Thursday, August 31, 2006

SunTimes: Immigrants flock to the suburbs

Immigrants flock to the suburbs

August 30, 2006

BY SCOTT FORNEK Political Reporter

The melting pot is bubbling over in the suburbs of Chicago.

The number of foreign-born U.S. citizens jumped by nearly 38 percent in the suburbs over the last five years -- leaping almost 50 percent in DuPage County alone and doubling in Will and Grundy counties, according to an analysis of Census information by a pro-immigrant group.

Calling it "a fundamental sea change of where immigrant citizens are living," the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights argues the changes have far-reaching political ramifica- tions.

"We're riding the crest of a tsunami," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the group and author of the report.

"Immigrants in Illinois are achieving the American dream of learning English, becoming American citizens and settling in the suburbs with their children.

"Immigrants are the new swing voters, the new soccer moms and NASCAR dads."

The coalition plans to formally release a report on the trend today. It's based on an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's latest estimates of population changes since 2000.

More becoming citizens

The group found that between 2000 and 2005, the state's total immigrant population -- including both undocumented residents and naturalized citizens -- rose by 177,000, an influx larger than the population of Aurora, the state's second largest city.

And while Chicago is often heralded as a city of immigrants, its total foreign-born population actually dipped 5 percent in the last five years, the first such drop during the wave of immigration that began in 1965.

Most important politically is the rise in the number of immigrants who have become U.S. citizens, making them eligible to vote. In the last five years the number of naturalized citizens in Illinois rose 23.1 percent, to 736,161.

But the real growth has been in the suburbs.

While Chicago only experienced a 4 percent increase in naturalized citizens of voting age during the period, the suburbs saw a boom of 37.5 percent.

The 48.2 percent rise in DuPage County means that 14.4 percent of its voting age population are naturalized citizens. In Will and Grundy counties, the number of adult naturalized citizens doubled, making them 6.3 percent of the total voting age population.

Which party will they help?

The report does not break down the immigrants by country of origin but notes that more than 100 nations are represented, with Mexico, Poland and India the top three.

"The political significance of this is that suburban communities that were traditionally Republican strongholds are now competitive for Democrats," Hoyt said.

Some studies have shown that Latinos and Asian Americans are more likely to vote Democratic, but Hoyt argues the diverse backgrounds of the immigrants make them fertile political ground for either party.

"The immigrant voters are a real swing constituency," Hoyt said. "They are attracted to the racial big tent of the Democratic Party and its stand on economic issues, but they are also attracted to the social conservatism and the entrepreneurialism that they identify with the Republican Party.

"But the most important thing is when they feel under attack, they will vote against the party they feel is attacking them."

That's a dig at Republicans, who have made curtailing illegal immigration a hot political issue. The coalition is one of the groups that helped organize the pro-immigration marches in Chicago this year.

'Faces that look like me'

As part of its efforts to mobilize the new citizens and realize the "today we march, tomorrow we vote" slogan, the coalition has 18 young people working to register immigrants to vote in suburban areas. Hoyt said they have registered 7,000 since mid-July.

Melissa Garcia, 21, a Harper College student, estimates that 75 percent of the roughly 400 people she has signed up in DuPage County have been immigrants, primarily from Mexico, Central America, South America or Asian countries.

But she said she saw the changes long before this.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she grew up in Hanover Park in one of the only households in the area that "was anything other than Anglo."

"Now, my neighbors are Hispanic," she said. "Tons of people are moving in the whole area itself. The percent of immigrants is just rising. I can just see it by looking down my street and seeing more faces that look like me."

'They're all welcome'

Illinois Republican Chairman Andy McKenna Jr. said he is not worried that the changing demographics will hurt the GOP, noting that Bush won 45 percent of the Hispanic vote nationwide.

"I think families of every ethnic makeup in suburban communities care about schools, about jobs and pocketbook issues," McKenna said. "And we have a good story to tell on all of those."

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said Hispanics will continue to gain political power as their numbers grow, as the Irish did before them.

But Cunningham, also a Republican, said it will take a few elections to figure out which party fares better.

