those who want the information, seniors can register by calling the Illinois Department on Aging at 1-800-252-8966, the second available line at 1-800-447-4278, or online at


Springfield Mayor TIM DAVLIN agrees with the Sangamon County Democratic Party’s recent endorsement. He’s voting for U.S. Sen. BARACK OBAMA for president.

“Even if I weren’t a Barack Obama fan, you tell me, as a mayor of the city of Springfield, what could be better for a community like ours than to have somebody …(who) has spent so much time in Springfield, Illinois … in the White House?” the mayor asked.

“And,” he added, “he would be the only president that I could say knows me on a first-name basis, so that’d be great for the city of Springfield.”

Meanwhile, Davlin’s campaign fund filed a report last week showing that he raised just under $70,000 in the last six months of 2007. As of Dec. 31, he had $79,168 in the bank. That doesn’t include receipts from a $20-per-person fund-raiser this month that drew hundreds of people to Knights of Columbus Council 364.

The report also shows interesting “in-kind” contributions of $4,336 from Sparkling Clean Car Wash and $5,166 from Sundown Supertan at Fairhills Mall. Davlin said tickets for a free car wash or tan were given participants in a golf outing. The amount listed represents the donation if all the tickets were used.

MICKI CRAVENS, owner of Sundown, said she and her parents, JOHN and JoANN Cravens, who own Sparkling Clean, are friends of the Davlin family. She also said such giveaways generally provide her business with a good response.


Illinois Supreme Court Justice ANNE BURKE is doing a nice thing and getting some nice publicity for it by returning contributions from about 1,200 people, now that it turns out that she is unopposed in her campaign for a full term on the court.

But if she needs some money in the future, there may be a family connection she can use. Her husband, Chicago Ald. EDWARD M. BURKE, reported $3.3 million in cash on hand and another $3.1 million invested from his campaign fund – a total of more than $6 million as of the end of 2007 in the aldermanic warchest.

Even money-hungry Blagojevich had something less than $2.1 million in his fund at the same time.

Well, Ald. Burke is chairman of the finance committee of the Chicago City Council, so that must explain something.

And among recent donors to Ald. Burke’s fund are FRANK VALA of Leland Grove, who gave $500 on Dec. 18, and The Good Government Council, otherwise known as the political fund of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, which is run by Springfield’s BILL CELLINI. That group gave the alderman $1,500 on Nov. 20.

Hey, they pave streets in Chicago, don’t they?

One of Vala’s businesses is Community Care Systems, which provides in-home, non-medical support for people and operates in 60 counties, including Cook. Vala, CEO of the firm, said he’s known Burke for years.

Anne Burke was selected by the Supreme Court members in mid-2006 to replace Justice MARY ANN McMORROW, who retired. Burke is now seeking a full 10-year term.

While it pales in comparison to her husband’s fund, we’re still talking about a lot of money here, as Justice Burke reported nearly $1.48 million on hand as of the end of December.

Anne Burke campaign chairman JOHN B. SIMON said in a statement that in addition to campaign overhead, Justice Burke will spend some of her money to support the Democratic slate of countywide judicial candidates of which she is a member. Cook County makes up the entire First Judicial District, which she represents.

Of the remaining funds, two-thirds will be returned in the next several weeks, and the remainder after the November election.

“There is still a general election,” Simon said, “and we don’t want to take anything for granted. Once that election is behind us, our intent is to go out of business.”


The Hanley Building in Springfield, the headquarters of the Illinois Department of Transportation, is undergoing a change in food service.

Some people have wondered if the switch from food being prepared and served on-site to vending machine service has any ulterior motive – such as using some cafeteria space for another purpose. But BRIAN WILLIAMSEN, spokesman for IDOT, said the change is being made merely because it’s in the best interest of the agency.

Aa company called Heartland Food Management has been providing the cafeteria service, he said. Instead, vending machines through a program involving the Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors will take its place.

No IDOT jobs are being lost, he said.



Springfield Ward 9 Ald. STEVE DOVE, one of the candidates to be a Republican National Convention alternate delegate for FRED THOMPSON, says he’d still like people to vote for him for delegate.

“We could end up with the first brokered convention in more than half a century,” he said, and that would give uncommitted delegates a voice in this year’s nomination.

He said it’s also possible that Thompson, who dropped out of the presidential race, could become the party’s vice presidential candidate.

Dove is running in the 18th Congressional District.


College Democrats at the University of Illinois at Springfield are sponsoring a debate this week between the two Democrats seeking the nomination to the U.S. House from the 19th Congressional District -- JOE McMENAMIN and DANIEL DAVIS. The debate will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Brookens Auditorium at UIS. Guila Ahern, president of the college Dems, said it will last about an hour and is free and open to the public.

Also on the November ballot in that race will be incumbent U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville; and Green Party candidate VIC ROBERTS of Taylorville.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or