Monday, December 29, 2008

The Big Lie in Higher Education

From William A. Henry's 1993 book, "In Defense of Elitism", I quote, "For American Society, the big lie underlying higher education is akin to the aforementioned big lie about children in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon: that every kid can be above average. In the unexamined American Dream rhetoric promoting mass higher education in the nation of my youth, the implicit vision was that one day everyone, or at least practically everyone, would be a manager or a professional. We would use the elitist of all means, scholarships, toward the most egalitarian of ends. We would all become chiefs; hardly anyone would be a mere Indian. On the surface, the New Jerusalem appears to have arrived. Where in the thirty's and forty's the bulk of the jobs were blue collar, now a majority are white or pink collar. They are performed in an office instead of on the factory floor.

But the wages for them are going down virtually as often as up. It has become an axiom of union lobbying that replacing a manufacturing economy with a service economy has meant exporting once-lucrative jobs to places where they can be done more cheaply. And a great many disappointed office workers have discovered being better educated and better dressed in the work-place does not transform one's place in the pecking order. There are still more Indians than chiefs. If for a generation or so, America bought into the daydream of making everyone a boss, the wake up call has come. The major focus of the "downsizing" of recent years has been eliminating layers of middle-management--much or it drawn from the ranks lured to college a generation or two ago by the idea that a degree would transform them from mediocre of magisterial.

Yet our colleges go on educating many more prospective managers and professionals than we are likely to need. At any given moment there are more students majoring in journalism then there are employed at all the daily newspapers in the U.S. (And this was written in the early nineties.)

Inevitably many students of limited talent spend huge amounts of time and money pursuing some brass ring occupation, only to see their dreams denied. ( I never studied journalism, but have been told I could write for any media in Central Illinois; flattery, you know. I write for the record and put it all on hard copy, filed A-Z with accompanying material, perhaps some one will read these writings and some of the great writers who are the source of much of my composition.)

Mediocre people misplaced on the college track are failing to acquire marketable vocational and technical skills and too many people on the vocational track are denied (or encouraged to take) courses that will secure them into college. Sure, there needs to be a fusion between academia and vocational training but in many ways we need a sharper division between the two, diverting also-ran intellectual out of the academic track and into the vocational one. That is where most of them are heading anyway". (They can always change direction when they perhaps mature. Some believe that kids out of high school should work a year or two at whatever job is available to prepare them for the world away from the classroom).

"Why wait until people are older and must enroll in proprietary vocational programs-frequently throwing away not only their own funds but federal loans in the process, all because they emerged from high school heading nowhere and knowing little that is helpful in the marketplace."

Most of this was taken from Mr. Henry's book written 15 years ago. But he could write the same book today only now describing the mess we are in in this country with everybody blaming everybody else for the mess and a very hard and long job of getting out of this mess. There is a lot of apprehension as to our future under a man who promised at least 170 changes in this country with no real money to finance the most important of these changes, migrating people, education for the "real" world, health care and real jobs, not just make-work government funded jobs for questionable "stimulus" programs.

And no real plans to stop our long slide to socialism, preferred, unfortunately, by perhaps a majority now living in our country.

Overall, the public education system is terribly flawed and it shows up everyday with the type of service offered, in the people who cannot find a job let alone not even knowing how to hold a job. Our prisons are overflowing with disenchanted incarcerated people, many who have no skills or vocation that will secure them a worthy position in society once they are released.

This blog is my last for awhile as I take a break to catch up on all the things I didn't get done in 2008.

Happy New Year and for many of us, a better new year.

No, Virginia, We Can't All Be What We Want to Be

John Derbyshire, writes "No, We Can't", 'I know, I know, we are the land of opportunity. Log cabin (or black & white) to the White House. Anyone can be anything. TV talking heads, motivational speakers, pastors and pedagogues, all want to tell us--and especially our children---that we are each a hissing, throbbing little pressure cooker of potential. If we will only hitch our wagon to a star, we can be all we want to be. Yes, we can! Where do we get off lying to children to help their "self-esteem"?


Here's what sociologist Charles Murray, said in his book "Real Education", 'I wonder if there is a single solitary real-live-public-school teacher who agrees with the proposition that it's all a matter of will. To me, the fact that ability varies--and varies in ways that are impossible to change-is a fact that we learn in first grade'.

Here is what the JSEB wrote 6 years ago, "Maybe every child shouldn't go to college", 'but by all means every child should be given opportunity to do what and be what they would like to be and given the tools to succeed in life. It's not that kids have not been permitted to learn but still 80% of them need remedial reading at a community college level'.

We know that not all kids are permitted to learn because a percentage of teachers teaching, aren't capable of teaching. We know that learning in a classroom "out of control" does not permit learning. We know that peer pressure is the greatest pressure our children have on them but many teachers do not know how to cope with the peer pressure problem.

The solution starts with a total reorganization. One I've stated before. The top Administrator should have a Doctorate in Finance and at least a masters in business administration. Schools with huge multi-million dollar budgets must be run like a successful business. Why does he-she need to be an educator? The #2 administrator should have a Doctorate in Education and a master in administration. Principals must be selected by ability and not by race or tenure, allowed to be innovative and in charge of their school. School Board Members, 3 or 5 at maximum, must be paid a minimum of $100,000 a year and be full time with an office and a secretary. Three year terms elected at large (no, that's not unequal representation, its proven that minorities can be elected at large) the one with the most votes each election, gets an automatic 2nd term, the other 2 can run for re-election; however, no member can serve longer than 9 consecutive years.

The Treasurer, Curriculum Director, Fleet Manager, ITT Director, a separate management position, one Athletic Director and an Associate Director, facility managers, etc., will all be hired by the board.

Teachers must have better training at our colleges and should be paid a base salary depending on successful experience and performance pay, paid twice each academic year and determined by each individual school principal, the top administrator and the board. How do you get colleges to select and prepare better teachers? Give the college a yearly publicized grade. That should wake up some "Ivory Tower" college presidents and their adequately competent boards.

Okay, this may not be perfect and a new handbook of responsibilities would need to be written, but it's a start. Most who follow the public school system knows it is not getting the job done in its present archaic state of being.

Those who believe our fate is in the hands of our youth must be asking for "CHANGE". So come up with a NEW change, at least one new to our area, that is better than the present archaic system.

Change in the way we reach our kids is not to tell them "they can be anything they want to be" when even they realize the don't want to be or know they can't. What schools should be doing is not to move a kids beyond their ability to read at grade level. Otherwise, start preparing the child for a realistic role in a life time of living.

We need to stop being hypocrites and get real. That would be a real change!

"It's Hard to Concentrate When You Have All These Kids Talking"

Learning while riding around town on a school bus? Some innovative schools provide kids with laptops or videoiPods with laptops and sets them up with online courses and educational videos providing learning experiences instead of just riding around "in a no-mans land" of gossip, talk, and fights (I should mention contests by bored students like pitcdhing crushed pop cans out bus windows) on school buses.

The program called "The Asprinant Initiative" was founded by Billy Hudson from Grapevine, Ark. The program is successful; for those who want to learn like 17 year old Ethan Clement and 8 year old Lauren Taylor. It could work anywhere providing the unions don't find ways to fault it.

Does the program have it's faults and detractors? Of course and I'll list them.
Lack of discipline on the bus. So what's new, if the classroom lacks discipline and many do, you will have a lack of discipline everywhere else including home. School buses are noisy and bumpy. What do you expect when "ease and comfort" are more important than learning. Radiation risks while using a laptop? Unproven, just as microwaves were once and still by some, to cause cancer. Still, kids can use a pad. Some people even complain that some parents who don't want their kids to come home and ride around longer. If they are learning let them sit in buses or ride around all day.

This complete article can be found on today's WSJ "Internet Access Turns School Buses Into Rolling Classrooms, by Stephanie Simon. You innovators might want to read it..

