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Despite sharp criticisms, center director refuses to blame Mendoza

Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017

* As we discussed yesterday, the Well’s Center in Jacksonville is on the verge of shutting down. The center has been providing drug treatment for almost 50 years and the Rauner administration says Comptroller Mendoza is to blame for the crisis because she hasn’t released state money owed to the organization.

Mendoza traveled to Jacksonville yesterday to meet with the center’s director and then spoke to the media. Here’s WCIA TV

The financial feud between Governor Bruce Rauner and Comptroller Susana Mendoza continues to escalate, with the Comptroller making a grim prediction sure to raise the eyebrows of unpaid state vendors.

“There is going to be a point of like a bubble bursting where social service providers are going to have to close their doors,” she warned. “Not just one or two but hundreds or thousands of them.”

The comptroller drove to Jacksonville on Tuesday, along with an entourage from her office, to blame the governor for the budget crisis. She didn’t deny it was unorthodox for someone in her position to travel the state and hold public media availability events. Instead, she claimed this town-hall style of politics helps her to understand the plight of the unpaid vendors of Illinois. She says she has no plans to stop. […]

“Part of the idea today was to get the [Wells Center] to a point where we could hopefully still be able to provide services here in this area - here in this building - with the same staff,” Mendoza said. Although she clarified, “It may have to be under different management because the Wells Center has already made a decision that, I think, this was an inevitable conclusion of what the last two years has meant to them.”

The “last two years” reference was a not-so-subtle jab at Governor Rauner’s administration, during which time the state’s backlog of bills has ballooned to a historic $12.3 billion. Ms. Mendoza denied party politics fuels their rivalry, instead blaming Mr. Rauner personally.

“It’s his personality and his desire to hold onto his pet projects at all costs… At the cost of the [Wells Center] that has been a part of Illinois families for over 50 years.”

For a Downstate TV station, it’s actually a pretty darned good story, so go read the whole thing.

* The governor’s office released its own statement…

Comptroller Mendoza has half a billion dollars at her office to pay the Wells Center and avoid its closing. It’s disappointing that instead of simply doing her job, she used taxpayer resources to travel the state and grandstand in front of the center. The appearance is unseemly at best.

* One thing I didn’t see covered, however, is what the center’s leadership says. So, I called executive director Bruce Carter this morning.

Carter said quite a bit of money owed to him by the state has already been covered by the Vendor Assistance Program - which is basically a cash advance program of 90 percent of what the state owes a provider. Much of the $131,000 that the comptroller paid the center last week, in fact, was already received by the organization via the VAP. Carter said about $342,000 in invoices are still sitting at the comptroller’s office, but much of that may not yet be eligible for the VAP because the invoices may not yet be 3 months old. The governor’s office (this one and most past ones) often sits on vouchers to make the “official” bill backlog look lower than it really is.

* I told Carter that I hated to put him on the spot, but I wondered if he blamed Mendoza for the center’s current crisis.

“No, I don’t blame her,” Carter said. “The comptroller has twelve and a half billion dollars in outstanding bills she’s aware of and half a billion dollars to pay it.”

Carter said he’s hoping any money he can get from the comptroller’s office in the coming days will “allow us to buy enough time to partner with someone else” and keep the center open.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

33 Comments
  1. - Flynn's mom - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 8:50 am:

    Does any one else find it ironic that Mendoza is being criticized for traveling the state and grandstanding?? Isn’t this what the governor has been doing for the last to years?


  2. - Illinois O'Malley - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 8:54 am:

    Good ole Bruce, don’t seem to remember him blaming Munger when social services were closing last year…


  3. - Nick Name - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 8:57 am:

    “…she used taxpayer resources to travel the state and grandstand…”

    Is he for real?


  4. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:00 am:

    I wonder if Rauner is getting anything close to the same amount of grief that Pat Quinn got for closing facilities in Jacksonville.


