Tuesday's special session not so special for Blagojevich

Doug Finke

You might say that Tuesday didn’t turn out exactly how Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH envisioned.

Blagojevich called lawmakers back to Springfield to solve the school-funding issue. That’s not to say that anyone believed that the General Assembly was going to solve in one day an issue that has bedeviled lawmakers for decades. It was just going to be another opportunity for Blagojevich to blame House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, when nothing happened.

It was also pandering by Blagojevich to the General Assembly’s Black Caucus. Its chairman, Sen. JAMES MEEKS, D-Chicago, has recently been complaining about inequitable school funding that results from Illinois’ overreliance on property taxes to pay for education. Meeks threatened to run against Blagojevich in 2004, but backed off after getting a promise that the governor would pump billions more into schools. Surprise, it didn’t happen, and Meeks is not happy about an unkept promise.

If Blagojevich expected Tuesday to give him more ammunition against Madigan, it didn’t work. Meeks wanted no part of being a pawn in the governor’s ongoing games with the House speaker. Meeks blasted the governor for not having a plan ready for lawmakers to vote on instead of dumping the issue into their laps. When Blagojevich went to a cattle sale at the state fair instead of being in the Capitol during the session, Meeks said the governor preferred “cows to kids.”

Back at ya, guv.

*It didn’t take long for divisions within the Democratic Party to surface Wednesday, the day Democrats rally at the Illinois State Fair.

The day always kicks off with a breakfast sponsored by the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association that features speeches by the party’s leaders. Last week, they were mostly rah-rah stuff for BARACK OBAMA. That is, until Comptroller DAN HYNES took the microphone. Amid all of the hoopla for Obama, Hynes dared to inject a dose of reality about the state of the Democrats in Illinois.

Quoting from CHARLES DICKENS, Hynes said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I think that line aptly describes the state of the Democratic Party in Illinois.”

The best because there is a good chance Illinoisan Obama can get elected president. The worst because party infighting has paralyzed state government. It’s not a problem of the party, per se, Hynes said, it’s a personality clash. Amen.

If anyone thought it inappropriate to bring up party infighting at the event, it didn’t show. Hynes’ comments got a standing ovation. If only the clashing personalities were listening.

*Apparently one wasn’t listening. Blagojevich said later he assumed Hynes was directing his comments to the House speaker.

House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago.

No, no, no. It was both Madigan and Blagojevich. For clarification, check out Hynes’ comments to reporters shortly before his speech.

“I’ve said very clearly that the governor has let us down,” Hynes said.

Clear now, governor?

*”I’d say Barack Obama’s power and popularity is what’s going to save us from ourselves.” Hynes talking about the one thing that might bring warring Democratic factions together in Illinois.

“It’s nice to be at the state fair and have our party chairman here.” House GOP Leader Tom Cross at the Republican Day rally Thursday. It was a dig at the Democrats, whose party chairman, Madigan, skipped the Governor’s Day rally on the fairgrounds.

*Both the Republicans and Democrats have tents at the Illinois State Fair. What a contrast they are.

The Democrats’ tent is about as ho-hum as you can get. Just a bunch of static displays of Democratic officials featuring their pictures and a rundown of their offices and achievements. There’s also a collection of brochures as equally ho-hum. It’s about what you’d expect from a political party that isn’t having a whole lot of fun right now. On exiting the tent, your feeling is one of relief.

Then there are the Republicans. Inside the tent is a large model of the Executive Mansion with a vacancy sign on it, a dig at Blagojevich, who chooses not to live there. Hanging from the top of the tent is a homemade model airplane labeled the “Blago Express,” another dig at the Chicago-based governor, who runs up big expenses on the state airplane rather than stay in Springfield.

Republicans may be the minority party, but at least they know how to have a little fun.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.