Illinois BlagoBy John Ruberry

Another politician has shamed the Land of Lincoln.

Prosecutors in the bank fraud case against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert filed documents late Friday outlining his sexual abuse of four male students while he was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in rural northern Illinois.

One of the victims collected over $1 million in hush money from the longest-serving Republican speaker in history, and it was Hastert’s shifting explanations for his cash bank withdrawals that led to his indictment last year. Hastert pleaded guilty last fall and he’s awaiting sentencing.

Among the revelations from the filing is that the coach sat in a La-Z-Boy chair while watching his wrestlers shower.

LaSalle Lock 16
Illinois & Michigan Canal

So many Illinois pols have disgraced Illinois. I’ll name just a few.

In 1856 Governor Joel Matteson discovered unredeemed scrip that was used to pay Illinois & Michigan Canal contractors when the state ran out of cash after the Panic of 1837. He cashed that scrip.

Len Small was governor for most of the 1920s. He was indicted in 1924 for embezzlement and money-laundering charges that dated back to his time as state treasurer. Small was found not guilty but eight of the jurors on his trial later received state jobs. He was accused of selling pardons too.

While Small was governor Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson was essentially the political arm of Al Capone.

Other Prairie State governors who went to prison include Otto Kerner, who was convicted on mail fraud charges related to the illegal gift of racetrack stock, George Ryan, who ran a scandal-plagued office during his two terms as secretary of state, and Rod Blagojevich, who attempted to shake down a children’s hospital and tried to sell a US Senate seat, among other things.

Another secretary of state, Paul Powell, directed Illinoisans writing checks for license plate or driver’s license renewals to make the checks out to him, not the secretary of state’s office. What could go wrong with that? Powell died in office in 1970 and a few days after his passing over $800,000 in cash was found in his Springfield hotel room, including some in a shoe box.

US Rep. Mel Reynolds of Chicago didn’t even serve a full term in Washington but he still found himself in legal trouble in the 1990s for sexual assault, child pornography, and bank fraud. His prison sentence was commuted in one of Bill Clinton’s midnight pardons of 2001.

Reynolds is in legal trouble again for alleging not filing income taxes.

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

Some of these “public servants” were Republicans. Some were Democrats.

And roughly once every 18 months a Chicago alderman is convicted of a crime. Sandi Jackson of the 7th Ward, wife of fellow jailbird US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is only the latest one.

John Ruberry, a lifelong Illinois resident, writes the Marathon Pundit blog.

South Loop Downtown
Chicago’s downtown

By John Ruberry

Two unwelcome pieces of bad news punched Chicago in the face last week. A state pension reform law for two municipal pension plans was unanimously ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Also last week came news that the Chicago metropolitan area saw the biggest population drop of the nation’s metro regions. Chicago proper gained a miserly 82 new residents, just enough to fill two CTA buses.

Last year, as part of a rescue for two other city worker pension plans, Mayor Rahm Emanuel  signed into law the largest property tax hike in city history.

Chicago’s bonds are rated as junk, as are those of the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools.

On New Year’s Day Cook County, where Chicago is, raised its portion of the local sales tax to pay for–you guessed it–underfunded county worker pensions.

Illinois’ worker pension funds are the worst funded of the 50 states.

CTA bus
Half of Chicago’s new 2015 residents are on this bus!

This debacle, to use former Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s ham-headed attempt to rename terrorist attacks, is a man-caused disaster, the root of which is public-sector unions contributing millions to politicians, mostly Democrats, who lavished these pension benefits on government employees, even though they knew that they were unaffordable.

Chicago has many other problems. Los Angeles and New York have more people but Chicago topped them in murders last year. Many Chicagoans, because of the Laquan McDonald fatal shooting by a Chicago police officer, are extremely distrustful of law enforcement.

McDonald was failed by Chicago’s schools and the state’s social services agencies.

On Friday members of the Chicago Teachers Union will stage an illegal one-day walk out. They want a big pay raise in their next contract. Chicago Public Schools’ financial situation is so dire that Illinois’ reform governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, favors changing state law so CPS can declare bankruptcy. CPS’ pension fund is a sinkhole too.

Why stop with CPS when it comes to bankruptcy?

Abandoned West Side apartments
Abandoned West Side apartments

As for those schools, in 2012 about 80 percent of CPS 8th graders weren’t proficient at grade level in math and reading, despite most schools having “academy” or some other fancy moniker in their names.