  5. - RNUG - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:03 am:

    I saw the story earlier. They did do a good job on it. If we can get more media doing more in depth coverage like this, maybe the public would start to realize just how dire the situation is.


  6. - Chicago_Downstater - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:06 am:

    Yah, the Rauner’s PR team is starting to lose it.

    Look, people are willing to do all sorts of mental gymnastics to overlook hypocrisies from someone they agree with. However, if you keep slapping them in the face with said hypocrisies, then–one of these days–your sympathetic audience isn’t going to be able to complete that mental somersault.

    When that day comes, Rauner is going to be in serious trouble.


  7. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:06 am:

    $500 million in cash and $12.5B in overdue bills.

    It’s about time someone traveled the state screaming that from the rooftops. Please continue.

    The dishonesty and cynicism from the governor’s office is nauseating. Shutting down social service providers like Jacksonville are part of the squeeze the beast plan.

    Plenty have already shut down, and thousands have been thrown out of work.

    That’s why Rauner’s crew does things like holding back bills for Dept. of Aging contractors for six months (and counting?), so they can’t even get in line to get paid.

    Yet ERP contractors get accelerated payments on Munger’s way out tne door.

    Actiosn, vs. words.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:06 am:

    ===She didn’t deny it was unorthodox for someone in her position to travel the state and hold public media availability events.===

    Huh?

    The Office of the Comptroller is a statewide constitutional office. So, lemme get this “straight”…

    “She didn’t deny it was unorthodox for someone in her position to travel the state and hold public media availability events”

    And the Crew and Staff with Mendoza accepted the premise that’s it’s … “unorthodox”… for a statewide to travel… statewide… to discuss/promote/highlight the Office and the officeholder… doing the job they were elected to and in this case meet the challenges in person?

    Kinda wiffed on that Mendoza Crew.

    It’s one thing for the press to misconstrue, it’s another to “acknowledge” the misunderstanding as an “unorthodox” way… that statewides do… often. You deny its unorthodox, you SAY, it’s the Comptroller, like any statewide officer, going about the state and being hands on.

    “I travel the state often. Illinois is a big state. More can be done out where people need to be heard then behind a desk.”

    By “acknowledging” this as unorthodox, you made the political outshine where the governor is failing governmentally.

    Ugh. Do better.

    To the Post,

    Good on Bruce Carter. This issue isn’t about the Comptroller or even the Governor, in real time issues for Social Service providers waiting to get paid.

    I couldn’t and wouldn’t blame Carter if he just went off on everyone, governor and the General Assembly and was angered that his Social Service is in this position.

    Having Rauner highlight their plight, having Mendoza visit them in Jacksonville, which arguably more attention then a vast majority of social service providers are getting. The goal at the moment is to stay open, get funding. The political angles, at that very moment and instance, isn’t helping in getting checks. By not going off on anyone right then and there and even after Rich called, it allowed the governmental overshadow the political, and in that real time, that’s the best play.

    After? That’s a whole different discussion.


  9. - Dee Lay - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:06 am:

    Bruce, we call that projecting. It’s a bit below the governors office, don’t you think?

    No?


  10. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:12 am:

    I just don’t understand why private social service agencies will not put blame squarely on Gov Rauner. They are going to lose it all from the hostage situation created by Bruce Rauner alone. Madigan no more created this than a store clerk does by refusing to hand over the till to a robber. The sole perpetrator is Rauner in the demise of PRIVATE non profits who help our state provide services.
    But not speaking out and defending your services only helps Rauner hide the crime.
    It’s as if the victim is saying ” oh he didn’t take much. I’m sure he needed it more. He said its for my own good. I have more than I need.

    Bottom line. Rauner is taking Meals on wheels from Seniors
    Caregivers away from the severely disabled

    And financially ruining the state

    All Rauners Fault

    And please saying it was bad before is not a defense for the current crime


  11. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:14 am:

    “despite sharp criticisms”. Wait what sharp criticisms? I missed those.


