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October 17, 2014


Chicago’s mob families.

October 17, 2014


If you want to understand the way Chicago works, watch again The Godfather.

The Democratic Party Machine is not a single group. It is made up of families.

You got your Mells. Your O’Connors. Your Burkes.

Sometimes their interests converge. Sometimes they draw knives.

It is one of the reasons that even with Mrs. Lewis out of the race, Rahm’s election is not assured.

A mob family war can break out at any moment.

Today the Better Government Association exposes how boss Fast Eddie Burke’s clout got a contract with CPS for a company already banned by the city for corruption.

But Rahm runs CPS.  We know that because with no elected school board we have a system of mayoral control. 

That means, ahem, the Mayor controls it.

An Emanuel spokeswoman said the mayor hadn’t been aware Windy City Electric was still working for the schools. “The mayor has asked CPS to look into this matter immediately,” she said.

CPS has paid Windy City Electric more than $3.1 million since August 2012, when City Hall’s ban took effect, records show. The company repairs and installs security cameras, light fixtures and other electrical equipment for CPS.


March 26, 2012: The Watchdogs: Inspector general wants McMahon business banned from city work

Aug. 27, 2012: Emanuel bans Windy City Electric from doing city business

When they banned Windy City Electric from getting city contracts in 2012, city officials said the business was controlled by Anthony P. McMahon, a top precinct captain for Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and McMahon’s brother John K. McMahon, a former city electrician, and not by their wives, as the company claimed.

Anthony McMahon’s wife Kathleen McMahon and John McMahon’s wife Nancy McMahon incorporated Windy City Electric in 1989. Soon after, the city certified the Chicago company as a woman-owned business. In 2005, the company withdrew that certification amid questions from then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration about whether Windy City Electric was owned and run by women. But the company was allowed to keep doing work for the city.

City of Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson reinvestigated the company in 2009, concluding the two sisters-in-law didn’t own Windy City Electric and submitted false documents to the city in 2004.
Windy City Electric representatives didn’t return messages seeking comment.

The city ban came after the Chicago Sun-Times and Better Government Association reported the city could have banned Windy City Electric in 2005 but didn’t and had paid the company $30.6 million since then. The Sun-Times/BGA investigation also found that the extended McMahon family had a longtime hold on contracts to provide milk to city schools that saw CPS paying more for milk than many suburban schools did. CPS renegotiated that contract following those reports.

I just need to mention here that Fast Eddie’s wife Anne Burke sits on the Illinois Supreme Court and was the one vote against the pension protection clause in the Kanerva decision.

Rahm is shrugging and says he didn’t know about Windy City Electric.

Of course he did.

Just like mob families.

Kathy Schwarz: “Stop hiding behind your $275-an-hour Downtown Chicago lawyer.”

October 17, 2014


Waukegan teachers have been out on strike for two weeks. That’s a long time.

Today at noon I will be in Waukegan joining striking teachers walking the picket lines along with other members of our Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (S.O.R.E), a chapter of IEA Retired.

Come join us.

The following is from Kathy Schwarz, President of the Waukegan Teachers Council, a affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers.

We’ve asked the Board and District to negotiate at the table, and not in the media. However, they continued to discuss proposals in public that show only a snapshot of the process.

To be honest, the process isn’t exactly something that captures headlines, which is why they’ve taken to soundbites that don’t tell the whole story. It’s misleading and unethical and we expect more from our elected leaders.

We did not walk away from the table as the District’s lawyer characterized. We are giving them time to reflect and to look at their own numbers and come back with a serious offer. Until last night, the two sides exchanged proposals in rapid succession.

Each proposal from the Board showed miniscule movement.

Since Board members have yet to attend a session, the District representatives needed to bring each proposal back to the Board for approval before they could go forward. This is a cumbersome process. We’re allowing them time to regroup with the Board. The unserious offers they’ve given us would not win a vote with our membership, who have the right to reject a tentative agreement, sending us back to square one.

Let’s put this into perspective.

The last proposal from the Board showed movement of .1% — which would cover about a few cups of coffee a week for many of our members.

But let’s be clear – this is not about the money. There’s a $37 million surplus. This is about breaking the will of the teachers and teaching us a lesson in a way that we would never do to our students.

The Board cannot honestly think that our members are continuing this strike over a .1%. The Board canceled health insurance for our teachers – many of whom are battling catastrophic illnesses — why would they endure having no health insurance in hopes of a few more cups a coffee a week? We have members on chemotherapy who will be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars without insurance.

It was abundantly clear at the Board meeting Tuesday night that the teachers are united and the community has our backs.

It was also clear that the community is outraged at the Board of Education.

Many of the Board members – including Board President Anita Hannah — will be up for election in three years. It cannot be a coincidence that the Board — through district representatives — is pushing for a two-year contract.

We conducted a listening tour this morning of picket lines to talk to our members and the communities who stand in solidarity with us. There was much talk about running school Board candidates in the upcoming elections against incumbents on the Board.

If this were to happen, we could be negotiating our next contract with Board members who truly represent the voices of Waukegan and maybe even be present at the negotiations table.

We demand the Board to come back to us with a serious proposal. We want them to stop hiding behind their $275-an-hour Downtown Chicago lawyer, roll up their sleeves and hammer out a deal that will bring our kids back into the classroom.

A long-term plan for improving Waukegan’s economy includes a solid investment in its schools. To continue to pay teachers far less than neighboring districts forces experienced teachers to flee to other districts. As teachers retire, the best and brightest teachers of the next generation will not consider teaching in Waukegan.

We’ll be here when the District’s lawyer returns to his office in Downtown Chicago.

We’ll be here when members of the Board of Education have been unseated and replaced.

