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Thursday, April 18

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The Mechanics

Elections Thu Dec 17 2015

Recall: What Could Happen Next?

2017 recall ballotA lot of Chicagoans want to see Rahm Emanuel's second term as mayor end prematurely. Weeks after the release of the Laquan McDonald dashcam video, calls for Emanuel's resignation have not slackened, and one published poll shows an outright majority of Chicagoans favoring such a resignation. Emanuel has been adamant that he will not resign. In turn, some have looked for some other process by which he might no longer mayor.

The leading contender for such a process is House Bill 4356, introduced by State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8). HB4356 provides for a mechanism of recalling the mayor by public election. HB4356 now has five co-sponsors -- perhaps fewer than might be expected, but perhaps more given that the legislature is out of session. While the Tribune took a look at HB4356 this week, publishing what was essentially a hatchet piece, even that article suggests the idea is at least going to stick around for a while.

My take is different from the Tribune. I think recall legislation, whether in the form of HB4356 or some other bill, has a decent shot of passage. It has already lined up some interesting co-sponsors, and prominent politicians such as Lisa Madigan and Pat Quinn have come out in favor of recall at least conceptually. I think it's extremely unlikely that Rahm Emanuel will ever be recalled, but that will not stop legislation from proceeding. The credible threat of recall is important enough that enough political operators will allow it to stay on the table.

HB4356 is of course subject to amendment, and competing bills could also be introduced that would offer different processes. Still, even though it is a largely speculative exercise to consider all of the permutations of how recall legislation might proceed, it is worth stepping back and regarding some of those possibilities. Key distinctions regarding different processes may lead to significantly different results in terms of who might replace Emanuel -- even if no recall ever takes place. The details of pending and prospective state legislation could therefore be of critical importance for the fate of not only Emanuel but the entire city.

Continue reading this entry »

Phil Huckelberry / Comments (3)

Springfield Thu Dec 18 2014

On Elected School Boards and Horseshoes

I have figured out how Chicago can get an Elected School Board, how the election laws can stop being endlessly rigged, how actual campaign finance reform can become a possibility, how incessant Pay to Play scams can largely be shut down, and how maybe some smidgen of democracy can visit the good people of Illinois.

And get this: all it will take is for just 12 State Representatives to have some guts and stand up for their constituents!

[At this time there will be a short pause to allow the readers to regain their composure.]

Continue reading this entry »

Phil Huckelberry

State Politics Wed Dec 03 2014

Madigan Moves to Eliminate Slating, Burn Republicans

In an unexpected, under-the-radar move, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan has taken action to eliminate the long-standing practice of slating in Illinois.

The word "slating" has a lot of meanings in Illinois politics, but the practice described here is the one whereby an established political party can fill a vacancy in nomination after a primary election for which no candidate filed.

This appears to be the latest in a long series of moves over time to help ensure that incumbents -- especially incumbent state legislators -- need not face any opposition on the general election ballot.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (3)

Election 2014 Thu Mar 06 2014

Put Down That Latte - You're Running For Governor!

There's a good chance that, right this very minute, you've clicked on a link from Facebook or Twitter, and gotten to this article, while enjoying some sort of hot caffeinated beverage at a local establishment. Maybe you're seated at some sort of weird little round antique table, and you've got some paper to research, or some spreadsheet to format, or just some "work" to "do"... but you're easily distracted, and, hey, you secretly like being easily distracted.

Clearly, you should be running for Governor.

Or, if you're not feeling quite that ambitious, just run for Comptroller.

I'm serious here. Who would joke about something like Illinois state government?

Continue reading this entry »

Phil Huckelberry

Elections Tue Feb 04 2014

The Elephants for a Day Are Coming. Are You One of Them?

An Ethernet cable. Carrie Underwood's career. What Derrick Rose does to people at the top of the key. That Nissan with the really stupid commercials. They're all crossovers. And the next big crossover is coming our way.

They'll go by a lot of different names. You can call them Grand Old Party Crashers, or One Trick Pachyderms, or maybe just Those Meddling, Conniving Democrats.

They're the Elephants for a Day. And they're diabolically plotting to pull Republican primary ballots this March even though they're not really Republicans.

And maybe you're one of them.

Continue reading this entry »

Phil Huckelberry / Comments (2)

IL-GOV Wed Jan 08 2014

Will the Term Limits Amendment Get Bruce Rauner Elected Governor?

illinois state capitol - photo by Matt TurnerIt was Friday night, around 6, at the Washington Blue Line stop. A man -- let's call him Fred -- approached me with a clipboard and asked if I would like to sign a petition to place a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the ballot.

The people around us didn't seem too familiar when Fred launched into his spiel. They will be. Fred was their first contact with what may well become the hottest issue of the 2014 election. Not only might this question have huge effects on Illinois government over the long term, it could also lead to the election of a conservative multimillionare Republican as our next governor.

The entity behind the proposed amendment is The Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits, and its chair is Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner. Rauner has already put up $250,000 of his own money to push the amendment, plus $749,000 of his own money to his campaign committee. Both the committee formed to support the amendment and Rauner's committee have also racked up numerous donations of $100,000 or more, including several from out of state donors.

Much has been said and written about Rauner trying to buy the gubernatorial election. Some people have also written about how the term limits push may greatly benefit Rauner's campaign. What's been harder to find is a more detailed evaluation of the proposed amendment itself, precisely how the amendment can help Rauner get elected, and how Rauner's opponents might effectively try to hold off his multifaceted strategy.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (4)

Springfield Fri Nov 29 2013

Nonpartisan Campaign Gains Momentum for Reforming Illinois Redistricting

Yes for Independent MapsAfter launching its campaign in July, the nonpartisan campaign Yes for Independent Maps has been gaining momentum to get an initiative for reforming the redistricting process in Illinois on the ballot next November.

Among the supporters Yes to Independent Maps has gained are State Senator Heather Steans, Chicago Board of Education chair David Vitale, David Axelrod and former Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

"We welcome any elected official that talks about reform and wants reform in Springfield," said Michael Kolenc, campaign manager for Yes to Independent Maps.

Kolenc said the petition has been easy to get signatures for.

"We have had volunteers tell [our 23 regional teams] time and time again this is the easiest petition they have had people sign," he said.

The campaign is collecting signatures until May 4, 2014 and Kolenc said Yes to Independent Maps is currently focusing all of its energy on collecting signatures for the petition. All thought about the summer and fall campaigns will be done in the next year, Kolenc said.

"We're working on focusing on building a strong political coalition and collecting the signatures," he said.

Monica Reida

Health Care Thu May 31 2012

Illinois General Assembly Puts Pressure on Hospitals to Provide Charity Care

The Illinois General Assembly is considering legislation, known as SB3261, to require hospitals that receive property tax exemptions to provide more than stabilization care (already required by the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA) to people who earn 125% or less of the federal poverty level in rural areas, and 200% or less in urban areas. The amount of free and subsidized care provided by hospitals has been a hot button issue in Illinois, and across the country, at least since 2007, when the U.S. Senate began a series of hearings on charity care, and in Illinois since a high-profile case involving Provena health care put hospitals' tax exemptions in limbo. The legislation is an interesting approach to solving the problem of health care provisioning for low-income residents, given the immense shortfalls in Medicaid funding states have been facing since the freefall in tax revenue brought on by the Great Recession.

Ramsin Canon

Taxes Thu Dec 29 2011

Tax Break Bill Gives Incentives for Broadway Shows

Part of the recently passed "Tax Break Bill," or SB 397, includes the Live Theater Production Tax Credit Act. This act will give any for-profit production that does a long run or a pre-Broadway run in Illinois up to $2 million in tax credits for one fiscal year.

The only other state that has a similar tax credit for theatrical productions is Louisiana, although New York City also has a tax exemptions for theatrical productions.

Continue reading this entry »

Monica Reida

Taxes Wed Dec 21 2011

Give Em An Inch, They Tax Break All Over You

This week Governor Quinn signed into law special tax incentives for the insanely profitable Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the poorly run Sears. The Associated Press offers a sort-of warning: that scores of companies have tax "packages" that are to expire over the next few years. If you are a shareholder in any of those companies, would you expect anything less than threats to relocate from your CEO? And if you're a government affairs person representing a business in Springfield, what would your attitude be towards a legislator who voted for this tax package but won't put forward one for you?

I never bought for a minute that CME and Sears were actually going to leave. Nor do I suspect that Mayor Emanuel, who helped engineer the cuts for CME, or most of the legislators who voted for the cuts, actually bought the threats either. But the threat to leave is a formality that gives cover to politicians who want to hand their political supporters a nice plum but want to obscure the quid pro quo. Seeing now that the tactic works, we should fully expect a tidal wave of employers demanding incentives to stay in the state.

