“Get up off your arses men
Don’t let ’em think you’re getting lazy
Get up out of your easy chairs
We gotta lot to do out there, well ain’t we.”
The Kinks, “Get Up.”
My Sunday post here is a bit late because this morning I ran a race–my first one since the 2010 Chicago Marathon.
I’ve been running ten miles a day four times a week for a couple of months now, so I’m in pretty good shape.
Although not race shape.
I had to drastically cut down my running eight years ago because of a torn meniscus in my right knee paired with a stress fracture on my fight fibula.
Clearly I lean to the right.
So what race did I choose for my comeback? The World’s Largest Corn Maze 5K at the Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois, just a few miles south of the Wisconsin border.
The race course has 250 turns. That’s over 80 turns per-mile. Wow. What a great way to re-tear a meniscus.
Even in Illinois few people are paying attention, so you probably didn’t know that this is the Land of Lincoln’s bicentennial year. Illinois’ 200th birthday was the theme of the maze, although I couldn’t ascertain that at ground level
Man, oh man, this was a tough race. Some of those turns were of the hairpin variety and there were some circular turns too. 250 turns? Why not just 200 Illinois bicentennial turns?
Yes, I finished. And finished well, coming in second place in my age group–55-59–and gaining a medal for my effort.
This post might be turning into a gloating exercise, which is not my intent at all. For you, well, seasoned guys and gals out there, there’s no need to believe that you are too old, tired, or banged-up to participate in athletic endeavors. Will you win an age group award in a race? Probably not. Jim Fixx, who wrote the best selling The Complete Book of Running, finished last in his first race. But since I started running at an intense level, I feel better and I look better.
The same result might come your way.
And if you are young there is a lesson for you too. Now is the time to create healthy habits. I ran my first marathon when I was 28.
John Ruberry regularly blogs from Morton Grove, Illinois at Marathon Pundit.
Early next year the first round of the Chicago mayoral election will be held, If no candidate achieves a majority, then the top two face each other in a runoff.
The two-term incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s first chief of staff, is running, as are several other candidates, each with baggage, including former Chicago Police superintendent Garry McCarthy, who Emanuel fired after the details of the shooting of Laquan McDonald became public, political gadfly and ex-Chicago Public Schools head Paul Vallas, and Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, whose office is under federal investigation.
There is a one person who could wipe the floor with Rahm and these other candidates and easily avoid a runoff. Take a look at his resume: He served in the Illinois state senate and the US Senate He held an executive political office for eight years. He is loved by many business leaders, in fact, his smartphone is probably packed with the private phone numbers of hundreds of CEOs. He is quite adept at political fundraising. This man has a solid base in Chicago and beyond, in fact, he is one of the most adored people on the planet.
Of course I’m talking about Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States. After Chicago’s most violent weekend of the year, Emanuel was hapless as he tried to act as the healer. On the other hand, such touchy-feely stuff comes natural to Obama. When the House and Senate was in Democratic control, Obama was quite skillful–to be fair, Emanuel helped–in pushing his left-wing agenda. When the House and then the Senate became Republican-majority bodies, Obama’s magic vanished. But no worries–of Chicago’s 50 alderman, 49 are Democrats.
Obama, with his sonorous voice, like Liam Neeson’s Aslan character from the Narnia series, can give Chicago’s 2.7 million-and-declining residents feel-good speeches on demand. Of course a half-hour later, it’s hard to recall what Obama actually said in those pep talks, other than “hope and change.”
But what about Chicago’s problems? They are legion–besides the murder count, Chicago suffers more murders annually than New York City and Los Angeles combined. The spike in Chicago’s murder rate. not coincidentally, began after the city signed on to an ACLU decree in 2015 that greatly decreased stop-and-frisks. Arrests went down. Murders went up. Chicago’s public schools, which Vallas of course used to run, are among the worst in the nation. The various pension systems in Chicago, are among America’s most poorly funded public retirement systems. Pensions for decades have been a way for Chicago politicians to utilize as a kick-the-can-down-the-road system to reward their union pals. Emanuel and the City Council have been raising property taxes in an attempt, probably futile, to dig Chicago out of this pension hole.
