The Chicago Tribune published my last letter to the editor on June 19, 2013—-I am going to try again. I sent the copy below to the Chicago Tribune
Metra negotiated a separation agreement for CEO Alex Clifford that carries a potential price tag of $740,000. Clifford’s three-year contract was due to expire in February 2014 (eight months from now). The term that interests me is CONTRACT. The Metra board has chosen to honor Clifford’s contract with a sum of money nearly three-times Clifford’s annual salary. The action was taken “so that Metra can move forward with a clean slate and avoid wasting time and money on attorneys.” There has been no suggestion of “contract reform.” Take heed legislators in Illinois, public servants in the state of Illinois are in the same position as Clifford. Honor our contracts (pensions) make any “pension reforms” to future servants. Follow the Constitution of the state of Illinois and Metra’s lead, and save time and money that will be wasted on attorneys’ fees. Our pensions need to be honored NOT reformed.
– Cathleen Bylina, Retired Teacher
5 thoughts on “The in box. Honoring contracts. Avoiding litigation.”
Editorial: Some small signs of a sense of urgency on pensions
So, now we have another pension deadline — this one July 9, set by Gov. Pat Quinn last week as the date for legislative action coming out of the conference committee that was the only material product of the Wednesday special session.
Can it be done? Maybe. At least there is rhetoric to suggest that all the major players — notably Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan — will make a serious effort. Some insiders fret that even if the conference committee manages to produce a compromise in a week, that still won’t leave enough time to run the sophisticated analyses required to determine its full financial impact, especially with the first public hearing not scheduled until Thursday.
Not that there’s anything magical about July 9, of course, nor that Quinn or anyone else can do anything about it if lawmakers do miss the “deadline,” like so many others they’ve let pass over the past two years. But with an issue so fraught with disappointment and inaction, one takes encouragement where it can be found.
Which also includes the makeup of the conference committee itself. The party affiliations are determined by statute, so the fact that it is dominated by one party — the Democrats who control both the House and Senate — cannot be helped. But many of the commissioners selected by leaders to assume this complex and delicate task are lawmakers who have distinguished themselves with their study and, in some cases, leadership on the issue of pensions.
They include Democrats Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook in the House and Daniel Biss of Evanston in the Senate, whose collaboration last fall produced the one viable approach to pension reform but who also have both expressed a willingness to seek compromise in the tug-of-war between their approach and the Senate’s less-ambitious plan. Suburban representation on the panel also includes Republicans Rep. Darlene Senger of Naperville and Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine and Democratic Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora.
Cullerton’s selection of Biss for the committee, by the way, speaks well of the Senate president’s goals and intentions, for Biss clearly represents a position contrary to that which Cullerton has pressed. Even so, it seems highly unlikely that the conference committee will eventually settle on either the House plan or the Senate plan. Rather, everyone seems to be counting on the infusion of some so-far-mystical “new ideas” to break the ideological deadlock. We live in hope.
Whether the July 9 deadline is achievable or just one more opportunity for disappointment, it at least gives lawmakers a clear and constant reminder of the urgency of settling the pension issue. In point of fact, every day that passes without a solution costs the state $17 million.
That, let’s not forget, could pay for a lot of teachers or school supplies or prison guards — and failing to get it under control could bankrupt the state and cost us all of them. In that sense, July 9 isn’t the only deadline leaders should be concerned about. Every day that passes is.
Great letter. Wonder if the Rag will print it!
My pension CONTRACT with the state of Illinois does not need to be “reformed” it needs to be honored.
Where’s the public outrage, numerous newspaper articles and TV reports vilifying the bailout and the call by legislators (who by the way established Metra) for investigations and the demand for money returned for work not done? Metra, like our pensions, get their some of their money from IL taxpayers. If teachers’ or other state employees don’t do their job well, they don’t get rewarded with severance packages that include moving expenses, continued health care, benefits, etc totaling more than twice their salary. Why should the Metra chief, Alex Clifford a public servant,be afforded that luxury? Why are some public employees treated more harshly than others with regard to honoring contracts? Why do such discriminatory practices still exist in the public sector. It seems to me that if one public contract is honored, all should be. I want my parachute to be golden too, not full of holes!
I never got a severance package when I retired from the schools. I was able to retire because I did my job for 35 years and earned a pension. Don’t take something I earned and deserve!