Sunday, May 29, 2005

Election bill in Springfield

I was combing through this bill yesterday to figure out how it will help/hurt third parties and indepenents. Dan Johnson-Weinberger breaks it down nicely. First of all, early voting is a great idea. This is good for democracy all around. The biggest help to the Green Party specifically will be the simplification of the deputy registrar/voter registration process. This, along with some other provisions aimed specifically at college campuses, will make it easier for young people at college to vote. The raising of signature requirements for state legislature seats doesn't necessarily hurt many Greens at this point, except districts that we have "established." Gathering 500 valid signatures can be somewhat labor intensive for a small grassroots organization, although it's nothing compared to the signature requirements in unestablished districts. It will probably hurt challengers from major parties more (and of course favor incumbents). There are couple of other good election reform bills that don't look like they'll go anywhere anytime soon. But this is a good start.

Lousy deal on CTA struck

Democrats in Springfield struck a deal to plug the CTA's budget gap for one year. But the deal does nothing to make fundamental changes in how the CTA is funded and operated to prevent future shortfalls. It doesn't sound like the CTA will get what it wanted, which was a change in the "outdated" funding formula, which would have provided at least some long-term stability. And no, it won't get what it really needs, which is to be completely weaned off funding from the unreliable state legislature. Instead, it got another band-aid to help it survive at its current capacity for at least another year. To pay for the CTA budget deficit, legislators will likely raid the pensions of state workers and teachers. This solution while not doing any long-term good for the CTA will do significant damage to the state's financial picture as it struggles to pay back those redirected pension funds. Since this CTA-funding issue will come up again in less than a year, it seems Democrats have ensured that this will become a sticky election issue in 2006. But oh well -- that's what they deserve for not fixing the problem.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Moderates take charge

It's good to see the moderate Republicans assert themselves in the U.S. Senate by brokering a compromise on Bush's judicial nominees. But those 7 Republican moderates must know the Club for Growth and other conservative extremist organizations will come hunting for them. In fact, they're already slandering Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who was one of the 7, and he is not up for re-election until 2008. At any rate, I hope this ends the weeks of disproportionate coverage this topic has received. It never fails to amaze me that the media can devote so much ink to this parliamentary squabble, but they can't be trusted to provide information on all the candidates running for an office.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Is a CTA bailout necessary???

That's the question I've been asking all along. But now, it looks like the issue will be studied (From the Sun-Times:
    State leaders are ordering the CTA to open its books for a budget review while lawmakers consider a transit bailout, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. Illinois Transportation Secretary Tim Martin called for the independent audit to make sure the CTA really is $55 million in the red -- not just crying poor while threatening fare hikes and service cuts. Metra and Pace will undergo similar audits, but much of the state's focus is on the CTA as that agency prepares for a July 17 doomsday scenario. "Right now, it's a matter of going in and looking at detailed [budget] numbers and try to find out how [the CTA] arrived at that $55 million figure," Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Vanover said.
Yet in a way, this kind of study misses the point. The real reason for the crisis is not necessarily the lack of money, but the abundance of people there are to blame. The CTA should not be funded by the state. The reason is, when you ask downstate lawmakers to fund something that is exclusively important to the Chicago region, it will be pushed to a crisis every time. A more localized body of government, perhaps Cook County (since the entire CTA system is contained in Cook County), should collect the taxes that fund the CTA. That way, if the people of Chicago don't like how the CTA is funded, we can actually do something about it at the polls. When the state is involved in deciding funding, it's becomes a statewide blame game. There is a massive amount of wealth in Cook County. We can fully fund the CTA without help from the state, and we can put an end to the constant state of crisis that the CTA finds itself in.