Illinois election choices.

governor

Bev Johns is a frequent contributor to this blog. She mostly keeps me and you up to date on the attempts by the ISBE to raise the class size limits that currently are in place for special education students.

She also writes frequently about the election for governor of illinois. The primary is March 18. The general election is next November.

We are allies on the class size fight.

She is frustrated with me when we discuss the election.

We disagree on whether any one of the Republicans
is better than Bruce Rauner or Quinn/Vallas.

I believe either Dillard or Rutherford is better.

Given importance of our votes on March 18 and
in November, isn’t this worth a more detailed
discussion?

The beauty of a blog is that you always have
the last word.

Thank you for your posting on the attempted 
elimination of special ed class size.

Bev

I thought that I had posted lots of views about what to do in March and November. But, I responded to Bev by asking her to make her case. And she did:

Educators wanting to send a real message to Illinois 
politicians face a stark choice on March 18 – vote for 
a Republican lesser evil OR vote third-party or not vote at all.

I believe we need to do everything we can to avoid having
a choice between Bruce Rauner and Qninn/Vallas in November.

Bruce Rauner would be a disaster for Public Education in
Illinois, and Quinn/Vallas would be as well.

There is ONLY one thing we can do to avoid having Rauner
or Quinn/Vallas as our next Governor: pick a Republican on
March 18.

There is zero chance of electing a write-in candidate,
or a third-party candidate for Governor.

It might make us feel good to vote for a third-party candidate
or to write in one, although that is extremely difficult to
do with the new computerized voting machines.

But if we are to save Public Education in Illinois, we have
to do what is effective.

To send a real message to Illinois politicians we need to take
a Republican ballot on March 18, and vote for Kirk Dillard
or for Dan Rutherford.

The difficulty I have with Bev’s argument is nested in her post.

Kirk Dillard or Dan Rutherford?

Aside from the fact that these two are right-wing Republicans, members of ALEC (Dillard is state Chairman of ALEC), and are no friends of public education, Labor, civil rights or the poor and working poor, Bev can’t tell us which one to give our vote to.

How is this an election strategy?

This problem reflects the current situation. There is no agreed consensus on what to do about the governor’s race.

Vote for a Republican? They are all terrible.

Vote for Squeezy? In spite of the shocking AFL-CIO endorsement, he is the most anti-union Illinois Governor in 50 years.

Write in Ralph Martire? Write-in votes are not counted if the candidates have not filed that they are write-in candidates.

One thing is certain. We will not win in November in the race for Governor of Illinois.

Voting for Governor will take about 30 seconds. Do what you feel like doing.

I will be taking a Democratic ballot, voting for Will Guzzardi as my State Representative and I am leaving the top of the ticket blank.

And then I will go back to doing what others, including the Chicago Teachers Union, are advocating.

Build an independent political organization that can challenge the Republicans and Machine Democrats – an organization that represents the working families in the state.

And on that final point I bet Bev and I agree.

#Pension theft. Taking names. Michelle Mussman.

https://vimeo.com/80892866

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Smart money says that if SB1 is going to be stopped today it will be stopped in the Illinois Senate.

Senate President John Cullerton is on board and is said to be working the bill, but the Senate has a more independent streak.

Democratic Speaker MIchael Madigan heads a group of craven sycophants. Democrats run as progressives. They take money from our unions (which are often too easy a mark). And once they get down to Springfield they become something out of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Witness Robyn Gabel.

Or Michelle Mussman from Schaumburg. She is married to a teacher who was a local union president. She ran for Representative with the backing of the teacher’s union.

Yesterday afternoon as we gathered outside her district office next to a Subway sandwich shop in a strip mall the temperature dropped and the hundred or so union members that had gathered  were cold.

And hot.

Angry at being betrayed.

Teachers addressed her as “Michelle.” They knew her. They expected something different from her.

But she insulted us, not only by her plan to vote for #pension theft. She kept people waiting in the cold for half an hour past our appointment.

When she made her appearance it was a weird cross between repeating talking points about actuarial numbers and blaming pensions for cutting social programs. Kids go hungry in Illinois because of teachers.

What a terrible thing to say to a group of teachers.

But mostly she was a bobble head. Her head bobbing up and down as her constituents told their stories, made their arguments, pleaded.

It was all she could do to keep from looking at her watch.

Her inability to master all the talking points was not entirely her fault. The 325 page bill had only been released to House members a few hours before, so it was plainly difficult to master a case for a bill she could not possibly have read.

But not only didn’t she read the bill. She wasn’t going to.

She didn’t have to.