Sheridan School District, south of Little Rock is outfitting buses with big screen monitors so that kids can watch together using wireless headphones.

Do all kids participate? Heck,no, just like in the dozens of classrooms I've visited. Should it be tried in the area? Absolutely

The Hudson's are seeking grants to expand the program into other parts of Arkansas and Tennessee.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Prevailing Wages

The Davis-Bacon Act, in effect since the Great Depression, requires any construction project receiving federal subsidies to pay "prevailing" wages--meaning, union wages--to its workers. Now the Democrat Congress, is attempting to broaden the and extend this decree even further.

The 2007 Water Quality Financing Act has passed the House, reauthorise a loan fund that lapsed in 1994 for state and municipal waterworks, sewage treatment, water conservation,etc. The bill, if it emerges from the Senate in its current form is projected to cost $14 billion over 4 years, a 250% increase over current spending levels.

This extension in its present form, would not only regulate all federal water-infrastructure to also to those funded solely by states. The Davis-Bacon Act sets artificial wage floors that freezes low-income laborers--primarily black and Hispanic--out of competition with their union counterparts. Small businesses contractors are especially hurt by compliance costs. This act automatically increases the cost of government projects amounting to mandate for more spending.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, only about 18% of construction workers are unionized.

I note that the proposed new museum jumped about 15% in construction costs. That was announced about the same time the Peoria Unions pledged $600,000 to the project and the museum committee announced that only union labor would be used to build the complex.

To my knowledge, no work is awarded to any contractor doing business with the county who doesn't meet the prevailing wage. It has the appearance of small non-unionized
firms being shut out of some business. If the contractor who wins any bid for say, services, hires their own labor, this labor can be non-unionized, legal or illegals doing the work and there is no question asked about the wages the winning bidder pay to their laborers or if any taxes are collected like Social Security of if the employers even submits the taxes collected on individuals to the proper taxing body.

No wonder schools can be built in right-to-work states at one half the cost they can be built in Peoria. Look for the Obama administration to encourage unions bosses to accelerate their efforts to overturn right-to-work laws.

No, I'm not anti-union. Read my past blogs where I tell of my experience as a business owner represented by the Teamsters Union for 22 years.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Referendum "Slush" Fund Tax

On 12/24/08, In an article written by Karen McDonald of the JS titled "Museum Tax Running out of Time, County Board member Tim Riggenbach, now running for the City Council, said "While I think It is a great project, (the museum) and I want it to succeed, I'm smart enough to know if we have HALF percent of sales tax indefinitely, there's no way that would pass".

Of all the county board meetings I attended, we were talking a QUARTER percent. This was the first time I heard double that amount.

Note that very few taxes levied with the approval of the voters, ever came off your tax bills at it's scheduled demise.

There is a lot more to this referendum bill signed quickly and strangely by Blago, then most voters understand right now. With your help of others, we will get ALL the facts on the table before April.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tollway Benefits Bill - Can This Socialism be True?

Can any of you share with us the reasoning behind this push?

“HB 1702 would provide lavish pension benefits for all tollway employees, including state auto mechanics and body shop workers, sign hangers and tollway messengers”, said Tobin. “HB 1702 will allow Illinois tollway employees to retire with 25 years of service at age 50, receiving up to 80% of their salary, subject to annual cost of living increases. Under this formula, over a normal lifespan, the retired tollway employee receives over $1 million in total pension benefits.”

“Additionally, if this bill is passed, it would enlarge the patronage army that is pushing for a 67 percent increase in the state personal income tax!”

HB 1702 already has been passed by the state senate. Now there are reports that there will be a push to pass the bill in the state house during the current session. House sponsors include Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-70, Sycamore), Rep. Raymond Poe (R-99, Springfield) and Rep. Carolyn Krause (R-66, Mt. Prospect).

And sponsored by 3 Republicans??

Robert E. Huschen
IL. 309.923.6101
Cell 309.369.8278
AZ 480.836.1978

Monday, December 22, 2008

Caterpillar Scales Back Executive Pay

The company said today it will cut executive compensation by up to 50% in 2009 because of weakening demand triggered by the global economy turndown.

The company said it will also reduce compensation by 5 to 35% Other management and support staff will see a reduction of up to 15%. The company also announced is has instituted a hiring freeze and plans to suspend merit pay increases for managers and support employees.

Besides the compensation cuts, the company has offered incentives to U.S. based management and support employees to leave the company voluntarily. Eligible employees have until Jan. 12, 2009 to make a decision.

Analyst say, "This will probably not be the last you will hear from them. This is an ongoing process and Jim Owens, Caterpillar's chief executive said the next year was 'extremely uncertain'". Owens received $14.8 million in compensation last year. (As well as other perks, etc.), while the stock fell over 40% this year.

Why is Anger Mounting as the "Rich get Richer?

AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs

By Frank Bass and Rita Beamish, Associated Press Writers

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a long-standing critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe "to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place.

"Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can," said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. "We're told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!"

The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $188 billion in taxpayer help. Among the findings:

_The average paid to each of the banks' top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits.

_Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company's top five executives received a total of $242 million.

This year, Goldman will forgo cash and stock bonuses for its seven top-paid executives. They will work for their base salaries of $600,000, the company said. Facing increasing concern by its own shareholders on executive payments, the company described its pay plan last spring as essential to retain and motivate executives "whose efforts and judgments are vital to our continued success, by setting their compensation at appropriate and competitive levels." Goldman spokesman Ed Canaday declined to comment beyond that written report.

The New York-based company on Dec. 16 reported its first quarterly loss since it went public in 1999. It received $10 billion in taxpayer money on Oct. 28.

_Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp., took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Va.-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.

_John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Thain, a former chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs, took the reins of the company in December 2007, avoiding the blame for a year in which Merrill lost $7.8 billion. Since he began work late in the year, he earned $57,692 in salary, a $15 million signing bonus and an additional $68 million in stock options.

Like Goldman, Merrill got $10 billion from taxpayers on Oct. 28.

The AP review comes amid sharp questions about the banks' commitment to the goals of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a law designed to buy bad mortgages and other troubled assets. Last month, the Bush administration changed the program's goals, instructing the Treasury Department to pump tax dollars directly into banks in a bid to prevent wholesale economic collapse.

The program set restrictions on some executive compensation for participating banks, but did not limit salaries and bonuses unless they had the effect of encouraging excessive risk to the institution. Banks were barred from giving golden parachutes to departing executives and deducting some executive pay for tax purposes.

Banks that got bailout funds also paid out millions for home security systems, private chauffeured cars, and club dues. Some banks even paid for financial advisers. Wells Fargo of San Francisco, which took $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money, gave its top executives up to $20,000 each to pay personal financial planners.

At Bank of New York Mellon Corp., chief executive Robert P. Kelly's stipend for financial planning services came to $66,748, on top of his $975,000 salary and $7.5 million bonus. His car and driver cost $178,879. Kelly also received $846,000 in relocation expenses, including help selling his home in Pittsburgh and purchasing one in Manhattan, the company said.

Goldman Sachs' tab for leased cars and drivers ran as high as $233,000 per executive. The firm told its shareholders this year that financial counseling and chauffeurs are important in giving executives more time to focus on their jobs.

JPMorgan Chase chairman James Dimon ran up a $211,182 private jet travel tab last year when his family lived in Chicago and he was commuting to New York. The company got $25 billion in bailout funds.

Banks cite security to justify personal use of company aircraft for some executives. But Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., questioned that rationale, saying executives visit many locations more vulnerable than the nation's security-conscious commercial air terminals.

Sherman, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said pay excesses undermine development of good bank economic policies and promote an escalating pay spiral among competing financial institutions - something particularly hard to take when banks then ask for rescue money.

He wants them to come before Congress, like the automakers did, and spell out their spending plans for bailout funds.

