Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Durbin Announces $28 Million in Recovery Act Funding for Energy Efficiency Improvements

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $28,740,800 in funding to three Illinois communities through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help improve energy efficiency, reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions and create green jobs locally.

“Creating jobs and securing our environmental future are at the heart of the Recovery Act,” said Durbin. “This funding will make a significant investment in the effort to reduce the carbon footprint of residents and businesses in the Chicagoland area.”

Today’s funding will be used for activities such as energy audits, residential and commercial building retrofits, the development and implementation of advanced building codes and inspections and the creation of financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements. The following communities will receive funding:

· City of Chicago: $27,648,800
· City of Des Plaines: $576,900
· Village of Hoffman Estates: $515,100

Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee

September 30, 2009 - The Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee hears testimony on the impact drifting pesticides have on organic farmers, urban communities, and public health.

Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig Responds To Speaker Madigan Bill Filing

From the Illinois Department of Transportation

“Billions of ARRA stimulus dollars are at stake to develop a successful High Speed Rail program in Illinois. Every lost opportunity to expand service or develop the necessary infrastructure will place further pressure on future federal and state dollars. IDOT has been working diligently toward a compromise with the city of Springfield and Sangamon County including the best mitigation option. We have met with the City and County each day since Friday and are trading proposals even now. Time is running out and the options presented by Springfield for the 10th street corridor do not meet the requirements for submission of a successful high speed rail application. The time has come and we are urging Springfield to support the High Speed Rail initiative,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Madigan: No money for 3rd St. high-speed rail - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register

Madigan: No money for 3rd St. high-speed rail - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register

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Durbin Announces Nearly $1.5 Million in Recovery Act Funding to Implement Electronic Health Records

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded $1,496,671 in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to Illinois health networks to implement electronic health records. The HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration awarded $27.8 million in Recovery Act funding to health centers nationwide for implementation of electronic health records and other health information technology innovations.

“Because they can be shared instantaneously with multiple doctors and can be transmitted hundreds of miles in seconds, electronic health records are an effective tool for improving the quality of health care and saving lives,” said Durbin. “Today’s Recovery Act funding will create jobs and help achieve President Obama’s goal of universal adoption of electronic health records by 2014.”

The following health networks will receive funding:

  • Springfield, Illinois: $750,000 in funding for the Illinois Primary Care Association to support electronic health record implementation;
  • Chicago, Illinois: $746,671 in funding for the Near North Health Services Corporation to support electronic health record implementation.

HRSA’s network of 1,100 health center grantees across the nation provide health care at more than 7,000 sites, ranging from large medical facilities to clinics and mobile vans. In 2007, health centers served 16.1 million patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Charges for services are set according to income, and only nominal fees are collected from the poorest patients. Nationally, about 39 percent of health center patients have no health insurance.

Jesse White to annouce re-election bid - Peoria, IL -

Jesse White to annouce re-election bid - Peoria, IL -

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Illinois Channel Weekly eNewsletter Now Available Online

This week's eNewsletter is now available online. Read it here or sign up to receive a copy delivered directly to your email inbox!

Aurora Businessman Announces Bid for Illinois Secretary of State

From the Illinois Republican Party

Aurora businessman Robert Enriquez has announced his intention to run for Illinois Secretary of State in the 2010 election cycle. Enriquez, a United States Marine Corps veteran, pledged to bring greater transparency to the Office of the Secretary of State, and improvements that will translate to cost savings for taxpayers.

“I believe we must do everything we can to ensure Illinois citizens believe in their government. One way to do that is with complete transparency. Citizens must have every opportunity to see what their government is doing with their money –and what path government is taking,” Enriquez said. He proposes putting the Secretary of State’s budget online – with every detail available -- for public scrutiny. “Everything must be completely transparent,” Enriquez said.

Enriquez is a recognized business management expert who spearheaded a transfer of Ford foreign automotive capability from overseas to Glendale Heights, Illinois. “The result was a clear demonstration that adding local manufacturing jobs and an increase in the state’s tax base, as opposed to unrestrained outsourcing, is viable."

He led successful transnational marketing, distribution and manufacturing projects in the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Middle East for Fortune firms. He is Past President and Board Member of the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and board member of the River Valley Workforce Investment Board.

Enriquez plans to use his business experience to make improvements in the Office of the Secretary of State. He plans to take advantage of today’s technology to extract cost savings, which can in turn be credited to taxpayers. “By using the latest technology we can make the office more efficient,” Enriquez said. “The savings that result can be used to build on our success – and applied to next year’s fees. The taxpayers will benefit.”

Enriquez also serves on the Illinois Human Rights Commission, where as Commissioner he ensures compliance with the Illinois Human Rights Act. “It is important work to ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally,” Enriquez said. Enriquez was selected for the post in 2005.

Enriquez is a United States citizen, born in Honduras. He served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. “As I develop my plan of action for the Secretary of State’s office, I believe special attention needs to be paid to our veterans,” Enriquez said. Enriquez noted Veterans pay a special license plate fee. “We need to honor our Illinois veterans, not charge them as though their plates are a matter of ‘vanity,’” Enriquez said.

Enriquez’s experience as an Officer included overseas combat-ready troop command and chief interpreter and advisor to U. S. flag commands. He has received specialized NATO officer training and attended military schools in Europe and the United States, graduating from the prestigious USMC Command and Staff College in Washington D.C.

Enriquez is currently producing and narrating a bilingual Hispanic gang prevention video. “When Gangs Don’t Kill You” targets Hispanic junior high students on the consequences of gang life. He recently helped deploy affinity and grass roots marketing strategies for large public and private entities. He is on leave of absence as a College Professional Education Manager to pursue the Secretary of State’s Office.

