Thursday, June 14, 2007

Beyond Belief


I was actually looking forward to attending today's leaders' meeting to discuss the property tax issue which is of critical importance to my district, and that of many of my colleagues.

Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan was going to take part, along with representatives of Mayor Daley, and about 15-20 legislators from both chambers.

Candidly, I have not been happy with much of the maneuvering that has taken place on the issue, and I thought that the meeting would make for a productive and interesting discourse aimed toward a resolution.

Little did I know what was about to transpire.

We were seated around the Governor's office, with Watson and Cross seated at the conference table, and three remaining seats for the President, Speaker and Governor. The Governor came in about 20 minutes late, briefly shook hands with a number of us, took his seat, and then it started.

Not the meeting, the farce.

He said that he was prepared to start as soon as Madigan and Jones got there. Majority Leader Currie stated that he may be late or not coming at all due to another commitment, but that she was authorized to act in his stead. The Governor then went on a weird diatribe that this was a leaders' meeting and that he would not take part until all of the leaders were there.

I very politely suggested to the Governor that Rep. Currie had been the point person in the House on the discussions, that we had a large number of legislators who had been involved on the issue in the room, the Assessor was present and as such, I 'didn't see the harm in beginning the conversation prior to the arrival of Jones and/or Madigan.'

The Governor's response was that he 'didn't see the harm in waiting'. He stood up and told the assembled group that he was going to go to his other office to do work and that we could wait around or that they would call us when the meeting was going to start.

He turned to leave the room less than five minutes after he had walked in.

If there was a soundtrack for that moment, it would have been that of 20 legislators being simultaneously slapped in the face.

Several hours later, we were informed that the meeting was canceled and that no date had been set for a new meeting. So much for no harm in waiting.

What really got to me wasn't the disrespect or offensiveness of what had transpired, it's the fact that last week, he was tripping over himself to talk about how rank and file lawmakers should be in Springfield five days a week doing the job that the voters elected them to do.

Then today, while sitting in a room with several key rank and file legislators, and leaders, he refuses to even begin conversations with us because the Speaker and President weren't there.

I think it is safe to say that the collective reaction in the room was disbelief.

You don't get to have it both ways. It is an untenable position for him to try to maintain, and has only served to further damage the already strained relations he has with legislators in all four caucuses. No small feat.

If today was any window into budget negotiations, it is going to be a looong summer indeed. Never have I seen any professional setting in which something like what happened today would occur. It's not about politics, it's about respect for the Legislature, it's about people skills, it's about negotiating skills, it's about leadership. More to the point, today was about what happens when you have none of the above.

Perhaps he has some top-secret convoluted strategy for his otherwise inexplicable behavior. If so, more power to him. If not, things are only going to get worse.

My frustration is not just for myself and my colleagues. It's for the people of this State. With cynicism and contempt for state government at all-time highs, today's episode just makes things worse.

It's bad for the democratic process, and it may be even worse for the Democratic Party. It didn't have to be this way.

25 Comments:

At June 14, 2007 at 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, John tone the rhetoric down a notch. Yes, it's politically correct to bash the governor these days, but come on...what about the disrespect Madigan showed the governor by not showing up for the meeting?

And I don't blame the governor for his actions here. We all know who the real power brokers are. Yes, she was the Majority Leader, but come on...like that position means anything these days.

We know who gives the marching orders and who calls the shots. Don't waste time dealing with powerless underlings. It's rather demeaning. Even more demeaning to think we believe any of this crap.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 9:57 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Seriously, where's the rhetoric? I stated what happened at the meeting and my reaction.

And I will tell you that my reaction is shared by several legislators who are not easily ruffled.

Rep. Currie was more than prepared to partake in that meeting, as were the rest of us.

It was the Governor who said last week that he wanted 'underlings' in Springfield to do the people's work.

With all due respect, you are simply missing the mark on this one.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:01 PM, Anonymous JohnR said...

John,

As I said over on Rich's blog...

This was a scheduled Leaders meeting in order to try and get work done with the 3 (Gov, Speaker, President) people who have the power to get things done.

If only one leader is there, it is not really a leaders meeting.