What else? Chicagoans pay the highest sales tax rate in America. There is even a tax on plastic bags. Red-light cameras are seemingly everywhere. The cameras, we are told. are there to deter speeding and prevent accidents, Chicago’s decrepit streets should be an encouragement enough to obey the speed limit and arguably red-light cameras cause accidents.
Chicago is a miserable place to live in but it’s problems are not intractable. Unless, that is, you are a leftist mayor. Let’s start with crime “If you want crime to go up,” Jeff Sessions said a few months ago, “let the ACLU run the police department. If you want public safety, call the professionals.” But would a Mayor Obama cross his beloved ACLU.? Of course not. Let’s move on to pensions. I believe that Chicago is near the tipping point where tax increases will bring negative returns. More people will move out, property values will decline, and then it will become a free-fall. The pension guarantee in the Illinois constitution needs to removed, which is something that Jeanne Ives, who narrowly lost to incumbent governor Bruce Rauner, favors. But a Mayor Obama would never used the bully pulpit to fight for this kind of change.
Oh, on a side note, I have several friends and relatives collecting municipal and state pensions. Yes, a pension is a promise, but please direct your anger at the pols who created this mess.
In The Simpsons Movie, Homer is handed $1,000 when he crosses the Alaskan border. In Chicago people’s pockets are seemingly picked by that same amount when they enter the city limits. Chicago has always been a place where government-sanctioned grifters run amok.
Liberals love high taxes because it gives them more money to unleash their social engineering schemes. So please don’t imagine that a Mayor Obama could be a tax-cutter.
But lower taxes–including the elimination of nuisance taxes–will make Chicago a more livable place and the type of city Americans will flock to, once the other problems Chicago faces are dealt with. And government revenues will go up, as public-officials are a poor spender of monies. Meanwhile, some Chicago liberals have bandied about “solutions” to its fiscal calamity that include a municipal income tax and a commuter tax. Ask Detroit how those are working out for it.
So yes, Barack Obama will not run for mayor of Chicago. Sure, he probably sees any job other than president of the world beneath him. But also, if he has an honest moment with himself, he’ll ascertain that if he adheres to his leftist dogma as Chicago’s mayor, he’ll be setting himself up for failure.
And he’ll be setting Chicago up for even more failure.
For the second time in less than a month, left-wing protesters illegally blocked a major Chicago expressway, with the goal of bringing attention to gun violence in America’s third-largest city.
You know what? People in Chicago and its suburbs already know about the homicide epidemic. As do most people nationwide. Last year Chicago, as it did in 2016, suffered more murders than the far-more populous cities of New York And Loa Angeles–combined.
On the flipside, according to Hey Jackass, murders and shootings are down in 2018 compared to last year.
Zero murders should be the goal of any society, although, given human nature, it’s not even a remotely realistic one. But Chicago can do much better.
I covered the most recent lawbreaking protest, the Thursday afternoon rush hour blocking of Lake Shore Drive on Chicago’s North Side for my blog, Marathon Pundit. You can read my report here. You’ll learn that the rally was really a collection of a baker’s dozen of leftist grievances.
What was that I said about illegal protests? Has fascism, as the leftists claim, conquered America under President Donald Trump? What happened to the First Amendment of the US Constitution?
Nothing has happened to the First Amendment.
Let’s see what that right-wing group (just kdding), the ACLU of Illinois, has to say about street-blocking protests:
In some cases, government can require a permit as a condition of protest on public property. For example, government often can require a permit for parades in the streets, given the impact on vehicle traffic.
Protesters do not have [emphasis mine] a First Amendment right to block pedestrian or vehicle traffic, or to prevent entry and exit from buildings.
Father Michael Pfleger, the gadfly left-wing Chicago priest, did not possess a rally permit when he and his followers blocked the 14-lane Dan Ryan Expressway last month on a Saturday afternoon on the South Side. Should’ve he been arrested? That’s a tough call, as the Illinois State Police, which has jurisdiction on this interstate, allowed Pfleger’s group to block the Dan Ryan.
