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Thursday, May 15, 2003 02:20 pm

Chicago’s big appetite

Remember last year when Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan warned that Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley would control the state's agenda if Rod Blagojevich got elected?

Well, Ryan may have been right.

Last week SBC--the giant Texas-based company that swallowed up Ameritech a few years back and is now run by Bill Daley, the mayor's brother-- rammed legislation through that will allow it to double the wholesale rates it can charge its competitors. SBC hired or recruited more than 50 Springfield lobbyists to make its case--an almost unparalleled effort.

Various consumer groups, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn all blasted the legislation as a thinly veiled attempt to drive out competition and raise rates. But Mayor Daley was in town to host the Taste of Chicago preview, and House Speaker Michael Madigan knew the mayor's presence would pressure his members to fall into line. The bill stalled briefly in the Senate last Thursday night, until three Republicans flipped the very next morning and the bill landed on the governor's desk. Word is, Governor Blagojevich helped work the bill on behalf of Bill Daley--which put him in the interesting position of supporting a measure that his own lieutenant had slammed as a "consumer tax."

Now Mayor Daley wants to expand O'Hare Airport, and he's already on his way to getting a casino. It's quite a change. The city has been on the fringes of state power for almost three decades. A succession of Republican governors and presidents have too often shortchanged Chicago in favor of its suburbs. The city now deserves a bigger bite, but the growing worry in Springfield will be whether Chicago has decided to eat the whole apple.

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