It seems to me that it was no longer a leaders meeting, but a meeting with a bunch of legislators to just talk. If there was no way for anything to get done at the meeting (with 2 of the 3 leaders absent), then what is the purpose?

Just to listen to people do a mini-subject matter hearing on the assessment?

At this point, that is a waste of time.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:07 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

John,

Rod, Tom, Frank, the Majority Leader, the House and Senate sponsors of the legislation, the Assessor, and the Mayor's reps were all there. The ability to have a full and frank discussion existed.

If you think that even having an extended meeting like that was a waste of time, I will also let you know that it was the Governor's office that wanted to bring the Assessor in and convene the meeting in the first place.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the disrespect Madigan showed the governor by not showing up for the meeting?

If the expected people can't show up for the meeting, what is the big deal about re-scheduling it? Happens all the time in corporate America.

I'll continue to miss the mark because I choose not to believe any of this stupid political posturing.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:16 PM, Anonymous JohnR said...

I am sure they did - for the benefit of all three leaders.

But, like I said, you can't start having Leaders meetings where it is all surrogates and no leaders.

That defeats the purpose and is a bad precedent to set.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:17 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

The Speaker was at a meeting with President Jones and the heads of Com Ed and Ameren seeking to resolve the electric rate issue.

Just days ago, the Governor said that it was imperative that the issue be resolved as quickly as possible. And that is what Jones and Madigan were trying to do.

And what does it tell you that the Governor wasn't at/invited to that meeting?

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:19 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

And remember that you had about 25 people at the meeting ready to do work.

And the Governor walks out because two people are missing?!

Do you see that often in corporate America?

And trust me, I'm sick of the stupid political posturing too.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:23 PM, Anonymous JohnR said...

Again,

There could have been 50 people at the meeting.

But the fact is - you don't matter. Most of the others in that room don't matter.

Rep. Currie doesn't matter.

The people you have to convince were not there.

That is what matters.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And that is what Jones and Madigan were trying to do."

So reschedule the meeting.

John...you guys are so far behind the eight ball what's another few days?

Time was never an issue during the regular legislative session when you guys were tackling such red-hot issues as trying to regulate internet dating, banning cockfighting, and banning remote hunting (thank god for that one!)....why all of a sudden must everything be done right now immediately today? Oh yes, now its the "people's work" all of a sudden. Where was this sense of urgency months ago?

I'm still not buying it. I still think you are taking a cheap shot at the governor. (And evident by your little ComEd / Ameren snipe in your last comment)

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:26 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Again,

The meeting was the Governor's idea. I'll respectfully disagree with you as to the rest of your post.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:30 PM, Anonymous JohnR said...

Well, if it was the Governor's idea - I am sure the intended audience was the Speaker and the President.

Otherwise, it wouldn't have been scheduled as a "Leaders" meeting.

My comment stands. Nothing gets done without the Speaker and President there. So why waste the time?

I am sure he could have handled it better, but why are we all so worried about stepping on egos these days?

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:32 PM, Blogger OneMan said...

I guess the part I don't get is. Even if the other 'leaders' were not there wouldn't it have made political sense for him to have the discusion?

At the worst from the Governors point of view, nothing gets done but you can say

"The 'leaders' were unable to be there but I was able to get my view and thoughts accross to those members who were in the meeting and am looking forward to them calling on their leaders to lead and come to a solution"

Best case

You make some progress or come up with a solution and perhaps take Madigan down a notch.
Heck you make some progress with the GOP on the issue and start talking bi-partisanship.


One of the posible keys I see to the governor getting out of this mess is to have the non-leader members putting some preasure on their leadership. You don't get that by basically saying that they are unworthy of your time.

I used to think this guys was the master campaigner, what the heck happened?

It's also interesting the push-back Rep. Fritchey is getting on this in the comments.

From the Governors point of view the perception and opinions of the members like Rep. Fritchey is what matters. Not anyone else because if he is going to get Madigan to move to 'his side' it is going to have to occour due the members moving him in that direction. Pissing them off isn't going to make that happen.

Seriously, the man needs to read "How to win friends"

OneMan

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:39 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Anon:

'Where was this sense of urgency months ago?'

Months ago, the Legislature was engaged in Springfield on a full and regular basis. It was not the Legislature that waited until the end to try to craft a budget. It was not Madigan or Jones that said that their idea was the only one on the table?