"The tougher we are on the executives that come to Washington, the fewer will come for a bailout," he said.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blago and Ryan

I believe Dick Durbin's asking Bush to pardon Ex-Governor Ryan is easily explainable. What Blago did and is doing, will make Ryan look like an amateur so if a precedent is set by pardoning Ryan, whose actions were probably "not as bad as Governor Blago", Republican President Bush pardon of Ryan will make it easier for Democrat President Obama to pardon Democrat Ex-Governor Blago later on.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Downtown Hotel - Developers Mecca??

Interesting email sent to me by a very good facts and figures guy.

I don't know if you listened Monday night or if the "Special Meeting" was even broadcast to be able to be listened to, but if you didn't or couldn't listen, put thee $4.5 million into this context of the entire $102,000,000 project budget.

$4,500,000 Owner equity finance 9% of this number is $405,000
$58,300,000 Bank financing (unknown if portion of this has owner equity "down payment" or if
it is 100% finance as it appears to be) 9% of this number is $5,247,000
$39,200,000 City of Peoria GRANT <<<<<<<<<<< not a loan, but an outright GRANT
of MONEY 9% of this number is $3,528,000

$102,000,000 TOTAL PROJECT BUDGET 9% of this number is $9,180,000 YES $9.18

Within the $102 Million project budget is a line item called "Developer Fees" which based on a handout the night of the "special meeting" was ;limited to a maximum of 9%. Prior to the handout, the "developer fees" could have been higher.

So now lets analyze the deal in the context that the OWNER puts up $4.5:million of their own dollars (PANTS A), but the Developer is entitiled to 9% of that or $405,000: (PANTS B)

the City's GRANT of $39.2 Million (NO PAANTS, JUST MANNA FROM HEAVON THAT DOES NOT REQUIRE REPAYMENT) yields a Developer fee of $3.528 million (PANTS B) for a total of those two pots available to the "Developer" $3.933 million dollars; (getting close to the owners total poney amount in PANTS A);

Loan proceeds of $58.3 Million yields the remaining $5.247 Million in "Developer Fees" to PANTS B

Now you have to understand this equation OWNER=DEVELOPER,

so the $4.5 Million Owner Equity in PANTS A is replaced with $9.180 MILLION dollars in PANTS B, so you have the owner wearing two pair of pants, one (PANTS A) empty pockets, but the other pair (PANTS B) now containing $9.180 MILLION in them.

Some say double your pleasure, others say double your money. I can;t fault and won't fault the "Owner/Developer", they negotiated a great deal by leveraging little or no money into a tremendous tax subsidy. I fault those "good Council representatives" (your description/definition, not mine) and the staff that mortgaged the next 23 years with phoney financing that is as dangerous as the highly leveraged derivative financing that brought Wall Street down

Downtown Hotel - Consideration Quotations

"Build Downtown Hotel Without Tapping Taxpayers" said the JSEB on 9/23/05. "A Chicago consultant says the Civic Center's ongoing expansion can't meet it's potential without more high-quality hotel space close by and it won't happen without a city subsidy." "A supportable risk is how Authority Chair-Woman Rebekah Bourland described the expansion in an essay to the JSEB on 3/13/2006. Investment in the redevelopment of the Civic Center should lead to PRIVATE investment in lodging," etc.

"Fine", said the JSEB, "so let it happen. If this expansion is as successful as Peorians were promised it would be, the private sector should have no problems filling its fancy rooms". "Actually, this newspaper would welcome a new hotel Downtown, so long as the risk and cost are borne by the private sector. We're not blind to competitive pressures nor are we opposed to all public subsidies--just foolish unfair ones with lousy timing. Remember when the Shoppes at Grand Prairie, in its previous incarnation, just couldn't make it without taxpayer assistance? If the $94.5 million Cullinan Properties asked for from the taxpayers in selling the booming mall was any indication, the council was wise in calling that bluff. Indeed".

I spoke before the city council in opposition to the subsidizing of the later privately funded mall and earned some undying enmity from the key developer. But I can go to my grave knowing my "ranting", that's me, helped the Peoria taxpayer save $90 million or more.

Have I mentioned that a question arose as to why I asked "how is the Civic Center doing financially?" Why did I ask? Why important? I'll explain. Commenting on the approval of the Civic Center's 2009 budget, (Their Fiscal year ends on August 31) Civic Center Liaison Councilman Bob Manning said, "With a little luck, a surprise pick-up of an event here and there, and a stabilizing economy, 2009 may have a shot of breaking even." So evidently, the Civic Center was coming close to breaking even in 2008, (there is a crowd that will debate the description of "breaking even"), and doing so without putting the taxpayers on the potential hook of $39 million for a new and expanded Downtown Hotel.

Sorry, but my question was a fair question asked of anyone voting to put the taxpayer on the hook for sizable tax increases over the next 23 years. (or longer). So I'll ask again. A new quarter ended in November. How did the taxpayer supported Civic Center do and I now add, how are bookings holding up?

Since August 31, this economy already in shock, entered a period in time in which analysts were saying we had entered the worst financial times since the 1930". Indeed, one month can change a firms financial statement drastically, let alone three bad months in a row with more predicted on the horizons.

There is a mentality of some in this community to build anything, we need jobs. Valid? Subject for another blog.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

St.Louis Hotel Built to Service the St. Louis Convention Center

The St. Louis Post-DisPatch this week reported that HRI Properties was not able to meet their obligation on debt service for the Renaissance Grand Hotel in downtown St. Louis. See my previous blogs. All concerned Peoria taxpayers should be following this event as it may be a foreshadow of the planned $108 million complex involving the Pere Marquette and surrounding businesses. Wednesday's JSEB Editorial, "Hold city's leaders accountable on hotel deal" quotes Mayor Ardis as saying "this project pays for itself". Read this editorial carefully.

On Tuesday the JS quoted Chris Setti, an assistant to Interim City Manager Hollings, "With projections ccme some risks".

If the risks are so few why is the "private cash" only $4 million on a $102 million, also projected, project?

The JSEB further states "the mayor and nine other council members voted to in favor of backing this $102 million hotel with nearly $40 million from taxpayers should be held accountable for what they say and do". From what little I have learned from the city council, which is nothing more than I read in the JS, this "transparent" (Read The Peoria Chronicle blogs of today) project appears to put the city (taxpayer) in a large crap shoot with taxpayers dollars.

As reported from St. Louis today, "The developer of Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, HRI Properties, has presented its foreclosure forbearance proposal to bondholders, their lawyers and trustees. HRI made the proposal to bondholders as part of an effort to find a restructuring program that can help improve the lodging market's conditions and the hotel's value.

The Renaissance Grand, which started operations in 2003, has incurred a total debt of $98 million and its revenue often failed to cover the hotel's interest payments. Because of this, Kimberley-Clark, which owns 85 percent share in the property, was forced to contribute about $14 million to reinforce operating expenses.

HRI and Kimberly-Clark representatives said that both companies have decided that they would not provide funds to offset the hotel's $1.4 million revenue shortfall to meet its interest payment of $3.5 million due on December 15.

Kimberley-Clark is negotiating the transfer of its ownership share in the Renaissance Grant to HRI. In the process, the company has turned over all restructuring efforts for the property to HRI.

Included in the foreclosure forbearance plan presented to bondholders is a proposal to give HRI and Marriot Corp., Renaissance Grand's manager, until the 31st of December 2009 to boost the hotel's performance to avoid filing foreclosure proceedings.

In its presentation, HRI outlined the Renaissance Grand's operations and its projection that the hotel's profit for 2009 would total $1.4 million, a decrease from $5 million total earnings in 2007 and $3.8 million total in 2008.

HRI also included in the presentation its projection that the hotel's occupancy would be reduced to 60 percent in 2009, a decrease from 64.8 percent total occupancy in 2007 and 63.2 percent total in 2008.

If bondholders approved the foreclosure forbearance option, HRI is willing to serve as the bondholders' asset manager at no cost until the 31st of December 2009".

