* One of the reasons that labor unions backed off their initial intense opposition to Rahm Emanuel a couple months ago was that they were told Bubba and otheres were coming to town to campaign for the guy. Danny Davis isn’t pleased with the development…
When Congressman Danny Davis first heard that longtime friend former President Bill Clinton was coming to campaign for a rival in the Chicago mayor’s race, he was unfazed.
But the more the Democrat thought about it, the more worried he got, and he decided to issue this message to the former head of state: Butt out of Chicago politics — or else.
“While we recognize the right of any individual to endorse and support any candidate that they so choose, I am seriously concerned and disturbed by press reports that former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to come to Chicago to campaign for Rahm Emanuel, who is a candidate for Mayor.
“The African American community has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the Clintons, however it appears as though some of that relationship maybe fractured and perhaps even broken should former President Clinton come to town and participate overtly in efforts to thwart the legitimate political aspirations of Chicago’s Black community.
“We respectfully request and urge former President Clinton not to become involved in the Chicago Mayoral Election.
Attorneys for Rahm Emanuel and those fighting his mayoral bid appeared briefly before a Cook County Circuit Court judge Tuesday, the start of what is expected to be a series of legal challenges to the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners’ recent ruling allowing Emanuel on the Feb. 22 ballot.
Judge Mark Ballard set a hearing for next Tuesday, when both sides are expected to make their formal arguments — which are like going to sound very familiar. Ballard also gave Emanuel’s attorneys until Friday to respond to legal documents filed by those challenging his candidacy.
Burt Odelson, the main attorney for those objecting to Emanuel’s presence on the ballot, said he expects the judge to make a ruling on the case next Tuesday.
* Candidate slams ‘overnight deals’ - Davis criticizes the role of political clout in Chicago.
* I told subscribers about this general idea a week or so ago. But I don’t think that the one-year plan being reported today in the Trib is actually what’s going on…
As the state’s stack of unpaid bills grows, Gov. Pat Quinn is floating the idea of borrowing roughly $15 billion to alleviate the pressure, though taxpayers would be saddled with loan payments for years.
The governor has approached several lawmakers with a plan he’s dubbed a “debt bond.” While the name is somewhat redundant, the thinking is the state can pay back what it owes and plug its big budget hole — if only for a year.
A one-year “solution” would be a genuinely stupid move if true. So I really don’t think it is true.
The state has to solve two problems here. The first is the structural deficit, which is about half of the $13-15 billion in red ink. For that, you need recurring revenues. A one-off loan won’t do anything about those recurring problems. The second task is the pile of past due bills, which is roughly about another half. That’s the part which can be taken care of with a bond. If you just borrowed $15 billion and didn’t raise revenues above and beyond the debt payments to wipe out the structural deficit (or use cuts in tandem to eliminate it), you’d be right back to square one in a year. Like I said, it would be stupid. And that’s why I don’t think this is a one-off plan. They may borrow $15 billion (last week, it was more like $9 billion, but things do change), but they also need to get rid of this structural deficit to prevent more past-due bills from piling up again.
Paying for any plan will require a tax hike…
The most conventional source of money to repay the loan — an income tax increase — is also the most controversial. House Speaker Michael Madigan has been polling his Democrats on a variety of tax-hike options to gauge which might have a chance of passing. The scenarios include theoretical tax increases that would be billed as temporary or permanent and range from 1 to 2 percentage points.
As subscribers know, Madigan recently moved in the direction of one of those tax hike plans. But, as I always warn, things do change, and nothing is final yet…
Publicly, Quinn is sticking by his proposed 1-percentage-point income tax increase, which he has dubbed a “surcharge for education.” Privately, the governor has discussed with lawmakers dividing the money generated from a tax increase between schools and the state’s general revenue fund. […]
For his part, Quinn said he continues to work on creating a “comprehensive revenue package.” Quinn supports raising taxes on cigarettes by up to $1 a pack and has indicated to some legislators that he could be coming around the idea of raising the gasoline tax — a move he previously has opposed.