  12. - DuPage - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:20 am:

    So that’s why she needed a state car dependable enough to drive in. With the previous rolling wreck, she might have to hitch-hike back to Springfield.


  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:21 am:

    === I missed those===

    How could you miss them? There’s one right in this story. Several yesterday.


  14. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:23 am:

    - Honeybear -

    With respect,

    You have to remove the biggest of pictures, at that moment, in the real time, for the good of what Carter is getting, by being highlighted and getting at least a response by TWO constitutional officers and Offices and let those Offices, in this specific, real time moment, decide to either make it grossly political, or make it a governmental issue that has been exacerbated by the events these past two years.

    Picking a side, at that moment, does zero in helping.

    After? Oh boy, after… then it could be a head scratcher with the continual “both sides” silliness.

    Sometimes it’s just about solving the real time problem. First.

    With respect.


  15. - Pundent - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:23 am:

    =The comptroller has twelve and a half billion dollars in outstanding bills she’s aware of and half a billion dollars to pay it.=

    Well that about sums it up.

    I agree with OW’s that the “unorthodox” comment was a fumble on the part of Mendoza but it could have been easily corrected by stating that a bill backlog of $12.5B was also unorthodox and these desperate times call for a different approach to creating public awareness of our plight.


  16. - Saluki - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:30 am:

    Way to go Bruce. Keep up the good work. Marginalize any republican’s chance at holding a statewide office for the next 20 years. The damage this governor is doing to the Republican Party in Illinois is going to last decades. Once he is gone, and with him his money, you won’t be able to elect a republican dog catcher.


  17. - P. - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:32 am:

    I think the “unseemly” might warrant a “bite me.” She wasn’t spotted coming out of a massage parlor or a flophouse hotel, she’s #doingherjob.


  18. - A Jack - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:42 am:

    It is unusual for the Comptroller to visit a vendor being hurt by the impasse. But I thought it was a good political move after Rauner tried to blame her yesterday.

    Indeed, Rauner seems out of his league with Mendoza. I look forward to Rauner’s next flub. It’s better than watching Comedy Central.


  19. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:49 am:

    My misunderstanding Rich. I thought your title meant that Carter had criticisms. I know Rauner and his folks were criticizing. I thought your title meant Carter was criticizing. I beg forgiveness for skimming. I’m still missing Carters criticism of Mendoza.


  20. - Earnest - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 9:49 am:

    Good on Mendoza for highlighting the problems of all social service providers, not just the latest one closing their doors (of many). She’s working on messaging that the Democratic Party of Illinois has repeatedly failed on over the past few years.

    Typical, effective Rauner messaging: not my fault, I care about this center and keeping it open, “others” should be playing politics and get things done. He does a great job of squeezing the beast and will be successful if the center goes under and/or is gobbled up by a large, multi-state corporation.

    Rauner’s actions and messaging have been very consistent, as has the ineffectiveness of Illinois Democrats. For those who say that social service agencies should flock to the Democrats, what exactly are they doing for them in terms of highlighting the human and economic impact of Rauner’s actions?


  21. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 10:01 am:

    Bruce is thinkin’, hey, it worked for Donald.


  22. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 10:16 am:

    “The appearance is unseemly at best.”

    Try not to faint.

    Meeting with contractors and citizens who are getting jammed up on their turf is “unseemly?” In what way?

    Gov. Rauner met with homeless teens, implied that he’d release money to keep shelters open, gave them all hugs, then a few days later his peeps put out a release saying no money would be forthcoming.

    What would you call that?


  23. - @MisterJayEm - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    “In Illinois there’s been a long-time history of what I would call social service, social justice, a bigger role for government in the safety net than in many other states. I think we can drive a wedge issue in the Democratic Party on that topic” — Bruce Rauner, September 18, 2012.

    To recap:

    • Social services have been relentlessly hammered for the last two years.

    • Bruce Rauner took office in 2015.