You know, if we cut our tax rates to 0%, we'll get all the businesses. All the businesses!

The good news, as far as it goes, is that CME at least is in a pretty unique sectors and dominates its market in the state, so there is a superficially rational argument for why they should receive breaks but nobody else should. But as the Daily Herald reports, Community Unit School District 300 is going to be feeling some hurt for a generation thanks to the cut for Sears. If legislators are willing to make trades like that, it isn't clear where or why they'll draw a line.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Transportation Thu Oct 27 2011

Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement

This morning, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released the first nation-wide study on the risks associated with outsourcing automated traffic law enforcement to private, for-profit companies. While the report offers the most details on cities in California, Texas and Florida, it serves as a cautionary tale for Illinois law-makers. Illinois ranks third, only behind Florida and California, for having the greatest number of jurisdictions with such contracts. More to the point, the city of Chicago is the single largest contract-holder in the country with Redflex Traffic Systems, one of the two largest operators of automated traffic monitoring — rare is the Chicagoan who hasn't seen one of the 380 red-light cameras in the city.

Celeste Meiffren, Field Director with IL-PIRG, emphasizes that the study is intended to underscore the pitfalls many other cities have fallen into when drafting their contracts, leading to the prioritization of revenue over public safety. The report details the most glaring conflicts of interest, such as contracts that link payment to Redflex (or its competitor, American Traffic Solutions) with the number of tickets given — the more effective in ticketing motorists, the more money the company earns. This has resulted in the companies lobbying to kill measures that would increase the duration of yellow lights at intersections, which would decrease both the chance of accidents as well as potential tickets.

Meiffren explained that the deals Chicago has struck are, by and large, a "model" for how other cities should have done it. Chicago purchased the camera systems from Redflex, and the Chicago Department of Transportation operates and maintains them, without involving Redflex in the citation process. Although the city has been smart in the arrangements it has made to date, the study remains important in keeping the eyes of watchdog groups on the situation.

Current developments make this especially pertinent. Springfield lawmakers have been considering a bill that would expand privatized law enforcement in Chicago dramatically, by adding a roster of speed cameras to its already impressive holdings of red-light cameras. According to an article in the Tribune, the two versions of the bill, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, would "render about 47 percent of the city eligible for speed camera surveillance." Although the language put forward by the lawmakers and Mayor Emanuel is that the new cameras are intended to "protect children" in "safety zones" near parks and schools, because of Chicago's abundance of such areas, very little of the city would be speed-camera free.

That Chicago earned $58 million from red-light camera fines in 2009 alone — "a rare bright spot in a generally bleak fiscal picture for the city" — is not to go unnoticed, and is certainly a motive for acquiring speed cameras.

Megan E. Doherty / Comments (4)

Social Services Wed Oct 19 2011

The Challenge of Catholic Charities, Foster Care, and LGBT Equal Rights

Illinois' foster care system is responsible for approximately 15,000 children. The Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) contracts with agencies to provide case workers for the children and find, process, and work with willing foster families to place children under their care. It is one of the most humane and important functions of the state, protecting children and finding homes for those in the unimaginably painful condition of being without a loving family. It is an awesome responsibility for any organization to assume, and the public is rightfully grateful for it.

This summer, the state of Illinois informed one of its oldest partners in the foster care program, Catholic Charities, that it was going to terminate its decades-old contract with them. The Catholic Charities' strictures against placing children with homosexual couples conflicted with the civil unions bill, 750 ILCS 75, passed earlier in the year. The statute provides in pertinent part,

Sec. 20. Protections, obligations, and responsibilities. A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Budget Thu Jul 14 2011

AFSCME, The CPS and Contracts

In response to an announcement on July 1 that state employees would not receive the 4 percent raise promised in their contract, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 has filed a federal suit saying that the withholding of the wage increases violates federal and state constitution provisions that bar against contract violation. According to WBEZ, Gov. Quinn said on Tuesday that the raises are not being given because the General Assembly did not appropriate the funds for the raises. However, the complaint also points out that Gov. Quinn cut $376 million from the budget through line-item veto and could have done something about the funds for raises. In the past, AFSCME has worked with the state to figure out how to deal with the budget crisis, salaries and employment for state employees.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, the Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously in June to rescind the 4 percent wage increases promised to teachers and staff members in their contracts and it was announced yesterday that CPS principals and assistant principals would also not receive their scheduled pay raise. (CPS principals and assistant principals are not unionized.) The contracts for both groups expire in 2012. With both agencies, there are large budget deficits--$715 million for CPS, $13 billion for the State of Illinois--but both unions have cited flaws with the budgets that are not allowing for their raises.

While AFSCME's lawsuit is waiting in court, CTU, along with Service Employees International Union Local 7 and 73, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143 and 143b, UNITE HERE Local 1, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 700 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 143 are waiting to schedule a meeting with the Board of Education to discuss negotiations, according to CTU spokeswoman Liz Brown. The two stories here seem to have a connection.

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Monica Reida / Comments (1)

State Politics Tue Apr 05 2011

Politicians Choosing Voters

Karl Klockars of Chicagoist looks at the potential for dire gerrymandering to protect Illinois' Congressional Democrats and "deTea" (Karl's great neologism) those districts where "Tea Party" candidates knocked out Democrats. The map below was generated by a user at Swing State Project.


Image via Chicagoist

This map is speculation based on available data. Few things in politics frustrate me more than this kind of chicanery, deterministic redistricting. Other than basic safeguards (prohibiting "cracking" and "packing") ensuring that minorities are not actively denied meaningful representation, redistricting should be wholly free of any political consideration whatever. Otherwise, government is merely artfully arranging the polity to preserve itself, rather than the public artfully arranging government to serve them.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Aldermen Tue Dec 14 2010

A Peek at Election Law Tweaks

On Monday, Dec. 13, a small group of journalists, reform advocates, and political junkies gathered in a conference room at the Michael A. Bilandic Building to hear a three-person panel review some of the important changes to Illinois election law enacted last year in what was finally passed as Public Act 96-0832 (click preceding link to view text of Act as it amended existing law; click here to download as a PDF). Cindy Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Andy Nauman from the State Board of Elections' division that regulates campaign finance reporting, and Cara Smith (no relation), the Public Access [FOIA] Counselor for the Illinois Attorney General, did their best in a quick review to navigate attendees through a pastiche of legislation that, as Canary put it, is "like going into the inner chamber of hell." The changes have some immediate impact on the municipal elections barreling down upon us all, with larger ramifications for other future races. However, reviewing what the law does and doesn't do also highlighted new ambiguities created, and how in significant areas much remains to be done.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Elections Wed Nov 03 2010

Election Wrap Up: Mechanics on WBEZ

Hey everybody! Thanks for stopping by Mechanics in between booking one-way tickets to Ottawa on Priceline in anticipation of the proto-fascist Republican takeover of the federal government or researching your upcoming blog post, "The Democratic Party is Toast (For Real This Time)."

I joined Lenny McAllister of WVON and Nenna Torres of UIC to talk about last night's election results with Alison Cuddy of WBEZ's 848. Highlights include me calling Pat Quinn "a tough dude." For the record, I was this/close to calling him "one tough motherflipper." You're welcome, BEZ. Check it out.

Ramsin Canon

Elections Mon Nov 01 2010

Who Cares About a State Representative's Race?

As you may have heard, some people (but probably not very many) are going to be voting on some stuff tomorrow. It's been a wild campaign season locally and nationally, and both will probably see some shakeups. But unlike the fights for governor or senator, there's one tight race that isn't between a Republican and a Democrat and most Chicagoans (particularly those outside of the Northwest Side) know little about: the fight for state representative in the 39th district.

State rep races usually fly well below the media's radar, overshadowed by races for higher offices. This year has been no exception: much attention has been paid to Quinn vs. Brady and Kirk vs. Giannoulias. But the fight in the 39th district between eight-year incumbent Democrat Toni Berrios and insurgent Green Party candidate Jeremy Karpen should be worth watching tomorrow. While the winner will not be the most powerful politician in Illinois, an incumbent loss would result in the only Green Party politician in any state house in the country.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (7)

IL-GOV Wed Oct 06 2010

March of the Morons: Brady on Evolution and Creation

Darwin_ape.pngI have one question that I believe should be used to disqualify people from running for executive office. It is, "Do you accept the theory of evolution?" Anybody who says no should be disqualified. No, it's not a religious test that would violate the Article VI prohibition. It's a moron test. We could also ask, "Are you a moron?" but then we'd be less likely to get an honest response. This way we could actually root out the morons.

