From New York City Educator. NYSUT follows in the footsteps of Rahm Emanuel.

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While I’m on the road for the rest of August, I will be posting other bloggers. This is from my friend, NYC Educator.

As usual, there’s big fun in Chicago. Admin wants to make teachers fund their pensions, and pick up the 7% of the pension that the city had paid, when it felt like paying it. Essentially, this becomes a 7% pay cut. It’s funny how, when contract time comes around, there are all these deals that aren’t what they seem.

For example, if you get a 5% raise, and you work 5% more, you did not get a raise. Or if you get a raise and don’t receive it for 10 years, it has considerably less value than it would if you’d gotten the money up front. Don’t believe me? Try buying a car with the 30 or 40 K NYC owes you. Let me know how that works out.

It’s pretty reprehensible that the Chicago government is treating its teachers this way. CTU President Karen Lewis says they will strike rather than accept pay cuts. This is what happens when an employer doesn’t plan properly. It blames working people rather than itself, and asks them to suck it up, even while those in high places are highly compensated.

We all know what a loathsome reptile Rahm Emanuel is. We expect this sort of nonsense from him. It’s pretty shocking, though, to see similar talk from NYSUT leadership. After all, NYSUT is a union, and ought to take very seriously the priorities of union. In fact, NYSUT leadership has no problem circumventing local presidents to ask members for COPE money even as it fails to maintain their pensions. As PJSTA President Beth Dimino puts it:

From the same legislative department run by Andy Pallota that gave NY Teachers; tier 5, tier 6, 4 year tenure, and an evaluation system based 50% on flawed HST, they want more money from each of us to further screw ourselves! 

I actually sat across from Pallota at a 2014 forum in which he would not commit to opposing reformy Andrew Cuomo. In subsequent forums, I watched him evolve his message this way and that, but it ultimately didn’t much matter. Indeed, though his Revive NYSUT slate promised they opposed Cuomo, they failed to do so in not one, but two primaries. They followed up by sitting on the fence in the election.

Now they’re threatening their employees with the very same thing Rahm is holding over the CTU.  NYC is a very large union, and all contracts are negotiated by Michael Mulgrew and his merry band. There are a whole lot of smaller locals, like PJSTA, and the PSA supports them as they negotiate. From Beth Dimino:

PSA members are the people who provide field services to our locals. They are our labor relations specialists (LRS) and they help local presidents negotiate your contract and answer the day to day questions presidents face when they deal with Administration. I’m not exaggerating when I say that without our LRSs we’d be lost! 

A lot of small local members on Facebook have taken the PSA symbol as their profile pictures.

It is a fundamental responsibility of union leadership to improve conditions for its members. Clearly there are sometimes setbacks in negotiations. But I’ve been following NYSUT pretty closely for the last few years, and the only serious pension improvement over which its presided has been for the NYSUT officers themselves, who can accrue two pensions simultaneously. So even as teacher pensions are seriously degraded, Karen Magee and Martin Messner don’t have to worry they won’t be taken care of.

As for the rest of us, we’re on our own. Worse, they have failed to set an example for governments, and are now looking to degrade the pensions of their own employees. After reviewing public documents submitted to the US Department of Labor, Harris Lirtzman, former NYC teacher and deputy New York State comptroller, attributes this to poor planning:


NYSUT funds its pension plan, largely, on a pay-as-you go basis: money comes in through member dues and employee contributions and goes right back out to pay current year pension benefits. NYSUT stays solvent only through a complex network of loans and transfers every year to and from the AFT and UFT.


I don’t know what NYSUT does with all the dues we pay it, but that’s less than encouraging. Are they indulging in some shell game with our money and expecting PSA to help pick up the tab? Are the top people, like Magee and Pallota getting big bucks while the little people suffer? Are they, in fact, expecting working people to pick up the tab for their lavish lifestyles?

That’s not what I’d call setting an example. We need to be better than the likes of Rahm and Cuomo. We need to show them that things can be done better.

For my money, NYSUT leadership is doing precisely the opposite.

The delusional Pat Quinn. He has learned nothing from his defeat to the worst governor in Illinois history.

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John Dillon blogs at Pension Vocabulary. Here John Dillon asks the former Governor Pat Quinn a simple question.

