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.
In honor of Illinois’ bicentennial, Kerry Lester of the Daily Herald compiled a list of Illinois’ best-known leaders. There is some good in it–Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, and some bad. Ethel Kennedy? Robert F. Kennedy’s widow was born in Chicago but grew up in Connecticut. And besides, her contributions don’t amount to very much.
Illinois has a well-deserved reputation for corruption. So I have put together my own list, the 14 Worst Leaders from Illinois.
My “hall of shame” by no means exonerates anyone not named.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
She is one of two people on both lists. Clinton is a former first lady, US senator, US secretary of state, and of course, the first major party presidential nominee. She was born in Chicago and grew up in suburban Park Ridge. Smoke, but as of yet, no fire has engulfed HRC’s public career. Clinton was implicated, but never charged in the Whitewater Scandal. Two years after her Whitewater billing records from the Rose Law Firm were subpoenaed, they mysteriously appeared in the White House living quarters. While secretary of state under Barack Obama, she used a home-brewed private email server. Her handling of those emails was deemed “extremely careless” two years ago by FBI director James Comey. After our consulate in Benghazi was overrun by terrorists in 2012, leading to the death of our ambassador to Libya as well as three other Americans, Clinton spread the lie that a YouTube video inspired the barbarians
I could go on and on about Clinton, but I have other names on my naughty list.
Richard M. Daley
Chicago’s mayor from 1989-2011, Daley’s father, Richard J who was mayor for nearly as long., had a strong background in public finance which allowed Chicago to escape the fiscal problems cities such as those New York and Cleveland suffered in the 1970s. Richie Daley inherited his dad’s name but not his financial acumen. Chicago’s public pensions are the worst-funded of any major city in the country. Property tax increases signed into law to right the ship by his successor, Rahm Emanuel, are probably just buying time; besides, the tax hikes are likely a key reason why Chicago is the only major city with a declining population.
After two Democrats it’s time for our first Republican. Lennington “Len” Small of Kankakee was governor of Illinois from 1921-1929. While governor he was indicted for embezzling money during his time as state treasurer. He was found not guilty, but eight of the jurors on his trial later received state jobs. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.
Another Kankakee GOPer, Ryan got in trouble for his scandalous eight years as Illinois secretary of state. Under Ryan, who once was speaker of the state House, the SoS office was enmeshed in a driver’s licenses for bribes scandal. Elected governor in 1998, after his one-term in that post Ryan was convicted of corruption involving perjury and bribery. His scandal was one of the few political ones that involved fatalities. On Election Day in 1994–Ryan was re-elected secretary of state that day–a truck driver who obtained his license by bribery caused an accident where six children from Chicago were killed.
Like Ryan, Powell served as speaker of the state House before his election as secretary of state. His personal motto was “There’s only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that’s a broke one.” Illinoisans who needed their license plates renewed were instructed to make their checks out to “Paul Powell.” What could go wrong? Powell died in office in 1970. The executor of his estate discovered over $800,000 in cash in the Springfield hotel suite where the southern Illinois self-servant lived, including some stuffed in a shoebox. His tombstone reads “Here lies a lifelong Democrat.”
Before his election to Congress in 1986, Hastert, a Republican, was a teacher and a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. He later became speaker of that House. But at Yorkville he was a serial child molester. He was sent to prison not over those assaults, but for lying to federal officials about banking activity involving payments to one of his victims.
He’s on that other list too. Jesse Jackson, the “poverty pimp” civil rights leader, has done little if anything to alleviate the problems of the people he claims to represent, Chicago’s minority poor. His half-brother, Noah Robinson, is serving a life sentence for racketeering and murder-for-hire. Jackson utilized his then-powerful Rainbow/PUSH organization to elect his son, Jesse Jr, to Congress and his daughter-in-law, Junior’s wife, as a Chicago alderman. Both went to prison over misuse of campaign funds.