This has nothing to do with conservative/liberal, Democrat/Republican. Evolution is a fact--in fact, it's more than a fact. It is a theory built upon literally millions of facts. Believe whatever other thing you want, but denying that evolution took place--maybe not exactly how science now conceives, but that it took place in some way--is absolutely no different than denying gravity. Newtonian physics got the mechanics of gravity wrong, but that didn't make gravity itself wrong. If you think "the jury is out" on evolution, you're not particularly bright, willfully ignorant, or poorly educated (which may not be your fault, but still--probably shouldn't be elected to executive office).

Bill Brady thinks it's okay to teach Creationism in schools. By doing so, he betrays his claim that he accepts "both" creationism and evolution. Accepting both as equivalent to be taught is like saying you accept "both" the theory of electromagnetism and fish are delicious. I don't care about any of the rest of his politics. How can you vote for a person like that? Creationism in schools? Really? We want the US to create well-educated kids prepared to tackle the most significant problems of the future--not to mention stay on the cutting edge of science--and we're going to allow school districts to teach Creationism? How stupid is this guy?

Apparently immensely.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (25)

IL-GOV Wed Sep 29 2010

Quinn v. Brady debate in Chicago

Union League Club Debate: Quinn vs Brady from Alan Cottrell on Vimeo.

Hat-tip to Capitol Fax. This debate took place at the Union League Club of Chicago today.

Just to remind you that in about a month we have an immediate election before we even consider the mayoral contest in February. We have seen that there has been a lot of focus on who's going to replace Daley or whether or not the Presidential Chief of Staff will run for Mayor of Chicago and leave the Obama administration.

Next month we will elect a Governor and a US Senator.

I hope we will see more debates preferably on TV.


State Politics Thu Aug 05 2010

How Election Year Politics Can Kill a Good Idea and Hurt Kids

As you may be aware, there has been significant growth in the rates of diabetes, for example more than 15,000 children a year are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As anyone who has this disease or someone who has had to care for them knows, it can be a very difficult disease to manage (FYI, insulin is not a cure).

Schools have had a spotty record at best helping children with this disease.

In order to try to improve the care that students receive in school with this disease, the Illinois General Assembly passed (after failing to act on it for five years). HB6065, The Care of Students Diabetes Act, passed the House 104-1-2 and the Senate 34-8-3).

So you think, "taking care of kids, it passed with large margins with bi-partisan support," what's the problem?"

Continue reading this entry »

OneMan / Comments (3)

Illinois Wed Aug 04 2010

Scaring Suburban Moms...

If you watch TV news in the morning in Chicago, you have likely seen this add from the Democratic Governors Association:

So you would think it's a slam-dunk -- this is going to scare suburban women and they will end up not voting for Bill Brady.

Social issues may not be the key to the suburban mom vote this time around. The question is going to be what will tick off suburban women more?

Will it be Bill Brady's stance on social issues or the millions of dollars the state is behind in paying local school districts? Which is going to have the bigger impact on the moms vote come election day?

When kids return to no music programs and larger classes, will that trump social issue concerns?

I think the school funding issue puts the suburban mom vote into play. It will be interesting to see if the campaigns attempt to capitalize on that.


Springfield Mon Jul 12 2010

Change in Selection of Lt. Governor Candidates

While this was a law that was recently signed isn't a constitutional amendment necessary to change this?

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation on Saturday that requires candidates of the same party to be nominated jointly instead of letting voters pick each nominee separately.

Under the new law, a gubernatorial candidate would select a running mate for the primary election. Voters would either support the pair or reject them over a different team.

The change comes after Illinois Democrats were embarrassed in this year's primary election. Scott Lee Cohen was the nominee for lieutenant governor who had been arrested previously for domestic violence. He was soon pressured into dropping out of the race.

The new law will go into effect on Jan. 1.

I wonder how it even came to be that voters individually selected both the gubernatorial nominee and lieutenant governor nominee? If I recall correctly, once upon a time the governor and lieutenant governor candidates were elected separately in a general election. Then at some point the the candidates were nominated separately in a primary, then forced to run as a ticket in the general election. I'm sure the point of this was to insure that both the top two executive officers of Illinois were of the same party, but I'll bet money that this wasn't thought out very well for some reason.

I wonder how that legislation (or amendment) to eliminate the lieutenant governor position is going. To be sure, I still don't support its elimination.

Continue reading this entry »


Education Tue Mar 30 2010

Daley Opposes Lifting of Residency Requirement for Teachers

I think the Mayor may have a point about the state legislature's recent action to lift a requirement that Chicago Public Schools teachers live in the city:

"If you say government employees don't have to live here, I guess maybe elected officials don't have to live here, too. You could start a trend. I don't have to live in the ward. I don't have to live in the city. I can work on a contract. I firmly believe that is the essence of keeping neighborhoods strong."

Of course, agreeing with the policy means the city needs to take bolder steps to insure there is affordable housing in Chicago; Chicago has been shedding affordable housing units, bifurcating the city into the upper middle class and the poor. But given the sheer number of city employees, and the fact that city housing will always be more expensive than housing in many bordering suburbs, lifting the residency requirement will result in another exodus of middle class residents--and valuable tax dollars.

I'm not convinced of this position, though--is there an argument to be made that the residency requirement is overly onerous or unfair?

The bill was sponsored by Senator Heather Steans of the north lakefront. Below is the roll call vote.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (5)

State Budget Fri Mar 26 2010

New Pension Changes

Do the changes "help"?

Yes and perhaps no.

Financially over the long haul increasing the age in which people can retire at full retirement benefits will reduce the overall financial impact of state pensions over time.

The big question is how is the state going to recognize the savings.

Under Governor Blagojevich, when changes were made in the financing of the state pension systems the legislature would recognize multiple years worth of "savings" in a single year and use that "savings" to shore up a current budget.

Back in 2005 they made some changes to pension financing and used the "savings" to avoid making payments into the system even though the savings would be realized until several years down the road.

As an official put it back in 2005,

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has a plan for reforming teacher pensions that he says will save millions -- millions the state can begin spending to balance next year's budget.

That idea, says the head of the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System, sounds more like it came from the mouth of a teenager.

"It's kind of like as if my 17-year-old daughter says to me, 'Dad, I might have a baby-sitting job a week from Tuesday, so could you give me 40 bucks now?'" TRS's Jon Bauman said. "It just never makes sense to spend money before you have it. And that, in effect, is what this is all about."

So it's a positive step in the right direction.

The question will be how the state legislature decides to handle the "savings" when it is budget crunch time.

OneMan / Comments (1)

Budget Thu Mar 25 2010

Illinois Democrats' Sudden Reform of the Pension System

Progress Illinois has a close look at the pension system reforms that Democrats quickly passed through both houses of the Assembly in the last twenty four hours:

In the blink of an eye yesterday, the General Assembly passed (by a wide margin) a historic overhaul of Illinois' public employee pension system. Facing the possibility that the state's bond rating might be downgraded next month when the state borrows about $1 billion to fund a portion of the capital construction plan, the Democratic leadership whipped into action, tossing together legislation that whizzed through the Statehouse in less than 12 hours.

It's important to remember that these cuts do not effect current employees; opening those contracts (the benefits are outlined here) would likely violate the state's constitution. The changes only apply to new hires in 13 of the state's systems. So let's review what the bill does and how much money the Pension Modernization Task Force estimates the changes will save between 2010 and 2045:

Follow the link for a thorough analysis by PI's Adam Doster.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (7)

State Budget Wed Mar 10 2010

More Debt? Expect to Spend More to Pay It Off

When you borrow money it is reasonable that the folks who loaned you the money expect to be paid back, with interest. That is another issue that is now facing the state budget and it's another issue that did not appear overnight. The Civic Federation on Chicago has
a report (PDF) that covers some of this in depth.

But like I pointed out in my last post about the budget, none of this is really a surprise.

Long Term Debt

In FY 2001 the state was spending about a billion dollars a year on long term debt service; in FY 2008 it had doubled to $2 billion; in FY 2011 it is projected to be $2.7 billion. So in the past seven years it has just about doubled.

In terms of the debt, in FY 2001 the state had about $8.4 billion in debt; FY 2008 it had $21.1 billion in debt and in FY 2011 it is estimated at $25.4 billion. These are state bonds that need to be paid, not the general underfunding of the state pension system.

Short Term Debt

Short-term debt is state debt that has to be paid back in a year. In FY 2007 it was $900 million, FY 2008 it was $2.4 billion, in FY 2009 $1.4 billion.

Continue reading this entry »

OneMan / Comments (1)

Education Mon Mar 08 2010

UIC Students, Faculty, Staff Demand, "Chop From the Top!"


UIC Students, Faculty and Staff Rally Against Budget Cuts.

Several hundred students, faculty and staff rallied at the University of Illinois Chicago campus on March 4th, to demand an end to budget cuts that target the poor. They rallied in the Quad, before marching around campus and marching to University Hall where the administrative offices for the school are. It was part of a national day of action to defend public education.

SEIU Local 73 chief Steward Joe Iosbaker led the crowd in chants, "They Say Furlough Day, We Say No Way! They Say Cut Back, We Say Fight Back!" and the sarcastic, "They Say Fee Hike, We Say, Yea, Right!"

At University Hall SEIU members served Soup to passer-by's "to prepare us for what we'll be eating if the budget cuts go through." They then sang a parody of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy, "Is UIC crazy? They must be crazy,to think that they can defeat, local 73."

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski

Democrats Wed Mar 03 2010

The Problem with Democratic Lt. Governor Applicants

In case you haven't noticed yet, you can now submit your resume to be considered by the Illinois State Democratic Central Committee to be slated and become the nominee for Lt. Governor. You can find detailed instructions at

Perhaps more entertaining than applying yourself, is sorting through the resumes and applications of those who think that they can achieve what Scott Lee Cohen could not. Over 40 applications have been submitted so far and are posted on the Illinois state Democrats website. What seems to jump out to me is that many of these candidates, with little experience with elected office, seem to think they can play in the big leagues without going to training camp.

Continue reading this entry »

Matt Muchowski

Springfield Tue Feb 16 2010

Responsible Budget Coalition Takes to the Capitol

The Responsible Budget Coalition is taking to the capitol on Wednesday to advocate on behalf of social service providers and their clients who have taken a beating over the last few years as the state Democratic leaders refuse to deal with the budget because of the perceived electoral consequences (if only we could indefinitely suspend elections--maybe then we can get some action).

More than three thousand service providers and clients will be making their case in Springfield, representing groups like this:

Participating organizations include AARP, AFSCME, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Citizen Action/Illinois, the Hope Institute, Illinois Action for Children, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Lake County Center for Independent Living, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, SEIU Health Care, Voices for Illinois Children, Williamson County Early Childhood Cooperative, Women Employed, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and many more.

Those evil special interests. The RBC is specifically pushing for new revenues for radical programs such as paying past due bills to non-profits.

UPDATE: Internet truism: The punishment for overly-dry sarcasm is angry comments. I don't consider the Williamson County Early Childhood Cooperative and their clients a "special interest" group, nor do I think the state paying its bills to social service providers is a radical idea.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Education Fri Feb 12 2010

A Bad Year for Teachers, a Bad Year for Public Education

This is going to be a bad year for public education.

After the State of the Union address and GOP response, there was a lot of back and forth about different policy points and the challenge the President laid down and the people standing behind Bob McDonnell and the number of times the President used certain words. What nobody commented on was that the two men agreed enthusiastically on exactly one thing: the need to privatize public education.

The take away from that night is that the American political duopoly supports the privatization of public education. They honestly believe that injecting the profit motive into education is the way to make sure that all American children get a decent education. That is a major policy shift that is so harmonious with the corporate policy tune that no news operations expressed any surprise or outrage.

But, of course, it is an outrage. The privatization of schools is sold as "ingenuity" and as a way of "leveling the field" by offering that cornerstone of free market fundamentalist mythology, "choice". Give parents choice and all problems go away. Because education is like used cars.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (7)

Springfield Sun Feb 07 2010

On the Lt. Governorship: Scott Lee Cohen edition

Well, after spending almost a week after the election with the revelations against Scott Lee Cohen over what occurred in the years before he became the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, we have seen Cohen drop out of the race. It was a very interesting ride while it lasted. It seemed for a while that he had no intention of stepping down and would continue to draw out whether or not he would leave the race.

It seemed this time that the pressure brought to bear on this man actually worked. We had others who probably should have let go in the best interest of Illinois and they wouldn't. Yeah, I would point to Rod Blagojevich and his senate appointment before his removal from office Roland Burris.

I will give Cohen credit for his attempts to bear (link to Chicago Tonight video 15:38) through the pressure. He even attempted to be honest, but his PR initiative seemed to have gone flat. He expected some of the women in his life, especially the one who he had allegedly assaulted and threatened with a knife, to speak up for him. Unfortunately that too fell flat when she declared him unfit to be lieutenant governor.

Continue reading this entry »

Levois / Comments (2)

IL-GOV Thu Feb 04 2010

Scott Lee Cohen and Reality

As most folks are likely now aware there are a host of allegations surounding the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor...

Just a bit from the Trib

Cohen did not deny choking his wife, as she alleged in the divorce, but said he had no recollection of it, and it actually took place before they were married.

His ex-wife, Debra York-Cohen, was with him today and said she stood by the allegations in the divorce but said his philandering and volatile behavior took place during a brief period time when he was using steroids. The allegations included him frightening their four children and threatening her verbally and physically.

His response to all of this and the calls to step down also from the Trib...

"I'm going to respond that my honesty and integrity in putting it out there is the best thing that could happen to the party,"

Yeah, the best thing that could happen for the Republican party. For the Democratic party the best thing that could happen is that you quickly go away.

I am a Republican but still, this is beyond messed up. This isn't embarrassing, it's sad. Perhaps this is a lesson on not having the primary so early or even having a Lt. Governor's office. But this is bad for everyone. Instead of people focusing on the state's budget issues (or even the closeness of the GOP Governor's race) folks are going to focus on the Lt. Governor candidate who seems to have come from a Springer episode.

I don't know what is worse (besides the things he allegedly did) , the idea that he thought this wouldn't be a big political s--- storm? That you may have been told by folks around you that this wasn't going to be a big deal and agreed with them? That you spent that kind of money to get the Lt. Governor nomination? You think this is somehow a positive for the Democratic ticket and the Democratic party?

Each of those in my mind show someone who isn't in touch with reality.

The `roid stuff, yeah that could have been a teary moment on the local news programs and you could have recovered from it.

But everything else? As Mike Flannery put it on the news on CBS 2 today..


OneMan / Comments (2)

Democrats Thu Jan 21 2010

So you are Pat Quinn, what do you do now?

First thing accept the fact that the gloves are totally and completely off now and you can't put them back on. It has gone in the words of CBS 2, nuclear.

The Washington ad is huge for Hynes, he has gotten free media off of the ad. Any rational ad that gets free media play is something you have to reply to and address.

Remember one of the lessons from the Kerry campaign, you can't let this stuff go. You have to hit back and hit back hard. Yes, it's the primary and you are all supposed to be loving Democrats and negative campaigning is bad, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Remember, you have to win the primary to make it to the general and at this point your only focus needs to be on winning the primary, it's a long time between Feb and November, wounds will heal, losing the primary lasts forever.

So time to start making some TV ads.

Continue reading this entry »


Quinn Wed Jan 13 2010

Responsible Budget Coalition Response to State of the State

The Responsible Budget Coalition wins the rapid response rodeo (TM):

"The governor spoke today about the Illinois budget, what we believe is the most urgent issue facing our state. That broken budget is now a full-blown crisis. Each day we hear of new, devastating cuts to schools, health care, human services and public safety in every part of the state. Basic services for every Illinois resident are on the brink of collapse, more than 100,000 jobs providing those services in the public and private sectors are threatened, and lawmakers will return to Springfield in February to an even bleaker picture. We have to confront this crisis--not with more painful cuts and payment delays, but with a balanced approach that includes responsible tax reform. Responsible reform like House Bill 174 will raise adequate revenue and make taxes fairer. It is essential to protecting public services, jobs and our economy, and it has to be Job One."

Ramsin Canon

Republicans Mon Dec 21 2009

GOP seeking out candidate against Mike Madigan

If you've read American Pharoah, a biography of the late great Mayor Richard J. Daley, there were tales of the machine running a paper Republican against a Democrat. Not saying that's the case here, but that's what this story reminded me of:

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the Illinois GOP has launched a public hunt for one Patrick John Ryan, who has filed as a Republican to run against Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan next year.

In a press release Monday entitled "Has anyone seen Patrick John Ryan?" the GOP notes that though Mr. Ryan filed as a Republican, he lives in Mr. Madigan's home 13th Ward and pulled a Democratic ballot in the past three primary elections.

Yet, the release adds, Mr. Ryan "is now a Republican who believes in less government, lower taxes, true ethics reform and the need to end business as usual" in Illinois.

