* From my syndicated newspaper column in October of 1998…
Drivers license corruption didn’t start under George Ryan, of course. My Uncle Mike tells a great story about when he first moved to Illinois from Indiana almost 30 years ago after marrying my Aunt Jean.
Mike grew up in rural Hoosier Land hearing lots of stories about how terribly corrupt Illinois was.
His worst fears were confirmed when he went to take his driving test at the local license bureau. “Leave a five dollar bill on the seat,” someone whispered to him.
Uncle Mike was finally facing the evil he had heard so much about. And being a reasonably honest individual unaccustomed to the ways of a barbarous land, and not having a lot of extra cash on him, he decided he would refuse to play the game.
Well, Uncle Mike flunked the test, of course. But the next time he took the exam he left some cash on the seat before he got out of the car. Lo and behold, he passed with flying colors.
Mike currently lives a blissful existence back across the state line.
My Uncle Mike died last night, his daughter and his wife were both at his side.
He was such a great guy. Very funny, very gentle, very sweet.
* He was one of those people who had a joke for every occasion. I asked him once if he had volunteered for the Army. “Volunteered? I still have splinters under my fingernails from when they dragged me off!”
When he was a kid, his mom gave him a diary. He read it to me once, speaking in the voice of a child. It went something like, “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page. “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page. “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page, “Today, I played fireman.”
You had to be there.
* Mike learned to fly an airplane when I was young and I flew with him several times and even went through the study guides with him while he worked to get a commercial license. He taught me about clouds, aerodynamics, you name it. It was so easy to learn things from him because he was such a patient, kind man. We were sitting at his kitchen bar table studying together one night and he started telling jokes and I literally fell off my chair laughing. I don’t remember a single one of those jokes, but I’ll never forget that long fall off that high bar stool. No blood, no foul. I got up laughing.
He bought a motorcycle back in the day and would take me for rides. We were pulled over by the cops near my grandma’s house in Ashkum once because I wasn’t wearing sunglasses. He bought me a pair and later that day a bug or something hit my glasses and they cracked. Thank goodness for the cop. I don’t think I ever did tell my mom that story.
* Mike wasn’t somebody who worried too much about his career. He tried numerous occupations, never settling on one. He never really had much money and he never seemed to care all that much. He had a house, a great wife and lived in the town where he was born and raised, always surrounded by good friends and a strong family. He did, indeed, live in bliss.
Remington, Indiana was kind of a paradise to me when I was a kid. I lived on a farm in Iroquois County at the time, so our closest neighbor kids were over a mile away. Mike’s nieces and nephews lived near his house and they and their pals were all around my age, so we became fast friends. I don’t remember any of them ever once causing any trouble. They were such good kids, but so much fun to hang out with, always laughing and smiling. And then I’d go back to Mike and Jean’s house and listen to show tunes. My Aunt Jean, my mom’s sister, was a big fan of show tunes. I think I memorized the entire “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” album at one point. It was a home away from home. An oasis of calm and constant mirth.
* I was nine when my cousin Tracy was born. She was the first girl on my mom’s side of the family, so she was always special. Tracy got her sense of humor and much of her sweetness from her dad and she shared a story yesterday about her childhood…
Remembering riding my pony Brownie for the first time. I was 4. I had lifesavers in my jean pocket. I had dad as my coach. Around the maple tree I went one way. Then around the other way. I was clearly a prodigy at horseback riding. It was going great. I don’t know what got into Brownie but he took off with me fast. I was in the alley by Dotty Bahler’s house when dad told me to jump. I just did that. I trusted my dad to know the right course of action. I lost my lifesavers, and that was crushing, but I landed in soft grass with no injuries. My pony was found by the laundromat. I have never trusted another man more than this man. Generally he has given me good ideas for a long time.
* My mom called from Mike’s hospital room a couple of days ago and put me on speaker so I could talk to him. She warned me that he probably wouldn’t respond. But he perked up when he heard my voice and we managed a conversation. I told him I loved him. It was the last thing I said to him before he passed.
Today, Mom sent me a photo of a framed copy of my 1998 column that was hanging on Uncle Mike’s bedroom wall. That’s when I started writing this post. And that’s when I also decided that I’m going to take the rest of the day off.