A native English & Spanish speaker, Enriquez lives in Aurora with his wife Dania Enriquez Torres, a native of Puerto Rico, and has four children: Noelia, Adriana, Alexandra and Robert, Jr. He has a Bachelor of Science in Management Science from Case Western Reserve University and International Marketing MBA from Baldwin-Wallace College, both in Cleveland.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Family Businessman Andy McKenna Files for Governor

From the Campaign Office of Andy McKenna for Governor

CHICAGO - Community leader and family businessman Andy McKenna announced today that he has filed a statement of organization to run for Illinois Governor.

"It's time to put our house in order. A culture of corruption, a mindless irresponsibility towards taxes and spending and a hostile climate toward the creation of new jobs illustrates just how far Springfield has strayed. It won't be easy, but we can turn those around," said McKenna.

"Illinois faces serious problems, but these problems can only be solved by leading a sea change in ethics, confronting some hard choices on behalf of Illinois taxpayers, setting aside the needs of special interests and career politicians and creating a laser focus on the interests of Illinois families. Only then will we be able to provide the people of Illinois the opportunities they need to succeed."

McKenna is a business and civic leader who resides in Chicago with his wife, Mary. He is the father of four and will formally launch his campaign next month.

MORE DETAILS: University of Illinois President B. Joseph White Resigns

From the University of Illinois Alumni Association

B. Joseph White will resign as the 16th president of the University of Illinois effective Dec. 31, but he will remain involved with the University in roles that include fundraising and teaching. The UI Board of Trustees is expected to consider an interim appointment to lead the University during a search for a new president.

The University's full news release, President White's resignation letter and the response of Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy are available at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Statement from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady on House Ethics Committee and Jesse Jackson, Jr.

From the Illinois Republican Party

"Today's announcement from the House Ethics Committee that their investigation into Rep. Jackson will be deferred at the behest of federal prosecutors is another reminder of how Rod Blagojevich's tentacles reach to many of our state's Democrats.

"Today's announcement is another reminder that Blagojevich Democrats have failed the people of Illinois and further underscores the need for drastic change in our state's leadership."

Krishnamoorthi to Give "Open Look" into State Government

From the Campaign Office of Raja Krishnamoorthi for Illinois Comptroller

SPRINGFIELD – Former Deputy Illinois Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi (krish-nah-MOOR-thee) today announced that if elected Illinois State Comptroller he would enact measures to make state government more open and accountable to the media and voters.

“A large part of the problems with state government in Illinois is that too much is hidden from the taxpayers who pay for it,” Krishnamoorthi said. “Fortunately, the Internet and its search engines can make government information much more accessible – if the people in charge of state government are committed to making information available.”

Krishnamoorthi, 36, would expand the existing Open Book database maintained by the Illinois Comptroller’s office that provides a searchable online database of state contracts and vendor’s campaign contributions.

“I will turn Open Book into Open Look,” said Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat. “Open Look will have a user-friendly e-contracts library that is easily searchable.”

The e-contracts library would publish full, searchable copies of state contracts on a going forward basis for products valued at more than $10,000 and for services valued at more than $5,000 for all state agencies.

As Comptroller, Krishnamoorthi’s transparency efforts will also include establishing an Online Checkbook for the Illinois Comptroller’s office that will allow taxpayers to track how the office spends its money, including payments for salaries, rent and purchases of goods and services.

“The Online Checkbook can serve as a model for all state agencies to allow taxpayers to see how each and every taxpayer dollar is spent,” said Krishnamoorthi.

Krishnamoorthi also said he would push to disclose all funds received by Illinois as part of the federal stimulus legislation known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“Illinois taxpayers have the right to know where and how their money is being spent in Springfield and Washington,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Krishnamoorthi lauded the enactment of the Illinois Transparency & Accountability Portal but noted that questions remain regarding its implementation. Krishnamoorthi's vision for online state contracting transparency calls for a more interactive Open Look where taxpayers and bidders can police state contracts and hold government officials accountable.

As a result, Krishnamoorthi called for the creation of a single online portal to let the public track all Illinois fiscal information.

“The technology is available, and state government ought to be willing to embrace technology to open up Illinois state government and help reduce waste and fraud,” Krishnamoorthi said. “Well-run government should not be an oxymoron, and we need a government willing to embrace new rules and new technologies that can make it more efficient and more effective.”

A lawyer and policy expert, Krishnamoorthi worked on President Barack Obama’s successful 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate, serving first as issues director and then as a senior adviser. Krishnamoorthi also advised Obama during his presidential campaign and his 2000 congressional campaign.

Krishnamoorthi would become the first Asian American to hold any elected state office in Illinois.

As Deputy Treasurer of Illinois, Krishnamoorthi helped bring significant reforms and oversaw the custody and administration of billions of dollars in state funds. Previously, Krishnamoorthi served as a Special Assistant Attorney General, helping to establish an anti-corruption unit. As a board member and audit committee chairman of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, he helped thousands of Illinois families find affordable housing.

Krishnamoorthi was a valedictorian at Richwoods High School in Peoria. With the help of financial aid, Krishnamoorthi attended and graduated with honors from Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

He is married to Priya, a doctor, and they have two young sons. The family lives in Hoffman Estates, a suburb of Chicago.

For more information regarding Raja Krishnamoorthi and his campaign, please visit

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CAMPAIGN 2010: Jason Plummer (R), Candidate for Lt. Governor

September 15, 2009 - From the Press Briefing Room at the State Capitol: Jason Plummer, Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, holds a press conference announcing his candidacy.

Statement by Raja Krishnamoorthi Regarding Cemetery Oversight Task Force Recommendations

From the Campaign Office of Raja Krishnamoorthi for Illinois Comptroller

“The tragedy of Burr Oak must never recur. The heartache to the families involved is almost beyond imagining. While I have proposed stronger measures to police the cemetery industry under the Comptroller’s existing powers, I would support the Task Force’s recommendations to vest all oversight within the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation if these measures could be implemented without delay. As I have said all along, time is of the essence in enacting cemetery oversight reform. I look forward to seeing legislation incorporating these initiatives.

