A blog focusing on politics in Central Illinois.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Silence is golden

The State Journal-Register broke the news today on the ongoing DMH investigation.
DECATUR - Federal investigators have ordered dozens of Macon County doctors to hand over tax forms, contracts and other documents in an ongoing probe of Decatur Memorial Hospital's financial practices.

No charges or other formal allegations have been filed in the investigation, in which at least 85 doctors have received subpoenas.

As part of the inquiry, federal officials apparently are trying to determine whether Decatur Memorial broke federal laws that prohibit hospitals from using incentives or kickbacks to get doctors to refer patients for medical services, said Dr. Tim Bailey, a Decatur general surgeon.


It is sad to see this broken in the Springfield paper, I would hope that the second largest employer in Decatur being the target of a federal investigation, and yet we have nothing from our paper on it. Oh well, as it goes, I'll be patiently waiting to see if it makes the news tommorow, but I'm not hopeful.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Opportunity Returns

The Herald & Review covered the failure of Gov. Blagojevich to unveil the Opportunity Returns program for this area a few days ago. Criticism was leveled at him, based on the fact that, well he hasn't launched the damn thing. He even went as far as to schedule a press conference to announce it, then cancelled at the last minute siting poor weather for not being able to make it.

However, is it possible there is a better story here? I think so, and it makes the whole thing make sense. Could this be a possible scenario, The Opportunity Returns program for this region was highly focused on expanding existing industries in Decatur, that could otherwise not afford to expand. If one was to look for a company that would like to expand, but couldn't at the time, you would have most likely settled on Intermet Wagner. An Opportunity Returns program could use grants, tax credits, and what not to basically pay to keep Intermet here and expand to boot. However, you would have to convince a company that otherwise wanted to close the plant, to not only stay but expand. The administration and the company could have agreed, but at the last minute the company changes its mind, and pulls out. Well what does that leave the Governor to do, come announce a plan for a company, that isn't going to do it and instead is actually closing the plant, or cancel the press conference citing weather? And, the reason we don't have an announcement yet, well thats probably because they are back at the drawing board creating a new one.

Then again maybe thats not a scenario........

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Owned

Villaraigosa over Hahn 58.66 to 41.34.

Probably doesn't matter much to most readers of TDD but L.A. has a new mayor. More than that, he's one of the good guys, a honest to goodness progressive. Kudos to L.A. today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

If this wasn't real I'd laugh

Monday, May 16, 2005

Paging Gary Sawyer, Gary Sawyer to the White courtesy phone

Gary where have you gone? Your blog looks to have gone into a deep slumber. April 26th is your last post. Come back!!!!

Friday, May 13, 2005

BlogDecatur.com



The new Scoop based site for Central Illinois. Where discussion is at a premium, and everyone gets there say. Write your own thoughts on whats happening at the Avon, cell phones in Decatur, the filibuster, Blago, or whatever you feel like, and get the discussion started!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Wow

The governor has finally released his ethics proposal. From a press release:

* Completely prohibits contributions from corporations and unions. This would be Illinois’ first limitation on contributions from any corporate entity.

* Limits individuals to contributions of $2,000 per candidate per election. This would be the first limit ever placed on donations to candidates by individuals in Illinois.

* Limits Political Action Committees (PACs) to contributions of $5,000 per candidate per election. This is the first limit ever placed on donations to candidates from Political Action Committees (PACs) in Illinois.

* Limits state party contributions to $5,000 per candidate per election.

* Limits contributions to state parties and PACs to $5,000 a year from individuals or other PACs.

* Prohibits an individual from contributing more than $40,000 in total contributions to all candidates, party committees and PACs in any election cycle.

* Includes provisions for candidates whose opponents exceed the threshold amount of personal spending – mirroring the federal law. [...]

* Improves Statements of Economic Interest. Currently, Illinois requires public officials to report limited information about their occupation, employer and potential conflicts of interest. The Governor is calling for a greater level of detail regarding public officials’ financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest.

* Requires Disclosure of Lobby Contracts and Improved Lobbyist Regulations. Current law requires lobbyists to list their clients and gifts on public disclosure forms. The Governor’s plan requires lobbyists to disclose the terms of their contracts, including fees and exactly who they lobby.