* Meanwhile, my syndicated newspaper column looks at some of the changes ahead…
Organized labor is engaged in a furious multifront legislative war in Illinois, and more skirmishes may be on the horizon.
Trade and industrial unions are hoping to mitigate major damage from proposed workers compensation reforms. Teacher unions are trying to fend off what they consider to be some egregious education reforms. And public employee unions are warily eyeing a potential new battle against a well-known foe that their counterparts in other states have had to face in the recent past. Looking at the battlefield right now, you’d probably never know that Illinois Democrats held onto power in last month’s elections.
The House appears to be taking the more radically conservative approach, but the Democratic Senate president is determined to pass some form of workers compensation reform before the current General Assembly wraps up business in early January. The same unions that pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Senate campaigns are now fighting the very people they helped re-elect just a few short weeks ago.
The teacher unions are preparing scorched earth tactics for the House’s education reform bill, which they say will all but take away their right to strike, severely limit their collective bargaining powers and impose new state standards for firing or laying off teachers.
The union focus lately has turned toward a proposed constitutional amendment in the House for a so-called “Taxpayers Bill of Rights,” or TABOR, as it’s more commonly known around the nation. The proposal was quietly introduced during the veto session by Rep. Keith Farnham (D-Elgin), who also is backing the education reforms.
The measure would limit state spending to the previous year’s levels plus the average percentage increase (or decrease) of per capita personal income over the previous five years. Any spending above that would require a declaration of a fiscal emergency by the governor and a three-fifths vote in both chambers of the General Assembly. Any “extra” money would be placed in a rainy day fund or given back to taxpayers.
While House Speaker Michael Madigan’s position is not officially known, the unions have convinced themselves that Madigan will push it next month when the lame duck session resumes. Colorado’s TABOR required voter approval before spending or taxes could rise and was twice watered down in referendum voting. Attempts at passing similar proposals have failed in other states. Illinois may be the only state where a TABOR has Democratic backing.
The assault on public employee unions and government spending is not confined to Illinois, of course. Several other states are considering legislation to undermine the unions. Wisconsin’s new Republican governor-elect wants to get rid of collective bargaining rights for public workers. And New York’s Democratic governor-elect, Andrew Cuomo, has demanded a wage freeze from state employee unions and hinted at major layoffs if he doesn’t get what he wants. Cuomo also wants pension reform, teacher wage cuts and a 2 percent local property tax cap.
The Illinois Senate has been far less receptive to the House’s education reforms and likely will not love the Taxpayers Bill of Rights if it arrives. But the unions point to the big majorities for pension givebacks this year in both chambers and the Senate’s push for business-backed workers compensation and Medicaid reforms, so they aren’t taking any chances.
Unlike New York, where Cuomo courted trade unions during the campaign and tended to ignore the public employee/teachers unions, Gov. Pat Quinn heavily courted all sectors of organized labor and received gigantic contributions from pretty much everybody. Quinn, the unions believe, could be the ultimate “stopper.”
But if these and potentially other reforms are used by legislative Democrats to pry loose Republican votes for a tax hike, Quinn may have no choice but to climb on board and bite the hands which fed him so well this year.
So far, the House Republicans appear to be a bit more receptive to Democratic outreach than they were even a few weeks ago. The odds are still stacked against it, but if the Democrats keep moving rightward, the Republicans might (emphasis on “might”) possibly release a few votes for a tax hike.
As we’re all painfully aware, two Chicago firefighters were killed on the job Wednesday after neighbors thought there might be homeless people inside a burning building. Seventeen other firefighters were injured as they scoured the structure for survivors.
Like just about everyone else, I was deeply moved by the firefighters’ heroism. But then I got angry as my thoughts turned to all the unfair and downright misleading public employee bashing we’ve seen this year.
Firefighters, police officers and everyone else who draws a public paycheck have seemed at times to be a modern-day version of the Ronald Reagan era’s “Cadillac-driving welfare queens.”
