My lunch with Illinois Representative Elaine Nekritz didn’t go well.
Democratic state House Representative Elaine Nekritz.
The afternoon CTU rally yesterday was scheduled downtown at the Hyatt Regency at 3:00.
So I had a tight schedule. I wanted to attend at least part of the North Lake Shore Illinois Retired Teacher Association luncheon scheduled for noon at the Elks Club in Des Plaines.
All the local north suburban candidates for the November elections had been invited.
When I arrived I discovered that I had been seated between Democratic House Representative Elaine Nekritz and Republican Representative Rosemary Mulligan.
Had I been set up?
Rosemary and I have had a strained relationship for years. But she usually shows up late to these things and if she ever did show up yesterday, it was after I left for downtown.
I’ve never met Nekritz before.
I promised myself to behave. Even though she has been horrible on the pension issue, I promised myself to be cordial and polite.
We engaged in some small talk. Exercise regimens. Diet and weight control.
“Why are the teachers in Lake Forest on strike?” she asked.
“Because of you,” I said.
Ouch. That wasn’t good.
“What do you mean?”
I explained that her proposal for a pension obligation cost shift to local districts had created a situation where school boards were resisting increasing compensation to teachers in current negotiations. In Lake Forest they want to create a two-tier salary schedule, with lower pay for new teachers.
“You did that with your cost shift proposal.”
Then the conversation shifted to the Chicago teacher strike.
“You did that when you voted for Senate Bill 7,” I said.
What happened to the promise I made? That wasn’t very polite.
“But your unions supported that,” she said.
“Yes, I know.” And then I went to explain how the restrictions on collective bargaining would intensify tensions between school boards and teacher unions. This would inevitably lead to more strikes.
“Hmmm,” said Nekritz.
Time was running short. I had to leave soon to get to the CTU rally.
“And then your support for the COLA – TRIP choice.”
By this time she was probably wishing I was on my way.
“You tell me how I’m going to get enough votes for a graduated tax system,” she said.
“You tell me how you’re going to get enough votes for your plans to cut benefits. You’ve been at it for four years and you haven’t been able to do it. If you had spent that time on changing the revenue system, who knows?”
She smiled at me like I was ten.
“But let me tell you this,” I said. “You have ruptured the traditional alliance between the Democratic Party in this state and the public sector unions. You did it at your peril. There will be a cost for what you are doing. You’re making that retired teacher…” And I pointed to a lady across the table. “You’re making her choose between her COLA and health care, and that won’t even solve your funding problem.”
No eye contact.
“I don’t know how you sleep at night.”
I probably shouldn’t have said that.