* Closes the Revolving Door between Public Officials and Lobbying Firms. Current law places a one-year prohibition on former state employees working for companies they regulated or to which they awarded contracts. The Governor calls for extending the law by requiring a one-year prohibition on all former legislators and state employees lobbying.

* Strengthens the State Board of Elections enforcement powers. For example, the Governor’s proposal would allow the State Board of Elections to perform audits of election committees to determine that the committee is complying with state laws, including contribution limits.

* Distributes non-partisan candidate information through Voters Guides. Voters Guides would be posted online by the State Board of Elections and would contain information such as the date and time of the general election as well as a description of elected offices and statements and photographs of candidates for the General Assembly, statewide executive branch constitutional offices, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, and Illinois Appellate Court Judge.

* Provides More Frequent Campaign Financial Disclosure. Current law requires candidates to report their campaign finances twice a year. The Governor proposes requiring candidates to file their campaign finances quarterly.

* Prohibits law firms, consulting firms and lobbying firms that have contracts with the state (including the Governor’s, Attorney General’s, Secretary of State’s, Comptroller’s and Treasurer’s offices, state agencies or state regulatory boards) from providing income to members of the state legislature, state employees, and board appointees.

* Prohibits legislators or state employees from earning outside income by directly lobbying or receiving compensation from any firm that lobbies the General Assembly or any agency of the Executive Branch. This includes lobbying the office of the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer, state agencies or state regulatory boards.

* Prohibits family members of state employees, including those of legislators, from lobbying the state (including all constitutional offices, state agencies and state regulatory boards) or from serving on state boards or commissions for which they receive compensation.

* Conflict of Interest Provision. The Governor’s plan prohibits a public official or public employee from voting or making an official decision if the official or employee (or a business or organization they or a family member is associated with) has a financial interest in the vote or decision.

* Prohibits any officer of any state campaign organization from receiving state contracts, lobbying the state (including the office of the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller and Treasurer, state agencies or state regulatory boards) or from participating in investments involving the state.

Monday, May 09, 2005

How much profit is enough?

Recently on the Jackson File a slew of comments has been flying back and forth about DMH and events happening about it. This opened my eyes up to certain facts I was unaware of, one being that most of DMH's property is exempt from property taxes, and two as a non-profit organization it is exempt from income taxes. Below is a table comparing the yearly profit of not-for-profit DMH vs. the yearly losses of St. Mary's, a not-for-profit as well, over a 4 year period.
DMH profits:
1999 +$19,430,490
2000 +$14,288,225
2001 +$9,233,667
2002 +$5,703,584
Total DMH profits+$48,655,966

St. Mary’s losses:
1999 -$4,113,192
2000 -$2,872,896
2001 -$310,693
2002-$7,619,625
Total St. Mary’s losses- $14,916,406

I'll admit I do not have more up to date information then that, so maybe DMH isn't quite raking in dough hand over fist anymore. Before I go any farther I would also like to look at the profit over total revenue, a.k.a. profit margin.

  • 1999 - $135,207,370 total revenue with a profit of $19,330,490 or 14.29% of revenue was profit.
  • 2000 - $142,421,357 total revenue with a profit of $14,288,225 or 10% of revenue was profit.
  • 2001 - $156,907,733 total revenue with a profit of $9,233,667 or 5.8% of revenue was profit.
  • 2002 - $182,992,200 total revenue with a profit of $5,703,584 or 3.1% of revenue was profit.
The real question at this point becomes how much profit should a non-profit company be making?

In 2004, in Urbana, Provena Convent Medical Center had it's non-profit status revoked. Provena, which has 270 beds then had to pay over $1 million dollars in property taxes. In an article from the Wall Street Journal on February 14, 2004 Lucette Langado wrote
The decision by the Illinois Department of Revenue in Springfield came after the Champaign County Board of Review, a three-member panel that reviews property-tax assessments, questioned the tax-exempt status of both major hospitals in Champaign-Urbana over the past two years. The Champaign board documented that hte hospitals filed lawsuits and used other aggressive debt-collection tactics against patients who didn't pay their bills. "Based upon the fact that they sue --people and we had been told by the Department of Revnue if you sue people you are not charitable -- there was not a lot of room for ambiguity," said Stan Jenkins, a longtime member of the Champaign board.