Their salaries and benefits are far too lavish, we’ve been told time and time again. The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago is on a mission to drastically reduce public pensions, including for firefighters, so that their overall compensation is more in line with the “private sector.” This city’s “other newspaper” has all but turned its editorial page over to the committee.
The Civic Committee is chaired by a corporate CEO who made more than $15 million last year, according to Forbes.
I seriously doubt that this particular aspect of the “private sector” is what the committee is referring to, however.
Look, I don’t disagree that there are serious problems with the public pension systems.
But how many workers in the “private sector” are paid to run into burning buildings to see if there might possibly be homeless people inside?
Too often, these workers have been dismissed this year as little more than parasites. The truth is, many do the jobs that you or I would not or could not do, for any wage.
Would the four financially well-off leaders of the Illinois General Assembly who are now pushing Medicaid reforms clean up the blood spilled on a hospital emergency room floor at 3 a.m?
The leaders are also attempting to muscle through workers’ compensation reforms, but would any of them volunteer to spend a month working on a busy expressway?
They’re attempting to limit the rights of Chicago teachers to collectively bargain. Would they spend their days attempting to lift inner city youths to greater heights?
Would the editorial board members of that “other newspaper” patrol Chicago’s meanest streets?
Again, let me be clear: Reforms are most certainly needed for every topic mentioned above.
What gets me so riled up is the one-sided tone of this debate. Workers who have given their lives to public service are too often demeaned as overcompensated and unimportant. And those who speak up for the workers are immediately tagged as “shilling for the unions.”
I suppose this climate should’ve been predictable. Times are tough. Millions are out of work and millions more are worried they could be tossed out of their jobs as well. They can’t sell their homes, and even if they could, they’d end up owing money because property values have plummeted.
They’re in no mood to pay for pensions and other benefits that they don’t also receive. They’re angry as hell and this is an easy target, partly because the unions have served themselves up, partly because the people who are in a position to most influence the public debate are taking full advantage of the situation.
What we need here are compromises which recognize both the inability of society to fund everything that has been promised and the responsibility of that same society to pay for the services it too often takes for granted.
Maybe this week’s tragic events can snap us all back to reality. We shouldn’t turn each other into enemies.
In March, the General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn saved Illinois an estimated $220 billion in pension costs over the next 25 years by passing sweeping pension-benefit reductions for future public employees whose retirements are state-funded.
But by doing so, they may have shifted a big chunk of retirement costs to school districts, local governments and the taxpayers who support them.
The cut to benefits is so severe that future teachers probably will have to be put in the federal Social Security system, according to a consultant’s report for the Teachers’ Retirement System.
“It seems likely that, at some point in the future, the TRS second tier plan will no longer meet the requirements for FICA (Social Security) tax exemption,” says the report from Buck Consultants.
* Rev. Sen. James Meeks dropped out of the mayor’s race today, just as the Sun-Times reported he’d do yesterday. Tribune…
“It is long past time that we build on the tremendous successes of the great Harold Washington and his administration by electing another African-American to become our mayor. But as long as our community remains divided and splintered – to the specific advantage of the front-running, status quo candidates – we will never see things improve. We need to speak with one voice.
“So, even as I continue to believe that I would be both the best prepared and the most electorally viable candidate in this race, I have chosen to lead by example. I am hereby announcing my withdrawal from this race, and am urging the other African-American candidates to do likewise.
“In so doing, I am endorsing no one person; rather, I am asking all of the African-American candidates to subordinate their own candidacies to the greater good of our city and our community, and submit to a caucus of clergy, elected officials, and residents whose sole purpose shall be to winnow the remaining field down to one candidate. Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for Mayor this year; I want to be a part of this process, and there should be no question about my motives,” the statement read.
The Tribune also reported that Meeks was balking at releasing his income tax returns.
* The Sun-Times has react from the other two black candidates. Meeks urged that one of the two drop out as well…
No chance, Davis and Braun told the Chicago Sun-Times.
While Meeks is dropping out, Davis says he’s “dropping in,” and is moving ahead with planned fund-raisers, endorsement sessions and town hall discussions. I’m moving ahead.”