Question:  Was there ever a time after you lost the election that you looked back at your dreadful signing of SB1, the Pension Reform bill that was later found totally unconstitutional on May 8th by the Illinois Supreme Court, that you thought about the over 100,000 teachers and many more public workers who did not and would not vote for you after what you did? People, I must say, like myself – a retired schoolteacher.  Did you ever wonder that you had done the wrong thing?

Pat Quinn: No, John, not at all.  I believe we did the right thing in developing that bill.  We had reached a critical moment in the state’s ability to deal with mounting debt, and we needed to find some way to curtail the expenses we could not meet.  There was nothing that told us that our bill would be found unconstitutional, and we needed to find out whether or not this very necessary step would be acceptable.

(Thought: You mean, the many Illinois Supreme Court antedated cases didn’t concern you?  You mean, you thought Article XIII, section 5 of the Illinois Constitution was legally vaporous?)

Pat Quinn: So you see, John, we had to find out.  And as a governor, I have to tell you I am very proud of my accomplishments while in office to restrain further pension payments.  For example, I signed into law a bill that provided savings of billions of dollars in savings for pension liabilities by changing the terms of pension payments for new hires after the year 2011.  I’m very proud of that.

(Thought:  Are you delusional? You put on the backs of new hires an egregious payment to receive a capped retirement without a compounded COLA at a cost to them that will exceed what the Social Security Administration will consider equivalent to basic Social Security (the Safe Harbor explanation) and Illinois will be on the hook for even more money!)

Pat Quinn: Yes, I think I did my part…

Read the entire post here.

Looking back three years ago at the pension debate in the IEA.

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Former IEA President Bob Haisman. Looking back on the pension fight, the IEA leadership turned out be be wrong on every important point, tactic and strategy.

My good friend Glen Brown has been looking back at the past five years of posts he has written about the fight to defend the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

They are brilliant. Every post. I have now posted the entire catalog on my blog just below the banner.

It is good to look back. Not for the purpose of assigning credit or blame, but to prepare for the fights to come.

Today, on the third anniversary of the post that follows and the responses to it,  I start with Glen’s blog post from three years ago today, May 10th, 2013.

Please read on to the comments.

Former IEA President Bob Haisman criticizes Glen’s analysis. Haisman does a good job of presenting the position of the IEA leadership. I have made no grammatical or spelling corrections to any of the responses.

Glen, John Dillon, Ken Previti, David Levin and I respond. All the responses are worth reading.

Looking back, Haisman and the leadership turned out to be wrong on every point, every tactic and strategy.

They were wrong until they were left with no choice but to go to the courts.

FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2013

Why Any “Pension Reform” Is a Devious Ruse

Because we are victims of today’s state (and federal) politics that have created an unethical “winner-take-all” economy for wealthy egomaniacs at the expense of everyone else; because we are victims of Republican and Democratic legislators at the state and federal levels who align their interests with corporations and who pass laws that sustain their concentrated economic privilege and power;

Because we are victims of deregulation and tax reductions for the wealthy minority that have resulted from organized political action by and in support of the wealthy sector; because we are victims of politicians’ divide-and-conquer strategies, fallacious rationalizations, distorted information and diversionary and radical “pension reform” for public employees and tax cuts for the wealthy, regardless of whether corporate welfare produces more deficits;

Because we are victims of insidious financial reforms that do not resolve the state’s (or federal) deficit problems but accommodate and reinforce the enormous inequality of organizational resources of corporate self-seekers; because we are victims of their tyranny and their lack of accountability for destroying a representative democracy and a just economy; because we are victims of their Super PACs and their vast resources of money and influence committed to reforming the rules and policies that have adversely affected the lives of the middle class and disenfranchised;

Because we are victims of politicians’ machinations to destroy the public employees’ defined-benefit retirement plans, even though most corporate executives will have this guarantee and will retire with exorbitant bonuses and other outrageous incentives;

Because we are victims of partisan polarization and well-financed organizational interest group politics and policies; of compromised corporate-owned media, such as the Chicago Tribune, that have been bought by the wealthy minority to shape what and how readers think about fiscal issues;

Because we are also victims of many unethical legislators who are clueless about “long-term retirement policy objectives” and are “influenced by projections that include unrelated healthcare liabilities or irrelevant corporate sector metrics,” and who have no desire to pay what is owed to the public pension systems that any public pension reform is a devious ruse.