“I call on the Illinois General Assembly to pass the required laws as soon as possible. It was the legislature’s failure to better regulate cemeteries that helped lead to the Burr Oak tragedy. They shouldn’t compound the problem by delaying the changes in law and regulation that Illinois needs.”

For more information regarding Krishnamoorthi and his campaign, please visit

Durbin Chairs Hearing on Mental Health in U.S. Prisons

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) chaired a hearing on “Human Rights at Home: Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons and Jails,” today before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. The hearing, which focused on the high rate of mental illness among U.S. prisoners, was the Subcommittee’s first hearing examining a domestic human rights issue.

“Mental illness has been criminalized in our country over the last thirty years,” Durbin said. “By allowing our prisons and jails to become a primary provider of mental health services, we have taken a step backward in the effort to protect the human rights of people with mental illness. The United States was founded on the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. Yet all too often those with mental illness do not receive the treatment or protection they deserve.”

Today, more than 2.3 million people are imprisoned in the U.S. – by far the highest incarceration rate in the world. But despite efforts to reverse the alarming rate of incarceration of individuals with mental illness, U.S. prisons are still the largest psychiatric facilities in the nation.

“Cook County Jail is not only the largest facility treating the mentally ill in our state, it is the third largest mental health facility in the nation,” Durbin added.

According to a 2006 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of prison inmates have a mental health problem. Nearly one-third of all women entering jail suffer from a serious mental illness according to a recent study and, according to another survey, nearly two-thirds of boys and three-quarters of girls in juvenile detention facilities have at least one mental illness.

Once in prison, many mentally ill prisoners have limited or no access to mental health services and their conditions frequently deteriorate. Mentally ill prisoners often have difficulty following strict prison rules and as such are disproportionately represented in segregation units where mental health services are much more limited and where conditions frequently deteriorate.

A recent series of investigative reports by the Belleville News-Democrat in southern Illinois looked at the treatment of mentally ill patients at the Tamms Correctional Center – the only supermax prison in Illinois. According to its account, one prisoner with a documented history of paranoid schizophrenia cut himself, smeared excrement on his cell walls and swallowed glass over a six-year period of solitary confinement. It was finally in his sixth year of solitary confinement that he was examined by two psychiatrists who determined that he was a severe schizophrenic who was in need of immediate attention.

Michael Randle, Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections testified before the committee on the department’s treatment of the mentally ill and on the prison in Tamms. Other witnesses included: Harley Lappin, Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons; Samuel Bagenstos, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Mary Lou Leary, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice; Gary D. Maynard, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services; Kathryn E. Zenoff, Presiding Justice, Second Appellate Court of Illinois; and David Fuller, Outreach and Housing Coordinator, Manhattan Outreach Consortium.

This was the first hearing this Congress of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law and the first to focus on a domestic human rights issue. Previous hearings before the committee have focused on genocide, sexual violence in conflict, child soldiers and internet freedom.

CREATE Program Seeks $300 Million TIGER Grant

From the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program

CHICAGO –The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) today announced it is seeking $300 million in federal stimulus funds for a package of 16 projects that are part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program. CREATE is a first-of-its-kind partnership, bringing together Illinois DOT, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Illinois DOT is eligible for the funding under the federal Transportation Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition to the $300 million being sought via the federal TIGER grant, CREATE partners also have committed to an additional 39 percent match in funding – $117.4 million in state and private monies – for the program of projects outlined in the application.

“The Illinois Department of Transportation has worked long and hard to preserve rail across the state of Illinois" said Governor Pat Quinn, "I believe the CREATE program is an essential element for economic development and job creation. For that reason, I support the Illinois Department of Transportation's application for $300 million in TIGER Discretionary Grant funds.”

“As the nation’s rail hub, the performance of Chicago’s rail network has a profound impact on rail movement nationwide. The efficient movement of goods is critical to our nation’s economy and the quality of life of our citizens and visitors,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“These projects will greatly improve the efficiency and operability of moving both freight and people by rail through the region,” said AAR President and CEO Edward Hamberger. “CREATE is a project of critical importance to the national freight and passenger rail network, and this public-private partnership is truly historic.”

The program outlined in the TIGER grant application - ranging in scope from rail line improvements to a grade separation to viaduct improvements– will have tremendous economic, livability, sustainability and safety benefits. With completion by 2012, this program will support roughly 4,500 job years. In addition, the application details the following benefits:

Economic Benefits:

  • 17,684 hours in annual freight rail delay reductions
  • $265.0 million in annual logistics cost savings

Livability Benefits:

  • reduced annual passenger rail delays by 57,631 passenger hours and $1.4 million in costs
  • reduced annual motorist delays by 344,499 hours and $8.5 million in costs

Sustainability Benefits:

  • reduced diesel consumption by 2.9 million gallons each year
  • reduced emissions from locomotives and vehicles due to improved efficiency and delay reduction
  • $2.5 million annual costs savings associated with emissions reduction and reduced diesel consumption

Safety Benefits:

  • improved vehicle safety and crash prevention

As a project of regional and national significance, CREATE has received tremendous support from lawmakers, public and private organizations and trade unions from across the U.S. For example, CREATE has received letters of support from as far away as Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. – vital U.S. port locations that often see originating shipments that travel through Chicago.

With significant passenger and freight rail movements located in his district, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) has long been a supporter of the CREATE project.

