Random thoughts. Turning around the turnaround.

RANDOM

As I posted earlier, I have been engaged in an email conversation with my local State Representative, Will Guzzardi, over Senate Bill 231.

SB231 is Senator Andy Manar’s bill that claims to change the state’s school funding formula, moving state money from wealthier districts to poorer ones. How true that is is arguable. Chicago will remain underfunded compared to the rest of the state.

One component of the Manar bill would be to move special education funding to a block grant with no requirement to spend state school funds on special education.

In my most recent message to Representative Guzzardi, I wrote that the bill should not be passed by the House with the current special education component. And, as I have been writing each year that Senator Manar has introduced a version of this state funding change, without adequate state funding there can be no equity, regardless of the change in the formula.

To which Representative Guzzardi wrote to me yesterday:

Absolutely agree. I don’t think the bill is going to come to the floor as is — it’ll either be amended considerably or just die on the vine.

In spite of union support for SB231 and support from a number of school superintendents, I hope Will Guzzardi is right.

I hope it dies on the vine.

Illinois shouldn’t add students with special needs to the growing list of the most vulnerable who are hurting bad in Illinois

And for what?

It is becoming clear that the Governor’s turnaround agenda will crash and burn.

After May 31, it will take a supermajority to pass any of it.

His anti-union agenda is doomed.

Yet in pursuing it, he has hurt so many.

He has a history of this kind of behavior.

Marcus Crassus, Bruce Rauner and the turnaround agenda.

John Dillon

-By John Dillon. John blogs at Pension Vocabulary

Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BC) early on recognized his enormous wealth could buy him an army and quite possibly the consulship of ancient Rome.  In fact, his military victories over rivals and enemies allowed the proscription (seizure) of their assets for his own – a swift kind of vulture capitalism with a sword.

In Robert Harris’ historical narrative Imperium, Cicero recalls how the savvy Crassus lined the pockets of his close friends by sending teams of slaves into burning neighborhoods and offering to buy the owners’ endangered homes for next to nothing.  When the owners agreed and ran away with their belongings, teams of slaves with water pumps would arrive and quench the flames.  The buildings could then be sold to friends at a profit but still cheap enough to provide for their own later fiscal enhancement.

…Like promising to declare bankruptcy once one takes over the Chicago Public Schools while CPS is desperately seeking bond purchases to pay for much-needed cash.  The resultant jump in interest rates will cost the taxpayers dearly but earn capitally for fellow investors. Ironically, just like 73 BC, in 2016 AD it’s good to have friends in high places; but the repeating of history can also have its darker and quirkier sides.

For while Marcus Crassus hoped to be named singular consul of Rome, the highest political office of the state upon his return from various victories, he was instead forced to share that power with his most-hated rival Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus), who upon return to Rome declared his own victories surpassing those of Crassus’.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  All we need at this point is a Turnaround Agenda…

But if past is indeed prologue, can we expect much to happen differently when Governor Rauner takes the podium – one week after Obama’s return to Springfield and the President’s call for a cessation of partisan bickering – to give his annual State of the Budget speech to the General Assembly?

Probably not one iota (sorry, it’s a Greek theme – so, blame the Field Museum).

During his campaign to become Governor, it is estimated Rauner personally spent nearly $36 per vote (or nearly $24 million of his own wealth in the last three months of his race for the gubernatorial race).  By the way, according to Rauner that would be less than 5% of his assets.

“Overall, Rauner’s campaign spent $65.3 million since it began in March 2013, and the Republican received more than 1.8 million votes in his general election victory compared with nearly 1.7 million votes for Quinn, who was seeking a second elected term. That translates to $35.83 per vote for Rauner…The documents also showed Rauner raising more than $40 million the last three months of 2014, including $22 million from Oct. 1 to Election Day.

Of that $22 million raised, Rauner accounted for nearly $13.5 million out of his own pocket. That amounted to nearly half the $27.6 million in personal funds Rauner contributed.

Since winning election, Rauner has given his campaign fund an additional $10 million in personal funds and two wealthy allies, hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin and businessman Richard Uihlein, combined for another $10 million. The $20 million is aimed at helping promote Rauner’s still-unstated agenda as governor and helping buttress Republican state lawmakers to support it.”