Moseley Braun spokeswoman Renee Ferguson said the former senator also is “in the race for good.”
In November, a coalition of black clergy members, business leaders and community activists concerned about splitting the black vote selected Davis as their preferred candidate. A Chicago Tribune/WGN poll released earlier this month showed Davis was the leading black candidate in the crowded field, with support from 9 percent of registered likely voters.
Meeks followed with 7 percent, and Braun had 6 percent.
A spokeswoman for the coalition, Tracey Alston, said Thursday that group leaders are still convinced one black unity candidate will emerge.
“Stay tuned,” Alston said. “The process is ongoing. It will remain ongoing until there is one candidate.”
* I will probably post a few stories before returning full-scale on January 3rd, but comments will be closed. The automated news feeds will continue operating, of course, so check back if you want to keep up on the latest doings.
* I did this last year, so I thought we’d start a new tradition. Those of us who grew up watching Chicago TV will remember this one…
Though old Santa really has no need for Joe
But takes him ’cause he loves him so
* House Speaker Michael Madigan recently received a contribution solicitation from the Better Government Association. The BGA’s Andy Shaw says this was an oops. They don’t take money from politicians and Madigan has been removed from the mailing list. In the fundraising letter, Shaw says the BGA is “watching” the politicians. Madigan sent a letter in reply…
Dear Andy: Concerning the enclosed solicitation where you state “we’re watching.” Andy, who is watching you. With kindest personal regards, I remain, sincerely, Mike.
I appreciate [Madigan’s] endorsement of a transparent process that encourages a vast audience of Illinois residents to watch all of us—that’s the civic engagement we so desperately need to clean up the mess we call Illinois government. So I invite Mr. Speaker and everyone in Illinois to watch what we’re doing at the BGA, as we attack waste, fraud, patronage, cronyism, nepotism, pay-to-play and inside deals with every tool at our disposal—media partners, TV, radio, website and social media
I also encourage the speaker to mobilize his considerable power and expertise in concert with other political, business, labor and civic leaders to forge longterm solutions to the state’s budget and pension crises. The BGA is eager to join the discussion, and we hope that Illinois residents will be watching this process closely because no government challenge is more important as we turn the calendar on another year.
* The Question: What do you make of Madigan’s letter?
Snark is not discouraged.
…Adding… I posted this in comments, but then I figured I should probably put it here so nobody misses it…
People, c’mon. It’s Christmas. A little more jocularity and a little less jugular, please.
The preponderance of this evidence is that [Emanuel] never formed an intention to terminate his residence in Chicago; never formed an intention to establish his residence in Washington, DC, or any place other than Chicago; and never formed an intention to change his residence. […]
The weight of this evidence shows that the Objectors failed to bear their burden of proof and persuasion that the Candidate intended, in 2009 or 2010, to effect any change in his residence or to be anything other than a resident of Chicago for electoral purposes.
Once residence has been established in Illinois, the touchstone of continued residence is the intention of the resident and not the physical fact of “having a place to sleep”. […]
It should not be lost that every citizen and resident of Illinois is also a citizen of the United States… This “dual citizenship” inheres in the very idea of a federal republic, and the business of the United States is as much the legitimate concern of a citizen of Illinois as is the business of the State or of one of its municipalities. To this end, Illinois law expressly protects the residential status and electoral rights of Illinois citizens who are called to serve the national government. Section 3-2 of the Illinois Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/3-2 thus provides, in pertinent part:
[N]o elector… shall be deemed to have lost his or her residence in any precinct or electoral district in this State by reason of his or her absence on business of the United States, or of this State.
There is no principled reason to exclude service in the Executive Office of the President or elsewhere in the executive branch from the ambit of “business of the United States” any more than to exclude service in the armed forces, the diplomatic corps, Congress, or the Federal judiciary.
The preponderance of the evidence establishes that the sole reason for the Candidate’s absence from Chicago during 2009 and 2010 was by reason of his attendance ot business of the United States.