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Downtown Hotel - Considerations

Dad, Here are two articles regarding the Renaissance, one from October 2008 and the other from 2006.

St. Louis Business Journal
October 27, 2008

HRI Properties, a lead investor of the Renaissance Grand and Suites Hotel next to the convention center downtown, said Monday it won???t make the next debt service payment of $3.5 million that is due on Dec. 15.
HRI said due to disappointing operating results for the hotel during 2008, it is not expected to meet projections and revenue is expected to deteriorate further next year amid a ???rapidly declining economic
environment,??? according to a letter from HRI to the city???s Industrial Development Authority. HRI said the hotel is $1.2 million short in its fund to repay the debt.
Content Continues Below


"While we are extremely disappointed with these events, HRI is committed to working cooperatively with the Series A bondholders to formulate a plan that results in the best outcome for the project," HRI President and COO Tom Leonhard wrote in the letter to bondholders dated Oct. 27.
The $277 million convention center hotel located downtown in the 800 block of Washington Avenue was built by HRI in 2003. The Renaissance's bondholder debt totals $98 million. Interest payments on the hotel are $3.5 million twice yearly, in June and December.
It's not the first time the hotel has faced a shortfall in meeting debt obligations. Housing Horizons, a subsidiary of Kimberly-Clark, is the lead investor on the hotel and is in negotiations with HRI to transfer its ownership stake in the hotel to HRI. Kimberly-Clark made a $2.2 million payment in June to make up for a revenue gap at the hotel, and a $829,000 payment in December 2007.
Bondholders will meet Nov. 11 with representatives from HRI Properties and Marriott, the hotel's manager.
In addition to HRI and Housing Horizons, other financing for the project came from tax credits and loans backed by the city of St. Louis. In December 2007, a consultant estimated that the Renaissance won't generate enough cash to pay its debt payments on its own until 2012.

Second article

Bondholders and Owners of the Renaissance Grand St. Louis and the Renaissance
St. Louis Suites Make No Headway in Plan to Rescue the
Financially Embattled Hotels
By Tavia Evans, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 4, 2006 - Bondholders and the owners of the Renaissance Grand St. Louis and the Renaissance St. Louis Suites have made little headway in reaching a plan to rescue the financially embattled hotels in downtown St. Louis.

Neither side could agree on a financial restructuring plan discussed during a Dec. 22 conference call. Steven Stogel, a St. Louis developer who is serving as an unpaid mediator for the parties, said during the conference call he hoped to have another proposal on the table within the next 60 days.

But it's clear the hotels have hit rock-bottom. A debt service reserve fund virtually has been depleted. The fund's balance has been whittled to $177,000 after hotel owners, led by Kimberly-Clark Corp., paid out a scheduled $3.5 million on Dec. 15 in bond interest payments.

And it's not clear whether the hotels will be able to make the next interest payment on June 15, according to a public notice of the Dec. 22 conference call.

But both sides are quiet about the status of proposals to save the hotels. An attorney representing the bondholders declined to comment. Stogel said he could no longer comment on the project.

A sluggish convention business has plagued the region's hotels in recent years. Competition from other mid-sized cities has increased, experts say, along with a glut of downtown hotel rooms in an already soft market.

The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission booked 410,000 group room-nights in 2004, according to a market report released last summer. That's about half the room-nights originally projected. The report suggests the Renaissance hotels have struggled as a result.

The Renaissance Grand had a 66 percent occupancy rate between June 18 and Sept. 19, at an average rate of $114 a night. The Renaissance St. Louis Suites did slightly better, with a 74 percent occupancy rate, at $115 a night.

The only clear-cut solution, in the short- and long-term, is to attract more business, said Richard Mersman, attorney for the owners. He said the hotels have increased their sales and marketing budget and staff in recent months to make more direct sales.

"When the hotels' underwriting was originally financed, it was based on the CVC's estimates, and we're running substantially less than those original projections," he said. "That has impacted the hotels' ability to generate sufficient income to pay their debt."

In earlier conference calls, selling the Renaissance Suites and converting it to condos was discussed.

Closing the hotels is not an option, said Jeff Rainford, Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff. But he didn't rule out a condo-conversion or an ownership change.

Bond investors haven't been as upbeat. The properties' bond rating was downgraded in November to Caa2 from B3 by Moody's Investor Service and put on a watch list for another possible downgrade. The longest-term bonds, which mature in 2035, traded for 71 cents on the dollar Tuesday, down from 90 cents in September.

"Unlike most tax-exempt financing, this project was contingent on the successful financial operation of the hotel," Anne Van Praagh, an analyst for Moody's, said in a phone interview.

"The risk was clear to investors that the hotel had no track record and may not be able to make their occupancy forecasts. But that's the risks that investors took on."


To see more of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

Copyright (c) 2006, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail


Transforming the Office Environment

Nancy Cripe - Director of Sales

2270 Ball Dr. St. Louis, MO 63146

Ph. (314) 743-1849 Fax. (314) 621-0746

E mail:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Barack Obama-san

Today's WSJ Editorial says that Obama's ambitious stimulus plan of spending over a trillion dollars of government funded projects including roads, bridges, and jobless benefits is not a new idea. "Keynesian 'pump priming; in a recession has been tried, and as an economic stimulus, is overrated. The money that the government spends "has to come from somewhere, which means from the private economy in higher taxes or 'borrowing' (Governments are good at borrowing; they are called bonds which governments say will always be paid back in revenues collected. Interpretation: if things don't pan out as projected the taxpayer makes up the deficit. And projections seem to be lately, a dime a dozen.

Public works are usually less productive than private investment. Japan tried these Obama approach in what is called the lost decade in Japan from 1992-7. These spending reforms have now been rolled back but only after their national debt had exploded. However, Japan does have a lot of good roads but they too, are returning to the bad habits of the 1990's.

Now we're being told that a similar spending program--a New Deal--will revive the U. S. economy. How do you say good luck in Japanese."

Obama - Garrison Kellior

Obama says, under his administration, our schools kids will graduate and will all get high paying jobs. Keillor said, in his book, Pontoon: a Lake Wobegon Novel, we have become a country of all chiefs and no Indians.

Reminder: This site was never intended to be "politically correct".

Sure Barack kids may even be inspired to have a will. Sorry, but having a "will" doesn't mean one who has the "will" will have the capability or DESIRE to become a chief with a high paying job.

I lunched at a local restaurant yesterday. All the staff was black. None of those I watched working are capable of being chiefs with a high paid job, Obama's new education or not.

Obama said he is going to create 2 and one half new million jobs. I hope he can find "workers" to fill these jobs. I hope they learn some skills along with computer skills, IPOD's., UPOD's or even MEPOD's. Like physically working with their hands along with their thinking minds and their will to better themselves. Or, I guess we will eventually have to do like Sweden does. Just open the borders for anyone who wants to work. We already have 3/4 of the illegal people in the U.S. working pretty hard right now.

What I heard from Obama's new education chief is the same rhetoric I've heard for the past 15 years. I am glad Arne Duncan played basketball, he should know how to compete.

Good luck, Arne.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pere-Marriott-Matthews-Council-Taxpayer Vote Tonight

Along with all the fine coverage on the subject by The Peoria Chronicle, more questions and more time should be taken by the council to advise the risk to the taxpayer.

Not a single large partially or completely taxpayer funded venture completed in the City of Peoria since year 2000 has met their projections. Two more, the zoo expansion and the museum are highly suspect.

I was told that if the city does not go ahead with the hotel deal, where will the Civic Center put all the people that will be attending their conventions? Okay, let's start with the simple question of what does the Civic Center 2008 Budget look like through November, 30, 2008? Why is that important one council person asked? It's important because if they are losing a lot of money, they are going to lose a lot more between now and the end of this world wide recession. One of the first costs convention going companies cut is the cost of hosting or attending conventions. The more companies that fail during this economic shake--up will be less companies to attend or host conventions of the size the Peoria Civic Center is bidding to host.

Dream big Hollings and community leaders say. Let's really hope their dreams come true because the people that will be affected if they don't are not people with high salaries, paid health care and generous retirement benefits.

And the developer has to be saying isn't this a great country? He has no real monetary risk. If the projections don't turn out, the taxpayer will make up the deficit.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gay Rights Activists

Taken from the latest issue of the National Review:

No person of institution should enter into a public controversy expecting to escape criticism--even unfair and dishonest criticism. But the jihad currently being waged against Mormons is unconscionable. In a Denver suburb, a Book of Mormon was set on fire and draped on the doorstep of a Mormon temple, presumably as a statement about the church's support of Proposition 8 in California, an initiative that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Envelopes full of suspicious white powder were sent to church headquarters in Salt Lake City. Blacklist of pro-9 Mormon donors have been compiled. Mormons are routinely being denounced as hateful and bigoted. None of this is even remotely justifiable. The Mormon church had not been particularly strident in its opposition to same sex-marriage, nor is it alone among church's whose leaders supported the ballot measure and encouraged its followers to do likewise. Throughout, Mormons acted within their rights, in honest pursuit of what they believe to be good. Gay-rights activists have every right to criticize this. But they hurt their own cause b fantasizing Mormon conspiracies roughly equivalent to what Saudi clerics tell about Jews. The vitriol has been tolerated in polite society only because anti-Mormon bigotry is pervasive--and it is this, not the church's role in the Prop 8 debate, that is truly shameful

Amen. I refer you to my blog of 12/5 on the subject of Gay-Rights activists bigotry.

The Big Three - Severance, Pensions and Benefits

So now it's down to the White House who can use the tools created by Congress to manufacture the funny money to bail out the Big Three. Most believe that the unions knew it would come down to this and therefore conceded little in the way of change. They believe that Ford will survive and the other two can hold out until the new union owning Democrat Congress is sworn in.

The National Review carried a cover story by Stephen Spruiel about GM's plans to close down an assembly line at Moraine, Ohio on December 23. The reporter says the $18-15 billion bailout will not be enough and here is why:

GM's job security plan with the unions; inflexible, no way to respond to fluctuations in the marketplace. The IUE-CWA union at Moraine was able to negotiate buyouts of $70,000-$140,000 for any worker who VOLUNTARILY quits. Other workers were made eligible for early retirement. Employees who accept transfers or stay with the company will qualify for GM's supplemental unemployment benefits, meaning that GM will makeup the difference between their former wages and their state unemployment checks. When unemployment checks, now extended, run out, GM will pay these workers 95% of their former wages for up to two years.

Worker with at least 10 years seniority are eligible for that infamous job bank program that allows laid off workers to receive their regular hourly pay to sit or go, say, ice fishing. They can turn down a transfer or basically they can stay in job-bank until they reach retirement age. Nationwide, GM has about 1400 workers in job banks.

The unions are going to bluff the White House into a bailout all the while knowing that Chapter 11 would force concessions from the unions while the Big Three claim liquidation would generate a worldwide calamity. We may already be in that calamity, even the most brilliant or some insiders, can only guess at what is going to happen next.

Confused Board of Directors would probably like to see Waggoner and Nardelli ousted but they are not sure their replacements can save these sinking ships.

I guess I'd never give in without what I previously called restrictions, or get as good as you give. Probably its too late in the game. Republicans in Congress are giving President Bush some payback; in fact, everybody is playing some sort of game and the union bosses and union employees with at least 10 years seniority are going to be the winners.

I'm still betting that the White House will create the funny money for the bailout. Bush had better get the trade bill he wants with Columbia, South Korea and Peru in exchange from the Democrats. Still the somewhat innocent taxpayer will pick up the bill.

Did you see the short film on the Ford Plant in Brazil that is so automated that the unions do not want anyone to see it. If and when this kind of automation is allowed in the U.S. the number of manufacturing employees will shrink to half the size employed now.

Changes are coming in the next 10 years that will totally change the ways of manufacturing and this country to become more and more of a service country with possibly the best paying jobs will be in health care, litigation, hi-tech, environmental services and education. The union membership will rise as long as Obama reigns but eventually management and union dealings will become much more reasonable.

Or else. And the "or else" is not going to be of the liking of the so-called social moderates.

The Sad State of the Muslim World

The 12/13 issue of the National review commenting on the Taliban or Al-Qaeda lying in wait to shoot and kill retired Maj, Gen. Amir Faisal Alvi who commanded the Special Services Group, the SSG, Pakistan's elite commandos, a man who correctly described the Islamists, "as cowards who did not meet you out in the open but resorted to buried explosives and assassinations". Not to mention the Islamists cowards who send their sons and daughters to kill themselves and other innocents in the name of Allah, so their convoluted minds believe.

Tell that to our own home grown pacifists now further ruining our country.

The Dream and the Nightmare - Myron Magnet

Myron Magnet, author and member of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, was recently honored with the National Humanities Medal. His book, "The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties Legacy to the Underclass"; (I bought 10 copies of when it was published in 1993 because I felt anyone paying attention to the downward slide of our society should read it), is only the most celebrated of his achievements.

Of the 10 books, I lent out nine of them to people who appeared to be concerned After many years, I received 3 of them back, one was mailed back to me from Campaign, I lent those three out a couple of years ago and I only received one comment.

Oh well, I guess Nora Roberts and James Patterson make much better reading. So why do people wonder how we got in the shape we are in and blame it all on the politicians; however, Darin LaHood has yet to return the book I lent him last spring, "Enough" by Fox Guest and columnist Juan Williams. Basically Mr.Williams said to his black race, "you are listening to the wrong leaders and if you continue to do so you will believing you are victims of the "white man and the system" till the end of time".

I suspect the book is no longer in circulation in our Peoria Public Library System. They probably needed to make room for more romance novels.

I can still lend out my copy.

Pere Marquette Hotel's Value

If the market value of the Pere is only $9,865,800 according to the Peoria County Assessor and the Pere did a $6 million dollar renovation in 2005, Phase 1 of a promised 2 phases, just three years ago, and another $6 million as Phase 2, is the Peoria County Assessors Office so out of step with reality as I believe they are or didn't the hyped Pere Renovations take place?

Also, I believe the parking deck is owned by the city as the Pere had a 5 year contract to lease it for $100,000 a year, final payment due in 2009, why does the $11million offered by Matthews for the Pere, include the parking deck as the JS says today.

This deal is going pretty fast. How much is the risk to taxpayers in Peoria?? The gains are obvious IF the projects pan out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shelby, Alabama Republican Senator Hypocrite

On 12/22/1995, John A. Barnes wrote in the Investor's Business Daily "The New 'War Between the States', This Time, It's Economic as States Fight to Lure Businesses", In 1993, North Carolina and Alabama waged a war to host the first American based production plant for Mercedes-Benz, a foreign car maker.

Alabama offered a $300 million dollar subsidy and landed the plant in a non-union state. Mercedes-Benz laughed all the way to the bank and Detroit looked on in consternation. Shelby, who I've listened to over quite a number of days and concluded that while he may have a lot of college degrees, he doesn't appear to be the brightest of the seemingly not too bright bunch running our government out of Washington, is a first class hypocrite.

States all over the country offered subsidies to all types of businesses including foreign auto-makers who received more than their share including Normal, Illinois won out subsidizing Bloomington and other states to land a foreign automaker. Normal has been subsidizing the plant ever since.

It amazes me that government can subsidize new businesses to compete against established businesses who in effect are paying taxes to subsidize their own competition.

Yes, I know it's a game called let's "Rob Peter to pay Paul, played by all who stand to make some money on the deal. Who were the most generous states to give away taxpayer money in 1993? By amounts; New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Missouri, California, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois.

Shelby, like most politicians, are hypocrites, liars or worse, After all, Illinois has Blago and the Chicago Gang plus a lot of others. Chicago Olympics is another place I'll not be spending money.