And because we are victims of today’s disappearing and weakened organized labor unions that were once the guardians of middle-class workers and representative democracy; of their inability to build a more effective protest and to launch a counter-attack against the arrogant, wealthy minority and their politicians who are waging an economic war against the poor and middle class in Illinois (and elsewhere);

And because many of the union membership are indifferent, indecisive and politically unaware,  we will remain scapegoats for reprehensible problems created by the “wealthy elite” and perpetuated by their bought-and-paid-for politicians.

Until we mobilize our collective efforts against powerful economic interests, and marshal essential resources and draw upon experts in the fields of economics and law, the lucrative lobbying of a state’s policymakers to reduce a state’s debt will continue by way of challenging constitutional contracts of public employees.

No matter what pension reform bill is passed, it will never be enough to address the serious underlying problems that exist.  Politicians will use public employees’ pensions as a diversionary tactic again because they were able to make public employees and retirees the scapegoats for the state’s budget problems.

Bob Haisman:

WOW! Glen! ANY PENSION Reform Is A Ruse? So is that a play of that the word “Reform” — When Madigan uses it — really translates into benefit cuts?

BUT NO REFORM ? Really? No Efforts to deal with the onslaught? Crawl into our foxhole and weight for the tanks to rumble over? Crawl into a fox hole and wait for someone to pass a progressive income tax – maybe three years from now! Stay couped up in this fox hole for three years ….Really?

By the way who do you think might get an Graduated income tax constitutional amendment on the ballot? Who might introduce legislation to close loop Tax holes? Maybe one of those weakened Unions? The IRTA? Certainly we wouldn’t entrust that important of an idea to the IEA?? I know the IEA and IEA President Klickna are not favorites of the “Pension Blogasphere”. Seems to me that, that Dam IEA can’t not anything good, moral, valuable or ….anything right. They can’t even be effective Machiavellians!

I mean lets look at IEA Lobby Day – its stupid. OK we will Cancel Lobby Day – that is stupid. Let’s have lobby day when we need it -like January during veto session….Oh its too cold that’s stupid. OK Lets have it in may — OH OK! … Wait I don’t agree with you now I’m staying home!!

For the record — I don’t like lobby day. I usually find it a waste of time. But I like to talk to legislators. I think I’m going this year –(BTW — Reports of it’s death this week were premature) We have a reason to try to talk to our legislators.) That little rave was tied that the IEA does not seem to have much creditability on the “pension Blogoshere”! My Point is Get over it -even if the IEA didn’t exist we would have to create one!

As usual you use big words and complex sentences in your blog so I’m at a disadvantage commenting on the Sage from LT’s blog. But comment I must. I disagree with YOU! I disagree with You Big Time.

Glen Brown:
There are no “big words” in these two sentences, Bob:
 1) The State of Illinois has pension debt and revenue problems.
 2) “Pension reform” (or breaking a contract with public employees) is not the solution.
 Yes, Bob, the IEA “has negotiated” many positive “changes to the Teachers Retirement System.”
The IEA also gave us Senate Bill 7 and Public Act 88-0593 in 1995 (the current unsustainable funding law called the “Pension Ramp”).
Bob Haisman:

YOU JUST HAD TO BRING UP PA 88 didn’t you Glen!! LOL!

I ran for the IEA Presidency in 1993 on the pledge to do something about the 9 Billion Dollar Unfunded Liability. I had been yelling about and against the UFL since 1980 — when as a delegate to the IEA Representative Assembly — I presented New Business Item #9 — entitled “Days of Rage” where I called for the IEA to conduct a state wide strike and have teachers “March on Springfield” to demand a solution to the then 5 Billion UFL!! (my NBI lost. overwhelmingly.)

In 1993 — in a three person race for the IEA Presidency I won 73% of the vote on the First ballot because I was talking PENSION REFORM.

“WE” — The IEA passed Public Act 88-0593 in 1995 to address the Unfunded Liability. I know PA 88 is roundly criticized in 2013 but it was a good faith effort to systemically fix the “REVENUE” Problem.

