What will happen when Rauner appoints his people to the TRS board? What do you think?

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TRS board member Bob Lyons. Photo: Fred Klonsky

My friend Bob Lyons is one of two elected members of the Teacher Retirement System board of trustees representing retired annuitants.

Active teachers also elect representatives that sit on the board.

Bob takes his job very seriously. One of the things he is very good at is reporting to the retirees who elected him what is going on.

In a recent letter I am publishing below he makes note of the fact that Governor Rauner has not carried out his authority to fill all seats of the appointed members.

Why is this important for us to know?

Because when Rauner gets around to it he will have a majority of folks on the board of trustees of our retirement system.

Will they have his agenda?

What do you think?

In 2009 in the aftermath of both an Illinois Governor being impeached and forced from office and a former TRS appointed trustee indicted for “pay to play” corruption, the new Governor, Pat Quinn, appointed new public trustees to the TRS Board. Two of the best trustees were Sonia Walwyn, a lawyer, and Mike Busby, a retired business consultant with years of experience in the pension business. Both Walwyn and Busby made a significant contribution to the pension board and were reappointed by Governor Quinn in 2012. In 2014 Trustee Busby was picked by the TRS Board to be the chair of the investment committee. You should know there is no salary for serving on the TRS Board. The active and retired teachers on the board have an obvious self-interest for being there, but for the appointed members of the board it is public service in the finest sense of the term. Walwyn’s and Busby’s current terms on the board were up as of Friday, July 15. I know that I and others contacted the office of Governor Rauner to ask that they both be reappointed for another four-year term. TRS Director Richard Ingram repeatedly tried to convey the message that continuity of service is important on a pension board and that Busby and Walwyn deserved to continue to serve. Unfortunately neither was reappointed. Governor Rauner in his first year and a half has replaced two Quinn appointees and filled one of the two empty seats on the board. Now there are three empty seats. Rauner’s office has said they hope to fill those seats by our August board meeting.

You should recall that a 13-member Board of Trustees governs TRS. Trustees include the State Superintendent of Education, who serves as president, six trustees appointed by the governor, four trustees elected by contributing active members, and two trustees elected by annuitants. The current State Superintendent Tony Smith became a member of the board in May of 2015. Cinda Klickna of Springfield, an elected member of the board since February 2003, serves as vice-president of the TRS Board and has the most years of service on the board. The other elected members are Mark Bailey of Palos Park (July 2013); Andrew Hirshman of Oak Park (July 2015); Rainy Kaplan of Schaumburg (July 2013); myself from Hoffman Estates (July 2005); Dan Winter of Decatur, the second annuitant (July 2015). The three appointed members of the board are Sandy Stuart of Lake Forest, appointed by Rauner in June 2015; Ann Deters of Effingham and Randy Winter of Highland Park(both in February 2016). To repeat, our thirteen-member board by law is supposed to have a majority of appointed members, but with three appointed seats currently empty, that leaves the six elected members in the majority. I can tell you that at least since 2005 the board has been unified in trying to work together for the benefit of the active and retired annuitants and for the people of Illinois. That a member of the board was elected or appointed has made no difference in the cooperative effort to achieve the goals and objectives of the board. The three members of the board so far appointed by Governor Rauner all have a background in business and finance and have shown an excellent attitude in the assumption of their responsibilities. I can only hope that that continues and Governor Rauner fulfills his responsibility in completing our board.

Bob Lyons

Keeping retirement weird. Visualizing.

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I have been working out ever since I retired from teaching.

After 30 years I was way over weight. My back hurt. I had to grab the cuff of my pants to pull my foot up to tie my shoe laces.

It was my fault.

Sure. Teaching is hard work. By my final year I would fall asleep by  8:30.

You laugh? Spend a day on your feet with five classes of kids from five to 12 years old.

It didn’t help that I had too many meetings after work. Dinner meetings, where pizza was the only thing on the menu.

So, that first summer I started walking.

When winter rolled around, I joined a gym. I got a trainer.

