2007 ended up with the happiest note for Illinois politics in years. On November 7, 2007 disgraced former "Republican" governor George Ryan reported to Federal prison to begin serving his 6 1/2 year sentence. I put the word "Republican" in quotes because the most prominent events in his tenure include waiving the death penalty in Illinois and continued deterioration of our states' precarious finances.
When the last governor's race occurred in Illinois between the Democrat Blagojevich and equally uninspiring Judy Barr Topinka I actually hoped for a Democratic victory (normally anathema on this blog) because I figured that the oozing "snail trail" of corruption could be followed to its logical destination if Blogo remained in power. And, sure enough, on December 21, 2007 the Federal prosecutors formally linked Blogo to the Rezco corruption case with more to come.
As always, the FBI are the only people who fight corruption in Illinois, despite our myriad local police and judicial armies dutifully punching the clock, as I noted in this post (it is from 2006, but some things never change, and likely you could utilize it in 2076). The Chicago Police kicked out their superintendent after a series of shocking events, caught on videotape, including the beating of a tiny female bartender by off-duty cops and the inevitable attempts to cover it up. His name is Weis and he is from the FBI; while I admire his guts for taking on this job (where the locals are already disgruntled that the new top cop comes from outside) I think that his odds of success are about the same as the lone survivor in that new "Justice" movie where he attempts to battle 1 billion zombies.
The CTA pretty much melted down in 2007 as long-term projects that had been deferred finally got underway. This post describes how the CTA refuses to reform their system and just continually shouts "doomsday" and calls for increased state funding, which is actually probably needed, but shouldn't be delivered until they show some appetite for reform. And in a tiny little bit of actual photo journalism I captured the sleeping CTA dude on the job in this post, one of my best pictures ever! For the latest on the CTA check out the CTA Tattler on the sidebar at LITGM.
In a horse race to the bottom, Cook County government takes the cake as the worst. This post shows the billboard that nurses took out to protest featherbedding in the bureaucracy at the county hospitals and posits that you might see Cook County fragment in the future like some of the Atlanta counties if this continues.
Our finances in Illinois continue to go from bad to worse. Blogo tried to push through a "gross receipts tax" to add to our confusing melange of state taxes which I dissect here along with what the governor SHOULD have done to try to fix the situation. As of the end of the year our budget situation in Illinois is still in flux as the Governor and the general assembly continue their slow motion dance to nowhere, but I have got to give the general assembly credit for trying to put some sense in the governor's obviously off-the-rails schemes.
While all this happened, Illinois continues a slow-motion train wreck with regards to electricity. ComEd demanded a rate hike to pay for the skyrocketing cost of electricity, which co-incidentally goes right into the same pocket of Exelon since they own both the plants and distribution. Don't miss the hilarious "sleight of hand" letter written by this ComEd executive to "explain" the situation. Some action, even if small, occurred when the "Illinois Power Agency" was established to try to add some new generation capacity to the state, even if the effort is so obviously compromised from the outset. Look for Exelon to follow the lead of Entergy and spin off their nuclear power assets to shareholders since the value of the distribution arm (ComEd) is effectively zero to shareholders while all the upside is in generation. Note also how I predict what seems to be a "doomsday" scenario but which is actually quite inevitable; the state of Illinois will end up seizing these nuclear plants (physically, or de-facto financially) from outside investors.
I won't go into the continuing and epic corruption that seems to be playing out in City Hall in Chicago but I want to congratulate both the Chicago Tribune and the Sun Times for starting to really take on the situation and investigate. Sure, it sells papers, but it is also good to get this all out in the open.
Chicago is benefiting from a massive construction boom, which I cover in the post "Chicago or Dubai"? Outside my window I can see the new Trump Tower and drive by the start of the Spire (150 stories supposedly) on the way to Bears' games. No matter what happens to the developers financially, we will have these good additions to our skyline for years to come.
For sports, the White Sox absolutely had an abysmal season, which I unfortunately predicted in my "chips to be swept off the table" post. It did me little good as I sit and watched them get slaughtered, including an insane series AT HOME against the Red Sox where the White Sox appeared to be outscored 100-1 over three games and were utterly outmatched.
The Cubs did FAR better than anyone expected, and Lou validated his BOLD BILLBOARD where he said that the Cubs would win, period.
The Bears were so painful that I can hardly mention them... went from the highlights of the Bears helmet at City Hall before their super bowl loss with my completely incorrect predictions to just melting away before our eyes, well documented on LITGM. If you want to laugh to ease the pain try this parallel blog that can ease the pain a bit.
But the UNEXPECTED highlight for Illinois is the University of Illinois Fighting Illini, who are going to the Rose Bowl. The game against Ohio State, ON THE ROAD, where we absolutely stuffed them and ran out the clock on a punishing final series was the best game in the history of Illini football (certainly in our lifetimes). As Dan points out, maybe this is the RIP Chief's final gift to all of us. No matter what happens at the Rose Bowl, I will have the memories of that game and they are fantastic.
Happy New Year from LITGM!
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz