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In Chicago the race is on. It’s easy as ABC.

November 24, 2014


Today is the last day to file petitions for February’s Chicago municipal elections.

A few weeks ago Ben Joravsky warned that getting on the ballot is not so easy in this one-party town that struggles with the idea of democracy.

Did I mention that the 12,500 signatures must be “valid”? Well, they must.

And there are many convoluted rules and regulations that eagle-eyed election lawyers can employ to invalidate signatures and knock unsuspecting challengers off the ballot.

It’s all part of their effort to defend our democracy by limiting it as much as possible.

For instance, if a voter signs a nominating petition, the signature needs to match the one on his or her voter registration card. If it doesn’t, that signature is scratched from the nominating petition.

Get rid of enough signatures and you can bounce the challenger right off of the ballot.

The rule of thumb is that to challenge the Machine a candidate must get three to four times the required number in order to survive the Machine’s eagle-eyed high-priced lawyers.

Yesterday Chuy Garcia announced he would be submitting 60,000 signatures later today.

Alderman Bob Fioretti will submit a similar number of signatures this morning.

And progressive Amara Eniya says she has enough signatures to survive a challenge.

Some express concern that three progressives in the race helps Rahm.

Not me.

It’s the triangle offense. Every poll suggests that this line-up will prevent Rahm from getting his 50% + 1 in the primary.

Amara. Bob. Chuy.

It’s easy as A-B-C.

The interesting news this weekend is that in order for Rahm to get enough signatures he needed the quiet help of Michael Madigan’s precinct organization. It is one of the last few functioning Machine precinct operations that exist in the city.

Emanuel’s petitions, submitted to elections officials on Monday, show 66 of the 374 signature gatherers for the mayor’s re-election bid also circulated petitions in the past five years for Madigan or candidates he backed, including his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan; state Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison; and David Ellis, Madigan’s longtime top House lawyer, elected this month to the Illinois Appellate Court.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that Democratic committeemen are supporting our efforts,” Emanuel campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry said Thursday. “The mayor has had a very constructive working relationship with both Speaker Madigan and [13th Ward] Alderman [Marty] Quinn, and we were happy to have members of their organization gathering signatures for the mayor.”

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown declined to comment.

Having Madigan as a silent partner is both a strength and a weakness.

It may get you some votes. But it is like paying protection to the mob. Madigan will exact a price.

Plus local organizations helping collect signatures is one thing. Helping you get your vote on election day when local incumbent aldermen are fighting for their own survival is another.

Meanwhile petitions calling for a referendum on an elected school board with 50,000 signatures will also be submitted today.

Chicago is the only school district in Illinois that has mayoral control of the schools.

In February we get to vote against Rahm twice.

The Better Government Association continues to spread the lie about public employee pensions.

November 23, 2014


The Chicago Sun-Times and the corporate-funded so-called Better Government Association continues to perpetuate the lie about the Illinois pension underfunding.

The irony is that they use out-going Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to promote their lies.

In a story penned but unsigned by the BGA in the Sun-Times:

If he lives another 20 years, an average life expectancy for a man his age, he would (absent pension reform) collect a total of more than $3.6 million.

Quinn’s yearly pension in 2035 could reach an estimated $238,476, thanks to generous cost-of-living raises that compound at an annual rate of 3 percent. (Again, this is assuming there’s no pension reform.)

It is ironic because Quinn, declaring he was put on this earth to cut public employee pensions will do quite well on his.

More than enough to hire somebody to mow his lawn.

But this phony populist has a pension most teachers can only dream of receiving.

While Quinn is eligible to receive $136,000 starting in January, the average retired teacher pension this year in Illinois is $47,000.

But facts have little to do with the BGA. Their consistent stories of supposedly excessive pensions are like Ronald Reagan’s Cadillac-driving Welfare Queens.

It is based on a false premise:

Such cost-of-living increases are helping fuel the financial problems with the state’s five employee-pension funds, which collectively carry unfunded liabilities of more than $100 billion. In layman’s terms, that means the systems aren’t even close to having enough money to pay future pension obligations.

