The Democratic candidates for governor at our Retired Teachers luncheon. And Scott Drury.

Top row: Daniel Biss, Bob Daiber, Scott Drury. Bottom row: Chris Kennedy, Alex Peterakis, JB Pritzker. Photos: Gerald Berkowitz.

Over a hundred retired teachers and educators, members of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association and their friends, filled the room at the old Elks Club in Des Plaines to hear candidates running for Illinois Governor.

Rauner did not respond to our invitation. Nor did Tio Hardiman. Ameya Pawar said he would attend. Then said he wouldn’t.

The format was inevitably constraining. Each candidate got four minutes and then there was only time for each to answer two questions.

I came away with a couple of impressions. With a long campaign ahead of us  that may be the most I can expect from a event that our North Lake Shore IRTA members worked hard to organize.

Five of the candidates sounded like traditional liberal Democrats.

I might say that they even sounded like new progressive Democrats.

This is no small thing at a time when it seems like many Democrats are fighting over Trump and Republican voters rather than standing up for the Democratic base and where the last Democratic Governor in Illinois, Pat Quinn, claimed he was put on this earth to cut public employee pension benefits and who spent much of his time battling the state’s public employee unions.

This paved the way for Bruce Rauner’s election.

The first question after their four minute presentation came from me.

I asked, “What can be done to change the politics of this state so that in four years there might be a woman sitting there on the panel?”

From their answers I don’t think the solution will come from them.

Drury basically ignored the question. JB and Chris told stories about the strong women in their families. Biss addressed the need for male politicians to do more in be in inclusive, which seems like a dubious prospect.

For me the surprise was Kennedy. He didn’t say anything that was more substantive than the rest, but he was far better on the stump than I had expected for a candidate that has seemed almost invisible up until now. His answers almost always were illustrated by a compelling story. When he spoke of tax reform and a progressive income tax, which every candidate supported except State Representative Scott Drury, he targeted those in the legislature who literally profit from the current system.

“We had a super majority in the General Assembly and a Democrat as governor and a progressive income tax only got 31 votes in the House,” Kennedy said.

He was clearly bashing Speaker Mike Madigan, which is easy to do, but it was where none of the other leading contenders would go. Certainly not Pritzker.

Then there is State Representative Scott Drury. He has made a career of attacking the Speaker, but for all the wrong reasons.

Scott Drury is not going to be the Governor of Illinois. Ever.

When it was his turn to respond to the question about a progressive income tax he said it would take too long. Instead he called for another attempt at pension theft to save the state money.

While Drury will never be governor, his plan is out there and is supported by Democrats and Republicans.

He wants a buy-out offered to those current retirees and members of the Teacher Retirement System at seventy cents on the dollar. He claims number crunchers at TRS predict up to 30% of retirees would take the deal.

After the program I went up to Drury.

“Your idea is ridiculous,” I told him. “Why would any rational person agree to a deal that gives them less than the deal they originally agreed to and which the courts have ruled must be paid?”

“Because the federal courts can overrule the state Supreme Court and those people are afraid that the system won’t be solvent in the future,” was roughly what Drury told me.

When these kind conversations come up I flash on an image of an elderly retired teacher in downstate Illinois who counts on her TRS check for basic survival. She hears politicians like Drury talk and it causes them great anxiety. They do worry that their retirement savings won’t be there because creeps like Drury keep going after it.

First they scare the crap out of them. Then they offer them seventy cents on the dollar.

It’s like some scam artist knocking on the old lady’s door and fast-talking them out of their ATM number.

“It would be voluntary,” says Drury.


I told him that to come up with a policy based on fear that takes money from the elderly and retirees to save the state money was immoral. And that he was immoral. Or maybe I said amoral.

He shook my hand and told me that we agreed to disagree.

I hate it when someone says that to me.

Like I need their damn permission to disagree.







21 thoughts on “The Democratic candidates for governor at our Retired Teachers luncheon. And Scott Drury.

  1. I had the misfortune to be seated next to Drury at the luncheon, and I told him basically the same thing. I think you may have been more polite.

  2. I asked, “What can be done to change the politics of this state so that in four years there might be a woman sitting there on the panel?”

    Incredible. Of all the serious issues confronting our state – you don’t even have a specific woman in mind (doubt Karen Lewis is interested)? Totally meaningless – exactly what we might expect from Uncle Fred.

    I mean, you could at least have asked what can be done so that in four years there might be an honest person sitting there on the panel. Or, maybe a Martian? (About the same chance, I would guess.)

  3. He’s my rep. I contact him often to challenge him on points he makes in his newsletters. Beware. He is a republican at heart.

