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Defending the indefensible

Monday, Sep 30, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* OK, you’re about to see something that you’ve probably never seen here before. I’m gonna defend Rep. Bill Mitchell and Reboot Illinois.

First, Kass

The Quad City Times reported that state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he was having lunch with a friend when Cohen’s ruling [striking down Quinn’s veto of legislative salaries[ was issued:

“His first thought was, ‘When do we get paid?’”

That was Mitchell’s first thought? When does he get paid?


I called Springfield to speak with Rep. Mitchell about his first thoughts of getting paid, but he wasn’t available.

“His assistant is not in today,” said a lady on the phone. “She’s out. You try his district office?”

I called his district office. No answer. I left a message, then called again and again and again. Still nothing.

* The missing context from the original story

Mitchell is a full-time lawmaker, meaning he had to dig into savings to make ends meet during the impasse.

“It was a bad three months,” he said.

Unless you’re independently wealthy, if your entire income is based on one job and you aren’t getting paid for that job, then no paychecks can cause real hardships. I see no reason to pick on the guy for being honest.

* Let’s move on to a story about Reboot Illinois’ new legislative contact app

Here’s how Reboot describes itself on its website, “Reboot Illinois aims to encourage citizens to retake ownership of our governments. Through non-partisan digital and social media, Reboot Illinois intends to engage citizens giving them the information and tools they need to act on improving the jobs climate, schools, taxes and state debt.”

One of those things is a new feature allowing people to contact their public officials via email on certain issues. This includes their local lawmakers, legislative leaders like Madigan and Cullerton, and the governor. More importantly, it also allows a person to find out just who represents them in the General Assembly simply by typing their home address into the site.

So far, so good. The trickier part comes from the suggested messages to send public officials. The site has a series of issues listed covering such things as raising the minimum wage or pension reform or the progressive income tax along with a sample letter that can be sent to lawmakers. For example, you can send a message that you do not want the state to raise the minimum wage. Or you can send a message saying that the 3 percent compounded COLAs for pension benefits must end, along with raising the retirement age for workers.

Now, if you want to say you like the idea of a higher minimum wage or that the state shouldn’t change COLAs for retirees, well, you’ll have to compose your own thoughts on that. The site doesn’t provide that option. Also, it doesn’t provide the email addresses of the public officials, so if you want to send your own thoughts, you’ll have to add a step.

Actually, you can compose your own message and it’s pretty easy. You just select all, delete what Reboot wrote and write whatever you want. The group will then send your message for you. I tried it today by sending a test message to Rep. Poe’s office and it worked fine.

Now, maybe you aren’t literate enough to write your own message, but if that’s the case, then why bother at all? Or maybe you’re not computer literate enough to know you can delete Reboot’s message and replace it with your own. So, what the heck are you doing on the Web then?

However, Reboot might wanna just add a simple message saying you can write whatever you want, just to be clear.

Click here and see for yourself.

* I tried to get in the spirit of things by finding a recent state-related Tribune editorial I could praise, but had no luck.



  1. - PublicServant - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 12:17 pm:

    ===you can write whatever you want, just to be clear===

    Yeah, if Reboot WANTED to be clear…and non-partisan…and not yet another tool/mouthpiece of the 1%’rs, they could…but they’re not.

  2. - otoh - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 12:49 pm:

    Don’t know Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, but if he treats his GA position as a full-time job? More power to him.

  3. - Rusty618 - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 12:49 pm:

    It is interesting that Reboot makes it very difficult to read the message that you are supposed to be sending. I’m sure was not accidental.

  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 12:55 pm:

    “When do we get paid?” is what many of the Tribbies’ creditors were asking during four years of bankruptcy.

    I’m sure Kass thought less of them, too.

  5. - Just Me - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:03 pm:

    Agree with you on the pay thing. Full time legislators aren’t paid enough as is, and I believe unlike members of Congress they can’t loan money to themselves from their campaigns. I don’t know how some of them did it. We’re they supposed to start waiting tables at night in between going to community meetings and visiting with constituents?