“CREATE is critically important to the Chicago region, the state, and the entire nation,” said Congressman Dan Lipinski, who is Northeastern Illinois' only member of the powerful House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “That is why I have continued to lead the effort in Washington and here at home to help fund CREATE, successfully securing $100 million in federal funding in 2005 as well as working with state leaders to allocate $300 million for the program in the recently passed state capital bill. Moreover, I am already working with members of the Transportation Committee to secure additional funding for CREATE in the next highway and transit authorization bill. This application for stimulus funds, if successful, will build on the important investment we have already made to reduce congestion while creating good paying local jobs and improving safety.”

The program outlined in the TIGER grant application, as well as the 62 additional projects in CREATE, bring with them thousands of critically needed jobs to the region.

EDITORS NOTE: The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program is a first-of-its-kind partnership, bringing together Illinois DOT, the City of Chicago Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads (AAR). CREATE comprises 78 critically needed rail and highway infrastructure improvements in Northeastern Illinois, aimed at improving the quality of life of Illinois residents, and increasing the efficiency of freight and passenger rail service throughout the region and across the U.S.

Statement from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady on Burr Oak Cemetery Report

From the Illinois Republican Party

"Today's report on the sad issues surrounding Burr Oak Cemetery is another stark reminder of the failure of the Blagojevich Democrats to competently manage the affairs of the State of Illinois.

"From massive budget deficits to mismanagement of cemeteries, the single party rule of the Democrats over the last six years has been an abject failure.

"Republicans are ready to implement the reforms necessary to provide Illinois Citizens with the change they seek."

Friday, September 11, 2009

State Rep. Jack Franks (D) Mulling Run for Governor


It will be at least another week before state Rep. Jack Franks decides whether to run for governor.

Franks, D-Marengo, said he would continue to weigh a shot at the governor’s mansion through next week while he and other Illinois officials are on a trade mission to Ireland. The officials, not taxpayers, are paying for the trip, Franks said.

“I’m thinking big thoughts, let’s put it that way, but nothing official yet,” Franks said Thursday at a mortgage relief seminar at McHenry County College.

Franks said he had consulted with family, friends and state officials, and had a “lengthy conversation” Wednesday with House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. Madigan’s daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, turned political conventional wisdom on its head in July when she decided to run for a third term rather than for governor or U.S. Senate.

Full Story

Governor Pat Quinn Honors Fallen Heroes on September 11

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

CHICAGO - September 11, 2009. In remembrance of the attacks just eight years ago, Governor Pat Quinn joined with Gold Star families for a ceremony this morning and the unveiling of the Portrait of a Soldier memorial exhibition. Governor Quinn also issued a proclamation commemorating September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

“Today, as we remember those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, it is fitting that we honor our servicemembers and their families,” said Governor Quinn. “I am honored to be joined today by Gold Star Families whose sons and daughters have lost their lives in the Global War on Terror and are Illinois’ true heroes.”

The memorial exhibition, which has been viewed by thousands of people in more than 45 cities and towns throughout Illinois, is a series of hand-drawn portraits of more than 220 Illinois men and women who have died in service to our country since Sept.11, 2001.

Governor Quinn and Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Dan Grant were joined by members of Gold Star families including: Clinton Crackel, father of Army SSG Alexander Crackel (North Aurora); Jose Vazquez, father of Army SSG Jason Vazquez (Chicago); Jim Frazier, father of Air Force SSG Jacob Frazier (St. Charles); Bill Wolfe, father of Marine Lance Cpl Anthony Mihalo (Naperville); Gary Patriquin, father of Army CPT Travis Patriquin (Lockport); Elie Bitton, father of Army CPL Albert Bitton (Chicago); and Bill Harris, father of Army SGT Joshua Harris (Forest Park).

“We are proud to honor the Illinois servicemembers who gave their lives in the Global War on Terror after Sept. 11, 2001 through the Portrait of a Soldier exhibition, just as we honor and reflect upon the lives of all those who perished in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001,” Director Grant said.

Artist Cameron Shilling of Mattoon drew the first portrait in August 2004, after Army Spc. Charles Neeley, also of Mattoon, was killed in Iraq. Schilling gave the sketch to Spc. Neely’s parents to convey his sympathy for their loss. In October 2005, while a student at Eastern Illinois University, Schilling decided to draw a portrait of every Illinois servicemember who has fallen during the Global War on Terror.

The Skyway Concession Company also joined Governor Quinn to present a $5,000 donation to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund provides needs-based financial grants to the families of deployed Illinois servicemembers facing financial hardship.

To date the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund has distributed $10 million and approved funds for more than 18,700 applications from Illinois military families.

Governor Quinn was also joined by Sgt. Patrick Johnson, a Palatine police officer who returned from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in August, and his wife Sharon, received a $2,000 grant from the fund.

“The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund is an easy way for people across Illinois to express their appreciation for the families of those who serve,” Governor Quinn said.

Director Grant added appreciation for the donation on behalf of military families like the Johnsons: “The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund has distributed $10 million as a result of generous donations, and approved funds for almost 19,000 applications from Illinois military families. Under Governor Quinn’s leadership, the fund has served as a successful model that has been duplicated in many other states nationwide.”

Col. Thomas Purple, deputy commander of the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and Fernando Redondo, CEO, Skyway Concession Company also participated in the press conference.

President Obama's Remarks at the Pentagon, on the 8th Anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001



The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

9:34 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and members of the Armed Forces, fellow Americans, family and friends of those that we lost this day -- Michelle and I are deeply humbled to be with you.

Eight Septembers have come and gone. Nearly 3,000 days have passed -- almost one for each of those taken from us. But no turning of the seasons can diminish the pain and the loss of that day. No passage of time and no dark skies can ever dull the meaning of this moment.

So on this solemn day, at this sacred hour, once more we pause. Once more we pray -- as a nation and as a people; in city streets where our two towers were turned to ashes and dust; in a quiet field where a plane fell from the sky; and here, where a single stone of this building is still blackened by the fires.

