Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Short History continued: Introducing the state rep, who will be the senator's constant companion . . .

A few weeks after Carleton and Business-Civic Council, the senator faced citizens at the Oak Park Library in a town hall gathering of his scheduling, accompanied by one of Oak Park's two state representatives, Camille Lilly.

The audience was largely but not entirely true-blue supporters of Democrat programs, about a quarter of them government-employment retirees (they raised hands at the senator's request), with heavy personal stake in pension fund solvency.

Lilly deserves some explanation. Appointed to her position in 2010 when the incumbent was appointed alderman by the Chicago mayor to replace one who'd gone to prison on a corruption conviction, she represented north and most of central Oak Park, plus parts of three other suburbs; but her base was the adjoining Austin neighborhood of the city. She was vice president for community outreach for Loretto Hospital in Austin and had been the unanimous choice of a committee of committeemen headed by the senator after an open session in the Carleton Hotel.

“I think folks are just weary of politicians and of government,” the senator said after the meeting, referring possibly to the opened-up candidate process, possibly to the choice of Lilly, who had held no public office. “That’s horribly unfortunate," he continued. "We’re trying things [at the Carleton] we’ve done in Springfield to try and restore trust in government and trust in politics, and it’s a long road."

He was presenting the acceptable sentiment, the sort of anti-politician comment from a politician that is ever suspect unless accompanied by tearful resignation and subsequent entrance into a monastery. As one effete plutocrat said to the other at poolside in a long-ago New Yorker cartoon, the two of them watching a man walking towards them on the water's surface, "It's a long time since that's been done well."

Like the alderman she was replacing, Lilly was a black woman with roots in the almost all-black Austin, but also -- and this was a nice twist -- a onetime Oak Parker, for elementary and high school, having walked for her diploma as a member of the class of 1979 of Oak Park & River Forest High School.

She had never run for public office and had no record of involvement in Oak Park. In Austin, on the other hand, beyond or as offshoot of her employment at Loretto Hospital, she helped to found and served as executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. In town hall meetings, she made repeated references to herself as newcomer to Springfield, so that one was frequently prompted to see her as a bona fide non-politician in politician's clothing.

As for clothing and general appearance, she was young-looking and attractive, tastefully groomed and caparisoned, and of an outgoing, voluble nature, exuding enthusiasm about her elective-office experience and eager to engage citizens in matters connected with it.  She did this to sometimes stunning effect in the town hall meetings.

The senator opened the Oak Park Library session with reference to "decades of underfunding” of pensions as a problem which can be solved without taking from “core government services, especially social services.” Pension problems were within reach of alleviating without pain to pensioners.

Lilly agreed, citing the budget process as “really, really, really critical" -- if (apparently) not critical enough to force program cuts this year. She urged her listeners -- a packed-house audience of a hundred or so -- to have a look at the budget itself via “the new technology of today," the state government web site.

She was letting Oak Parkers in on the latest in digital communication.

-- To be continued -- 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Daley family business scores another . . .

Newsalert: Chicago to Borrow $1. 1 Billion Dollars: William Daley Jr. to Make 2.64 from Underwriting Fee

Chicago being part of Illinois (I think that's how it works), we might consider what a jungle it is in here -- as if we didn't know -- in view of this item:
There's more [to the story of the city's borrowing another billion-plus to stay afloat]:
The senior managing underwriter on the $1.1 billion borrowing with an estimated $2.64 million in fees is Morgan Stanley. The company’s affidavit was signed by William Daley Jr., whose uncle is the former mayor and whose father and namesake replaced Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff.

That not only raised eyebrows among black and Hispanic aldermen demanding a bigger seat on the gravy train tied to city bond issues.
The Daley family: looting Chicago for fun and for profit. 
What was it the Army's lawyer asked Joe McCarthy, the much-quoted theatrical clincher, "Have you no sense of decency?"

Monday, June 15, 2015

Serious accusation here vs. Rauner: He's acting political.

Gov. Rauner and Sam Zell launch TV ad blitz against Madigan

Get this, from a pol with FEELINGS:
“[Rauner's impending media blitz] actually impedes the ability for people to come to the table. You can’t forget we’re human beings, if you’re very negative towards someone it’s very difficult to say, ‘Ok, let’s sit down and negotiate in good faith.’” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. “It’s clear that the goal isn’t to get to a budget deal because this isn’t going to help get there. I would think this is only designed for political purposes.”
Mike Madigan's feelings will be hurt. And Rauner is acting all-POLITICAL. How could he be so insensitive?

Oak Park senator can't figure Governor Rookie, who won't play ball

It is 2015, and the Illinois whose fiscal worries were exaggerated by Republicans in 2013, as the Oak Park senator said, is in trouble that even he must recognize.

It's this first-term governor whom he cannot understand and who doesn't seem to give a hang, which makes him a very bad enemy to have to face.

Reuters reports the latest from Governor Rookie, that he has ruled out "a short-term spending plan to keep the state operating beyond the July 1 start of fiscal 2016 if there is no deal over a full-year budget."

What the . . . ? No short-term budget? He doesn't get it, does he? The senator has been smelling a rat at least since April in Elmwood Park.

His very words on that occasion: "I don't understand this governor. I don't know what makes him tick."

He saw impasse coming: "The next seven weeks will be a slow, bloody slog."

He and his fellows would stand firm: ""We are not going to pass the budget he proposes. Legislators across the state are doing meetings like this, taking it to the people."

But if Governor R. does not budge on the budget -- "An unbalanced short-term budget with no real reforms is still a phony budget and unacceptable to the people of Illinois," said his office just yesterday -- then what?