Given all of that, "Will Patrick John Ryan call (312) 201-9000 to discuss this historic opportunity?" the GOP asks. "We look forward to providing him the necessary support to win this election."

I saw that very press release in my e-mail this morning. It was just the most unusual thing I have ever seen.

Could this mean that the state Republican Party might out anyone who just so happen to run against powerful Democrats who aren't running very serious campaigns?


Elections Thu Nov 05 2009

Turning in Petitions

Understanding that the period for petition signatures and filing has passed as of this past Monday, I wanted to show two videos of candidates running for state offices making their filings in Springfield .

This video from the Quinn campaign is a bit more "glamorous." The production values are very nice, although it doesn't seem to convey how long they've stood in line to turn in the petitions. Found this via Capitol Fax in discussing an asset the Quinn campaign doesn't utilize or even publicize enough.

This video may not score much as far as production values, but it sure does convey how serious the petition filing process is at the state level! This video was by Syron Smith running for state representative in the 32nd District. I posted another video featuring him earlier.

Well, hopefully the candidate of your choice has put in all the hard work to file his/her petitions, whether on the federal, state, or even county levels. Hopefully the candidate of your choice will have solid petitions to remain on the ballot in 2010. I think we'll have some interesting elections to watch next year!


Democrats Mon Nov 02 2009

So You Are Going to Run for State Rep....

We got an email from Jonathan Goldman about his candidacy for state rep in the Democratic primary for the 10th district.

I suspect when the email was sent they didn't figure it would be the suburban Republican who would do the item on it. But he makes some points I would like to take a closer look at. You can find what was in the email here.

Work to put Illinois' fiscal house in order. "We need to get serious once and for all about fixing the State budget, rather than lurching from one fiscal crisis to another. We need to restructure our tax policies based on ability to pay and address our structural deficit so that we can pay our bills on time and fully fund our pension obligations," said Goldman.

So bottom line, who is going to pay more? Who is going to pay less? As for the pension system, do you think the current state pension system should be available to folks who go to work for the state three years from now?

Continue reading this entry »

OneMan / Comments (1)

State Politics Mon Oct 19 2009

VIDEO: Bob on more spending

This video from the Bob Schillerstrom for Governor campaign is straightforward. It makes it plain that he wants the state to stop spending. I just found this to be the goofiest video ever. Could you imagine SNL writing a skit like this?

Well of course I can be wrong on this. What do you think of this vid? Is it effective or might you find it to be goofy?

Levois / Comments (1)

Illinois Wed Oct 14 2009

Saving Video Poker -- Assuming it's worth saving

Well, if you want to save video poker and the funding for the capital plan, I think it is still possible, but you would have to try and do it during the veto session and time is running short.

A "solution" would have to provide a better cut to the state and a better cut to local governments. If a local government was able to get a better cut I suspect they would be less likely to vote it down. It's one thing if video poker could pay for one cop, it's different if it could pay for five.

The Solution

Take the machine owner cut of out the system by having the state lottery own and operate the machines.

Continue reading this entry »

OneMan / Comments (1)

Cook County Wed Oct 14 2009

State House Action on Cook County Board, in Tweet Form

John Fritchey tweet from the state house--the House votes to remove the impossible 4/5ths bar needed to override a Presidential veto (Will Burns tweets that several black members of the House rose in opposition) and that a measure to reduce the sales tax in Cook County fails.

Ramsin Canon

Illinois Tue Sep 08 2009

Is Laying Off State Workers a Fix?

Governor Quinn and the local leadership of AFSCME Council 31, which represents the largest proportion of state workers, have been unable to reach a deal that would avert over a thousand layoffs. The Governor was asking for concessions that the union said amounted to a 15% pay cut. This is a combination of cuts: deletion of promised raises, reduction of health care benefits and pension contributions, and unpaid furlough days. Quinn has announced that he will have to move forward with over a thousand layoffs as a result of the refusal of AFSCME locals to accept the cuts. Quinn sees the roaring budget deficits we all see. The assumption is that spending needs to be cut to reduce and eliminate this deficit; but it doesn't necessarily follow that cutting programs will have that effect. Cf., Adam Doster's "Civic Fed Rule."

And of course there is the fact that many state programs actually "save" the state, or the people, money from the services they provide. Either by addressing a problem that effects productivity (road congestion, child care for working class families, subsidies for health insurance that reduce sick days and unemployment), or by providing a service that indirectly raises revenue (subsidies for jobs programs; maintaining regulatory standards that protect consumer confidence). This isn't controversial; Illinois' conservatives would look at a list of state activities and approve of way more state activities than they disapproved of. Licensing, regulation of professions, capital projects that increase mobility, building institutions of higher learning, etc. We need correctional officers and child safety case workers; we need inspectors to check that our bridges aren't falling down, and to monitor water pollution levels. That's what a "state worker" is.

Knowing this, how about the fact that Illinois has the lowest state worker-to-resident ratio in the country? The problem is not the size of government, the problem is that politicians refuse to pay for the services Illinoisans demand. Cutting deeper into the bone won't make Illinois better; it'll make the quality of life worse. Even were our budget to be balanced, basic services will disappear. We know we're talking about basic services because Illinois has a tiny state government:

All states average, 2007 - 85
Illinois - 54

Ten Worst-Staffed Nationwide, 2007
Indiana - 53
Illinois - 54
Arizona - 58
Wisconsin - 60
Ohio - 62
Colorado - 63
California - 66
Nevada - 69
Florida - 71
Michigan - 71

If Illinois state budget is "bloated," as many charge, these numbers would seem to indicate that the state's employees are not the cause of that bloat.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Media Tue Jul 28 2009

The Tribune's Brass, Bawls

Tribune statehouse reporter Ray Long had a commendable piece in the Sunday Trib about how state cuts will affect the state's most vulnerable residents. To wit:

Illinois might have a working budget in place, but there is a broader story behind the numbers: Real people are hurting.

If they have not lost care, they worry the thin reed of stability provided by non-profit, community-based organizations will disappear without state support. Cuts at social service agencies are tearing holes into safety nets for the state's most vulnerable residents.

People who need medication are not getting it. Single parents are thinking about quitting jobs, unsure whether they can count on state assistance for day-care costs. Families that depend on counseling for mental health, substance abuse and other social ills are finding, at least in some places, they are out of luck.


Quinn has pushed for a 50 percent income-tax increase he said would better fund social services, but lawmakers have not agreed with him. Some opponents say the state should tighten its overall spending, and many predict a taxpayer backlash in the 2010 elections. Lawmakers are expected to consider a tax increase later this year, after they know whether they will face primary opponents in February.

Long's story highlights the fact that a government's budget is not the caricature of waste and hilarious programs that conservatives have fabricated. It is collective spending determined by the public. Yes, much waste and abuse is in there, too. But in highlighting that waste and abuse disproportionately, the right has made it all too easy to talk about "cutting spending" while disconnecting that from the human cost.

Kudos to the Trib for running a story proving that they know exactly what a shortfall of revenue leads to. Where were their editorials insisting on raising revenues to make sure they wouldn't have to run these human interest stories? Why wasn't the Tribune supporting an alternative, like Sen. James Meeks HB 174, which would have raised revenues to pay for these things (not that Meeks' plan is a cure-all)? Now that there's a budget deal and lawmakers have refused to face economic reality, the Tribune bawls for the people negatively impacted by the failure to raise a commonsense level of revenue?

Here's the Trib editorial board, July 8th:

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Illinois Sat Jul 18 2009

About Illinois' Lt. Governorship...

Levi Moore who is the "statehouse examiner" at talks about the position of Illinois Lt. Governor's office. It's up for election next year and currently it's vacant since our current Governor, Pat Quinn, ascended to the office of Governor upon the removal of Rod Blagojevich in January. Vacant because apparently there is no provision such as the US Constitution's 25th Amendment to provide for succession to the Lt. Governorship.

I saw on Eric Zorn's blog in a recent post that there have been proposals to either eliminate the Lt. Gov. post or at the very least allow gubernatorial candidates to be able to select their running mates. You know almost similar to the process that a Presidential candidate make to select a running mate who will run with him as the Vice-Presidential nominee. Currently voters choose the ticket for both Gov. or Lt. Gov on a primary ballot and the winners of this primary become the Gubernatorial ticket in the general election.

Here's another Zorn post from this past May on this very subject. That is the arguments to eliminate this position were outlined, but one minor thing keeps Lt. Gov. post alive. This office and another non-essential office, Comptroller (the office that Sen. Roland Burris was elected to in the late 70s to become the first black to win election statewide in Illinois) or even Treasurer, are used as stepping stones. To create a minor-league of sorts for those who have aspirations for higher office in this state.