Big Three and Partisian Politics

It appears that the decision on the $18 billion request by the Big 3 has come down to which party can gain leverage over the other party. The Republicans know the Democrats are between a "rock and a hard spot", Democrats who hate big business and are $600 million indebted to the unions, and Republicans who never found a cause that shouldn't be supported with taxpayer dollars. Unless, like in this case of worldwide economic chaos where an $18 billion mistake that could save millions of jobs and billions of dollars, they would rather play games with the opposition. Not to mention millions of people's lives.

After agreeing to the $700 billion to $3 trillion bailout of the financials with few strings attached, they quibble over $18 billion (Are we still spending $60 billion a month in Iraq?)that if not given WILL throw many part of this country into a greatly prolonged recession or at worst and depression albeit short of the "1930's" depression.

Credit Ray LaHood for getting his vote right even though I'm sure he felt as I did when I wrote my blog on "no bailout". Then I gathered a LOT more information and changed my mind. I know George Bush, along with other Republican leaders who should have taken off a shoe and got up on their work desk and tried to pound some sense into (you thought I was going to say the Democrats), each other regardless of affiliation I know George and his ilk are rather relishing the moment. But they sure shouldn't be. They too, bought into the "prosperity for many would never end" fantasy. Sure,they saw problems down the road but hoped they could confuse the public with "blame the other party" rhetoric while they enjoyed their substantial salaries, benefits of all kinds and a soft private or political job when they retire.

Not to mention the accolades of all those who received the largess of their watered down dollars. Who? Their major contributors, of course. Many of us did benefit but most of us do not.

Officials elected to state capitols and D.C., show some concern about your constituency who don't have well paying jobs and a secure future.

Show some guts now and correct some of the mistakes made with some "change as we lend" policies and then ENFORCE them WHEN they CAN be enforced. Asking the auto companies to predict when they will return to prosperity is like asking Glen Barton, Chairman of the Board of Newmont Mining, when the price of his companies greatly depressed stock will go back to $60 where a lot of people bought it. Or asking Jim Owens when Caterpillar will go back to the $67 a share where my "mad at me" wife bought this lately lousy investment. (Caterpillar received another downgrade today and closed at 42 something a share).

Do you think they have a crystal ball like the Republicans in the House think the automaker must have?

People who say "throw the bums out" voted twice to keep Blago in office and twice to keep Bush in office. (Then the majority voted to send Jehan Gordon to Springfield to support Blago). ??????

What a great country as Ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers said. And O.J. used to say.

Bush could have selected a better person than Hank Paulson, who along with Chris Cox (Did you read Cox's weak column in today's WSJ?) If not, don't waste your time. Really a lot of words of nothingness unless he thought that is what people are used to. A lot of nothingness like "we should all do this or that" and things will be OK. Just wait.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pere Marquette Hotel's Recent History

Back in 2004, the Pere, with State Representative, Dave Leitch, backing the hotel owners who sought the city's guarantee of a $5 million loan towards the Pere's promised $12 million renovation. Leitch, was an officer at National City Bank who was trustee for the bonds on the Pere. One of the Pere's Kansas City based owners was quoted in the JS 9/18/04 said that "we would look good to them (for the private borrowed money of $7 million) because they have been a good bank to work with". Leitch was upset that he was questioned by some councilpeople as to why he didn't disclose his relationship with the bank while negotiations were going on.

Yet, as reported by Matt Buedel of the JS on 1/31/04, "Pere doesn't need saving", this hotel does not need saving, quoting Bill Carter, General Manager of the Pere, "we just completed one of the best years we've had since 1999. We are in need of updating but we need to know where the city is planning in the way of other developments and how these developments will impact our hotel. We are confused with what Mayor Ransburg is saying that business at the Pere is failing and city intervention is eminent."

Leitch said he was "bewildered" at so much venom against this proposal "when our friends in East Peoria are spending $26 million in public funding and our friends in Normal are spending $17 million". Leitch continued that the owners never made a dime on the Pere, paying $3.2 million in property taxes, repaying of a $2 million federal grant plus $o5 million in municipal taxes, not counting state rebates".

Possibly part of the council's wise decision was that the Pere had already defaulted on a $229,000 unsecured loan taken out in 1998, (10% a year interest never paid) and were in default of lease payments on the $500,000 parking deck the city had built for them.

On 5/13/05, The JS reported that the $229,000 was paid back to the city but did not say that the $140,000 in accrued interest was paid back. Also the Pere would buy the city owned parking lot for $500,000 in 5 equal installments and the first one of $100,000 had already been paid. (At this time there still should be $100,000 due the city next year??)

On May 12, 2005 Paul Gordon wrote "Hotel's upgrade a private venture". No public money would be used. The owners said the "money was in the bank".

Paul Gordon, JS, columnist wrote in May of 2005 that "Five banks, state, lend money
for Pere work (renovation). Work will start in June". A promotion piece sent out by the Pere on June 2, 2005, on $6 million Renovation and Modernization "is phase one of a $12 million project". Don Welch joined the Pere as V-P of Operations while Bill Carter will run the daily operations of the hotel.

Now that the taxpayers were out of the equation, I stopped following Pere activities. If the $12 million was spent on renovations would mean these renovations are only 3 years old.

The JSEB solidly supported the view that NO taxpayer money go into this project but was in solid support of a new downtown hotel as long as the risks and the costs were borne by the private sector.


My nex blog will examine the new $102 million dollar downtown Marriott hotel, who apparently bought the Pere and try to confirm my figures that ONLY $700,000 will be invested by the private investors.


Please correct any errors. I can only assume the renovations took place as I do not visit the facility.

Peoria's New Hotel Seen as "Ultimate" Answer

Great, if this project succeeds. As usual, I will play the "DA". From the JS, I am uncertain what dollars the private investors would contribute to the projected cost of $102 million. .. "Of the total, $39.3 million will come from public money that would be financed through bonds and repaid over 23 years. Property taxes for the complex will be frozen for 23 years. Increases in property tax revenue for others in the district will be used to make improvements. Conservative revenues projected over 23 years of the bond issue include $41 million from TIFs, $5.3 million from a 1 percent (1 cent?)sales tax on hotels in the downtown area and $2.8 million from a 1 percent (1 cent?) sales tax on businesses within the city's newly adopted Hospitality Improvement Zone."

Also, projected increases of the Marriott hotel ($25.5 million) and restaurant ($3.9 million) tax revenues are envisioned to generate additional money during the next 23 years. In addition, an incremental increase in sales taxes generated from the development ($5.4 million) would go toward repayment of the bond.

Debbie Ritschel of the Civic Center says "we think we will be able to reach the full potential; at least we think we can".

So let's cut to the amount the city will be contributing of public dollars, street renovations, buying up all the properties, tearing down of all the properties, paying relocation of existing business; Big Al's owner says the cost of remodeling an old building for him are "astronomical" (shades of the "generous" buyout of the cleaner to site the new ballpark).

How many tax dollars would be lost if some of the businesses to be relocated just take the money and run?

What about the remaining payment to the city of $100,000 on the parking deck?
And most important, exactly how much is the private sector investing in this project? The figures above only add up to about $80 million.

And very important is the fact that many projections made in the past 10 years have been just that, projections. So the biggest question of all is is "what if the projections don't 'pan' out". Exactly who gets stuck?

From the facts made public, this deal hasn't seen enough light as yet to be voted on next week by the city council.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who Runs Illinois - The Chicago Gang

Rerun on my blog site with the permission of Dan.

Merle Widmer

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Contact: Dan Proft
(p) 312-575-9500
(c) 312-446-6488

Proft's latest featured commentary on Don Wade & Roma:

Blagojevich: Getting Things Done for People

Click here to listen to an .mp3 of this commentary as heard on this morning's Don Wade & Roma Morning Show on WLS AM-890.

Getting Things Done for People.

