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Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017

* From the Illinois Policy Institute

Illinoisans are facing a fiscal emergency. Homeowners are saddled with the nation’s highest property taxes, job creators have to navigate an uncompetitive workers’ compensation system, not to mention the worst pension crisis in the nation, and billions in unpaid bills. But politicians are unwilling to confront those challenges, even as residents continue fleeing for other states as a response.

At least one Springfield lawmaker, though, wants Illinoisans to brace themselves for another threat: Zombies.

On Jan. 12, state Rep. Chris Welch, D-Westchester, filed House Resolution 0030, which would designate October 2017 as “Zombie Preparedness Month,” urging “Illinoisans to educate themselves about natural disasters and take steps to create a stockpile of food, water and other emergency supplies that can last up to 72 hours.”

The language in this bill demonstrates insensitivity and a lack of seriousness on the part of lawmakers.

And on and on like that they go, concern trolling over a harmless little resolution with bipartisan support.

* Actually, Welch’s idea might do some good. From the resolution

WHEREAS, Tornadoes, floods, and other natural disasters are real and all Illinois citizens should be aware of the potential danger; while prevention of natural disasters is not viable, citizens can be prepared with emergency supplies and plans; and

WHEREAS, If the citizens of Illinois are prepared for zombies, than they are prepared for any natural disaster; while a Zombie Apocalypse may never happen, the preparation for such an event is the same as for any natural disaster; and

WHEREAS, Disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year and can have lasting effects, both to people and property; and

WHEREAS, Over 60% of Americans are not practicing or preparing for natural disasters, and only 39% have developed an emergency plan; and

WHEREAS, Practicing for preparedness makes perfect, and staying safe is important for the citizens of Illinois; and

WHEREAS, Citizens should have supplies on hand, which may include, water, food, medications, tools, electronics, sanitation and hygiene, clothing and bedding, important documents, and first aid…

…Adding… As noted in comments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a Zombie apocalypse preparedness page. So, this ain’t new.

* Rep. Welch defended himself on Twitter and a snit broke out

Oh, for crying out loud.

* And then it took a turn for the worse

Sheesh. Also, I know of no poll that shows Rauner at 15 percent disapproval, but I digress.

* Eventually, I intervened and so did GOP Rep. Grant Wehrli (a noted Twitter troll himself) and everybody stopped arguing and went on to enjoy their holiday weekends.

All that energy expended over a little resolution.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Treating the symptoms

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017

* Sun-Times

Chicago is bolstering its response to emergencies involving people suffering from mental illness to address glaring deficiencies laid bare by the Justice Department.

An eight-hour course developed in partnership with EMS System Hospitals will allow paramedics, 911 personnel, police officers and mental health providers to engage in live, “scenario-based” simulations at Fire Academy South, 1338 S. Clinton.

* OK, that’s a good idea. But no mention of this?

It’s been more than [five] years since Mayor Rahm Emanuel ignited protests around the city by closing six mental health clinics in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods.

But if he has any second thoughts about his cuts, he sure isn’t showing it.

On the contrary, if last week’s brouhaha over City Council hearings on the clinics is any indication, the mayor is still reluctant to even discuss the matter.

So I’ll be the one to remind you that in the fall of 2011 he proposed closing six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics because—well, he didn’t really say.

He didn’t hold any hearings before he proposed the closures. He didn’t initiate a study or put together a task force.

He certainly didn’t talk to any mental health patients who would be affected by the cuts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

Manar wants Rauner to “personally” negotiate AFSCME contract

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017

* Jordan Abudayyeh

AFSCME going on strike would be unprecedented and Senator Andy Manar says the Governor should personally be involved in negotiations trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Manar says the union is willing to move on their proposals, but he hasn’t seen a willingness to compromise from the Governor.

During a press call Monday, Senator Manar says if there is a strike he will support bills that would protect union members.

“The Governor should personally involve himself in this contract negotiation at this point,” said Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. “He sold himself to the people of the state as a businessman that can make deals and bring stability to state government. There’s no better place to show that that’s the case than right now with this impasse with AFSCME. By the looks of it this isn’t going to end well and we’re either looking at a strike or a lockout in a very short period of time.”

Did Rauner really sell himself as a guy who could “make deals and bring stability to state government”? Did Sen. Manar forget about the time when candidate Rauner said

“I may have to take a strike and shut down the government for a few weeks,” he said, with Dan Proft looking on. Rauner said he might not be happy about it, but “I will do it proudly because it’s the right thing to do.”

So, how would Rauner negotiating this thing personally solve the problem?

* Finke

“AFSCME has taken a profound step toward the Rauner administration with their latest proposal, and I would call on the administration to take a profound step toward AFSCME so we can have a settlement,” Manar said in a conference call with reporters Monday.

He was referring to a letter AFSCME sent to the Rauner administration a week ago setting out a “framework” to resume talks on a new contract. That included agreeing to a four-year freeze in base salary increases, although the union wants to continue step increases for the roughly 40 percent of its members who still qualify for them. The union also said it’s willing to have members pay higher health insurance costs, but not the 100 percent increases the union says the administration is seeking.