In no way do pension payouts, whether they are Pat Quinn’s six figures or a retired 85-year old teacher in Minooka living on $40,000 a year have anything to do with the $100 billion dollar unfunded liability.

The unfunded liability is called “unfunded” because the state failed to pay what they owed.

And didn’t pay it for decades and decades.

The Sun-Times and the BGA copy the NY Times. They blame the unfunded liability on mismanagement.

Listen folks. It’s not the benefits. It’s not mismanagement.

Ask an Illinois legislator. When asked by a teacher in Aurora why they stole our pensions, Democratic Party State Rep Elaine Nekritz responded, “We didn’t steal it. We never paid it in the first place.”



Who said it? Ted Cruz or Rahm Emanuel.

November 23, 2014

Cruz or Rahm

Today I play the ethicist.

November 23, 2014


Anne and I play a game over Sunday coffee and eggs.

By the way, as part of my retirement life-style change I gave up Sunday bagels, cream cheese and smoked fish in exchange for two poached eggs with apple and maple chicken sausages over Kashi multi-grain waffles with a ton of Cholula hot sauce on top.

I have never looked back.

Back to our Sunday game.

I always interrupt Anne’s reading of the NY Times Travel section with questions from the Social Qs column in the Style section. These are mainly questions about how to respond to other people’s behaviors that annoy you.

I find that I am a much more understanding and patient person in theory than I am in practice. But the game is fun.

The Sunday Times Magazine also has an advice column. This one by Chuck Klosterman called The Ethicist.

The questions in The Ethicist claim to be more about moral dilemmas than social behavior.

Today there was a question from a guy who buys an extra ticket to the movies so he is guaranteed an empty seat next to him. His wife thinks he is nuts. He agrees, but he asks if it is unethical.

Twelve bucks to buy an extra seat. That is nuts. I solve this problem by getting an aisle seat. No extra charge.

But Klosterman feels it is unethical.

Consider the most extreme example of your policy: Let’s say I prefer to watch movies in a totally empty theater, where I am the only audience member. I also hate worrying about specific showtimes, and sometimes I don’t know what movie I want to see until I arrive at the multiplex. I also happen to be an eccentric billionaire. What if I decided to just buy every ticket to every showing of every movie in my entire community, thereby providing myself the opportunity to see whatever I wanted whenever I felt like it, without dealing with other moviegoers? Clearly, this would make me a jerk. Without committing theft, I’d still be damaging public good. And this, ultimately, is the crux of the question — if you are going to participate in a collective, public experience, you need to consider the lives and opportunities of other people. If you don’t want to do that, you should probably stay home.

My problem with Klosterman’s answer is that this isn’t the most extreme example.

The most extreme example happens every day.

Billionaires do this all the time – with no consideration for the lives and opportunities of other people.

They destroy our environment.

Exploit our labor.

Steal other countries resources.

Spend tens of millions to put their Rahms and Rauners in charge of things.

They do try to buy every seat in the house.

And every once in a while I get to have the aisle seat.

You bet it is unethical.

Sunday reads.

November 23, 2014


18th Street and Blue Island. Pilsen. Chicago. November 20, 2014. Photo: Fred Klonsky

“She’s destroyed the integrity of the whole evaluation system,” an insider told The Post of Charlette Pope.  A very low bar, in my opinion.

After Ferguson: The real Core Curriculum. “Their sphere of obligation,” explained digital-art teacher Leigh Klonsky, “is wider than themselves.”

AFSCME retiree wins city council seat.

Helen Kinney and Henry Green. Shouldn’t the IEA and the IFT establish a scholarship in their honor?

“Clearly, Pat Quinn had some problems with organized labor. In the primary here in southern Illinois, Tio Hardiman won some counties over Pat Quinn. What was that all about?”

Students should be skeptical of Teach for America.