Outside of a beautiful downtown and a picturesque lakefront, clearly there aren’t too many reasons for people to choose to live in Chicago–or stay there. Most of the people moving in are foreigners–naive people who haven’t heard the bad news yet about the city. If you really enjoy the lakefront and the Loop, well, you can always vacation there. Just don’t venture too far away from the city’s center.

Chicago only has bad options to work its way out of its mess. Another historically large property tax is one possibility. One 2015 mayoral candidate suggested a commuter tax as a revenue source. Ask Detroit how its commuter tax is working out. The hardened leftist who runs the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, suggests a municipal income tax as a city cure.

Detroit has one of those too.

Better options are amending the Illinois constitution to make pension reform easier or, as I touched on earlier, changing state law so governmental bodies can declare bankruptcy.

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

Chicago needs to move quickly or it risks becoming America’s next Detroit.

Or perhaps it’s already too late.

Related post:

I walked its streets–the tragedy of Detroit.

John Ruberry, a lifelong Chicago area resident, blogs regularly at Marathon Pundit

illinois signBy John Ruberry

You can once and for all drop any lingering belief you may possess that Barack Obama is a bi-partisan unifier. A Chicago Democrat in the Illinois House who believed in compromising is now a lame duck because of our leftist president.

Illinois has been locked in a budget battle for nine months. The primary combatants are Republican political newcomer Bruce Rauner, the first Land of Lincoln governor to win a majority of voters since 2002, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has led the lower chamber in Springfield for 30 of the last 32 years. He’s also chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. His daughter, Lisa, has been the state’s attorney general since 2003.

If there is a poster child for the problems of America’s fifth-largest state–a declining population, deficit spending, woefully underfunded public pensions–it’s Michael Madigan, who has been a member of the Illinois House since 1971.

Last month President Barack Obama, whose first public office was as an Illinois state senator, spoke to the General Assembly where he hailed the graces of compromise and working across the aisle with the opposition.

“Where I’ve got an opportunity to find some common ground, that doesn’t make me a sellout to my own party,” Obama said that day, after which Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) stood and cheered.

“We’ll talk later, Dunkin,” Obama quickly replied and then continued his speech.

And so Obama talked.

Dunkin is the type of politician Obama who was able to “find some common ground” with Governor Rauner. Madigan’s gerrymandering talents created super-majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly–with not a vote to spare. But Dunkin defied Boss Madigan several times by preventing several overrides of several Rauner vetoes.

Madigan responded predictably by directing funding to the campaign of his primary opponent, Juliana Stratton. She also received Obama’s endorsement and the president–and here’s  the”We’ll talk later” part–appeared in a Stratton radio spot and narrated a TV ad for her.

Shouldn’t Obama be focused on defeating ISIS, tackling the federal deficit, and creating jobs? No, he has better things to do, it seems, such as sticking his nose in a state legislature race that means nothing to a family of four in, let’s say Ohio, that is struggling to get by.

Television advertisements in the expensive Chicago TV market are unheard of in state representative races.

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

Republican interests contributed heavily to Dunkin’s campaign.

Last Tuesday was primary day in Illinois–and Stratton easily bested Dunkin. The Democratic Machine defeated the compromiser.

Obama is a fraud. He should be ashamed of himself but of course he isn’t.

John Ruberry regularly blogs and Marathon Pundit. He’s a life long resident of ILL-inois.

CTU NATO Shirt
CTU member at 2012 Occupy rally

By John Ruberry

Whether it’s Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter or a teachers union, leftist protesters who block streets and disrupt private businesses claim they are the spiritual descendants of Martin Luther King and the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Many of the members of these groups–and there is some overlap–wish they had been a part of the Civil Rights movement so it’s understandable that they try to connect their causes with the legacy MLK.

When I complained on Twitter earlier this month about a February 3 Chicago Teachers Union rally–which they almost certainly didn’t bother applying a permit for–ruining an evening rush hour in downtown Chicago by blocking streets, a Twitter leftist of course defended in a reply to my Tweet that protest was a natural outgrowth of King’s use of civil disobedience in the 1960s and earlier.