Read the entire post here.

Bruce Rauner to retired teacher: Chemotherapy or collective bargaining?

ken

– From Ken Previti’s blog. Ken received the following from a retired Illinois teacher.

Dear Friends,

I just wanted you all to know how [IL Gov. Bruce] Rauner’s unconstitutional act of not providing a signed budget has affected me at my most vulnerable.   As you all know, my cancer returned this past summer and I am forced to undergo more chemotherapy which is an exhausting ordeal.  I was informed this week that my doctor could no longer treat me, despite my paying my premiums and Cigna approving 100% payment the State of Illinois could no longer make payments and has informed my doctor’s office that it would take over a year to process his invoices.  I will now have to drive 37 miles one way for treatment at Rush University which is still accepting my insurance.  With winter approaching and the exhaustion following the treatments, I will have to once again impose on friends or The American Cancer Society to get me to Chicago and back home again.

Something needs to be done about a governor holding the legislature and its citizens hostage so that he can destroy collective bargaining rights and tromp on workers’ rights.  I thank you all for your continued advocacy and willingness to fight for those of us who cannot do so.

With gratitude,
(Name withheld by request)

Read the entire post here.

Disaster-based school reform. Before there was McQueary and Miner there was Arne. And Bruce Rauner.

The reaction to the Chicago Tribune’s Kristen McQueary and her op-ed piece hasn’t really died down yet.

For those of you who were in Kazahkstan last week and missed it, the hapless McQueary wrote a column wishing for a Hurricane Katrina to do to Chicago public schools what Katrina did to New Orleans even though it killed thousands of people: Destroy a public school system.

McQueary conveniently ignored that we have had our own Hurricane Katrina. His name is Rahm Emanuel.

The reaction was furious and viral. Decent people were appalled by McQueary’s heartless comparison on the tenth anniversary of the disaster.

That reaction did not include the Chicago Reader media critic, Michael Miner. He wrote a defense of McQueary that was equally heartless and factually wrong.

Miner joined with McQueary in arguing that only bodies piled high in the morgue would drive real school reform.

He cited the work of journalist Gary Rivlin to show that New Orleans was better off now than before Katrina.

Rivlin quickly distanced himself from the ghoulish Miner.

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Yet the reaction continues.

“No. We’re not done with Kristen McQueary’s Katrina essay yet,” writes Julie Vassilatos in her Chicago Public Fools blog.

McQueary was rightly called out for her astonishingly cloddish essay, and even issued one of those I’m-so-sorry-you-misheard-me-that-way apologies.

But to simply stand, agape, at her insensitivity, while understandable, is to miss something important here.

Kristen McQueary is wrong about New Orleans schools.

She is wrong about the facts about New Orleans schools. The situation is complex and problematic–even supporters don’t gush about it as McQueary does. This glowing paragraph in her ecstatic paean to New Orleans is patent nonsense.

Before there was McQueary, before there was Miner, there was Arne Duncan.

He said the same thing:

Katrina, Duncan said, was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans” because it gave the city a chance to rebuild and improve its failing public schools.

In an interview to air this weekend on “Washington Watch with Roland Martin” Duncan said “that education system was a disaster. And it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that we have to do better. And the progress that it made in four years since the hurricane, is unbelievable.”

And before McQueary and Miner there was Governor Bruce Rauner.

Rauner said the same thing.

“New Orleans is too, with [Paul] Vallas and what’s been done. Politically they didn’t have to blow up the system, the hurricane blew up the system. They could start fresh. It’s a tragedy but it’s one of the few bright spots of that horrible event, where they didn’t have the political fight.”

Just in case you forgot, the Paul Vallas that Bruce Rauner is praising was chosen by his Democratic Party opponent Pat Quinn in the last election to run as Lt. Governor.

The disaster-based school reform ghouls are everywhere.

The worst of them don’t write newspaper columns.

They run the Department of Education, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.

Illinois governors’ war on workers resembles a scorched earth battle.