I dropped a couple dozen pounds. My trainer had me working on weights. I got stronger. I’m more flexible.

We worked on balance. That is really important for somebody my age. Falling can be fatal.

These days I can lift my foot to tie my shoe lace without grabbing the cuff of my pants.

I have no trouble bending down to pick up  Ulysses’ dog poop with a bag.

These are important measures of success for me.

I’m hoping this helps to extend my stay on this planet. But the immediate benefits are palpable and gratifying. It is four years and I now look forward to going to the gym.

About four months ago we started incorporating some boxing training into my routine.I bought a pair of boxing gloves. I’m punching a bag.

I kick it too.

And I visualize. I put faces on the bag. One day it might be Rahm. Another day it is Trump.

Boom!

This week it was Rauner.

Boom!

The Governor just vetoed a bill that would have allowed seniors to stay in their homes longer instead of being in an institution.

I know. The Governor also signed a bill that essentially decriminalized marijuana. That’s good. Sending anyone to jail for possession of marijuana is insane.

And it is not as if marijuana is not a senior issue. I know plenty of folks my age who smoke a joint or two. Or three. But the truth is that old white people don’t go to jail for smoking dope. That punishment is reserved for young folks of color. That is one of the reasons decriminalizing possession of ten grams or less is good. Full legalization would be better.

Back to home care.

Rauner vetoed House Bill 4351, which prevented the state from raising the score used to determine when someone qualified to receive services to remain in their homes.  The bill was passed after the administration tried to significantly increase the score — from 29 to 37 — used to determine when someone qualified for state services. Some organizations said the increase would have ended services for 34,000 people.

“You’ve got some extra pop in your punches today,” my trainer Doug said to me.

It’s all about visualizing.

AARP’s membership in ALEC is no joke.

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Me and my bro protesting ALEC in Chicago.

When I turned fifty – that was eighteen  years ago – I remember getting my unsolicited AARP membership card in the mail. I recall thinking it was funny. A rite of passage. Me? AARP?

Reading that AARP is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is not a joke.

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It is true that aside from a brief two years when we bought AARP’s auto road side assistance plan, we have never viewed the organization as much more than an insurance vendor.

Yet they claim to represent 37 million seniors as members.

Can you represent the interests of seniors and be a member of a leading pro-corporate lobbying organization as the same time.

If you are a member of AARP, you may want to let them know that they can’t represent you and ALEC at the same time.

 

On Illinois pension reform, there’s nothing to negotiate.

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My good friend and teaching colleague Jerry writes me.

I was contacted today by a Virgina survey company on behalf of the IEA leadership and asked to answer questions about my level of support of the Cullerton proposal. Once again, IEA leadership places meaningless, deceptive survey results over any sensible degree of moral objectivity and leadership. How many times to I have to tell these mother fuckers that I want them to fight for my pension? Apparently, any number of real membership voices is not clear enough to them on the issue. The questions asked to me were regulated in such a way that merely acting on the results would give little indication or confirmation of members’ completed beliefs about the question. Cinda and crew apparently know what they want to do about the pension issue and need data to show members when we start to go ballistic on them again. Needless to say I answered “very poor” on the question of my level of support of the IEA fighting for my pension.

Why is the IEA surveying members about pensions now?

Because part of the temporary budget deal reached between Bruce Rauner and the Democrats was a promise to go after public employee pensions again.

The thing that is different from the last time is that the Illinois Supreme Court has reaffirmed the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

Promised retirement benefits cannot be diminished or impaired. The protection – and this is important – covers every public employee from the day they we were hired until the day we die.

True. Future employees can be forced to accept something different. But what Rauner, Cullerton and Rahm cannot do is agree to something that says from now on current employees will get less than they were promised.

It is the liability – the debt – owed to the pension systems of current employees and retirees that is the source of the current problem. The liability was incurred because of the failure of the city and the state to pay what they owed over years. In the case of the state of Illinois, it has been a failure to pay over decades.

