A diabolical ploy. Outlandish drivel that’s aimed at taking care of the insiders. A waiter asking how your salmon tastes while the Titanic sinks.
These outraged cries of a few opinion writers aren’t about politicians, but an important ballot question: Should lawmakers be required to spend money where they say they’re going to? Our group, Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding, believes it’s important enough to ask voters to change the Constitution after seeing Springfield use road funds to prop up the state budget year after year, totaling more than $6.8 billion.
Today, we’re seeing the costs of those diversions:
The amendment language is complex, but its impact is simple: when you pay gas taxes and vehicles registrations, your money will go to their intended transportation needs.
Isn’t changing the Constitution too extreme? Not when the budget doomsday is already here. The Road Fund was tapped for half a BILLION DOLLARS just last year, ahead of a full year without a budget at all. Without this Amendment, why would we think it won’t happen again?
Vote Yes for the Safe Roads Amendment. It’s good for our economy, for our safety, and for some political sanity for a change at the state Capitol. Learn more at http://www.saferoadsamendment.com/
Illinois Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, already facing an uphill battle for re-election, is entering the crucial final week before Election Day weakened by comments about his opponent that critics attacked as racist and “beyond reprehensible.”
Two organizations whose endorsements Kirk touted as indicators of his independence withdrew their backing over the weekend, issuing blistering rebukes. Both said they’re now supporting Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
Democrats are relying on winning Illinois as they look to regain control of the U.S. Senate. The party must pick up four or five seats to do so, depending on whether they retain control of the White House.
Kirk spent the weekend away from the public eye - a highly unusual move for any candidate in the waning days of a campaign, but one that allowed him to avoid rehashing the incident in the media. Duckworth had a full campaign schedule, including get-out-the-vote events with civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
* Actually, Kirk was at the Coleman-Oliver Foundation’s Black Coffee Agenda on the city’s South Side on Saturday morning. According to Kirk’s campaign, he then held a “town hall” meeting at Silk N Classy Barbershop in Dolton later in the day, and used the opportunity to get a haircut.
* How do I know this? Simple. First, I looked at Kirk’s Twitter account and then asked his campaign for more details. The Sun-Times also previewed the Sinai event. According to the Kirk campaign, the AP never bothered to call and check.
Look, it’s not like the incumbent had an action-packed weekend, but he did do some things. We don’t need to make this worse than it already is.
This past weekend saw the most fatal shootings all year in Chicago, but CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson said deploying extra officers to control crowds around Wrigley Field during the World Series did not mean other neighborhoods were neglected.
Between Friday evening and Monday morning — as the Cubs were playing three straight games at Wrigley Field — 17 people were shot and killed in Chicago, nearly all on the South and West sides. […]
The extra officers at Wrigley didn’t impact police staffing in the rest of the city, Johnson said Monday morning after a department graduation ceremony at Navy Pier.
Those neighborhoods hit by the spike in fatal shootings “didn’t get shortchanged at all this weekend,” he said.
For five years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city officials hewed to the same script, maintaining to the public that Chicago has enough cops.
And the mayor and police brass proclaimed that they were working with the community to fight problems that lead to crime.
But out of the spotlight, the Emanuel administration told federal officials that the Chicago Police Department needed hundreds of additional officers and that community-based policing has been withering in Chicago for years — and that’s been a factor in the rise in violent crime battering the city.
In applications for grants from the Justice Department the past two years, city officials portrayed the Chicago Police Department as dangerously understaffed — even as Emanuel and police brass publicly dismissed calls to hire more cops until just a few weeks ago.
In the GOP’s mind, Rep. Andy Skoog should join his fellow Democrat, Hillary Clinton, behind bars.
The party’s latest mailer depicts a smiling Skoog in a police lineup in white shirt and loosened tie. The beefy arms of fellow “bad guys” appear on either side of Skoog, with one guy’s arm heavily tattooed.
Skoog is holding a sign that reads, “$6,000/year property tax scam.” The flier implores voters to retire “crooked politician” Skoog on Election Day, calling him a tax dodger.
