Category Archives: Illinois Blues

Candidate Kennedy in the 40th Ward, 7/20/17

Appearing at the invite of my favorite alderman, Pat O’Connor, at North Side Prep on Kedzie Avenue on a warm Thursday night, Chris Kennedy kicked off with some personal history, including his being the 8th of the eleven offspring of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy. No small point to make, of course. It’s a magic name, after all.

He also recalled working at the Board of Trade as a young man in the ’80s , having decided not to work with his older brother Joe — no fun to work with, he implied cheerfully — in his “non-profit oil company.” Have any of the Kennedys gone in for profit-making? Since their paternal grandfather, I mean.

At the Board he witnessed “raw capitalism” in broad daylight. The worst kind. And was there when the show came tumbling down, or stumbled, when a wire-wearing FBI poseur captured incriminating conversations and got some traders sent to jail.

Later, Chris K. and his wife formed a non-profit of their own that undersold grocery stores in a good cause, selling at cut rates to poor people, going regularly to 120 churches and community organizations, where people “left behind” were helped — while, he noted, retaining their dignity and willingness to look him in the eye when talking to him.

His major points included:

  • Ed funding:  He said 87% of  high school graduates are “not college ready,” using a number I could not find in the 2015 Chi Trib stat “Most Illinois high schools leave grads unprepared for college,” where the operable figure is 24.9 percent who scored high enough on ACT subjects to be considered college-ready. His point remains, of course, though he might want to change the number.
  • Schools, said CK, are “underfunded.” Which if there’s a more reliable Democrat meme, I’d like to know. In any case, he had a segue into how schools are funded, by local property tax and not “in Springfield.” Which led to the most interesting point of the hour-long session, namely . . .
  • Well-paid lawyers including state reps and senators who obtain tax breaks for wealthy owners, making money out of the property tax about which they have influence. It’s “dirty money,” he said. “There should be a ban on [such] outside income that conflicts” with legislative duties. Mike Madigan (and Ed Burke and Joe Berrios) come immediately to mind. “No elected official has spoken out” on this conflict issue, Kennedy continued. “No one is standing up to Madigan.”

He had already floated this keep-pols-out-of-tax-appeal-work position, in May, without naming anyone while calling the system rigged and likening it to ‘extortion.'” This time, before a smaller crowd (50 or so in the N. Side Prep auditorium, vs. 300 in May), he named The Name. We’ll see how that turns out.

  • Asked about electoral district “fair mapping,” he called it “a great objective,” since it’s a matter of: “voters choose representatives, representatives pick the voters.” As a result, elected officials “never lose the general and fear only the primaries,” in which left and right extremes challenge and move Democrats farther to the left and Republicans farther to the right, each fending off extremist challengers. He begged off, with notable candor: “I don’t know [enough] about it, will start reading up about it.”

Asked about the huge backlog of bills unpaid by the state: “All this is still manageable. We taxed goods, not services, when manufacturing dwarfed services. But services are now 70% of the economy. We should not raise the income tax but broaden it [expanding taxable parts of the economy]. It’s easy then” to solve money problems. Easy?

Tax on securities trades is “not a cure-all,” he said when another questioner raised that issue — of which Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park said a few years ago, it would drive the Options Exchange out of the state. Kennedy: “All have to feel a little pain. It’s unrealistic to expect no sacrifice.”

People leaving the state: “Out-migration happened because of Rauner’s weakening, destroying government.” Under Rauner “we are driving people away.” In any case, “young people no longer move to jobs, but jobs move to them.” Let us think about that.

As for some lesser points, Ronald Reagan started homelessness, he said. Reaganomics did it. Which is spelled out in this and other progressive outlets:

In his first year in office Reagan halved the budget for public housing and Section 8 to about $17.5 billion. And for the next few years he sought to eliminate federal housing assistance to the poor altogether.

However, neither Dems nor Republicans did anything about it, says a progressive writer, blaming the media.