So GO AHEAD Glen (LOL!) — tie me to one of your top two IEA disasters — but we were well intentioned. We were trying to look forward 50 years. We had to get a bill passed that Governor Edgar would sign. We tried. I did my best to fix the problem. I failed. Go ahead Rub it in! My contention was it was working till PA 88 meet Blago. I guess once again I disagree with you Glen — just over my motivation in trying to fix the UFL problem not your characterization of PA 88 as an unmitigated , colossal mistake! It is hard to pass substantive laws in Springfield — Glen — harder then it appears.

Fred Klonsky:

It is good that former IEA President Bob Haisman has decided to step up to the plate to defend the indefensible.

The IEA leadership has obviously decided to lay low as a result of their deal with Cullerton. It is unfortunate that Haisman has decided to use snark as an argument however. His snarkiness might make sense in his numerous comments on my blog, but readers of this blog know that they can count on every assertion that Glen makes will be supported by sources and citations.

It is what makes this blog a powerful tool in members struggle to defend what is rightfully ours.

John Dillon:

I am ever hopeful that SB2404 would or might be the answer to the constant assaults on the pensions of teachers, public workers and civil servants in Illinois, but to herald SB2404 as “a new alliance” seems premature at best.

Will Lovitt warned at the IEA Retired conference that there was a different culture in Springfield, a different attitude, and one unlike anything he’d seen since he began working there. I believed that he meant the legislators were displaying an unusual sense of urgency and commitment to act. In fact, he was also describing our union representatives, wasn’t he?

Those of us in the “blogosphere” have become quite accustomed to living in the future, one with little trust in shiny new promises, which agree to replace older broken vows. Temporary band aids for serious structural revenue issues will not hold, and as Ralph Martire warns, anything short of real fixes will find us facing another assault later on. SB2404 is not a comprehensive fix.

In fact, the bill forces real pain and fiscally coercive choices upon actives and retirees. It frees up $850 million in 2015 according to TRS, but it negatively affects the financial lives on active workers – and it forces those elderly and retired to choose between a promise of thwarting inflation or assistance in illness.

That’s why the hesitation. That’s why you and all of us heard people at the conference telling Will to stand by the Constitution. They may have been naïve. They may have been cynical. But they do know how we got here, and they do know what real solutions would look like because of Teacherpoetmusician.

Can’t we all just get along?

Ken Previti:

Why are you still yelling “rah-rah IEA” after IEA has done its deed? Please, enough.
The votes will be there. The damage will be done. Your fellow retirees will suffer each to his or her own degree.

The legislative minions of the disaster capitalists have created a crisis and a solution – a solution to their advantage – not a reasonable solution for retirees or active teachers. (Glen, John, Ralph, Fred and others offered real solutions to the created crisis.) The IEA caved to pressure.

I know a woman who retired not long after I did. She then had heart surgery. With no SS, Medicare or affordable healthcare guaranteed her, she married an ill man with money and Medicare coverage who needed emotional assurance and a future nurse. They married. They each know why. They are among the fortunate retirees.

There is no place in their lives, or mine, to join in with “rah-rah.” There are thousands of retirees whose lives will play out in much worse ways than ours.

Please desist out of decency.

David Levin:

I’ve lost sight of why we had to negotiate what is guaranteed in our State Constitution.

Were all public employees and retirees believing that our pensions were really going to be impaired or diminished? Did all teachers get so worried that we would lose a court challenge, particularly since the judges’ pensions would be unscathed with the legislative attacks? Did we all believe that Article 8, Section 5 was not strong enough to protect our pensions and so we had to “negotiate” with the money-hungry legislators of the General Assembly to save our pensions from those who failed to uphold the State Constitution?
And now that the IEA and the We Are One Coalition managed to persuade many people that SB 2404 is what teachers and retirees want to have our legislative leaders to vote for, what will prevent future legislative leaders from taking action again against teachers and retires by announcing that the State Constitution needs another legislative bill because the State cannot afford to support what is required in SB 2404.
When does it all stop? I’ve lost sight of why we had to negotiate.
Fred Klonsky:

How can We Are One, the IEA leaders and lawyers promise an ironclad funding source, funding stabilization and a constitutionally guaranteed health care provision? Their entire argument for bargaining away our original constitutionally-protected pension is that they don’t believe the courts will ultimately agree that we have constitutionally-protected benefits.