It is a matter of moral and legal concern for every citizen of Illinois to pay attention to any violations of rights and benefits of the state’s 693,000 public employees. It should be of vital concern for all citizens that the government of Illinois would want to prove its contracts are worthless, especially when the “most basic purposes of the impairment [of the contract] clause [Article XIII, Section 5] as well as notions of fairness that transcend the clause itself, point to a simple constitutional principle: government must keep its word” (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law).

Illinois legislators are not dealing with a threat to the “public’s safety, health, and morals as well as peace, well-being and order of the state”; nor are they dealing with an economic emergency of such magnitude that they are compelled to invoke powers to protect the state’s citizens and, thus, serve a “reasonable public purpose or need.” This is a dishonest assault on the public servants and retirees who have devoted their lives for the service of others. Glen Brown


November 22, 2014


Keeping retirement weird. A fool’s errand.

November 22, 2014

wise fools

Sangamon County Judge John Belz wrote of Lisa Madigan’s defense of pension theft:

The Pension Protection Clause contains no exception, restriction or limitation for an exercise of the State’s police powers or reserved sovereign powers. Illinois courts, therefore, have rejected the argument that the State retains an implied or reserved power to diminish or impair pension benefits.

Because the Act diminishes and impairs pension benefits and there is no legally cognizable affirmative defense, the Court must conclude that the Act violates the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution. The Court holds that Public Act 98-0599 is unconstitutional.

The defendants have attempted to create a factual record to the effect that, if a reserved sovereign power to diminish or impair pensions existed, the facts would justify an exercise of that power. The defendants can cite to no Illinois case that would allow this affirmative defense.

Because the Court finds that no such power exists, it need not and does not reach the issue of whether the facts would justify the exercise of such a power if it existed, and the Court will not require the plaintiffs to respond to the defendants’ evidentiary submissions. The plaintiffs having obtained complete relief, the Court also need not address at this time the plaintiffs’ additional claims that the Act is unconstitutional or illegal on other grounds.

In summary, the State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits. Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the State of Illinois cannot break this promise.

Remember when some of us (John Dillon, Glen Brown and Ken Previti among others) spoke out against SB 2404, a bill that the leaders of the We Are One Illinois coalition of state public employee unions came up with in talks with Senate leader John Cullerton? We said it would also result in an unconstitutional diminishment and impairment of our pension rights.

Some former and the current leadership disagreed.

They argued that it was too risky to depend on the courts.

They argued that it would be better to cut our losses and deal with the likes of Madigan and Cullerton.

Maybe they were right and perhaps we were lucky we got Judge Belz.

People tell me that the Supreme Court may not be as friendly and true to the language of the constitution.

They point to the U.S. Supreme Court which has been hijacked by right-wing ideologues.

And I don’t entirely disagree that the courts AND the political bodies are no reliable friends of the the working people of Illinois.

Far from it.

Appealing to any of them and to their sense of fairness, justice and equality often appears to be a fool’s errand.

Judge Belz seems like an honest man who looked at case-law and concluded that the state had no legal legs to stand on.

It appears now that the state’s top court will rule the same way.

However, nearly everyone who follows the fight for pension rights says the same thing.

No matter what the courts finally decide about Senate Bill 1, the political leadership of this state will come back at us again.

And again.

To fend off these attacks we need our leaders to not just look for the least risky line of defense.

We in Illinois have political leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, who see their role as that of soley protecting the interests of corporations and allowing the public assets to dwindle and be sold off to the highest bidder.

Meanwhile our state goes deeper into debt.

The political leaders refuse to raise taxes on their wealthy patrons.

Our pension liability now stands at over $111 billion.

Corruption involving our City and state pension funds runs amok, with Mayor Emanuel and Governor-elect Rauner receiving campaign kick-backs from pension fund managers.

This is a time that screams for union leadership that has fire in its belly, can draw a firm line in the sand that cannot be crossed and is willing to back it up.

The political leadership has no respect for the rule of law when it comes to the majority of its citizens.

Next time we may not get a Judge Belz.


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