Over the top? Of course, it is.
Just like plenty of other political fliers in mailboxes these days.
* Giuliani should keep up the good work. Few reporters ever bother confronting the blatant lies that are constantly churned out in legislative races because they either fall below the local media’s radar or they’re just so many of them that nobody wants to bother with the Herculean task of fact checking the avalanche.
In the end, however, it’s all just too much. Both sides have created alternate reality universes. Almost nothing they say has more than a tiny grain of truth, but their messaging has a much longer and deeper reach than any newspaper or Twitter account. Hence, the title of this post.
The only way these sorts of attacks will end is if they stop working. But since both sides do it, how could we ever tell?
If this amendment passes, the road funds will go into a “lockbox” and will be untouchable, even in a dire emergency.
It’s like taking a family’s household budget and saying that an important priority — say, saving for your kids’ college funds — would be locked up. Sounds good, until a financial crisis happens and you have no money to put food on the table, right?
Other states that have passed similar measures have provisions to declare a fiscal emergency and access those funds. Illinois’ measure doesn’t. That’s why voters should see big red flags.
Past history shows that once Illinois’ constitution is amended, it’s a highly difficult process to get it changed back. Exhibit A, the state’s efforts to find a way to deal with its skyrocketing pension obligations.
Transportation is an important investment for the state to make. But so is education, both K-12 and higher education. So are social services. So are public safety issues. Will they get their own dedicated funds?
If it wasn’t for all the Republican votes on this thing and the governor’s total silence, I’d be easily convinced this was a clever ploy by Speaker Madigan to lock up state money so that Gov. Rauner can’t use it to fund another patchwork, stopgap budget.
But, the Republicans found themselves in boiling hot water with the road builders last year when the GA and Rauner swept the Road Fund to pass the FY 16 budget “fix.” So, they had some making up to do.
Same thing happened on the Democratic side with the trade unions.
However, I cannot imagine Madigan supporting this hastily crafted proposal (with a ton of unintended consequences) under any other governor.
The proposed constitutional amendment, the Illinois Transportation Taxes and Fees Lockbox Amendment, is highly problematic for several reasons.
• First, its wording is vague, and as a result its actual impact is unclear. The proposed amendment’s lack of clarity may result in more revenue streams, at both state and local levels of government, than intended being restricted to a limited number of transportation related expenses.
• Second, the proposed amendment is likely to divert revenue away from other areas of state and local budgets. The Lockbox Amendment would not increase total revenue—rather, it would change how existing revenue is spent.
• Third, because it is being proposed as a constitutional amendment and not a regular statute, any negative consequences would be extremely difficult to modify or reverse.
The last weekend of October was the deadliest so far this year in Chicago, including among its victims an eighth-grade honors student and twin 17-year-old boys, according to police and data compiled by the Tribune.
Seventeen people were fatally shot in the city between Friday afternoon and early Monday, an extraordinary toll even in a year that is far outpacing last year in shootings and homicides.
Up until now, Father’s Day weekend had been the most violent with 59 people shot, 13 fatally. The same number of people were shot this past weekend but more of the shootings were fatal, according to Tribune data.
The weekend toll also was deadlier than the three long summer holiday weekends when violence typically spikes because of the warm weather. Six people were fatally shot over the Memorial Day weekend, five over the Fourth of July weekend and 13 people over Labor Day weekend, according to Tribune data.
Chicago police are shooting fewer residents and drawing fewer civilian complaints than they were before protests over the fatal 2014 shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer. […]
The Chicago police have continued to be less active in recent months. Narcotics arrests for the period from Jan. 1 through Oct. 3 were down 47 percent this year, compared with the same time frame in 2015. Meanwhile, crime — especially gun violence — has remained high. The total number of murders, which began increasing after the release of the video, is up by 44 percent so far this year after a 16 percent jump in 2015. Chicago is currently on pace for its highest murder total since the late 1990s and will likely experience its biggest one-year jump since the FBI began keeping track in the early 1930s.9
Relatively few of the city’s murders are solved: As of Oct. 3, the Chicago Police Department had cleared10 only 21.0 percent of murders and other homicides and 2.6 percent of nonfatal shooting incidents in 2016. That’s down considerably from 2015, when 31.8 percent of homicides and 6.1 percent of nonfatal shootings were cleared.
