Posts by Barton Lorimor

Former news blogger turned government administrator pursuing analytics, statistics, and all things big data.

Career counselor urges graduates to network

Posted by Barton Lorimor

Congratulations to this week’s newest SIUC graduates, and good luck navigating the job market.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday the unemployment rate throughout the nation had spiked to 6.7 percent. That is the latest insult added to the injuries the country has sustained during a recession that began in January.

“Unfortunately, it is pretty grim. So for students that are graduating in a few weeks, it’s pretty tough. There have been a huge amount of layoffs…and companies are having hiring freezes until the new year,” said Courtney Pike, director of operations at Job Bound.

But Pike said younger job seekers still have a chance because they are cheaper to hire than those who have previously had careers. She said recent graduates should prepare to put on a suit every day and start networking with potential employers.

“Companies are being flooded with resumes,” Pike said. “If students are submitting their resumes online, it’s going to get lost in the flood.”

Pike said her organization has recently been working with more students and middle-aged workers included in the 6.7 unemployment rate than any other time in its six years of existence.

Yet not all job fields have been affected by this year’s recession. Powered by the aging baby boomer generation, the health care industry has proven to be recession proof as well as education.

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Delay of Springfield hotel sale not Cellini related

By: Barton Lorimor

The sale of the state-owned Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield has been delayed, but that is not because of the property’s connections to a recently indicted lobbyists, a spokeswoman for State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday.

William Cellini, Sr., 74, of Springfield, pleaded his innocence Friday to charges he conspired with Stuart Levine, a key-witness in the federal case against Antoin “Tony” Rezko. According to U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Northern Illinois, Cellini used his position on the state’s Teachers’ Retirement System to obtain campaign contributions for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The governor is not charged with wrongdoings at this time.

Sara Wojcicki, the spokeswoman, told the State Journal-Register the sale of the downtown facility had been delayed because of an effort to gain millions of dollars from the bonds used to contruct the building in the 1980s. At that time, Cellini was the developer.

Wojcicki said Tuesday the sale’s delay was not motived by the case against Cellini.

“In fact, the federal indictments against Mr. Cellini do not include anything to do with the hotel,” she said in an email.

The state took over the hotel, commonly filled with legislators in town for session, in March.

McManus: Election coverage not as bad as critics say

By: Barton Lorimor

The former Los Angeles Times Washington D.C. bureau chief said Monday the Internet has become a permanent refrigerator door for people to post things on.

Doyle McManus answered questions from an audience gathered in the SIUC Student Center Ballroom at a luncheon sponsored by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Though McManus said he expected the crowd to be more harsh on the career-long journalist and his colleagues reporting the news from Washington, most of the people that approached microphones Monday were full of questions.

McManus, now a columnist for the Times, said the media’s coverage of the 2008 presidential election is not what it should have been, but was not as shoddy as critics have illustrated.

“The usual critique for us is that we just covered the heck out of the horse race when we don’t give people enough meat and potatoes on the issues,” he said. “Look inside yourselves here. When you were watching that campaign, wasn’t it the horse race you were really fascinated by?”

That horse race included a seasoned Republican Senator, John McCain, challenge Barack Obama — the first non-white candidate of a major political party.

McManus told staff members of the Daily Egyptian later Monday afternoon that the joke around his office was that LA Times reporters were tempted to go to the Supreme Court and ask them to extend the election by a couple more months because it was a thrill ride to cover.

He said the publications coverage of the election began 21 months before Nov. 4 as candidates for the primary elections began gearing up their campaigns. In March, the Times wrote a series of “meat and potatoes” stories about the issues and what people were looking for in the next president. Yet by the time of the Democratic National Convention, McManus said his office was flooded with calls about when his paper was going to do such a story.

“Several newspapers took the work they had done on the issues … and put them in one permanent place on their web site,” he said. The LA Times was no exception, McManus said, which turned the Internet into a “permanent refrigerator” since the reporters kept posting things on the site for people to see.

William Babcock, a journalism professor of Media Ethics, asked McManus if the newspaper media, with their tighter budgets, were still focusing on ethics. In response, McManus said it does not cost the newspaper any money to follow a code of ethics, but the price tag has gone up to have correspondents in other countries.