We remember with reverence the lives we lost. We read their names. We press their photos to our hearts. And on this day that marks their death, we recall the beauty and meaning of their lives; men and women and children of every color and every creed, from across our nation and from more than 100 others. They were innocent. Harming no one, they went about their daily lives. Gone in a horrible instant, they now "dwell in the House of the Lord forever."

We honor all those who gave their lives so that others might live, and all the survivors who battled burns and wounds and helped each other rebuild their lives; men and women who gave life to that most simple of rules: I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper.

We pay tribute to the service of a new generation -- young Americans raised in a time of peace and plenty who saw their nation in its hour of need and said, "I choose to serve"; "I will do my part." And once more we grieve. For you and your families, no words can ease the ache of your heart. No deeds can fill the empty places in your homes. But on this day and all that follow, you may find solace in the memory of those you loved, and know that you have the unending support of the American people.

Scripture teaches us a hard truth. The mountains may fall and the earth may give way; the flesh and the heart may fail. But after all our suffering, God and grace will "restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." So it is -- so it has been for these families. So it must be for our nation.

Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still. In defense of our nation we will never waver; in pursuit of al Qaeda and its extremist allies, we will never falter.

Let us renew our commitment to all those who serve in our defense -- our courageous men and women in uniform and their families and all those who protect us here at home. Mindful that the work of protecting America is never finished, we will do everything in our power to keep America safe.

Let us renew the true spirit of that day. Not the human capacity for evil, but the human capacity for good. Not the desire to destroy, but the impulse to save, and to serve, and to build. On this first National Day of Service and Remembrance, we can summon once more that ordinary goodness of America -- to serve our communities, to strengthen our country, and to better our world.

Most of all, on a day when others sought to sap our confidence, let us renew our common purpose. Let us remember how we came together as one nation, as one people, as Americans, united not only in our grief, but in our resolve to stand with one another, to stand up for the country we all love.

This may be the greatest lesson of this day, the strongest rebuke to those who attacked us, the highest tribute to those taken from us -- that such sense of purpose need not be a fleeting moment. It can be a lasting virtue.

For through their own lives –- and through you, the loved ones that they left behind –- the men and women who lost their lives eight years ago today leave a legacy that still shines brightly in the darkness, and that calls on all of us to be strong and firm and united. That is our calling today and in all the Septembers still to come.

May God bless you and comfort you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

FOX CHICAGO Reports the Chicago Sun-Times Labor Unions May Nix Purchase of Paper

Unions at the Chicago Sun-Times, which has been in bankruptcy since March, are balking at signing off on a new contract being proposed by those looking to purchase the paper.

FOX News Chicago says the proposed new contract would require employees to take a 15-percent pay cut, and adopt a 401k retirement savings plan, instead of the pension system that's been in place. Other measures are also being proposed to cut the operating cost of the Chicago Sun-Times paper and the suburban papers in its fold.

Should the unions reject the proposed contract, it would likely scuttle the purchase of the paper by new owners.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gov Quinn Appoints Five to Univ. of Illinois Board of Trustees

NOTE: This is dated news, but we missed putting it on when it happened, and wished to add it, so it would be available as a link, should one want to link to it.

CHICAGO – September 4, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn made five appointments to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. The appointments fill the remaining vacancies on the Board as it prepares for its September 10 meeting in Urbana.

“Each new member brings integrity, professionalism and experience to this very important Board,” said Governor Quinn. “They will work diligently and tirelessly on behalf of our great university.”

The five appointments include: Karen A. Hasara, former Mayor of Springfield; Timothy N. Koritz, Staff Anesthesiologist, Rockford Memorial Hospital; Edward L. McMillan, Principal and CEO, McMillan LLC; Pamela B. Strobel, retired Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Exelon; and Carlos E. Tortolero, President, National Museum of Mexican Art. All five are graduates of the University of Illinois.

Recently, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees came under fire after it was revealed that a special “clout list”, with hundreds of applicants, had existed for years and that many on that list were granted favorable treatment and admission to the university. Governor Quinn issued an Executive Order forming the independent Admissions Review Commission, which investigated the “clout list” claims and ultimately recommended all nine appointed board trustees voluntarily resign.

These trustees join Christopher G. Kennedy, president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., and Lawrence Oliver II, chief counsel in charge of internal investigations for Boeing Co., who were appointed to the Board by Governor Quinn on August 26.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees consists of thirteen members, including the Governor. Nine are appointed by the Governor for terms of six years, and three student trustees (one from each campus) are elected by referenda on their campuses for one-year terms. One of these student trustees is designated by the Governor to have an official vote.

Durbin Reaction to President Obama's Address on Health Care Reform

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) issued the following statement tonight following President Obama’s joint address to Congress on health care reform:

“Tonight the President laid out a clear plan to provide stability and security for those with health insurance and access to quality care for those who don’t.”

“Months of delay and distortion have come to an end. For those interested in bringing new ideas to the table – the President has said ‘welcome.’ But for those seeking to prevent tens of millions of Americans’ access to quality health care – we will not accept their cynical agenda.”

“The people of Illinois and the entire nation have waited long enough for health care reform. Now is the time for Congress to act.”

Statement from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady on President Obama's Health Care Address to Congress

From the Illinois Republican Party

"At the end of the day, the President's proposal is still a government takeover of our health care system that will cost trillions of dollars and force millions of people from their current health care coverage.

"Republicans are prepared to work in a bi-partisan fashion for health care reform but only when Democrats and President Obama are ready to quit forcing their government run experiment down the throats of the American people."

Text of President Obama's Healthcare Speech to Congress Sept 9, 2009

THE PRESIDENT: Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, and the American people:

When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.

As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is still many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them -- (applause) -- until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we've taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink. (Applause.)