In its challenge to Provena Covenant's tax-free status, the Champaign board also argued that Provena had allowed a host of external for-profit entities to fulfill key hospital functinos. The use of outside, for-profit companies has become fairly common across the not-for-profit hospital industry.
According to the Macon County Circuit Clerk's webpage Decatur Memorial Hospital is listed as a litigant in 5276 cases, stretching back to 1986, the vast majority of which are small claims cases.

In 2003, the last full tax year before this decision was handed down, Covena actually showed a loss of $700,000. The year before that DMH showed a profit of $5,703,584.

For months we have read in the Herald & Review city leaders praising the landing of Target pointing out how far the $800,000 in sales taxes it will hopefully yield a year will go to help the city. The only question I have is how far would the property taxes from DMH go to help all of our taxing bodies if it's not-for-profit status was revoked?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Using Religion to Divide, a guide to Christ

I dont even know what to say right now. Let me start off by posting a few links.
They were literally kicked out of the church for being Democrats. I am without words for this, never before have I seen such an ugly, wrong, un-christian display of intolerance by a pastor. The members of his church were told if they voted for John Kerry they had two options, repent or leave the church. You repent for sins, taking part in Democracy is not a sin, at least it isn't yet. It seems almost that the line in the sand is being drawn by these people, either you are with us or you're against Christ is the line they are trying to draw. If you disagree with that statement, well you're wrong. That is what is being done by these people. They don't represent the mainline of the Republican party I hope, and as such they should be denounced for their action. I am not one to actively pursue things but this morning I wrote a long letter to both Sens. Dole and Barr - R N.C. asking them to denouce the hatred their constituents are spreading. Because that is what it is hatred, being incited and spread in the name of religion. I can't even get on to the last two articles because I'm so upset right now. You're either with us or againt Christ, go .... It's a sad state of Christianity when only 40 other members out of 300 left the church in protest. So much for love they neighbor, I guess it should state love thy Neighbor-R. Pricks.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cousin Ed

Bearing a charmed name in Macon County politics, Edwin J. Tangney Jr. rose from union plasterer to county recorder, a post he held for more than 22 years until he retired in 1998.

Tangney, 72, died Tuesday at home from complications of his long fight with lung cancer. He was remembered Wednesday by friends as a man with a sharp sense of humor and a temper that sometimes hid the pleasure he derived from helping people.

Visitation is 3-5 & 6-8 Friday at Britlinger & Earl, Funeral Saturday morning at 10 A.M. at Britlinger & Earl.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Trolley Report

After the City Council election I struck up a E-correspondence with new Decatur City Councilman Dan Caulkins. I recently invited him for a return trip back into the blogosphere, and he responded quickly. Below is a short article about the trolley issue which was brought up at the last city council meeting. This is a feature that may or may not turn into a semi-regular feature. So let's hear your input or thoughts on the trolley and other issues you feel are important to Decatur. This can quickly become a two way conduit for ideas. So let's see how it turns out, and we can develop the idea from here.
TDD

Decatur Buys A Trolley?

Monday night (5/2) the City Council discussed the idea of purchasing one of the trolleys that are currently in use by the Transit System. Because this was a Study Session ("Possible Acquisition of One Trolley"), no formal vote was taken on a proposal to purchase but it was an opportunity for the members to discuss the issue with staff.

A short review of the details: Originally, this trolley was purchased with $110,000 in grants. For the city to purchase it from the Transit System we would need to spend $71,012 ($55,734 to Feds and $15,278 to IDOT). It will take 4-6 weeks after the resolution is passed to get their approval.

The City staff have negotiated with the Feds to get our $55,734 set aside for any other eligible transit purpose we may have. IDOT can't do that but they have agreed to some sort of deal that will allow us use the Fed money without their participation.

The transit system wants to use the Fed's money for a new wheelchair lift-equipped van. There are two 1993 vans in service now, and the Fed money to replace them has dried up. The estimated cost of a new van is about $50,000. There is some talk of being able to use our $55K to leverage the purchase of 2 new vans, but nothing definite. (That was short by government standards.)