I asked her what the consideration was for cutting COLAs to current retirees.

She responded, “That’s a problem.”

Consideration is a legal contractual term. If the state takes away a contractual benefit it must be replaced by something of equal or greater value.

Actives get very little. Next to nothing. Retirees get nothing.

Michelle Mussman knows that.

She doesn’t have to read the bill because she knows it will be found unconstitutional.

She said as much. “We will let the courts decide.”

In the mean time she will cause much pain and fear.

Kicking the teachers down the road.

We are taking names.

Michelle Mussman.

Street heat putting on the pressure. Schakowsky opposes pension theft.

When Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky met with our Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (S.O.R.E) IEA Retired chapter, we let her know that we expected her to speak against pension theft sponsored by those in her party, particularly those state legislators in her district.

Sun Times:

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is joining a growing chorus of lawmakers and elected officials who oppose Illinois’ proposed pension deal that is to be discussed in Springfield on Tuesday.

Earlier today, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., also opposed the proposal that aims to ultimately save a reported $160 billion in pension costs. Dan Rutherford, Judy Baar Topinka and Sheila Simon also announced their opposition.

None of them are to cast votes on the matter — but stand to retain a relationship with labor by opposing the proposed bill.

“Members of the Illinois General Assembly have been presented with an unfair pension proposal that places an enormous financial burden on those who did everything right – the public employees who served our state and faithfully made their pension contributions,” Schakowsky said in a statement. “Yet, this proposal would subject them to deep cuts on their cost-of-living adjustments, which will grow over time and substantially reduce their pensions. For the many teachers and other public employees who don’t collect Social Security, the size of the cuts will take away the retirement security they have earned over a lifetime of work.”

John Dillon: Bruce Rauner and send in the clowns.

“No one should be surprised that Bruce Rauner set foot in the Illinois governor’s race recently by trampling all over the state’s working families. Despite the billionaire venture capitalist’s efforts to portray himself as a regular guy, he took a special pot shot at our union, which represents low-wage health care and child-care workers throughout Illinois. It was a glaring illustration of how little Rauner understands the plight of the state’s poor and working class.
Our members earn low wages — sometimes poverty wages — and they don’t belong to the state pension systems that Rauner decries. In return for this meager living, they provide vital health care to hospital patients, nursing-home residents, seniors and people with disabilities, and help educate low-income children through child care and early-learning programs.
These are precisely the people who have been shortchanged by Illinois’ chronic budget morass, and yet Rauner somehow claims they have too much power in Springfield. While there is no doubt that the union has been instrumental in improving our members’ wages, working conditions and the quality of care for thousands of seniors and people with disabilities, these workers remain poor and cannot equal the power of Rauner’s billions.
Rauner’s anti-union vitriol is little more than a rich man’s distaste for the less-fortunate.”
(By permission of Keith Kellher, president, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana.)

Union-hating Republican Rauner is a Democratic pal. Further adventures in Bizarro World.

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Here’s a political prediction.

Millionaire Bruce Rauner will never be governor of Illinois.

Here is why I say that.

Rauner has decided to make his gubernatorial campaign a run against public employee unions. That’s it. That’s his entire platform.

Asked by a reporter if he was saying government unions should be eliminated in Illinois, Rauner said, “We need to modify their power.” Asked how, he said, “I won’t go into it today. We’ve got a detailed plan.”

But he did say, “I think the ability for government workers to decide whether to join a union or not, that’s fair.”

Rauner said public worker pensions negotiated by representatives of unions who give millions of dollars to the campaigns of the politicians granting raises and pensions is a “pay-to-play, conflict-of-interest structure.”

“If that occurred in the private sector, people’d go to jail,” Rauner said. “Employees bribing their boss against the shareholders’ interest to get more pay for themselves. But they don’t go to jail in government. That’s standard practice.”

“Somebody’s got to come in and break that corrupt system,” he said.

In the Bizarro World of Illinois politics, the Democrats have already staked out that territory.

The Democratic Party line-up of Madigan, Daley and Quinn aren’t exactly union allies. Why would anti-union voters mark the ballot for a rank amateur when they already have professional union bashers among the Democrats.

It really doesn’t leave much room for the Republican Rauner.

And then there is the question of whether Rauner is a Democrat or a Republican.

These days, how can you tell the difference.

Rauner gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Richie Daley’s campaign.

He’s a close pal of Rahm Emanuel.

And former CPS CEO Arne Duncan conspired with the north shore Rauner to get his kid into CPS’s Walter Payton Prep, even though he doesn’t live in the City.