This is an argument that is perfectly circular.

Out of a fear that the courts will rule against our constitutionally-protected benefits, we agree to give up those benefits in exchange for constitutionally protected benefits in a deal that costs every member of the pension systems their benefits. If we don’t come out worse out of this deal, where do Cullerton’s savings to the state come from?

There are no new revenues after all. That’s our money. It is only our money and nobody else’s. The burden for this revenue crisis falls on the backs of state employees. Only us.

Who doesn’t believe that if the legislature gets this deal that they won’t be back for more next year? Or the year after?

We are teachers or retired teachers. We have all had a kid who had a parent who couldn’t say no. It did the kid no favor. And it made life miserable for everyone else.
While the issue of constitutionality is important, in the end this is not about what is constitutional or what is not. What is most important is not what counts as consideration or not. Whether four lawyers, or five lawyers, or a hundred lawyers say Senate Bill 2404 is constitutional or not.

The problem is that we have union leaders who are afraid to say no. And the problem is that the inability of our leaders to say no will bring the pension killers back again and again and again. It doesn’t do anyone a favor. Least of all us.

The state is out of money. But Wall Street gets theirs no matter what.

Wall street

This afternoon Illinois State Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that the state does not have the money to pay the state’s pension funds.

It means that the pension funds will lose a lot from investments that cannot be made.

Illinois will delay pension payments as a prolonged budget impasse causes a cash shortage, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger said.

The spending standoff between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders has extended into its fourth month with no signs of ending. Munger said her office will postpone a $560 million retirement-fund payment next month, and may make the December contribution late.

“This decision is choosing the least of a number of bad options,” Munger told reporters in Chicago on Wednesday. “For all intents and purposes, we are out of money now.”

Munger said the pension systems will be paid in full by the end of the fiscal year in June. The state still is making bond payments, she said.

“We prioritize the bond payments above everything else,” Munger told reporters.

Just to be clear.  No matter what happens to the people of the state of Illinois, Wall Street will always get theirs. They are always at the front of the line. Sometimes they are the only ones allowed in line.

CPS to Chicago Teachers Pension Fund: Two tens for a five.

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Chicago Sun-Times:

One day after using borrowed money and savings generated by 1,400 layoffs to make a $634 million payment to the teachers pension fund, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is asking the pension fund for a five-month, $500 million loan.

At a pension fund meeting Wednesday, Chicago’s newly-appointed Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown said she’s well aware it’s a “big ask,” particularly after the history of pension holidays and partial payments that created the $9.5 billion pension crisis at the Chicago Public Schools.

CPS pension bill paid for with the the lives of teachers and students. In debt by design.

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CPS did not meet its pension obligation yesterday.

CPS teachers and students made the payment for them.

Yes, there was a transfer of $630 million into the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

But it was paid for with classrooms that in September will be overflowing with students and teachers in the unemployment line.

1400 current teachers will lose their jobs.

Bankers are smiling.

They will be paid and none will lose a job.

The Chicago Teachers Union has argued that the city is broke on purpose. The CTU is right as rain.

Yes, the Mayor is a terrible manager.

Yes, his hand-picked board is made up of a bunch of hustlers and bumbling fools.

Yet.

Can anyone really believe that the mayor who ran as a wise financial wiz kid, who made millions on Wall Street, didn’t know what was happening?

We are a city and state in debt by design.

“We are blindsided by reports that the district intends to lay off 1,400 public school educators, given that we just met with them yesterday and there was no mention of this action. These layoffs prove that the Board never intended to make the pension payment in good faith and that they are using this to justify more attacks on our classrooms,” said Karen Lewis, president of the CTU. “Putting 1,400 people out of work is no way to balance a budget and resource our schools. This is going to hurt our students and the most vulnerable children in our district. These cuts are a result of a history of poor fiscal management by the Board of Education. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked board has led this district over a financial cliff.

