Sunday week in review.

Veteran African American political reporter joined The Klonsky Brothers in studio this week.

This week’s drawings.

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This week’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers podcast.


This week’s blog posts.

JB and Joe Berrios. The hovel next door.

Keeping retirement weird. They don’t want to just end our defined benefit. They’re going after the defined contribution too. Shameless thieves.

Raimondo and Rahm make an offer to Amazon. It’s a secret.

Progressive Caucus demands Claypool testify before City Council after investigation finds special ed scandal.

Congratulations to the graduate student workers at the University of Chicago.

In CPS it is the squeaky wheel and the color of your skin when it comes to special education services. Rahm says “they get what they deserve.”

Democratic Party Chairman and tax man Joe Berrios is back to his old dirty tricks.

Sarah Karp’s report on Forrest Claypool’s secret study, special ed service cuts and outrageous consultant fees. $15 million for proof reading?

Palatine para-professionals aren’t worth an 11 cent raise but they are too essential to allow them to strike.

Illinois teacher retirees: What the hell is Walgreen’s up to?

The Chicago Trib’s scab columnist John Kass calls me a fanatic.


JB and Joe Berrios. The hovel next door.


By Bob Lyons. Bob is a retired teacher and former member of the board of trustees of the Illinois Teacher Retirement System.

I am going to guess that your first impression of this home is that you’re looking at a building of some quality, you may even recognize that it is in the Federalist Style, and, if you further learned that it is on Aster Street in the Chicago neighborhood of the Gold Coast, you’d be confident that your first impression was confirmed.  

You’d be wrong of course.  

Inside the toilets have been disconnected, the kitchen appliances have been rendered unusable, and the home has been designated as uninhabitable.  That is a real estate tax designation that in this case has reduced the real estates tax by 83% for the last five years resulting in a savings of $230,000 for the folks next door.


This is the home next door, and though this picture primarily features it’s impressive gate lock, the home itself is a showcase of the wealth of JB Pritzker and family.  

We did a tour of the Gold Coast this morning,  I actually found a parking space on State Parkway which somebody pulled out of just as I approached. I even managed to parallel park, a skill I had not used in years, though I finished about two feet from the curb, though in line with the wider limo in front of me.  

But back to the Pritzkers. Their home on Aster was purchased for $14.5 million in 2006, a three story home with more than 12,500 square feet, not counting the two story coach house in back.  They have since spent in a category fixing it up – $11 million to $25 million, which would not count the pumpkins and gourds which are clearly seasonally.  The hovel next door actually cost JB $3.7 million five years ago, but with a little work from some day laborers, both workmen and lawyers, for tax purpose the value was reduced to less than a million and even less when the tax burden was determined.  

The Cook County Tax Assessor, Mr Joseph Barrios, also the chair of the Democrat Party of Cook County, was unaware of the largesse gained from the system by Mr. Pritzker.  JB simply explained that he had done no more than anyone else would in the same circumstances.  

Given the approval ratings of Governor Rauner with his own party, let alone the people of the state of Illinois, the safe money bet would have JB Pritzker as the next governor of the state.  

Pritzker has actually done many good things with his wealth, but he is clearly not above using the system for his own gain.  

Keeping retirement weird. They don’t want to just end our defined benefit. They’re going after the defined contribution too. Shameless thieves.

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It doesn’t come as shocking news that the Republicans and Trump have plans to change the tax rules in order to benefit the wealthy.

It is ironic that those of us who fight for economic justice are attacked for advocating government enforced wealth redistribution.

The plan now being discussed in Congress does that in spades. Except the income redistribution plan is to take even more from the working class and give it to the rich and wealthy.

This is not a plan to cut taxes. It is a plan to raise taxes on those who are barely getting by as it is.

President Donald Trump and Republican leaders plan to release a tax framework this week that would dramatically cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, provide a measure of middle-class tax relief and punish some households in Democratic-leaning states like New York and New Jersey.

Let us now turn and see how the Republican plan impacts retirement savings and pensions.

With the elimination of most private employee pension plans, working families turned to personal savings plans offered at work, such as 401(k)s and, for those of us in the public sector, 403(b)s.

They call these savings plans “tax shelters.” But they don’t keep working people from paying taxes on their income. It just changes when that happens.

I didn’t pay taxes on money I sheltered at the time I earned it. I pay the taxes now as I draw down on my savings in retirement.

I also agreed to defer some of my salary into a public employee pension plan. Teachers in Illinois pay 9% of their salary pre-tax into the Teacher Retirement System instead of 6% into Social Security. As with a 401(k) the money is taxed by the federal government when I receive my monthly pension payment instead of when I earned it.

In Illinois Governor Rauner and some Democrats are trying to force us to hand over all our retirement savings into a 401(k). These are called defined contribution savings. My state pension is called a defined benefit plan because unlike playing the stock market, I can depend on exactly what my monthly pension will be.

Not so with a defined contribution plan. There is a major stock market crash every ten years or so. There is nothing dependable about the returns on a 401(k).

If you read this column regularly and for a while you know that we have been in a major fight to save our public employee pension in Illinois. Thanks to a decision by the Illinois Supreme Court, we current retirees and those currently in the system have won, at least for the time being.

Governor Rauner is still trying to shift public pensions to private investors.

And he wants Congress to usurp state law and overturn the pension protection clause of our state Constitution.

As a candidate and as governor, Rauner had proposed cutting pension costs by transitioning workers to less generous benefit packages or 401(k)-style retirement plans. But past attempts to cut retirement costs have run up against legal problems. The Illinois Constitution stipulates that benefits cannot be “diminished or impaired” once they are bestowed to workers, and the state Supreme Court has stood by those words.