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In January of 2013, Clyde Weiss and Anders Lindall wrote on the AFSCME blog:

The rights of public service workers seem to be of no consequence to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. He’s prepared to sign a bill that allows him to deny collective bargaining rights to 3,580 state employees of his choosing, including up to 1,900 who currently are represented by AFSCME and other unions. The legislation also allows the state’s other constitutional officers broad latitude to take away bargaining rights from their employees.

A “quiet war on the collective bargaining rights of public employees” is how The State Journal-Register, the capitol city’s paper of record, described the governor’s campaign against the state’s employees. But Quinn’s war resembles a scorched-earth battle. In 2011 he canceled pay raises for 30,000 public employees. Then in November, Quinn terminated AFSCME’s collective bargaining agreement with the state, leaving some 35,000 employees without the protection of a union contract.

Fast forward to August 18th, 2015. Republican governor Bruce Rauner has continued the scorched earth battle with a veto of SB1229. The bill was passed to prevent Rauner from imposing a lock-out of AFSCME state employees.

Rauner is conducting a war on workers that “resembles a scorched earth battle.”

Pat Quinn, arguably the most anti-union governor of Illinois in fifty years – until Rauner – failed in his attempt to bust AFSCME.

Yesterday the Illinois Senate so busted the Governor with an overwhelming override of his veto.

The vote was 38 – 15.

Even one Republican, Sen. Sam McCann, of Plainview, where thousands of state workers live, joined in voting for the override.

I contacted my friend and state representative Will Guzzardi and asked what he thought would happen with the override when it comes to the House in a week or so.

“Governor Rauner has repeatedly, during his campaign and since taking office, issued existential threats to organized labor in this state, and particularly to AFSCME,” Guzzardi told me.

“To have us believe that he is interested in a genuine and good-faith negotiation with state employees would require a naiveté that borders on the absurd. I believe that this bill, far from being ‘one of the worst bills in Illinois history,’ is an eminently reasonable move to ensure our state government continues to function in the face of a Governor whose interest in union-busting far outweighs his interest in sound public policy. I’m proud that the Senate overrode the Governor’s veto of SB 1229, and I look forward to joining my colleagues in the House in overriding as well.”

Union retirees do not scab, Bruce Rauner.

scab-homer

Okay.

Now I’m pissed.

Bruce Rauner is contacting retired state employees to see if they will scab.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – A published report says Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has been contacting retired state employees to determine if they’re willing to come back on short-term contracts in case of a workers’ strike.

David Scheina of rural Sangamon County told The (Springfield) State Journal Register (http://bit.ly/1LNJ08k ) he received a call asking about the possibility of working in the interim if there’s a strike. The 65-year-old retired three years ago after working in state government for 25 years, mostly at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly didn’t deny the tactic, saying the administration is “pursuing all options.”

Rauner’s administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 have been negotiating a new agreement. An extension on the contract ending June 30 expires Friday.

Retirees don’t scab, Bruce Rauner.

From our on-the-scene reporter John Dillon. Torrential downpours and the sneak around governor.

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– By John Dillon. Cross-posted from his blog Pension Vocabulary.

In Oak Forest, Illinois, this morning, torrential cloudbursts and flash floods pounded over 200 picketers waiting for a chance to give Governor Bruce Rauner a piece of their collective minds. Many wore soaked and clinging t-shirts proclaiming their affiliation with various union groups – electricians, pipefitters, drivers, and even CTU union representatives.  Others held umbrellas or walked about in neon raincoats used when on the job.  The mood was determined but patient.

Rauner was scheduled to appear before the Chamber of Commerce for the Orland, Illinois, area at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest to preside over a $30/person luncheon plate and a chance to hear the stumping Governor promote his “TurnAround Agenda.”

Its pretty much the same message that saw little interest and some blowback by union workers earlier this spring, but the Governor has added a cast of insidious characters in his new marketing campaign:  Speaker Madigan and Senate Leader Cullerton.  Rauner’s hoping for some traction with his tale this time.

In case he doesn’t get any, once again, he will launch what worked for him last time: an unending series of television commercials to make us all hate “the machine.”  I wonder if Diana will be back to soften up the arrogance we often see in the effendi. Hope so.