Rauner asked the Springfield reporter, “Is it fair that government workers get a pension that makes them millionaires when they retire at the age of 52?” 

Is it fair? Sounds good to me.

Is it true?

If only.

Senator Harris’ no vote.

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State Senator Napoleon Harris.
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From John Dillon’s blog:
When I asked about Constitutional issues, the new Senator responded, “We make laws and people have to follow them.  If we make the law, it has to be followed and we need to make these laws.”  I asked if it would be possible for my associate and I to talk to the Senator about these important Constitutional issues and about the Pension Protection Clause.
“I’m going on vacation,” he responded.  “I want to have some time with my wife and family.”
I took that as a “no.”
I take his latest vote of “NO VOTE” as a “no” also.
I am guessing that, even as a Democratic Senator, Napoleon Harris is not going to side with the fans in the stands, the middle class, those who haven’t the perks he does.  He’s a celebrity, and celebrities – like Senator Oberweis – are not subject to rules like Constitutions or errant referees.  On the other hand, a “NO VOTE?”  Sometimes votes require a real legislator to expose his or her true nature.
This is, by the way, that same way Senator Harris reacted to the marriage equality vote.

A word about Representative Kelly Cassidy.

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Mike James and Katy Hogan do a great radio show on Saturday mornings.

Live from the Heartland. 88.7FM.

Earlier this year they had Illinois House Representative Kelly Cassidy on talking about pensions.

Cassidy was an early sponsor of a pension cutting bill written by the Pension Bomber Representative Elaine Nekritz.

A version of the Nekritz bill was included in Madigan’s amendment to SB1 that passed the House yesterday.

Without Cassidy’s vote.

Cassidy is a genuine progressive Democrat from the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago.

When I saw Mike James a few days after Cassidy’s appearance on his and Hogan’s show, I asked for equal time.

And, of course, they had me on.

I make no claims to have changed her mind.

She was concerned about the impact of the pension liability on state services.

But she came to believe that the problem is a revenue problem, not a benefit problem.

She came to see that cutting benefits violated the state constitution.

She’s good people

Guess what? Congresswoman Schakowsky is “on the record.” Now I need to know one more thing.

jan

Surprise!

Not three hours after posting about my exchanges with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s District Director, Leslie Combs, my phone rang.

Why it was Leslie Combs again. She was the one who left the voice mail saying that “given (Jan Schakowsky is) not an expert on the topic of the state, she’s not going to talk on the record on this issue.”

But Ms Combs found a letter the Congresswoman wrote to a constituent about state public employee pensions.

Hey. Congresswoman Schakowsky is on the record after all.

Hi Fred – below is the text of a letter that Congresswoman Schakowsky wrote in response to her constituents writing to her about state pensions
 
Thank you for your letter regarding public employee pension benefits. I am personally answering your letter because I also have very strong feelings about this issue that coincide with yours.
 
You refer to the Constitutional Convention in the 1970’s and quote the language. Since this is the Illinois and not the U.S. Constitution – State government pensions and not Federal – I don’t have jurisdiction over the debate now raging in Springfield.
 
Having said that, I agree with you, and have conveyed my concern to the Governor. State employees did EVERYTHING they were supposed to do and saw money come out of each paycheck for the pension that they expected and deserved to receive.  As you pointed out, you planned your life around that agreement, and it was the state that failed to meet its obligations. Many state employees don’t get Social Security and rely almost entirely on their pension. To turn around later and renege on that agreement is simply unfair and probably unconstitutional. Since I don’t have a vote in the state legislature, the best I can do is convey my feelings to my State Representatives and Senators just like you do. And I do!
 
I stand with Federal employees every opportunity I get and vote against pay freezes and efforts to reduce retiree benefits. Because of the current sequester, many are facing furloughs and some layoffs.
 
Thank you again for your letter. I wish you all the best.
Well, that is better.
I’m glad to know that as the Democratic Party leader in her district she has conveyed her feelings to her State Representatives and Senators in support of our constitutionally protected pensions
That would be Dan Biss, Elaine Nekritz, Kelly Cassidy or Robyn Gabel.
So now I would like to know one more thing.
What did they say back to her?
“I don’t care what you think Jan. You take care of the federal stuff and leave the state stuff to us to worry about.”
Really?
I mean Jan isn’t just another voter. She’s a leading national Democratic Party figure. There was even some talk that President Obama was going to appoint her to a cabinet position.
I would think that gives her some political weight and influence.

Congresswoman Schakowsky “is not going to talk on the record” about public employee pensions.