Morris also ruled that Emanuel owed no fines to the city, as the opposition had alleged. Past-due fines are an automatic candidacy killer in Chicago. Read the whole thing and then give us your thoughts.
Also Wednesday, Emanuel’s campaign moved quickly to correct an e-mail that went out to supporters lamenting the Chicago firefighter tragedy while also asking for campaign donations.
“As we celebrate this holiday season, we must remember how fortunate we are that we have brave men and women working out there every day to protect our homes, our communities and our families,” the e-mail from Emanuel read.
Included after those words was an electronic button marked “Donate.”
Emanuel spokesman Ben LaBolt said the gaffe resulted from the wrong template being used in sending out the e-mail. The campaign corrected the mistake, and when e-mail recipients clicked the link they got a message of apology and a link to a list of organizations taking donations for the firefighters’ families.
* NY Times: Hearing Officer Says Emanuel Eligible to Run for Chicago Mayor
* Meeks is wrong on contracting issue: Contrary to his personal view that only African Americans have suffered discrimination, courts throughout this nation have found otherwise; that, in fact, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Arab Americans, American Indians, women and persons with disabilities, have all suffered from discriminatory practices. Those rulings have provided the constitutional basis for the minority/women/disadvantaged business enterprise programs in Chicago as well as the state of Illinois. These programs dictate that eligible minority and women-owned businesses shall be entitled to a percentage of government contracts. We would certainly hope that whoever is elected the mayor of this great city would respect the rule of law and maintain the program that serves to provide job and business opportunities to all Chicagoans and not just a select few.
*** UPDATE 1 - 9:49 am *** Objector Burt Odelson has just finished his statement. He said that Joe Morris’ opinion is “shallow” when it talks about the residency laws. He claimed that Morris looked at statutory construction on the municipal fines issue, but ignored it on the residency issue. Odelson said the recommendation gives new “hope” to city employees who want to live outside Chicago because they could just demonstrate “intent” to reside in the city.
“This (69-page) recommendation, I’m trying to guard my words, is shallow. It’s shallow in reciting the facts,” Odelson said.
“I was extremely disappointed we had to wait that long for such a poor product. This wasn’t a difficult case. It only became difficult because of all of the objectors.”
All of Emanuel’s actions — including applying for a homeowner’s exemption, and amending his 2009 tax returns to declare he was an Illinois resident — each came after Mayor Richard Daley announced he would not seek re-election, Odelson said.
Odelson declared Emanuel’s moves as “self-serving action(s) taken to bolster his residency.”
It would be different if he’d pulled up roots and settled elsewhere, but in fact Emanuel took steps to preserve his residency: He leased his house rather than selling it; he voted absentee from his Chicago address and listed it on his vehicle registration and driver’s license. In such cases, the law focuses on intent, and Emanuel clearly meant to come home to Chicago.
The election code is silent on marmalade. Everything else is pretty straightforward. Heck, the appeals are probably already written.
Thursday’s board decision won’t put this to rest. But it should be a pretty easy vote.
*** UPDATE 2 - 11:42 am *** We now have a motion and a second to adopt Morris’ report. That’s two out of three.
*** UPDATE 3 - 11:43 am *** Looks like it’ll be a unanimous vote because the chairman is now saying he’ll side with the other two.
“It was a difficult case to manage. For me, it was not a difficult case to decide,” said Richard Cowen, an elections commissioner.
The election board, however, is not expected to have final say on the issue. The losing objectors have a week to appeal the board’s decision to the Cook County Circuit Court. The case could wind its way through the court system, including the Illinois Court of Appeals and the Illinois Supreme Court, for weeks.
“My goal is to get this through the courts as soon as possible,” said Burt Odelson, lead attorney for the objectors, to Emanuel’ attorneys after the commissioners rendered their decision.
*** UPDATE 5 *** Gery Chico’s response…
“For too long, the mayor’s race has been focused on residency, not real issues.
“From day one, my campaign has proposed and released more comprehensive policy plans to improve the City of Chicago than any other candidate.
“No matter who gets in or out of this race, I believe I am the best prepared to lead this city in a whole new direction.”