I replied that these 21st century civil disobedience demonstrations are different because unlike blacks sitting at all-white lunch counters and Rosa Parks refusing to surrender her bus seat to a white man in 1955 as a protest against Jim Crow laws, CTU members, as well as Black Lives Matter and the Occupy activists, can vote provided they are old enough and they are United States citizens and, in some states, not convicted felons. The civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama didn’t have a permit in 1965; had they applied for one of course it would have been denied by the racist government authorities. And the blacks who lived in Selma then, despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act the year before, faced enormous obstacles if they wanted the register to vote. And before then, they couldn’t even do that.

“Throwing the bums out” via the ballot box wasn’t on option.

The Rosa Parks bus
The Rosa Parks bus

Sixteen CTU protesters were arrested during that protest. They were sitting on the floor and chanting inside of a Bank of America branch, they earned the union’s ire by loaning money at a high rate to the insolvent Chicago Public Schools. The chanters were trespassing and they deserved getting busted.

Not only can these teachers can vote, but they have lobbyists in Illinois’ state capital promoting their interests. And they have a political action committee.

One more thing, Chicago Teachers Union: Stop ruining rush hours. Unlike free speech, there is no constitutional right to block traffic. You’re teachers–you should know that.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois LotteryBy John Ruberry

For over four months Illinois has operated without a budget. But the Prairie State continues function, not particularly well, as was the case when Illinois had a budget. Despite those budgets, the state’s pension fund is the worst-funded one in the nation. Illinois has the lowest credit rating of the 50 states–so it shouldn’t be shocking that Illinois, with a few exceptions here and there, continues to stumble along.

One of those exceptions is the Illinois Lottery. Payouts are limited to $600 until the budget impasse is resolved–if you win more you are the proud owner of an IOU, which is suitable for framing assuming that your artistic tastes are modest.

Ticket sales are way down, which is not surprising since Illinois’ two largest population centers, Chicago and Metro East, are near state borders. Who gets excited about an IOU? Wisconsin, Indiana, and Missouri pay out immediately.

Illinois Lottery officials are responding in they only way they know–they’re spending money that they shouldn’t. On Friday the Lottery took out a full-page Chicago Tribune ad apologizing for the IOUs and thanking those who still play its games in Illinois.

You can’t make this stuff up. Well, Jonathan Swift could, but I’m not him.

Fed up with years of fiscal insanity, Illinois voters elected Republican businessman and political newcomer Bruce Rauner as governor, sending hapless Chicago Democrat Pat Quinn into retirement. Rauner was the first gubernatorial candidate to win a majority of the Prairie State vote in twelve years, but because of the tyranny of legislative gerrymandering, no seats changed hand in the General Assembly, which have Democratic supermajorities.

Illinois has a backlog of $8.5 billion in unpaid bills. The state is sending IOUs to many of its lottery winners. Perhaps instead of the Land of Lincoln we should be calling Illinois the Land of the IOU.

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois signBy John Ruberry

Back in the 1990s, former US Rep Mel Reynolds (D-IL) was described as a one-man crime wave.

Until his suicide on September 1, Fox Lake, Illinois police lieutenant Joseph Gliniewicz, was a similar felonious phenomenon.

Until last week this was the narrative of the cop nicknamed “GI Joe.” The veteran police officer, who was scheduled to retire in two weeks, was murdered after he chased three men into a wooded area. On Labor Day crowds lined his 18-mile long funeral procession, held signs, and gave salutes as Gliniewicz’ hearse rolled past. GI Joe was portrayed as a selfless volunteer with the Fox Lake post of the Police Explorers, a group that mentors young people considering careers in law enforcement.

For several days after Gliniewicz’ death national media reported from Fox Lake, their helicopters flew over Fox Lake as it showed cops scouring the woods and wetlands outside of Fox Lake as they searched for evidence and the suspects.

Last week Lake County officials revealed that Gliniewicz’ death was an elaborately staged suicide so it would look like a murder. Taking one’s life is sadly somewhat common among police officers, but this Fox Lake suicide revealed a different malady–Illinois-style corruption.

Fox Lake administrator Anne Marrin was investigating GI Joe for embezzlement of Explorers funds; Gliniewicz was allegedly using that cash to make mortgage payments, adult web site subscriptions, vacations, and health club memberships. Text messages from Gliniewicz suggest the he may have been considering framing Ferrin for drunk driving or cocaine possession. And it can’t get worse, can it? It can. GI Jerk was considering contacting a motorcycle gang to put a hit on Marrin.

The creepy cop had a mistress–there is nothing illegal about that–but investigators are now looking into the possibility that Gliniewicz arranged a phony marriage between that woman and his son, who was in the army, so she could fraudulently collect military benefits.