Last week, AFSCME said it will ask its members to vote on authorizing a strike. The union said if members approve, the 200-member bargaining committee could call a strike at some point, but a strike was not assured.

“This situation is eroding, and without Gov. Rauner being personally involved and personally invested in negotiating a contract, I’m deeply concerned about where this is going,” Manar said. “Nothing good would come of locking out state employees, replacing state employees, threatening state employees with their jobs.”

Emphasis added because those step increases ain’t cheap. Was it a significant move by AFSCME? Heck, yes. Was it “profound”? Not quite.

But, hey, Manar has a lot of state workers in his district, so he ought to be speaking on their behalf.

* Rauner administration response…

The Rauner Administration’s track record of successfully negotiating contracts with 19 other unions speaks for itself. Our approach includes earning overtime after working 40 hours, implementing workplace safety task forces, and using volunteers at veterans’ homes and state parks. Instead of parroting AFSCME’s irresponsible strike talk, Sen. Manar should encourage the union to work with us to implement these items that are fair to both employees and taxpayers.

That 40-hour thing is just a killer. I get what’s going on here with the unpaid time for lunch, but they should find a way around that somehow.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

And Petrella makes 8

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017

* Petrella is the second Statehouse reporter poached by the Tribune for its editor ranks in the past couple of months and the 8th Statehouse reporter to leave their bureaus during that same time period

DAN PETRELLA, 32, the Statehouse bureau chief for Lee Enterprises newspapers, is leaving that post to work as an assistant editor for the business section of the Chicago Tribune. He starts there Jan. 30.

Petrella has been in his current job for a year, providing coverage for newspapers in the Quad Cities, Decatur, Carbondale, Bloomington, Charleston-Mattoon and Munster, Indiana, which is in the Chicagoland area.

He’s a native of the Chicago suburb of Lombard, and still has family there. He’s got undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Illinois in Urbana, including his journalism master’s. His wife, JULIA, is a doctoral student in library and information science there, and will periodically commute as she completes that work. […]

“Having grown up reading the Tribune and being inspired to go into journalism because of the Tribune, it was just impossible to pass up an opportunity to go and work there.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

Candidate preview at Rainbow PUSH

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017

* Gov. Rauner was at a Rainbow PUSH breakfast honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. yesterday along with five possible Democratic opponents. From Charles Thomas’ report..

“As I’ve always said I don’t ever close any doors,” [Sen. Kwame Raoul] said.

Raoul was palling around with possible Democratic primary opponent businessman Chris Kennedy. “I have friends before I ventured into politics and I consider Chris to be one of those friends,’ Raoul said.

“I’ve talked to an awful lot of people. I’m convinced that our state is on the wrong path,” Kennedy said Monday. […]

“It means that whoever is going to run against him better have the resources to run against what probably is going to be more like $100 million,” [JB] Pritzker said [about Rauner recently putting $50 million into his campaign fund]. “I’m going to do my best. I certainly do have money but more importantly I’m willing to step up because we’ve got to win.”

Kennedy — no pretender himself when it comes to wealth — said it’s about more than money.

“This most important thing that occurs in this election is to listen to people,” Kennedy said.

The other possible candidate was former Gov. Pat Quinn, who didn’t rule out a 2018 run.

* More from the event

KENNEDY: I mean I’m convinced at this point that the state of Illinois is on the wrong track.

Democrat JB Pritzker joined Rev Jesse Jackson and a handful of elected officials on stage to sing We Shall Overcome.

PRITZKER: Oh I have to say I’m exploring it, I’ve talked to an awful lot of people to get their input, this is a process.

As the breakfast ended, former Governor Pat Quinn was spotted shaking hands in the lobby.

* One more

Billionaire businessman JB Pritzker says he hates that money has become so important in politics. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has said he’d run for a second term. Last month, the wealthy Republican governor put $50 million of his own money into his campaign fund. And that’s left some Democrats wondering if they’re going to need a wealthy candidate to run against him - and JB Pritzker is one of the possible names on the list.

“I’m not a guy who thinks we should turn politics into a playpen for people who are wealthy, but I’m also somebody who believes we’ve got to win in 2018.”

* If Pritzker’s comments sound to you like he’s about to jump in, you’re not alone. His sister, outgoing Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, had this to say to Lynn Sweet

GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner has fueled his political rise with his own tens of millions of dollars. He is up for re-election in 2018 and Pritzker’s younger brother, J.B. is considering a run.

Though the two have had their differences over the years, when it comes to running for governor, “J.B. and I have been very much aligned on this. I very much support him. I think he’ll make a terrific governor. So I am all in to help him.”

The two have “talked about it on many different levels…he’s a man who has committed himself to early childhood (education) and to helping build businesses, start ups and manufacturing businesses. I think he’ll do a great job. …I told him I’m all in to help him.”

J.B. is prepared to pour his own multiple millions into a governor run. Having his sister on board – with her extensive fundraising networks as well as her own deep pockets – is a considerable plus.

“All in” is a whole lot of money. Just sayin…

* But Rauner has some deep-pocketed supporters, too

Chicago billionaire philanthropist Ken Griffin has paid $85 million for an oceanfront estate in Palm Beach, Florida, that neighbors property he already owns there.