In Illinois, you might be considered a big deal if you run the offices at least of Secretary of State or Attorney General. While it was noted on Zorn's blog again that no one went from state Attorney General to Governor, I do know that two recent Governors, Jim Edgar and George Ryan, were elected directly from the office of Secretary of State. Both of those offices have significant staff and responsibilities.

BTW, the office is significant only that the Lt. Gov. is second in succession to the state Governorship when a Governor dies, incapacitated, or removed from office. There is some responsibility given to the office although these responsibilities may only be provided by the Governor himself (or herself) of course that is provided that these two individuals who had no choice since the voters essentially put them together have a decent working relationship.

Once upon a time before the enactment of the 1970 constitution of Illinois, Lt. Gov could actually preside over sessions of the state Senate. There wasn't always the position of Senate President unless you want to count the position of President Pro-Tempore. Remember the structure of government in most state matches somewhat loosely the structure of the federal government, especially as established in the US Constitution. Thus up until 1970 the Lt. Governor had a responsibility similar to that of the Vice President of the United States and the state Senate had their own President Pro-Tempore just like the US Senate.

Anyway, the structure of state government in Illinois is what it is today and there are those who advocate for the restructuring of offices or even how they are elected or still the elimination of that position. Perhaps it was a mistake to put both offices up for election in a primary and keep them together in a general election. Perhaps it was a mistake to remove the Lt. Governor's role as the presiding officer of the state Senate.

Still I wouldn't advocate for it's elimination. There are probably better more numerous aspects of government that can be cut that maybe a couple of statewide offices. Perhaps Cook County government could use some contraction in executive elected officials or there have been discussions of say consolidating school districts in the state.

Still, there is a virtue to having offices that may not have the importance of either Governor, Secretary of State or Attorney General that may allow an aspiring politician to move up in state politics. The minor-league system or bench that allows a very ambitious pol to make of their position what they will and not merely draw a paycheck. In doing so such a person hopefully with have the ability to advance themselves as a future candidate for much higher office.


Springfield Wed Jul 15 2009

Leader Cross: We Have a Deal

Can it be so? Via Rich Miller's Capitol Fax Blog, video of House Minority Leader Tom Cross (Oswego) emerging to say that pending caucus meetings, a budget agreement has been reached:

For info on the caucus meetings, head over to the Illinois Policy Institute's Tweet Illinois; legislators will surely be tweeting.

Ramsin Canon

Springfield Mon Jul 13 2009

AP Cites Progress Illinois' Budget Impact Tracking

Progress Illinois' effort to track exactly how the budget debacle in Springfield is impacting Illinoisans--both in number of individuals left unserved and number of private sector employees laid off--has gained lots of attention, and deservedly so. This effort at crowd-sourcing may just become the next tool for activists of all ideological stripes to document exactly what the state is doing and how it impacts you locally.

Progress Illinois, a website supported by the Service Employees International Union, is trying to track cutbacks at the organizations that state government uses to deliver services at the local level. As of Friday, it reported, 68 agencies had cut at least 1,420 jobs and halted services for nearly 13,500 people.

It is extremely easy (and, as is often the case with extremely easy things, wildly irresponsible) to just flog the putrid "wasteful government spending" horse corpse to win votes and sound like a good government watchdog. So it's important to make direct connections for people about what exactly we spend our money on, and how the constant assault on public goods and public spending ends up not only harming the disadvantaged but also, in the medium and long term, all of us (well, except the extremely priveleged who are never harmed by anything). At the same time, I imagine such a project flipped backwards (as with Chicago City Payments) could be a valuable way to highlight government waste where it does occur.

Ramsin Canon

Springfield Tue Jul 07 2009

Quinn v 2009 Budget

January 2009 Quinn: "Yay, I'm Governor!"
June 2009 Quinn: "Damnit, I'm Governor."

Check out Rich Miller's coverage of the Governor's press conference here. Via Rich, from the Governor's office:

HB 2145 appropriates $3.8 billion to fund state operations. However, HB 2145 fails to adequately cut the cost of state operations, including the budget of the General Assembly and other Constitutional Officers, including the Attorney General, Treasurer, Comptroller and Secretary of State.

Translation: "Hey, remember these other people that have statewide office!? Why don't you harass them for a while!?"

Here's AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall talking about state Senator James Meeks' solution to the boondoggle, House Bill 0174.

Ramsin Canon

Springfield Fri Jul 03 2009

Truth, Consequences, and the State Budget

One of my favorite weekly rituals happens about midway through the Sunday service at Hyde Park Union Church. The service leader steps to the altar microphone and says some variant of "we have come to the time in our service where we share our joys and concerns with the congregation and before God." I wish that Tom Cross, Pat Burke, Mike Madigan or any number of Springfield politicians were sitting in the pews of the gorgeous red stone church at 56th and Woodlawn the last two weeks. Despite their ridiculous assurances that the cuts were only temporary and (in Burke's words) "no one should be laid off because this will all work out," the congregation at Hyde Park Union knows better. We know that Ann, a social worker working with the indigent mentally ill working for a non-profit dependent on state contracts is now laid off. We know that her patients and clients dependent on state aid for psychotropic medicines are now without services. Given that even 48 hours without psychotropic medicine is dangerous for those with severe mental illness, the "short" week or two delay promised by our state leaders is unconscionable. We heard how Center for New Horizons, one of the last remaining social service non-profits left standing in Bronzeville has put 100 staff on furlough. We heard about how David, a CPS teacher during the year, will no longer be working for the PEP project because it has shuttered its doors due to uncertainty over funding. I'm pretty sure that the situation on the mid-South Side of Chicago is not unique (I would link to the Chi-Town Daily New's coverage, but they're in pledge drive mode).
It is relatively unsurprising, but still disturbing, that state legislators have no real understanding of the consequences of their actions. The idea that non-profits, many of whom already struggle with late payments and uncertain levels of compensation from state contracts can weather a month, or even a couple of weeks without knowing if they'll receive any funds is a serious misunderstanding of the situation of non-profits. Ground level social service agencies rarely have a bunch of money lying around for a rainy day.
But I guess I shouldn't expect state legislators to know that, or even if they do to value the lives of their constituents over winning silly political games. While I imagine few state reps and senators have the gall to not even locate their office in district (like Dan Burke, state rep in the 23rd), but I wonder how many of them really engage with constituents or have any idea of the real world consequences of their political brinksmanship. Maybe it's time for them to get some religion and head off to church, to listen to the prayers of the people.. and then go to confession.

Jacob Lesniewski

State Politics Sat Jun 27 2009

Don't emulate Illinois...

I found this op/ed at Instapundit that describes the current situation with the budget battles between Gov. Quinn and the General Assembly:

The governor's attempts to create political chaos by placing high-profile, "feel good" programs on the chopping block is disingenuous. By failing to address the state's fundamental spending and inefficiency problems, Quinn is setting up Illinois taxpayers for even greater future fiscal disasters.

While closing the state's budget deficit won't be a painless process and some programs should be cut, that need not mean doomsday cuts. Programs that are well intended or sound good on paper aren't necessarily effective or even valid functions of government.

Perhaps the biggest deception in Quinn's budget gambit, however, is his claim that he is trying to protect lower-income families and children. In fact, they're the ones who will be most harmed by his tax hikes. Raising taxes on small-business owners and workers will decrease the amount of money they can spend, invest, and hire workers with. Low-income and low-skilled workers will have to pay more in taxes and will typically be the first laid off when businesses have to cut costs.

Taking even more money out of the private sector, where it could be used to prevent job cuts, and instead putting it into Illinois' bureaucratic money pit is a blueprint for disaster.

The main link at Instapundit analyzes why three of our nation's largest and prosperous states (California, New York, and New Jersey) are now struggling because they have more of their general economic policies such as taxes, super minimum wages, powerful unions, or even government health care.

Another link offers a place that's doing well even in this current economic climate, Texas. Of course they're bouncing off of this aformentioned main link to the Wall Street Journal article.


State Politics Thu Jun 18 2009

Fine Raise my Taxes But.....

I watched another protest at the Thompson Center today. This time the folks protesting seemed to less folks who might lose a paycheck due to the budget cuts and more folks who will lose services due to the budget cuts.

I know that the states deficit is too big to be addressed by budget cuts alone so some sort of significant revenue enhancement is going to be needed to prevent cuts to all sorts of things in the state budget that are going to be penny dumb and pound really stupid.