    • And in 2012, Bruce Rauner said he would treat social services like political wedges.

    But Susana Mendoza is to blame for the social service providers’ crisis?

    Beyond absurd.

    – MrJM


  24. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 10:22 am:

    As always OW I appreciate your time effort and respect to me. Never have you publically called me out for “intemperate” remarks.

    Brother do I try to soak up what you offer.
    It’s fricking manna for this learner

    But I am failing to understand
    “Picking a side at that moment does zero”
    And “after”

    To me “that moment” may be your only moment
    The single moment of efficacy and agency.
    Outside and after that moment , to me, are dark isolated and confined to anonymity.
    After nobody knows or cares

    To assign blame adds pressure in that moment.
    To not blame is to disapate the discomfort that built up enough could lead to action on the part of the exposed.
    It’s why I mention Wheels on Meals and what Rauner is doing. Same with EDGE and the siphoning of revenue ( EDGE hearing today BTW).
    Luxemburg said “The most revolutionary thing one can do is always to loudly proclaim what is happening. ”

    When for whatever the reason we can no longer say or even determine who is to blame, I feel one must include the perpetrator in the proclamation.

    It’s what Mendoza is doing
    It’s what I feel Carter should have done

    The closing of his agency is Rauners fault.

    Am I still not seeing it?
    My increasing militancy does bias me.


  25. - Mama - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    Rich, the public needs more stories on what social services does for IL citizens, and why the governor thinks their services are not important enough to pass a full budget with additional revenue.


  26. - Gob Bluth - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 10:29 am:

    The Rauner team is trying to blame Susana for traveling the state she was elected to serve and learning the stories of her constituents? We need MORE of that, not less.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 10:51 am:

    - Honeybear -

    You were in the Navy…

    A welder works in the hull, causes holes in the hull, water is pouring in something awful.

    The welder, pointing out the holes, blames another tradesman, in a trade that didn’t make the holes but could work to fix the holes just as easy as the welder.

    Now the sailors, they see water, in real time sinking the ship. The welder explains a way to fix it, even though it’s obvious the holes are made by the welder, and the tradesman sees the holes and works with the sailers too to fix the holes.

    As the ship is sinking, in real time, is it worth blaming the welder, taking the side of the welder over the tradesman not fixing holes… or better to save the ship at the moment and place blame after the ship is fixed?

    There will be time for blame and finger pointing, but when those who can fix the sinking ship in the real time moment are there, why waste that energy?

    Carter got the welder and the tradesman there to stop the sinking of the ship, in real time, at the moment.

    After the ship is back seaworthy, then…


  28. - Juice - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 10:58 am:

    On the unorthodox point, I thought it was much more unorthodox when the last Comptroller sent her attorney to St. Clair County to waive sovereign immunity on behalf of everyone living in the State of Illinois than Comptroller Mendoza going to Jacksonville.

    I dunno, maybe that’s just me.


  29. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    Also remember Munger visited Lessie Bates. It’s not so unusual.


  30. - walker - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 12:27 pm:

    Just to be fair, state-contracted social services have been “hammered” for at least five years. One of the ways Quinn cut costs was in cutting in these areas in his budgets. Of course he also paid down past due bills with his operating surplus. My guess is we’re already down at least 400 significant agencies and programs in Human Services, while others have been seriously reduced in size.

    Since Rauner, no real budgets, and not paying them at all, will result in more destruction. Not sure where the breaking point is, where we cannot even claim to provide this expected government service.


  31. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    I get that but CAPT Carter ordered Abandon Ship on the USNS Wells. It’s going down. But the damage wasn’t caused by a weld or design flaw. It is going down because CAPT Rauner took the helm and plowed uss Illinois into the tender fleet. CAPT Carter I feel should warn others that it is Rauners fleet.


  32. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 1:42 pm:

    Rauners fault


  33. - Chicago Barb - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 2:46 pm:

    Interesting that they try to blame Susanna. She’s only been in office a couple of months.


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