Once the national and local media gave Reagan a pass for not addressing homelessness, a pattern was established of not holding federal politicians accountable. And when politicians are not held accountable for homelessness, they instead devote resources to the issues where the media is focusing.

If that seems too simple an explanation for three decades of homelessness, this is a problem that lacks a complex answer. Ending homelessness is not like finding a cure for cancer. From the 1949 National Affordable Housing Act to the early 1980’s the United States knew how to prevent homelessness. But when the federal government abandoned its responsibility, the predictable result occurred.

Complex problem calls for a complex answer, says this progressive writer.

The forgotten counties: Entire Illinois counties are “without a grocery store,” Kennedy said. People call 911 “and no one comes.” These people voted for Trump, who “spoke to them.” People whom Saturday Night Live made fun of.

As the TV detective asks the person of interest about a suspect, do these counties have names?

On Trump: “You can’t write a memo short enough so he will read it.” Good throwaway.

“He won’t listen to intelligence briefings.” A staple of Twitter commentary, mostly from pre-inauguration time.  Not so good a throwaway.

The state’s debt: Pension underfunding is the biggest problem. The state stopped paying into the funds under Rauner, having done so under Quinn. That started with Rauner too?

About Rauner: He’s not a Republican, but a libertarian, “using the GOP.” As such, he “does not believe in government.” Oh. Early in office, he “tried to privatize” government functions, in the process shrank government. It was “an attack on the poor,” who depend on those functions. But he learned he “can’t kill government, only wound it.” In this he succeeded, letting the bills pile up.

more more more later . . .

Later, from Oak Park Newspapers blog at Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest, where this item was also published, two comments:

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 25th, 2017 11:42 AM

Is Chris Kennedy opening up the Merchandise Mart as a homeless shelter at night or a warming or cooling shelter for the homeless? I am sure he is, we just havent heard he is. Does his non profit food service pay management (ie. friends of the family) for management services? If Reagan cut the federal program, budget and taxes, doesnt that mean that there was more money on the local taxing level to develop programs for the homeless at a local level? What did Robert Kennedy learn while working on the staff of Sen. Joe McCarthy for nine months? Maybe how to sanitize a suicide scene of an actress or how to quiet J. Edgar Hoover, who had files on just about everyone. I am sure he is a fine fellow. Especially now.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2017 10:29 PM

How much pain does a Kennedy ever feel? None. They are so rich they can give everyone pain while they sit in their Merchandise Mart or get handed ambassadorships. We do not need any more of that.

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Chi Trib front page clashing stories: two kinds of weeper . . .

The one on top weeps about diminished social services (always a grabber):

Senate health care bill takes a hit
CBO analysis: Uninsured would grow by 22 million,
costs would rise under Republican leaders’ proposal

The one on bottom weeps, sort of, about the cost of red ink for Chicago Public Schools (not much of a grabber):

Price for CPS loans: $70,000 a day in interest
Total cost could pass
$7M based on payback
date, financial woe

Make-up editors could have put them side by side as horns of the dilemma faced by lawmakers as regards public spending: 1) people want services, 2) government hasn’t got the money.

As for not having the money, move to the state’s (and city’s) fiscal crisis and see what Speaker Madigan and his Dems do not want in a budget and the governor does:

Democrats have resisted Rauner’s calls for mixing into budget discussions other issues including cost-saving changes to workers’ compensation, state-employee pension-benefit programs, and a local property tax freeze, among other things.

No, no, no, don’t touch our workers’ comp, state employees’ benefits, and property taxes, say Dems, clutching these items as dear to their hearts.

Later: As for “mixing into budget discussions other issues,” consider Madigan’s “non-budget demands,” as in the State Journal-Register,

including that Gov. Bruce Rauner sign a school funding reform bill that the governor has said he would veto.

Crafty fellow. Oh, and a Democrat.

Rep. Lilly in Franklin Park — not quite decipherable

More on two Oak Park legislators’ town-hall-meeting tour in 2013 as told in my Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters.

