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Rallies and the Statehouse

Friday, Nov 21, 2008

* I’ll let you in on a little secret

The president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 494, which represents Pontiac Correctional Center officers, feels Wednesday’s rally in Springfield will have positive results.

The rally was to protest the scheduled closing of Pontiac Correctional Center on Dec. 31.

Jarrett said at least he hopes there will be a lot of positive action coming forth. […]

Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, met with the several hundred correctional employees at the rally.

“I think the rally did an excellent job of showing Governor Blagojevich ‘Don’t Close Pontiac,’ “said Rutherford. “AFSCME, the city of Pontiac and the Pontiac Area Chamber of Commerce all deserve credit for providing this clear message to Springfield.”

Statehouse rallies rarely work. Occasionally, they’ll have an impact, but there are so many rallies now that legislators have just tuned them out.

What works best is one-on-one conversations with legislators when the General Assembly isn’t in Springfield. Bringing people to town to talk to their members in their offices or around the rail can have an impact as well. But rallies, unless they are so large that they overwhelm the Statehouse, just don’t do a whole lot except make people feel better about themselves.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - bored now - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 6:44 am:

    now, now. whether statehouse rallies work depends on what was their objective. if the rally itself was intended to influence government, then you’d have a point. but if the rally is a part of a political strategy to bring pressure on government, which i have to assume is the case, then i’d say you can’t tell until the endgame is achieved.

    one would hope that, in the case of out-of-town protesters, that rally organizers would give them time to go to their elected officials if only to be counted. you may know more than i do about this, but i have to assume that this is only part of a multi-pronged effort to change the governor’s decision to close the prison. (btw, if you travel around the area around pontiac, you’d see a plethora of yard signs that say, save the prison.)

  2. - 2ConfusedCrew - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:02 am:

    Don’t forget Capt Fax does not like rallies because he doesn’t like to cover them, they clog up the building, etc.
    He prefers all information be routed through the prism that is the Capitol Fax.
    Rallies can help group leaders show their “power”
    Advocates are much better off getting ten people in their district office. If 20 legislators come to town and all have had group meetings on Issue X the leadership will soon determine there is a need to act.
    That is unless Blagoof sends the King of Sleeze , Eddie Reed, into a district. Then it is a big never mind.

  3. - Princess - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:08 am:

    Rich “just don’t do a whole lot except make people feel better about themselves”.

    That in it’s self is part of it. It motivates and encourages the workers to keep the fight issue front n center. There are many levels to it. On the homefront, in the background with the calls n emails/letters, the visits to offices both at home and in Springfield and a chance to get a side’s corncerns to a larger public window than just the home location. Does anyone really think that the GA members race to their window and hang on the protesters every word? No of course not, but they have already heard it over and over and there is selected people inside trying to work the offices, the protesters outside are showing their support and the issue gets a chance at more public awareness and support.

  4. - bored now - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:12 am:

    why on god’s earth should rich be expected to cover rallies? what “inside” information could be obtained at a very public event? maybe i don’t understand rich’s business model, but i didn’t think he was competing with special interest newsletters or springfield newspapers. i can’t imagine any inside scoop that could be obtained by covering a political rally…

  5. - OneMan - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:22 am:

    They can also set you daughter up so she can be used by the governor to avoid the media and you end up getting inside the governor’s office to see the governor.

  6. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:29 am:

    A corollary that an old Springfield hand passed down to me 20-plus years ago: An impassioned, persuasive speech on the floor may change a legislator’s mind, but never a vote.

  7. - Cassandra - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:30 am:

    I heard from a friend that the DCFS layoffs are not going to happen, so maybe some AFSCME rallies work. The governor released the funds approved by the legislature? Not that DCFS couldn’t stand to lose a few porkers. It’s poorly managed, heavily politicized, lacks accountability and allows children under its protection to die unnecessarily, as we saw last week with the infant who died in Oak Lawn.

    Of course, a lot less money is involved than at Pontiac.