So here we have cops, with the acquiescence of Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican by the way, consenting to law breaking. Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, expressed support for the protest.
At the block-Lake Shore Drive rally,, according to the Chicago Police, who has jurisdiction on that road, that event saw 150 protesters block eight lanes of traffic, ruining the commutes of thousands. Tio Hardiman and Gregory Livingston, the organizers of last week’s protest, carefully chose the day of their disruption. A few miles south of Belmont Avenue, where the rally began, the first day of the Lollapolooza festival was underway. And about a mile away the Chicago Cubs were hosting the San Diego Padres for a night game. While they chose their day well, Hardiman and Livingston didn’t have a rally permit either. I guess they were so busy rabble-rousing that they simply forgot to apply for one.
Let’s take a closer look at those protest numbers. We know there were just 150 activists blocking Lake Shore Drive. Keeping an eye on the marchers were anywhere from 300-400 police officers. Also along for the hike, which ended at Wrigley Field, were 100 media representatives and bloggers, including of course this one.
What about the cost?
The state spent $323,000 on the Dan Ryan protest. Municipal figures haven’t been released yet but it’s a safe guess that when those Chicago numbers are tallied, the cost of Pfleger’s protest will soar past a half-million dollars.
And when the Lake Shore Drive figures are added, will the costs of the two illegal rallies exceed $1 million? My prediction is they will.
If these protests were held instead downtown at a traditional and easy to patrol location, such as Daley Plaza, the taxpayer outlay would have been a pittance. And the plaza can handle many more than 150 people. Activists can enjoy their First Amendment rights there with minimal hassles for the rest of Chicago. And since all protesters seek media attention, nearly all of Chicago’s press and broadcast outlets have offices within walking distance of Daley Plaza. Everyone wins.
When unfunded pension debt is figured in, Illinois and Chicago are essentially broke. Chicago and Illinois are suffering from negative population growth.. And if such banana republic type protests continue to run amok, more people will throw up their hands and join the exodus.
There is another possibility.
Leftists fondly look back the 1960s protests at University of California at Berkeley as the good old days. But Ronald Reagan trounced an incumbent Democratic governor in 1966 by among other things, vowing to clean up “the mess” at Berkeley. However, California was right-leaning five decades ago.
At some point Chicagoans, will scream, “Enough!”
Especially if these expressway protestpaloozas become monthly occurrences.
These illegal protests need to end. The police need to enforce the law. And that means arresting and prosecuting the organizers of these exercises in lawbreaking.
Chicago, which is for now America’s third-largest city, has suffered a rough 21st century. It is beset by a declining population, a high murder rate, soaring taxes, poorly-rated bonds, and burdensome public employee pension debt.
Now you can add lead in tap water to Chicago’s problems. Chicago pumps its water from Lake Michigan, which is largely lead free.
Amid renewed national attention to the dangers of lead poisoning, hundreds of Chicagoans have taken the city up on its offer of free testing kits to determine if they are drinking tap water contaminated with the brain-damaging metal.
A Tribune analysis of the results shows lead was found in water drawn from nearly 70 percent of the 2,797 homes tested during the past two years. Tap water in 3 of every 10 homes sampled had lead concentrations above 5 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in bottled water by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Alarming amounts of the toxic metal turned up in water samples collected throughout the city, the newspaper’s analysis found, largely because Chicago required the use of lead service lines between street mains and homes until Congress banned the practice in 1986.
It was the lead from service lines in Flint, Michigan that contaminated that troubled city’s drinking water. Service lines are the connecting pipes from water mains to homes, schools, and businesses. Upkeep of them, and their replacement, is the responsibility of the property owner in Chicago. And replacing those service lines isn’t cheap, it will cost a property owner anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000. A lead filter is a cheaper alternative.
The Flint water crisis was brought about when that city, in a cost-saving measure, switched from purchasing its water from Detroit–which gets it from Lake Huron–to the Flint River. Chloride corrosives from the river reacted with the lead in the service lines, putting dangerous amounts of lead into Flint’s drinking water. While the US EPA says no amount of lead is safe, the EPA action level is 15 ppb, which many Flint homes exceeded.