"They're all welcome and [I] hope they make the right choice when they vote."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"Pork Barrel" Peter Focuses on Tax Cuts

Roskam focuses on tax cuts


GOP congressional candidate and state Sen. Peter Roskam wants to steer the election dialogue toward a conservative stand-by -- cutting taxes.

During an Aug. 2 campaign stop at the Bensenville offices of Central States Trucking, Roskam said that the starkest contrast between himself and Democratic nominee Tammy Duckworth is his pro-growth approach to tax policy.

The state lawmaker has pledged to eliminate the inheritance tax, also known as the "death tax," and said Duckworth needs to clarify to voters her position on taxes.

"I have a record now of almost 13 years in the General Assembly as a tax fighter and I have said unambiguously that I am in favor of making the tax cuts permanent," he said. "My opponent has been very ambiguous on that issue."

The stop in Bensenville coincided with the release of a Roskam campaign mail piece that claims Duckworth would make Illinois families pay higher taxes. The flier targets Duckworth's middling position on the Bush tax cuts, which she supports, but only in part.

Both candidates agree on the portion of the Bush plan that provide families with per-child and child care tax credits. They also agree that income tax rate cuts and the repeal of the marriage penalty should be made permanent.

Duckworth has repeatedly called for an end to tax subsidies for the oil industry and tax relief for middle-class -- but not wealthy -- families. For example, she disagrees with Roskam's position on the inheritance tax. Currently, the tax hits only those individuals with estates valued at more than $2 million.

Duckworth cites statistics that say a full repeal of the it would add more than $300 billion to the federal deficit and benefit only 8,000 U.S. families.

The exemption level is scheduled to rise to $3.5 million in 2009. At that level, only 3 of every 1,000 people who die will have an estate large enough to owe any tax, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"There's different ways to be fiscally responsible while helping middle-class families and reigning in the budget. The Bush administration has stood by while costs for middle-class families such as tuition, health care and costs at the fuel pump have gone up," Christine Glunz, Duckworth spokeswoman, said.

By one U.S. Treasury Department estimate, the nation is $3.5 trillion in debt and rapidly heading toward $4 trillion thanks in part to paying for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Glunz called Roskam's talk of fiscal restraint out of place considering a Republican-controlled Congress oversaw years of excessive spending.

"I think it's obvious to most people that Congress has gone from having a hefty surplus to hundreds of billions of dollars in debt ... putting our economic security at risk," she said.

Roskam acknowledged the need for spending cuts and pointed to his record in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly as evidence that he can push for them in Congress.

"What we've seen in Illinois is an economy that is simply lagging ... compared to our border states," he said. "Why is that? Because of a lack of discipline, a lack of discipline on spending on programs like All Kids. I've been a critic of (Gov. Rod Blagojevich) for three years on the Senate floor in my role as the whip."

All Kids is Blagojevich's program to provide medical insurance to children whose parents cannot afford it.

Roskam, who was joined by U.S. Rep. Phil English, R-Pa., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said long-term, the deficit issue will be addressed in part by the Bush tax cuts which will rev up the economy leading to increased tax revenues and improved employment and wage levels.

"Think about a company when taxes are cut. What will they typically do? They reinvest in the company," he said. "The trend line has shown us over and over again that when you cut taxes, things are dynamic and exciting and vibrant."

Copyright© 2006, Digital Chicago Inc.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Economist:: Rahm offers some “Big Ideas for America”

Rahmbo's Plan
Aug 17th 2006
From The Economist print edition

The House Democrats' chief enforcer offers some “Big Ideas for America”

RAHM EMANUEL, a congressman from Illinois, is often compared to Newt Gingrich. The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is clever, energetic and utterly determined to win back the House of Representatives in November. He is also, like the man who led the Republicans to just such a triumph in 1994, somewhat abrasive. He once sent a rotting fish to a pollster who irked him. When he was only 32, his aggressive fundraising helped Bill Clinton win the presidency. At a dinner afterwards, while others celebrated, he snatched up a steak knife and started plunging it into the table, naming his political enemies and yowling “Dead!” after each stab.

