Cicero voters Tuesday ignored allegations of corruption, sexual harassment and nepotism in town hall and overwhelmingly re-elected Larry Dominick for a third term as the leader of the hardscrabble western suburb.
An effective political machine that also delivers governmentally for residents and functions pretty well is almost never undone by negative media reports. And, man, was there ever a ton of negative media on Dominick. Even his own brothers jumped into the fray against him.
* It’s when things go bad for residents that the great leaders are sometimes brought down. Mayor Daley over-stayed his welcome. Things turned sour. He ran out of ideas. The city stopped “working.” His poll numbers plunged. But he wasn’t defeated. He retired. If he’d wanted to stay, he probably could’ve. Who would have challenged him? And with what?
Remember how the media pummeled Cook County Assessor candidate Joe Berrios a while back and praised Forrest Claypool up and down as a real deal reformer? Claypool got trounced. Not even close.
* Also, it was pretty apparent to anybody with eyes that the media’s attempt to make Dominick’s opponent Juan Ochoa into some sort of reformer wasn’t exactly all that honest. As “bad” as Dominick is, Ochoa was no white hat. From Ray Hanania in comments yesterday…
[Cook County Clerk David Orr] complained about signs but did nothing when we complained four weeks ago about suspicious absentee balloting by Ochoa’s campaign workers, including ballots filled from vacant lots, dead voters and gang members in prison.
* To give you an idea of how strong the Cicero machine is, the town is 86.6% Latino, according to the Census. Ochoa, a Latino, couldn’t oust Dominick, who is definitely not a Latino.
I’ll tell you one thing: they treat their seniors like royalty [in Cicero]. My mother-in-law was in fantastic, brand-new senior township housing with incredible service — cleaning, rides to the store, home nurses, turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas, etc.
And they helped her vote, too, right in the complex, lol.
That was in Betty’s day. And she loved her some Betty. They all did.
And now they love them some Dominick, no matter what journalists, columnists and editorial writers say or predict.
* As I told subscribers this morning, Speaker Madigan is calling yet another “weekly order of business” this Thursday on pension reform. From the IEA…
This means there will be floor debate on legislative amendments that, if passed into law, would reduce pension benefits for participants in TRS, SURS and the other state pension systems.
The floor debate and voting, which are expected to begin on Thursday, will focus on areas of great concern to IEA members in the affected pension systems;
The annual cost of living adjustment (COLA)
The retirement age for active members of the state pension systems
Employee contributions to the retirement systems, as well other pension-impacting proposals offered by members of the House.
This is a serious attack on your pension– Call NOW!
IEA members are urged to contact their state representatives immediately to stop these pension-cutting proposals from getting out of the House.
…House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has filed a package of amendments viewed by some as a “scared straight” approach that could shock government workers opposing any kind of benefit rollback into thinking about the potential alternatives.
Madigan distributed to his Democratic troops a description that says one amendment would eliminate all future cost-of-living adjustments and one would halt the adjustments until the pension plans reach an 80 percent funding level. A third proposal would raise the retirement age for full benefits to 67 and a fourth would require employees to chip in another 5 percent of their paychecks toward retirement. The changes would apply to lawmakers, rank-and-file state workers, university employees and public school teachers outside of Chicago.
Republicans this week have grumbled that they expected Madigan to put these before the full House Thursday to test each measure’s support on up-or-down votes similar to the way he rolled out more than a dozen amendments on the concealed weapons legislation on Tuesday.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Madigan’s “scared straight” amendments that will be debated tomorrow…
URGENT: Strong rumors in the state Capitol indicate that legislation stripping state employees of their right to collective bargaining over health care costs and benefits could be moved in the House of Representatives as soon as today. Your action is needed NOW to prevent its passage.
At this point there is no substantive language or a specific bill. But a shell bill that could be the legislative vehicle passed out of committee on Tuesday night, Feb. 26. Substantive language could be added to this or other legislation and called for a vote of the full House chamber at any time. If passed by the House, the bill would go to the Senate.
This is a direct attack on state workers’ fundamental right to collective bargaining. Negotiating health care benefits and coverage is just as vital as bargaining over wages and other benefits.