But there is no federal standard for tap water lead levels in regards to individual residences.
The Tribune article cited here discovered that some Chicago homes tested had lead tap water with amounts slightly above 15 ppb.
Excessive lead levels are particularly damaging to children as it can lead to developmental problems. In fact, dangerous lead exposures among Chicago’s children could be a factor in the city’s high rate of violent crime.
“I was flabbergasted to learn the frequency of sexual assaults against students in Chicago’s schools,” Jackson told the host. “I expected dozens of cases. There were hundreds.”
What did Chicago Public Schools do about it, Flannery asked?
“Very little,” Jackson replied.
During the ten-year period the Tribune investigated those attacks, which include rape, there were 523 reports of sexual assaults inside city schools. That’s about one a week. Not included in that total are sexual attacks off property.
CPS protected its employees, to the detriment of students, as did the Chicago Teachers Union. The accusers–victims, I should say–were aggressively assailed by CPS lawyers who were more interested in protecting the teachers, coaches, custodians, and security guards than serving justice and safeguarding its students.
Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, readers leaned that a “blitz” health inspection of 125 schools found that only 34 passed. Rat droppings, filthy bathrooms, and unsanitary food preparation equipment were discovered. The most egregious violations were centered on facilities Aramark was hired to keep clean. Who was in charge of CPS facilities? A former Aramark employee, Leslie Fowler, who resigned her high-paying post last week. While the bidding process was open for a food contract, an inspector general’s report cited “questionable conduct” when Fowler twice dined with the president of Aramark
Her ex-employer won the bid.
Prior to her hiring as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett was a consultant for SUPES Academy, which produced training programs for school administrators. Once in charge of CPS, the woman known as BBB steered a $23 million training contract to her old employer. She was to receive a ten-percent kickback from that contract as well as a promise of a job whenever she left CPS.
It’s suspected that such crony-capitalism between CPS brass and their former private-sector employers is widespread. If true, then such private-public cross-pollination is simply a revolving door of corruption.
Byrd-Bennett, along with those two former big shots at SUPES, are now incarcerated in federal prison.
Despite the reputation of CPS for failure, Barack Obama chose one of BBB’s predecessors, Arne Duncan, as his first education secretary.
Obama’s daughters attended a private school in Chicago.
How is CPS doing in regards to educating children? Not very well. Not even one-in-four students read at grade level. Yes, I am aware that unlike kids in most suburban schools, there are additional challenges in teaching city children, many of whom come from abusive homes. But one-in-four? After years of so-called reform?
And what about the filth and the sexual assaults?
If the goal of Chicago Public Schools is to educate children in a safe environment, then it is failing–and has been for a long time, despite most schools incorporating such words as “Excellence” and “College Preparatory ” into their names. Before their well-needed demolition, public housing high rises, which never should have been built in the first place, were derided by liberals as “warehouses of the poor.”
Most CPS schools are warehouses of the poorly educated.
If the goal of CPS is to provide a generous income for teachers, maintenance workers, and of course administrators, along with bountiful pensions for them, then it is a fabulous success. Oh, let’s not forget the bottom lines of those contractors. They are doing well too.
As for those pensions, they have long been a slush fund. one that is dancing with insolvency. rather than serving as a retirement program.
Fitch rates CPS bonds as junk.
So, by nearly everyone’s standards, CPS is failing.
Does it continue on its same road to defeat?
When do Chicago taxpayers, who are increasingly angry because of repeated property tax hikes to pay for unfunded pensions, scream, “Enough!”
Firing everyone–and starting over again might be the only way out for CPS, which could be possible if state law is changed and public agencies are allowed to file for bankruptcy protection. Rehire the good teachers and the administrators who fight waste and theft. Charter schools aren’t the answer. UNO, an Hispanic group with close ties with former Mayor Richard M. Daley, utilized charter schools for crony capitalism and graft. More privatization isn’t the answer, as Aramark isn’t able to keep schools clean. School vouchers? Maybe. But some parents, sadly, don’t have the initiative to better the lives of the children.