This is the substance of the debate between Cullerton’s attorney Eric Madiar and Gino DiVito and his associate John Fitzgerald.

Briefly, Democratic Senate President – with advice from Madiar – believes that current employees can be forced to choose between a reduction in pensionable salary or future pension increases.

DiVito, Fitzgerald and I believe that this is a choice between two diminishments and would be unconstitutional based on the Illinois Supreme Court’s May, 2015 ruling.

Given that, what reform can Cullerton and Rauner come up with?

Nothing.

What is there for the IEA to hire a polling firm to find out?

Nothing.

It is sad that this farce continues.

Random thoughts. Rahm’s toast.

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I watched the DNC raw feed last night. I wasn’t interested in any talking heads explaining to me what I was seeing or what I heard.

I am not going to review the speeches. Content aside, speaking ability aside – I must say I don’t understand what Tim Kaine brings to this campaign other than a video of constantly changing bad haircuts – the Democrats seemed to understand that they should stop talking about Russian emails and get back to their game plan.

My favorite moments were when delegates chanted No More War to Leon Panetta – which apparently displeased Rachel Maddow, I am told – and the video intro to President Obama.

Go to 2:30 of the video.

It shows Rahm Emanuel and quotes him as advising President Obama not to pursue the Affordable Care Act.

You want evidence that Rahm Emanuel is toast?

The Obama people chose to screw Emanuel by name in the video.

I know there is no love lost between the Obama people and Rahm.

There are plenty of reports that Michelle can’t stand him.

But in the prime time intro to the President’s endorsement speech of Hillary Clinton, Rahm – who had no other presence at the Convention – was called out by name for being a cowardly dick with no political principles. It’s not like there aren’t others they could have named. They chose to name him.

Don’t let the door hit you, Mr. Mayor.

You watched Bill Clinton so I didn’t have to. I went to hear Juanita Irizarry and Jessica Disu.

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Don’t mess with Juanita Irizarry.

It was another The Girl Talk at The Hideout, a north side bar and crazy political salon. It is where the notable Chicago journalists Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke hold their First Tuesdays.

The Girl Talk is hosted by Jen Sabella, an editor at DNAinfo, and Erika Wozniak, an award winning CPS teacher and union activist.

It is interesting women on stage, talking. Guys are welcome to come and listen.

What a concept.

The guests last night were Juanita Irizarry, Executive Director of Friends of the Parks and Jessica Disu, also known as FM Supreme, a Chicago poet, artist and activist.

This was a great show, great talk and a great mix.

It was Juanita, who is fighting the rich and the powerful to preserve what we have while Jessica takes on the same forces to get us to rethink what is possible.

Jessica thinks we need to reconceptualize the police. She wants to do away with policing as we know it. She says we spend $4 million a day in Chicago on policing. She asks how is that working for us, especially for Black and Brown people.

Juanita Irizarry became Executive Director of Friends of the Parks after the Lucas Museum law suit was in progress. The suit successfully led to stopping the Lucas Museum from putting its ugly collection of Norman Rockwell paintings and Star Wars memorabilia on our Lakefront.

Lucas refused to even consider putting his thing across Lakeshore Drive where it wouldn’t impact our public space.

Once the Latina from Humboldt Park and Logan Square took the job as Executive Director she became the face of protecting the City’s lakefront legacy from the arrogant and powerful.

She also became the target of hateful attacks. Father Michael Pfleger compared her to a gangbanger.

There must be something in the water of our city that produces tough women like Juanita and CTU President Karen Lewis, women who are willing to take on the Mayor, his minions and their rich and powerful backers.

Irizarry’s background is in urban planning. A few years ago she ran for 26th Ward Alderman against Roberto Maldonado and lost.

The 26th Ward’s northern boundary is two blocks south of my house. It is part of a crazy quilt ward map that divides our neighborhood into at least four different wards. The chopping up of our community was aimed at reducing the influence of progressives on the northwest side. Instead the number of elected progressives has increased.

Juanita won’t say if she will run for alderman again.

I’ll let you know when we have the fund raiser.