Members (public employees hired before 2011)
• Cost-of-living adjustments apply only to the first $25,000 of the employees’ pension
o That limit is reduced to the first $20,000 for employees eligible for Social Security
• COLAs are delayed until the employee turns 67 or five years after retirement, whichever comes first
o This applies to all employees and retirees who are currently receiving COLAs
• Retirement age is increased by:
o No increase for employees age 45 and older
o One year for employees age 40 to 44
o Three years for employees age 35 to 39
o Five years for employees age 34 and younger
• Employees would be required to contribute more toward their pensions by:
o One percent starting July 1, 2013
o Two percent starting July 1, 2014
• Pensionable salary – the amount of salary that counts toward a pension – is limited to the higher of the Social Security wage base or the participant’s salary when the legislation becomes law
• All new employees in the Teachers Retirement System and State University Retirement System are placed in a stacked hybrid plan (combination defined benefit and defined contribution plan)
o Employees are guaranteed a minimum defined benefit
o Employers and employees contribute an additional amount in to a 401(k) style benefit plan
o Local school districts can negotiate the generosity and cost of the 401(k) benefit with employees
• TRS and SURS employees hired before the effective date can choose to remain in Tier 2 or join the stacked hybrid plan (Tier 3)
• COLAs for General Assembly Retirement System members will match those of Tier 2 members in the other pension systems
• Hybrid Defined Contribution, Defined Benefit plan
• Defined Benefit component:
o Employee contribution is 4% of pay
o Final Average Salary = Highest 8 out of last 10 years
o Unreduced retirement at 67 and 5 years of service
o Reduced retirement at 62 and 10 years of service
o 1.1% annual accrual rate
o COLA is lesser of 3% or ½ CPI, simple starting at age 67
• Defined Contribution component:
o Employee contribution is 5% of pay
o Local employer can make optional matching contribution (pursuant to local contracts) of between 3% and 10% of pay
o Ability for the DC plan to be invested in existed investments in the system and managed by the system for employees.
o 5 years to vest in the employer contributions.
• Employer contributions will be on a 30-year level-funding plan to achieve 100 percent funding
• State contributions will be enforced through court action or intercept of other state funds
• Revenue currently being used to repay pension obligation bonds will be used to pay down our unfunded liability once the pension obligation bonds are paid off
Amends the General Provisions, General Assembly, State Employee, State Universities, and Downstate Teacher Articles of the Illinois Pension Code. In the Downstate Teacher and State Universities Articles, creates a Tier 3 composite defined-benefit, defined-contribution retirement plan for employees hired on or after January 1, 2014 and certain others. Makes corresponding changes in other parts of those Articles and in the Retirement Systems Reciprocal Act. Increases the retirement age for certain Tier I members and participants. Changes the conditions of eligibility for, and the amount of, automatic annual increases for Tier I retirees. Increases required employee contributions for Tier I members and participants. Limits pensionable salary for Tier I and Tier 3 participants. Changes the required State contribution to each of the affected retirement systems so that those systems are 100% funded by 2043. Adds State funding guarantees. Makes other changes. Amends the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act to provide that this amendatory Act takes precedence. Amends the State Finance Act. To the list of standardized items of appropriation, adds “State retirement contribution for annual normal cost” and “State retirement contribution for unfunded accrued liability”. Defines those terms. Amends the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget Act. Adds those terms to a list of classifications to be used in statements and estimates of expenditures submitted to the Office in connection with the preparation of a State budget. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement. Includes an inseverability provision. Makes other changes. Effective immediately.
The latest plan does not give employees a choice of retirement benefits, something Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has said is essential for a pension reform plan to be found constitutional. Cross and Nekritz said they believe the plan is constitutional anyway.
“We feel very strongly that there are legal opinions that support this as constitutional,” Nekritz said.
“Anything is going to end up in the courts,” Cross said. “The reality is nobody knows (how the courts will rule).”
* Yeesterday’s hours-long debate on concealed carry was at times brutal…
Tempers rose and ebbed as frustrated Republicans questioned the majority’s motives. Democrats booed and shouted “No!” when Rep. Jim Sacia suggested imposing gun limits across Illinois because of Chicago’s homicide problem would be like forcing statewide castration because of a population boom in the city.
“If you’re having too many kids, you want me to get castrated,” said former FBI agent Sacia, a Pecatonica Republican. “That was an analogy to show how silly this is. You bet I used Chicago as an example because you’re the folks that want this craziness.”
The House began the day with 27 separate amendments dealing with concealed carry, many of which restricted where guns could be carried. Gun prohibitions in schools, casinos, stadiums and other locales go OK’d in amendments that go so far as to include parking lots, meaning firearms couldn’t be stored in cars while gun-owners go inside.
“You’re spray-painting red circles around all these places, and at the end of the day, the whole state is going to be red and you won’t be able to carry a gun anywhere,” Phelps said.
As the day dragged on, the approach faced a series of setbacks. The House rejected successive amendments banning guns from colleges, establishments that sell alcohol, and public gatherings or rallies.