I want to thank the members of this body for your efforts and your support in these last several months, and especially those who've taken the difficult votes that have put us on a path to recovery. I also want to thank the American people for their patience and resolve during this trying time for our nation.

But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came here to build a future. (Applause.) So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future -- and that is the issue of health care.

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. (Applause.) It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session. (Applause.)

Our collective failure to meet this challenge -- year after year, decade after decade -- has led us to the breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or too expensive to cover.

We are the only democracy -- the only advanced democracy on Earth -- the only wealthy nation -- that allows such hardship for millions of its people. There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two-year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.

But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem for the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you'll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.

One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer had more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Then there's the problem of rising cost. We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It's why so many employers -- especially small businesses -- are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It's why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally -- like our automakers -- are at a huge disadvantage. And it's why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it -- about $1,000 per year that pays for somebody else's emergency room and charitable care.

Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close. Nothing else. (Applause.)

Now, these are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The question is how.

There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's -- (applause) -- where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everybody. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end employer-based systems and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.

I've said -- I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both these approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. (Applause.) And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.

During that time, we've seen Washington at its best and at its worst.

We've seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors' groups, and even drug companies -- many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about 80 percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.

But what we've also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have towards their own government. Instead of honest debate, we've seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.

Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. (Applause.) Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals. It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance for those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. (Applause.) It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge -- not just government, not just insurance companies, but everybody including employers and individuals. And it's a plan that incorporates ideas from senators and congressmen, from Democrats and Republicans -- and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.

Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan. First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. (Applause.) Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

What this plan will do is make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Applause.) As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it the most. (Applause.) They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. (Applause.) We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. (Applause.) And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies -- (applause) -- because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives. (Applause.)

Now, that's what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan -- more security and more stability.

Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. (Applause.) If you lose your job or you change your job, you'll be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you'll be able to get coverage. We'll do this by creating a new insurance exchange -- a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we give ourselves. (Applause.)

Now, for those individuals and small businesses who still can't afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we'll provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can't get insurance today because they have preexisting medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. (Applause.) This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it's a good idea now, and we should all embrace it. (Applause.)

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those -- especially the young and the healthy -- who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers by giving them coverage. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for these people's expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don't provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek -- especially requiring insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions -- just can't be achieved.

And that's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance -- just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. (Applause.) Likewise -- likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still can't afford coverage, and 95 percent of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. (Applause.) But we can't have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

And while there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe -- (laughter) -- I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that's been spread over the past few months, I realize -- (applause) -- I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I want to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.

Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. (Applause.)

There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You lie! (Boos.)

THE PRESIDENT: It's not true. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up -- under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place. (Applause.)

Now, my health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a "government takeover" of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare. (Applause.)

So let me set the record straight here. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. That's how the market works. (Applause.) Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company. And without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly -- by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.

Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people; they do it because it's profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill, they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called "Wall Street's relentless profit expectations."

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. (Applause.) And the insurance reforms that I've already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. (Applause.) Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear. It would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don't like this idea. They argue that these private companies can't fairly compete with the government. And they'd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won't be. I've insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits and excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers, and would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities. (Applause.)

Now, it is -- it's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated -- by the left or the right or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and shouldn't be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage available for those without it. (Applause.) The public option -- the public option is only a means to that end -- and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have. (Applause.)

For example -- for example, some have suggested that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others have proposed a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. (Applause.) And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. (Applause.)

Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public -- and that's how we pay for this plan.

And here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future. (Applause.) I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. (Applause.) Now, part of the reason I faced a trillion-dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for -- from the Iraq war to tax breaks for the wealthy. (Applause.) I will not make that same mistake with health care.

Second, we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system, a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care don't make us any healthier. That's not my judgment -- it's the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.

In fact, I want to speak directly to seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that's been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.

More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That's how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. (Applause.) And that is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan. (Applause.)

The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies -- subsidies that do everything to pad their profits but don't improve the care of seniors. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead. (Applause.)

Now, these steps will ensure that you -- America's seniors -- get the benefits you've been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pockets for prescription drugs. (Applause.) That's what this plan will do for you. So don't pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut, especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past and just this year supported a budget that would essentially have turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will not happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare. (Applause.)

Now, because Medicare is such a big part of the health care system, making the program more efficient can help usher in changes in the way we deliver health care that can reduce costs for everybody. We have long known that some places -- like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania -- offer high-quality care at costs below average. So the commission can help encourage the adoption of these common-sense best practices by doctors and medical professionals throughout the system -- everything from reducing hospital infection rates to encouraging better coordination between teams of doctors.

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. (Applause.) Now, much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. And this reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money -- an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long run.

Now, finally, many in this chamber -- particularly on the Republican side of the aisle -- have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. (Applause.) Now -- there you go. There you go. Now, I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I've talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. (Applause.) So I'm proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. (Applause.) I know that the Bush administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these ideas. I think it's a good idea, and I'm directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today. (Applause.)

Now, add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years -- less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. (Applause.) Now, most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent -- but spent badly -- in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of 1 percent each year -- one-tenth of 1 percent -- it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.

Now, this is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight -- Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. (Applause.) I won't stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out. (Applause.) And I will not -- and I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it the most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed -- the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town halls, in e-mails, and in letters.

I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.

In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, his amazing children, who are all here tonight. And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform -- "that great unfinished business of our society," he called it -- would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that "it concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."

I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days -- the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and, yes, sometimes angry debate. That's our history.

For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their minds, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.

But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here -- people of both parties -- know that what drove him was something more. His friend Orrin Hatch -- he knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient's Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.

On issues like these, Ted Kennedy's passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick. And he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance, what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent, there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.