  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:05 pm:

    ==start waiting table at night==

    That’s what a lot of retirees, about to get their pension whacked ask themselves.

  7. - John Galt - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:11 pm:

    If Reboot is paying for the app and it’s their infrastructure that a person is using to access their legislators, then Reboot can set up the rules as they wish. It’s a private non-profit advocacy group. Same holds true for a left leaning advocacy group or labor union if they designed an advocacy app for the legislature.

    That’s what people don’t get about these tax-free “non-partisan” advocacy or educational groups. Advocacy or educational content from non-profits don’t need to be totally even-handed. Otherwise we’d expect a pro-enviornment educational group to just as vociferously offer pro-Keystone pipeline talking points, or a pro-choice non-profit group to also vociferously offer pro-life talking points too. That’s nonsense. Non-profit educational or advocacy groups vociferously advance their view of an issue, and legislators or voters ought to seek out a different non-profit advocacy or educational group to get the vociferous argument on the flip side of the coin.

    Now, maybe an educational non-profit wants to seek out a brand as being totally even-handed and thus be fastidious in handing out “point/counterpoint” educational bulletins on any given issue. But whether they do or don’t (or whether they SAY they do versus they don’t really), is in the eye of the beholder.

  8. - Tom - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:15 pm:

    What’s happened to the Tribune’s circulation since John Kass took over as the featured columnist? It’s declined by more than half. Maybe some would interperet that as an indication that he “is not doing his job” and shouldn’t get paid.

    Obviously, it’s not Kass’s fault…the internet has robbed all newspapers of their readership. But the question is: who decides how well someone is “doing their job” and whether or not they get paid? If the Tribune editors don’t like Kass’ work they can fire him. But they can’t make him keep working for no pay.

    If the voters don’t like the job their legislators are doing they can fire them, at the ballot box.

    And what about all the legislators who, by Kass and Quinn’s standards, were doing their jobs and voted for pension reform? Why was their pay cut? And what about GA members who voted against pension reform but happen to work their buts off for their constituents?

  9. - John Galt - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:17 pm:

    “Agree with you on the pay thing.”

    Ditto. Actually, the “Illinois legislator is a part-time job” thing is a farce. They meet for a good chunk of the year Tuesday thru Thursday. If people are any good at their job or do constituency outreach, it’s more than that. No normal human being can hold down a “normal job” and be a legislator. Anybody working in a cubicle farm, as a teacher, as a clerk in a store, etc. could be able to hold down a full time job. Maybe if you own your own company or are OK working hourly part-time seasonal work you can swing it. But that’s far & few between.

    The legislature should decide what it is. If it’s full time, then just say so, add a few more weeks to the calendar, and boost the pay by another $5K per year. If it’s part-time, then cut the salary to $30K or $40K per year, get rid of the pension entirely, but trim the legislative calendar so that it amounts to a bunch of long weekends (i.e. Thurs-Sat) and/or a few one-week marathon stretches that folks can squeeze in with their vacation time in their other normal jobs.

    It’s really in a no-man’s-land zone right now.

  10. - Bill - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:27 pm:

    Legislators were doing their “jobs” by upholding the constitution they swore defend by NOT voting to diminish or impair pension benefits. They all deserve a bonus for a job well done so far. Keep up the good work, legislators!

  11. - Larry Mullholland - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:31 pm:

    Rich, Kudos to you and your straight talk within this post. Public servants almost always take it in the chin (or other painful places) from the media types. They are an easy target and many of the ’servants’ deserve what they get. However, as you indicate they don’t always deserve criticism, and I would add that at times deserve great praise. Government and its servants, often do as well as they can within the confines and restraints of laws and mandates and that story is often overlooked.

  12. - Just Me - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:32 pm:

    @John Galt, I believe a part of your suggestion would require a change to the Constitution.