We have to go to the pre-Civil War era for Matteson. The Illinois & Michigan Canal is the reason Chicago is the Midwest’s great city, not Milwaukee or St. Louis. But the canal faced enormous financial difficulties before its completion in 1848. Scrip was utilized by Illinois to fund the canal but in 1859 it was discovered that Matteson, a Democrat who was governor from 1853-1857, converted some of that scrip for personal use. Matteson was investigated but never charged in the case.
Antoin “Tony” Rezko
An immigrant from Syria, Rezko essentially was a collector of Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and Governor Rod Blagojevich. Rezko engineered the mysterious land deal that made Obama’s purchase of his South Side Chicago mansion affordable. But his role as a fixer for Governor Rod Blagojevich earned him a trip to prison.
The most recent Illinois governor to be sentenced to prison, the Chicago Democrat attempted to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama to the highest bidder. He essentially transformed the governor’s office into a vast pay-to-play operation. He’s still a federal inmate. Outside of the corruption, Blago was a still terrible governor. Illinois’ precarious financial situation grew much worse during his six years in Springfield, lowlighted by a two-year long pension payment holiday. State House Speaker Michael Madigan–another speaker!–played a large role in that debacle. We’ll be learning more about Madigan a little later. As for Blagojevich, amazingly he is the only Illinois governor to be impeached and removed from office.
William Hale Thompson
Chicago’s last Republican mayor, Thompson served two stints in office–from 1915-1923 and from 1927-1931. Thompson let Al Capone and other gangsters run wild during Prohibition. After the death of “Big Bill” in 1944, nearly $2 million in cash was found not in a shoebox, nor in Al Capone’s vault, but in a safe deposit box.
You might have heard his name in the news lately as Kerner, a Democratic governor from 1961-1968, served as the chairman of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission, which explored the causes of the 1967 urban riots. It was released 50 years ago last month. But in 1961 Kerner received a bribe of race track stock, which only came to light after the woman who paid him off him listed that expenditure on her federal income tax return because she viewed it as a legitimate business expense. Who can blame her for that opinion of Illinois? By the time the bribe was revealed Kerner was serving as a federal appeals judge. Facing certain impeachment, he resigned. Kerner was released from prison early for health reasons and died in disgrace shortly afterwards.
Carol Moseley Braun
Capitalizing on anger over the testimony of Anita Hill against Judge Clarence Thomas over reputed sexual harassment during his US Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Braun went from being Cook County Recorder of Deeds to the US Senate in 1992, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in the upper chamber. Even before her election, scandal percolated for Braun over allegations that she and her campaign manager, Kgosie Matthews, who was also her fiancée, diverted campaign funds for personal use. The Chicago Democrat blew off her Senate orientation meetings and instead took a nearly month-long vacation in South Africa with Matthews. What followed was a mind-bogging and ethically challenged six years in the Senate. Matthews was a citizen of South Africa–foreign meddling anyone?–and he was also at one time a paid lobbyist for Nigeria, which was then run by a murderous dictator, Sani Abacha. Over the objections of the Congressional Black Caucus, Braun visited Abacha while she was a senator.
During the ’92 campaign, it came to light three years earlier that inheritance money belonging to her mother, a nursing home patient, was split between Braun and two siblings, instead of being used to reimburse Medicaid. Once the scam became public Braun promptly paid Medicaid $15,000.
Matthews was later accused of sexual harassment of female campaign workers. Braun was elected during what was then called “the Year of the Woman.”
Braun and Matthews–he later left the country–were never charged with crimes.
Like Richard M. Daley, Madigan has modeled his public life on that of Richie’s dad, the first Mayor Daley. But like the son, Madigan, who has been speaker of the state House for 33 of the last 35 years, the Boss of Illinois is inept in regards to government finance, which is why last year Reuters declared him “the man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois.” Madigan, yet another Chicagoan, is also the chairman of the state Democratic Party. The “speaker for life” runs the House with an iron fist and his gerrymandering abuse is an insult to democracy. He’s the poster child for the admonition, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
Chicago needs to move quickly or it risks becoming America’s next Detroit.