That large-heartedness -- that concern and regard for the plight of others -- is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character -- our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

This has always been the history of our progress. In 1935, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism, but the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter -- that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

That was true then. It remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road -- to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that is not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. (Applause.) I still believe -- I still believe that we can act when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.

Because that's who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

IDNR Announces Special “Free Fishing Day”

From the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) wants to encourage families and children to wet a line this month. IDNR Director Marc Miller is declaring September 19, 2009 as a “Free Fishing Day” at state parks throughout Illinois.

Allowing children and adults to fish without a fishing license within the boundaries of state parks on September 19 is part of the celebration of “It’s Our River Day.” The day will highlight Illinois’ rivers and streams through conservation, education and recreation at over 50 events throughout the state

“We hope events like ‘It’s Our River Day’ will spark interest in our youth and introduce a new generation to the joy of fishing and the beauty of our state parks,” said Director Miller. “This is a great opportunity for mom and dad or grandma and grandpa to take their kids or grandkids fishing without having to pay for and obtain a fishing license for a day.”

The “Free Fishing Day” on September 19 applies to both Illinois residents and non-residents. Free fishing on that day will only be allowed within the boundaries of Illinois state parks, natural areas and wildlife areas where public fishing opportunities are available. For a list of state sites, visit the IDNR website at The “Free Fishing Day” waiver of fishing license requirements on September 19 will not include fishing on the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan or on river positions outside of Illinois state park boundaries.

IDNR also holds annual “Free Fishing Days” events each June throughout Illinois.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Text of President Obama's Address to Schoolchildren

From the White House Press Office, September 8, 2009

Wakefield High School
Arlington, Virginia

12:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. All right, everybody go ahead and have a seat. How is everybody doing today? (Applause.) How about Tim Spicer? (Applause.) I am here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we've got students tuning in from all across America, from kindergarten through 12th grade. And I am just so glad that all could join us today. And I want to thank Wakefield for being such an outstanding host. Give yourselves a big round of applause. (Applause.)

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it's your first day in a new school, so it's understandable if you're a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now -- (applause) -- with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you're in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer and you could've stayed in bed just a little bit longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived overseas. I lived in Indonesia for a few years. And my mother, she didn't have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school, but she thought it was important for me to keep up with an American education. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday. But because she had to go to work, the only time she could do it was at 4:30 in the morning.

Now, as you might imagine, I wasn't too happy about getting up that early. And a lot of times, I'd fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I'd complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and she'd say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster." (Laughter.)

So I know that some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I'm here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I'm here because I want to talk with you about your education and what's expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now, I've given a lot of speeches about education. And I've talked about responsibility a lot.

I've talked about teachers' responsibility for inspiring students and pushing you to learn.

I've talked about your parents' responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and you get your homework done, and don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with the Xbox.

I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for setting high standards, and supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working, where students aren't getting the opportunities that they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world -- and none of it will make a difference, none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. That's what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education.

I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. Every single one of you has something that you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a great writer -- maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper -- but you might not know it until you write that English paper -- that English class paper that's assigned to you. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor -- maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or the new medicine or vaccine -- but you might not know it until you do your project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a senator or a Supreme Court justice -- but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You're going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to train for it and work for it and learn for it.

And this isn't just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. The future of America depends on you. What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You'll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You'll need the insights and critical-thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You'll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents and your skills and your intellect so you can help us old folks solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that -- if you quit on school -- you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country.

Now, I know it's not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what it's like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mom who had to work and who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn't always able to give us the things that other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and I felt like I didn't fit in.

So I wasn't always as focused as I should have been on school, and I did some things I'm not proud of, and I got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was -- I was lucky. I got a lot of second chances, and I had the opportunity to go to college and law school and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, she has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn't have a lot of money. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job and there's not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don't feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life -- what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home -- none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up. No one's written your destiny for you, because here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That's what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn't speak English when she first started school. Neither of her parents had gone to college. But she worked hard, earned good grades, and got a scholarship to Brown University -- is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to becoming Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I'm thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who's fought brain cancer since he was three. He's had to endure all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer -- hundreds of extra hours -- to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind. He's headed to college this fall.

And then there's Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods in the city, she managed to get a job at a local health care center, start a program to keep young people out of gangs, and she's on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

And Jazmin, Andoni, and Shantell aren't any different from any of you. They face challenges in their lives just like you do. In some cases they've got it a lot worse off than many of you. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their lives, for their education, and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That's why today I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education -- and do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending some time each day reading a book. Maybe you'll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you'll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all young people deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you'll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, by the way, I hope all of you are washing your hands a lot, and that you stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

But whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes you get that sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star. Chances are you're not going to be any of those things.

The truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject that you study. You won't click with every teacher that you have. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right at this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That's okay. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who've had the most failures. J.K. Rowling's -- who wrote Harry Potter -- her first Harry Potter book was rejected 12 times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that's why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understood that you can't let your failures define you -- you have to let your failures teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently the next time. So if you get into trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to act right. If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one's born being good at all things. You become good at things through hard work. You're not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don't hit every note the first time you sing a song. You've got to practice. The same principle applies to your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right. You might have to read something a few times before you understand it. You definitely have to do a few drafts of a paper before it's good enough to hand in.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength because it shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and that then allows you to learn something new. So find an adult that you trust -- a parent, a grandparent or teacher, a coach or a counselor -- and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you're struggling, even when you're discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you, don't ever give up on yourself, because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn't about people who quit when things got tough. It's about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It's the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and they founded this nation. Young people. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google and Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask all of you, what's your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a President who comes here in 20 or 50 or 100 years say about what all of you did for this country?

Now, your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I'm working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books and the equipment and the computers you need to learn. But you've got to do your part, too. So I expect all of you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down. Don't let your family down or your country down. Most of all, don't let yourself down. Make us all proud.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you.

