Tuesday, July 31, 2007

When Rods Collide

I've said it openly in the past and I'll repeat it now. I actually respect the Governor for his strong desire to hold fast to his no income/sales tax hike pledge. I don't necessarily agree with it. I don't think that he needed to make it. But make it he did, and he has been steadfast in adhering to it.

And since I have criticized him for vacillating on other positions, fairness dictates that I give him credit for sticking to this one.

But the Governor now finds himself in a position where his philosophical mandates may have to yield to practical realities.

Case in point - mass transit funding, a critical issue for riders and non-riders alike. Rep. Hamos and others have been laboring to craft a funding bill that can provide a cash infusion to the RTA while providing for improved accountability and governance. And it appears that a piece of legislation that could stave off route cutbacks and fare increases is but days away.

Good news you say? It looks that way, but there's a catch. A critical part of the funding mechanism rests in a modest hike in the sales tax in those counties in which RTA operates. People benefiting from the RTA (and don't forget that even non-riders benefit) helping fund it. Sounds like a fair idea.

BUT, the Governor has repeatedly said that he will veto any budget sent to him that contains an income or sales tax increase.

AND, in something that I hadn't previously heard, the Governor has now said that if lawmakers override such a veto, he will call them into special session until they rescind the vote. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to.

So here's where we find ourselves - it's essentially a Clash of the Two Rods. (Sounds worse than it is, I think). On one hand, you have the Governor that has drawn such a deep line in the sand on the tax hike issue that he might strike oil. On the other hand, you have the Governor who has done more flips during the special session than Nadia Comaneci did in winning 5 gold medals.

Flipping on his no tax hike pledge would be big news but is, in my opinion, legitimately defensible in this case. If there was any issue to justify a local, targeted sales tax increase, mass transit would be it. He would be sacrificing his core beliefs for the greater good. Would he take hits for it? Almost assuredly, but I think that the majority of people, myself included, would support his decision.

But I'm just not sure that he could bring himself to do it. His no-tax stance has become more than just a pledge, it's something that he can point to with a legitimate sense of righteousness. Breaking it would just add fuel to the political climate at a time when what he needs is an extinguisher.

Conversely, holding his ground in this instance would guarantee the ire of a huge proportion of Chicago, Cook and collar county residents. He would likely be seen as grandstanding at the expense of the masses who rely on mass transit. People would be openly cursing the Governor every time they shelled out $3.00 for a ride.

I have no idea how this situation will play out. For all of the challenges that the Governor has faced, it's interesting that this one could be his biggest test to date.


At July 31, 2007 at 7:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blago was elected with a 10 point lead over his adversary.

Why should he deviate from his core positions? The people of Illinois clearly wanted him to be governor, the Democratic party clearly wanted him to be governor. His beliefs have been known for some time. Just because 'the establishment' wants him to hop on the raise taxes bandwagon so they can save their political bacon doesn't automatically mean he should fall for opposition trickery. His is safe, why risk it for you? After all, what have you done politically to support him? All I see on your blog is childish mockery of him and his ideas.

My suggestion: roll up your sleeves and look for some *real* solutions to the problems of Illinois. 'Raising taxes' is the easiest solution. Find some better ones, please.

At July 31, 2007 at 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taxes do not scare me. Taxes are what we pay for the services we want. But taxes somehow scare the bejesus out of politicians.

This means that instead of clearly showing how wanting more government services is coupled with a need for more revenue, we have been seeing politicians like Blagojevich pretend that there are magical tax sources that allow government services to be offered free of charge.

Generations of Americans have been seduced by the belief that they can get something if government is empowered to take from rich people, corporations, and someone else. This mentality has warped the honesty needed to deal with our societal needs.

We are not stupid. When Blagojevich was first elected, we expected him to raise taxes to pay for what he promised. Instead we got games.

I don't want to sell off state assets. I don't want to drive state credit into the dumpster. I don't want to see pensions stolen from. I want to see responsible fiscal dealings from responsible elected officials.

Worst, we have created generations of spoiled voters who believe they can get something for nothing. While it is smart politics in the short run, it is a killer for a society in the long run.

My old professor - Paul Green - said that all politics boils down to the question, "Who pays?" What Blagojevich and others of his ilk are trying to tell us is, "no one, it is all magic."