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I have been puzzled of late by the silence of Chicago north side and north suburban Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky on the issue of the state’s public employee pensions, including teacher pensions. Many of these employees live in her congressional district, of course.

Democrat Schakowsky has made much of her defense of Social Security and Medicare in Congress.

How ironic it is then that the Democratic Party organization in her district, of which she is the de facto head, is leading the charge against public employee pensions in Springfield.

These pension bombers would include Senator Dan Biss and Representatives Elaine Nekritz and Robyn Gabel.

So I called Congresswoman Schakowsky’s legislative office here in Chicago (773 506 8342) and spoke with her assistant, Leslie Combs.

I explained that I wanted to write a post about Congresswoman Schakowsky’s views on the current pension fight. I had heard that she had concerns about the direction the issue was headed. But I had not seen or heard anything directly from the Congresswoman.

Ms Combs said she would get back to me.

That was on Friday.

On Saturday, this message was left on my voice mail by Ms Combs:

“Given she’s not an expert on the topic in the state, she not going to talk on the record on this issue. She going to look at your blog – she’s very eager to do that.”

I’m glad to get another reader, of course. But that was not the intention of my call.

She’s not an expert of public employee pensions in the state?

Really?

I tried getting back to Ms Combs and left a message on her voice mail earlier today.

Was that really what the Congresswoman wanted me to go with?

Because Congresswoman Schakowsky did go on the record. 

Her office said that she was not an expert on public employee pensions in Illinois and that she would not go on the record.

She went on record that she would not go on the record about an important public policy issue for her constituents.

As for being an expert?

Become an expert.

I had to.

The public employees in her district had to.

I haven’t heard back from Ms Combs.

Just another day in Bizarro Word.

Conspiracy theories.

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“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on.”  – William S. Burroughs.

Some pundits (Yes. I’m looking at you Eric Zorn and Laura Washington) have dismissed the accusation of racism when it comes to school closings.

They sneer at Karen Lewis for suggesting such a thing when the Mayor closes schools that are over 90% African-American in a district with 42% African-American enrollment.

I wonder what they will say if and when lawyers go into federal court and file a civil rights complaint against the CPS? What if a judge orders an injunction?

Will these pundits side with the board?

CTU President Lewis has called on families to show up at their schools on opening day.

Will these critics join with the Mayor and stand in the school-house door and block students from entering?

There is another issue which could be even more of an Achilles Heel for the Mayor’s closing plans.

The shifting of thousands of CPS students will create chaos for Special Needs programs and support. In my opinion, there is no way this can go ahead without parents and others with standing going to court with the complaint that CPS is in violation of federal special education regulations.

It is a criminal assault on children with special needs.

Mike has more on this today.

I find it suspicious that the Illinois Board of Education has chosen this moment to change the rules limiting special education class size.

Reports the IEA:

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)  has voted to propose elimination of its rule, Section 226.730, which limits the number of special education students which can be placed in both general education and special education classrooms. If ISBE’s proposal becomes law, it would mean there would be no state limit on the number of students with disabilities that school districts could place in either type of classroom.

How convenient that the ISBE would propose a way for Rahm and his board hacks to overload classrooms with Special Needs students. That is what they would have to do to receiving schools when other neighborhood schools are closed.

A conspiracy theory?

You don’t have to be paranoid to think it.

I have another conspiracy this morning.

On the last days of the March General Assembly the Senate passed Senate Bill 1.

The final bill first failed by one vote. Before any of us could make calls to our senators, Cullerton had rounded up the one vote. The Senate voted again. They get to do that.

SB1 would mean that current TRS active teachers would have their cost of living raises in retirement slashed or give up access to state health insurance.

The reason Cullerton had such a difficult time getting SB1 passed was that there are still many in the Illinois Senate who believe it is an unconstitutional violation of the pension protection clause.

Here’s the conspiracy part.

Just days before the vote a Sangamon County judge ruled that a similar pension impairment of another state employee group was constitutional.

It is generally agreed that the timing of this ruling gave permission for some waivering senators to vote with Cullerton.

But Springfield Leaks reports that the judge, Associate Judge Steven Nardulli, is a family court judge.

Family court judges don’t normally handle cases dealing with the constitutionality of pension legislation.

And guess what? Representative Elaine Nekritz, the Illinois House pension busting queen,  is best buds with Nardulli’s wife. Dining out pals. In fact the two of them had dinner together on the evening that the judge heard arguments in the case.

She’s a Springfield lobbyist for the Illinois Bankers Association.

I’m not kidding.

Coincidence? Conspiracy?

This is Illinois. What do you think?