In 2003 it was revealed that Gliniewicz served a thirty-day suspension for sexual harassment.

Yes, GI Joe was a one-man crime wave.

Well, at least for now that is the situation, because there are reports Gliniewicz’ wife and one of his sons are under criminal investigation. And it’s hard to believe that at least some members of the Fox Lake police department didn’t at least suspect that GI Joe was a crook.

And with corruption so rampant among Illinois government, it’s possible that some of his co-workers just threw their hands in the air and exclaimed, “That’s the way it is Illinois and there is no way to change it.”

However…

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” Edmund Burke once said.

And there is plenty of nothing going on in corrupt Illinois.

One more item: As bad as Illinois is, nearly all police officers are honest here.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois signBy John Ruberry

It’s been four months since Illinois operated with a budget.

But the story goes back a year when Land of Lincoln voters tossed out Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, Rod Blagojevich’s two-time running mate, and chose Republican businessman Bruce Rauner to, as his proclaimed in his campaign slogans, “Bring back Illinois” and “Shake up Springfield.” Rauner has certainly achieved the latter.

But the Chicago Democrats who run the gerrymandered-empowered General Assembly, House speaker Michael Madigan and Senate president John Cullerton, had a trap awaiting Rauner when he arrived in Illinois’ capital city. No, it wasn’t the dilapidated governor’s mansion, but a fiscal 2015 budget that assumed the supermajority of Democrats would make permanent a 2011 “temporary” tax increase pushed through in a lame duck session by Quinn. Yet Rauner and the General Assembly resolved that shortfall that spring, but the two sides are deadlocked over the fiscal 2016 budget.

Meanwhile Illinois lowest credit rating of the 50 states and the worst-funded state pension system. These millstones predate Rauner’s election.

For the first time in three decades Illinois is losing population.

Rauner signWho is willing to compromise? Well, Rauner is. Although he campaigned against a tax hike, Rauner says he will sign a budget that includes one–as long as it the General Assembly agrees to changes to the state’s expensive-to-employers workers’ compensation laws, tort reform, term limits, and taking the decennial legislative redistricting powers out of the hand of the General Assembly. The Democrats oppose all of these items, well, except the tax increase. It is they who are the stubborn ones.

Amazingly, Illinois government continues to function, sort of, as ninety percent of state funding continues, although the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, which also predates Rauner’s inauguration, is growing. But it is business-as-usual for most Illinoisans, including myself, as I no longer have a child in the public school system. Even if I did. I probably notice anything different. However, my license plates are up for renewal, and I won’t receive a reminder in the mail to purchase a new annual sticker because of the budget standoff.

Meanwhile, Saul Alinsky-style demonization attacks on Rauner are stepping up. On Friday Karen Lewis, the hardened leftist who is the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, called Rauner a sociopath in a speech while Madigan and Cullerton mutely sat in the audience.

Rauner has been governor for just nine months. Illinois’ fiscal failings go back nearly thirty years.

Slow and steady wins the race.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last Wednesday in a Rose Garden ceremony Vice President Joe Biden, with President Obama at his side, announced that he will not be a candidate for president in 2016, although he certainly sounded like one.

And Biden heralded art of compromise in his address.

I believe we have to end the divisive partisan politics that is ripping this country apart. And I think we can. It’s mean-spirited. It’s petty. And it’s gone on for much too long. I don’t believe, like some do, that it’s naïve to talk to Republicans. I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies. They are our opposition; they’re not our enemies. And for the sake of the country, we have to work together.

Eloquent words. But as hollow as a carved pumpkin.

The definition of compromise that contemporary Democrats believe in is that they hold fast to their positions while calling on Republicans to change their stands. If they don’t liberals label them obstructionists or worse. Examples? Obama has called his political opponents “hostage takers” and “enemies.” His still-unpopular ObamaCare law was passed by Congress with no Republican votes.

Illinois state capitol
Illinois state capitol, Springfield

Prior to his election as president Obama was a US senator from Illinois, nominally representing me in Washington. His predecessor was Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican. Like Obama, Fitzgerald moved up from the Illinois state Senate to to the US Capitol and for two years he served with the future president in Springfield.

Here’s what Fitzgerald said about Obama’s state Senate days in 2008.