Enough already. We are not stupid.

At July 31, 2007 at 11:37 AM, Blogger Rich Miller said...

===AND, in something that I hadn't previously heard, the Governor has now said that if lawmakers override such a veto, he will call them into special session until they rescind the vote. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to.====

He's been saying that for weeks, if not months

At July 31, 2007 at 12:01 PM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

Representitive Fritchey... did you support the Gov in his primary?

You certainly supported him in the general.

Was that a mistake in hindsight?

Otherwise, why have you turned on him? What's changed? Perhapes I would find it in your blog. But please tell....

At July 31, 2007 at 1:46 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Good comments, one and all. Let me try to address them, easiest first.

Rich, I had never heard him discuss bringing us back to rescind an override. When you think about it, it doesn't make much sense. We pass a budget, he vetoes it, we override it, it becomes law.

That's how checks and balances work, and it may well let us craft a more responsible budget than could have been done otherwise.

But threatening to call us back is an ill-conceived means of trying to trample checks and balances, which is why I think that it is a very poor idea and doesn't help his overall position.

Anon, 7:58,

I'm not asking him to do anything for me, I'm suggesting that it is the right thing to do in the situation. I was in no way mocking him, my point was to point out that the mass transit issue presents a very tough decision for him, with no easy answers.

You also ask 'what have I done politically to support him'. It's not my job to do anything politically to support him, nor his me, apparently. My job is to support and represent my constituents, and I have tried to do just that.

And Bill Baar,

Good to hear from you. Suffice it to say, I have had no interaction with the Governor's campaign since right after he was first elected.

I was very involved in the first campaign and was proud at the time to see the Democratic Party at the helm in Illinois.

I have never 'turned on him', quite to the contrary. But I'm not going to air that here. I have constantly tried to keep my differences on a professional level and will continue to do so.

Let me just say that perhaps both he and I have changed over the years. I am comfortable with my philosophy, my views on the role of state government and how it should operate, and my efforts to advance those beliefs. At present, his views and mine are simply divergent.

I have said here repeatedly that I don't particularly enjoy the present dynamic, nor do I think that it is necessarily productive, but I believe that I am putting the interests of my constituents first, and I will continue to do so.

At July 31, 2007 at 2:40 PM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

Forgive the "turn" phrase...

Times change, our views change...otherwise we'd be awfully narrow folks.

Thanks for the response.

At July 31, 2007 at 6:08 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Democrat said...

Anon 7:58 - You forget that Blago was elected with less than 50% of the vote, based on a campaign that never mentioned "Gross Receipts Tax" or "Illinois Covered". He has no mandate, for the GRT, for "Illinois Covered", for not raising taxes, etc.

The problem with the Governor is that he is debating over positions when the debate really should be about principles.

I understand the Gov's "Read My Lips" pledge, because he says it would adversely impact "hard working families."

That's a good principle.

What the Governor has refused to admit is that poorly performing public schools adversely impact "hard working families." The Gross Receipts Tax adversely impacts "hard working families." Expanding the tax on people who can't do math, aka "gambling", adversely impacts "hard working families." Skyrocketing property taxes - driven up by local school districts being forced to pick up the tab when the state won't pay it's fair share - adversely impact "hard working families."

Faced by the tough question from Rich Miller, "Which is the lesser evil, raising income or sales taxes or 1.4 million people without health care" (I paraphrase), the Governor was forced to admit that raising taxes was a lesser evil. Of course, then he quickly tried to find a way to weasel out of what he just said.

I think when you ask the question "What's a lesser evil, raising income taxes by 1% or a public education system that devotes less than four hours a day to teaching core subjects, where more than 1 in 20 teachers in high poverty schools are under-qualified, where state aid to school districts has slipped below 30%, where 1 in 5 eighth graders don't meet basic standards for reading and math, and where nearly half of 11th graders don't meet state standards for basic skills and knowledge in math, science and reading?"*

Well, let's just say thats a discussion the Governor is afraid to have.

For those who are trying to understand what's going on, I highly recommend the book "Getting Past No", written by a couple of professors at Harvard who teach negotiating. It could have been written by Madigan.