As I have said before, I take zero pleasure in being at odds with the Governor. In fact, as certain people can attest to, I made concerted truce effort over a year ago. My effort was met with such disdain, that I have even refrained from writing about it.

I have never unilaterally tried to antagonize him. What I have been doing, and what I predict you will see more legislators doing in the coming weeks, is defending myself and the institution when we are gratuitously assailed by the Governor with broadstroke generalizations and insults.

However you may feel about this issue, this is an important discourse for the people of the state to be having and I am glad that it is taking place on a more frequent basis now.

And if you want to continue, this exchange, no more anonymous posts. I'm willing to stand behind what I say, you should be to.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:45 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

OneMan,

Well said, thank you. Remember the old addage that 'politics is a game of addition not subtraction'? It is really accurate.

What is astounding to me is that the Governor is great at retail politics. But he doesn't use those skills with the legislators. A little relationship building would go a long way. I cannot tell you how many times this discussion has been had by capitol denizens.

Today could have been a lay up for the Governor. He could have made the legislators feel more engaged in the process and have more of a sense of ownership in reaching a solution to the whole budget issue.

Instead, he unnecessarily deepened the divide, ramped up animosity, and worsened the gridlock.

 
At June 14, 2007 at 10:52 PM, Anonymous JohnR said...

Oneman,

I think you are overestimating the power members will have over Madigan.

There won't be an internal revolt over any of this to get Madigan to change his position. He has to think any compromise is a victory for him.

I have often felt over the past dozen or so years that members would rather see the state go defunct than have to make a contentious vote. Leadership protects them from that contentious vote so that they have a majority, and it gives THEM more power.

Look - There are real, major, serious problems in this state. And there are real, practical solutions. That's what I believe, that's why I started my Web site, that's why I push people like you Rep. Fritchey.

You can't hide behind sugary, non-contentious issues forever. Didn't you run for office to actually DO something for people?

 
At June 14, 2007 at 11:05 PM, Anonymous Former Minion said...

You have to hold it right there John R. Not that the Rep. needs me to come to his defense but it would be hard to name many legislators that have passed the kind of major laws that Rep. Fritchey has since he got there. Not to mention his leadership during debates. I staffed him and will tell you that he's the real deal. Give credit where it's due.

 
At June 15, 2007 at 6:33 AM, Anonymous Disgusted said...

I am thoroughly disgusted with the whole legislative process in Springfield. There is not one thought for the taxpayers and voters of this state, just egos pushing egos. A bunch of kindergarteners could come to an agreement faster. The legislature made Madigan and Jones what they are and now they must reap the rewards. The governor is so ego-driven that his mind is out the window. Rep. Franks hit the nail squarely on the head with his statements yesterday on various news outlets. The rest of the people in this state do not matter - it's the Milarod, Mike and Emil Show.

State politicians should have seen this coming when the governor was squired up the ranks from Machine to statehouse to DC and then to the governorship. He has not changed his work ethic one iota. It's all hype, media, photo ops and ego with him. There is no substance or statesmanship.

 
At June 15, 2007 at 9:32 AM, Blogger Integrity Counts said...

I saw first hand how the Governor treats the leaders. If he was late or didn't feel like having a meeting until later he didn't do it. He doesn't care about the schedules of the other leaders. They are to just sit and await his summons. The truth of the matter is that he should have been there every single day the legislature was in session. There is no reason in the world to wait until the end of April or first part of May. I have never in my life seen a person with such disrespect for others. He had called this meeting to discuss the issue and even if only one person showed up the RIGHT thing to do would be to listen to that person. Who knows you just might learn something. The people who were invited to the meeting in my opinion were all leaders. It is about time everyone started thinking about the people in the state. The average everyday people that are paying more for everything and making less. I have older people in my town, living on a fixed income, refusing to turn on the air due to Ameren's high bills, but too proud to ask for assistance. When people start dieing maybe someone will see a need to do something. When people in this state have to move to Missouri or another state because of the property taxes maybe someone will see a need to do something. I could go on and on. We need some leadership. We need people to swallow their pride or whatever and get something done. It is time to do the RIGHT thing. And, by the way, I am a democrat.