Meanwhile, the Oak Park senator and his House of Representatives partner appeared the other day in tandem at the Oak Park library, my spies tell me.

He pitched free community college, showing there's always time for bad ideas even at budget-crunch time. His representative counterpart pitched ObamaCare for ex-convicts, a clear winner in the race for legislators' attention. There's no stopping some people.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Oak Park senator in 2013 promotes taxes as fiscal solution, but fudges on what to call them

2nd installment, Short History of Oak Park, Vol. 2, The Donald and the Clothes Horse etc. . . . 

We left the Senator at the Carleton Hotel, June of 2013, assuring Oak Park's Business and Civic Council and other concerned citizens that the fiscal crisis in Springfield was being overblown by over-zealous Republicans.

The senator continued in a vein of all-conquering optimism with praise for the January 2011 temporary income-tax rate increase -- from 3% to 5%, which he helpfully explained was a 2% raise, though "Republicans [the rascals!] say 67%."

He also helpfully ignored well known Republican outlets such as Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, and Huffington Post, each of whom called it a 66% raise, the latter unconscionably adding that it was a "massive increase." Conspiratorially.

So what? The senator had something else in mind, a "fair tax" -- higher rates for higher earners -- that would satisfy budgetary and vote-getting needs simultaneously. He was being clever about it, rebranding the graduated or "progressive," tax, with its venerated soak-the-rich flavor.

Next day, in the (Springfield) State-Journal Register, he struck the still-hot iron with a thumb-in-eye comment declaring himself "not surprised" at Republican opposition to his proposal, introduced a day earlier, on the last day of the session.

After all, he said, Republicans are beholden to "the more well-off," for whose interests they would be expected to "step up," so as to "perpetuate an unfair tax." By Jove, a talking point!

And a hijacking in broad daylight, as it happened, of a term in use at least since 1999, when Congressional Republicans proposed a national sales tax to replace the IRS. File your returns on a postcard, the proposers predicted.

The term was familiar also to people who paid attention to presidential-campaign discussion in 2008, when it was discussed, and remained in 2013 the goal of Americans For Fair Taxation.

The senator's fair tax was nothing like that, of course, but imposed according to income (same-old, same-old), not spending. It was "progressive," its rate rising with taxpayer's income. Punishing success, say opponents, spreading the wealth ("You didn't build that,"), say Democrats, who normally rejoice in the word.

Not this time. Indeed, the senator showed trail-blazing mettle in scoring not only budgetarily and politically with his "fair" tax but also lexicographically, deftly changing the word's accepted meaning -- a sort of Humpty-Dumpty maneuver -- "When I use a word, . . . it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." The senator did it for marketing reasons, he was to acknowledge in a later forum.

His 2% did not pass muster for one listener, as he explained in a letter to the Oak Leaves, the longer-standing of two surviving Oak Park weeklies.

"In a finance-centric discussion replete with bar graphs, pie charts and other data points," the man wrote, "[the senator] repeatedly referred to the income tax hike as a two-percent increase. At the same time, he dismissed those (including our Republican friends) who referred to it as a 67-percent increase.

The senator, however, "either . . . has a tiny hole in his grasp of math or . . . is reluctant to acknowledge the difference between percent change and percentage point change.

"Starting at 3 percent and then going to 5 percent is a 2-percentage-point increase. But it's a 66.7-percent change."

Right. The senator from Oak Park, a home-grown product in his 12th year as senator, still had something to learn about the village's people, in this case whether he could get past them with word games.

-- To be continued --

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Short History of Oak Park, Vol. 2, The Donald and the Clothes Horse: Senatorial splendor, House Decoration -- the Town Hall Trail, June to October, 2013

The Donald of Oak Park, its senator in Springfield, where he's high in the ranks of the Ruling Party and is smooth-as-silk boss of Oak Park's Democratic Party organization, took to the podium at Oak Park's Carleton Hotel on a glorious day in late June of 2013 for his annual report to the Business and Civic Council. 

It was time to explain things to bankers, business owners and operators, and other issues-aware citizen consumers and taxpayers with skin in the game to varying degrees and/or psychic income from allegedly progressive political victories and enactments.

The state was in a state of turmoil, confusion, and all-around hyperactivity. The two legislative chambers were at odds over a pension solution. The governor, a one-time gadfly with Oak Park roots, was soon to cut off legislators' pay checks to punish them for inactivity.

For the Donald, however, it was what-me-worry time. "The sky isn't falling," he intoned, no matter what Republicans said. Falling or not, government had been "cut to the bone" to keep it from doing so. 

Pension payments, where his votes are, not fiscal problems that threaten far more than pensions, were the issue. Illinois "has never missed a pension and never will," he said. Saving the state, fending off mediocrity for all and sundry except the very well-to-do? Not the issue.

The long haul had no appeal. In the long run, we'll all be dead, he might have said, echoing Lord K., the apostle of deficit spending. Focus on the immediate particular, in this case the budget, his comfort zone. One just passed paid the pension for the coming year. He was comfortable with what he and his fellows might achieve in the immediate future. Leadership here, vision too. Yay.

Legislators "kind of solved the pension problem with the 2010 reform" anyhow, he said with a small grin. Yes, the 2010 reform. It tightened benefits for new hires and left the pension only partly funded. ("'Tain't funny, McGee," Fibber's wife Molly used to say on the radio.)

Don't blame Democrats who run the show but couldn't agree on how to fix pensions. It was a matter of "honest, principled differences." Oh those honest, principled Democrats. When will we see such another? Their differences were enough to bring things to a halt, but not to worry, sky not falling.

-- to be continued --