Now, The Opinion: It was clear to me that everyone on the Council is in favor of removing at least 1 trolley from service. My understanding is we can't just give it back (my first choice!) without paying a heavy penalty. Even though there is no line item in this years budget for the $71K purchase of a trolley (or $50K for a new lift van), I think it's a fairly good idea IF we can find a way to recover our costs ($71K) from the use or sale of the trolley. I use the $71K number because that is what we're really spending. Yes, the Transit System is getting a new lift van in the deal but these purchases have been made with grant money, not City GRF dollars.

The second part is just as important to me as the first. I do not want the city to become a Trolley-Taxi service. We have no expertise in this area and we can't afford to start one. I would like to see our staff immediately put together a request for bids to either purchase or lease the trolley for use in Decatur. We can grant a taxi license and parking privileges if need be. I say let some smart business person decide what it's worth to have a trolley for rent in Decatur. If the result is not attractive enough to the Council, we can discuss other options (E-Bay?)

Dan Caulkins

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Class Warfare vs. Religious Warfare

VPCheney's comments from a few days ago have had me thinking for a long while now. In his comments he seemed quick to attack myself and other Democrats as trying to rely on class warfare because I said poor people deserve tax breaks more than rich people. In fact he used the "stop inciting class warfare" argument against several people. This got me thinking which is worse class warfare or religious warfare?

Let me be very clear what I mean when I say religious warfare, I am referring to the National Republican leaders that take part in events such as "Stop the filibuster against people of faith", as if the only reasons Democrats would filibuster these justices is because they are christian, the Republican Leaders who use wedge issues such as gay marriage and others to fire up their base at the expense of espousing hate against others, the Republican leaders who insist that they know what is best for our country, that their religious beliefs must be what becomes law in D.C., the right wing ministers who announce on national TV that federal judges are a bigger threat to America than al qaeda or Nazi Germany. That my friend is religious warfare by the right and it is worse than any class warfare short of outright revolution by the lower classes than you can imagine. To use religion to the ends that these people have is digusting.

Your leaders, your party, don't have a claim to the mantle of religion. Yet they act as they do, that the simple notion that a Democrat could be anything more than a secular, baby killing, welfare mooching, draft dodging, god hater is unbelievable. You have a leadership and a national party that has used religion to incite hate against others, and to divide rather than unite America. That my friend is much worse than any division that has ever been created by "class warfare."

Monday, May 02, 2005

Updates

Taking a hint from JoinCross I spruced up a little today. I've added a few more blogs to my blog roll, and put more posts up on the front page. If anyone has any blogs I should take into consideration to add or I have overlooked let me know in the comments.

Booze at the Avon

The council is expected to vote today on whether to change regulations to allow "limited sales of single drinks of beer and wine only" in movie theaters in downtown's central business district. Sales would not be allowed when movies are not being shown.
Does anyone know how the vote on this turned out? I am in favor of the idea for sure. I have only heard good things about the "brew and views" in other cities. It would further bolster a business that I hope will one day become an instituion to this city. I have spoken to a few people on this issue, and the resonse tends to the positive side. What are your thoughts on a "Brew and View" in Decatur?

It's Monday

It's Monday, that means I have to figure out something to do with today's H & R. It was great to see that Decatur news has been pared down to one article. All we have left to read is AP articles and briefs, and I think I saw some scary ladies in red hats in there somewhere. Kudos to the upper management at H & R for giving us that one story though, seriously thanks guys, it almost made me say I am glad to have a subscription.

Happenings at DMH

Matt Jackson hopped on it first, I figured I would let him because it hit his blog first, but what is going on here?
I'm curious about this one.
I know the physicians in Decatur are considering circling the wagons, and bracing for some sort of federal investigation - so far I haven't been able to figure out exactly what is being investigated! As far as I can tell, the doc's themselves don't know what's up, either.
Subpoenas are flying right and left (120 is the number I've heard). It does seem a little odd that DMH, being a major employer and a major player in the city, isn't doing all they can to get out in front of this issue.

Anybody have ideas on what's up?
Is DMH building a Carle-style empire?
What are the fed's looking into?
Has anyone heard anything about this, is it rumor or based on something more than that? I have always been a bit confused with the med-mal crisis and how hard it is to be a doctor in Illinois these days that DMH is always expanding. So let's hear it folks, what is the real scoop here?