Sen. Harmon’s optimism notwithstanding,
Despite repeated dire warnings about Illinois’ public employee retirement debt, a deal to change pensions remains elusive as the General Assembly reconvenes this week with political considerations taking an upper hand over policy.
House and Senate negotiators from both parties have met for months and report progress on coming to grips with the worst-in-the-nation $100 billion pension liability. But progress and passing a plan are two different things.
“We’re at the one-yard line,” said Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat who is on the 10-member pension conference committee. “We ran it to the right, and we ran it to the left. We’re third down, and now we need a third play.”
Another view of the Park Grill business:
Michael Shakman, an attorney who represented the original investment group, said in an interview in 2011 that the city’s lawsuit was a “money grab.”
Shakman, who no longer represents the group, insisted at the time that the Park Grill concession was a “Clean and honest deal negotiated fairly” by an outside consultant the city hired at a time when “absolutely nobody wanted to put a restaurant” at Millennium Park.
“Nobody was willing to take the risk. It was right after 9/11 when the restaurant business was terrible and Millennium Park was viewed as a high-risk area,” Shakman said after the lawsuit was filed.
“It’s a money grab by the city,” he said at the time. “They see this restaurant that was struggling and now looks like it’s something of value and the city is making an effort to seize some of that value. It’s not a very pretty picture of how to deal with people who step up to the plate and take on a challenging project like this to treat them this way. It’s kind of disappointing.”
Shakman was asked then why the deal allows Park Grill to avoid paying fees for water, gas and garbage pickup as well as the $275,000 in annual rent whenever gross sales fail to reach a certain level they have never reached.
“They made a deal. It includes all the terms it includes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it was an arm’s-length, straight and honest deal with no clout involved,” he said at the time.
What to make of this. It’s realpolitik?
The beef is mainly about immigration politics as practiced by U.S. hierarchs, but the image of a glad-hander (bear-hugger) is telling:
Last Sunday, to pep up his homily, a visiting monsignor regaled our Long Island congregation with an anecdote about how he had recently learned, at the cost of bruised ribs, just what a firm-grippin’, bear-huggin’ guy good old Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, actually is.
The Church previously did not inflict such incontinent showmen on America. All Americans deserve better. American Catholics need shepherds, not sellouts.
From monarchs to showmen in, say, 75 years.