* Here’s a photo taken by my brother Devin of Uncle Mike and Aunt Jean…
* Greg Baise of the Illinois Manufacturers Association spoke to the City Club today. Here’s an excerpt of his prepared remarks…
Now, people talk about how the middle class is in trouble. And, it is. They aren’t lying. But those who talk loudest about protecting the middle class are actually doing the most to push it out of existence. For decades, MANUFACTURERS have been the best producers of middle–‐class jobs in the nation. People from all walks of life looked to manufacturing for jobs that paid middle–‐class wages, offered health insurance and built a pension. People who worked for manufacturers were the heart of the middle class. They saved for down payments to buy homes. They were able to raise a family. You didn’t need an advanced degree to make a good living. You needed a good work ethic and a sense of pride in what you produced.
Entrepreneurs who were willing to risk it all created that opportunity for growth, and the responsibility was on its citizens to create their own destiny. Government’s role was to provide a safety net, a helping hand, and monitor and correct the bad actors–‐–‐but not get in the way of those who were doing it right.
For too many, those days are long gone.
What I’m describing now is how many of my members feel and man do they feel it. And please keep in mind, that about 85 percent of my members are SMALL businesses, many second and third generation.
They feel that slowly, but insidiously, government is being led by politicians who think they’re the experts on how to run business. They see the government dictating wages and opportunity, mandating nearly every aspect of running a business, and too often views employers as an eternal piggy bank to solve every woe in society or to fund every novel idea hatched by a think–‐tank.
* Whatever you think of the rest of the column, Jim Dey’s conclusion is spot on…
“Thumbs down to the Illinois Supreme Court, which … disenfranchised the state’s voters to the benefit of a powerful few,” the Quad-City Times stated [about the redistricting lawsuit].
But, really, who cares? Certainly not the judges who did Madigan’s dirty work. They’re not accountable?
Certainly not Madigan and the legislators he spared from being put to a real electoral test. They’re not accountable either. That’s the whole point behind gerrymandering.
They may not appreciate the accusations coming their ways. But adverse public reaction was baked into the political cake, and it’ll blow over. When it does, they’ll still be in charge, for now and for as far as the eye can see.
Same with the $400,000 copper doors. Same with, well, pretty much everything.
You do what you want and then win the campaigns in the trenches.
But, again, it would be a bit more honest if columnists and editorial writers even occasionally pointed out that Rauner actually managed to win a whole lot of districts that are represented by Democratic legislators. He beat Pat Quinn in Rep. Dan Beiser’s district 55-38, for instance. That’s probably why the Democrats are playing the Ken Dunkin card in August.
* It appears this Democratic mailer on behalf of Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) is referencing the support given by Dan Proft’s Illinois Opportunity Project to Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) in the spring primary…
Man, oh man. And it’s not even Labor Day.
Also, sorry for the picture quality issue, but I figured you’d like to see this anyway.
* Meanwhile, the anti-Dunkin t-shirts from the spring primary are being repurposed in at least one southern Illinois House race…
* Gov. Bruce Rauner made the rounds of Chicago TV stations early this morning. A WGN anchor asked him: “But the world of business is a dictatorship. You’re in government now. Looking back on your year and a half, is there a political tactic you would have changed to accomplish more of your agenda?”
* Over on Channel 7, the governor was pressed hard by Judy Hsu: “Your job is to govern and we need a budget. What realistically can be done going forward to find a compromise?” The governor said that the legislative leaders have agreed to work on a compromise and pass a balanced budget with reforms after the general election.
Hsu also talked about the new “heat map” which shows where the social services cuts have happened. “Do you have a real grasp of what’s facing the families?” she asked. His response…
Absolutely. And the tragedy is, we have out of balance, um, budgets that are broken and not funding our services properly for decades. This is a problem, this hasn’t happened in the past year, this has been created for many, many years. We always try to spend much more than we really bring in. That makes us the state that people leave the most from. People leave Illinois more than any other state. And our jobs, our employers leave our state. We’ve got to have financial discipline and we need reforms to grow our economy. That’s the number one priority.
The FBI says that computer hackers accessed, and in one case stole, voter registration files in two states, potentially compromising personal information and putting crucial election data at risk just three months before voters head to the polls.