It’s the second most expensive single real estate transaction in the area, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. First was a 2008 deal by President-elect Donald Trump, who sold a mansion for $95 million.

Griffin, the founder of the Chicago-based hedge fund company Citadel and the market-maker Citadel Securities, plans to build a massive estate. His vacation home will be designed by architect Ugo Sap.

Griffin reportedly now owns more than 12 acres of contiguous land with about 871 feet of oceanfront. The tab for all that gorgeousness: $229.85 million.


* Back to the Democrats. Here’s Sneed

Here’s a question: Will Chris Kennedy, an heir to the Kennedy dynasty’s dynamism, have announced his candidacy for governor before he is honored at a Special Olympics Chicago reception at the Carnivale restaurant on Feb. 27?

Or at it?

Created originally at the Chicago Park District by a young [Illinois Supreme Court Justice] Anne Burke, it was Kennedy’s aunt, Eunice Shriver, who made the Special Olympics concept and ran it into an international institution.

Stay tuned.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

On inauguration day, a study in contrasts

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

If I had to choose a word to describe the Democrats’ nominating speeches for House Speaker Michael Madigan’s re-election last week, it would be either “defensive” or perhaps “joyless.”

The speeches seemed directly aimed at Madigan’s toughest critics – and there are plenty of those out there. The nominators at times angrily justified their own votes for Madigan and their continued willingness to support him while under siege by a hostile kabillionaire governor and much of the state’s media. They literally cannot go anywhere without being asked about why they continue to back Madigan.

For the most part, these were speeches from an all-too-real bunker.

Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) told a touching story about how Madigan dotes over his grandchild, but began his speech with an anecdote about how he figured the child would get him in trouble by playing with a toy car in Madigan’s office – a clear acknowledgment of his leader’s fearsome reputation. It was an attempt to humanize a man who has been turned into a cartoon caricature of an evil villain. But it was too little, too late.

Beiser, by the way, was a Tier One campaign target last year who was repeatedly forced to distance himself from Madigan. His nominating speech was the clearest indication yet that he won’t be running for re-election next year. Former Rep. John Bradley lost his House race last year partly because the Republicans aired an ad that used video from one of his own Madigan-nominating speeches. Beiser’s speech was likely not so much an act of courage in the face of overwhelming retribution, but a way to show his thanks to the top dog on his way out the door.

While House Democrats repeatedly lashed out at the opposition to Madigan, Senate Democrats were heaping praise on Senate President John Cullerton for being, in the words of Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields), “uniquely qualified at building bipartisan bridges because, above everything else, he has demonstrated a love for this state.”

Contrast that with Rep. Elgie Sims’ (D-Chicago) speech, which began with a story about how a friend warned him against seconding Madigan’s nomination because the Republicans would bash him with tons of negative ads.

The strong sense of political danger about the vote was a sentiment widely shared by Sims’ fellow Democratic House members. But in the end, the members did their grim best to power their way forward.

Madigan began his own speech by asking for bipartisanship, but then defiantly refused yet again to participate in any “race to the bottom” with Gov. Rauner and appeared to dismiss out of hand any attempt to reform workers’ compensation insurance, a key component of the compromise brewing in the Senate.

Madigan’s speech was nothing like Senate President Cullerton’s, who mildly complained about the fact that the Senate is often ignored by reporters because “if there’s no conflict there’s no coverage.”

Cullerton talked about the advances he and Senate Republican Leader Radogno have made together. The two were elected to their leadership roles as the divisive end of the Rod Blagojevich era was coming to a tragic end. “We’ve seen some pretty bad times and we’ve gotten through them by working together,” he said.

“How about we just try governing for a little bit?” Cullerton gently asked near the end of his speech after saying the non-stop campaign-style messaging needs to stop. “That’s what the people have sent us here to do.”

That same sentiment was expressed much more forcefully in the House, where Republican Leader Jim Durkin angrily demanded an end to the Democrats’ “gotcha” games of holding endless roll calls purely designed to be used in campaign ads.

Watching the two ceremonies was truly a study in contrasts. The Senate was brimming with hope that it can finally lead the way out of this horrific two-year impasse. The House, meanwhile, is still mired up to its collective neck in the stalemate with no clear way forward.

And then there was the lone “Present” vote by Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood), who issued a long and rambling press release afterward predicting that he will likely face “repercussions” for his (mostly meaningless) act, and claiming that “Illinois is in a free-fall into the abyss.”

Despite his usual melodramatics and penchant for self-aggrandizement, Drury’s statement was almost the perfect cap for a joyless and grim afternoon. It is clear, he wrote, that “a majority of the General Assembly is not ready for a new Speaker.”

That is very true. Last week, the House Democrats continued the age-old political practice of dancing with the one who brung them. But there were few smiles to be seen.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

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* Zombies!!!
* Treating the symptoms
* Manar wants Rauner to "personally" negotiate AFSCME contract
* And Petrella makes 8
* Candidate preview at Rainbow PUSH
* On inauguration day, a study in contrasts
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