We, the teachers, have a vested interest in this community. That interest lies in our classrooms. That’s why our teachers collected more than 1100 pounds of food to for the local food pantry.

We want to see the children of Waukegan prosper. As I stated earlier, this is not and has NEVER been about the money. It’s about respect. Respect for educators and the community we serve.

Don’t you wish our schools owned a TV station?

October 16, 2014


The latest on Illinois’ Senate Bill 16. It’s a bill that will slice a very tiny cupcake of state school funding into different sizes.

October 16, 2014


Jim Broadway does a pretty good job of explaining the problems with Senate Bill 16.

SB 16 is Democratic State Senator Andy Manar’s proposal that passed the Senate in the last session. The idea behind Manar’s bill is to accept the reality that Illinois is at the bottom of all fifty states in school funding. Manar wants us to deal with it by shifting money from what are called property rich districts to poor ones.

The fundamental problem with Illinois’ school funding scheme is that it depends too heavily on local property taxes. That has meant that the available resources for our students depends on our zip code, punishing those students who are poor and who are of color.

Without significant increases in state funding Manar’s bill is a game of cutting the cupcake into new and different size slices. What is needed is a big layer cake.

In addition, the bill that passed the Illinois Senate would cap Special Education funding regardless of the number of Special Needs and Special Education students the each school district has enrolled.

Special education activist and advocate Bev Johns has written extensively on this blog.

From Jim Broadway:

“It is unprecedented for the Illinois Special Education Coalition to oppose the special education provisions of an education funding bill,” ISELA chair Bev Johns said, “but Illinois cannot fund the shift of money from richer districts to poorer districts by taking away dedicated special education funds.”

The board of the Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois, of which Johns is also president, voted in September to oppose SB 16 on similar grounds, as did the Executive Board of the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children.

When members of the Skokie Organization of Retired Educators attended a meeting in Skokie District 65 we heard from the District 65 superintendent. If SB16 passed the House in its present form the district will lose over a million dollars in state funding.

40% of the students are low-income and 5% are homeless in Skokie District 65.

I question whether Manar’s bill is properly labeled as an equity shift. It not only sets up districts in terms of winners and losers as Broadway puts it.

It appears that it turns funding losers into further losers.

I have heard talk that House members met on SB 16.  However Jim Broadway suggests nothing will happen until the next General Assembly session in January.

The IEA, which according to Director of Government Relations Jim Reed supported the bill when Manar first introduced it, now wants to wait and see what emerges in the House.

Remember when Ty Fahner met with the bond rating agencies to screw state pensions? It turns out the bond manipulations are a common practice.

October 16, 2014


Back in August of 2013 we got hold of a video (thanks to our pal Tim Furman) that showed the Civic Committee’s Ty Fahner admitting that he met with the bond rating agencies in order to get them to manipulate pension data.

His purpose was to force the legislature to act to cut public employee pensions.

And that’s just what they did.

David Sirota writing in the International Business Times says that this is a common practice of bond rating companies like Moody’s.

Public officials say that one of the nation’s most influential credit rating agencies is to blame for creating the perception that there are widespread public pension shortfalls. In a letter late last week, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators accused Moody’s of “mischaracterization and misuse” of “manipulated pension numbers” when the agency declared that public pension shortfalls tripled to roughly $2 trillion between 2004 and 2012.

Moody’s data is particularly influential — it can potentially affect state and local governments’ credit ratings, which in turn can move the interest rate at which those governments can borrow money. The credit rating agency’s declarations can shape budget decisions in states that are debating the long-term affordability of their public pension systems.

The firm’s recent projection about pension shortfalls came a little more than a year after the agency changed the way it calculates pension assets and liabilities. That change, which has been criticized by some economists, involved using a lower projected interest rate to evaluate liabilities, and reducing the projected long-term growth of current assets in pension portfolios.

In the announcement of its methodology change in 2013, Moody’s declared “that for the majority of U.S. governments, their pension obligations remain manageable in the context of their revenues and resources.” Yet the new projections generated a spate of recent headlines suggesting the pension shortfalls were an emergency.

In its letter slamming the new projections, NSARA says that Moody’s revised methodology “results in a picture of the state of public pensions that is unrealistic, misleading and confusing.”

Read the entire article here.

Waukegan. “There would be no point in caving into demands that our members on the line wouldn’t accept.”

October 16, 2014


Waukegan teachers and supporters line the town’s streets.

The Waukegan Teachers Council, the Illinois Federation of Teachers affiliate, issued the following last night.

After several marathon sessions of negotiations and a Board of Education meeting that drew hundreds of parents, students, and teachers in support of a fair contract in District 60, contract talks broke down five hours into a negotiations session Wednesday night. The District’s latest offer was too far off from a compromise that teachers would be willing to take. For any proposal to be ratified, Union members must vote on a full tentative agreement between the Board and the Union.

Not one member of the Board of Education has attended a negotiations session, which has slowed down the process because the District has to wait for approval from the Board on all proposals.

“There would be no point into caving into demands that our members on the line wouldn’t accept,” said Waukegan Teachers’ Council President Kathy Schwarz. “All that would do is delay the process even further because if it were voted down, we would be back at square one with the District. The Board must know this. We need the Board to come back to the table with a substantive proposal that recognizes the dedication and service of our teachers. The public showed that they understand this, we need to Board to listen to the voices of the community it serves.”

This failed bargaining followed a huge board meeting the night before at the high school auditorium where parents, students and community members made it clear where they stood.

They want the board to bargain in good faith.

If the strike continues until tomorrow, members of our Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (IEA-R) will join the picket line at noon

Meet at Waukegan High School, 1011 Washington Street Waukegan Illinois 60085

Take 41 North to the Washington Exit. Go straight on Wahington to the Washington WHS Campus. We will be in front. Plenty of on-street parking.


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