An old blue and white bus struggled to find parking in the extra lot opened for the mushrooming crowds.  Children and teachers from Park Lawn, a Southland center for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, warily stepped from the bus, all trying to stay under the safety of two very large umbrellas.  Having shuffled to the safety of the canopied front entrance, they awaited the Governor’s arrival with signs decrying their uncomfortable and inhumane situation – being caught between a political game of chicken between the plutocracy and the politically puissant.

You might recall Rauner’s earlier budgets which called for the slashing of $millions normally provided for those with disabilities like autism and epilepsy.  No wonder the Park Lawn kids were there.

Only three days ago, the Governor threatened he will also slash funding for the bus they came on.

The children – some of them clearly no longer children – held signs and posters for the Governor.  Despite a bit unnerved by the downpours, the students of Park Lawn seemed more excited to be there and about to meet someone important. “We Matter,” spelled one sign – flourishing with sparkly glitter and colors.  “Remember us,” pleaded another.

The luncheon was to begin at 11:30, but the rain poured from before 11:00 and past noon, with still no sign of the Governor’s entourage.  Police traveling through the crowds in SUV’s kept the crowds aware of the Governor’s timeline for arrival.

Meanwhile, those attending the affair came dressed to the nines, well coiffed, and tastefully painted. They trotted briskly from opened automobile doors to get in the front, past the children from Park Lawn.

One obviously insulted (member of the) working class watched the people arriving, crossed his tattooed arms and snorted, “I suppose this is Rauner’s idea of the Middle Class.  What a joke.”

“Kill off the unions, take away the worker’s rights and protections on the job, slide past safety standards, and make each village its own little fiefdom.  It’s a TurnBack Agenda.”

Finally, the police informed the picket leaders that Rauner was arriving in another five minutes.  “Do you think he’s being fashionably late?  Or does he care about his wealthy constituency as little as he cares for the Middle Class,” suggested one of the CTU Union representatives.

“He’s trying to cut through the side parking lot to avoid having to approach the entry,” warned one of the leadership.  “Quick, let’s meet him as he must walk through the side lot to the front (where the children of Park Lawn had left nearly half an hour earlier).  Nearly 200 members of the Middle Class began a quick walk up to the front, but Rauner had driven behind the building to use a back door patio entrance to get in to his waiting crowds.

“A Man of the People…”  yelled one frustrated man.

“The baddest enemy you could ever have is something of a coward,” suggested one other.

TurnAround Agenda?  Heck, he’s just shown us his real plan, just like in Springfield, the SneakAround agenda.”

SneakAround to the back door.

Jesse Sharkey: Illinois is not broke. It is flush.

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– Jesse Sharkey is Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union. This is a letter to the editor of the Sun-Times.

In a classic case of buyer’s remorse, the Sun-Times bends over backward to justify its unabashed cheerleading of Bruce Rauner as the right governor for Illinois. This is despite his insistence on savage cuts to heat aid, essential housing and health services for the elderly, toddlers and the poor. Despite Rauner’s radical attacks upon working people, their unions, their retirement security and the essential services they rely upon, the Sun-Times continues to trumpet his credentials as a reformer.

We cannot forget who Rauner really is. He is a rich stock trader who specialized in corporate takeovers.

Illinois is not broke. Illinois is flush. The problem is that those who can pay, don’t. The effective state income-tax rate for the poorest 20 percent of earners in the state is double what the wealthiest 1 percent of people pay.

If Rauner and his friends on Wall Street were truly serious about providing a high standard of living to the people of Illinois, they would join their fellow billionaire Warren Buffett and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. If Illinois were to sue banks for toxic swaps and predatory fees, restore progressive elements of the state corporate and income tax, properly tax La Salle Street and profits that are sequestered in off-shore tax-free accounts, and tax luxury services, we would have state surpluses instead of deficits.

The new governor would do better to solve our budget woes by using his bully pulpit to demand tax fairness and put Illinois on the path to fiscal recovery.

Jesse Sharkey, Vice President
Chicago Teachers Union

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