Democrats soon withdrew 12 amendments, including requirements for 40 hours of firearms training in classrooms and the field; carrying $1 million in liability insurance; and for a psychological fitness examination, moving straight to the Phelps amendment, which is language taken as a whole from a separate concealed-carry bill he’s introduced, but didn’t get a hearing Tuesday.
* House Republican Leader Tom Cross, who has introduced dozens of empty shell bills, claimed the Democrats were wasting time. But he did make some good points…
With Madigan, the state Democratic Party chairman, already picking up suburban seats in the last election, Republicans feared he was setting his sights on gaining even more ground rather than actually trying to address the concealed carry issue. Republicans questioned why Democrats were focusing on the gun issue now, in this fashion, rather than on Illinois’ budget problems and $96.8 billion pension debt.
Republican Minority Leader Tom Cross asked state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, whether her gun amendment does anything to address the state’s pension crisis. Feigenholtz said the proposal was an “attempt to save lives.”
“This bill can’t pass out of the House like it is, nor can it go to the Senate, so how does that save a life?” Cross said.
The Trib’s analysis is correct and Cross’ last quote was absolutely spot on.
Taking roll call votes on separate issues, although preliminary, did give lawmakers a chance to essentially “explain their votes” to constituents later, said Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield. said.
“Someone could say ‘Hey, I fought the hard fight,’ but ultimately … the choice was either to pass what was in front of me or to automatically have weapons in the street,” he said.
Tuesday’s unusual approach also could give some leverage to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, in negotiations over a final bill, Redfield said.
“Let’s assume a vote to exclude guns on mass transit gets 70 or 80 votes,” he said. “If you’ve got a big majority for something that (pro-gun supporters) didn’t want, then that would give you leverage in negotiations.”
Democratic Rep. Michael Zalewski of Riverside said that today’s session was useful for getting members to grasp the complexity of the issue and getting a feel for where their preferences lie. “I think we needed this particular day to ensure that people were aware of the issues that we face on this. Everyone assumes that we can just pass a bill and this will all figure itself out, but there’s so many … factors that go into this and how we balance protecting public safety with the constitutional right to carry a weapon, so we needed this for people to start thinking about the issue.” He said the votes on the amendments banning guns were instructive about what proposals could receive support in a final bill. “We may not be able to put a restriction on what people do in a public way. We may only be able to regulate schools and mass transit and parks and things. So that’s my takeaway.”
In a key test vote, Chicago-area mass-transit users couldn’t take concealed weapons on public trains or buses under legislation that moved forward in the Illinois House Tuesday during a more than a seven-hour session on guns.
But in later action, the House went on record supporting a broad concealed-carry amendment written by gun-rights advocates, an initiative that was adopted shortly before 9 p.m. by a 67-48 margin. It explicitly permitted guns on public transportation.
The mass-transit amendment by Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) and backed by gun-control advocates advanced 65-45 with four voting “present.” It represented one of the biggest of more than a dozen votes the House took Tuesday that could help shape a broader concealed-carry bill that likely will surface in the chamber this spring. […]
An amendment pushed by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), the leading House champion of concealed-carry, won a majority in the House but fell short of the 71-vote supermajority that could be required in the House once a final concealed-carry package gets voted on. That supermajority also would be needed to fend off a possible veto by Gov. Pat Quinn.
Backed by the National Rifle Association, Phelps’ amendment dictates that the State Police “shall” issue $80 concealed-carry permits to those who undergo training and haven’t been adjudicated as mentally ill. His plan would bar concealed weapons in government buildings, bars, airports, schools, child-care centers, casinos, amusement parks, stadiums, arenas, community colleges and universities.
* As if Aaron Schock doesn’t enough trouble with some shadowy super PAC funding negative ads and mailers against him. Now, the Club For Growth has him in the crosshairs. From Illinois Review…
The conservative political action group Club for Growth has a low tolerance for Republican Congress members that score low on their annual scorecard. Wednesday Club for Growth announced a new website, “PrimaryMyCongressman.com” in which they will feature two Illinois GOP Congressmen - Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock - now in the group’s crosshairs for 2014.
Aaron Schock likes to portray himself as a defender of economic freedom, but his record is not consistent with that portrayal. His website claims that he’s focused on “fighting the massive expansion of government spending and debt.” However, one of the first votes Schock took in the House was against cutting all of the spending projects from Obama’s failed $800 billion stimulus bill, joining only 43 Republicans. He voted for the August 2011 debt limit deal that gave Obama a $2.1 trillion increase in the national debt, and he’s been a consistent supporter of keeping Davis-Bacon wage requirements for federal projects, nothing but an anti-free market giveaway to big labor.