He was a very partisan and ideological Democrat who represented a district that really was probably 90 percent Democrat, and certainly I saw him as reflective of his district in that he was just one of those state senators from Chicago who viewed the Democratic party as being right 100 percent of the time and the Republican party wrong 100 percent of the time. He’s not one to work across party lines.

Yet in last week’s Rose Garden speech, Biden parroted the myth that his boss believes that “compromise is not a dirty word.”

But in reality Obama has his own definition of what compromise and that is “I win and you lose.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

When I saw this story

RUNNING OUT OF OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY: Illinois Lottery Can’t Pay Off Big Winners But It Is Still Selling Tickets.

There was an obvious question that immediately hit me, one that I didn’t see address

Why on earth are people still buying tickets?

Seriously why on earth would you be buying lottery tickets if you can’t be guaranteed that the prize will be paid?

Granted this is all a budget issue and presumably once an actual budget is passed the bills will be paid:

Under Illinois law, the state comptroller has to sign checks of more than $25,000. Without a budget, the comptroller has no authority to sign those checks, so the Illinois Lottery doesn’t have the ability to pay off winners.

The lottery is a state agency like many others, and we’re obviously affected by the budget situation,” Illinois Lottery spokesman Steve Rossi told the Chicago Tribune. “Since the legal authority is not there for the comptroller to disburse payments, those payments are delayed.”

People waiting for their checks are not satisfied with that answer.

“You know what’s funny? If we owed the state money, they’d come take it and they don’t care whether we have a roof over our head,” Danny Chasten’s girlfriend, Susan Rick, told reporters at a press conference to announce the lawsuit. “Our budget wouldn’t be a factor. You can’t say (to the state), ‘Can you wait until I get my budget under control?’”

But what if this goes on 3 months? Six months? a Year? And if there are a bunch of other bills that also have to get paid who is to say that they will make the lottery winners a priority?

Now I’m sure that there are a few loan companies that might buy those tickets for 80 cents on the dollar (cue the J G Wentworth ads) but is that what you’re really looking for when you are buying lottery tickets?

The clash between political foes is not a surprise, a state spending money it doesn’t have is par for the course, but I think the fact people still buying lottery tickets without a guarantee that they will be paid, that’s news.

The final irony? If you go to the Illinois Lottery web page right now this is what you will see:

lot1

Check out their catch phrase highlighted at the same time that the lottery can’t pay the prizes they are highlighting online:

lot2

Anything’s possible! Even convincing the rubes to buy your tickets even when you can’t pay off the prizes that you are advertising on your site.

U of I student union, Urbana
U of I student union, Urbana

By John Ruberry

Once again my alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is back in the national spotlight–and not for a good reason.

The state’s flagship university and its corrupt political apparatus are a worthy match for each other.

On Friday the head football coach of the Fighting Illini, the inept Tim Beckman, was fired one week before the team’s season opener after a preliminary outside report confirmed allegations that Beckman forced his student-athletes to play while hurt.

Here’s a unique twist–because Beckman, who was 12-25 in his three years at Illinois, was fired with cause, the athletic department won’t pay for the remaining two years of his contract.

It’s not just football.

This spring an assistant coach of the Illini women’s basketball team, Mike Divilbiss, resigned after charges became public that he and the head coach verbally harassed players and held segregated practices–one for whites and the other for blacks. Divibliss received a payout.

In June a former women’s soccer player for the Illini, Casey Conine, filed a suit claiming that she was cleared to play after suffering a third concussion.

illinois lawyersAt the center of the sports mess is Illinois’ athletic director, Mike Thomas, who hired Beckman in 2011. Thomas announced Beckman’s dismissal at a press conference where he described his department as “a wonderful place full of wonderful people.” Possibly the only reason Thomas still has a job is that the woman who hired him, university chancellor Phyllis Wise, was sort-of fired earlier this month–are you reading this, Hillary Clinton?–after she was caught using a private email service to discuss sensitive and embarrassing U of I matters. Wise’s payout bonus was denied–but she will be working in a different capacity at the university. The second-in-command at Illinois–Provost Ilesanmi Adesida–announced his resignation last week. Yes, he used a personal email service to conduct university business too.

Last year in this space I wrote about the rehiring as of a convicted murderer and a former Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist at Urbana-Champaign, James Kilgore, as an adjunct professor. The SLA controversy was one of the discussion points in those no longer private emails.

Four of the last nine elected Illinois governors have served time in federal prison. Clearly the state’s rotten political apparatus and its premier college deserve each other.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.