Floundering schools are already closed and re-opened with new staff here-and-there in Chicago.
For those of you who cry out “more money” for Chicago’s schools, keep in mind more cash opens the door to more theft, or at the very least, more squandering of taxpayer funds.
Crime, high taxes, and rotten schools are the primary reasons given by people who decide to move away from Chicago. And Chicago is the only major city with a declining population.
Next year there is a mayoral election in Chicago. One of the candidates, Paul Vallas, is a former CEO of CPS.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. He attended kindergarten at a CPS school, Edward F. Dunne Elementary School. It is now the Dunne Technology Academy Elementary School.
Illinois cannot cope with the present, let alone with the future, so it’s fighting a symbolic battle from the past.
Here’s a little history lesson: In 1972 Congress submitted the Equal Rights Amendment to the state legislatures, which read:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
There was a rush of states falling over year other to ratify would have been the 27th Amendment before the seven-year deadline for passage, which in an unprecedented move, was extended by Congress for an additional three years. Thirty-five states–nearly all of them did so in the first year after congressional passage–ratified the ERA. Then opposition, led by conservative firebrand Phyliss Schlafly, who ironically lived in Illinois at the time, focused on such concerns that in an ERA America, women would be eligible for a military draft and gender-specific bathrooms would be abolished.
Illinois did not ratify the ERA.
Three states, in a move never tested in a federal court, later rescinded their ratifications. No states ratified the ERA during the extension period and the Equal Rights Amendment died in 1982, three states–or six–short of what was needed to be enacted.
Or did the ERA really die?
Last year, thirty-five years after the deadline expired, Nevada ratified the ERA. And last month the Illinois state Senate voted to do the same. In the House, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who nominally represents me in the lower chamber, is the sponsor for the ERA there. It’s a pet cause of Lang, a consummate left-wing political hack. He’s the House deputy majority leader, in reality, he’s the head waiter for House Speaker for Life Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who Reuters says is “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.” Where is Lang’s pension fix? Illinois has one of the worst-funded public-worker pension systems of the fifty states. Its credit rating is the lowest of any state ever. Why? Pensions of course. And those generous retirement plans are in reality deferred compensation in exchange for public-sector union support of the Democratic Party. Yes, a couple of Republican governors, Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar, are also partly culpable. Illinois’ pension bomb, both at the state and local level, and the tax hikes to attempt to pay down that debt, are a millstone for the state and the reason the Prairie State is suffering from declining population.
Other than more tax increases, Lang has no solution to solve the pension crisis. And yes, he’s definitely part of the problem as Lang has been a state legislator since 1987.
What to do?
If you’re Lang, you create a distraction with a nostalgic, for the left that is, flavor. Ratify the ERA. The Democratic nominee for governor, JB Pritzker, is on board.
Of course Congress could vote to pass, with identical wording, a new Equal Rights Amendment. Lang can just call his pal US Rep. Jan Schakowsky, his (and yes, my) representative in the US House. She’s an even bigger leftist than he is. Then the states can have another go-around. That’s what the our nation’s founders would want.
On the other hand, passing an constitutional amendment is very difficult to do. In 229 years it’s only been accomplished 27 times. But the US Constitution has in reality been amended thousands of times–by the courts. Same-sex marriage was legalized in such a manner, as was abortion.
Other than making women eligible for a military draft, what would the ERA do?
But that’s not the point. Liberals are obsessed with symbolism.
After the 9/11 attacks author Tom Clancy expressed this notion better, telling Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, “The political left is, you know, they deal in symbols rather than reality.”
The ERA is a symbol.
“The general difference between conservatives and liberals is liberals like pretty pictures and conservatives like to build bridges that people can drive across,” Clancy continued. “And conservatives are indeed conservative because if the bridge falls down, people die. Where as the liberals figure, oh, we can always build a nice memorial to them and make people forget it happened and it was our fault. They’re very good at making people forget it was their fault, all right.”