They explain how you deal with flip-flopping weasels who refuse to negotiate based on principles, but instead erect a position and want you to negotiate with it.

At the end of the day, it all comes own to your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, or BANTA.

During the Cold War, our BANTA with the USSR was mutually assured destruction.

The Governor is watching the legislature's BANTA play out before his very eyes.

They'll pass their own 11 month budget without him, and he won't get anything that he wants. If he vetoes the entire budget, lawmakers will override it, but not before he gets lots of angry phonecalls from state workers, non-profits that care for the developmentally disabled, hospital administrators and doctors who aren't getting paid, etc.

If he vetoes a portion of it -- say, legislative pay raises and "member initiatives", lawmakers probably won't have the votes to override, but you can bet that it'll be the first thing on their list for every future request he makes of the general assembly -- including backpay. Even the Governor's loyalists in the General Assembly -- and their spouses -- will be asking themselves why their supporting the guy who just taxed their family income by $4,000.

"What, we're not hard-working families?"

*Source: ISBE State Report Card, 2006

P.S. We should change our state bird to the penguin, given the "penguin arms" the state demonstrates when it comes time to pick up the tab for education.

At August 1, 2007 at 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Florida voting chief aims to block hackers
Florida's top elections chief has found Diebold's voting machines could be compromised easily by hackers and is demanding a quick fix.
Posted on Wed, Aug. 01, 2007Digg it del.icio.us reprint or license print email

The study by Florida State University found that, despite recent software fixes, an ‘‘adversary'' could use a pre-programmed computer card to swap one candidate's votes for another or create a "ballot-stuffing attack'' that multiplies votes for a candidate or issue.
Blog | Naked Politics
Test weeds out 261 Dade polling clerks
Document | Read the report
Document | Letter from Secretary Kurt Browning
Document | Another take on Diebold

TALLAHASSEE -- Computer hackers can change election results on certain voting machines used in 25 Florida counties and not leave a trace, according to Florida's secretary of state, who has given Diebold Election Systems until Aug. 17 to fix the problem or lose the right to operate in the state.

A new study by Florida State University found that, despite recent software fixes, an ''adversary'' could use a preprogrammed computer card to swap one candidate's votes for another's or create a ''ballot-stuffing attack'' that multiplies votes for a candidate or issue on Diebold's optical-scan voting machines.

The decision Tuesday by Secretary of State Kurt Browning to study Diebold comes nearly two years after the state and the company were told of the problem, which they all but denied. Now, Diebold says the problem will be fixed.

Browning credited the company for its openness, but he's taking no chances.

''There's a new secretary in town,'' said Browning. ``We kind of categorize this . . . as a pretty major issue. It showed you could go in and manipulate the system and the key word is to do it undetected.''


Browning said his office is examining security issues for all voting-machine vendors, including Elections Systems & Software machines, which Miami-Dade and Broward use.

The heightened software tests are taking place as the voting machine companies seek state approval for new voting systems.

If Diebold fails to fix the software, counties will likely have to find a new vendor by the 2008 general election.

A new state law requires that, by next year, all counties must use paper-trail-style machines and all but scrap the ATM-style touch-screen voting machines used by the major urban counties. Monroe County uses Diebold systems.

A Diebold spokesman, Mark Radke, said the company is ''enhancing everything'' based on the findings by FSU's Security and Assurance in Information Technology team. ''There'll be no risk whatsoever to voters,'' he said. ``These are not major enhancements.''

The company had made similar assurances in late 2005 after Leon County Election Supervisor Ion Sancho allowed a Finnish computer scientist named Harri Hursti unfettered access to the voting systems to see if they could be compromised.

Hursti found that votes could be changed without leaving much of a trace.

At the time, then-Gov. Jeb Bush's secretary of state, David Mann, said he wasn't concerned and, along with Diebold, dismissed the Hursti study as unrealistic because it didn't take place in a real-world elections environment.

Radke noted that Hursti declined an offer from California elections officials to repeat his Leon County study.

Browning, appointed this year by Gov. Charlie Crist, said he couldn't ignore the results.


In addition to requiring the software upgrade, Browning plans to ask elections supervisors to have a uniform security policy to ensure a chain of custody for elections equipment that would show who touched what elections system and when.