  13. - wordslinger - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:52 pm:

    On Chicago “Week in Review” on WTTW last Friday, during a discussion on the Cornell Park shootings, Cheryl Corley of NPR was trying to put Chicago gun violence in perspective regarding recent history and neighborhoods.

    Bruce Dold of the Tribbies chimed in, saying that Chicago was the only place in America, recently, “where 13 people have been shot in one incident.”

    And he’s the brains of the outfit.

  14. - Demoralized - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:55 pm:

    Maybe somebody should withhold Kass’ paycheck for a few months and see if he has the same reaction as Rep. Mitchell.

  15. - Demoralized - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 2:13 pm:

    I don’t have a problem with what Reboot is doing. They are setting it up. I just wish these groups would stop calling themselves “non-partisan.” All of these groups (on all sides) have some sort of agenda. I think they should call themselves an “agenda driven” group.

  16. - Downstater - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 2:14 pm:

    ===start waiting table at night==

    =That’s what a lot of retirees, about to get their pension whacked ask themselves. =
    Please the crocodile tears are about to short out my key board.

  17. - Chavez-Respecting Obamist - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 2:26 pm:

    Wow that was fun. I just used Reboot to tell my legislators to not raise the minimum wage to $10/hr, but make it $15. You’re right–it’s really easy to fix what they wrote.

  18. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 2:35 pm:

    So what that ReBoot app is really doing is compiling emails of people who self identify with a certain issue so that ReBoot can build contact lists and market itself and it’s information back to people.

  19. - Norseman - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 3:22 pm:

    Michelle nails it again!

  20. - T.T. - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 3:50 pm:

    Just read the Jack Franks quotes in the Kass column. Getting real sick of him pontificating on this topic. He’s one of the wealthiest members of the General Assembly…thanks to his family. Kass makes him a hero and tries to make a fool out of Mitchell, a member who actually needs his check. Yet, Kass still fancies himself a champion of the little guy. What a farce.

  21. - Patrick - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 5:11 pm:

    The point of the letter about Reboot was that they bill themselves as being all about good government - something akin to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform - when they’re really just there to advocate for the Republican wishlist. What exactly does “retake ownership of our governments” mean? To them, it apparently means “do things Republicans want.”

  22. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 5:19 pm:

    I wonder how much the Trib could save if they just fired Kass.

  23. - Matt Dietrich - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 5:21 pm:

    Oops. Sorry for the big block of text in post above. Spaces got lost in the process.

  24. - Apple - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 6:26 pm:

    Just to be clear, the Franks quote was taken from a lengthy WLS radio interview last Friday. If you heard the whole interview, it was not nearly as Draconian as Kass purports in his column.

  25. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 7:10 pm:

    And of course the ReBooters can pass it along to others for other inspirational messages…like hedge funds pitches, predatory loans, gold, survival meal packs, fall out shelters. A direct mailers Garden of Eden.
    Maybe we will all get invites to Ms. ReBooters fancy winter digs in FL for some R & R!

  26. - T.T. - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 7:26 pm:

    - Apple -

    Understandable. But this is not the first time Franks has chimed in on this topic. Like I said, real easy to back Quinn’s move when you can fall back on your family fortune.

  27. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Oct 1, 13 @ 8:21 am:

    ==when they’re really just there to advocate for the Republican wishlist.==

    Which faction of Republicans? That party has several tents.

  28. - David P. Graf - Tuesday, Oct 1, 13 @ 8:34 am:

    Considering that a lot of people who do business with the state haven’t been paid for a lot longer than a few months, it’s not embarrassing that Mitchell first thought was for his paycheck. It’s embarrassing that the legislators do not think about the ordinary people who get hurt when Illinois does not pay its bills.

  29. - Kyle Hillman - Tuesday, Oct 1, 13 @ 9:01 am:

    Even if Reboot Illinois’s app didn’t allow you to edit and send your own comments - who cares?

    It is a conservative issue leaning website. What would be news is if they had prewritten action alerts that leaned liberal.

    (And it would go completely against thier mission.)

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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