The average costs of a one-person bureau overseas has a price tag of nearly $500,000, which is five times the cost of keeping a reporter at city hall, he said. McManus said that is why there are two American journalists currently stationed in Afghanistan even though the nation’s eye has focused on that middle eastern country and its militar efforts there.

“That concerns me more than ethics,” he said.

Ill. Senate Republicans consider minority leader job

Posted by Barton Lorimor

While Illinois Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson recovers from a “mild” stroke in St. Louis, members of his caucus are throwing their names into a hat for his job.

Watson, a Greenville Republican, announced Tuesday he would not seek re-election for his post as the caucus’ leader, but retain his seat in the Senate.

The announcement spawned a number of Senate Republicans to throw their names into a pool of possible successors. The caucus will elect its new leader in January.

The pool included the name of Carbondale’s voice in the Senate, Dave Luechtefeld. Elected to his first term in 1995, Luechtefeld serves as assistant minority leader. Luechtefeld said his name is on the list at the request of people from inside and outside the Senate Republicans.

“I have not really withdrawl from consideration, yet my main motivation is to try to hold the caucus together,” Luechtefeld said.

Sen. Christine Radogno, R- Lemont, said she is very interested in the position because she may be able to include Chicago’s voice in the caucus better than Watson. She said that is not because Watson was inconsiderate, but geographically displaced. Radogno’s district office is near the Interstate 355 and Instate 55 intersection.

But Radogno said her strong relationship with her colleagues is what seperates her from the pack. If elected, the 12-year veteran Senator would continue to push for less government spending.

Minority Caucus Whip Kirk Dillard was someone Radogno said was another Chicago-area Republican interested in the position. Dillard, who served as former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar’s chief of staff, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Though their districts have had strong Republican support in the past, most central Illinois Senators have kept their name out of the race. Sens. Bill Brady and Dan Rutherford have said they are not interested in the job.

Brady said Wednesday his gubernatorial intentions yielded his interest in minority leader. The Bloomington Republican told his supporters in a letter Thursday he intends to run for the state’s highest office in 2010.

However, speculation about Sen. Dale Righter’s interest in the positon remained unconfirmed Friday. The Mattoon Republican, a strong opponent of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s, did not return a phone calls to his cell phone or district office.

Sources close to Watson said the stroke affected his left leg, right arm and speech. But Watson’s doctors remain positive that he will make a full recovery, according to Patty Schuh, the Senator’s spokeswoman.

Lorimor is a reporter and columnist for the Daily Egyptian.

State political insider, Cellini, indicted

By: Barton Lorimor

Not since Eliot Ness unraveled Al Capone’s underworld business franchise in 1931 has Chicago seen a federal officer come down on so many of its big-name political insiders. But taking Ness’ place Thursday was U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who announced federal corruption charges against William Cellini, Sr., a longtime influence in Illinois politics.

Fitzgerald, who led federal trials against former Illinois Gov. George Ryan and Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a former campaign fundraiser, said Cellini had been charged with conspiracy to raise campaign funds for current Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Cellini, now 73, led a multi-decade career in the state’s government. Among the collection of state boards and agencies he directed is the Department of Transportation, which was under the Springfield Republican’s control during former Gov. Richard Ogilvie’s tenure. He was also the developer of the former Ramada Renaissance Hotel in downtown Springfield (now known as the Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center), which was purchased by the state a few years ago.

The four-count indictment against Cellini accuses him of forcing Capri Capital, a Chicago real estate firm, to make campaign contributions to “Public Official A,” who was identified as Blagojevich during the Rezko trial. Fitzgerald said Cellini was also charged with conspiring with Rezko and Stuart Levine, a former Teachers Retirement System executiver.

While testifying in the Rezko trial, Levine said he was appointed to a state board after he allocated $25,000 for Blagojevich’s campaign fund.

The governor has not been charged with any wrongdoing at this time.

The indictments are a part of Operation Board Games, an ongoing federal probe into corruption within various state boards and non-profit organizations, Fitzgerald said.

Randall Samborn, spokesman for Fitzgerald’s office, said no court appearances have been scheduled at this time. If found guilty, Cellini could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

It began with a retired statesman…

By: Barton Lorimor

Other than tags on the walls identifying what type of wood they are made of, the Forestry Building on Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s campus has nothing to do with horticulture anymore.