  8. - State worker - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:34 am:

    The only State Rep. I saw taking the time to come out and pay attention to the rally was Mary Flowers. She has always stood with us rather adult issues or juvenile.

  9. - Vote Quimby! - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:36 am:

    I know a day care owner who is going on a bus to Springfield this morning to rally. The delay in paying for CHASI kids is causing cash flow problems for many of them. The owner said she is going to our state’s CapitOl because she is so frustrated at a lack of response from her legislators. Unless things improve, she is going to close at the end of December and forcing 25 families in a single small town to look for alternatives. Going to Springfield is the only action she can take, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I knew, after living in Springfield for 7 years, that it wouldn’t do any good. Yeah, it is a pain for the regulars to not be able to scoot around the hallways. They don’t know the rules or reality—I bet for 95% of them its the first time them been inside since they were schoolkids.
    But let ‘em have their say–even if no one is around to hear them. It goes back to our core beliefs, that our government should respond to the people. You know, that corny old goo-goo saying by Illinois’ SECOND-most famous politician…something about government of, by and for the people. Let ‘em rally!

  10. - afscme worker - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 8:58 am:

    It may sound logical to say rallies don’t work, but its wrong. Danny Jarret from Pontiac has been on more bargaining committees than any local leader and he knows that though noone can explain why and how this type of action always causes movement at the bargaining table.
    If Rich had paid attention, he’d have noticed the focus of the rally was not to send a message to legislators…they’ve already passed a budget with the money to fund Pontiac, but the Governor. That’s why the march ended at his office. Even though Blago is probably crazy, he has and probably will continue to respond eventually to this type of pressure.

  11. - Secret Square - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 9:52 am:

    Another effective way to get results from legislators is to cultivate contacts with their staffs, particularly the partisan staff members (House/Senate Dems/GOP) who handle issues of interest to you or your group. I would suggest that anyone visiting their local legislator on an issue of importance ask the legislator for that information. For example, the day care provider VQ mentioned could ask her state rep for the name of the House Dem or GOP staffer who works with the Human Services Committee. Then she could call or write to that staffer with a detailed explanation of the situation she is facing. That way, what she says gets to the people who most need to hear it.

  12. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:22 am:

    Not to sound elitist, but these daily statehouse rallies are primarily an annoyance to people working in the Capitol. Other than when you have a bunch of people dressed up in revolutionary war garb playing the fife constantly like on Wednesday, nobody really notices what they’re about. Ok, I guess I don’t even know what that one was about either.

  13. - Secret Square - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:34 am:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe there is a difference between a mere rally and a “lobby day” that includes time for one-on-one meetings with legislators or groups of legislators. The latter kind of gathering, it seems to me, would be a lot more effective. Organizations like the Illinois Municipal League have them every year; it seems to me they wouldn’t keep having them if they didn’t do at least some good.

  14. - cermak_rd - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:46 am:

    Of course, rallies can rally the other side too. I’m thinking of the anti-undocumented-immigrants that the immigrant rallies galvanized. Don’t forget that Pontiac is only one (rather small) community in this state. Other communities may not want to keep this archaic dinosaur running just to improve their financial lot when the economy in all of our communities are suffering. People who have to travel long distances to get to Pontiac to see their relatives may not be thrilled with keeping the prison open either.

  15. - DzNuts - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:10 am:

    Rich’s earlier comment that the Governor (makes me cringe to associate that name with Rod) chose to be in Mt. Vernon versus Springfield. He knew the folks from Pontiac were coming to see him and make a conscious choice to avoid them. He doesn’t care about them. He doesn’t care about anyone unless they have a reporting deadline or a checkbook. Heck, he won’t even return a phone call from the second highest ranking US Senator for Christ’s sakes. Why? Probably because Durbin, like the Pontiac folks, are of no value to him and represent foil characters to his little plot lines.