Sen. Don Harmon appeared with Rep. Camille Lilly and three other legislators on July 30 in Franklin Park’s park district headquarters, seven miles northwest of his and Lilly’s offices in Oak Park and on the West Side — another stark example of redistricting by Illinois Democrats according to their electoral requirements.

Among the other three was Sen. John Mulroe, a Northwest Side Chicago Democrat, who, “new to politics,” had run for office in 2010 because the state was “on the brink of disaster.” As an inveterate crisis-denier, Harmon must have cringed at that.

The two others were Rep. Kathleen Willis, from far-distant Addison, in DuPage County eight miles away, and Rep Mike McAuliffe, a Republican based on the city’s far Northwest Side. He made the point early on that he works with the others and had little to say in the ensuing conversation.

Neither did Oak Park’s Lilly, who did manage several times to squeeze in reference to her experience as a sophomore legislator. Indeed, her more extended contributions were about what she had experienced since her appointment — her voyage of discovery, as it were — even as she offered observations that she alone among the legislators apparently considered germane.

During discussion of the state’s economic situation, for instance, she noted that Illinois’ population was growing, which it was — one half of one percent since 2010, according to the Census Bureau — sixth-lowest growth in the nation, which had grown 2.5 percent in that time. Her point was followed up by no other panelist.

In a discussion of whether the state is business-friendly, she came up with something not quite decipherable. “We signed legislation today,” to encourage “small business loans,” she said. We? Signed? On that day? There was nothing in the news about this, nothing on state web sites. An email requesting clarification two days later and another two weeks later, each copied to Harmon, got no response from either.

She was proud of her vote to end double-dipping in pension payouts, she said, adding (twice) that there’s constant “monitoring” of that. “It’s important,” she said, adding, “To me,” squelching the rumor that when she says something is important, she sometimes means to others, not herself.

All in all, she remained true to form as modestly talented, inadequately informed, and good at picking out odd facts or fanciful pronouncements for mention in the public forum.

From Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Votersavailable in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Mike Madigan pays an enemy back, creates a Democrat: from Illinois Blues Chapter 5

Next stop for Sen. Don Harmon in his 2013 series of pre-election town halls, was on July  23, when he partnered with a Madigan protege in Wood Dale . . .

. . . a middle-class town of not quite 14,000 at the northwestern edge of his district, in DuPage County, 14 miles from Oak Park. Here he partnered with Rep. Kathleen Willis, of nearby Addison, an Elmhurst College librarian recently elected for the 77th house district.

Willis came across as quietly competent, pleasant, comfortable. A married mother of four and local school board member, she appeared a wise choice by Michael Madigan seeking someone to face off against the veteran Republican house member, Angelo “Skip” Saviano, a one-time across-aisle ally for Madigan with whom he’d had a bitter falling-out.

Madigan had seen to his defeat in 2012, convincing the Republican Willis to switch parties and funding a campaign that left veteran politics reporter Rich Miller gasping for its effrontery, misrepresentation of opposition, and fight-to-finish maneuverings. In the middle stood Willis, by all indicators and appearance an unlikely contestant but victorious at the end with 53% of the vote.

“Willis steals 77th House [district] from Saviano,” was the rambunctious Daily Herald headline for a story that reported that had been unavailable for interviews while campaigning entirely door-to-door. The story also noted that she had “pulled Republican ballots in five primary elections between 2002 and 2010.” It didn’t matter. The 77th had a Democrat, and Madigan had the 77th.

From Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Votersavailable in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Clout-heavy UNO hired his firm, Sen. Harmon clams up; narrow-gauge politics satisfy . . .

At town hall meeting, Oak Park library, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters — UNO, fracking, pensions:

The clout-heavy United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) was brought up, reference was made to a sizable public-money grant for a charter school in nearby Galewood in 2009. There had been much spending on a post-announcement celebration — all of it widely reported, especially in detailed Sun-Times accounts.

Harmon responded carefully: “I have no knowledge of money being wasted.”

