Interrogating Senator Biss and Representative Gabel on pensions.
The room at the Wilmette Community Center had 200 chairs. Not enough. They had to open up another room and split up the presenters.
There were 250 copies of their handouts. They ran out soon enough.
The grass roots movement of active and retired public teachers in defense of their pensions struck again last night.
Senator Dan Biss and Representative Robyn Gabel, who are among the state representatives behind the pension bomb, were clearly not expecting the turnout. Nor were they expecting the level of anger and the articulate presentation of the facts from those who filled the two rooms.
Senator Biss is known for his arrogance and self-importance. He did not disappoint. When challenged on the constitutionality of the bill that he, Gabel and Elaine Nekrtiz are pushing, he announced that he didn’t know about the constitutionality of what they were proposing. “But I know math,” said the former math professor.
Math teachers have cause to take offense.
Robyn Gabel looked like the proverbial deer. She was left to reading a pie chart of the state budget to the crowd, making no attempt to defend what she has put her name to.
Several years ago when Gabel was first running for State Rep, I came across a youtube video where she talked about increasing the retirement age for teachers and cutting payments.
I called her up and said, “What is this about?”
“Oh. I really don’t know anything about pensions. I was caught off guard by the question.”
The magic of Springfield is that someone like Gabel can go there and in a matter of two years go from admitting to knowing nothing to being such an expert that she can co-sponsor a bill that unconstitutionally goes after public employees.
She is what passes for a progressive Democrat these days.
Biss explained that our pensions were responsible for “draining money from poor children.”
He is shameless.
But what a group we retirees are. Hundreds showed up, mainly by way of word of mouth, but prepared with facts and figures to defend ourselves and our colleagues who are still in the classroom.
My main takeaway from the meeting is that Biss seemed resigned that their will be no “grand bargain” on pensions. In spite of his contention that he knows little about the Illinois Constitution, he is fully aware that his bill will not pass constitutional muster.
What’s he up to?
I’ve heard that he has his sights on the congressional seat now held by Jan Schakowsky if she should retire or get an appointment to the Obama administration. Just as I’ve heard that Nekritz is anticipating replacing the aging Mike Madigan as Speaker.
This is not the first time that teachers were used as scapegoats by cynical politicians for their own political ambitions.