The ultimate blame for Illinois’ pension debacle and the resulting people-drain lies with the left.
And Illinois is a collapsed bridge.
Will passing the ERA make Illinoisans feel better?
John Ruberry is a fifth-generation Illinoisan, who, with a 401(k) plan, is funding his own retirement. He regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.
Or, the editorial could be titled, give us money or the Sun-Times will shut down.
“Until now, we’ve offered our online content for free. But we can no longer afford to operate our business this way,” the Sun-Times said in that plea. “Imagine our city without our headlines,” it continues. “Without our journalists to tell your side of the story.”
Since then I’ve noticed three follow-ups, including two columns–my guess is they were ordered by Sun-Times brass to write them–by Richard Roeper and Neil Steinberg. This morning on Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up, the Sun-Times’ managing editor, Chris Fusco, along with James Warren, who held the same job at the competing Chicago Tribune, pleaded the case for online Sun-Times subscriptions, which the host, Mike Flannery, endorsed as he told the pair that he had just signed up.
Warren said of the current owners of the newspaper, “They’re severely undercapitalized.”
Who owns the Chicago Sun-Times? A consortium of left-leaning investors, including a former Chicago alderman and failed Democratic candidate for governor, along with the Chicago Federation of Labor, which is an umbrella group of local unions. The CFL’s executive board is heavy with public-sector union bosses.
Chicago is one of the few cities left that has two mass-market daily newspapers. Television struck the first blow against big-city newspapers decades ago; the internet, which newspapers embraced twenty years ago when most of them put their content online for free–naively hoping that ad revenue would pay the bills–provided the second blow.
Houston, we have a problem. The city that seems poised to surpass Chicago in population, became a one mass-market newspaper town in 1995 when the Houston Post folded.
Or does Houston really have a problem?
Wikpedia lists nearly two-dozen Houston area newspapers, to be fair, none of them I’ve heard of until today. Sure, some of them are online-only publications. But is a book a book if it only appears on Kindle?
I believe so.
Of course there are scores of blogs based in Houston, perhaps many more, similar to the one you are reading now, as well as my own Chicago-area blog, Marathon Pundit–both of which represent my side. Perhaps yours too. The media elites love to dismiss blogs and news sites such as the Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner, or Breitbart as fake news, but of course the big shots never get things wrong.
Richard Roeper was suspended then demoted by the Sun-Times after he was exposed for buying 25,000 Twitter followers.
Neil Steinberg, who blocked me on Twitter shortly after Election Day two years ago because I objected to a whacked-out anti-Donald Trump column spewed by him, is in my opinion the most execrable columnist in America. He should, as the late great Sun-Times-based Ann Landers would regularly advise, “seek counseling.”
The Holocaust was in part a failure of imagination. Jews just couldn’t imagine it. Which has to trouble anyone insisting it can’t happen now. Because that’s exactly what they thought then.
If you can’t see how this could turn really bad, really quick, let me ask you this: When Donald Trump fails to provide the boon he promised, when his protectionist trade policies crater the economy, who is he going to blame? Himself? Donald Trump does not blame himself.
Who will he blame? When he’s in Pennsylvania, talking to coal miners whose industry he did not revive; when he’s in Youngstown talking to factory workers whose jobs never returned, who will he blame? Who?
You know the answer.
Since November, 2016 the Trump economy has boomed, his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both Orthodox Jews, have enjoyed enormous power, some say too much, in the White House. And Trump will move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to the delight of many Jewish-Americans and of course, the Israeli government.
Let’s take a look at the Sun-Times’ other regular opinion columnists. Mark Brown, Lynn Sweet, and Mary Mitchell are also leftists. The paper does re-print an occasional S.E. Cupp, piece, but this co-called conservative is a #NeverTrump Republican.