Yes, three years is a long time in politics but even before the uproar over the Laquan McDonald shooting–the troubled black teen was shot 16 times by a white Chicago police officer in 2014–Mayor Rahm Emanuel already faced tough reelection prospects in 2019. President Obama’s former chief of staff was forced into a runoff in last year’s election with leftist Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Emanuel won, but it was not an overwhelming victory.
It will likely be Rahm’s last win.
If only because of habit, Chicago mayors need the air of permanence in order to run the city. Richard J. Daley, the legendary boss of the Chicago Machine, was mayor for twenty-one years until his death in 1976. The city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, gained the unofficial mayor-for-life title when he was reelected in 1987–but he died in office seven months later. The son of the Boss topped his father by serving twenty-two years as mayor; he retired in 2011 and Rahm succeeded him.
Chicago has 50 alderman–which is at least double the number it needs, especially since the City Council is traditionally a rubber-stamp body. The aldermen typically use their office to enrich themselves, both legally and illegally, and set up their relatives and cronies with government sinecures. If these alley despots play ball with the mayor, they typically stay in office. If not, usually covertly, the mayor sends his political army to topple the disobedient pol, which makes for many unhappy family gatherings for that former alderman.
But Rahm Emanuel is unpopular–his clout is diminished. And besides the McDonald scandal, Chicagoans are angry over last year’s property tax hike hike–the largest in city history. That tax increase is being used to pump cash into Chicago’s woefully underfunded public pension system. Pensions are a mess that Emanuel inherited from Daley, which could explain his decision to retire.
Chicago’s next mayor will probably be a leftist, possibly “Chuy.” But conservative-minded Chicagoans–yes, there are some–have three years to find a candidate. A fool’s hope? Probably. But Chicago needs a savior.
As the tenth anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina approaches we will come across many retrospectives of the storm that killed over 1,800 people and destroyed large swaths of the Gulf of Mexico coastal area–particularly in New Orleans.
But we won’t see too many like this one from the Chicago Tribune’s Kristen McQueary, whose Thursday column, originally titled, “In Chicago, wishing for a Hurricane Katrina,” was created an uproar along the Gulf Coast and beyond.
And yes, she does wish for one, although in quick follow-up column she backed off a bit–and the headline of her original piece was changed to the milder “Chicago, New Orleans, and rebirth.”
But with Aug. 29 fast approaching and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu making media rounds, including at the Tribune Editorial Board, I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops.
That’s what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak.
Residents overthrew a corrupt government. A new mayor slashed the city budget, forced unpaid furloughs, cut positions, detonated labor contracts. New Orleans’ City Hall got leaner and more efficient. Dilapidated buildings were torn down. Public housing got rebuilt. Governments were consolidated.
An underperforming public school system saw a complete makeover. A new schools chief, Paul Vallas, designed a school system with the flexibility of an entrepreneur. No restrictive mandates from the city or the state. No demands from teacher unions to abide. Instead, he created the nation’s first free-market education system.
While McQueary does mention the despair of 2005 NOLA, somehow those 1,800 deaths and the tens of thousands of homes and businesses destroyed were overlooked, as was the carnage Katrina brought to Florida and Mississippi.
The following day in her explanation of her editorial debacle, McQueary left out three words: I am sorry.
Worse, like a spoiled Hollywood celebrity, she blamed her audience for misinterpreting her words:
Many readers thought my premise — through my use of metaphor and hyperbole — was out of line. I certainly hear you. I am reading your tweets and emails. And I am horrified and sickened at how that column was read to mean [emphasis mine] I would be gunning for actual death and destruction.
Chicago’s problems are human-caused. One party rule has destroyed the city. Chicago hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1931. It hasn’t had a Republican alderman since 2011. Only one GOP member in the state general assembly is from Chicago. Too many residents vote Democratic for no other reason other than the candidate is a Democrat. For instance, in last fall’s gubernatorial when Republican newcomer Bruce Rauner ousted weak incumbent Pat Quinn–a Chicago Democrat–96 percent of the voters in the 34th Ward stuck with Quinn. Interestingly enough, Quinn’s running mate was the aforementioned Vallas.