 
At June 15, 2007 at 11:05 AM, Anonymous Another John said...

Blagojevich has shown time and again that he is irrelevant. When it comes to the budget, he is powerless without the legislature. The legislature, on the other hand, can marginalize the governor and move a budget without him. It's time to do so!

 
At June 15, 2007 at 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somewhere in one of the posts there is a comment about what has been passed in the regular session...what "important" issues have been worked on - remote hunting? There is no mention of the property tax bill that has been down there in Springfield since the winter of 06! But a monent of silence bill can be passed before a bill ( not Madigan's version)giving relief to homeowners...where are your priorities? Oh, right, Madigan calls the shots...and this renewing the 7% is not high on his agenda.

I agree with the writer who said - leaders meeting - leaders need to show up. Currie is not a leader...she is a follower and has her orders...Madigan needed to be there - that simple...the end.

 
At June 15, 2007 at 12:06 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

For what it's worth, I spoke against and voted against the moment of silence bill - bad bill.

Keep in mind the following:

Watson asked for Thursday's meeting to be moved from noon to 10:30.

And Wednesday, Jones scheduled the electric rate meeting for Thursday at 10:30. It is inconceivable that the Governor would not have known this.

We had a roomful of people ready to work on the property tax issue; the Governor chose to grandstand instead of working with us. The end.

And I told you last night, no more ongoing debates with anonymous posters. Stand behind your statements.

I said a long time ago that I have IP tracking. I know you're not bashful :)

 
At June 15, 2007 at 1:47 PM, Anonymous Les Kniskern said...

With all of the posturing about the Leaders meeting, who showed, who didn’t, who’s to blame – we miss the relevance of the missed discussion.

The “Madigan Plan” (House Amendment 1 to SB13) for the 7% property assessment cap is geared to phase out the program.

People who qualify for the additional incentive in the first year (an increase of 100% in the EAV), but do not qualify for the long-time exemption to be enacted in the second year (10 year residency; $75,000 income restriction) will see a homeowner’s exemption of $40,000 in the first year being reduced to $24,000 in the second year, $18,000 in the third; and ending up as a $6,000 exemption once the bill sunsets.

This is not protection from massive assessment increases; this is a slow four-year bleed. I believe the Madigan Plan is geared to shift assessment levels back to helping other interests – homeowners be damned.

Yes, there are many beneficial additions to the Madigan Plan: Disabled Veterans exemption, Returning Veterans one-time exemption, Disabled Veterans homestead exemption; as well as the abatement for Police and Rescue Workers widows. That cannot be denied.

But a compromise on the property tax relief bill should and must be discussed; and I think Speaker Madigan should be present for the discussion, if he is at all interested in working toward restoring faith in our government.

Because I must say, that my faith is sorely lacking at this moment.

 
At June 20, 2007 at 8:06 AM, Anonymous the Other Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm late to the comments game.

But there's one thing that bothers me about the argument that it's a leaders' meeting, and so the Governor had every right to cancel.

Majority Leader Currie said that she was authorized to speak and act for the Speaker. Now, say what you will about the Speaker and Currie, but if Currie said she's authorized to represent the Speaker it means exactly that: she can make binding commitments for the Speaker. Currie would never have said that if it wasn't true (she'd lose her spot as Majority Leader); and the Speaker would never backtrack from that grant of authority (he values his reputation as someone who can make things happen).

Fine, the Speaker wasn't there. It happens, and this case he had a good excuse. So he sent someone who could make commitments for him. Have the meeting, discuss compromises, and you could have reached a deal. Btw, this is what happens in corporate America all the time when there's a scheduling conflict for the CEO.

 
At June 21, 2007 at 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stick to your guns on this, you are exactly correct. I didn't vote for Blago, Jones, Madigan, or any of the 'key' leaders, but I did vote for my Democratic State Senator and Democratic State Representative, and you should have a seat at the table to discuss the issues important to your constituents. You may be viewed as a 'powerless underling' but those of us who empower these 'leaders' (and we are not to happy with the lack of leadership in Springfield) want our representatives at the table because you and your fellow state reps have contact with the truly 'powerless' voters - their bosses.

And your disgust at the Governors arrogance isn't rhetoric, its a justifiable reaction.

 

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