I didn’t forget about the Chicago Federation of Labor. As Illinois continues to plummet into the financial abyss, many members of the unions that comprise the CFL are doing well because they are or will be receiving generous but unaffordable taxpayer-funded pensions. While a couple of Republican governors share blame in the debacle, Michael Madigan, the man a former Sun-Times reporter, Dave McKinney, says is “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois,” deserves most of the dishonor. Illinois’ “House speaker-for-life” and “state Democratic Party chairman-for-life” has raked in a lot of CFL cash over the years, as has his daughter, the lame duck state attorney general, Lisa Madigan, as this Illinois Policy Institute graphic explains.
Definitely not my side.
Mike Madigan is the problem in Illinois, but don’t expect the Sun-Times to call for his ouster.
As Illinois and Chicago continues to lose population because of tax increases to attempt to pay for the local edition of what I called in this space The Great American Pension Swindle, this people-drain becomes the Sun-Times’ problem too. Fewer people living here means fewer readers and subscribers. If you live in Omaha, what does the Sun-Times offer you? Chicago’s best days are in the past and I expect that Chicago won’t remain a two mass-market-newspaper town for long. The Sun-Times is battling history with fewer troops in its camp.
But there will be other voices that will persevere.
And no, I won’t become a monthly subscriber to the Sun-Times.
Now, if the Sun-Times wants to add opinions like mine, then perhaps I’ll reconsider.
John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinoisan, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.
For decades Illinois, Chicago, and many other Land of Lincoln municipalities have been kicking the can down the road in regards to public worker pension obligations.
Harvey, a poverty-stricken southern suburb of Chicago with a long history of corruption, has not just reached the end of the road, it has run off of the cliff, in the manner of Wile E. Coyote. Because Harvey has not been adequately funding its police and fire pension plans for years, a state law–Illinois ironically is guilty of the same sin with its pensions–requires the state treasurer to withhold the city’s portion of sales tax revenue, $1.4 million, to pay into those funds instead of that cash being deposited into the town’s general revenue account. Harvey’s police and fire pensions are funded at only 51 and 22 percent, respectively.
On Friday Harvey laid off half of the employees in its police and fire departments, along with about a dozen other municipal workers.
Ironically two firefighters with 18 years on the job were among those given pink slips, they are two years away from qualifying for their own pensions.
Harvey has had many other brushes with malfeasance, and like Wile E, it has used a bag of tricks from its own version of the Acme Corporation to remain airborne. It purchased Lake Michigan water from Chicago, resold it to neighboring towns and used that revenue for payroll and other expenses. Until Chicago sued Harvey didn’t pay the larger city for that water. Its four-term mayor, Eric J. Kellogg, was fined $10,000 and banned from participating in future bond offerings after Harvey diverted cash from a hotel development plan to other items, including payroll.
The FBI, according to the Chicago Tribune, is investigating bribery allegations involving a consultant of Kellogg, the former mayor of neighboring Dixmoor who is a twice-convicted felon. The case is centered on secret recordings made by Harvey’s comptroller, who committed suicide in 2016, the same year that Fox Chicago, citing reports from experts, said the city is “worse than broke.”
Ah, it’s easy to dismiss Harvey as an aberration even in a state with a national reputation for corruption. In my lifetime four Illinois governors have been sent to federal prison and a fifth faced trial for tax evasion but was found not guilty.
Pension troubles such as the one Harvey is facing can’t come to my Prairie State town, can they?
They sure can.
A researcher from the University of Chicago says there are 74 other police or fire departments with pension funds that are comparably underfunded as those of Harvey. One of those towns in that predicament is Niles, the village west of the Chicago suburb where I live. I have some friends who reside there and they pride themselves on their low–well, low for Illinois–property taxes.
Niles is one of those 74 towns. In 2010 its mayor for nearly five decadesserved a year in prison for his role in a kickback scheme.
“We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth.”
First presidential inaugural address from Ronald Reagan, who was born in Illinois.
Last summer the Democratic-dominated Illinois General Assembly, overriding a veto from Republican governor Bruce Rauner, slugged Illinoisans with a 32 percent hike in the state income tax.
The Democratic nominee for governor, billionaire JB Pritzker, favors another tax increase. This phony, in a successful ploy to decrease property taxes on his Chicago mansion, purchased a neighboring mansion, disconnected its toilets, then in an assessment appeal, received his tax cut because the palace next door was “uninhabitable.”