Instead it is home to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Two weeks after he retired from a career as a newspaper man, a lieutenant governor to Illinois, U.S. Senator and 1988 presidential candidate, Paul Simon returned returned to his alma mater and native Makanda to begin instructing classes at SIUC. Behind the scene, Simon was in the process of founding a bi-partisan publicy policy analysis center for the university.

In 1998, Simon unveiled the center and began managing it along with then-Assistant Director Mike Lawrence and Matt Baughman, who is currently the institute’s second-in-command.

At that time, the institute was called the SIU Public Policy Institute. Outside of providing reports to heads in state in the Illinois and federal government, Simon and Lawrence used their connections to bring prominent political figures to speak to the university’s students.

Five years after Simon’s sudden death, Lawrence, Baughman, Visiting Professor John Jackson, and other faculty members tell their students about the influence Simon had on the campus, as well as their own lives.

“He was a man ahead of his time,” Jackson recalled.

One year after their mentor and friend died, Lawrence, who had been serving as the institute’s interim director, was promoted to the permanent position by a search committee led by Jackson and comprised of Simon’s widow, Patti, and children. One of Lawrence’s first acts as director was to rename the institute to pay respect to its founder.

Under Lawrence, the institute’s policy review began to look more at Illinois government issues than national. Before he came to SIUC in 1998, Lawrence had been former Gov. Jim Edgar’s senior policy adviser and press secretary. He was hired after a long-time statehouse reporter in Springfield and the quad cities.

At the announcement of Lawrence’s intention to retire effective Saturday, a search committee, led by Jackson once again, has narrowed applicants for the institute’s director down to five finalists. The feel around the institute has been one of uncertainty as to what direction it will be headed in. Baughman has said that will depend on who is tapped to be the next director.


Race plays role in presidential race, students say

Posted by Barton Lorimor

Marla Baker is a junior double majoring in radio-television and speech communication. She is the mother of two paying for her children’s education at a private school as well as her own through student loans.

Baker is also an African American woman that plans to vote for Democrat Barack Obama in the Nov. 4 election.

“I got to fight my way through those Washington (D.C.) fat cats,” she said to a crowd of roughly 100 in the Lesar Law Building Thursday night.

Baker was one of three student speakers that delivered speeches about whether or not a candidate’s skin color play a role in this year’s presidential election. All of the speakers, which included Baker, Cassie McKay, a junior studying public relations, and Katie Thomas, a senior studying political science, said skin color has already played a role and will be a factor voters take with them to the polls.

Thomas, a member of the university debate team, delivered a fiery address to the crowd in which she compared people being color blind to a Walt Disney movie where no one’s skin color is an issue.

Though the election highlighted the racial freedoms in America, Thomas said it is “unconscionable” that Republican John McCain would suggest Obama cannot play the race card.

“People saying he doesn’t have enough experience are in a colorblind world,” she said of Obama having to plow through social roadblocks in order for him to become his party’s nominee for the Oval Office.

Associate Law Professor Sheila Simon, daughter of the late former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, said she has met people voting against Obama simply because of his racial background while campaigning on the Illinois Senator’s behalf in southeastern Missouri.

“We can’t get to a point where we’re color blind, but we can make wiser associations,” she said.

Simon said she saw similar traits in potential voters while campaigning for his father’s Senate races in the 1980s.

Paul Flowers, approached the lectern when the floor was opened up to members of the audience to make impromptu speeches. Flowers said that as an African American he has seen racism while walking on the campus sidewalks, but nevertheless has made it a priority to say, ‘Hello,’ to people that would not normally acknowledge him.

Before the evening concluded, Dylan Hertel, a student at John A. Logan College, said he was upset Obama was stealing the spotlight from another African American running for president.

“My problem is that nobody said anything about Cynthia McKinney,” he said referring to the Green Party’s African American presidential candidate.

An impromptu speaker who did not identify himself to the audience said even though race will play a part in the election, that is not the only reason voters should circle Obama or McKinney’s name on the ballot.

“Race plays a part of everyday life, so you can’t tell me it doesn’t play a factor in this election,” he said. “Make sure it’s an educated vote, and not just one for a ‘brotha’ because he’s running for the White House.”