And if that weren’t unsettling enough, the techniques that the hackers used were neither sophisticated nor particularly hard to employ, proving that it’s not just high-end hackers from foreign governments, like the ones believed to be targeting U.S. political organizations, that elections officials need to worry about in the runup to November. […]
The FBI’s analysis of the hacks, contained in a security alert first reported by Yahoo News, shows that Arizona’s elections website was penetrated in June using a common vulnerability that’s well known to security experts. Then, in July, Illinois’ voter files were accessed apparently using stolen login credentials, which could have been obtained by spear phishing a state employee. […]
On the scale of hacker sophistication, these attacks rank on the low-end, relative child’s play for the kinds of skilled operators that U.S. officials suspect may have stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee and Democrat and Republican lawmakers in an attempt to sow chaos in the presidential elections.
The problem is the security was far, far too lax. It’s been beefed up now in Illinois, but, man, this was no way to run a railroad.
* Considering the mayor’s total opposition, I’ll believe this when I see this…
The Illinois Senate sponsor of the Chicago elected school board bill says the legislation will likely undergo some changes in the coming weeks.
“We have identified some areas of improvement for the bill,” state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) said in remarks after Monday’s City Club of Chicago talk about creating an elected school board in the city. […]
At issue is legislation that would create a 20-member elected school board in Chicago, starting in 2018. Under the bill, the state legislature would divide the city into 20 districts for the purpose of electing school board members. The school board’s chair would run citywide.
Raoul said the number of proposed school board members may be reduced in the Senate version of the bill.
“The proposal with a 20-member board may be too large,” Raoul said, adding that the legislation may also be tweaked to allow for runoff elections.
Whatever the case, Raoul is right about some of his changes, particularly the runoff aspect. Candidates should receive over half the votes, particularly with all the big money floating around out there these days and the very real potential for tons of candidates in the first couple of elections.
* I sure hope the prosecutors know what they’re doing on this one…
A 31-year-old Elgin man accused of making a death threat to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in May has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and was sentenced to two years of probation and six months wearing an alcohol-monitoring device.
Jesse Kuzma, of the 1100 block of West Highland Avenue, pleaded guilty Friday to attempt to threaten a public official, a misdemeanor, according to Kane County court records.
In addition to the probation and 180 days wearing the alcohol device, Kuzma was ordered to pay $1,840 in fines and fees.
Kane County Judge James Hallock accepted the plea, in which prosecutors reduced the original charge of felony threatening a public official, which had a punishment range of probation to up to five years in prison, records show.
Kane County prosecutors allege Kuzma called the Governor’s Office of Constituent Affairs around 11 p.m. May 7 and left a message stating, “If I ever see you, consider this your death threat.” Illinois State Police investigated the call and arrested Kuzma a few days later.
The political environment in this state is so toxic and so heavily ginned up by all sides, I’m just thankful that we haven’t seen more of this stuff.
* Gov. Rauner was asked early this morning on NBC 5 about his vetoes of legislation to raise the pay of workers who care for people with developmental disabilities and a bill to expand child care assistance eligibility.
“I understand your position,” said Zoraida Sambolin about the governor’s oft stated desire to keep spending in line, “But at the end of the day when you go to bed at night, is it difficult for you to sleep knowing that you have to make these tough decisions?”
At issue is legislation pushed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that would raise the minimum wage for so-called direct support personnel to $15 an hour. Those workers help the developmentally disabled with daily tasks ranging from cooking and cleaning to taking medication.
Providers say their average hourly wage is about $9.35, which they said has led to a severe staffing shortage that’s forced some group homes to close and leave many families without the help they need. Two days earlier, Rauner himself acknowledged the “documented critical and growing shortage of direct support professionals throughout the United States” in a proclamation declaring that a week in September would honor support workers.
Art Dykstra, CEO of Trinity Services, a nonprofit that provides care for people with disabilities, said the state’s “service system is crumbling.
“We are getting to the point where we will have to ask families to consider taking their loved ones home on weekends because we can’t adequately staff the houses,” he said in a statement. [Emphasis added.]
The proclamation the governor signed last week is here.
* Part of this may wind up in a TV ad, but the online spot is way too long for television right now…
It was only a matter of time. Democrat Susana Mendoza’s campaign is out with its first confrontational spot against Comptroller Leslie Munger following Munger’s on-camera math mess at the Illinois State Fair.
It’s digital-only now but is likely to be slotted as a TV spot closer to the November election.