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Race to the bottom

Monday, Jan 31, 2005

I’ve seen plenty of arguments pro and con about the impact of a single state increasing its minimum wage (as Illinois did). It’s not clear from the evidence that it has a huge impact.

But new technologies appear to be allowing corporations to change the dynamic.

The McDonald’s restaurant in Hermiston, Oregon is outsourcing customers drive-thru meals to North Dakota.

The restaurant on Highway 395 has outsourced one of the most important jobs at the drive-through window — order taking.

When a customer drives through, they’ll be patched through to Grand Forks, North Dakota to place the order. Why? Because the minimum wage in North Dakota is five-dollars and 15 cents, compared to Oregon’s seven-dollars and 25 cents.

I wonder when McDonald’s finally outsources this task overseas at a buck an hour.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

Statewide sites

Monday, Jan 31, 2005

I’m going to add a new link category on the right side of the page for statewide candidate websites and their non-blogger tormentors. The link shouldn’t be under “blogs,” for instance, and I’m going to change that.

If you know of any STATEWIDE candidate-related sites, please post them in comments. Thanks.

The latest one I’ve found is Rod Gidwitz’s site. Kinda lame, but he does have a “Road Diary”.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

New IRMA chair

Monday, Jan 31, 2005

From Crain’s online:

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association named Western Springs True Value Hardware owner Linda Johnson as chair to replace Jewel-Osco executive Pete Van Helden, who was promoted to the head of the grocery store chain’s California division.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Hynes says no

Monday, Jan 31, 2005

Comptroller Hynes says “No” to paying the governor’s bill.

Illinois’ chief financial officer said Monday his office would refuse to pay for the millions of dollars in flu vaccine that Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered from Europe but never got federal approval to import, even though the state signed a contract.

In a letter to the governor’s chief of staff, state Comptroller Dan Hynes’ office said the lack of approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to import the vaccine should let the state cancel the contract under a provision about “circumstances beyond its reasonable control.'’

The letter also notes that Illinois’ $2.5 million contract for 256,000 doses of flu vaccine was not submitted until Jan. 24 — three months after Blagojevich struck the deal to import the vaccine.

“In light of these facts … the Office of the Comptroller will refuse any requests for payment,'’ the letter said. Hynes spokesman Alan Henry said that if the vaccine suppliers still feel entitled to the money, they will have to sue the state.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the governor’s office was looking into the letter and had no immediate comment.

Stay tuned for more.

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

Recommended reading

Monday, Jan 31, 2005

The Rockford Register-Star’s Aaron Chambers sits down with the governor’s commerce director, Jack Lavin.

The interview is transcribed online, Q&A style, a practice that has been used by more and more of this state’s newspapers in the past year or so. It began when House Speaker Madigan decreed last year that he would only allow himself to be interviewed if it was reprinted verbatum, and then everyone else asked for the same treatment.

Imagine that. Mike Madigan, of all people, helping to reshape news coverage for the better. Kinda weirds me out.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Pulitzer sold

Monday, Jan 31, 2005

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Bloomington Pantagraph are being absorbed by Lee. All of Lee’s Statehouse reporters operate out of one office right now, but it’s getting kinda crowded in there, so I wonder if they’ll make Erickson and McDermott (both very good reporters) move.

Pulitzer Inc. has agreed to a $1.46 billion acquisition by Lee Enterprises Inc., that will create the seventh-largest U.S. newspaper chain in terms of circulation.

The deal, announced late Sunday, ended two months of speculation about the fate of Pulitzer, whose holdings include The Pantagraph and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. […]

Lee operates 44 daily newspapers in 19 states. It had revenue of $683 million and profits of $86.1 million in its latest fiscal year. Pulitzer owns 14 dailies and more than 100 weekly newspapers and other publications. It had revenue of $444 million and profits of $44.1 million last year.

Lee’s deal for Pulitzer also includes a small stake in the St. Louis Cardinals. Pulitzer Inc. and Michael Pulitzer together own slightly less than four percent of the baseball team.

One question not answered by the above Pantagraph article was how the SP-D’s very strong employees’ unions will be impacted.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Survey says…

Monday, Jan 31, 2005

Despite some of the bad press resulting from the state’s “C-minus” in the Government Performance Project’s latest management survey of all state governments, Illinois appeared to be praised more often than it was criticized.

You can see the complete Illinois study here, or you can just peruse the press release here.

In the end
, whether you see Illinois management as a glass half full or a glass half empty doesn’t matter a great deal. The bottom line is that there’s an enormous amount of catching up to do—but at least now there’s somebody checking to see that the glass doesn’t fall off the table.

And some basic facts:

The state takes longer than average to hire new employees and terminates an above average number of new workers before the end of their probationary period. Despite recent high retirement turnover, the state boasts comparatively low voluntary turnover. Illinois spends an average amount of money on benefits per salary dollar for employees, including a 19 percent contribution of employee salary to retirement and payment of 90 percent of an employee’s health insurance costs.

* 51,127 state employees (excluding temps)
* 20% of employees are covered by the merit system
* 45 political appointees serve in the Executive Branch
* 80% of state employees are covered by labor contracts […]

Total benefit dollars per state employee:

* $16,347 for state classified employees
* $16,347 for state non-classified employees
* $20,812 for Environment classified employees
* $29,577 for Environment non-classified employees
* $24,700 for Transportation classified employees
* $36,100 for Transportation non-classified employees

Benefits dollars per dollar of salary:

* $.29 for state classified employees
* $.40 for state non-classified employees
* $.40 for Environment classified employees
* $.32 for Environment non-classified employees
* $.57 for Transportation classified employees
* $.57 for Transportation non-classified employees

Percent of health insurance covered by state:

* 90.9% for state employees

Employee relations:

* There were 1,211 grievances for state employees
* There were 23.7 grievances per 1,000 state employees
* There were 110 appeals for state employees
* There were 2.2 appeals per 1,000 state employees
* There were 138 discrimination charges for state employees
* There were 2.7 discrimination charges per 1,000 state employees

There’s more, and I’m sure other reporters and bloggers will dig it up. I’ll keep looking as well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

Turn me on, dead man

Monday, Jan 31, 2005

Very trippy:

Remember when the “White Album” came out and we were worried that Paul might be dead?

Remember ruining our needles playing songs backwards searching for hidden messages?

Remember wondering what the entire song of “Revolution #9″ would sound like backwards? […]

Not every family had reel-to-reel tape recorders and it was impossible to play an 8 minute song backwards on a turntable so I don’t think many people ever got to hear the whole thing. I longed for the day that technologies would allow this type of sonic manipulation to be simplified and of course that day is here now! Using Cool Edit Pro, I have completed the project for all to hear.

Go here and scroll down.

(Via growabrain.)

Frankly, it doesn’t sound like anything.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

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