Browning's examination was vindication for Sancho, but the nonpartisan election supervisor said it's just a first step. He said the contested 2006 congressional race in Sarasota that ultimately helped lead to the demise of touch-screen voting machines in Florida still exposed a big wound in Florida's elections systems: Their software is run and owned by private companies.

''The larger issue in my mind is: Since we've all been asleep at the wheel, there maybe should have been more effective tests on the machines than we've run,'' Sancho said. ``So there's a lot we still don't know about.''

At August 2, 2007 at 8:52 AM, Anonymous Truthful James said...

John --

In each area the problem boils down to the satisfaction of the existing employees and management as opposed to users of the system. The political structure (and I don't exclude Republicans) has leaned that the temporary satisfaction of the needs of their constituencies is the way to re-election.

Until we reorganize the transportation fundtion and the education function to assure both effectiveness and efficiency we will be forever going to the well for more money to scant effect.

The question is, who has the testicular virility to point out that the emperor lacks clothes?

You note that I said the Transportation function and the Education function and not mass transit and public education. Each of the latter are smaller subsets of the former.

We must, finally, be concerned with output rather than production because in the end each are simply elements contributing to an economy which should be thriving but which is choking.

Take transportation. Chicago used to be the sole hub of the wntire region, when the Cook suburbs and the collar counties were basically bedrooms and farmlands. It is now a major hub to be sure. But the Naperville Aurora are has become a hub as well, and the suburbs Elk Grove and Schaumburg have been almost fully developed, the former home to to huge warehouse complexes, the latter tucked around a major shopping center.

As we build and widen the major interstates they fill with cars and trucks going both directions. There is not now a one way rush hour, into Chicago in the morning, out of Chicago in the evening

CTA,RTA, and PACE; private commercial vehicles (taxis and the unrecognized jitney cabs, underutilized van pools); and the ever present automobiles plus the parking necessary to support them remain in terms of scheduling and support independent actors. All receive some measure of public tax funding. Let's examine ways to make the transportation system carry the maximum number of passengers at the minimum direct and indirect cost.

A most radical approach might consider the effect of making all public surface road mass transportation free with a certain potion of the costs paid by a destination tax. Slightly less radical would be an approach whereby drivers would bid to 'lease' their buses to run on a certain route to a certain immutable schedule. They would retain farebox moneys. Unprofitable routes and schedules would receive negative bids (a subsidy). Details to be worked out. The point is that new thinking is needed across the board.

Then there is the Education function, which includes all primary and secondary schooling. The present system does not deliver the output necessary to make America competitive in a twenty fist century world economy.

Any mind is a terrible thing to waste. The present system does not work, yet we think that more money will solve the structural problems. John, we are painting over rust. Worse, we are 'graduating underqualified young men and women, who have passed through a system which ahs a random number of underqualified teachers who lack subject matter mastery and/or a communicable love of the subject.

These 'graduates' then meet the real world. To many of them develop the belief that education is neither an economic or a social good...and communicate that belief to their children.

This has got to be fixed. The State solution is to have the ISBE lateral the problem to the EFAB who then outsources it to a firm which does regression analyses and comes up with a dollar amount which will solve all problems. It is a closed loop.

What is needed is competition and choice, but the legislature, well supported by the teacher unions will not grant this. So the march to emdiocracy continues.

Independ thinking is required.

At August 2, 2007 at 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I have to say that I think the legislature and the governor have a lot to lose if the state shuts down. This is a ridiculous display of ineptitude by the governor, and I have absolutely no respect for a "governor" who holds his workers and the entire state in such disregard. It's like we have a knife to our throats. If he is so worried about providing the best budget for the people of Illinois, then perhaps he might want to consider what NOT getting a paycheck means to the thousands of employees he is getting ready to throw in front of a bus.

At August 3, 2007 at 9:38 AM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

If the state shuts down and any bridges collapse, woe to all!

At August 4, 2007 at 5:49 AM, Anonymous Disgusted said...

I work for the state and I can tell you, Rep. Fritchey, that panic has set in among state employees. While I have a means to obtain the necessary funding to cover my expenses, there are several people in my office who don't have the credit scores to qualify for zero interest loans or a second income to cover them if they don't receive a pay check. What is your answer to them when they want to know where their paychecks are, so they can feed their families, buy outrageously expensive gas to get to work or to pay their bills? No one thinks of these employees - it's just "I want my way or else" coming from 2nd & Capitol.