    The legislators who represent Pontiac are doing all they ethically can and within the law to stop this crazy and illogical attempt by Rodney to drop an economic bomb on workers and families.

    The trip to Springfield did demonstrate, despite Rod’s scheduling preference to the contrary, that concerned citizens will fight and march to address injustice. We shouldn’t denigrate that fundamental approach to making voices heard (even if the only ones hearing it are those not empowered to act upon it).

  16. - bored now - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:14 am:

    i’m sorry, DzNuts, but i have the impression that the governor doesn’t like confrontation. he wants to be loved. i think he thought when he got elected governor that he’d be loved by all. he seems a little annoyed that people hold the man accountable…

  17. - Frank Booth - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 11:51 am:

    Statehouse rallies are scripted wastes of time. One year busloads of seniors were coming to demand action on something. Problem is that something was approved at least a day before they got here. So they were all given new instructions as they got off the bus, along with information on the free meal.
    what a joke.
    Go rally at a lawmakers district office, or better yet, a fundraiser if you want to have an impact.
    By the time it’s in springfield, it’s usually too late and you’ll be written off as special interest hacks or puppets, which is what rally-goers usually are whether they realize it or not. Google CORE if you want a perfect example.

  18. - My Opinion - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 2:20 pm:

    AFSCME worker. I worked for AFSCME at one point. I also work in the capitol now. See the thing is, the rallies are great, and wanting to prove a point is great and all. But the only people that got the point yesterday were the legislators that already passed the funding and the only people that dealt with the members were the people trying to do their business and the legislators that have already done their job. To send a message to Rod, you should probably go to his house in Chicago and stand outside.

  19. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 3:16 pm:

    ===If Rich had paid attention, he’d have noticed the focus of the rally was not to send a message to legislators…they’ve already passed a budget with the money to fund Pontiac, but the Governor.===

    If you had paid attention you’d know that the governor wasn’t in Springfield yesterday.

  20. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 3:16 pm:

    ===I know a day care owner who is going on a bus to Springfield this morning to rally===

    Everybody left town yesterday.

  21. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 3:18 pm:

    ===He knew the folks from Pontiac were coming to see him and make a conscious choice to avoid them. ===

    I’m sure he had lots of other people on his “avoid them” list as well.

  22. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 3:19 pm:

    ===Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe there is a difference between a mere rally and a “lobby day”===

    You’re not wrong, which is why I wrote…

    ===Bringing people to town to talk to their members in their offices or around the rail can have an impact as well. ===

  23. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 3:20 pm:

    ===Of course, rallies can rally the other side too. I’m thinking of the anti-undocumented-immigrants that the immigrant rallies galvanized.===

    Actually, that pro immigrant rally was one of the few success stories.

  24. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 3:21 pm:

    ===i have the impression that the governor doesn’t like confrontation===

    Um, where the heck have you been for six years? Europe? This governor thrives on confrontation, dude.

  25. - DzNuts - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 3:53 pm:

    == I’m sure he had lots of other people on his “avoid them” list as well.===

    That list is growing exponentially by the day.

  26. - bluedog demo - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 4:16 pm:

    When Governor Ryan turned his sights on Lincoln Developmental Center all the meetings, rallies, petitions, letters, phone calls, etc. etc. didn’t make a twit of difference. Indeed they were all just ” feel good ” endeavors for those affected. The area legislators huffed and puffed with varying degrees of credibility but in the end it was shuttered !

  27. - DzNts - Friday, Nov 21, 08 @ 10:14 pm:

    And Blagojevich’s commitment to Senator Bomke to open LDC turned out to be real credible too…

    Under Blah-go: Thomson remains shuttered; Pembroke promise for new prison broken; Carterville school funding promise delayed for years; Rochester school funding delayed for years; LDC still closed (I think); and those are just a few that come to mind (excluding the arguably illegal antics with Ponticac CC).

    Legislators can huff and puff — and they should — but in the end, a Governor who repeatedly ignores or disavows the entire legislative branch will get his payback…

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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