“We are outraged at this deceptive action that only furthers the distrust teachers, parents and students have with the Board. We thought it suspect at the time that the Board was pressuring us to sign off on an agreement on yesterday, before we had a complete agreement. This is retaliatory and unnecessary because (the mayor) refuses to seek revenue options to stabilize CPS. ”

Who will be targeted by the layoff of 1400 teachers?

Union activists, trouble-makers, and senior teachers.

“Let no good crisis go to waste,” the Mayor has said.

The CTU leadership saw this coming. That is why their bargaining focused more on evaluation than on salary.

Layoffs are tied to evaluations.

The current state of hiring and firing at CPS is a throwback to the worst Chicago patronage days.

Which may, in fact, be now.

The current evaluation procedures give principals the power to down-grade the over all ranking of those who don’t bow and scrape to their every whim with a down-grade in a single category.

Local hiring allows principals the power to hire friends and family.

My old precinct captain, Guido, would be jealous.

At the very same time as the layoff announcement was made Catalyst was reporting:

In 2013 the Illinois State Board of Education and the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute asked more than 100,000 teachers and 750,000 middle and high school students a series of questions aimed at determining which schools had the best climate for teaching and learning.

In three of the broad categories – effective leaders, collaborative teachers and ambitious instruction – Chicago Public Schools had higher ratings than other types of school communities across the state, according to a recently released report.

If this is permitted  to stand, say goodbye to all that.

Rahm has gone from the F word to the B word.

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Ben Joravsky is right, of course.

My guess is that somewhere in the back of their minds Rahm and Rauner and Walker have concluded it’s easier to fight a union of women than it is to take on a union of men.

You could say that Rahm started out as mayor screaming the F word at CTU President Karen Lewis. This time in these negotiations he is adding the B word. Teacher pension threats and underfunding at both the city and state level have always have their greatest impact on women. In the city, a huge percentage of retired teachers are African American women.

Teacher contracts and teacher pensions are women’s issues.

Teacher pension rights are women’s rights.

Not only women. But a significant number.

Before I retired I worked as a K-5 art teacher in Park Ridge District 64. The high school district that included Maine South was a separate district with a separate union local, separate school board, separate collective bargaining agreement with a separate salary schedule.

When we sat down to bargain with our board the first thing we would do is draw up a list of comparable districts to compare salaries.

The board always fought us on including the high school districts.

Maine South’s salary schedule was much higher than ours.

Same town. Same tax base.

More male employees in the high school district.

Rahm’s response to the Chicago Teachers Union’s  one year CBA offer is “F*#k you B#*%H.”

Same as its ever been.

Rauner’s Illinois shut-down will cause a lot of hurt. What about pension checks?

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State Comptroller Leslie Munger.

There was this interesting story in the Springfield State Journal Register today:

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger on Wednesday outlined looming payment delays if a new state budget is not in place by July 1.

The General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner remain at an impasse in negotiations as the governor asks for reforms to workers’ compensation, a property tax freeze and other changes as part of a deal.

The first serious crunch will be July 15, which is when the first scheduled payroll for the new fiscal year is supposed to go out. Payments will stop earlier for new Medicaid and vendor billings, but it is unclear when exactly that will affect people since there is a delay in providing services and billing for them.

Some payments, such as pension checks, debt service payments and income tax money channeled to local governments, will continue.

“I am here as the state’s chief fiscal officer to urge the General Assembly to avoid causing this unnecessary hardship and work with the governor to pass a balanced budget,” Munger said at a Chicago news conference.

This story will be updated.

Well, that didn’t occur to me.

I wrote Rich Frankenfeld from TRS:

Hi Rich,

I’m surprised by this, since it never occurred to me that a state government shutdown would impact pensions since we are not paid out of the state budget directly, but through TRS.

Is this just to calm people’s fears?

Rich emailed me back:

If there is no one working at the comptroller’s office, who would process the checks? The comptroller, in effect, said the checks will get processed. 

So, Leslie Munger is mailing out pension checks.

Did I mention she is running for the seat she was appointed to after Judy Topinka died.

So is State Senator Dan Biss.

So is City Clerk Susan Mendoza.

Suddenly there is a lot of concern for several hundred thousand voting pensioners.

Meanwhile the Governor’s demands are going to cause a lot of other people a whole lot hurt. And he will cause a lot of hurt on seniors in lots of different ways.

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