Some say Mr Emanuel learned to act tough to pre-empt the jeers he might otherwise have attracted as a schoolboy ballet dancer in Chicago. (He was good—his mother was apparently upset when he turned down a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet school.) Be that as it may, his style seems to work. “Rahmbo”, as he is known, is skilled not only at squeezing money out of donors (if the pledge is too small, he lets them know), but also at making sure that the candidates who get it campaign effectively. He makes them sign agreements specifying how many appearances and fund-raising phone calls they will make. He approaches his job “with the sensibility of a Mob bookie”, gushed a profile in Rolling Stone last year.

Next week Mr Emanuel will publish his answer to Mr Gingrich's “Contract with America”, the small-government manifesto that helped Republicans capture the House in 1994. It is called “The Plan: Big Ideas for America”, and is co-written with Bruce Reed, an old chum from the Clinton White House. It has signs of being written in a hurry. Was America in the 1950s and 1960s “a land of opportunity and certainty”, as he tells us on page 31? Or has it “always been a land of opportunity, not certainty”, as he says 11 pages later? The obligatory Bush-bashing is stale and waffly: “Bush inherited the longest economic boom in history and gave the middle class the highest anxiety in memory.” But the Plan itself is solid and mostly sensible.

Probably the main reason wages have not risen much in recent years is that health-insurance premiums, which many American employers shoulder, have soared. The Plan lists ways to curb them. Doctors, rather than being paid for every test and injection they provide—an arrangement that inevitably leads to over-doctoring—should be paid by results. Patients should be given better incentives to stay healthy: insurers, for example, should push them to take free physical exams to spot ailments early. Better use of information technology could supposedly save $162 billion a year. If the system is made more efficient, Mr Emanuel thinks coverage can be extended to all American children. But he concedes that a nation as individualistic as America will probably never accept a European-style national health service—and he should know, having worked on Hillary Clinton's doomed health project in the 1990s. He argues, however, that maybe, some day, every American might receive a voucher for basic health services from the insurer of his or her choice.

Mindful of the teachers' unions, he avoids the V-word when discussing education. But he has some sensible ideas. Subsidies for those who cannot afford to go to college are currently too complex; he would replace the five main schemes with a single $3,000-a-year tax credit. Teachers should be paid for performance, not just credentials. And schoolchildren should take shorter holidays. (The Democratic Leadership Council, a moderate Clintonian body, made the same proposal last month.)

Americans are not saving enough for retirement. Well, some are. Mr Emanuel, after six years as a White House aide, earned $16m in two and a half years as an investment banker. For those who lack his quick wits and fat Rolodex, however, he proposes other ways to build up wealth. Employees should automatically be enrolled in 401(K) pension schemes unless they object. The middle class should be exempt from capital-gains tax. And families with an income of less than $100,000 a year should surrender no more than 10% of it to the taxman. As a congressman, Mr Emanuel has proved himself something of a tax wonk, co-sponsoring a plan to do to the tax code's complexities what he once fantasised about doing to his political enemies.

Perhaps the most arresting part of the Plan concerns national security, the Democrats' perennial weak spot. Again echoing Senator Clinton, he wants 100,000 more soldiers for America's overstretched army. He also wants an elite agency to fight domestic terrorism, like Britain's MI5. Of George Bush's Department of Homeland Security, he scoffs: “[It] has 180,000 employees. The London bombings in July 2005 were the work of four men with backpacks. Whose organisation chart would you rather have?” Most radically, he wants all Americans aged 18-25 to undergo three months of compulsory disaster-training.

Wouldn't it be more efficient to hire more professionals—paramedics, firemen and so forth? Not in Mr Emanuel's view. He does not want merely to prepare for future disasters; he thinks his “universal citizen service” will bring youngsters of all backgrounds together and teach them what it means to be American. “The French abandoned the idea [of national service] a decade ago, and now watch their young people riot in the streets,” he says. This is a feeble explanation for the French riots. And Mr Emanuel's scheme will remind many Americans that the Democratic Party likes social engineering more than they do.

As a whole, the Plan will help rebut the charge that the Democrats have no ideas. And if they win in November, they can always ditch the more radical parts. A Plan is less binding than a Contract, and Mr Emanuel is not the Democrats' leader in the House. At least, not yet.

Copyright © 2006 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group.