That was the slogan of Rod Blagojevich's 2006 re-election campaign. Who would have thought a phrase so utterly devoid of meaning would foretell such truth?

Governor Blagojevich was certainly getting things done for people--for himself, for his wife, for his campaign contributors, and for just about anyone who was willing to pay sticker price for government spoils.

Given the starkness of the schemes as recorded in Blagojevich's own words, flabbergasted Illinoisans are wondering how a Governor could be so brazen. After all, in what undiscovered dimension lives a man who conceptualizes a run for the Presidency in 2016 while strategizing about an indictment he seemed to fully anticipate?

The French philosopher Baudelaire once wrote, "True genius is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts simultaneously without losing your mind." Blagojevich's contradictions proved instead that the simultaneous exercise of stupidity and arrogance loses one his freedom.

And so over the next several months Blagojevich's fate will wind to its inexorable end, beginning next week when the Illinois General Assembly moves to impeach him.

As this occurs, I have a humble request of my fellow Illinoisans.

Don't get fooled again. Don't get suckered by the contrived and self-righteous hand-wringing by the very people who twice shepherded Blagojevich to the Governor's mansion.

Those Chicago Democrats that are lining up to spit on his political grave because they covet his office are the same Chicago Democrats who brought you the last six sordid years of Blagojevich rule.

Those Chicago Democrats didn't walk away from Blagojevich (for those that ever did) over policy concerns or ethical pangs of conscience; they walked away because Blagojevich didn't do what they wanted him to do when they wanted him to do it.

He committed the mortal sin of cooking up his own illicit schemes instead of executing theirs--and he turned out to not be nearly as adept at it as they are.

Who are the "they"? They are the eight members of the "Chicago 9" (the 9 Chicago Democrats who control $70B worth of government and 125,000 public sector jobs in Illinois) not arrested yesterday. Their names are Rich Daley, Mike Madigan, Lisa Madigan, Jesse White, Dan Hynes, Alexi Giannoulias, Todd Stroger, and Emil Jones.

Remember those names. Write them down. And remember the outrage you feel now when the next opportunity you have to vote against them presents itself.


Dan Proft is a Principal of Urquhart Media LLC, a Chicago-based public affairs firm and political commentator for the Don Wade & Roma Morning Show (5-9am) on Chicago's number one news talk radio station, WLS-AM 890. He can be reached at

For other Dan Proft commentaries (radio & print), please visit:

For other recent Don Wade & Roma interviews, commentary, and discussions visit:

© All Rights Reserved



Big Three Bailout

I've changed my mind. The governing bodies of this country have made too many mistakes to place all the blame on management and unions of the Big Three.

Of course, management is to blame. They were and are overpaid and reluctant to make changes required. They should have seen the green movement on the horizon and started experimentation more seriously sooner. They gave in to the unions while non-union plants were building factories in right to work states. They should have known they couldn't be able to compete on brand name alone. Also they should have seen that quality on many lines was slipping. They should have known they had too many models.

The union got increasingly greedy. They wanted high pay now and higher benefits now, like health benefits, longer vacations and days off, full or almost full pay for those laid off for possible recall and fat retirement checks. Union bosses should have seen the mistakes management was making and demanded more say in management. But as long as the unions unpublished motto is "We don't care what you build, just build it, we need jobs". That is the union motto. Demanding that management keep everybody employed is part of the problem at GM. Facts are still facts, even if denied.

Seniority rules has never worked in any type of organization. Quick learners with enthusiasm and good attitude make just as good or better workers than those who get complacent and come to work only for a paycheck. When one's job is guaranteed, one becomes more complacent. I know, I've been there. I owned more than one struggling yet successful business.

And the governments blame: I don't know where to start. All kind of mandates on building green cars when there was no clamboring public demand to buy them. There was no way these cars could be sold at a profit. Why would I want to buy a plug-in half gas-half battery, no pick-up speed and more costly than the brand of vehicle I've been buying for years. Fas in the U.S is almost $5 dollars a gallon cheaper then gas in Europe.

Workplace restrictions, tort lawsuits, health costs that the government is responsible for letting get out of sight. Allowing the radical environmentalists to force restrictions on the manufacturers that other countries do not have.

And the mandate to use over-subsidized ethanol. And the restrictions on selling a good selling brand in other countries but not allowing that brand to be sold in the U.S.

They are all at fault. And we've gone to far to subsidize anything that has a powerful lobby. Now we are in a real dilemma. Causing more than one of these companies to go bankrupt would throw this country nto a further recession. Mexico where thousands are employed by the Big Three or the subsidiaries and suppliers would throw that country into a worse recession.

Since i blogged, "let them go bankrupt", many things have changed including the election of a new president, the president-elect connections with Gov. Blago, Bill Clinton's and Al Gore's new roles, a couple of cabinet picks that should concern many of us, and worries about who he has yet to select for cabinet posts, old or new posts.

All this plus what appears to be a continuing recession in most of the world.

As we say in Peoria County, approve with restrictions; make these restrictions mandatory on all concerned and FOLLOW THROUGH, that means the manufacturers, the government, the union , the stockholders and the public to enforce these restrictions.

Plus the new regime should greatly increase the search for oil in our own country while the green car research accelerates.

At this point in time we can afford no bankruptcy as catastrophic as the demise of more than possibly one of the Big 3 before next summer. Prolonging the debacle? I say only way to go at this point of destruction. Bankruptcy now is not an option. But the "boys" in D.C. may force this situation into the worst of all situations; partisan politics.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Proposition 8 - Revisted

Backup to my recent blog on "Different Strokes.....Don Pisenti of Mill Valley, Ca. writes "The debate is not about civil rights; it is an attempt to obtain total public acceptance through the pressure of "political correctness" and ultimately through the force of law.

Jim Smith of Yonkers, N.Y., writes that two photographers from New Mexico were fined by a human rights commission because they declined to photograph a gay wedding. It's not much of a stretch to imagine this tactic used against those who officiate at weddings as well. (It already has) Discrimination lawsuits will continue to be the weapon gay activists use to impose a tyranny of the "minority".

Chris W. Kite of Cornelius, N.C. writes "Government benefits for "marriage" could eventually be available to any two people who claim them. These benefits are not basic rights. We are not invading the bedroom or private ceremonies. The courts should not invade voting booth."

David B. Neslund of Lititz, Pa., writes, "Government marriage benefits are designed to support an institution, the traditional family, which history has shown to be beneficial to society as a whole."

I agree. These comments are taken from the "Letters to the Editor" of today's WSJ.

I also have severe doubts about any mixed sex couple to adopt a kid. Kids are confused enough about all the "stuff' being dumped on them by almost all of the popular medias and even some of their teachers.

Wi-Fi - A Second Look?

What's the City of Peoria's experience? I know at Lakeview Library connections come and go. Wi-Fi, sometimes called a wireless "cloud" has been touted for a long time time as a spur to economic development. I note that countrywide, progress has been slow. Many companies that built and maintained them abandoned them and others are stalled or scaled back.

I would appreciate comments.

Blagojevich Arrested - Foiled by Wiretaps

Pretty much sums up what most of us already knew. Just when Mayor Daley was touting recent positive events to help secure Olympics to Chicago. Best that he soft-pedal Obama's connection to Chicago out of his promotion as Obama's relationships with the Chicago machine are a little clouded.

Arrested also,was Blago's Chief of Staff Harris. Among the charges are trying to sell Obama's seat to the "highest bidder".

That politics corrupt overlooks the fact that many we elect,were already "corrupted" before they became officeholders. Then seniority takes over and they are off to the races in pursuit of more power and more questionable sources of income.

Plus positioning themselves for cushy positions after they retire from public "service".

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Links

I temporarily lost my "Links" and Site meter. Bill Dennis will get them back in place by tomorrow.

If you want to be added to my links, please send information.

If you get a chance read "Illegal People" by David Bacon, a disturbing story and the 12/22/08 issue of Forbes Magazine , p. 73, "The Next Disaster", both in the same vein as my last blog on prohibition.