Spoken like a lawyer, and more than that, a partner with UNO’s lawyer in the firm, Burke Burns & Pinelli, which had taken UNO on as a client as soon as the scandal took shape months earlier.

By March, 2016, the firm had worked long and hard on UNO troubles to the extent of more than $962,000 in fees, wrote Sun-Times’ Dan Mihalopoulos (“THE WATCHDOGS: UNO’s secret spending spree”).

Few knew of this cheek-by-jowl Harmon-UNO connection. Many did know of the news stories, however, about which Harmon apparently had not felt prompted to inquire. He pleaded ignorance, said no more. No one questioned him further on the point.

Other issues arose:

fracking downstate (approved later by the legislature and judicially good to go by December, 2014) , dispensing of psychiatric drugs, and others.

The pension comes first, said Lilly. Harmon backed her up with a graph thrown up on a screen showing the size of pension outlay, asking along the way if anyone had “missed a payment.”

He had asked earlier who worked in government jobs, twenty-five or so had raised their hands. None did so this time. It was a litigator’s question, asked knowing the answer.

Again, it was so far, so good for one side of the issue,

payouts to pensioners, without reference to the state’s fiscal health — and continued ability to meet payments, for that matter.

He was practicing narrow-gauge politics that was good enough for his supporters. He was a sort of good shepherd caring for his flock.

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

“Embarrassed by Illinois”

At the Oak Park library, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters — “some dramatic government failures”

The CPA who had urged Sen. Harmon to “do something about corruption” continued.

“To say the pension situation is complicated is a classic delaying tactic. We are spending way more than we are taking in. People leave Illinois [in large numbers]. . . . Taxes are huge, hit even homeless people, some of whom I help. You are part of the problem. not the solution.”

Not even the voluble Rep. Lilly directly engaged him. Harmon did not. Nobody in the audience picked up on his complaints. In the ensuing lull, someone asked about taxing retirement income.

It’s “on the table of [sic] discussion,” Lilly said.

Another man said he was “embarrassed by Illinois.” He cited National Public Radio, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets. “It’s the worst state . . . “

Lilly denied it. “I have an opinion. The media doesn’t represent the facts accurately. The facts don’t state that. . . . I’m very proud to live in Illinois . . . Look at your [sic] history . . . We must come together . . . I celebrate that. . . . This is a great state [in which] to raise your family!”

Harmon conceded “some dramatic government failures,” naming none. “We are climbing out of the hole.”

The Chicago Tribune, he said, “has bashed the heart out of us.”

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Illinois Blues: Limping North Avenue, Not Losing the Merc

At the Oak Park Library, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, Chapter 3, “There Will Be No Cuts,” continued:

The man [who had complained about Illinois’ lowest-in-nation bond rating] threw in the towel, giving way to the next questioner, asking about a much-protested pawn shop on economically limping North Avenue and related matters.

Rep. Lilly jumped on this. With more pointing and waving, she declared that North Avenue issues were “what I call ‘on the docket.’” For action or consideration, she didn’t say, nor on whose docket.

Then from the floor came an enterprising suggestion, that even with Sen. Harmon’s proposed fair tax (“graduated”) there still wouldn’t be enough money. “So how about the proposed tax on stock trades?” (A “sales tax on speculators,” a columnist called it.)

Lilly laughed. “Actually, I saw that proposal, among so many that I didn’t read.”

Harmon said he had heard testimony for this tax, naming a local socialist who was an energetic proponent of a mandated “living wage” for village employees. But he gently poured cold water on the idea, Lilly next to him nodding vigorous agreement.

“There’s the fear that this legislation would push the Chicago Mercantile Exchange out of the state,” Harmon explained. It was a rare nod to the role of taxation in damaging the economy.

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Illinois Blues: Pensioner’s “desperate look,” bond ratings, unemployment

At the Oak Park Library town hall, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, Chapter 3, “There Will Be No Cuts”:

A man asked why it had taken so long to do something about the pension issue when the Civic Federation of Chicago had raised the issue five years earlier.