Rauner and the General Assembly–which is controlled by two Chicago Democrats who created supermajorities with obscenely gerrymandered legislative maps–are locked in a six-week long budget stalemate. In a potential grand bargain that can end the deadlock, Rauner is proposing many reforms that will improve Illinois and Chicago–including removing the power of legislative reapportionment away from the General Assembly so the politicians are unable to create permanent majorities. Unlike his hapless predecessor, who only nibbled at pension reform–Rauner wants to confront Illinois’ unfunded pension debacle head on. But Illinois’ public-sector unions, who are major campaign contributors to Democratic pols–are balking. Pensions are a statewide problem, but the millstone is hitting Chicago the hardest. Moody’s rates Chicago’s bonds as junk.
America’s third largest city, Ms. McQueary, doesn’t need your Lake Michigan Katrina. It needs more new leaders. Human-caused problems can be fixed by humans, after all.
Chicago has suffered a tough run since the Great Recession of 2008-09. Its high murder rate has garnered America’s third-largest city the unfortunate nickname of Chiraq–a morphing of Chicago and Iraq. Depopulation–a big problem for most rust belt cities–continues to plague Chicago. Its population hasn’t been as low as it is now since 1910. As with Illinois, unfunded public worker pensions are a millstone on the city’s budget. Chicago Public Schools may not have enough money to open this autumn–CPS has its own pension bomb about to explode.
But there is a bright spot. On Wednesday the Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup championship since 2010. Chicago has their first professional sports dynasty since Michael Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA titles in the 1990s.
Over one million fans lined the streets of Chicago’s downtown and the Near West Side for another championship parade. Loud cheers–except when Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s name was mentioned–filled Soldier Field for Stanley Cup rally. Four days later, many cars and homes are still flying Chicago Blackhawks flags.
For the first time since 1938, the Blackhawks won the Cup on home ice. Most Chicago area residents of course couldn’t be there–but the local ratings for Game 6–when Chicago defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning for the NHL championship game, were the highest ever for a Blackhawks contest.
But sports is not a miracle elixir: A year after the deadly 1967 Detroit Race Riot–an event the Motor City never recovered from–the 31-win season of Tigers’ pitcher Denny McLain and the team’s World Series win offered a well-needed respite for Detroit. But that city’s slide continues to this day.
Will Chicago’s descent continue? In the short term Chicagoans are, at least for now, in a better mood.
On Monday Rahm Emanuel will be sworn in for his second term as mayor of Chicago. He faces enormous challenges including a high murder rate–with it comes the new nickname for the city, “Chiraq,” a crumbling infrastructure that includes pothole-strewn streets, and multiple financial crises. Just last week Moody’s Investors Services double-downgraded the credit rating not only for the city of Chicago, but also for the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools–any bonds they issue will have junk status according to Moody’s. While not placing Chicago in junk status, two other financial firms downgraded the city’s credit last week too.
How the mighty have fallen. Forty years ago, when the New York Daily News’ used the now legendary headline, “Ford to City–Drop Dead” during New York’s financial crisis, Boss Richard J. Daley’s Chicago enjoyed the top credit rating from Wall Street firms.
Now what? Illinois is even worse off than Chicago, the governor of New York bailed NYC out in the 1970s, the Land of Lincoln’s new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, believes Chicago Public Schools should declare bankruptcy. Chicago’s credit downgrades were generated by a unanimous Illinois Supreme Court decision tossing out the state’s 2013 baby-steps pension reform.
But CPS can’t declare bankruptcy–nor can any Illinois governmental body–state law prohibits it, although a Republican state legislator, Ron Sandack, wants to change that. But the status quo is the way the public-sector unions want it, because during a bankruptcy, all contracts are thrown out the window. The Democratic enablers of the government unions like the status quo too. Michigan is different–and when Detroit’s bankruptcy was concluded, retirees received modest cuts in their pensions.
A massive tax increase for Chicagoans to pay for pensions doesn’t seem to be likely, not even the politicians have the stomach for that.
There is no easy way out.