  4. Fred, it’s not true that Tio Hardiman did not respond to our invitation. He was set to come. We had spoken to him several times (first, not long after he declared)–personally, & he returned phone calls personally, every time. (At one point, he did ask me to send an e-mail to someone with the same last name–a relative, I believe, who was helping, & I did, & received an e-mail response back from her.) I double-checked his address the last time I spoke w/him, & to let him know that he would be receiving a letter with more particulars about the program, and to make sure to call if he did not receive the letter. The last time–most recent call–was when our Legislative Chairperson spoke to him as per meal choice.
    Before the luncheon, we received a phone call from his staff member–they had been at the Logan Square SBAC event w/some of the other candidates, and the gentleman was upset, asking why they’d not been invited (as the other candidates have done, Mr. Hardiman had, of course, added staff {the gentleman told me “The secretary had not put it on the schedule.”} as time went by). I explained the situation, and he said he felt “much better” (he was very nice). I reiterated the address & time frame. For some reason, they were unable to come. We were sorry not to see him/hear from him, but he was very enthusiastic and gracious every time we made contact.
    I am looking forward to attending the Progressive Democrats’ forum so that I may hear him & meet him.
    And, BTW, the Elks Lodge is a WONDERFUL venue. Thank you to the entire staff!!

    1. I guess I should repeat what I wrote several days ago……I called Mr. Hardiman the next day. I asked him if he was all right? Many people were asking for him at our luncheon. He said he had to take his uncle to the Jackson Park Hospital……He made a suggestion I will mention at our next board meeting…..
      I, also, wrote……Gov. Rauner was in Japan trying to drum up business for Illinois.

  5. Oh, & as for women, want to remember Judy Baar Topinka, who ran against Blagojevich (lots to say about THAT), & also, my favorite, Dawn Clark Netsch (boy, did I want her to win).

  6. I heard Chris Kennedy speak on Ben Jarovsky’s radio show yesterday. I was more impressed than I thought I would be. He sounded very pro-education, and did a little Rahm bashing, as well. He was critical about how the city schools always seemed to get the short end of the stick. I realize he’s a Kennedy. Because of that he probably has the ability to speak politically in his sleep, if needed. But for some reason, he sounded like he had a degree of sincerity about his answers. With him, I think there is a degree of hope that Illinois can take a political step in the right direction. We’re long overdue.

  7. The even better news is Drury don’t be in the GA either.Good report. Sounds like a good forum and a nice away from failed Quinism.

  8. “Agree to disagree”…. is said by a person A when the other person B states a logical conclusion to the debate you A are having and you A have no further logical argument to support yours.

  9. I have a study that shows people dont connect streams of income and lump sums. They see a big lump sum and dont realize tha annual income figure is the same. There are complex formulas to value your annuity and I bet Drurys bill wont disclose it. If you want to play actuary pick your life expectency to figure how many rears you may have or better yet what you think you may have because for you that is what matters. Also if you are younger there may be some dna repair drugs in a decade or so…..Then do your 3 percent compound in the period. Let me give you an example Lets say you are 50 and think you have a good chance of making say 90. You start at 3500 a month. Midway through you will be around 6000. Plug the 6000 into Immediate annutites or similar calculator. You will get about a million and a half. That will still be low because of surivor benefit and any health care benefit which could be worth a half million or more or less. The health situation as readers here know is totally unpredictible.
    Based on psychology I bet a large percentage of people would probably give up 3500 for 750000 or less. Its very similar to many small business. The owners there are not very good at separting labor income from capital income and think they have something of much greater value. The pensions are a deffered compensation that upon retirement needs to valued as if you got that compensation in a lump sum but you need to make it last for you and your survivors. A handful with health issues would benfit from Drurys plan unless they had to give up health care .If this is ever offered please do the math.

    1. The paper is by Daniel Goldstein and others call The Illusion of wealth and it’s reversal. It was in the Oct 2016 Journal of Marketing Research and compared consumer reaction to lump sums and monthly income streams that were idenical to see what they preferred.

  10. I spoke with Mr. Tio Hardiman today. I asked him if he was well. Many people were asking for him. He said he had to take his uncle to Jackson Park hospital. He would be glad to come at a later date. I said I would speak to the board to see if he could come to one of our luncheons…speaking for a short period of time.
    Also, Gov. Rauner is in Japan trying to drum up business for our state…….

  11. “…State law empowers TRS (40 ILCS 5/16-158c)… Payment of the required state contributions and of all pensions, retirement annuities, death benefits…, all other benefits…, and all expenses are obligations of the state…

    “The state has waved its sovereign immunity in regard to the teachers’ pension because TRS is a qualified pension plan under the tax-deferred provisions of the IRS code.

    “Federal law would protect all claims…” (Dave Urbanek, Public Information Officer at TRS, 2011).

  12. “Because the federal courts can overrule the state Supreme Court and those people are afraid that the system won’t be solvent in the future”:

    I believe Federal Courts would not interfere with a decision of a State Supreme Court: 1. Federal courts do not usually review the decisions of state courts. 2. The Illinois Supreme Court decision regarding public pensions on May 8, 2015 was consistent with (and did not violate) the U.S. Constitution. 3. There are no constitutional questions for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider.

  13. I think you’re being a little hard on Mr. Drury. And it’s perfectly okay when somebody says, “We can agree to disagree” because it’s the POLITE thing to say to say. Often, it’s unlikely that 2 people will change each others’ minds and this is a civil way to end a conversation and not further waste each others time.

    1. Of course. But Representative Drury is not just somebody having a conversation with another person. He is a person who was and wants to remain in a position of power. For an elected representative or candidate to say that is different than just you, Ernie, and me having a bar room conversation. This was over a discussion of what he would DO as governor to public employee pensions, not two people arguing over which baseball team has the best pitching staff. I don’t agree we should disagree. I insist that pension promises are kept.

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