Fortunately I am in position where the proposed tax increase is going to cost me more than a the price of a pizza a week (it was used on one of the posters at the protest to illustrate the cost to the average family), so before I give the state some more of my money every year I have a few conditions I want to put on the state budget.

If this is going to happen I know we need to put some Republican votes on the tax increase and that will likely lead to some primary challenges to some Republicans. Why, there are folks in this state who think we can just cut our way out of this or if we just eliminated the pork we would be fine. Some people in the Republican party feel any tax increase is evil and must be stopped.

So if the Republicans are going to put votes on a tax increase they should reasonably expect something in return. You can't basically ignore the Republicans for most of the session and then ask them to help save your bacon without having to give them something in return.

I think Redistricting Reform is a good first step, there are a few other changes I think we should push for as well.

As for the stuff the governor is looking for like recall, I would say that is not really a pressing issue. The deficit that keeps on growing is the problem.

So fine raise my taxes, they may take away my GOP card for that. If you are going to let them do it, lets get something else for the people of Illinois that isn't going to really cost anything in return.

Oh yeah, and remind the voters in 2010 what party was running things when we got into this mess...



Illinois Mon Jun 08 2009

Tamms Year Ten: Stop Torture in Illinois

The Tamms Year Ten project is a campaign to end what they call torture at the Tamms Supermax facility in Southern Illinois. State Representative Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) has a petition going (and a bill in Springfield) to address the situation in Tamms. Recently activists literally took to the streets to raise awareness about the issue.

From the Tamms Year Ten website:

In 1998, the first prisoners were transferred from prisons across the state to Tamms CMAX, in Southern Illinois. This new "supermax" prison, designed to keep men in permanent solitary confinement, was intended for short-term incarceration. The IDOC called it a one-year "shock treatment." Now, ten years later, over one-third of the original prisoners have been there for a decade. They have lived in long-term isolation--no phone calls, no communal activity, no contact visits. They only leave the cell to exercise alone in a concrete box 2 to 5 times per week. They are fed through a slot in the door.

Here's some background from the Reader.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

State Politics Fri May 29 2009

What's Not to Like About the "Phony Reform" Bill

It appears that at least for today the Illinois House has not acted on HB0007, the shell bill being used to carry the key campaign finance reform provisions of the ethics package. Because hardly anyone in Chicago has actually seen what is being debated and reported on, I have included here in several places the link to the actual bill.

I traded e-mails with my state rep, Julie Hamos, today, trying to keep up on what's going down, and advised that I'd probably vote against the bill if I was there, if it was a pure up-or-down. Often, any progress is better than none, but if Cindy Canary says a bill is "phony reform," I'd be pretty reluctant to give it my stamp of approval, because Ms. Canary lives and breathes the real thing, rip-snortin', no-holds-barred, tell-it-like-it-is passion for The Change We Need around here. And sometimes a half-measure is not half a loaf, it acts as a block to real reform, sometimes while making matters even worse.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Springfield Fri May 01 2009

It's 10 AM: Do you know what your legislators are tweeting?

I'm new to Twitter.

Before recently, I'd always thought of myself as a Facebook sorta guy and never really "got" Twitter. That is, until I forgot to take a pen and paper on a reporting tour of the Chicagoland public transit system two weeks ago. Instead of ink, I "tweeted" everything through my iPhone.

Suddenly, people started to reply, "retweet" and tag me. Who would have thought the fuel economy of the CTA's buses would be so interesting? Or the fact that politicians dream of transforming Metra stations into community centers? (Kinda weird, that one is.)

A little late to the game, I realized a sliver of Twitter's potential. Twitter now has 12.1 million users--almost 7.5 percent of adult Internet users in the U.S.--and is projected to reach 18.1 million users in 2010.

There are still skeptics, and this week we found out nearly 60 percent of Twitter users stop using the service after the first month.

I can understand why. Who really has a desire to constantly update the world on their life using 140 characters or fewer? What kind of person needs to broadcast their day-to-day lives to millions of people they don't even know and will never meet?

I can think of one type of person who fits the Twitter bill perfectly: Politicians.

Want to communicate to that new, young, hip constituency? Use Twitter. Want to be followed by throngs of adoring fans (and watched closely by your political enemies)? Use Twitter. Want to have something to do in all those boring committee meetings? Use Twitter.

Here in Illinois, our tweeting politicians have a new reason to get on the Twitter bandwagon. My organization--the Illinois Policy Institute--launched a new site this week called, where politicians can tweet away and be seen by Springfield-watchers and Tea Partiers alike. collects the tweets of registered legislators--there are around 15 legislators registered currently, including my own state rep Sara Feigenholtz @SaraFeigenholtz--and displays it in a feed-like system on the front page. It's inspired by At a glance, you can see what's going on in legislators' minds when the General Assembly is in session, or take a peek at Rep. John Frichey's excitement at the Bulls game: "OT!! The building is going wild!!"

So if you want real accountability from your elected officials--and a glimpse into their sleeping habits--encourage them to join Twitter and register with

And if you're interested in this Chicago libertarian's perspective on the world follow me on Twitter. I'm @rlorenc.

Richard Lorenc

Op-Ed Wed Mar 25 2009

OP-ED: Support the Illinois Reproductive Health and Access Act

The following is an op-ed by Edwin C. Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Yohnka is the primary spokesperson for the most prominent civil rights and civil liberties advocacy organization in the State of Illinois, an organization with more than 23,000 members.

As policy-makers and special interest groups in Washington debate various proposals to extend health care to millions of uninsured Americans, the Illinois General Assembly has an opportunity during its current session to expand reproductive health care in the state. House Bill 2354 — now on the floor of the House of Representatives — reflects an effort by a broad coalition of organizations (the Campaign for Reproductive Health and Access) to move beyond the decades-long, contentious debate in our society focused on abortion and engage a more comprehensive discussion about the need to expand access to reproductive health care for all women in Illinois.

The Illinois Reproductive Health and Access Act offers a woman a continuum of choices throughout her reproductive life — from honest, medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education to access to quality birth control, prenatal care, information about adoption and, if necessary, the right to choose abortion based on her individual circumstances and concerns. It is clear that we need to ensure that a woman has as many responsible options as possible when it comes to making important decisions about her reproductive health care.

In an organized effort to reduce unintended pregnancies, House Bill 2354 requires that all public schools teach medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sexual health education. Such education is needed in our public schools to reverse the dangerous effects (including skyrocketing rates of sexually transmitted disease among teenagers) that have resulted from an overuse of abstinence only until marriage programs funded with federal taxpayer dollars. Any parent in Illinois would be allowed to remove their children from the sexual health education classes if they do not want them to participate.

Additionally, the RHAA guarantees everyone in our state the ability to use or refuse contraception without government interference. It puts control over reproductive health care in our state clearly and directly in the hands of women, rather than in the hands of politicians driven by ideology.

The RHAA is both comprehensive and popular. A recent poll of 600 registered voters in Illinois found that 71 percent of all voters support the measure — a broad consensus with strong support among many demographic groups.

Despite this broad support, we have seen a good deal of hyperbolic, highly rhetorical language aimed at this legislation. Some have claimed that the bill would force health care workers who are morally opposed to abortion or contraception to leave the practice or perform abortions they oppose. This is not true. Instead, the act protects both patients and doctors. It allows individual health care professionals to object to providing certain services, while still ensuring that patients receive timely, accurate and complete services as well as information about care options.

Others have claimed that the bill would strip away any regulation of abortion and allow for late term or so-called partial birth abortion. But the truth is that these regulations still will apply, including the ban on so-called partial birth abortion that was adopted at the federal level and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.

This measure is an important move forward in our state. We hope that all persons in our state will reach out to their state representative and urge support of House Bill 2354. You can find more information by going to

Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

Special Election IL05 Thu Feb 26 2009

Geoghegan Files Suit for Special Senate Election

Today, IL-05 Congressional candidate Tom Geoghegan filed a lawsuit against Governor Pat Quinn, claiming Quinn has failed to uphold the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I could parse the suit and bore you to tears, or you can check out the complaint yourself here (PDF).

It's an interesting strategy for Geoghegan to go after Quinn on reform. It's debatable whether Quinn should lose his street cred as a reformer just yet. The newly sworn in Quinn has only just started to make heads or tails of the mess left by everyone's favorite impeached, potty-mouthed Elvis fan. Should Quinn really be spending his time and political capital throwing out Burris and forcing a special election when the primary is just under fourteen months away? Should this be a top priority while our state is basically on the verge of shutting down?

Certainly, if Geoghegan is successful in forcing special elections for appointments permanently, the people of Illinois are better off. But I wonder if this leaves Geoghegan better off politically? Will voters in IL-05 see this as an attack on Quinn? Will the five billion other IL-05 candidates jump in on this issue and accuse Geoghegan of attacking Quinn?