* As I’ve told you before, Adam Kinzinger has been traveling the state and talking about how the Republican Party needs to moderate its message. He was in Quincy recently and delivered the same message, along with a plug for Schock…
n his speech, Kinzinger primarily focused on the idea that Republicans should calm themselves in their interactions with others in order to advance the message. He alluded to other Congressman who “go on Fox News and see who can scream the loudest.” However, he didn’t name any names.
He also criticized the use of the term “RINO”, which stands for “Republican in Name Only” and is typically used to describe a Republican who either isn’t conservative or has recently voted with the Democrats. Kinzinger said that anybody who was with him a majority of the time was good enough to be in the party.
He said that Democrats would never kick somebody out of their party who wasn’t ideologically pure and that Republicans shouldn’t either if they wanted to build the party.
The message received mixed reactions from the audience.
However, the most interesting part of Kinzinger’s speech came at the beginning when he called out potential gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, directly accusing him of being behind recent radio and TV ads targeting Rep. Aaron Schock.
Rauner had been in attendance and gave a short speech but had ducked out just prior to Kinzinger’s speech.
Kinzinger said that “a million dollars spent by a Republican against a Republican is as good as two million spent by a Democrat.”
Kinzinger zinged Congress at a 2010 Homer/Lockport Tea Party Rally as a candidate, saying “We should have been talking about our belief in the private sector. We should have been talking about what it takes to allow entrepreneurs and small business owners to create jobs. We should have been talking about tightening our belts…” But as a member of Congress, Kinzinger voted against cutting $15 million the Preisidio Trust Fund, leaving him as one of just 10 Republicans in favor of a subsidy for a national park in San Francisco that is a pet project of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s.
* The House Executive Committee has always been tightly controlled. Leadership sends bills there to pass, or fail, depending on what leadership wants. And while gay marriage passed Exec yesterday, it was a close, 6-5 vote, with one Democrat voting against it and another voting for it just to advance it to the floor. That vote shows the problems the bill faces in the full chamber…
The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act advanced out of the House Executive Committee by a 6-5 vote with the panel’s four Republicans voting against the plan. State Rep. Eddie Jackson (D-East St. Louis) also voted “no,” the lone Democrat on the panel to do so. […]
Harris assembled a pair of high-powered black ministers in a bid to help shore up shaky support among some African-American legislators like Jackson. The legislation is backed by Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and already has passed the Senate.
Testifying in support of the bill were the Rev. R. Herbert Martin, former Mayor Harold Washington’s minister, and the Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, which is President Obama’s former church on the South Side. […]
Beyond Jackson, there were other fissures within the Democratic Party. Harris’ bill drew opposition from state Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), who voted to let the legislation move to the House floor but said he likely wouldn’t be a supporter once it’s called for a final vote.
“I don’t think I could vote for this bill on the floor of the House because of my religious beliefs and because of the churches in my district I represent and support,” Arroyo said.
Disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who pleaded guilty last week to misusing $750,000-plus in campaign money, is writing a memoir, two sources familiar with the project told the Tribune.
Jackson, 47, will be sentenced June 28 after a seven-year spree in which he used the illicit money for a Rolex watch, celebrity memorabilia, furs, a cruise and two stuffed elk heads, among other purchases. […]
One of the Tribune’s sources, who has seen drafts of portions of the memoir, said Jackson was trying to “clear up his legacy.”
“He has nothing else to do right now,” the source said. “He’s desperately trying to change the narrative of his life story.”
We Ask America ran two polls for me in the days leading up to the election, which I shared with subscribers. Both showed Robin Kelly with large leads and the second poll showed she was most definitely surging upward.
With my own current polling, it seemed to me that the pro-Halvorson poll was just not credible, so I didn’t run it.
* Speaking of Halvorson, a whole lot of commenters predicted yesterday that the black vote would be divided and Halvorson would win.
Here’s the thing, folks: Chicago-area black people vote in higher numbers than anybody else in the region. Black wards pretty much always have the highest turnout. And, in this instance, the voters knew enough about the campaign to know who was who and went with Kelly. She even won Ald. Anthony Beale’s 9th Ward with over 50 percent of the vote. That is quite a feat.
* And speaking of Beale, his concession speech was bitter and way over the top, perhaps to mask his humiliating defeat in his own back yard. Watch…
Beale ran a terrible race. He didn’t raise money, claimed he had a field operation when he really didn’t, and could never focus on an issue that would resonate with voters. I’m almost positive he would’ve lost even without Mayor Bloomberg’s intervention.