Daily Herald: Roskam Defends Federal Pork Support

Roskam defends federal pork support

By Eric Krol
Daily Herald Political Writer
Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Republican congressional hopeful Peter Roskam, who’s always billed himself as a fiscal conservative, tried to walk a political tightrope Monday by embracing an oft-criticized budget tactic for securing federal funding for local projects.

The 6th Congressional District GOP nominee said he’d support continuing the so-called practice of “earmarks” if elected to Congress to make sure projects like fixing the dangerous railroad crossing at Irving Park and Wood Dale roads continue to get funded.

“I don’t think we should leave it to a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., who’s in a gray building and goes to sleep in the suburbs of Virginia every night and has never been to Wood Dale making fundamental decisions about the life and health and safety of Wood Dale,” said Roskam at Wood Dale city hall.

Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth has vowed to end earmarks, calling the practice wasteful and corrupt in an era of record budget deficits. Duckworth’s campaign, which puts out a news release every week highlighting pork projects, criticized Roskam.

“He’ll continue more of the same in Congress,” Duckworth spokeswoman Christine Glunz said. “He’s trying to defend himself on an issue he’s clearly weak on.”

When asked how Duckworth would bring home the proverbial bacon for the 6th District, Glunz said projects like the railroad crossing would get funded on merit.

Roskam said he would back a change to make earmarks more transparent, requiring the sponsoring congressman’s name to be listed.

The Wood Dale intersection has had 128 crashes in three years, making it the most accident-prone railroad crossing in Illinois. Retiring Congressman Henry Hyde has secured $11 million to create an underpass, but the project costs $65 million, officials said.

Physician Lanny Wilson, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Lauren in a 1994 accident at a Hinsdale crossing when his son tried to outrun a train by going around the crossing gates, said it’s crucial the project be completed.

In other 6th District race news, the National Republican Campaign Committee recently reserved $2.3 million worth of TV ad time for the final weeks before the Nov. 7 election. The move matches an earlier Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reservation of $2.3 million of campaign time. If history holds, both parties will spend that money to air negative attack ads about the other party’s candidate.

And the Amazing Technicolor Mailer

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More DeLay Ties for Roskam

Congressional race starts getting nasty

Posted Friday, August 18, 2006

The first bit of political nastiness in the 6th Congressional District race surfaced Thursday about the ethical pasts of key campaign staff for both Republican Peter Roskam and Democrat Tammy Duckworth.

The Duckworth campaign initially criticized Roskam for allowing the national GOP to send in veteran operative Jason Roe, pointing to his past work for indicted ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and involvement in an ethics investigation about a prescription drug vote.

“I think it’s clear that the alarm bells have gone off about Peter Roskam’s campaign,” Duckworth spokeswoman Christine Glunz said. “Sending in someone who has ties to Tom DeLay as well as someone who is doing dirty work, strong-arming and twisting arms on the Medicare bill.”

But the National Republican Campaign Committee was able to boomerang the ethics rap on Roe back at Duckworth, pointing out that her campaign manager, Jon Carson, was granted immunity as part of a 2001 probe into political corruption involving a prominent Wisconsin Democrat.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, called the Duckworth campaign’s criticisms “stunningly hypocritical.”

“(Duckworth) has resorted to Chicago Democrat machine-style mudslinging and dirty tricks,” Collegio said.

The charges and counter-charges amounted to “your campaign worker has more ethical baggage than our campaign worker.”

Roe worked three weeks on DeLay’s 2004 re-election campaign helping with get-out-the-vote efforts. DeLay since has lost his majority leader position amid scandal, but Roe is not involved in that.

Also, a 2004 House ethics report shows Nick Smith, then a Michigan congressman, testified that Roe told him his son who was running to succeed him could receive “substantial support” if the elder Smith voted for the federal prescription drug plan. Roe pointed out the report clears him of any wrongdoing and said he only was responding to Smith’s question about the ramifications of a vote.

Carson briefly worked as the No. 2 staff member for then-Wisconsin Senate Democratic leader Chuck Chvala, who was eventually sentenced to nine months for political corruption. Carson, who was not accused of any wrongdoing, was granted immunity from prosecution and paid his own legal bills.

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