And the biggest question of all: Do voters in IL-05 even care? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Charlotte Lynn / Comments (1)

Education Thu Feb 19 2009

Soto School Closure Moratorium Bill Passes Committee

We all know that means little if Speaker Madigan (or Senate President Cullerton) wants to squash it, but good on Rep. Cynthia Soto for bucking the Mayor and his corporate lackeys on the Board of Ed and moving this moratorium on school closures through the General Assembly. The vote was 20-0.

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, candidate for Rahm Emanuel's House seat, is a Chief Co-Sponsor. The bill has a Republican co-sponsor, Roger Eddy of Hutsonville.

The Board of Education has no standards for its school closures. It views our city as a "market" and is merely trying to increase the "market share" of the privatized schools so favored by the Mayor and the myopic mopes who purr in his lap on the Fifth Floor.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Blagojevich Thu Jan 29 2009

Best. Impeachment. Ever.

Was it Illinois's worst day ever or its best?

Listening to the rhetoric from the state senate chamber in Springfield, you might think that we should consider ordering a few million caplets of Prozac from Canada.

Let's refrain, shall we?

I won't go so far as to say it's the state's finest day -- it most certainly wasn't -- but former Governor Blagojevich's unanimous conviction on impeachment charges today should be a proud moment for anyone who believes that the General Assembly has the sworn duty to remove a governor when he or she has lost the confidence of the people.

I never thought I'd find myself thinking this, but I agree with what Senator Meeks of Chicago said on the senate floor earlier today. "This is not a sad day for me," Meeks said. "This is a great day. We are not ruled by angels. We are not ruled by super-humans. We have, unfortunately, as our leaders of our state, city, country, people with flaws -- human beings, just like the rest of us who are prone to mistakes. We have leaders who make errors. However, when those errors drift into criminal activity or abuse of power -- when that happens and a leader oversteps his or her boundary, what a joy that we don't have to form a militia, that we don't have to form an army -- an upstate army and a downstate army -- and go down to the second floor, and get grenades and guns, and bomb the governor out of the second floor."

"What a joy we have a process," Senator Meeks said.

Continue reading this entry »

Richard Lorenc

Chicago Fri Jan 16 2009

Rockford Takes One Giant Leap for Educational Excellence

But this is only the first step.

I attended the Rockford School Board's meeting on Tuesday and witnessed their unanimous approval for the first charter school in the city. The Legacy Academy of Excellence will be a K-5 school for "at-risk" students.

Charter schools are public schools but they're different than the norm, so here's some background from an op-ed I wrote last month in the Rockford Register-Star:

Charter schools are public schools open to any families who wish to apply. Charters design their own curricula, hire their own teachers and need to meet certain student achievement standards set forth in their agreements with state and local officials. If they don't meet these standards, the school must close, and students return to their local traditional public school.

In other words, Legacy will have freedoms that other public schools lack. From flexible work rules that allow charters to hire and retain the best teachers, to their independence to design curricula without mandates from Springfield or Washington, charters are fundamentally different than traditional public schools, and results in Chicago and elsewhere prove their high worth.

Continue reading this entry »

Richard Lorenc / Comments (7)

Springfield Sat Jan 10 2009

Impeachment Day was yesterday!

I seem to like visual aids so how about a pair of videos and them some other pertinent articles.

This video with State Journal-Register reporter Bernard Schoenberg talks about the significance of yesterday's vote but offers one tidbit as to why this occurred. It's probably safe to say the Governor caused this by his combativeness and distance from the General Assembly. Better yet some could charge his lack of a relationship with the state House of Representatives or even his feud with Speaker Madigan.

I would honestly like to see more pieces with regards to the Governor's temperament. I like to compare him to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Yeah they did get caught up in different types scandals but the questions that were raised about Spitzer as far as temperament could almost parallel the Governor's. If Spitzer had friends in the NY establishment who knows he might still be Governor although his crimes were serious.

The next visual aid is a very artful video of Illinois' state House of Representatives debating whether or not to impeach the Governor. I almost wonder if these speeches could inspire some of you to make a political run!

Both vids are from the State Journal-Register.

Want to know about two state reps who didn't vote for this impeachment resolution. Milt Patterson voted no and Elga Jeffries voted present. You don't have to look far to see how they framed their decisions especially if all you have to do is go on this site to Merge. The links are all there.

Also we're at the end of the current General Assembly and this is probably the last new business that will be taken up by the outgoing 95th General Assembly. Next week we will see the new General Assembly convene and be sworn in. That also means that there will be another vote on Blagojevich's impeachment and then send it on towards the state Senate. Clout City talks about that more!

You know what might happen when the state Senate convenes next week with a new Presiding Office in John Cullerton? I understand that the Governor's role is to convene and inaugurate the state Senate, but what will happen if he chooses to sit this one out? Might the state Senate inaugurate itself? Could the Lt. Governor, Pat Quinn, inaugurate the state Senate? Might the state Police force the Governor to preside over the state Senate?

Well we do know that the state Senate will preside over the "trial" of the Governor, but what might the continuation of this drama bring?

BTW, I got most of these questions or scenarios from last night's edition of Chicago tonight with such columnists as Carol Marin, Laura Washington, and Greg Hinz.


State Politics Wed Dec 31 2008

Illinois Constitution, History Offer Impeachment Guidelines

Impeachment is only a legal statement of charges, analogous to a criminal indictment. The Illinois House investigative committee is currently trying to decide what suffices to send this to the Illinois Senate for trial.

Statements to the effect that Illinois has "no standards" for impeachment wrongly suggest unbridled legislative discretion. Few impeachment statutes offer bright line tests. But Illinois has a constitution and a long history of due process. Even the constitution's vaguest clauses did not arise in a vacuum. A basic principle of constitutional construction is to look at the document as a whole so as to exhibit some consistency. Besides the clause empowering the House to impeach, numerous other provisions, as well as an historical look at impeachment, provide some guidance. I'd argue that some functional equivalent of "high crimes and misdemeanors" be applied. Based on evidence I've seen so far -- and none of us have seen it all, as Mr. Genson correctly reminds us -- that standard can likely be met.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith / Comments (1)

Chicago Tue Dec 02 2008

What is Good Government?

Last month I posted a blog that spring-boarded off an article from this website I like to read, The main thesis of this article is that the government by its nature isn't "liberal" and it doesn't do what it is supposed to do.

Well, needless to say, LewRockwell is a libertarian website that would say that there are some functions that government assumes but these functions are better served by the market. Well, the reason why I write this post isn't at this moment to argue about what offers the best services: private entities or the government.

I wanted to somehow relate that article with the state of government -- well, mostly in the city, since city government is delivering most of the services we rely on. We could expand this topic to talk about county government or state government. But let's focus on city government for now.

It has often been said that the residents of the city of Chicago will tolerate a certain amount of corruption as long as city services are delivered and government is well run. Never mind what the U.S. attorneys or anyone else might discover as far as something illegal in city government.

But perhaps someone should ask the question: What does good government entail to those of you who live in the city? Or indeed I could ask about any aspect of government in Illinois. What is good government?

A better question: What do you expect from your government?


Illinois Tue Nov 18 2008

You down with ITP?

The '08 election taught us many things, not the least of which was the role of digital media and digital advocacy. Whether it was a text message announcement, unprecedented online fundraising and volunteer networking, the speed-to-market of a YouTube video, or this blog, we saw traditional tactics playing out on a whole new plane.

At a certain point, it's hard not to take these efficiencies, products, and services for granted. Like anything else, be it mobile access or internet taxes, technology is subject to public policy debate, and should be.

Lots of local groups count tech policy advocacy among their efforts, and one new nonprofit group has made it its core mission -- the Illinois Technology Partnership.

I'm very fortunate to serve as the organization's executive director, and wanted to take this opportunity to share some ITP opportunities with my bloggie friends.

You can find info on recent policy positions, events, news, and our partners on our Web site. As a quick reference, here is the basic gist of what we do:

ITP monitors and assesses legislation and shares that information with our members, policy makers, and the public. By working together, we can ensure that next-generation technology will thrive and Illinois tech consumers will have access to the cutting-edge products and services they demand.

It's free to join to receive tech updates and advocacy action alerts. And get this -- if you sign up this week, you're automatically entered to win an iPhone. Cool, huh?

MBcom HTML dedicated.jpg

And hey, if you're in Springfield this week for veto session, stop by our reception -- Tech & Tonic -- and hear more about what we do.

Aviva Gibbs

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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