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.
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: