The state capitol in Springfield. (WJBC file photo)
By Ryan Denham
Five Things You Should Know for Monday, Oct. 15, 2012:
Illinois is one of the most corrupt states, with some of the worst finances among any state, and our economy isn't exactly going gangbusters. So why haven't Republicans seized more control of Springfield, and why won't they pick up many seats in the legislature in next month's election? Those are the questions posed by John O'Connor with The Associated Press. Republicans need to pick up a dozen seats — six in the state Senate and six in the House — to win a majority in either chamber for the first time in a decade, O'Connor writes. But there's a lot standing in the way of a would-be Speaker Tom Cross. First and foremost, a new legislative map redrawn by Democrats to help Democrats, as well as current Speaker Mike Madigan's well-run re-election machine that he spreads among his members. I also don't think Illinois Republicans have ever really seized the moment (or moments) created by Democrats who've proven a certain ineptness at governing. Maybe the GOP needs a fresh start, with a fresh face at the top of the ticket in 2014 for governor, to get things going.
McLean County voters will decide next month whether to consolidate the county recorder's office underneath the county clerk's office, a move that officials say could save an estimated $100,000. The current recorder, Lee Newcom, opposes that idea, disputing the possible savings and saying that consolidation would deprioritize the very important task of tracking and digitizing land records. (I would agree, actually, that the recorder's office has amazing online access currently, far better than the circuit clerk's office, and Newcom says they'll have all available records online dating back to 1831 within two years.) Newcom says the consolidation idea is really a political maneuever, apparently by his opponents by the McLean County Board. Those board members deny this. "If it were not entirely political, why do they give no reason for putting the referendum on the ballot?" Newcom asked. I disagree: I've heard plenty of reasons discussed for putting it on the ballot. Whether they're justifiable is another matter.
Illinois is in the middle of the pack when it comes to the state's business climate, according to a new study from The Tax Foundation. Illinois is No. 29, which is not exactly something to celebrate. But it does give us a little perspective as the Jimmy Johns of the world bemoan Illinois' business climate as 100 percent intolerable. Sure, the uncertainty created by Illinois' legislature -- what will taxes be a year from now? -- is not ideal for a business. But as Marty Vanags from the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area points out, there's more to a business' destiny than tax policy. "A business makes a decision about where they're going to locate and where they will go not only on taxation but also on local workforce, transportation needs, where their market is, who they are selling to, all things that go into play," said Vanags. Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nevada are listed as states most friendly to business, which is why so many Fortune 50s are based in those states. Wait, no they're not.
The next presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney hasn't even happened yet, and there's already controversy. This time, it involves moderator Candy Crowley from CNN. Time magazine's Mark Halperin reports that both the Obama and Romney campaigns, "in a rare example of political unity," have raised concerns to the Commission on Presidential Debates about comments Crowley made about her role in the debate. This "debate" is really a town hall-style forum, with Crowley serving as a looser guide than we saw from the moderators in the first two debates. But Crowley said last week that "once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?’” "In the view of both campaigns and the commission, those and other recent comments by Crowley conflict with the language the two campaigns agreed to," Halperin wrote Sunday for Time.
Unless you were living temporarily under a rock Sunday, you might've heard about this guy named Felix Baumgartner who jumped from a capsule 24 miles above the Earth. Minutes later, the 43-year-old Austrian became the first person to reach supersonic speed without traveling in a jet or a spacecraft -- the first supersonic skydiver, as they say. The Associated Press has a solid write-up on the day's significance, calling it "part scientific wonder, part daredevil reality show." And there are more substantive angles too; NASA, for example, is eager to improve its blueprints for future spacesuits and can look to how Baumgartner's performed. Also, I love that Red Bull was the corporate sponsor for this. If I were them, I'd have a commercial ready to go with Felix footage in time for Monday Night Football tonight.
Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.