If you have a weak stomach and have enough fear of what's going on in the world, don't read these highly disturbing truths.

Pearl Harbor Memory Day passed without much copy. We must never forget those who serve us in danger and with honor and all those who have lost life and health in the service of our country.

Friday, December 05, 2008

75th Anniversary - Repeal Day

Ethan A. Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, writes in the
WSJ today, "Let's End Drug Prohibition". "Today is the 75th anniversary of that blessed day in 1933 when Utah became the 36th state and deciding state to ratify the 21st amendment, thereby repealing the 18th amendment. This ended the nations disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition. The Americans who voted in 1993 to repeal prohibition differed greatly in their reasons for overturning the system. But almost all agreed that the evils of failed suppression far outweighed the evils of alcohol consumption."

John Walter, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control, writes and opposing view in the WSJ. Walter writes, "Our Drug Policy is a Success", 'whatever challenges await him Obama will not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to keeping the lid on the use of illegal drugs. Our policy has been a success..... Last March, our Coast guard seized a one month's supply of cocaine destined for the U.S.....'(while two months supply of other drugs were coming in through our porous 2000 mile border between our country and Mexico) "No comparison with the 127 million drinkers and the 20 million drug users...."

Somewhere, somehow, this country is going to have to open up a national debate as to whose facts are wrong or whose facts are right. And weigh all successes and failures, just as was done on alcohol prohibition and the 21st amendment. It will be a long and hard debate. Nadelmann says "we need to promote vigorous and informed debate. The worst prohibition, after all is a prohibition on thinking"

I can speak with some authority on the subject. On March 9, 2007, Dee (Widmer) Keaton and I lost our son, a victim of the illegal drug trade that has contaminated almost every city in this country including infested area's of Peoria known by every drug interdiction officer in this city..And most any local police officer.

It's past time for a national debate. Unfortunately, the president-elect has 172 promises before he gets to this national disgrace that affects ONLY 20 MILLION users in the U.S. (and another 20 million Mr. Walter doesn't know about).

"Different Strokes for Different Folks"

I have no dislike for anyone who chooses a lifestyle that is different from the beliefs of this largely Christian society. Just don't push your "different strokes" off on the rest of us like same-sex marriage rights to be the same as heterosexual marriages. I grew up in a pretty conservative community where the pre-dominant religions were Mennonite and the modern Amish (no buggies soon after the auto was introduced) who were later to be known as Apostolic Christians. Our preachers told us that a marriage was between a man and a woman. While I never became a member of either church, I have never doubted that the population on this earth ever grew by by marrying a man and a man, woman and woman or a man or woman marrying anything else but perhaps a biblical figure.

Our neighborhood had a couple of brothers, only sons of a married couple, who never left the family home until death. Some small gossip, enough for me to remember them but not their names, but everybody went about their own business which is the way we ought to act today. They, nor any other male couples or female couples that I have ever known in my entire life has asked to be officially recognized as any type of married couple.

The larger the community, the more gays demand "rights" and the greater the rebellion against the "mo'res" that made this country what it was and hopefully will continue to be.

My belief in marriage of only woman to man or man to woman has never changed or ever faltered. My community tolerated without harassment others beliefs. But there was in our community in the early 1900's a suspicion of "Catholics, blacks and Italians, along with a few others had we known them". Many in our community were of German descent yet they fought for our country against the Germans with just a few CO's. Country meant more to us than ethnic dislike. Education and reason caused these ethnic suspicions to mainly evaporate. But early beliefs, however wrong, do not die immediately. When I was 13, a friend and I visited a Church that supposedly had members who rolled on the floor. We went to see them "roll" but they didn't roll to our disappointment. However, we were greeted and encouraged by the preacher and some members to come back and visit. We sheepishly left after the service. As I "grew up" that experience left a lasting impression on me of the rights of people to worship as they please. With one exception: I will never respect any religion, or person, that preaches hatred of the United States of America. Dislike and mistrust of some leaders, perhaps, but no hatred of this greatest country in the world.

When California put the question of what constituted a legal marriage on the ballot, Proposition 8, I was very pleased to see that a majority of the voters in the state, upheld the belief that a legal marriage is between and man and a woman. I was extremely displeased of the reaction of the gay right crowd toward Mormon Church members and the Mormon Church.

Of the millions of dollars spent by gay rights activists to try to defeat this proposition, one of the most vicious was a pre-election TV commercial: "Hi. We're from the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints," says a same sex marriage supporting actor and playing a Mormon missionary. "We're here to take away your rights", adds his colleague. "Next, these two enter the home of a lesbian couple, pry off their wedding rings and tear up their marriage certificate".

The target of the TV commercial was the Mormon Church who did encourage their members to donate time and personal resources toward support of Proposition 8. "Despite a large number of churches supporting the proposition, such as California's Catholic bishops and a number of evangelical churches, including the megachurch of Rick Warren, gay rights crowd took their anger out on the Mormon Church. They organized protests at temples both in and out of California and accused them of bigotry and hatred, and called for the church to lose it's tax exempt status", said Forbes Magazine.

Forbes Magazine further reported that "First, the millions of dollars that the Mormons donated to support the proposition, were private, individual donations, not donations from the church. Second, there are reasons to oppose same-sex marriage,(they sure are right about that) other than anti-gay bigotry, and gay rights activists discredit themselves by attributing the worst possible motives to those who disagree with them. Third, trying to change the church's tax status is a double edged sword that might be equally used against religious organizations (not to mention non-profits) that endorse liberal causes. What this comes down to is that like minded people exercised their political rights and are being vilified for it."

On November, 2, Newsroom, a Mormon Publication, "The Official Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders and the Public", released statements urging civility and reaffirming its position. Other respected organs such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Dallas Morning News, The First Amendment Center, The Christian Post, etc., and Michael Barber, Professor of Theology, Scripture and Christian Thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University, John Mark Reynold, Philosophy Professor at Biola University and the Volokh Conspiracy-Dale Carpenter: An Alternative to Anti-Mormon Protests, all raised their voices to support the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who asked that "Measured Voices Provide Reason" rather than bashing that the gay-rights are always complaining about, gay bashing.

I'm sure a large majority of both ethnic, secular and religious groups (a majority of black and Hispanic voters in California voted for the proposition) in California and countrywide supported the Mormon position.

Thanks to alertness and the care of common sense people, this proposition passed and I pray, if appealed, it is not reversed by some far left leaning judge. If it goes to the Supreme Court, I hope the court has the same judges it has now.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Caterpillar Stock up on Pending News

Some Cat employees say that Caterpillar will soon announce some major changes, changes from pricing of product to work combining to changes to some benefits. Nothing is in the news media as yet (that I have seen) but Caterpillar stock has moved up to almost $40 a share.

Also, Caterpillar would likely benefit if Congress asked GM to break and sell off pieces rather than take bankruptcy, the direction they are heading, bail-out or not.Someones loss of their business or their job, almost always spurs other development by wiser entrepreneurs. Someone to pick up the pieces and hire skilled employees who may have lost their jobs due to closings of all types.

The community looks for some good news from Caterpillar and any other company that produces a saleable product manufactured in Peoria County.

More games and circuses we do not need unless they are funded by private dollars.

George Shadid

Veteran Democrat politician George Shadid has petition gatherers out working for him. Appears he is going to challenge Ardis for Peoria Mayor.

I did not sign his petition. Shadid and Bill Halstead picked Jehan Gordon?? for the Illinois State Legislature and County Board member Phil Salzer and now retired Board member Jim Thomas appeared in TV ads supporting Gordon.

What the hey, she's female, black, young, speaks well, is aggressive and good-looking. What other characteristics are needed these days?

Mayor Jim Ardis has a fund raiser with food at Weaver Ridge Golf Club today, 5-8, casual business attire. Bring a friend.

I'll be there.