The Chicago Police Department has made significant strides in reducing negative interactions between police and civilians, as measured by complaints and shooting incidents. But those strides may have come at the cost of a severe drop in arrests and a worsening wave of violent crime.
Eric Adelstein, the Chicago based Democratic political consultant, is doing the most anti-Trump-related work in Illinois, with his firm representing LIFT, Mendoza and Schneider. “While Trump allows for a nationalization of message across races, there are different strategic imperatives,” Adelstein said. […]
Adelstein said LIFT is determined not to let Rauner have it both ways. “If your opponent doesn’t want to talk about something, it’s usually a good strategy to force them to talk about it and Trump is that thing they don’t want to talk about.”
A Democrat familiar with Trump-related Illinois polling described the Trump factor as potentially depressing “turnout among good GOP constituencies in Illinois, like affluent, white college-educated voters.
“It means that GOP winners must over perform the top of the ticket by 15 points rather than 10. It means the suburbs are in play for statewide candidates and it means that GOP candidates must alienate their base or risk losing the middle, and even then it might not work,” the source said.
I’m still not completely sure after reading this piece what the actual aim of the Biss spots may be - at least as far as this cycle is concerned. Mendoza is using both Rauner and Trump in her ads, but most legislative races aren’t.
By analyzing data from state legislative races across the country in 2013 and 2014, the Montana-based National Institute on Money in State Politics determined that voters re-elected 91 percent of incumbents running in general elections. Current officeholders who raised more campaign cash than their opponents were even more likely to retain their seats, winning 94 percent of their races.
“Incumbency was the most powerful single factor determining a state legislative candidate’s success in the 2013 and 2014 elections, followed closely by the power of money,” Linda Casey, the institute’s lead researcher, wrote in a March report. The trend has held relatively steady since the 2001 and 2002 state election cycles, according to the institute.
The power of incumbency was even stronger in Illinois in 2014, with only one incumbent out of 124 — former state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline — losing in the general election. Three other incumbents, two Democrats and one Republican, withdrew after the primaries. […]
Jacobs’ defeat at the hands of now-Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Rock Island, was a rare loss for an incumbent who raised more money than his challenger. Jacobs spent $2.1 million to Anderson’s $1.9 million in the most expensive legislative race in Illinois history, according to an analysis from Kent Redfield, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Those dollar amounts almost seem quaint these days.
The Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois announced Friday it had given preliminary approval to a contribution request for $4.56 billion to its pension fund.
The changes in state law made last year for determining actuaries’ estimates for adequately funding pensions have greatly increased the amount of contributions statewide.
The Teacher’s Retirement System said of the projected $4.56 billion contribution, just $974 million is needed to pay the cost of pensions for that year. The remaining $3.5 billion is to go toward the amount owed from previous years.
“Most of the fiscal year 2018 contribution is a self-inflicted wound,” TRS Executive Director Dick Ingram said. “That money could be spent on other priorities today if the state of Illinois had fully met its obligations in the past.”
While next year’s contribution to the teachers’ pensions is an eye-popping figure, it is far short of the actuaries’ ceiling. Using the new accounting standards, the state’s annual contribution should be $6.88 billion to catch up with its unfunded liability.
(Tongue FIRMLY planted in cheek) Speaker Madigan is so powerful that at the age of 1 year, while still in diapers, he got the General Assembly to pass and GOP Governor Dwight Green to sign that legislation. WOW! That’s power!
The 1980 cutback amendment passed overwhelmingly, eliminating a few dozen lawmakers from the House of Representatives and helping Madigan consolidate power as speaker when his peers first elected him to that office in 1983.