Welcome to ILL-inios.
Rauner barely won the Republican nomination in last month’s primary over a little-known and little-funded insurgent conservative, Jeanne Ives, in a thoroughly dishonest campaign. I backed Ives. As for Prtizker, he comes with additional baggage, including embarrassing recordings of FBI-wiretapped phone conversations with now-imprisoned former governor Rod Blagojevich, which is the only reason why he is not the prohibitive favorite to wipe the floor with Rauner in November. Still, it’s likely that a Governor JB is in the future for the Prairie State.
Illinois is broken and broke. It might not have the worst-funded public pension system among the states, but it’s so close to the bottom it doesn’t really matter. Illinois House speaker–“speaker for life”–Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), with some Republican help, transformed Illinois’ pension system into a generous political reward in exchange for support from public-sector unions. Illinois’ budget dedicates 25 percent of spending on state worker pensions. In Wisconsin that amount is 16 percent. Okay, that doesn’t seem like much, but Wisconsin’s pension plan is 100 percent funded, Illinois is at a paltry 35 percent.
Bad times have arrived in Illinois–with worse times coming. For the last three years Illinois has suffered from negative population growth.
It’s hard to see how Illinois won’t be able to avoid some sort of default.
Pritzker favors a “temporary” income tax increase until a graduated tax rate is put in place. But for that to get enacted the state constitution must be amended. That requires three-fifths of both houses of the General Assembly to approve it and a majority of Illinois voters to go along. Even in blue Illinois those are tall hurdles, especially since a “Prtizker amendment” will be viewed, rightly, by voters as a pension bailout amendment.
Of course Pritzker is vague about rates for both that “temporary” tax plan and the graduated one. Of course with the latter one, only “the rich” will pay more.
Last week after two decades in rerun stasis the sitcom Roseanne returned to ABC with massive ratings, even higher than its final episode of its first run in 1997.
Formerly a liberal, the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, declared that she was a supporter of Donald Trump two years ago. While Trump isn’t explicitly mentioned in the debut reboot episode, her character, Roseanne Conner, ends a family prayer, one that began by asking her pussy-hat donned leftist sister (Laurie Metcalf) if she preferred to “take a knee,” Colin Kaerpenick-style, with a bang: “Most of all, Lord, thank you for making American great again!”
The Conners live somewhere in northern Illinois in the fictional town of Lanford. Yes, my state voted for Hillary Clinton, but stick with me for a bit. One of the appeals of the old and new Roseanne is that it focuses on the struggles of a blue collar family headed by two overweight parents, Roseanne and Dan Conner (John Goodman), whose bulkiness refreshingly is not a target of unvarying jabs. They are regular folks trying to get by. During the television interregnum the Conners came close to losing their home to foreclosure. In the 1980s these type of families were Reagan Democrats. But since the first run of Roseanne, the Democrats have pivoted to the left, and in the last few years, to the far left. For evidence, look at the rise of Bernie Sanders, the only out-of-the-closet socialist in the US Senate.
“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party,” Ronald Reagan, who was born and reared in northern Illinois, notoriously remarked, “the party left me.”
The 21st century Democrats–the secular progressives–also left the Conners. This TV family represents the base of the new Republican Party.
Where the Conners live in Illinois was always a bit murky, originally it was Fulton County, a rural county south of Peoria. Yes, the old and new Roseanne, as the old vaudeville expression went, “plays in Peoria.” In 1988, when the show hit the airwaves, Michael Dukakis prevailed over George H.W. Bush in Fulton County, beginning a seven-election presidential winning streak for the Democrats there.
But in 2016 Donald Trump won Fulton by 15 percentage points while four years earlier Barack Obama prevailed by over twenty points. And for the GOP there plenty of room for growth in the Fulton counties of America. In southern Illinois lies Wayne County, where Trump bested Clinton by over 70 points.
Call that the Roseanne vote.
And even in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, there is hope for the Republican Party.