Illinois State Police District 15 and Illinois Tollway to Host Child Safety Seat Inspections on National Seat Check Saturday

From the Illinois Tollway

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. – Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional death for children. Across the nation in 2007, 6,532 passenger vehicle occupants 14 and younger were involved in fatal crashes, according to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And yet, statistics show 80 percent of child safety seats in Illinois are installed improperly.

That’s why the Illinois State Police District 15 and the Illinois Tollway are urging parents and caregivers to attend a “National Seat Check Saturday” event on September 12, including one at the Tollway’s maintenance site in Downers Grove. As part of Child Passenger Safety Week September 12-18, Illinois State Police District 15 and the Tollway will have Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians on hand from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to check child safety seats and help with proper installation.

“District 15 is committed to ensuring safety for drivers and young passengers on the Illinois Tollway. Even small errors can make the difference in whether a child is injured in a car accident,” said District 15 Commander John Jesernik. “Some of the more common problems our inspectors pinpoint include too much slack in harness straps, not properly anchoring the car seat, improper seat size for the child’s weight, and the need for, or use of, booster seats for older children.”

Under Illinois law, parents and caregivers are required to properly secure children 8 years and under in an appropriate child-restraint system, which includes rear-facing seats for infants, front-facing child seats for toddlers and pre-schoolers and booster seats for young children. In addition, it is recommended that all children younger than 13 ride in the back seat.

Downers Grove Maintenance Site Safety Seat Event Details

Illinois State Police certified child passenger safety technicians will be at the Downers Grove Maintenance Site – accessible from the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355) at milepost 21.5 or via Finley Road – to check for proper installation of child seats.

To access the Tollway’s Downers Grove Maintenance Site from westbound Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), take the I-355 north exit ramp to the entrance on the left side of the ramp. From eastbound I-88, go north on I-355 and the entrance to the maintenance site is on the right side at milepost 21.5. From southbound I-355, exit at Butterfield Road (IL 56) and turn east to reach southbound Finley Road. Local traffic can also access the site from Finley Road south of Butterfield Road (IL 56) and north of Ogden Avenue (US 34).

To participate in the event, bring your child safety seats, children and the vehicle in which the child safety seats will be installed. Information on recalls and recall detection, correct positioning, correct sizing to protect the child most effectively, plus additional safety information and resources will be offered.

“Seat belts and child safety seats are the most effective safety devices in vehicles today and save countless lives each year,” said Tollway Acting Executive Director Michael King. “Our law enforcement partners on the Illinois Tollway know this, and that is why they are committed to enforcing seat belt laws and working to educate the public on how to properly secure their children to make every trip a safe trip.”

Child Safety Seat Basics

The safest place for infants, toddlers, and young children to ride is in the back seat with the appropriate child safety seat for their age and size. Rear-facing child safety seats protect the growing babies’ head, neck, and back in a crash. Children should ride rear-facing until at least 20 pounds and 12 months of age, longer if possible to protect their developing muscles and bones. Toddlers and young children up to 4 years old should ride in a child safety seat with an internal harness until they reach the maximum harness limit of up to 40 pounds.

A booster seat is the most effective way to position a safety belt properly on a young child's growing body. Safety belts are designed for adults who are at least 80 pounds and 4 feet 9 inches tall. Until age 8, most children have not developed strong hipbones and their legs and bodies are too short for the adult safety belt to fit correctly without use of a booster seat.

Child Passenger Safety Week

For more information on Child Passenger Safety Week, a national effort to remind parents and caregivers of the lifesaving effect child safety seats have in protecting young children, please visit For information regarding additional Seat Check Saturday events in other areas please go to

About the Illinois Tollway

The Illinois Tollway maintains and operates 286 miles of interstate tollways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois, including the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355), the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), and the Tri-State Tollway (I-94, I-294, I-80). Get I-PASS & Get Going!

State’s Top Doc Gives Governor Seasonal Flu Shot

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn

CHICAGO – Sept. 8, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold today encouraged Illinoisans to get a seasonal flu shot. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) anticipates more people getting sick with the flu this year because the seasonal flu and the new H1N1 flu strain will be circulating at the same time.

“The Illinois Department of Public Health has been hard at work preparing for the potential of increased illness this flu season because of the additional, new flu strain,” Governor Quinn said. “Staying healthy this flu season is going to be a shared responsibility – one that requires all of us to take action, like getting a flu shot.”

Each year an estimated five to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. Approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized with complications from the flu and about 36,000 die annually. Flu symptoms include a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above, headache, body aches, exhaustion, chills and weakness.

“The best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu is to get a flu shot every year,” Dr. Arnold said. “Everyone should also make sure they practice good health hygiene by following the 3 Cs - Clean – wash your hands frequently and properly to prevent the spread of germs; Cover – your cough and sneeze with a tissue or sleeve; and Contain – contain your germs by staying home when you are sick.”

The flu is spread through coughing or sneezing. People can also get the flu by touching objects carrying the virus, such as telephones and door knobs, and then touching their mouth or nose.

Young children, people with chronic medical conditions and the elderly are at higher risk of complications from seasonal flu and it is critical they get a seasonal flu shot. However, with the H1N1 flu circulating simultaneously, Dr. Arnold is encouraging all Illinoisans, except those with contraindications, to get a seasonal flu shot this year.

Some people may experience mild symptoms for a few days after being vaccinated and soreness at the injection site. However, a person does not contract the flu from getting a flu shot.

The seasonal flu shot does not protect against H1N1. The CDC is developing a vaccine for H1N1 flu, which is separate from the seasonal flu vaccine. Initial shipments of H1N1 vaccine are expected to be available in mid-October. The H1N1 vaccine is intended to be used in addition to seasonal flu vaccine. For more information log onto and