Yep. Madigan ordered gadfly reformer Pat Quinn to put the Cutback Amendment on the ballot to consolidate his nefarious grip on power. It’s all rigged!
* Zorn: Anti-Madigan documentary shows why he’ll be hard to beat
This fiscal year, our state’s general funds are spending $22 billion as a result of court-ordered outlays. Then, there is $12 billion in “hard expenditures” we must pay for debt service, pensions and transfers to local governments and Medicaid accounts.
We can add to those totals another $6 billion in unpaid bills. For example, the state is as much as 673 days late in reimbursing medical providers for employee health care services. […]
These expenditures total $40 billion for the year, but we have only $30 billion in revenue coming into the general funds to pay all these bills.
Of course, we say we must tighten our belts. And, of course, we always can do some of that, but less than you might imagine.
Annual state pension payments of $7.2 billion are mostly debt service for underfunding pensions and sweetening them in years past, and the state high court has said we must pay them.
During the past decade or so, the state also has cut expenditures for schools, universities and social services significantly. State employee numbers are down, from 89,000 in 2001 to 64,500 last year. […]
All I am saying here is cutting “waste and corruption,” the default budget-cutting option of the public, sure won’t alone erase a $10 billion budget shortfall.
More than one-third of social media users are worn out by the amount of political content they encounter, and more than half describe their online interactions with those they disagree with politically as stressful and frustrating
The roughly two-thirds of American adults who use social media sites express a relatively wide range of opinions on the political interactions they witness and take part in on these platforms. Many feel overloaded by political content and view their social media interactions with those they disagree with as a source of frustration and annoyance. At the same time, a substantial minority of users enjoy the ability to consume political content and engage in discussions with people on the other side of issues:
* Nearly twice as many social media users say they are “worn out” by the amount of political content they see in their feeds (37%) as say they like seeing lots of political information (20%). Still, about four-in-ten (41%) indicate that they don’t feel particularly strongly one way or the other about the amount of political content they encounter on social media.
* 59% say their social media interactions with those with opposing political views are stressful and frustrating – although 35% find them interesting and informative.
* 64% say their online encounters with people on the opposite side of the political spectrum leave them feeling as if they have even less in common than they thought – although 29% say they end these discussions feeling that they have more in common than they might have anticipated. […]
Some 40% of users agree strongly with the notion that social media are places where people say things while discussing politics that they would never say in person (an additional 44% feel that this statement describes social media somewhat well).
Meanwhile, roughly half of users feel the political conversations they see on social media are angrier (49%), less respectful (53%) and less civil (49%) than those in other areas of life. At the same time, a notable minority feels that the political discussions they see on social media are largely reflective of the political discussions they witness in other areas of their lives: For instance, 39% of users feel that these interactions are no more less respectful than other political interactions they encounter. And a small share finds political debates on social media to be more civil (7%), more informative (14%) and more focused on important policy issues (10%) than those they see elsewhere. […]
When ignoring problematic content fails, social media users tend to utilize technological tools to remove troublesome users from their feeds entirely. Nearly one-third of social media users (31%) say they have changed their settings in order to see fewer posts from someone in their feed because of something related to politics, while 27% have blocked or unfriended someone for that reason. Taken together, this amounts to 39% of social media users – and 60% of them indicate that they took this step because someone was posting political content that they found offensive. […]
Even as their overall political attitudes differ dramatically, Democrats and Republicans (including independents and other nonpartisans who “lean” toward either party) tend to view and utilize social media in largely comparable ways. For instance, they are equally likely to say that they comment, post about or engage in political discussions on social media (10% of Republican users and 8% of Democrats do so often). And a nearly identical share from each party feels worn out by the amount of political material they encounter on social media (38% of Democrats and 37% of Republicans who use social media report this) or feel that the conversations they see on social media are angrier and less civil than in other venues where these conversations occur. However, Democrats who use social media are somewhat more likely to view these sites as useful vehicles for bringing new voices into the political arena.