Sen. Harmon played the therapist. He shared the questioner’s “frustration,” having seen the “desperate look” on the faces of people who fear losing pensions.

Nothing about why it had taken so long. Treating the do-nothing years as an act of God, himself as horrified observer. Not horrified, however, since even as he spoke, there was no crisis, he had said.

Another man complained that in response to Illinois’ lowest-in-nation bond rating and one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, said citizens got nothing but “rhetoric.”

It was the first question about fiscal issues as such. The man stayed with his complaint, enlarging on it. Harmon listened up to a point, then called “next,” choosing not to engage him.

Rep. Lilly gloriously missed this and picked up with the persistent questioner, entering on extended commentary of her own, pacing back and forth, gesticulating, in general speaking as if to settle the question in an earnest, forceful, however cheery a manner.

The man threw in the towel, giving way to the next question, about a much-protested pawn shop on economically limping North Avenue and related matters.

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Property, income tax rates in Illinois

Sen. Harmon and Rep. Lilly continue their town hall meeting at Oak Park library, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, Chapter 3, “There Will Be No Cuts”:

The village clerk asked if property tax rates might rise. A “really, really good” question, Lilly said. She herself had asked it in a legislative committee meeting.

But really good question or not, she instead addressed the related but separate issue of allocating state funds for public schooling. “No way is education to be funded equitably across the state,” she said, meaning face-the-facts it won’t happen or over-my-dead-body it shouldn’t. Not clear.

But her “equitably” called up haves-vs.-have-nots funding of public schools — a sensitive issue for Oak Park homeowners. Harmon, an Oak Park homeowner, said he was “very sensitive” to the property-tax issue and let it go at that.

A man wondered if a “teeny tiny” income tax increase might be imposed. Harmon brought up (again) the Democrats’ “sixty-seven percent” increase (from 3 to 5%), signaling quote marks and adding, “We Democrats say two percent.” Challenged earlier, he was not quite ready to let that one go.

Again he ruled out service cuts. “We have already cut too much.”

Nonetheless, the state’s money shortage, said Lilly, was “really, really testing” the state’s financial capacities. Yes it was!

It’s about revenue, a man, said. “The rich should pay more.” He commended Harmon for a Wednesday Journal column in which he had put “crisis” in quotes. “Some are too rich” to need help from the government, the man added.

“Let ’em run for governor,” Harmon interjected, drawing laughter. Bruce Rauner had already announced, was to win the governorship sixteen months later.

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Tax trades, and say bye-bye to the Merc

Argument is simple enough: you would make trades unprofitable.

A proposal for Illinois to tax trades on exchanges in the state is “ridiculous,” according to the executive chairman of Chicago-based market operator CME Group Inc.

The suggested levy—which would charge $1 or $2 per contract, depending on the product—would make many transactions uneconomic, forcing the exchange to leave the state because customers would stop buying and selling, CME Chairman Terry Duffy said.

The bill, designed to increase revenue in the financially troubled state, is in early stages and faces long odds of approval.

Yes, as Sen. Don Harmon told an Oak Park audience in 2013, in this exchange from my Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters.

. . . from the floor came an enterprising suggestion, that even with Harmon’s proposed fair tax (“graduated”) there still wouldn’t be enough money. “So how about the proposed tax on stock trades?” (A “sales tax on speculators,” a columnist called it.)

[Rep. Camille Lilly] laughed. “Actually, I saw that proposal, among so many that I didn’t read.”

Harmon said he had heard testimony for this tax, naming a local socialist who was also an energetic proponent of a mandated “living wage” for village employees. But he gently poured cold water on the idea, Lilly next to him nodding vigorous agreement.

“There’s the fear that this legislation would push the Chicago Mercantile Exchange out of the state,” Harmon explained. It was a rare nod to the role of taxation in damaging the economy.

Illinois Blues is available also as paperback and non-Kindle ebook.

For the rest of the CME story: Newsalert: CME Boss says he would have no choice but to move CME if Illinois tax passes

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