The governor thinks Congress can release the state from that restriction by passing a law that would give states permission to come up with cost-saving changes to their pension programs. The option would be available to states only after they had established that spending money on workers’ retirement plans is hampering other essential services.

Plus, now the Republicans want to reduce the amount workers can save in their 401(k).

The proposals under discussion would potentially cap the annual amount workers can set aside to as low as $2,400 for 401(k) accounts, several lobbyists and consultants said on Friday. Workers may currently put up to $18,000 a year in 401(k) accounts without paying taxes upfront on that money; that figure rises to $24,000 for workers over 50. When workers retire and begin to draw income from those accounts, they pay taxes on the benefits.

These people not only want to do away with our defined benefit savings accounts, they want to do away with the defined contribution accounts as well.

Shameless thieves.

Join veteran reporter Charles Thomas in a lively discussion with Mike and Fred on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Here is the download for the podcast.

Raimondo and Rahm make an offer to Amazon. It’s a secret.


The pic above is of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.

I captured it while downing a pile of clam bellies at Finn’s seafood restaurant last summer on Block Island.

Block Island is off the coast of Rhode Island and our family goes there at the end of every summer. You can see parts of my family’s heads in the foreground because I was pretending to take a picture of them so I could take the one of of Governor Raimondo.

Raimondo is a Democrat and venture capitalist. The only reason I would recognize her at Finn’s is that she is a public pension thief and I cover that story.

You know who else is a public pension thief?

Chicago’s Democratic Party Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Rahm and Raimondo.

Know what else they have in common?

Both are trying to get Amazon to establish their “second headquarters” in their city and state.

Both have made offers to Amazon in exchange for the privilege of helping a giant corporation destroy what ever is left of small retail.

Neither will divulge what they are willing to give away.

Rhode Island will not release its pitch for Amazon’s second headquarters for competitive reasons, Gov. Gina Raimondo said on Friday.

The state was one of many communities that made bids to the e-commerce giant on Thursday for the $5 billion project. Some, including neighboring Massachusetts, released their bids to the public, but Raimondo said that Rhode Island would not do the same, WPRO News reported.

“We want to be in the best possible position to negotiate. We don’t want the whole world to know our strategy,” she said. “We have a strong pitch, and I don’t need the whole world to know every detail.”

Rahm said the same EXACT same thing yesterday.

Emanuel also made it clear that Chicago offered significant financial incentives to Amazon as part of the city’s bid to lure the company’s second headquarters and a promised 50,000 jobs here. But he wouldn’t disclose a number, contending that doing so might give other towns a chance to amend their bids.

Be clear that whatever Raimondo and Rahm are offering, we will be paying it.

Raimondo and Rahm aren’t trying to hide their offer from the competition.

They are hiding it from us.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers episode #37. Charles Thomas.

I didn’t know what to expect having former ABC political reporter Charles Thomas as a guest on our show.

But it was a great show.

Now that he is no longer working for main stream media, his attention has turned to re-building an independent forceful African American  media  in Chicago.

It made me think back to the crucial role that Black media and personalities like the great journalist Lu Palmer played in getting Harold Washington to run for Chicago Mayor and win.

We started out with a sports quiz, as we often do.

I was responding to watching the playoffs and noted that women sports reporters seem to be relegated to a spot on the field and never in the broadcast booth.

So before the show I checked it out and shared with listeners the results of my research.

Of 164 announcers in 30 teams’ booths, 148 (90.2 percent) are white men. Only nine are African-American men (5.5 percent), five are Latino men (3.0 percent), one is an Asian man (0.6 percent), and one is a white woman (0.6 percent).

Jessica Mendoza does the broadcast from the booth on ESPN.

There are only two broadcast teams with multiple persons of color: the Twins (Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins) and Angels (Victor Rojas and Jose Mota). 17 broadcast teams are comprised of only white people.

That was the thrust of my quiz question.

Charles shared that he had a hard time with the idea of women doing football broadcasts.

After respectful conversation, my brother suggested Charles was just going to have to get over his reservations.

The rest of the show was filled with stories of race, politics and the news media, the real sports of Chicago.

The podcast is here.


Progressive Caucus demands Claypool testify before City Council after investigation finds special ed scandal.


CHICAGO (October 19, 2017)–The City Council Progressive Reform Caucus on Thursday demanded Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool testify before the City Council Education Committee after a WBEZ investigative report found CPS leadership had implemented secret plans to reduce programs and support for special needs students.

“The report revealed what many CPS parents have long suspected–that likely in violation of state and federal law, CPS redirected funds intended for students with special needs, and significantly reduced the programs and specialized supportive services for special education,” said Progressive Caucus Chair Ald. Scott Waguespack (32). “These disturbing revelations deepen our already grave concerns about Mr. Claypool’s leadership.”

“Given that the last CPS CEO is sitting in federal prison right now, one would think Mr. Claypool would tread more lightly when it comes to misusing federal dollars on high paid ‘consultants’ instead of their intended purpose,” said Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), a former CPS counselor and leader in the Chicago Teachers Union. “This is nothing more than a kickback scheme. We demand answers.”

“Parents, teachers and principals have been protesting this pattern of willful neglect,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), who is also chair of the Black Caucus. “It is clear that this was a stealth scheme to slash the number of students classified as eligible for specialized services.”

The Progressive Caucus pointed to the scandal as further evidence of the need for an elected, representative school board in Chicago, instead of the current mayoral-appointed system.

“We have a moral and legal imperative to end the mistreatment and cheating of our special needs students,” said Ald. Ricardo Muñoz. “Forrest Claypool must come before the City Council and answer for these violations.”