During any given campaign season, one or maybe two state legislative campaigns wind up running ads on Chicago broadcast television stations. But in the age of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s gigantic campaign contributions, it may be easier to count the number of Chicago-area candidates who aren’t running any city broadcast ads.
State Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago) started the trend by airing Chicago broadcast TV ads at the beginning of August—an act completely without precedent in the General Assembly. Chicago broadcast ads are so expensive that campaigns usually don’t start airing them until mid to late October.
The ads are also incredibly inefficient. The Chicago media market has about 7.9 million people aged 12 or over, as measured by the ratings companies.
Four years ago, during the last presidential cycle, a total of 38,748 votes were cast in McAuliffe’s race. So, when McAuliffe and other House candidates air these ads, they’re aiming them at only about half a percentage point of the entire media market. It’s actually much lower than that because most people have already made up their minds by now. So, it’s like using a hydrogen bomb to kill a tiny gnat.
Just last week, the cash-rich Republicans went up on Chicago broadcast TV in five legislative races: Rod Drobinski vs. Rep. Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake), who also made a broadcast buy late last week; Rep. Chris Winger (R-Wood Dale) vs. Cynthia Borbas, who has been up on Chicago broadcast for a little while with an ad blasting Winger for her social conservatism; Rep. David Olsen (R-Downers Grove), who is fending off a late cable TV buy from Greg Hose; Steve Reick, who’s up against John Bartman, who just launched cable ads in retiring McHenry County Democratic Rep. Jack Franks’ district; and Michelle Smith vs. Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood), who is also on Chicago broadcast.
Keep in mind, those are just the latest to air the ads. Plenty of others were already on Chicago broadcast.
Both candidates in the Rep. Kate Cloonen (D-Kankakee) race have been airing broadcast TV, as have both in Democratic Rep. Andy Skoog’s LaSalle County-area race and both in Democratic Sen. Tom Cullerton’s DuPage County contest, as well as Rep. McAuliffe’s opponent Merry Marwig, among others.
And it’s not just the two parties airing the spots. Dan Proft says his Liberty Principles PAC is currently airing Chicago broadcast ads on behalf of six Republicans.
And it’s not just happening in Chicago. St. Louis broadcast TV has also been a relative rarity for legislative campaign ads. Heck, many statewide candidates forgo advertising in St. Louis because of its high cost-to-benefit ratio.
Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) has been running ads on St. Louis TV for several weeks, and the Democrats just started airing ads there for Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) to match his Republican opponent Mike Babcock’s buy. The Democrats also started running St. Louis ads for Mike Mathis against Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond).
“It’s crazy,” said one Metro East pal about the flood of St. Louis ads. “I want to throw something at the TV.”
Head up the Mississippi River and you’ll see broadcast TV ads in the Quad Cities for and against Rep. Mike Smiddy (D-Hillsdale). Like in St. Louis, most people who watch Quad Cities television stations don’t live in Illinois.
Then head as far south in Illinois as you can go and Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) is reportedly pushing a completely unheard of 3,900 gross ratings points on TV stations in and near his district. Generally, if you want half your targeted audience to see an ad three times, you’ll “push” 150 ratings points. Do the math. Bradley must be advertising 24 hours a day on every program.
The Republicans, by the way, estimated last week that they’ve pushed 5,000 points statewide on their anti-House Speaker Michael Madigan message.
But are any of these ads working this late in the game?
Last week, a friend of mine who doesn’t watch much broadcast television said he was watching “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN and texted me the ads as they popped up on his TV: “Anti-Yingling, pro-Duckworth, anti-Mendoza, anti-Skoog, anti-Yingling (again), anti-Cloonen. All back-to-back in a single commercial break.”
A few minutes later, he texted: “Hey back to commercials! Anti-Bartman, anti-Cullerton. Anti-Trump/Rauner (new from LIFT). What is this! An ad for Target. Like, a real ad for buying cheap [stuff]. Refreshing.”
“Seriously,” he texted, “it was just one big jumble. Nothing could break through this. And if you were getting 20 pieces of mail? Shoot me now.”