Ironically, the junk credit announcement came on the same day Chicagoans Barack and Michelle Obama, chose their hometown for the Obama presidential library. Arne Duncan, Obama’s secretary of education, was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools prior to moving to Washington. Rahm Emanuel was the president’s first chief-of-staff. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior advisor, was once deputy chief-of-staff under Mayor Richard M. Daley.
About 20 percent of Illinois’ operating budget goes to state worker pensions. With so much cash going to retired Prairie State employees, you would think that the state where I live would be on diligent in funding the system. But Illinois’ pensions are the worst funded among the 50 states. Some years Illinois skipped or shorted pension payments–and public-sector unions (gasp!) supported that move.
But now because of a lawsuit brought forth by a former lobbyist for the Illinois Federation of Teachers union–long-suffering Land of Lincoln taxpayers have a poster child for pension abuse. A little-noticed 2007 bill sponsored by a Democrat allowed that lobbyist, David Piccioli, to qualify for pension from an education pension plan, the Teachers Retirement System. He is currently collecting a $31,000 annual TRS pension even though–except for one day–he never taught in a classroom
Let’s look at the one day–Piccioli was a substitute in a Springfield classroom and he earned $93 for his efforts–which probably consisted of popping DVDs into a player. But because of that 2007 law–Piccioli became eligible for additional $36,000 in additional TRS benefits. Another IFT employee, Steve Preckwinkle, also subbed at a school for a day and applied for a additional pension benefits as Piccioli did.
Suddenly self-righteous state lawmakers quickly removed the one-day loophole but last month Piccioli sued to get his classroom pension back.
There are many villains who created the Illinois public pension debacle and yes, politicians deserve most of the blame. For instance, allowing workers to retire at 50 and then collect most of their old salary when they will probably live another 30 years was a cataclysmic move.
But the unions–and people like David Piccioli–played their part in this disaster.
Four weeks from now Chicagoans will return to the polls and choose between the remaining two candidates for mayor–former Obama White House Chief of Staff and incumbent Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” (pronounced ‘chewie’) Garcia.
Interestingly, the candidates are often referred to by the mainstream media as Rahm or Chuy–I will for the most part follow suit.
Unlike in 2011, this time around Rahm didn’t receive a majority in the first round of voting, which is a defeat of sorts for the imperious, hot-tempered mayor, who swept the local media endorsements before the first tally.
Chicago’s far-left, including Bill Ayers, has lined up behind Chuy who finished a distant second to Rahm. As for Emanuel, he’s been dubbed Mayor One Percent by those lefties. Rahm’s wealth has been an issue with them, but the mayor has parlayed his business reputation–as well as his White House connections–to recruit over 30 corporate headquarters to Chicago, including most notably Motorola Mobility. Most of those new jobs have gone downtown, allowing Garcia’s opponents to make the same accusation against Rahm that all of his recent predecessors had to endure–that he only cares about the moneyed-class of the skyscraper set.
Rahm has chipped away at Chicago’s pension bomb, but the long-term prognosis is poor, so much so that Illinois’ Republican governor, Bruce Rauner–a friend of Rahm’s–says that Chicago is on the road to bankruptcy. Forty-nine schools, mostly in poor areas, were closed under Rahm, but Chicago is losing population, particularly in its blighted areas–what else could be done? Chuy pledges to reopen some of those schools, but of course he isn’t saying how he would pay for that.
Garcia is surely gaining some votes by vowing to eliminate red light cameras. Chicago has more red light cameras than any other city. Those cameras contribute $500 million to the city’s coffers–and reliance on such a detested source for revenue is another black mark against Rahm.
But what does Chuy offer Chicago voters? Other than vague promises to be for the people and not the one percent at the top of the financial pyramid–not a whole lot.
Violent crime has been another issue Rahm has faced. Chicago, with a far-smaller population, has more murders every year than New York–but does anyone seriously believe that a leftist can be as a better crime fighter? Hostility to the police is part of the DNA of the ultra-liberal–see New York’s mayor Bill DeBlasio. Who knows, maybe NYC will leapfrog past Chicago in murders in a few years. But such an occurrence will only obscure Chicago’s violent crime problem.