It's all well and good to stick to your guns, as long as you aren't hurting others. Once you do that, there is no defense for it and you (meant collectively) are part of the overall problem.

The governor has taken a golden opportunity, backed by a landslide in his first election success, to do the right thing by Illinois. Instead he literally took the "bully" pulpit and the boxer's attitude and stance about everything having to do with the running of the state. His first reaction is combative and that does no one any good, including himself, as we can all see. He also thinks that good campaigning is good governing and that also has proven to be incorrect. He has removed himself from contact with the people and now the legislators of Illinois and that is a very bad political and personal move.

Unfortunately, if we had looked a little deeper during his first campaign, we would have been forewarned. As a state legislator, he did very little and had lapses in attendance. He did the same when he was in Washington.
The die was cast and we didn't see it coming. By following that same work ethic, his political career is now in a shambles and he has lost the respect of his co-workers and the people of the state of Illinois. Add to that the federal government casting an inquisitive eye on his hiring and campaign practices and his general demeanor in dealing with his fellow legislators and constituants and it looks like a nuclear meltdown.

Illinois has become the butt of late night jokesters and editorials nationwide. The future of Illinois does not look very bright. The fiasco that is this administration will take years to fix.

At August 4, 2007 at 5:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do we have to have a bridge collapse in order to express our disgust with the lack of leadership in this state? Between the CREATE project sitting idle, and the CTA crawling through its many slow zones, isn't it obvious that this states government is failing the citizens it is suppose to serve? Is anyone looking out for the long term financial interest in this state?

I like Rep. Fritchey, but you loose me as soon as you express any level of respect for Blago, or Stroger, or a long list of public servants who do not merit any respect what so ever. How many people have to loose their homes before you and the rest of the legislators start insisting on sounder fiscal policy? And you can start with clarifying exactly what a ‘blighted’ area is to avoid every local government in the state of Illinois from abusing the TIF laws as has been done in Chicago. It defies the common sense of every citizen in Chicago to have LaSalle Street, our financial capitol in the Midwest, to even be considered blighted.

I am so sick of the PR campaign driven BS that substitutes for public policy throughout this state. Pensions under funded, hundreds of millions of dollar short falls in local governmental budgets designed only to hide the fiscal crises we are in during election years. This state has a "Veteran's Health Care Coverage Plan" that less than 60 Veterans have signed up for, and now this Gov wants to pass another one over on the citizens of IL to satisfy his moral obligation, (he should have thought about ‘morals’ before he gave legitimacy to that Butcher in Belgrade with his PR stunt during the Clinton administration). And when you get elected as 32nd Ward Committeeman, I hope that the incompetent Todd Stroger is the first person whom your committee finds a replacement for.

The regular Democratic party of Cook County is loosing me if they can not insist on better than these utterly disrespectful so called leaders.

Chris Lawrence

At August 4, 2007 at 11:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Friend:

Behold, the spineless Democrats.

On Iraq, they capitulate to George Bush.

On trade, they capitulate to George Bush.

On oil price gouging — they capitulate to George Bush.

And it's not like we didn't know this was coming.

In 2000 and 2004, we called out the corporate Democrats.

Their hypocrisy.

Their corporate connections.

Their disregard for the needs of the American people.

They finally say — get out of Iraq.

They then fund the war.

They say — protect worker rights.

They then agree to a trade bill that undermines workers.

They say — crack down on the oil company price gouging.

They then immolate their own bill to let the oil companies off the hook.

They even promised to end the "culture of corruption" but can't control their own.

In 2000 and 2004, Ralph Nader foresaw all of this.

And was vilified for it.

With lies.

And harassments.

That continue to this day.

Fully three years after the 2004 election campaign, the Democrats are still coming after Ralph Nader.


Because he has demanded accountability for their duplicity.

Because he has told the truth as he saw it.

Because he has remained committed to public justice.

And has opposed corporate control over our government.

At August 8, 2007 at 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you support an Illinois Constitutional Convention in 2010?


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